Thursday, October 21, 2021

Net Zero Watch: COP26 faces debacle as China & developing nations demand $trillions


In this newsletter:

1) To strike a climate deal, poor nations demand $trillions from rich ones
The Wall Street Journal, 18 October 2021 
2) China's COP26 strategy: Western countries 'shoulder responsibility for climate change and need to pay up'
ITV News, 19 October 2021

3) World's biggest emitters snub UN climate summit
Guido Fawkes, 18 October 2021
4) Net Zero in doubt as Poland seeks EU climate policy rethink amid high energy prices

Reuters, 18 October 2021

5) G20 Rome summit deeply divided over COP26 agenda
The Economic Times, 18 October 2021

6) Coal fires up an unlikely comeback ahead of Cop26
The Sunday Times, 17 October 2021

7) Iain Macwhirter: Without China on board, COP26 is a dead parrot
The Herald, 17 October 2021

8) Treasury warns of 'diminishing returns' from green investment and 'economic illiteracy' as tensions mount between Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson ahead of COP26 summit
Daily Mail, 17 October 2021
9) Janet Daley: The climate change cult now owes more to religion than rationality

Full details:

1) To strike a climate deal, poor nations demand $trillions from rich ones
The Wall Street Journal, 18 October 2021 
Industrialized countries were already struggling to pay earlier commitments to help with clean-energy development and other infrastructure needs. Now the cost of buying cooperation has skyrocketed.

At a July global climate gathering in London, South African environment minister Barbara Creecy presented the world’s wealthiest countries with a bill: more than $750 billion annually to pay for poorer nations to shift away from fossil fuels and protect themselves from global warming.

The number was met with silence from U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry, according to Zaheer Fakir, an adviser to Ms. Creecy. Other Western officials said they weren’t ready to discuss such a huge sum.

For decades, Western countries responsible for the bulk of greenhouse-gas emissions have pledged to pay to bring poorer nations along with them in what is expected to be a very expensive global energy transition. But they have yet to fully deliver on that promise. Now the price of the developing world’s cooperation is going up.

At the end of the month, negotiators from nearly every country will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for a two-week climate summit, the first major gathering since governments signed the Paris accord in 2015. The goal is to strike a deal to keep the climate targets of the Paris agreement within reach.

Without poorer countries on board, the world stands little chance of preventing catastrophic climate change, say many climate scientists. Emissions in the U.S. and Europe are falling as both regions push to adopt renewable energy and phase out coal-fired electricity. But emissions in the developing world are expected to rise sharply in the coming decades as billions rise out of poverty—unless those economies can shift onto a lower-carbon path.

Before signing on, poorer countries are demanding a big increase in funding from the developed world to adopt cleaner technologies and adapt to the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and more powerful storms.

Bangladesh says it needs cyclone-resistant housing. Kenya wants its countryside dotted with solar farms instead of coal or natural gas-fired plants. India says its climate-change plan alone will cost more than $2.5 trillion through 2030.

“We cannot be talking about ambition on the one hand, and yet you show no ambition on finance,” said Mr. Fakir who is coordinating climate finance policies for the Group of 77, a coalition of developing nations.

Developed nations say it is unrealistic to put them on the hook for such a large sum without also getting middle-income countries—China in particular—to provide funds. In Paris in 2015, the U.S., Europe and a few other wealthy nations committed to funding poorer countries to the tune of $100 billion a year from 2020 through 2025. They have so far fallen short.

Rich countries have increasingly channeled ​funds to the developing world for climate-​change projects, but the Paris agreement calls​ for even more money.

Developing-world negotiators say the money isn’t financial aid. Rather, they say wealthy countries have a responsibility to pay under the U.N. climate treaties because most of the Earth’s warming since the industrial era is the result of emissions from the rich world.
Moreover, poor nations now face the task of raising living standards without burning fossil fuels unchecked as the U.S. and other rich nations did for almost two centuries.
“If you’re going to ask a much poorer country to forgo that option, then there is a moral claim that they need support to go on a lower emissions development pathway,” said Joe Thwaites, a climate-finance expert at the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank.

Even developed countries are struggling with the transition to renewables. A surge in demand for power from nations recovering from the pandemic has forced governments to lean on fossil fuels; though investment in renewables has increased, it only accounts for about a quarter of the world’s power.

Western officials say the Glasgow negotiations need to focus first on how to raise enough money to meet the Paris goal. Then they are planning to begin talks on a finance goal for after 2025. That sum is expected to be too large to pay from the government budgets of rich nations alone, officials say. Instead they are counting on private investors to pick up most of the bill.

“There isn’t enough official development funds in the system to close the gap of climate finance,” said Gustavo Alberto Fonseca, director of programs at the U.N.’s Global Environment Facility, which funds climate infrastructure in the developing world. “There has to be a market-based solution.”

Developing nations want a big portion of the money to come as government grants, not loans from private investors that would saddle them with debt. They’re demanding control over how the money is spent, wary of dictates from wealthy governments and financiers in the U.S. and Europe.

Full story ($)
2) China's COP26 strategy: Western countries 'shoulder responsibility for climate change and need to pay up'
ITV News, 19 October 2021

In a rare interview the Director of Climate Change at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment in China has told ITV News that developed nations should take more responsibility for climate change rather than blaming others, ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports


China's Director of Climate Change at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has told ITV News that Western countries "shoulder the responsibility" for action on climate change due to the huge levels of pollution produced during their industrial development.

Li Gao said much of today's environmental problems started from the industrial revolution, which, he suggests, created a precedent which allowed greenhouse gas emissions to go unchecked for hundreds of years.

He says developed nations should now step up efforts to reduce emissions by supplying technology and financial aid to poorer nations in line with their "historical responsibilities".

"We can see who should shoulders the responsibility for the climate change today," Li Gao, the director general of the department of climate change, told ITV News.
"Developed countries emitting greenhouse gas without any restraint over the past few hundred years since the industrial revolution contributed to the climate change problem today.
"The climate change today is a result of the past emissions. So there is no way developed countries can shake off their responsibilities."
Full story
3) World's biggest emitters snub UN climate summit
Guido Fawkes, 18 October 2021
What’s the point in Net Zero targets if the biggest polluters won’t even attend COP26?


COP26 begins in just under two weeks, with delegations from over 190 countries flying to Glasgow in a “last-ditch effort” to strike a new deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and affirming a global commitment to net zero. For Downing Street, it’s all about “1.5°C alive” and convincing China “to move”.
Since Xi Jinping is now not even expected to appear at the summit, Guido has his doubts. In fact, Jinping isn’t the only world leader giving COP the cold shoulder. Yesterday, the Russian ambassador told Andrew Marr that a decision on Putin’s arrival has “not yet been taken“, with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman also yet to confirm his attendance. Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi reportedly isn’t coming either, although given there were calls to have him arrested on arrival over mass murder, that isn’t exactly surprising. 

Still, of the top ten countries pumping out the most carbon dioxide, four are now no longer expected to send their respective leaders to the summit. It seems to Guido that the other world leaders are about to rack up a lot of air miles for a conference that the real culprits aren’t taking seriously. 
What’s the point in carbon taxes and ludicrous (or, according to Rishi, “ambitious) net zero targets if the biggest polluters won’t even take a meeting?

4) Net Zero in doubt as Poland seeks EU climate policy rethink amid high energy prices
Reuters, 18 October 2021

BRUSSELS, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Poland on Monday called for the European Union to cancel or delay parts of its plan to tackle climate change ahead of a summit at which EU leaders will wrangle over their response to surging gas and electricity prices.

EU country leaders, who meet on Thursday and Friday, are divided over whether short-term national measures like tax cuts are sufficient to address the recent energy price spike, or whether deeper reforms of EU energy regulation are needed.

In a paper circulated to other countries ahead of the EU summit, Poland said Brussels should change or delay parts of its planned climate policies, warning that if an "excessive burden" is put on consumers, they may reject the EU's climate aims.

"We should analyse in detail all elements of the Fit for 55 package that can have a negative impact on the energy price and consider their revision or postponement," the paper said.

"Fit for 55" refers to the EU policy package to cut emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030.

The paper, seen by Reuters, singled out the EU's plan to launch a carbon market for transport and buildings, which has faced resistance from some countries over concerns it could increase consumer bills. The European Commission has said a new multi-billion-euro EU fund would shield vulnerable consumers from any price increase.

Poland also said the EU should maintain its current minimum energy tax rates. Brussels wants to overhaul the system to end tax exemptions for kerosene - a move supported by countries including the Netherlands and France - and increase rates on other polluting fuels.

EU tax changes require unanimous approval, meaning one country can block them.
Full story
5) G20 Rome summit deeply divided over COP26 agenda
The Economic Times, 18 October 2021

Hectic negotiations are underway among G20 countries to set the agenda for the upcoming COP26 global climate talks in Glasgow and strike a consensus between the developed and developing nations to raise and hasten climate ambitions.

On the table is a strong pitch for Net Zero commitments, cutting coal use in the power sector, signing up on the methane pledge, reducing fuel subsidy, and upping the national climate targets -- also known as Nationally
Determined Contributions.

The developed nations are upping the ante and aim to finalise an ambitious climate action plan at the G20 heads of nations summit in Rome on October 30-31. On the other side of the divide are India, China, Brazil, Australia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia -- countries where the growth agenda could be deeply impacted by these decisions. The 'net-zero' target is one of them.

Developing nations in the G20 grouping have pointed out that this new ambition takes away the focus from -- and is outside -- the existing commitments under the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC ) framework, to limit global warming to below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to preindustrial levels.
The Methane Pledge signed last week by the US and European Union has also elicited varying responses from several G20 nations. There is growing pressure
for all nations, particularly high emitters like China, India, Russia and Brazil, to sign up to the 'Methane Pledge' -- a commitment to cut methane gas emission by 30% by 2030.

There are serious reservations on the same given that it will impact both livestock and agriculture in these nations. Another key area of debate is the call for decarbonisation of the power sector by 2030. Nations like India -- where 60%-70% electricity currently comes from coal-fired power plants -- besides Australia and others which also depend heavily on coal-based power are said to be pitching for a 'low carbon' growth trajectory instead.

Similarly, there are differences of opinion on the call to stop financing of new coal-based projects abroad, bring down fuel subsidy by 25%, introduce carbon pricing and commit to creating carbon sinks equivalent to green house gas emissions -- moves with significant implications and cost to economy for developing nations. Suggestions to bring in a G20 based 'review' of implementation of NDCs of G20 nations and an annual 'peer review' of the fuel subsidy cuts -- as different from the UNFCCC framework -- has also ruffled feathers.
6) Coal fires up an unlikely comeback ahead of Cop26
The Sunday Times, 17 October 2021

Cop26 will hear that this fossil fuel must die, but with demand for it resurgent and China digging hard, can we give up the black stuff?

When Alok Sharma stands up in Glasgow to open the Cop26 climate summit at the end of the month, he will press home one of his key messages to delegates — that coal must be phased out for the good of the planet. “We must consign coal power to history,” he said in a speech last month. “We need urgent action now.”

Sharma, the former business secretary who is presiding over the summit, has made ending the world’s addiction to coal a major plank of the Cop26 agenda. Unfortunately, he risks disappointment even before the first of the delegates lands in Scotland. As Sharma noted, the world is still building more coal-fired power plants — some 480 gigawatts (GW) of capacity is in the pipeline. That is the equivalent of building 150 Hinkley Point Cs, the nuclear plant in Somerset.

If anything, coal is more in demand than ever before. Last week, prices for thermal coal — the type burnt in power stations for electricity — hit a record high of $223 (£162) a tonne, according to analysts at the energy information firm S&P Global Platts. Chinese president Xi Jinping has ordered mines in his country to “spare no effort” in churning out coal for power stations that have suddenly run short, leading to blackouts. Meanwhile, in the UK, National Grid this month said it expected “remaining coal-fired generation to potentially run more frequently” through the winter. Does this spell an unlikely comeback for the most unloved commodity of them all?

The sudden return of demand for coal has not come out of the blue. Like gas, which has rocketed in price and upset Britain’s energy market in the process, coal’s surge is due to a bounceback in demand after Covid. “A lot of the coal producers really pulled back on production in 2020,” said Matthew Boyle, an analyst at S&P Global Platts. “Then in the first half of 2021 there was this rapid industrial recovery — to the point where it was galloping too far ahead of supply. So what we’re seeing in the coal market at the moment is a hangover of the pandemic.”

The story of the past decade has been the rapid rise of wind and solar energy as nations have rushed to decarbonise. Coal fell from accounting for 40 per cent of UK power generation in 2012 to just 1.8 per cent in 2020. In recent months it has been used to fill the gap when gas-fired power plants were too expensive, but its long-term trend has only been one way.

That is not the case in every part of the world. Recent price rises aside, coal has long been a cheap and reliable source of baseload power in developing countries.
China is by far the biggest consumer and producer of coal and it is now running at full tilt, with its economy tipped to grow at 8.5 per cent this year. Energy demand has shot up as a result.
Xi has seemingly ripped up stringent environmental rules — including production quotas — to keep the economy running hot. China has set itself the target of hitting net zero by 2060, and it is also a big investor in renewable energy, but its reliance on coal remains a worry. It is estimated that last year it opened the equivalent of one new coal plant a week....
Yet while China keeps building new coal plants, the battle to get to net zero will be uphill. It will be hard to convince China and others to turn off relatively new power plants; the International Energy Agency estimates that coal plants in Asia are on average just 13 years old.

Full story
7) Iain Macwhirter: Without China on board, COP26 is a dead parrot
The Herald, 17 October 2021

So, you’ll have had your COP26.

Rail and refuse unions are mobilising to cause maximum disruption in Glasgow; there are warnings the climate summit could be a Covid super-spreader event; and even the Queen’s dissing it. One is “irritated with people who talk and don’t do”, she was recorded saying at the opening of the Welsh parliament.

But the biggest blow to the prospects of success next month in tackling the “Code Red” climate emergency is the report that President Xi Jinping is set to boycott Glasgow.

This may not be unconnected with his recent order to China’s 682 coal mines to ramp up production, and his drive to intensify oil and gas exploration. Without China’s co-operation and active involvement, it is fair to say that COP is a dead parrot.

China is already the world’s biggest emitter of CO2, largely because it is the world’s biggest user of the most polluting fuel: coal. China burns nearly half of all the world’s coal.

Last year, it built three times more new power stations than the rest of the world combined – a coal-fired power station has opened there nearly every week. China has a total of 1,000 gigawatts of dirty power and is planning to install another 100GW. Britain’s entire energy sector, including renewables, generates just 75GW.

Last week’s Climate Transparency Report (CTR), the most authoritative assessment of global climate progress, laid it on the line. Of the G20 countries, only Britain is on the road to actually achieving net zero by 2050 – which is something to be modestly proud about. Most other developed countries are getting there, slowly.

But unless China, India, Argentina and Indonesia kick their addiction to coal there is zero prospect of holding global warming to the Paris target of 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.

And the king of the coal economy is China, which until last month had been financing coal power stations across Asia as part of its neo-imperial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

China is the workshop of the world. It produces everything from the toys you may not be able to buy this Christmas to the laptop on which I am writing this column. It produces more than half of all the world’s steel. It is the world’s biggest ship-builder.

China’s emissions are partly our emissions because we have outsourced much dirty, industrial production to that country, exploiting in the process its cheap labour. The West, says China, needs to own up to its own responsibilities as the originator of the industrial revolution
Full post
8) Treasury warns of 'diminishing returns' from green investment and 'economic illiteracy' as tensions mount between Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson ahead of COP26 summit
Daily Mail, 17 October 2021

The Treasury has been warning of 'diminishing returns' from more green investment and the need for a tax overhaul amid signs of tensions between Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson.

A leaked briefing ahead of the COP26 summit says the spending needed to achieve Net Zero was 'uncertain', although it could help improve the UK's lagging productivity levels.

However, it warned that the positive impact of 'ever more investment' in greening the economy is likely to reduce.

The document, which according to the Observer accompanied a presentation to key groups outside government, also cautioned that tax rises could be required to balance the 'erosion of tax revenue from fossil-fuel related activity'.

Meanwhile, Treasury officials have been complaining about 'economic illiteracy' at No10 over lavish spending promises and the danger of inflation running out of control.

And there are claims that Mr Sunak privately lamented the 'sh**show' in Downing Street at the height of the pandemic.

The sniping emerged as the PM tries to position the UK at the forefront of the battle against climate change, with the UN summit taking place in Glasgow in a fortnight.

The Treasury briefing stated: 'The investment required to decarbonise the UK economy is uncertain but could help to improve the UK's relatively low investment levels and increase productivity.

'However, more green investment is likely to attract diminishing returns, reducing the positive impact of ever more investment on GDP. Some green investments could displace other, more productive, investment opportunities.' '

The document highlighted the potential for businesses to shift abroad if the burden of green measures is too great.

'Climate action in the UK can lead to economic activity moving abroad if it directly leads to costs increasing, and it is more profitable to produce in countries with less stringent climate policies,' it said.

The briefing warned that the cost of moving towards net zero could mean tax rises because of 'the erosion of tax revenue from fossil fuel-related activity'.

'The government may need to consider changes to existing taxes and new sources of revenue throughout the transition in order to deliver net zero sustainably, and consistently with the government's scal principles,' it warned.

A Whitehall source told the Observer that Mr Sunak seemed to be positioning himself to take advantage of a backlash against the costs of Net Zero.

'Rishi clearly sees an interest in showing he is not really down with this green stuff. He wants Boris to own the whole agenda.'

Meanwhile, Treasury officials have accused Mr Johnson of 'economic illiteracy' as tensions grow in Government over the mounting cost of the Prime Minister's spending promises.

Mr Sunak is thought to be increasingly concerned that inflationary pressures building up in the economy could force the Bank of England to raise interest rates – boosting bills for the Government as much as for ordinary households.

A perfect storm of surging energy prices, the end of the furlough business support scheme and public spending plans could push inflation past the previously predicted peak of 4 per cent this year, leaving the Bank no choice but to raise interest rates from the current record low of 0.1 per cent.

Mr Sunak fears an increase in rates because it would lead to a sharp rise in the £9billion the Treasury pays in interest every month on its borrowing.

But he has had to stifle his objections to avoid accusations of disloyalty from No 10.

When combined with the billions of pounds that the Prime Minister plans to spend on infrastructure projects and green policies, some Treasury officials fear that Britain could see its credit rating on the international markets downgraded.

One source said the UK could 'end up as the Venezuela of Europe' – a reference to the South American country's struggle to pay off a mountain of foreign debt.

The source told The Mail on Sunday: 'The mandarins at the Treasury think Boris can only think in the short term and is effectively economically illiterate.'
9) Janet Daley: The climate change cult now owes more to religion than rationality
The Daily Telegraph, 17 October 2021 

Everybody seems to accept, after recent events, that scientific advice can lead to disastrous government policy. It is now widely believed that misjudgements on the part of official scientific advisers led to the wrong decisions being made in the early stages of the pandemic. Dutifully following what ministers insisted on calling The Science was, it turns out, not such a great idea after all.

Before this incident slips away into the annals of historic political scandals, we should ask what precisely went wrong – because the governments of the world are currently facing another set of far-reaching decisions prompted by scientific advice, which involve even greater potential for catastrophe.

That particular scientists, at a particular moment, made a mistaken strategic calculation in an unprecedented health crisis is not shocking, or even terribly surprising. It does not dishonour those individuals whose advice they sincerely believed to be well-founded. Nor does it discredit the authority of science itself. What happened – and could possibly be about to happen again – arose from a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is, and the degree to which its findings can be regarded as inviolable.

The clue is in the way that government ministers described the scientific opinion to which they were adhering so assiduously. Matt Hancock in one memorable moment actually said that “with science on our side” we would inevitably defeat Covid. What was notable about this fatuous statement was not just the idea that “science” (as opposed to individual scientists) can ever be on anybody’s side, but its startling resemblance to a testament of religious belief.

Just replace the word “science” in that phrase with the word “God”. Our trust in the omnipotence and benevolent protection of scientific authority was put beyond doubt or criticism. “Science” (always referred to as one indivisible thing) was the fount of all certainty and therefore to raise objections to its pronouncements was irresponsible and, by implication, wicked. Only with hindsight, as the Prime Minister is often heard to say, can we see the mistaken calculations that were made and the consequences that arose from them.

But the essential mistake was made by ministers who treated science as if it were revealed truth rather than what it actually is: a mode of inquiry that relies on endless questioning, competing theories, exhaustive argument, the examination of contradictory evidence, and, above all, the toleration of disagreement, in order to progress. (To the extent that the scientific advisers were complicit in the Government’s naive view of their disciplines, they must be seen as culpable.)

All of this is critical to the way that the issue of climate change is being treated by governments and global institutions. The discourse around the danger that it represents and what should be done about it is now dominated by language which can only be described as apocalyptic in the true Biblical sense of the word.
Let me say from the start that I am not qualified to make scientific judgements about the empirical facts of this matter. (Nor, of course, are some of the prominent exponents of the most extreme version of the climate campaign: Greta Thunberg does not have a degree in any scientific subject and famously withdrew from formal education to pursue her public mission.) It is perfectly possible, so far as I know, that the most cataclysmic predictions and the inevitability of the worst prognoses are objectively correct.

And yet there is something about this movement that is so suspiciously imitative of an extreme religious cult that it is very hard to see how it could be compatible with the spirit of scientific endeavour. Climate campaigning, at least in its most well-publicised form, embodies everything that one would expect to see in a movement of fanatical fundamentalist fervour: the concept of original sin (industrialisation) that requires an acceptance of universal guilt which can only be expiated through self-denial and penance (sacrificing personal prosperity and freedoms).

The political establishments of the grown-up developed world are now promulgating accusations and vengeful warnings delivered by child saints of the terrible world-destroying punishments to come if their cries of woe are not heeded. All of this is somehow incongruous: a bizarre melding of modern media and the Middle Ages.

There is something absurdly childlike and unscientific about the anthropomorphising of the planet which is inevitably referred to as if it were a sentient being, a loving parent (Mother Earth?) which is in danger of being destroyed by our ungrateful, selfish behaviour – even though the spread of industrial progress and mass prosperity around the world could be seen as the opposite of selfishness.

Alongside this beatification of the planet as a living presence which must be protected from our rapaciousness, goes an absurdly  sentimental picture of Nature. The natural world is now routinely depicted as a realm of infinite peaceful coexistence and benign diversity whose denizens are threatened only by the cruel exploitation of human activity. As anyone who has learnt anything about the brutal imperatives of evolution will know, the natural world is more of a Hobbesian war of all against all for survival than a Garden of Eden.

Of course human beings have been – and still are – guilty of horrific predations but such activity is coming under ever greater surveillance and control by the conscientious forces that only human beings can muster. And the husbandry of the natural world by organised society has certainly helped to protect life forms that would otherwise have been lost in the ruthless natural struggle for dominance.

More than anything, it is this presumption that humanity must be the source of all evil that makes the climate campaign seem so bizarrely unscientific. It is a moral crusade with echoes of an age of unreason – when modern science, from Galileo onwards, has seen itself as the essence of rational thinking and the opponent of dogmatism. Perhaps the decline of proper religious belief, which offered at least a possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation with past error, left a vacuum that could only be filled by self-loathing.

The London-based Net Zero Watch is a campaign group set up to highlight and discuss the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies. The Net Zero Watch newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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