Sunday, May 16, 2021

GWPF Newsletter: Boris faces Cop-Flop


Russia rejects Western calls to tighten emissions targets

In this newsletter:

1) Russia rejects Western calls to tighten CO2 emissions targets
Reuters, 13 May 2021
2) Natural gas, energy security face existential crisis in climate wary Europe
Reuters, 14 May 2021

3) The green schism threatening Biden’s climate plan
Politico, 13 May 2021

4) Jeremy Warner: Net Zero will unleash monster price rises and environmental devastation
The Daily Telegraph, 14 May 2021
5) Rupert Darwall: Capitalism, Socialism and ESG
Real Clear Energy, 13 May 2021 
6) And finally: How to turn almost everyone into a climate sceptic
The Times, 14 May 2021

Full details:

1) Russia rejects Western calls to tighten CO2 emissions targets
Reuters, 13 May 2021

MOSCOW, May 13 (Reuters) - Russia's climate envoy described a recent global trend towards ambitious new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as an "unreasonable race", saying Moscow would focus on the commitments it has made so far.
In written responses to questions from Reuters, Ruslan Edelgeriyev also criticised proposals by the European Union to impose carbon taxes on imports, which he characterised as unfairly benefiting a small number of countries.
"Setting new targets every year for a few percent of additional emissions reductions not only raises questions about feasibility, but also pushes the whole world into an unreasonable race for numbers, diverting attention from the need for concrete results," Edelgeriyev said.

"We adhere to all our commitments and advocate for maintaining this fragile consensus."
Russia, the world's biggest exporter of natural gas and number two exporter of oil, joined the Paris climate change pact in 2019, which commits countries to setting targets every five years to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The latest new targets were due to be announced last year, but that has been put off until later this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scientists say the world needs to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 to meet the agreement's aim of keeping temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.
Russia's self-imposed target, reiterated last year by President Vladimir Putin, is for its emissions in 2030 to be 30% lower than in 1990. It has long been on course to exceed that goal easily, due to the massive de-industrialisation that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.
Full story
2) Natural gas, energy security face existential crisis in climate wary Europe
Reuters, 14 May 2021
Europe faces the prospect of higher electricity bills and a supply crunch, as utilities struggle to finance new gas-fired power plants unless they meet tougher emissions criteria imposed by banks pressured to stop financing fossil-fuel projects.

The region’s utilities already anticipate power supply problems as they phase out coal and nuclear generation and ageing infrastructure.

International producers have for well over a decade said gas was a necessary transition fuel on the journey to decarbonisation.

But increased urgency to halt climate change and the scaling up of renewable technology have left investors and policymakers hesitating over plans for large new plants in the region.

The falling cost of renewable energy and the potential of emerging technologies, such as hydrogen, is at the front of policymakers' minds, pushing gas out of favour as they legislate even more ambitious climate targets.

Natural gas produces roughly half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal when burned in a power plant.

A way to get rid of the remaining emissions is to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to trap carbon dioxide, but that is expensive.

It also does not address mounting concerns that leaks of planet-warming methane from gas infrastructure may cancel out the benefits of switching to gas from coal.

The European Commission's executive vice-president Frans Timmermans told an industry event in March that there will only be a "marginal role for fossil gas" on the path to net zero emissions by 2050.

Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said EU gas demand will be 8% lower in 2030 than in 2019.

"In some mature markets in Europe, North America and parts of Asia, natural gas is facing existential questions, particularly following announcements of net zero targets," the authors of the IEA's World Energy Outlook said in an email.

Some developers and utilities have already diverted funds from gas.

In Europe's five largest power markets - Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain - developers have announced more than 60 gigawatts of new gas plant projects, S&P Global Market Intelligence figures show, although they are not all likely to be built.

A report by U.S.-based thinktank Global Energy Monitor in April said that building all the gas infrastructure planned or under way in the European Union would create 87 billion euros ($105 billion) of stranded asset risk.

Gas projects worth some 30 billion euros were cancelled, delayed or indefinitely postponed last year as they struggled to find funding.

Full story
3) The green schism threatening Biden’s climate plan
Politico, 13 May 2021

Left-wing climate and environmental justice activists believe it isn’t ambitious enough.

President Joe Biden’s ambitious proposal to wean the U.S. electric grid off fossil fuels, already a non-starter with congressional Republicans, has run into a new band of politically inconvenient enemies: Left-wing climate and environmental justice activists who believe it isn’t ambitious enough.
Many prominent environmental groups have hailed Biden’s proposed clean electricity standard, the centerpiece of his plan to eliminate all planet-warming emissions from the power sector by 2035, as the most aggressive initiative to shut down dirty power plants in American history. But a rift that has opened inside the climate movement could make its uphill climb in Congress even steeper, as an insistent coalition of harder-edged grass-roots groups has begun blasting the CES as a lackluster half-measure that would sell out disadvantaged communities and waste a unique opportunity to attack the climate crisis.

More than 600 groups sent a letter to Congress on Wednesday warning that a CES would promote “false climate solutions” such as natural gas, nuclear and biomass power plants, as well as efforts to keep polluting plants open by capturing their carbon. The dissenters instead called for a stricter renewable electricity standard limited to wind, solar and geothermal power, not only to accelerate the deadline for a zero-emissions grid from 2035 to 2030, but to “avoid perpetuating the deep racial, social, and ecological injustices of our current fossil-fueled energy system.”
“This isn’t some fringe protest. It’s a real coalition, and it’s a real fight,” said Tamra Gilbertson, director of climate policy for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We’re not just going to hope for the best with Biden, and we’re not going to be sidelined or silenced.”

It’s not unusual for progressive groups to form circular firing squads over obscure technical disputes, and there are always ideological tensions between eco-purists and eco-pragmatists. But this spat is erupting at a particularly inopportune time for climate action. The clean electricity standard was already one of the most controversial planks of Biden’s $2.5 trillion infrastructure plan, and supporters worry that in a narrowly divided Congress, divisions within the green movement could imperil the entire plan — or at least its climate-related provisions. [...]
The main political constraints are the 50-50 Senate and the razor-thin Democratic majority in the House, which means coal-friendly Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) or a few petroleum-friendly House Democrats from Texas could decide to scuttle the CES — or for that matter the entire infrastructure bill. There’s also broad political support for nuclear power and carbon capture, which are both consistent with a zero-emissions grid despite other environmental concerns. And while many scientists believe believe burning wood for electricity can be even worse for the climate than burning coal, biomass power has bipartisan support in Congress as well.

That’s why even the Green New Deal, widely viewed as radical and pointedly opposed by Biden, does not include any legislative language disapproving of those electricity sources. The idea was to avoid unnecessary fights that could divide the climate left. But the CES critics say they want to fight, and in fact emphasized that mainstream groups are trying to convey a false impression of unity. Jean Su, the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice director, said the CES could meet the same fate as the 2009 Democratic cap-and-trade bill that failed after opposition from Republicans as well as progressive climate activists — and Su would be fine with that.
Full story
4) Jeremy Warner: Net Zero will unleash monster price rises and environmental devastation
The Daily Telegraph, 14 May 2021

The monumental carbon costs of establishing the new infrastructure needed for a net zero world, never mind its physical cost, could itself trigger the very same environmental catastrophe it is supposed to forestall.

It has become something of a cliche, but it also happens to be true. If you want to do your bit for the planet, forget Tesla and other super expensive electric vehicles; just carry on driving the same old gas-guzzling banger you’ve always had.
As much if not more carbon tends to be expended producing a new car as actually driving it. You are going to have to do an awful lot of miles in the old one before you match the carbon costs of buying a newer version.
It was a slightly different, but similar point that Carlos Tavares, chief executive of the world’s fifth-biggest car maker, Stellantis, was making this week when he said that “green inflation” could soon make owning a vehicle the preserve of the rich.
The prevailing narrative – both in the motor industry and among political leaders sold on the idea that the transition to an emission-free world can be accomplished without significant damage to lifestyles – is that as demand grows, the price of EVs will steadily come down until they are eventually accessible to all.
Not so, argues Tavares; the coming energy transition is going to be hugely resource intensive, driving up costs across the board.  He didn’t quite spell it out, though he hinted at it, so let me do so instead; it is entirely plausible that the monumental carbon costs of establishing the new infrastructure needed for a net zero world, nevermind its physical cost, could itself trigger the very same environmental catastrophe it is supposed to forestall.
Green lobbyists vehemently dispute such claims, pointing out that though the transition will burn a lot of carbon initially, this will progressively decrease, eventually disappearing entirely.
Yet whatever the modelling used, it is pretty much unarguable that going green will, to begin with, create a huge surge in global emissions. The transition will also result in myriad other forms of environmental and biodiversity destruction.
Reducing our emissions here in Britain isn’t going to be of much use if all we are in fact doing is exporting them. A large part of that reduction stems from the decline in old, energy intensive smokestack industries, priced out of the market in part by rising energy costs. 
The solar panels that litter the landscape allow our own coal powered stations to be switched off, but are likely to have been manufactured in China using the very same as the main energy source. By reducing our own emissions, we are paradoxically only increasing them at a global level.
Ministers worry about how to save the sad remnants of Britain’s once mighty steel industry, but for PR purposes refuse to sanction a new mine in Cumbria that would provide the relatively low cost coking coal that might help, preferring instead a long winded public inquiry and in the meantime the much higher carbon footprint of importing the stuff from Russia and beyond.
Already the coming energy transition is driving a quite considerable jump in inflation. One of the big stories of the week has been a surge in US consumer price inflation to more than 4 per cent, the highest level in more than 10 years. The US Federal Reserve insists that the increase is only  temporary. Believe it if you will; not many people at the coal face of rising prices do.
Nor does Ivan Glasenberg, boss of one of the world’s largest mining finance houses, Glencore, who this week pointed out that the Chinese were progressively “tying up” great swathes of the world supply of cobalt, the metal needed for the lithium ion batteries used in longer range EVs.
In a report published last week, the International Energy Agency found that an energy transition such as the one planned by President Biden in the US, if applied globally, would cause demand for key minerals such as lithium, graphite, nickel and rare-earth metals to explode, rising by 4,200 per cent, 2,500 per cent, 1,900 per cent and 700 per cent respectively by 2040. 
As things stand, the capacity needed to bring about such a transformation simply doesn’t exist. Massive, emission inducing investment in new sources of supply is required to meet the likely demand.
“The mineral requirements of an energy system powered by clean energy technologies differ profoundly from one that runs on fossil fuels”, explains Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA. “A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car, and an onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources than a similarly sized gas-fired power plant.
The energy sector’s overall needs for critical minerals could increase by as much as six times by 2040 [on current plans for reducing emissions]”Another commodities super-cycle, similar to ones driven, first, by industrial renewal after the second world war and later by Chinese industrialisation beckons, powering a seminal shift into a new inflationary age. None of this to argue that we shouldn’t even be trying. It’s just that the politicians need to be a bit more honest about the consequences, as well as less starry eyed about the prospects of success.
5) Rupert Darwall: Capitalism, Socialism and ESG
Real Clear Energy, 13 May 2021
Before Joe Biden’s election, environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing was sweeping all before it. Wall Street was coming to the planet’s rescue and saving capitalism at the same time. It was a self-serving myth. As I show in my new report Capitalism, Socialism and ESG published today, doing well by doing good is no more than Wall Street sales patter. But since the election, financial regulators have been falling over themselves playing catchup.
In early December, Fed governors voted unanimously to join the Network for the Greening of the Financial System, a club of central bankers and financial regulators established by the Banque de France to implement the Paris climate agreement. Acting SEC chair Allison Herren Lee has put climate and ESG front and center of the SEC’s work. “No single issue has been more pressing for me than ensuring that the SEC is fully engaged in confronting the risks and opportunities that climate and ESG pose for investors, our financial system, and our economy,” she says.

At the Department of Labor (DOL), it was widely expected that the new administration would use the Congressional Review Act to scrub out two late-term Trump administration ESG rules governing corporate retiree-savings plans under the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Instead, the DOL announced that it merely intends to “revisit” the rules. Pending that process, it would not be enforcing them.

The DOL’s position is unconventional, to say the least. The first constitutional duty of the executive is to enforce the law. A trio of Republican senators – Richard Burr, Mike Crapo, and Pat Toomey – have criticized the DOL’s decision to abdicate its legal responsibility to enforce ERISA and the rules that operationalize its provisions to protect retiree incomes.

The DOL finds itself between a rock and a hard place. The hard place is President Biden’s first executive order instructing federal agencies to suspend, revise, or rescind (not revisit) Trump administration regulations that conflict with, to use shorthand, the ESG and climate policies of the Biden administration. The rock is the letter of the law. ERISA imposes tightly defined duties on plan managers and fiduciaries to act solely in the interests of plan beneficiaries and must set out to maximize the risk-adjusted financial value of plan assets, considering only so-called pecuniary factors when making investment decisions.
Full post
6) And finally: How to turn almost everyone into a climate sceptic
The Times, 14 May 2021
Kelp, maggots and algae must replace wheat, maize and rice on menus if the world is to feed itself in an era of escalating environmental threats, a Cambridge University study has said.

The researchers suggest that radical changes to the food system will be needed to create “risk-resilient diets” in the face of climate change.
After reviewing hundreds of reports they determined that global malnutrition could be eradicated by farming micro-organisms such as spirulina, a type of bacteria often referred to as blue-green algae that was once eaten by the Aztecs.
Other “future foods” include insect larvae, fungi protein and a seaweed called sugar kelp, which is found in British waters and is used in sushi.
Full story (£)

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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