Sunday, November 7, 2021

Net Zero Watch - Leaked: EU plans to classify gas and nuclear as green energy


In this newsletter:

1) Leaked: EU plans to classify gas and nuclear as green energy
EurActiv, 3 November 2021

2) German Green Party ready to accept 'green gas' in exchange for ministerial jobs in new government
EurActiv, 29 October 2021

3) Russia cuts gas to Europe and amasses military on western borders
The Daily Telegraph, 3 November 2021

4) Low wind speeds, high prices: Vestas and Orsted warn of tough times for renewable energy
Financial Times,  3 November 2021
5) Biden's climate plan in doubt as crushing defeat in Virginia governor’s race stokes fears among Democrats
Financial Times, 4 November 2021

6) China undermines COP26 aims with call for 2C global warming target
The Daily Telegraph, 2 November 2021

7) China mining, battery companies sweep up lithium supplies in acquisition blitz
S&P Global, 2 November 2021

8) Nigel Lawson: Net zero is a disastrous solution to a nonexistent problem
The Spectator, 6 November 2021

9) Joanna Williams: Journalists have morphed into climate activists
Spiked, 3 November 2021

Full details:

1) Leaked: EU plans to classify gas and nuclear as green energy
EurActiv, 3 November 2021

A proposal to bring both nuclear power and natural gas into the bloc’s green finance taxonomy is circulating in Brussels. The paper has been branded as a “scientific disgrace” by campaigners who warned it would damage the EU’s credibility on green finance.

The so-called “non-paper”, obtained by EURACTIV, lays out detailed technical criteria for gas to qualify as a transitional activity under the EU’s sustainable finance rules.

To qualify as a “sustainable” investment, gas power plants or cogeneration facilities must not emit more than 100 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour, according to the draft paper.

It comes in the wake of declarations by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who said the EU executive would soon table proposals on gas and nuclear as part of the bloc’s green finance rulebook.

“We need more renewables. They are cheaper, carbon-free and homegrown,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter after an EU summit meeting two weeks ago where leaders debated the bloc’s response to rising energy prices.

“We also need a stable source, nuclear, and during the transition, gas. This is why we will come forward with our taxonomy proposal,” she added.
Gas as a ‘transitional activity’

The 100gCO2 emissions criteria is the same as earlier proposals circulated last year, which were rejected as too stringent by a group of 10 pro-gas EU countries who threatened to veto the proposal.

To assuage critics concerns, the paper lays out additional criteria for gas plants to qualify as a “transitional activity”, accompanied by a sunset clause (until 31 December 2030) for the commissioning of new plants.
For gas power plants, these are the criteria to qualify as a “transitional activity”:

- Direct emissions are lower than 340gCO2/kWh, and
- Yearly emissions are lower than 700 kgCO2/kW.
For cogeneration plants, these are the criteria to qualify as a “transitional activity”:
- Life-cycle emissions are lower than [250-270] gCO2e per kWh, and
- Primary energy savings of 10% compared with the separate production of heat and electricity.
Campaigners denounced those criteria as “radically weaker” than previous plans drafted by the European Commission.
“This proposal is a scientific disgrace that would deal a fatal blow to the taxonomy,” said Henry Eviston, spokesman on sustainable finance at WWF European Policy Office.
The full paper can be downloaded here
Full story

2) German Green Party ready to accept 'green gas' in exchange for ministerial jobs in new government
EurActiv, 29 October 2021
Greens’ chief Annalena Baerbock readiness to accept gas as a transition fuel is a clear shift of the German Greens’ position.


As the European Commission is expected to present the rules for sustainable finance via the EU taxonomy this year, the largest EU state and its future chancellor is more committed to gas than ever.

The role of gas in the energy mix is contentious, as switching from coal to gas is considered “low hanging fruit” that allows for fast progress on cutting carbon emissions.

Yet critics fear that relying on gas will “lock in” fossil fuel energy generation.

Germany, whose last nuclear reactors will be turned off by the end of 2022, is one of the EU countries especially reliant on gas power. The country’s renewable expansion has been very slow-moving in past years.

The German energy transition would focus on renewables, but “using gas would also be part of it for a long time,” meaning that Germany would have to “build new gas-fired power plants,” explained future German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. 

Gas power plants “are the prerequisite for us to be able to cope with this period of change,” Scholz told attendees of a congress of the influential mining, chemicals and energy trade union IG BCE on 27 October.

EURACTIV had previously reported from Berlin that the German social democrats SPD favour the inclusion of gas in the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy.

The role of gas in the energy transition should be reflected in the EU’s green finance taxonomy, according to the economy and energy spokesperson of Germany’s social democratic SPD party, which is expected to lead the next German government coalition.
As the German parties are currently negotiating a so-called “traffic light” coalition between the social democrats, the Greens and the business-friendly liberal FDP, the role of gas has been a sticking point between the SPD and the Greens thus far.

“Nuclear energy and gas must be taken out of the taxonomy,” Ingrid Nestle, the Greens spokesperson for energy, had told EURACTIV in early October. 

Greens’ chief Annalena Baerbock spoke after Scholz at the event, suggesting the parties may have agreed to the role of gas following their exploratory talks in the past weeks.

“Our clear message: gas is needed for a bridge, but all technology that is now being built must be hydrogen-ready,” explained Baerbock, following Scholz’s speech. 

Her readiness to accept gas as a transition fuel is a clear shift of the German Greens’ position, which may imply a compromise to accept gas as a lesser evil in exchange for concerted climate action at the EU level.

The potential “traffic light” coalition had agreed to be “the driving force behind the European Green Deal,” Baerbock noted.
3) Russia cuts gas to Europe and amasses military on western borders
The Daily Telegraph, 3 November 2021

Russia dramatically cut its gas supply to Europe as it amassed troops on its western borders, triggering a response from the US military.

Satellite images taken on November 1 show Russian military equipment near the town of Yelnya in western Russia CREDIT: Maxar Tech/AFP/Maxar Tech/AFP

State-controlled Gazprom has halved its supply to Ukraine since Monday after cutting gas completely to a pipeline through Poland.

The move has been seen as the Kremlin’s latest attempt to ratchet up the pressure on Germany to approve the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline that goes directly to Germany.

Meanwhile, a top US general said on Wednesday that the United States was monitoring significant Russian military movement along the border with Ukraine, following reports of a military build-up in Russia’s west.

Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that Washington did not immediately know what to make of it: “We’ve seen this before… What does this mean? We don’t know yet, too early to tell.”

He said, however, the US did not see anything “overtly aggressive”.

US media over the weekend released satellite images showing what appears to be a significant military build-up near the town of Yelnya in Russia’s south-west, close to Belarus.

Ukraine’s top brass has dismissed the reports of an increasing Russian threat, saying they have not observed any significant increase in weaponry or forces.

The country’s defence ministry, however, said on Wednesday that Russia still had about 90,000 troops deployed in south-western regions close to Ukraine that stayed in the area after massive military drills this spring.
Full story
4) Low wind speeds, high prices: Vestas and Orsted warn of tough times for renewable energy
Financial Times,  3 November 2021
Sector hit by low wind speeds, supply chain blockages and higher raw material prices


Danish power group Orsted and wind turbine maker Vestas have warned of challenging conditions in renewable energy after projects in Europe suffered low wind speeds and as supply chain hold-ups and rising costs hit manufacturers.

Vestas warned on Wednesday of an “increasingly challenging global business environment for renewables” as it cut its full-year operating profit margin forecast for the second time this year.

Orsted, the world’s largest offshore wind farm developer, said it had taken a DKr2.5bn ($389m) hit from lower wind speeds in the first nine months of this year compared with 2020 as it reiterated expectations its 2021 profits would come in at the lower end of a guided range. Its third-quarter operating profits were also slightly below analysts’ estimates.

The relatively downbeat assessments came a day after global leaders at COP26 in Glasgow cited clean energy technologies as critical to meeting goals to curb global warming.

The intermittency of renewables such as wind power has come into focus in Europe in recent months as some of the slowest wind speeds in decades have exacerbated a reliance on gas and coal for electricity — including in the UK, the world’s biggest offshore wind market.

Full story
5) Biden's climate plan in doubt: Crushing defeat in Virginia governor’s race stokes fears among Democrats
Financial Times, 4 November 2021

Republican Youngkin’s victory paints distressing picture for Biden’s party ahead of next year’s midterms

As she campaigned for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia, last week, US vice-president Kamala Harris told voters that the result would reverberate well beyond their state.

“What happens in Virginia will in large part determine what happens in 2022, 2024 and on,” she told the crowds. Now, less than a week later, Democrats in Washington and across the US are fretting that Harris was right.

Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin, the former co-chief executive of the private equity group Carlyle, won Virginia by two points over McAuliffe, a veteran Democrat and former governor. Although polls had suggested a tight race, the result was a stunning defeat in a state where Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump by 10 points just a year ago.

A second governor’s race in New Jersey was narrowly won by the incumbent, Phil Murphy, after a protracted vote count — an arguably more unsettling result for Democrats who had assumed that Murphy would sail easily to re-election against Republican opponent Jack Ciattarelli. Biden carried New Jersey by a 16-point margin in 2020.

“The bottom line is that this is about Biden,” said Kyle Kondik of the non-partisan University of Virginia Center for Politics. “If the political environment is like this next year, you expect the Republicans to win both the House and the Senate.”
Full story


6) China undermines COP26 aims with call for 2C global warming target
The Daily Telegraph, 2 November 2021

China, the world's largest polluter, has called for less ambitious climate change goals aiming to keep warming to 2C – in opposition to the aims of the Cop26 climate summit.
Xie Zhenhua, Beijing's climate negotiator, said a 2C target should be the aim and suggested achieving 1.5C was too difficult for many nations. He warned: "If we only focus on 1.5C, we are destroying consensus and many countries would demand a reopening of the negotiations."
The Paris agreement, signed in 2015, commits more than 190 countries to keeping the rise in mean global temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and "preferably" limiting it to 1.5C.
The UK, EU, US and others have signed up to the goal of 1.5C, with the UK Government making the aim of Cop26 to "keep 1.5C alive".
But the summit has not secured the necessary commitments from big polluters such as China or funding from major economies such as the US – leaving warming on track for 2.7C.

British Cop26 officials have expressed frustration at a "lack of leadership" from Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, who declined to attend the summit and instead sent a written statement.

Mr Xie said China had "already been making our biggest possible effort to address climate change", adding:  "So regarding the fact that China is the current largest emitter, it's because China is at a special development stage."

He has also been critical of the failure of developed countries to deliver on a pledge of $100 billion in annual climate financing until at least 2024, three years after its deadline.
Full post
7) China mining, battery companies sweep up lithium supplies in acquisition blitz
S&P Global, 2 November 2021
Chinese companies are snatching up lithium projects worldwide, ensuring access to supplies of the metal amid worsening global shortages and surging prices.
The nation's mining and battery companies acquired 6.4 million tonnes of lithium in reserves and resources in 2021, as of Oct. 18, nearly matching the 6.8 Mt of lithium acquired by all companies in 2020. China-based mining and battery giants have placed winning bids on five development-stage lithium projects valued at $1.58 billion, not including off-take and royalty deals, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Although China leads in global lithium processing and refining, it still sources the bulk of raw lithium products beyond its borders, including from Australia, Chile and Argentina. China's buying spree, which stretches from Africa to South America, will safeguard access to lithium resources as COVID-19 disruptions and geopolitical tensions test the fragility of international supply chains.
Global deficits in lithium supplies may also surge more than 60-fold to 950,000 tonnes in 2030, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, as rising sales of electric vehicles spur demand for the battery-making metal.

"Chinese companies have done the math and realized how much lithium they're going to need to meet either battery or EV growth plans and have decided to try to secure that by going after some of the most promising junior projects in development," said Seth Goldstein, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar.

Full story
8) Nigel Lawson: Net zero is a disastrous solution to a nonexistent problem
The Spectator, 6 November 2021

Human folly is all too common. But in a long life I have never come across anything remotely as bad as the current climate scare. The government’s COP26 targets are ambitious (and eye-wateringly expensive). Amid the debate, one important question seems to be missing. Are we really facing an existential threat? Or might the climate change ‘crisis’ in fact be quasi-religious hysteria, based on ignorance?

It is true that, since the industrial revolution, when we began to use fossil fuels — first coal, then oil and gas — as our source of energy, this has led to a steady, albeit gradual, increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The know-nothings (notably but by no means exclusively the BBC) customarily refer to this as pollution. In reality, it is the very reverse: so far from carbon dioxide being pollution, it is the stuff of life. It is the food of plants, and without plants there would be little animal life and no human life.

The principal effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to stimulate plant growth, known as the fertilisation effect. Careful studies have shown that the planet is indeed becoming greener thanks to increased CO2. And yet we’re told that we need to prevent any further increase in CO2 in order to become ‘green’.

A secondary effect of increased CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere is to warm the planet slightly. This is no bad thing: many more people die each year from cold-related illnesses than from heat-related ones. And the warming is very slight indeed. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an offshoot of the United Nations, the Earth is warming at a rate of at most one-sixth of a degree per decade, a barely perceptible amount.

And of course we don’t experience the mean global temperature anyway: we experience the temperature in our own neck of the woods, which varies enormously. Humankind is nothing if not adaptable. For example, the difference between the mean annual temperature in Finland, a cold place, and that in Singapore, a warm place, is some 22 degrees. And both these countries are pretty successful.

The climate hysteria is by no means a harmless folly. The reason the world uses fossil fuels is that they are far and away the cheapest source of large-scale reliable energy. Nuclear power is reliable, but not cheap. Renewables — wind and sun — are not particularly cheap and certainly not reliable (the wind doesn’t always blow, nor does the sun always shine).

The economic cost of abandoning fossil fuels — what is nowadays known as net zero — is massive: even the Treasury admits that it will cost the UK tens of billions of pounds a year. That is why China, by some distance the world’s largest emitter of CO2, while paying lip service to the net-zero target, continues to build new coal-fired power stations hand over fist (and not just in China: it is also building them throughout much of the developing world).

Decarbonisation, in short, would be an unparalleled economic calamity. So how is it that the UK and most of the western world have signed up to it? The answer can only be conjectural. I suggested at the start that the current climate scare is a quasi-religious hysteria. Mankind seems to have a psychological need for a belief system. Traditionally in the West, this has been Christianity; but with the waning place of Christianity in the modern world, climate catastrophism has emerged to take its place.

And needless to say, it is particularly convenient for our political leaders, who will be gone before the full extent of the economic damage caused by the measures they advocate becomes apparent. Meanwhile, whatever errors they may commit in this non-deferential age, they can pass themselves off as saviours of the planet.

But whatever the cause of the climate change madness, the effect is clear. While global warming is not a problem, the policies intended to prevent it are a disaster.
9) Joanna Williams: Journalists have morphed into climate activists
Spiked, 3 November 2021
They have abandoned all pretence of objectivity.

Journalists had a pleasant pandemic. Covid meant that they enjoyed increased demand for news and gained a renewed sense of the importance of their job. Government press conferences allowed little-known political correspondents to grab the attention of the entire nation. They were beamed into our living rooms, hectoring ministers for their inaction, and demanding the imposition of ever-tougher restrictions on a suffering nation. They were uniformly pro-lockdown. And the absolute certainty that they were not only right but also morally virtuous lent a missionary zeal to their work.

The self-aggrandising fervour that comes from positioning yourself at the heart of a catastrophe is, it seems, addictive. So luckily for grandstanding journalists, just as Covid has begun to loosen its fear-laden grip on the national psyche, another issue has come along that can be made to appear even more catastrophic than a global pandemic – namely, climate change. The climate provides the same opportunities as Covid for whipping up panic, moral preaching and deference to The Science.

Yesterday it was BBC climate editor Justin Rowlatt’s turn in the spotlight. Rowlatt used an interview to mark the launch of COP26 in Glasgow to quiz prime minister Boris Johnson about a new coal mine planned for Cumbria. The proposed mine has been subject to a stand-off between Cumbria County Council, which has approved the development on three separate occasions, and environmentalists who want it scrapped. So it was fair enough for Rowlatt to ask about the plans.

But he did far more than simply ask. Growing increasingly impassioned and animated in his condemnation of the mine, he pointed, interrupted, raised his voice and finally told the PM that he seemed ‘weaselly’.

Journalists have every right to be robust in holding government ministers, including the prime minister, to account. But what Rowlatt did yesterday was less an exercise in accountability and more an exercise in advocacy. We learnt little about the prime minister’s opinions but a great deal about Rowlatt’s apparent opposition to the Cumbrian coal mine. Rather than prompting discussion about the potential jobs gained by a hard-up local community or the UK’s current reliance on costly imports of coal, Rowlatt seemed intent only on moral one-upmanship. He seemed to forget that the job of a journalist – particularly one whose salary comes from licence-fee payers – is to inform not to preach.

If Rowlatt was exceptional, this incident would barely be worth commenting on. But as with Covid and Brexit before that, almost all high-profile journalists seem to sing from the same hymn sheet. Channel 4’s Jon Snow – who once infamously complained about the ‘whiteness’ of Brexit demonstrators – this week tried to blame a fallen tree on climate change. The Guardian was, of course, way ahead of the curve. Back in 2019 it issued a language guide that instructs its journalists to say ‘climate crisis’ and ‘global heating’ because the phrase ‘climate change… sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity’.
The Guardian is now producing doom-laden daily charts showing atmospheric CO2 levels and low-carbon energy production in a direct replica of those graphs showing Covid cases and hospitalisations.
Even soap operas are being roped into promoting the environmentalists’ agenda, presumably to educate people who had given up on the news.

The aspiration to objectivity on the climate is, in some quarters, ruled out as irresponsible and potentially dangerous. Back in July, BBC Bitesize, the BBC’s website for school pupils, hastily withdrew a list of the potential benefits of climate change aimed at GCSE geography students. The BBC had previously decreed that attempts at presenting ‘both sides’ in discussions about climate change risked drawing a ‘false balance’.

The assumption here is that viewers and readers can’t possibly be allowed to think that anything is up for debate – otherwise, who knows what will happen? Perhaps we will call the whole miserabilist green agenda into question? Perhaps we will reject eco-austerity? None of this is ever spelled out, of course. Objectivity is not needed, we are told, because the science is settled.

But, just as with Covid, climate science is never settled. And even if there is something approaching a consensus among scientists, it is not up to them to dictate how society responds to their findings. Science can never tell us whether it is right to build a coal mine in Cumbria. This is a political decision, not a scientific one.

The media circus around COP26 shows that too many of today’s journalists are blinded by their own sense of moral certainty. It’s time for some new voices to be heard in the climate debate.

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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