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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 22.09.2022
US ratifies global treaty curbing climate super-pollutants

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News.

US ratifies global treaty curbing climate super-pollutants
The Washington Post Read Article

The US senate has ratified the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, the Washington Post reports. It says the amendment targets a phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are “hundreds to thousands of times as powerful as carbon dioxide in speeding up climate change”. It calls the successful 69-27 senate vote “a rare bipartisan win on climate change”. The paper quotes Democratic senate majority leader Charles Schumer saying the amendment, along with the recently adopted Inflation Reduction Act, was “the strongest one-two punch against climate change any Congress has ever taken”. It adds that the US became the 137th country to ratify the Kigali amendment. Reuters calls the vote “a key step towards combating climate change”. It adds: “Senior [US] administration officials have told Reuters that worldwide implementation of the amendment could prevent as much as a 0.5C (0.9 F) in warming by the end of the century.” The New York Times reports: “On a practical level, the vote changes little in the US because Congress and the Biden administration have already enacted policies to reduce the production and importation of hydrofluorocarbons in the US by 85% over the next 15 years, and industry has turned to alternative chemicals. But ratification of the treaty, which the US helped to secure in the waning days of the Obama administration, carries symbolic weight and adds momentum at a time of heightened action on climate change in Washington.” Politico says the senate “approves first climate treaty in decades”. It adds: “While the Senate is badly divided on most climate issues, strong backing from the business community to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons, known as HFCs, aligned with environmentalists’ agenda to help secure enough Republican support to meet the constitution’s requirement of two-thirds support.” The Financial Times, the Hill and the Independent also have the story.

In other US news, the Financial Times reports: “US lawmakers are stepping up scrutiny of the oil and gas industry in three separate hearings linked to investigations into ‘deceptive’ advertising campaigns that misled the public about climate change.” Reuters says the US Environmental Protection Agency “will consider adopting more stringent greenhouse gas emissions rules for heavy trucks after Congress passed new incentives to speed the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, the agency told Reuters”.

Fracking won’t work in UK says founder of fracking company Cuadrilla
The Guardian Read Article

The founder of the UK’s first fracking firm Cuadrilla has said in a frontpage interview with the Guardian that he does not think there is “any chance of fracking in the UK in the near term”, the paper reports. The paper says: “Fracking in the UK will be impossible at any meaningful scale and will not help with the energy price crisis, the founder of the UK’s first fracking company has warned.” The founder, geologist Chris Cornelius, is quoted saying “no sensible investor” would risk attempting large projects in the country due to “very challenging geology, compared with North America”. He also tells the Guardian that prime minister Liz Truss’s suggestion there could be fracked gas produced in the UK within six months “would not happen”. Cornelius has a comment for the Guardian with Mark Linder, Cuadrilla’s first PR director, in which they write under the headline: “Liz Truss, we support fracking too – that’s why we know it can’t work for Britain.” They point to complex geology and the sheer scale of the industry that would be needed: “The second issue is the enormous scale of operations that would be required to replace even 10% of UK natural gas: thousands of wells would need to be completed over the next 30 to 50 years, with the drilling and fracking of hundreds of wells a year.” The piece adds: “Even if the UK were to generate significant gas, we are not likely to see lower gas prices…We are governed by regional market pricing.” The Times reports in its print edition that “Truss’s new head of business liaison was a lobbyist at a PR company that worked with a fracking group”.

Elsewhere, Reuters reports that the government is to review the level of seismic activity allowed at fracking sites. The Daily Telegraph reports that lifting the fracking ban “will cause ‘fury off the Richter scale’”. BBC Newsnight interviewed energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg last night in which he said the current level allowed – ~0.5 on the Richter scale – is “too low”. The Independent reports the comments of Lord Deben, the chair of the government’s advisory Climate Change Committee: “There is no evidence that if the UK maximised fracking and North Sea extraction that it would have a meaningful impact on the international price of gas, a government adviser has said.” The i newspaper says an upcoming byelection in West Lancashire “could become referendum on Liz Truss’s fracking policy”. The Press Association says Truss has “defended potentially breaching a Tory manifesto pledge to lift the fracking ban”. The Big Issue reports: “A new map allows you to see which areas in England are covered by oil and gas licences and could be used for fracking in the coming months.”

UK eases pressure on business by halving energy bills this winter
Reuters Read Article

There is continuing coverage of the news that the UK government will, reports Reuters, “cap wholesale electricity and gas costs for businesses at less than half the market rate from next month”. The newswire says the government did not publish an estimate of the cost of the measure, but cites Citi forecasting a £25-30bn cost over six months and says “other reports have put the price at up to £42bn”. It adds that chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is “due to give a fiscal update on Friday”, with this expected to include government cost estimates on its support for business and household energy bills. BBC News says hospitals, schools and charities will get the same support as businesses. It adds: “Industry groups welcomed the package, but warned further support may be needed after the winter.” Analysis within the article by business editor Simon Jack says: “The big problem with this support for business is its shelf life. Few businesses plan with only a six-month time horizon.” He adds: “Developing more cheap renewables, securing foreign supplies of liquid gas, drilling for more domestic fossil fuels, breaking the link between gas prices and electricity and pushing ahead with hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and small and large scale nuclear have been part of the government’s plan for nearly two years. What’s new is the pressure applied by Vladimir Putin to do it as fast as possible.” The Press AssociationPolitico and BusinessGreen also have the story.

The Times covers the news in an article that also says: “Ministers will today set out the terms of a review into plans to hit net-zero by 2050 in light of the energy crisis. Amid fears that existing commitments could make it harder to attract investment in the North Sea, Chris Skidmore, the former energy minister, will review all proposals published by the government. A government source said that it was designed to make sure ‘any regulatory impacts of net-zero were properly justified’ and ensure that ‘investors in different technologies don’t lose confidence’. ‘We want it to make economically sensible, practical recommendations,’ the source said. ‘It will be focused on how to get to net-zero in a way which doesn’t deter investment, growth or innovation.’”

The Financial Times reports: “Ministers have been urged to extend help for UK businesses struggling with soaring energy costs beyond the six month cliff-edge set out under the terms of the government’s £150bn support package on Wednesday.” The Press Association says small business owners “have voiced their concern and confusion” over the government plans, particularly its six-month time frame. Analysis from the Times says there “may be no choice but to extend business support beyond six months”. The Guardian reports that the business energy “bailout will benefit corporate giants who don’t need it, MPs warn”.

Elsewhere, the Press Association reports a warning from the Institute for Fiscal Studies: “Liz Truss’s plans for swingeing tax cuts alongside a massive Government support package to cap soaring energy bills risks putting the public finances on an ‘unsustainable path’, a leading economic think tank has warned.” The Guardian also has the story. The Times reports: “The cost of government borrowing rose to the highest level for August since monthly records began in 1997 as inflation pushed up interest payments on public debt, raising questions about Liz Truss’s economic plans.” Analysis for the Guardian by chief political correspondent Jessica Elgot is titled: “Cost to taxpayer of Truss’s £100bn energy package has escaped scrutiny.”

In other UK energy news, the Press Association reports on calls from thinktank Green Alliance for a public information campaign, run by councils, to help people cut their energy bills. The i newspaper says one million households “face £500 higher energy bills due to Tories axing green home rules”. Citing analysis from the opposition Liberal Democrats, it says the decision to scrap the zero-carbon homes standard, due to have entered force in 2016, means one million homes have been built with lower efficiency and higher bills than needed. The Independent reports: “Multi-billion public investment in batteries needed to save UK car sector, report finds.”

US banks threaten to leave Mark Carney’s green alliance over legal risks
Financial Times Read Article

Major US banks including JPMorgan and Bank of America “have threatened to leave Mark Carney’s financial alliance to tackle climate change because they fear being sued over increasingly stringent decarbonisation commitments”, the Financial Times reports. It says “some of the most significant members” of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (Gfanz) “have said they feel blindsided by tougher UN climate criteria and are worried about the legal risks of participation, according to several people involved in internal discussions”. The paper adds: “The banks’ biggest concern is over strict targets on phasing out coal, oil and gas introduced over the summer by the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, a UN-led net zero standard-setting body that accredits pledges made by Carney’s alliance.” The story is picked up by Reuters. The Financial Times “climate capital” newsletter reports: “Mark Carney conceded that banks were resisting his financial alliance to tackle climate change because they feared that adhering to the rules about lending to fossil fuel companies would expose them to legal claims.”

Separately, the Financial Times “moral money” newsletter says: “the UN’s Race to Zero initiative has made some major changes to the new guidelines it announced in June – including the removal of an explicit bar on support for new coal projects”. Meanwhile, an article for the FT Magazine is titled: “Business needs selfish reasons to be green.” BusinessGreen reports under the headline: “How corporates came to see climate action as a multi-trillion dollar opportunity.”

US: Senator Joe Manchin unveils bill that would expedite federal energy projects
The Guardian Read Article

The US senator Joe Manchin has released a draft energy permitting bill that would speed up fossil fuel and clean energy projects, Reuters reports. It says the bill “is expected to be attached to a measure to temporarily fund the government that congress must pass before 1 October”. The newswire explains: “The permitting measure from Manchin, a centrist Democrat and an important swing vote in the 50-50 Senate, would require Biden to designate 25 energy projects of strategic national importance for speedy federal review. The US electricity grid needs expansion and fixes as some of its major transmission lines are 50 years old. Improving transmission lines would help renewable projects like wind and solar farms in rural areas get clean power to cities…Progressive lawmakers and environmental groups have been concerned that the bill would speed fossil fuel projects while undermining US environmental laws.” The New York Times says Manchin is “trying to attach an oil-and-gas permitting measure to must-pass spending legislation” that would “mak[e] it easier to build a natural gas pipeline in his state”. It says the permitting measure was promised in return for his support of the Democrat’s “landmark climate change, health and tax legislation”. The Hill says Manchin released the draft text “seeking to make his case to skeptical lawmakers on both sides of the aisle”. The Hill also reports that additional senate Democrats “have come out in opposition” to the plans. Politico also has the story. The Guardian reports: “How the gas industry capitalised on the Ukraine war to change Biden policy.” It says the Biden administration “adopted the gas industry’s major demands as policy” following Russia’s invasion.

World Bank's Malpass faces calls to resign after climate change doubts
Reuters Read Article

World Bank president David Malpass has come under “heavy criticism…after he declined to say whether he accepts the scientific consensus on global warming, rekindling concerns about the bank’s lack of a deadline to stop funding fossil fuels”, Reuters reports. Bloomberg reports that pressure to replace Malpass is “ramping up” and quotes a statement from the US Treasury department saying: “We expect the World Bank Group to be a global leader of climate ambition and the mobilisation of significantly more climate finance for developing countries.” It adds: “A senior administration official on Wednesday night said reports on Malpass’s climate change stance have raised eyebrows within the White House and that the administration was planning to look more closely at the matter.”

China’s Russian gas imports jump in first eight months, while LNG exports hit record levels amid supply diversions
South China Morning Post Read Article

The South China Morning Post writes that, according to Chinese customs data, the value of gas coming from Russia via pipeline “almost tripled in the first eight months to $2.39bn”. The outlet says that China’s LNG exports “hit record levels amid reports Chinese energy companies have stepped up diversions to take advantage of high international spot prices”. The country exported “a record $164m worth” of LNG to Europe – including Spain, France and Malta – and another “$284m worth” to Japan, South Korea and Thailand in the first eight months of 2022, the outlet highlights. Additionally, Bloomberg writes that China has “begun running down its crude oil stockpiles”, which could “signal that refiners are getting ready to boost fuel exports as part of the government’s efforts to revive the economy”.  A separate Bloomberg article says “China has enough coal for the next five decades and sufficient oil to last at least 18 years at current rates of production, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources”.

Meanwhile, China Electric Power News reports on the statistics of the national electricity industry from January to August, released on Wednesday by the National Energy Administration (NEA), the country’s top energy regulator. By the end of August, the country’s installed power generation capacity reached about 2,470GW (gigawatts), an increase of 8.0% year-on-year, it says. Within this, wind and solar power installed capacity reached about 340GW and 350GW respectively, up 16.6% and 27.2% respectively year-on-year, the state-run industry newspaper notes.

Elsewhere, Reuters reports: “Europe and other developed countries must take ‘positive action’ to implement climate change goals as geopolitical uncertainties threaten to undermine their efforts, China’s top climate envoy told his German counterpart.” The Global Times writes that companies doing “cross-continental businesses” are “shifting the focus” of their supply chains from Europe to China due to “cost rise and energy shortage in Europe”. Finally, an analysis by John Vidal published by the Guardian says that “stung” by criticism that its “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) “threatened” UN climate goals, China has announced a flurry of new initiatives to rebrand it as a “green silk road”. The article adds that: “China says it will follow environmental guidelines, but history has shown these protections are nonexistent.”

EU plans new measures to tame energy markets, ease gas prices
Bloomberg Read Article

The European Commission “plans to outline further actions to contain an unprecedented energy crunch by reducing markets swings, boosting liquidity and lowering natural gas costs”, Bloomberg reports, saying proposals are due to be published on 28 September. It says the commission “communication” would need to be followed by detailed proposals that would have to be approved by member states. The proposals will not include a cap on gas prices, the outlet reports, citing “people with knowledge of the matter”. (Politico reports that Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre “says his country is open to the previously unthinkable step of imposing price caps on gas to rein in Europe’s energy crisis”.) Another Politico article reports that the EU is to start consulting later this week on another round of Russia sanctions, citing “four EU diplomats”. It adds: “Diplomats expect a discussion on a plan to cap the price of Russian oil, which is currently being discussed in the G7.” Separately, Reuters reports calls from Danish windfarm developer Orsted supporting windfall taxes on energy firms, but saying only “”actual windfall profits” should be taxed.

Germany nationalises struggling utility Uniper in €29bn bailout
Financial Times Read Article

The German government is to nationalise major energy firm Uniper in what has become a €29bn bailout, the Financial Times reports, adding that the company had been “brought to the brink of insolvency” as the country’s largest gas importer. It says: “Once Europe’s biggest importer of Russian gas, accounting for more than half of German procurement of the fuel, Uniper has been brought to the brink of collapse after Moscow cut supplies, forcing it to buy more expensive gas on the spot market in order to meet its supply contracts.” The Times and Politico also have the story on Uniper, while Bloomberg and Reuters combine the news with reporting of the UK government plan to cap energy prices for businesses (see above).

Sharma's plea over 'critical next step' for world's forests
The Daily Express Read Article

The Daily Express reports a call from the UK’s COP26 president Alok Sharma for world leaders to scale up action to protect and restore forests. It says he “invited countries to join the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership, which will build on commitments made in Glasgow last year”. BusinessGreen says Sharma “urges world leaders to bolster global forest restoration pledge with action”. Separately, the Guardian reports that the UK government’s tree planting plans are “at risk because of the drought, the chief plant health officer has warned”.

Rewilding in cities can tackle climate-driven heatwaves and floods – ZSL
Press Association Read Article

Rewilding in cities could protect people from floods and heatwaves while boosting wildlife, according to a report from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) covered by Press Association. It explains: “Rewilding is about reinstating natural processes so that nature can look after itself without much management in the long term.” The newswire adds: “In the face of climate change they are at increasing risk of heatwaves made worse by heat trapped among buildings and paved areas, and flash floods from more heavy rain that has nowhere to go. Rewilding in cities can tackle these impacts with more diverse greenery and space for water, which cools the air and absorbs rainfall, and also cuts air pollution and provides habitat for wildlife to live and move through.” MailOnline also has the story.

Meanwhile, a frontpage story in the Daily Telegraph says the UK government is to “rip up green planning laws in bid to kickstart housebuilding”. It adds: “Green planning laws will be ripped up by Liz Truss in this week’s fiscal event in a move that could see tens of thousands of new homes built on protected land.” The Times carries an article headlined: “Scrapping habitat protections would be ‘madness’, Stanley Johnson warns.”

Comment.

Norway PM: Russia’s war is pushing global 'speed-up' of clean energy
Leslie Kaufman, Bloomberg Read Article

In an interview with Bloomberg, Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre “says his main reason to be in politics is to speed the world’s transition to clean fuels”. It continues: “He announced Wednesday that he will chair a newly created leadership council for the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet. That consortium, led by the Rockefeller Foundation, brings together philanthropists, development banks, industry groups, government agencies and nonprofits, aiming to work alongside climate bodies to identify and overcome barriers to clean energy in developing nations.” Regarding the long-term consequences of high gas prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the outlet quotes Støre saying: “ Energy policy, security policy and climate policy, they are all one…[T]his is what the war in Ukraine is pushing, namely, significant speed-up of installation of solar, offshore wind, hydrogen, and the rest of it.”

The Times view on energy bills for business: Firm friends
Editorial, The Times Read Article

An editorial in the Times says the government is “right to provide generous help with companies’ soaring costs” but also “right to impose a deadline” of six months and ministers “must not allow it to become the new normal”. It continues: “Doing so will give firms an incentive to reduce their energy usage that the extended freeze for households does not.” (The price of a unit of electricity for households will be at unprecedented highs, even under the price freeze.) An editorial in the Daily Mail also supports the business energy support, saying bills “have spiralled after Russia’s war in Ukraine”.

Elsewhere in the Times, chief leader writer Simon Nixon has a comment in which he writes: “[W]hat [prime minister Liz] Truss, and her chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, appear to be contemplating with their ‘fiscal event’ tomorrow is a remarkable debt-fuelled giveaway budget”. He continues: “What seems to be missing from their plans are measures to boost investment. Trussonomics appears to amount to a lot of quids, but not much pro quo.” Nixon adds: “A serious supply side strategy would increase incentives to invest in the green economy by accelerating plans for the transition to net zero. In return for shielding businesses and households from energy price rises, the government should set targets for home and business insulation and the roll-out of energy efficiency technologies. The government should lift its moratorium on onshore wind. All this could unleash a green investment boom, with the dual advantage of boosting long-term productivity through lower energy costs and increasing energy security.” Also in the Times, chief business commentator Alistair Osborne writes of the government’s business energy price cap: “[T]hree things stood out from this initial six-month handout. First, that it was typically badly targeted. Second, that business is becoming addicted to government bailouts. And, third, that once again energy efficiency barely got a look in.” He adds: “What is the taxpayer getting for its money? A no-strings freebie for consumers is one thing but shouldn’t Truss have demanded something in return from business: schemes, say, to cut energy usage?” The Financial Times Lex column says the business energy support “provides relatively little incentive to conserve energy”.

For Politics Home, Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, calls for an “exit strategy” to government support via energy efficiency. She says: “ What we need now is a proper solution to get us out of this crisis, reduce our dependence on gas and upgrade our houses for the long-term. This must include a generational drive to insulate our homes.” Moriarty adds: “New research published by Citizens Advice today lays bare how vital insulating our homes is to any exit strategy from the energy crisis. In the leakiest houses, a third of the money spent on energy bills goes straight out of the window. More than a million people could save nearly £1,000 a year if their homes were brought up to energy performance (EPC) band C.”

Elsewhere, the Sun gives a comment slot to climate-sceptic pro-motoring campaigner Howard Cox, in which he calls for a 20p per litre cut in fuel duty. (Fuel duty was already cut in the Spring 2022 budget and had previously remained frozen since 2011, an effective tax cut in real terms worth tens of billions a year.) The Sun uses an editorial to support the business energy support and to also call for a freeze in the 5p per litre inflation-linked increase in fuel duty pencilled in for next year.

UK: Five steps towards an energy secure future
Nick Butler, The Times Red Box Read Article

In an article for the Times Red Box, visiting professor and chair of the Kings Policy Institute Nick Butler sets out five areas where he believes the UK government should shift policy in response to the energy crisis. The first is securing energy supplies via more gas storage and more onshore wind, with the latter “probably the lowest cost energy source of all”. Next is reforming electricity market arrangements so that pricing is “based on the actual costs of each source of supply” rather than usually being set by gas prices. Third, Butler calls for a “five-year plan with serious goals” to “align the commitment to net-zero by 2050 with the reality of the energy market”. Fourth, he says nuclear “should be part of the answer” but rather than large schemes such as the under-construction Hinkley Point C in Somerset, he says small modular reactors would be “a better bet”. Finally, Butler says instead of attempting to resurrect domestic fracking and open a new licensing round for the North Sea, the government should “pursue a sharp, incentivised programme of energy efficiency”, and speed up planning processes for on- and offshore wind.

The world needs an energy revolution – but renewables alone will not be enough
Bruno Maçães, New Statesman Read Article

In an article for the New Statesman, former Portuguese Europe minister Bruno Maçães writes: “Europeans have now realised that the transition to renewable energy is less like flipping a switch and something more akin to regime change…One after another, large energy producers – Venezuela, Russia, Iran – are becoming international outcasts, excluded from the ruling global order.” He adds that for Europe “this is catastrophic because the continent remains dependent on global flows of fossil fuels”. Maçães continues: “From here two paths seem possible: economic and social stagnation, or an energy revolution.” He concludes: “Addressing climate change will force us to replace our existing energy system, but that system is the foundation of modern civilisation. It is utopian to hope it could be fully transformed by renewables in their current form, with energy sources that often have densities and efficiencies lower than those of fossil fuels. You cannot replace something with its negation. You replace it with a successor, a higher synthesis.”

Science.

Adaptation to expected and unexpected weather fluctuations: Evidence from Bangladeshi smallholder farmers
World Development Read Article

New research examines the impact of “expected and unexpected weather changes” on agriculture in Bangladesh and the associated adaptation options. The study finds that “farmers can adapt when temperatures are below 32C, but increases in exposure of crops to extreme heat cause significant declines in agricultural productivity”. Farmers use adaptation options such as reducing rice cultivation and adopting “non-rice improved seed varieties against expected high temperatures”. However, these are only effective in response to “expected weather conditions instead of unexpected weather shocks”, the authors note. They conclude: “The total cash cost associated with cultivation does not respond to weather changes, plausibly because of binding financial liquidity constraints.”

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