Global CO2 emissions set for their second-biggest increase in history
In this newsletter:
S&P Global; E&E News, 20 April 2021
2) Global CO2 emissions set for their second-biggest increase in history
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 20 April 2021
5) Biden takes risks with his climate ‘summit’
The Washington Times, 19 April 2021
6) Biden's Green Deal made in China? China’s solar dominance presents Biden with an ugly dilemma
The Daily Telegraph, 21 April 2021
TransportXtra, 19 April 2021
S&P Global; E&E News, 20 April 2021
US coal production is set for a bounce-back year in 2021. Rising electricity demand associated with an improving economy and an uptick in natural gas prices are likely to push coal generation higher.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects more than 4 gigawatts of coal retirements this year, down from 9.4 GW in 2020. Some 22 GW is slated for shutdown through 2024, compared with 41 GW during the Trump administration. The U.S. coal fleet total is roughly 220 GW.
The slowdown may be an anomaly. Many analysts expect coal to resume its long-term decline after a brief rebound this year.
But the dynamic hints at a potential risk to Biden’s climate ambitions.
U.S. emissions reductions have largely depended upon declining coal consumption in recent years. Those reductions, prompted by a combination of low natural gas prices, weak power demand and increased renewable deployment, overwhelmed the Trump administration’s attempts to prop up the industry.
Yet those same forces are unlikely to be strong enough to deliver the level of emissions reductions Biden is seeking. The president is aiming to eliminate power plant emissions by 2035.
“If you want to get 50% below 2005 by 2030, you have to squeeze out all the coal,” said Robbie Orvis, director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation, referring to the emissions reduction target many climate hawks think is needed.
Most modeling shows a significant amount of coal in 2030 even with the adoption of a clean electricity standard, he said.
“Increasingly, there is going to have to be some sort of mechanism to squeeze out those last plants, because it gets harder based on those market forces alone,” he said.
Coal is set for a bounce-back year in 2021 after a dismal 2020. Rising electricity demand associated with an improving economy and an uptick in natural gas prices are likely to push coal generation higher.
Full story ($)
AFP, 20 April 2021
Global CO2 emissions are set to surge by the second-biggest amount in history this year as the global economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, the IEA warned Tuesday, days before a major climate summit.
While CO2 emissions are expected to remain below their 2019 level, the IEA expects global energy demand to surpass its 2019 level, with both gas and coal rising above pre-pandemic levels.
“Global carbon emissions are set to jump by 1.5 billion tonnes this year –- driven by the resurgence of coal use in the power sector,” the IEA’s Executive Director, Fatih Birol, was quoted as saying in a statement.
He called the Leaders Summit on Climate to be hosted by US President Joe Biden on Thursday and Friday a critical moment for nations to pledge immediate actions before the UN Climate Change Conference set for November in Glasgow.
“Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022,” said Birol.
The IEA sees a 4.5-percent jump in coal demand, surpassing the 2019 level and approaching its all-time peak from 2014, as the biggest reason behind the rise in CO2 emissions.
The electricity sector accounts for three-quarters of this increase.
More than four-fifths of the rise in coal demand is to come from Asia, led by China, although the United States and Europe are also set to see increases.
3) India Is Pushing For More Coal Capacity
OilPrice.com, 19 April 2021
One of the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitters, India, could add more coal-fired electricity generation capacity despite the global push for clean power sources.
India could still need new coal capacity in the coming years to balance more renewable energy sources, also because coal is still the cheapest source of generation, according to a draft new strategy, National Electricity Policy (NEP) 2021, which Reuters has seen.
“While India is committed to add more capacity through non-fossil sources of generation, coal-based generation capacity may still be required to be added in the country as it continues to be the cheapest source of generation,” reads the draft document, as carried by Reuters.
Still, the strategy, which has not been unveiled, has clean power generation as the main objective, according to the document.
India is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, behind China and the United States.
Last month, state miner Coal India approved as many as 32 new coal mining projects worth a total investment of US$6.4 billion, as one of the world’s largest coal consumers, looks to reduce reliance on imports as its coal demand continues to grow.
A total of 24 of the 32 projects will be for the expansion of existing operations, while eight will be greenfield projects, Indian media quoted the company as saying this week.
While major developed economies look to reduce reliance on coal as part of emission reduction goals, India, which will be the key driver of global energy demand in the coming decades, continues to rely heavily on coal, and its demand is expected to continue to rise.
Despite its renewable and low-carbon push, India continues to bet big on coal, and the share of coal in total primary energy consumed has been broadly stable, around 56 percent in recent years, according to BP’s Energy Outlook 2020.
Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, 20 April 2021
How much will Biden trade away in exchange for empty promises?
President Biden’s climate envoy emerged from two days of meetings with counterpart Xie Zhenhua with a joint statement that says little new. The two sides say they “are committed to cooperating with each other and with other countries to tackle the climate crisis.” Both countries will work “to strengthen implementation of the Paris Agreement” limiting carbon emissions. Mr. Kerry didn’t make any big concessions to Beijing, and Beijing didn’t make any new promises about emissions limits it would break anyway.
In one sense that’s a relief. But all this empty hot air isn’t cost free in U.S. prestige and the missed opportunity to engage in more important talks. Making climate the sole focus of an early visit tells the Chinese that the U.S. puts that single issue above everything else in the bilateral relationship. China is happy to jibber-jabber about climate with the Americans if it means not having to engage on Taiwan, Hong Kong, Beijing’s repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, the South China Sea, North Korea, or intellectual property theft.
But Beijing is clear that it will ignore any carbon-emissions commitments that might impinge on China’s economic growth. “Some countries are asking China to do more on climate change,” deputy foreign minister Le Yucheng said last week. “I am afraid this is not very realistic.”
Instead of triggering a rethink in Beijing, Mr. Kerry’s Shanghai jaunt gave China’s leaders a new opportunity to go on the public-relations offensive. “China welcomes the U.S. return to the Paris agreement and expects the U.S. side to uphold the agreement,” vice-premier Han Zheng told Mr. Kerry in a jab at Washington’s withdrawal from the pact under President Trump. Mr. Kerry also flattered Beijing by all but begging President Xi Jinping to join another global climate confab later this week.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kerry sounds like he’s blessing China’s green industrial-policy ambitions by including in the joint statement a pledge to pursue “policies, measures, and technologies to decarbonize industry and power.” For China, that means more industrial than green policy. Chinese officials will keep the words handy to read back to U.S. officials in future discussions about trade distortions or subsidies. Mr. Kerry is telling China the U.S. is fine with both as long as they’re for green energy.
Beijing’s rhetorical flourishes concerning the Paris agreement are especially rich. In the years since the Trump Administration withdrew from that pact in 2017, American carbon emissions have kept falling and in 2019 hit their lowest level since 1992, and their lowest per capita since 1950, thanks in large part to the revolution in shale drilling for natural gas.
China saw its emissions rise in the same period, and its commitment under Paris to reduce emissions doesn’t even begin until 2030. As a Reuters dispatch in February put it: “China approved the construction of a further 36.9 GW of coal-fired capacity last year, three times more than a year earlier, bringing the total under construction to 88.1 GW. It now has 247 GW of coal power under development, enough to supply the whole of Germany.”
Chinese leaders don’t mind Paris because they know it binds them to nothing while Western nations will harm their economies with new regulation and misallocated resources. The Chinese must be dumbfounded that a U.S. Administration wants to kill the shale natural gas boom that has kept energy prices low and made the U.S. less reliant on foreign oil.
The lack of any new agreement is a blessing since it would limit the U.S. without doing so for China. But Mr. Kerry has shown, in Iran and elsewhere, that he will leave no concession unmade in his pursuit of a bad deal. No wonder Beijing thinks America is in decline.
5) Joe Biden takes risks with his climate ‘summit’
The Washington Times, 19 April 2021
President Biden will summon dozens of world leaders Thursday and Friday for a virtual climate change summit aimed at securing historic cuts in pollution, but some key stakeholders, chiefly China and Russia, will likely be logging on with their own competing agendas and may try to use the meeting as an opportunity to back the U.S. into a corner.
The unwieldy guest list — by far the most varied and ambitious Mr. Biden has assembled since taking office — includes Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin and wild cards such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who may have mixed feelings about whether to make Mr. Biden’s pet project a success.
With Washington and Beijing having agreed over the weekend to cooperate in principle on climate issues, the stage seemingly is set for Mr. Biden to lock in emissions reduction pledges from his fellow world leaders that far exceed those President Obama achieved with the 2015 Paris climate accord. President Trump withdrew from the Paris pact in 2017, leaving Mr. Biden to pick up the pieces four years later and attempt to reassert America’s role on climate change.
But specialists warn that Mr. Biden may be misreading the situation and could be putting the U.S. in a vulnerable position. In a rush to secure Democrats’ priorities on aspects of the Green New Deal and demonstrate international leadership on the environment, they say, the president could hand a major victory to China, which has been reluctant to make specific climate pledges as it prioritizes its need for strong economic growth.
At the same time, Russia’s economic future hinges in part on melting Arctic ice opening up new maritime routes, meaning the Kremlin also has mixed priorities and may not be motivated to stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. as a moral leader on climate change. Throw in some tit-for-tat sanctions that Washington and Moscow lobbed at each other last week, and Mr. Putin’s agenda may be even harder to predict.
Against that backdrop, some analysts say, Mr. Biden’s summit appears less about rallying the world to action and more about providing a justification for liberal environmental policies at home.
“The Biden team [is] really interested in the domestic transformation of this economy and saying they’re working with other countries on climate change is an excuse to do that,” said James Carafano, a national security and foreign policy expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “This is kind of nonsensical, this strategy of the administration: Compete where we must, cooperate where we can [with adversaries].
The nonsense of that is that everything we need to cooperate on, the Chinese and Russians are on the opposite side.
“What does China want on climate change? They want the entire world to be dependent on green energy that’s linked to supply chains they control,” he said.
Mr. Biden’s environmental agenda, Mr. Carafano said, could strengthen China’s economic footprint around the world as the country manufactures and dominates markets for wind turbines, solar panels, car batteries and other renewable energy materials.
For Mr. Biden, the summit risks an outcome with countries dismissing the sweeping climate promises he seeks or spending more time pressing the U.S. to help fund their climate goals. Even U.S. allies such as India, the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, have balked at more ambitious climate targets and argue that the U.S. and the world’s developed industrial powers should take the first painful steps.
Mr. Biden and his Democratic Party are eager to move the U.S. away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, and the president will likely lay out a set of targets at the virtual summit. Those goals are expected to be even more far-reaching than the U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26% by 2025.
The White House is also banking on Mr. Xi to ramp up China’s commitments. Under the Paris deal, Beijing agreed to cap its emissions by 2030, a weak promise that critics said allowed China to do little while the U.S. began to dramatically reshape its energy sector.
‘Seriousness and urgency’
China and the U.S. are the world’s top two polluters, followed by India and Russia. The European Union also is in the top five, and its member states typically act in concert on climate goals.
Although it’s unclear exactly what the goals from the summit will be, specialists say it’s naive for Washington to believe it has much leverage. They also say it would not be wise to use other foreign policy issues, such as the massing of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border or China’s rampant human rights violations, as bargaining chips in climate talks.
The New York Times, 20 April 2021
The United States may need to more than double its annual pace of solar installations. That is likely to be an economic boon to China, since the United States still relies almost entirely on Chinese manufacturers for low-cost solar modules.
A solar farm in Oregon. China dominates the global supply chain for solar power, producing the vast majority of the materials and parts for solar panels that the United States relies on for clean energy. Credit Leah Nash for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Biden has repeatedly pledged to work with China on issues like climate change while challenging Beijing on human rights and unfair trade practices.
But those goals are now coming into conflict in the global solar sector, presenting the Biden administration with a tough choice as it looks to expand the use of solar power domestically to reduce the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions.
The dilemma stems from an uncomfortable reality: China dominates the global supply chain for solar power, producing the vast majority of the materials and parts for solar panels that the United States relies on for clean energy. And there is emerging evidence that some of China’s biggest solar companies have worked with the Chinese government to absorb minority workers in the far western region of Xinjiang, programs often seen as a red flag for potential forced labor and human rights abuses.
This week, Mr. Biden is inviting world leaders to a climate summit in Washington, where he is expected to unveil an ambitious plan for cutting America’s emissions over the next decade. The administration is already eyeing a goal of generating 100 percent of the nation’s electricity from carbon-free sources such as solar, wind or nuclear power by 2035, up from only 40 percent last year. To meet that target, the United States may need to more than double its annual pace of solar installations.
That is likely to be an economic boon to China, since the United States still relies almost entirely on Chinese manufacturers for low-cost solar modules, many of which are imported from Chinese-owned factories in Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.
China also supplies many of the key components in solar panels, including more than 80 percent of the world’s polysilicon, a raw material that most solar panels use to absorb energy from sunlight. Nearly half of the global supply comes from Xinjiang alone. In 2019, less than 5 percent of the world’s polysilicon came from U.S.-owned companies.
“It’s put the Democrats in a hard position,” said Francine Sullivan, the vice president for business development at REC Silicon, a polysilicon maker based in Norway with factories in the United States. “Do you want to stand up to human rights in China, or do you want cheap solar panels?”
Full story ($)
The Washington Times, 20 April 2021
The U.S. government's intelligence analysts are failing to match the heated rhetoric used by President Biden and his administration in describing threats posed by climate change, instead dubbing vague “direct” or “indirect” dangers from global warming.
Mr. Biden is set to host a virtual summit of some 40 world leaders Thursday and Friday devoted exclusively to climate change, which the White House now regards as a “crisis” requiring immediate, global action to avert catastrophe.
“There is little time left to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory,” Mr Biden stated in a sweeping executive order signed in January.
That dire assessment was challenged by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, the senior intelligence official overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies, who made no mention of a climate crisis or an existential threat from climate change in a survey of global challenges and threats in House and Senate testimony last week. The terms also are not mentioned in the annual comprehensive DNI threat assessment made public earlier this month.
Climate change skeptics say the disconnect between Mr. Biden and the intelligence agencies isn’t just one of messaging. The overemphasis on climate change, they argue, risks diverting important resources needed for more pressing dangers.
“The focus on climate change as a national security matter is a dangerous diversion for our military from what should be its core mission: protecting the nation against aggressive adversaries,” Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview.
“While we need our installations to be more resilient, China, Russia and Iran are not our biggest threats because of climate change,” he told The Washington Times. “They are our biggest threats because they hate our way of life and the freedom we represent to those they wish to repress: their own citizens.”
The DNI threat assessment report for 2020 states that climate change, combined with environmental degradation, does not pose a clear, direct security threat to the U.S.
“We assess that the effects of a changing climate and environmental degradation will create a mix of direct and indirect threats, including risks to the economy, heightened political volatility, human displacement and new venues for geopolitical competition that will play out during the next decade and beyond,” the assessment states.
Heat waves, droughts and floods could worsen, but the assessment added that those problems could be addressed through unspecified “adaptation measures.”
Mr. Biden’s presidential order outlines an ambitious governmentwide plan “to confront the existential threat of climate change.” It requires all federal agencies to factor the supposed threats posed by climate change into policies aimed at lowering global temperatures. The order blamed recent wildfires, hurricanes and tropical storms on climate change and said the Pentagon believes two-thirds of critical military bases are directly threatened by global warming. It did not elaborate.
Full story ($)
The Daily Telegraph, 21 April 2021
Replacing gas boilers with green alternatives could cost homeowners up to £25,000, MPs and peers have warned, as the UK Government announced drastic new emissions cuts.
Benny Peiser on why Net Zero isn't going to happen (click on image to watch interview)
Boris Johnson on Tuesday committed the UK to cutting carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, compared to 1990 levels, as recommended by the Government’s climate advisory body.
The legally binding pledge puts the UK at the forefront of emissions targets among leading economies, and comes ahead of a climate summit hosted by US President Joe Biden on Thursday.
It means a 58 per cent cut over the next 15 years, according to analysis by the website Carbon Brief, and will require changes to the way we heat our homes and travel, and what we eat. For the first time, the UK will also include emissions from international aviation, which could cause a rise in air fares.
Asked on Tuesday whether including targets on aviation would affect airport projects including Heathrow, Boris Johnson said he wasn’t opposed to air travel and was a “technological optimist”.
“In the end, humanity is going to need to fly, and it’s going to have to fly in a clean, green way,” he said.
The Government’s climate change advisers have called for a phase-out of new gas boilers by 2033. The Government has committed to installing 600,000 heat pumps, which work like a refrigerator in reverse and run on electricity, in homes every year from 2028.
Millions of the UK’s draughty (sic) homes will also need to be better insulated in order to preserve energy and keep homes at optimal warmth with low-carbon heating.
Adair Turner, a former head of the CBI and a crossbench peer, on Tuesday said homeowners faced a bill of £10-15,000 just for insulation, before the cost of a heat pump.
He said “higher income people” should be expected to “simply sign a cheque for that”, but more help would be needed for those on lower incomes.
TransportXtra, 19 April 2021
A survey of British adults has found poor levels of awareness about some climate change trends, with many people believing things are much worse than data suggests.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation commissioned Savanta ComRes to survey 2,285 adults.
Seventy per cent said they were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ concerned about climate change.
They were then asked, ‘To the closest degree, how much has the average global temperature on Earth risen in the last 150 years?’ The choice was 10°C, 5°C or 1°C.
Just 21 per cent of respondents gave the correct answer of 1°C, with 35 per cent saying 5°C, and 16 per cent saying 10°C. A quarter said ‘don’t know’.
Asked about mortality from extreme weather events since the 1920s, only nine per cent replied correctly that their number had fallen by 95 per cent (according to data from the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, and the international disaster database of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters).
Twelve per cent thought deaths had increased 95 per cent. Forty-two per cent thought they had risen 25 per cent. Nine per cent thought they had not changed and 32 per cent said ‘don’t know’.