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TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 03.05.2022
‘We are living in hell’: Pakistan and India suffer extreme spring heatwaves

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‘We are living in hell’: Pakistan and India suffer extreme spring heatwaves
The Guardian Read Article

There is continuing coverage of the heatwave sweeping across south Asia. “The realities of climate change are being felt by more than 1.5 billion people as the scorching summer temperatures have arrived two months early and the relief of the monsoons are months away,” the Guardian reports. It adds: “North-west and central India experienced the hottest April in 122 years, while Jacobabad, a city in Pakistan’s Sindh province, hit 49C on Saturday, one of the highest April temperatures ever recorded in the world.” Under the headline “The heat in Delhi is unbearable. This is what the climate crisis feels like,” Climate Home News reports that India saw its hottest March on record this year. Pakistan has had its hottest since the early 1960s, the Daily Telegraph notes. And Axios adds that on 1 May, Nawabshah Pakistan recorded a temperature of 49.5C – “likely the hottest temperature on record in the Northern Hemisphere so far this year”. The Financial Times says the “heat dome” is driving a “soaring” demand for air conditioning and Reuters adds that India’s electricity demand “touched a record high in April”, causing “the worst power crisis in more than six years”. India’s energy crisis has power giant rushing back to coal”, Bloomberg reports. TheIndependent describes how people are keeping cool – with measures including solar-reflective white paint and bamboo roofs. Meanwhile, as Himalayan glacial ice melts at a “new dangerous pace”, the Pakistani climate minister has mobilised disaster response teams to prepare for flooding, the Daily Mail says. According to Reuters, around seven million people are at risk of flash flooding from the melting glaciers, Reuters adds. Elsewhere, Reuters and Associated Press report that the heatwave is harming India’s wheat production. Meanwhile, the Guardian and the Hindu link the heatwaves to climate change, while the Conversation has published an article entitled: “How to survive a heatwave.”

Elsewhere, the Hill reports that Germany and India have signed a deal that “will see the South Asian nation receive $10.5bn in aid by 2030 to boost the use of clean energy.” Meanwhile, EurActiv reports that the German vice-chancellor Robert Habeck and his Indian counterpart R K Singh “have signed an agreement on German-Indian hydrogen cooperation”.

EU Commission set to propose phasing out Russian oil by end of year
Politico Read Article

In its latest round of sanctions against Russia, the European Commission will propose a phasing out of Russian oil imports by the end of the year, Politico reports. The sanctions package will be proposed on Tuesday and discussed by EU ambassadors on Wednesday, according to the outlet. Elsewhere, the Guardian warns that, according to the European commissioner for energy, “Europe is facing a crunch point in mid-May when EU member states will have to reject Moscow’s demands for fuel payments to be made in roubles – despite being without alternative gas supply”. Bloomberg says Europe is “splintering”, adding: “Austria is confident it can keep the gas flowing and Hungary says it has no choice but to agree to Moscow’s demand”. Separately, the paper says, although Hungary may pay Russia in roubles, “ministers said the EU will find a way to stick together”. Meanwhile, Politico reports that Italy “wants the European Commission to clearly spell out how companies can pay for Russian gas without falling afoul of sanctions”.

The Financial Times reports that “Germany has warned that EU consumers should brace for a big economic hit and higher energy prices as Berlin said it was willing to back an embargo of Russian oil to punish Moscow for its war on Ukraine”. On Sunday, Habeck said that Germany has reduced the share of Russian energy imports to 12% for oil, 8% for coal and 35% for natural gas, the Independent reports via AP. The paper adds that Germany expects to be fully independent of Russian oil imports by late summer. Habeck is also calling for “a rapid buildout of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to help the country source more gas from overseas suppliers and wean off Russian imports”, Yale E360 reports. Der Spiegel also covers a story adding that in the case of Russian oil, contracts were therefore not extended by the mineral oil industry or they expired. Elsewhere, Der Spiegel reports that the boss of the German largest energy company E.on, Leonhard Birnbaum, believes that a stop in the supply of Russian gas is possible at any time. Media outlet refers to his interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, where Birnbaum said that “nobody in Germany can seriously answer the question of how long Russian gas will continue to flow to Germany, but the situation is serious and we have to prepare accordingly”.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that “France’s state-backed utility Engie has signed up for natural gas from Texas in the first US contract with a European buyer since Washington pledged to help the continent break its reliance on Russian gas”. Elsewhere, Bloomberg reports that the EU “will seek to step up cooperation with African countries to help replace imports of Russian natural gas and reduce dependence on Moscow by almost two-thirds this year”. According to a draft communication seen by the outlet, Nigeria, Senegal and Angola “offer largely untapped potential for liquified natural gas”. Meanwhile, Italian energy major has already signed agreements in Algeria, Egypt, the Republic of Congo and Angola to boost flows of gas into Italy and the rest of Europe, the Financial Times reports. Elsewhere, the paper reports that India’s Tata Steel will stop buying Russian coal. Separately, a Finnish consortium has abandoned its plans to build a Russia-backed nuclear power plant, the Financial Times reports. Elsewhere, the Independent reports that after Russia cut off gas supplies to Poland, experts “fear” that the country will turn to “dirty coal”. And Politico reports that by attacking Ukraine, “Russia is endangering its future as an oil and gas exporter”.

UK: Kwarteng and Sunak at odds over windfall tax on oil and gas profits
The Guardian Read Article

Days after UK chancellor Rishi Sunak suggested he was considering a windfall tax on energy companies, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng “firmly quashed the idea,” the Guardian reports. According to the newspaper, when asked if he backed Sunak’s idea, Kwarteng told Sky News: “I’ve never been a supporter of windfall taxes. I have been very clear on that publicly, I think it discourages investment and the reason why we want to have investment is because it creates jobs, it creates wealth and it also gives us energy security.” The paper adds that government sources have “played down the idea of a cabinet split” over the issue. But the Daily Telegraph reports that the issue is causing a “rift” between Kwarteng and Sunak. The Times adds that a windfall tax is “a flagship Labour policy”, and the Financial Times reports that Labour and the Liberal Democrats stepped up their demands for a windfall tax on Friday. The Daily Telegraph covers a warning from Kwarteng that “energy giants must set out ‘a very clear plan’ to reinvest their profits in Britain”. It adds: “Boris Johnson wants to see the reinvestment of profits ‘in return’ for new exploration licences being granted for oil and gas.” Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph has published a piece entitled, “Energy industry exposes ‘economic illiteracy’ of Rishi Sunak’s windfall tax threat”. This comes as the Guardian reports that BP and Shell “were heavily enmeshed in Russia and now face having to write down a combined £24bn on the value of their businesses, after cutting ties with the Kremlin”. However, the Financial Times adds that BP has still recorded its highest quarterly earnings in more than a decade – due to “soaring prices for hydrocarbons and ‘exceptional’ oil and gas trading revenues”.

In other UK news, the Guardian reports that Kwarteng could be open to extending the life of the Hinkley Point B nuclear reactor by up to 18 months, to help wean the UK off gas imports from Russia. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that Kwarteng is in ongoing talks with South Korea’s state-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation about boosting the UK’s nuclear energy production. And the Sun reports that “Johnson vowed to get people’s energy bills down by building a nuclear reactor every year as he gears up for this week’s local elections”.

Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that Sunak is “being urged to issue a new generation of green bonds that would offer higher returns to investors if the UK government fails to hit its climate change targets”. The paper adds that a report will be published today by thinktank the Social Market Foundation, which will ask the chancellor to “follow the example of Chile, the first country to peg the borrowing costs on its government debt to tackling global heating”. Elsewhere, the Guardian covers a warning from a senior figure in the steel industry, who says “claims that a new coal mine in Cumbria will help supply British-made steel and replace Russian imports do not ‘stack up’”.

China's renewable power capacity reached 1,088GW
China Electric Power News Read Article

China Electric Power News reports that China’s renewable energy development is off to “a good start” this year after the country installed 25.4 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable power capacity in the first quarter of 2022, which accounted for 80% of the country’s newly installed power generation capacity over the three months. The newspaper cites China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), the state energy regulator. Wang Dapeng, a deputy director at the NEA, said that between January and March, the capacity of hydro, wind, photovoltaic (PV) solar power and biomass power in China increased by 3.4GW, 7.9GW, 13.2GW and 0.9GW, respectively. By the end of March, China’s total installed capacity of renewable power had reached 1,088GW, Wang added. A separate report by China Electric Power News says that the NEA has pledged to turn coalbed methane – a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds – into an “important gas source” to help enhance China’s capabilities of securing natural gas supply on its own. The NEA said that the scale of China’s development and use of coalbed methane is “growing rapidly”, with it becoming a “regional source of gas to complement natural gas supply”.

Meanwhile, Dazhong newspaper – the official newspaper of the Communist Party Committee of Shandong – reports on the establishment of the China-Pacific Island Countries Climate Action Cooperation Centre in Shandong, a province on China’s eastern coast. The Global Times reports that “China’s cooperation with Pacific Island countries will further expand” with the launch of the centre, which is “expected to enhance the exchanges and practical cooperation between the countries involved”.

Separately, China’s state news agency Xinhua reports that the country has started a “new comprehensive scientific expedition” to Mount Everest, which the outlet calls Mount Qomolangma. It says that the research team are set to conduct a series of studies, including those on environmental changes, changes in greenhouse gas concentration, ecosystem carbon sink functions, in “extremely high altitude areas of the Mount Qomolangma against the backdrop of global warming”. Finally, Bloomberg picks up discussions by executives of China’s largest energy firms – many of them state-owned – about the challenges in facing Covid-19 and the “soaring” global prices for oil, gas and coal due to Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.

US: Biden administration begins $3bn plan for electric car batteries
The New York Times Read Article

The Biden administration will launch a $3.1bn plan today to “spur the domestic production of advanced batteries,” the New York Times reports. According to the newspaper, the funding includes a separate $60m programme for battery recycling. It continues: “The grants will be funded through the $1tn infrastructure law, which includes more than $7bn to improve the domestic battery supply chain”. The funding “comes amid research projecting increased demand for electric vehicles and lithium ion batteries,” the Hill says. Elsewhere, the New York Times reports that more than 300 solar projects in the US have been delayed or cancelled in recent weeks, as the commerce department investigates “whether Chinese companies are circumventing US tariffs by moving components for solar panels through four Southeast Asian countries”. The paper continues: “Though officials have not yet found any evidence of trade violations, the threat of retroactive tariffs has effectively stopped imports of crystalline silicon panels and components from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.” A bipartisan group of senators has sent a letter calling on Biden to end the investigation, the Hill reports. Elsewhere, the Times reports when Biden opened up federal lands to new oil drilling last month, two large points were missed. Firstly, the paper says that “drilling leases were, really, a gesture”. And secondly, it outlines Biden’s solar plan, which will “supercharge an industry that is already booming”.

In other US news, in a story entitled, “Republicans try to prove they are not the party of climate denial,” the Financial Times reports that a group of Republicans from the House of Representatives have formed the Conservative Climate Caucus. The paper notes that last week, conservative Democratic senator Joe Manchin convened a meeting on climate change with Republican lawmakers. At the meeting, “a bipartisan group of lawmakers weighed policies relating to a tariff on imports from countries that contribute to climate change and environmental reviews that Republicans have long called too onerous during a meeting on climate and energy issues,” the Hill reports. Elsewhere, the Independent reports that clean energy powered 100% of California’s electricity demand on Saturday, in a first for the state. “Much of the renewable power came from vast solar farms, south of Los Angeles,” the paper says. Meanwhile, the Financial Times says that the high price of oil has triggered a “drilling boom in America’s oil heartlands”.

UK: Just Stop Oil’s ‘spring uprising’ protests funded by US philanthropists
The Guardian Read Article

Protests by Just Stop Oil have been funded by US philanthropists, who want to incite a global “spring uprising” over climate change, the Guardian reports. The paper continues: “The environmental activists, whose oil terminal blockades have enraged ministers and rightwing commentators, have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Los Angeles-based Climate Emergency Fund…This year CEF has made grants of $1.7m to activists in 25 countries, including the UK, the US, Australia Canada, France, Germany and Switzerland. It has particularly focused on the UK with $650,000 given this year to groups including Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion…CEF has earmarked $1.3m of its donations for a ‘spring uprising’ to revive the climate protest movement”. Meanwhile, the Independent reports that 35 people were recently arrested “on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage and aggravated trespass” after Just Stop oil protesters “damaged petrol pumps and blocked access to forecourts on the M25 for hours”. The Guardian adds that protesters have been charged with causing criminal damage of more than £5,000. The Independent reports on an “Abba-inspired flash mob targeted HSBC’s annual general meeting” on Friday.

In other UK news, the Independent reports that the UK’s Green party is “on the rise – both in the northeast and across the country”. Elsewhere, the paper covers research which finds that “flood-prone areas have higher rates of house building”. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that hundreds of watermills could be converted to generate clean energy – but the Environment Agency is facing criticism after raising the application fees by up to 790%. The Independent notes that a town in Devon is “having all of its gas needs met by a local plant that turns chicken manure and crops into energy”. And the i newspaper says that “cost-cutting green home technologies” – including hot water heat pumps and online solar panel designs – will be launched in the UK this summer.

US: Worsening wildfire conditions predicted in New Mexico as blazes grow
The Washington Post Read Article

The US state of New Mexico has seen more fire damage in the first four months of 2022 than in all of last year, the New York Times reports. According to the newspaper, 199 fires have burned 187,477 acres in the state this year already. It adds that much of the state is under either “extreme” or “exceptional” drought conditions – the two worst levels. The paper continues: “Forecasters in New Mexico are warning of worsening fire conditions for the next several days, with gusts expected to pick up as firefighters attempt to contain wildfires that have been burning unusually hot and fast for weeks.” The southwest is facing “extremely critical fire weather”, the New York Times says. The Guardian reports on the “Calf Canyon” fire, which has already “consumed” more than 121,000 hectares of land. Reuters reports that thousands of residents of New Mexico were evacuated on Sunday. Further “mandatory evacuations”were triggered Monday, the Independent adds. Meanwhile, the Guardian links the fires to climate change. It continues: “Experts say the explosive start is an indication of what’s to come in the warming months. Spiking temperatures threaten to bake more moisture out of the thirsty environments, setting the stage for ignitions to turn into infernos… Roughly 90% of the American west remains mired in drought with many areas desperately missing the winter rains they rely on to refill water-starved systems.” Al Jazeera says that the blazes are “more widespread and arriving earlier this year due to climate change”.

Flood and cyclone-prone areas in eastern Australia may be ‘uninsurable’ by 2030, report suggests
The Guardian Read Article

The Guardian covers a new report, which finds that extreme weather will make one in 25 households in eastern Australia “uninsurable” by 2030. “The most at-risk areas were mostly found to be in flood and cyclone-prone areas of Queensland and in parts of Victoria built over flood plains near major rivers,” the newspaper says. It adds that “uninsurable” is defined as an area where “the required type of insurance product was expected to be not available, or only available at such high cost that no one could afford it”. Climate councillor Nicki Hutley has written a related comment piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, concluding: “A stronger climate commitment from the next federal government is now non-negotiable, as climate change catapults this country towards a crippling insurability crisis.”

In other new research, the Independent reports that methane emissions from “cow burps” have been measured from space for the first time. The “breakthrough” could help farmers to cut their methane emissions, the i newspaper says. Meanwhile, the New Scientist reports that coral reefs situated further from pollution were more resilient to the 2019 Hawaiian heatwave.

Elsewhere, the i newspaper reports that wildfires in the UK “could face wildfires on the scale of those in southern Spain, within the decade”. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that climate change is threatening the migration patterns of birds including swallows and martins, as they make the 6,000 mile journey to the UK from south Africa. Separately, the Daily Mail reports that the glossy ibis “is expected to start breeding in the UK this year due to Britain’s warming climate”. Elsewhere, the paper reports that “earth’s water cycle is speeding up due to climate change – resulting in more intense rainstorms and faster melting of the ice caps”. Meanwhile, the Independent reports that across the US, flash floods will get “flashier” as the climate warms. And Inside Climate News covers new research which finds that “lichens that help hold together soil crusts in arid lands around the world are dying off as the climate warms”.

Comment.

Africa can help solve the energy crisis
Yoweri Museveni, The Daily Telegraph Read Article

The president of Uganda – Yoweri Museveni – has penned an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph under the subheading: “The West is in dire need of a realistic and sensible strategy. And Uganda could play a crucial role.” The piece begins: “The discovery of oil in Uganda has been cause for celebration at home. Predictably, however, the Lake Albert basin oil project – which marks a milestone in Uganda’s ambition to become a oil producer and exporter – is being met with criticism from developed and already industrialised nations in the West.” Museveni says that the west’s transition to renewable energy is “laudable”, but adds that imposing a moratorium on fossil fuel investment”is misguided”. He says that Africa’s energy needs “cannot be met with a sudden shift to more expensive and less reliable solar and wind energy alone” and adds in light of the Ukraine war that, “by investing in oil and gas deposits in friendly nations such as Uganda, Europe could decrease its reliance on hostile nations”. Museveni concludes: “Western politicians must adopt a more realistic approach to fossil fuels, particularly where developing countries are concerned. Lifting the moratorium would be a good start; active support for and investment in African projects better still…As I said to the world leaders summit during COP26: if you conserve under-development, you can forget about conserving the environment.”

Accelerating the end of Europe’s Russian gas habit
Editorial, Financial Times Read Article

An editorial in the Financial Times warns that “ending Russian gas supplies is not just about squeezing Moscow’s ability to finance its war but ensuring Europe cannot be held to ransom over energy in future,” adding: “Europe must radically accelerate efforts to end its dependency on Russian gas”. The newspaper‘s Lex column also warns uptake of carbon capture and storage – a long-touted catch-all to excess emissions – “will depend on costs falling far enough to compete against other clean energy technologies. It will also depend on governments supporting decarbonisation by pushing up the price of carbon itself. In the short term that looks a tough ask given the implications for energy prices following the Ukraine invasion.”

Meanwhile, Big Oil continues to bask in record profits, reports another Financial Times Lex column. The problem with sharing the profits falls on federal policy, however, it writes: “Big Oil’s reluctance to open their wallets probably reflects frustration with Joe Biden’s energy policy. After imposing a temporary ban on drilling on federal lands, the White House now calls for companies to pump more oil. Yet at the same time the US has pushed tax credits to incentivise solar power and electric vehicles.” In the New York Times, Kate Arnoff, author of “Overheated: How capitalism broke the planet – and how we fight back”, writes about companies “purportedly invested” in the energy transition, noting that last year, Exxon Mobil and Chevron “committed just 0.16 and 2% of total capital expenditures, respectively, to low-carbon energy”.

Physicist and chief executive of Climate Analytics, Bill Hare in the Guardian, decries the “‘thrill’ of fossil fuels in Australian elections “to deal with the present energy crisis”, despite the reality of “terrible disasters inflicted by climate change on our country over the last few years – indeed the past few months.” The South China Morning Post moves its focus elsewhere: “Show me a ‘leader’ who has confronted the real problem at the root of the planetary crisis: human overpopulation. We have long since hit unsustainable numbers, yet we will not stop. We are literally screwing up the planet,” writes columnist Stephen McCarty.

Elsewhere, in the Financial Times, associate editor Pilita Clark writes that “magical thinking on fossil fuels endangers safety”, as she weighs the conflict over who owns the moral authority to the remaining 20% of fossil fuels factored into a net-zero world under International Energy Agency’s latest scenario. Meanwhile, an editorial in the climate-sceptic Wall Street Journal says: “West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin wants to cut a bipartisan compromise on energy. It’s not a crazy idea, but the risk is that Democrats will lure Republicans into accepting superficial permitting reforms in return for a gusher of green energy spending.” It adds that “any worthwhile deal, at a minimum, should make the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) a less lethal regulatory weapon” – adding that “the Administration’s new NEPA regulations, announced last month, will create more red tape that increases costs and expands litigation risk”.

Science.

Higher tree diversity is linked to higher tree mortality

Trees in diverse forests may be up to seven times as likely to die as their counterparts in single-species stands, according to a new study. Researchers use tree mortality data from the US and Canada and “species richness” data from the same areas to determine the mortality probability of trees in forests with a range of biodiversity. They find that in temperate forests, species richness is the third-most important factor in predicting tree mortality. They conclude that “while the promotion of tree diversity undoubtedly has many positive effects on ecosystem functioning…it remains important to consider all aspects of forest dynamics in order to properly predict the implications of maintaining and promoting tree diversity”.

Beyond CO2 equivalence: The impacts of methane on climate, ecosystems and health
Environmental Science & Policy Read Article

A new paper argues that the current treatment of methane under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) does not sufficiently capture the impacts of the potent greenhouse gas. Researchers lay out the impacts that methane has on climate, the environment and human health, then examine how the gas is treated in international treaties and regulations. Although methane emissions are governed by the UNFCCC, it is only considered in terms of its equivalence to CO2 over 100-year timespans. The researchers argue that this “neglects the impacts that [methane] has on near-term climate” and call for methane mitigation to be “accelerated globally”.

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