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Democrats are quickly moving on climate change in the new divided Congress as they unveiled the widely-expected “Green New Deal” on Thursday, calling for significant changes to the US economy to reduce carbon emissions over the next 10 years.
Swedish utility Vattenfall’s EU ETS-covered thermal power output dipped 0.6% to 31.6 TWh last year, curbing its demand for carbon allowances while its cleaner forms of output ramped up, it said in annual results on Thursday.
France-owned utility EDF will cease power generation at its 50-year-old Cottam coal-fired plant on Sep. 30 due to it being economically unviable, the company said on Thursday, a date that reflects the end of its government subsidies awarded for providing secure supply.
European carbon prices retreated after gapping higher along with other energy commodities, though not before EUAs hit a new eight-day high.
A Washington state representative has submitted a bill that would implement a carbon fee-and-dividend type system featuring trading and offsets, which would add to the numerous other climate policies already under consideration in the Evergreen State this year.
California Carbon Allowance (CCA) prices declined this week as entities looked to take advantage of a tighter spread, while RGGI Allowances (RGA) languished despite the ongoing controversies in Virginia.
BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Brexit delay – A ‘meaningful’ vote by the UK Parliament on a Brexit deal on Feb. 14 could be delayed as British Prime Minister Theresa May struggles to get new terms with the EU. The government isn’t expecting May to bring a revised Brexit deal back to Parliament by her self-imposed deadline. A vote now isn’t likely until the week beginning Feb. 25 at the earliest, the Telegraph reports, citing anonymous sources. Meanwhile, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has set out his five demands for backing the government, including establishing a customs union with the EU and alignment with the bloc’s single market. The approach would all but ensure that the UK remains in the EU ETS. European Council President Donald Tusk has told May that Corbyn’s plan offers a “promising way out” of the current Brexit stalemate, Sky reports, with some experts likening it to Norway’s current agreement with the bloc. (Bloomberg)
Meeting Paris on the cheap – While everyone, including the government itself, has previously concluded that Australia will fall far short of meeting its Paris target under current policies, a new study by the Australian National University (ANU) says it will meet it easily and at no extra cost. The reason is that new renewable energy is now so cheap and is being installed so fast in Australia that the country can get 50% of its power from renewables by 2024 and all of it by 2032, far outweighing emissions increases in other sectors, ANU said. The only thing that could stop this from happening is if the government actively tries to prevent it, said the researchers. (Guardian)
Burden be gone – The Ontario government issued a proposal Wednesday to eliminate the mandatory reporting of GHG emissions from fuels sold by oil and gas companies. It said the proposal was “streamlining and updating” its GHG programme “to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden”. However, the government claimed that removing this requirement for petroleum product suppliers and natural gas distributors would have “no impact on how the government tracks emissions from these sources”. The public consultation period on the proposal, posted in the Environmental Registry of Ontario, runs through Mar. 8. (National Observer)
Welcome to the panel – As the release of the Green New Deal resolution engulfed Washington DC on Thursday (see Carbon Pulse’s article here), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named the Democrats who will sit on the lower chamber’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. That committee will be chaired by Representative Kathy Castor (D), and it will include Democratic Representatives Ben Ray Lujan, Suzanne Bonamici, Julia Brownley, Sean Casten, Jared Huffman, Mike Levin, Donald McEachin and Joe Neguse. Freshman Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, one of the sponsors of the Green New Deal, declined an invite to join the committee, noting that she was already serving on several others. (Politico)
Let’s try again – Elsewhere, a bi-partisan group of eight US senators led by John Barrasso (R) re-introduced the USE IT Act to boost the development of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology nationwide. The bill, which passed the upper chamber’s Environment and Public Works Committee in 2018 but did not move any further, would provide $50 million in federal funding for research and development of new uses of captured carbon that reduce emissions, such as low-carbon fuels, chemicals, materials, and products. It would also implement a $25 million prize programme for early stage research and demonstration of direct air capture technologies that remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere. The legislation comes after a 230-page report on Wednesday recommended more investment in CCUS to spur deployment.
A negative first – Meanwhile in England, CO2 is now being captured at Drax’s biomass power station in North Yorkshire as part of a “world-first” technological trial to prevent around a tonne of emissions from escaping into the atmosphere each day. First announced last summer, the bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) pilot was installed on one of the plant’s units in November, and Drax claims the system is now fully up and running, with the “negative emissions power plant” marking the first time in the world CO2 has been captured from the combustion of a 100% biomass feedstock. (BusinessGreen)
Frack off – Britain’s government has no plans to review regulations for fracking gas in the country, it said on Thursday, following calls from industry to revisit the rules. Chemical giant Ineos and fracking firm Cuadrilla earlier this week said current restrictions around seismic events at fracking sites could force the industry to close. Under the so-called traffic light system, fracking must be paused for 18 hours following any seismic event of magnitude 0.5 or above, something which forced Cuadrilla to halt its operations several times last year. Experts say that maintaining these regulations would effectively be a death knell for fracking in the UK. (Reuters)
Ah c’est bien – French electricity generation saw its biggest increase in 10 years in 2018, rising 3.7% to 549 TWh thanks to a surge in power output from nuclear and renewables sources, French grid operator said Thursday. The increased output from low-carbon sources enabled France to cut is CO2 from power generation by 28% year-on-year in 2018, RTE said in its yearly report. The strong availability in nuclear and renewables, and a mild winter, also led to a sharp fall in power generation from coal, gas, and oil-fired generators, down 26.8% in 2018 compared with the previous year. (Reuters)
Letting off the gas – California fuel sector emissions continue to be on pace to see year-on-year declines for the first time in the cap-and-trade programme’s history, according to Carbon Pulse estimates. Total diesel and gasoline consumption for the Jan-Oct. 2018 period sits at 15.47 bln gallons, a dip from the 15.7 bln gallons reported over the same period in 2017, according to state data. The 2018 volume equates to estimated emissions of 133 million tons of CO2e, or roughly 1% below the 134.3 Mt estimate for the same period in 2017, according to Carbon Pulse estimates. Gasoline and diesel consumption has slowed in recent years as fuel prices have risen in the state following the Great Recession, which yielded lower prices.
Green swoop – Swiss-based developer and advisory firm South Pole has bought UK-based renewable energy and corporate PPA consultant Almach Energy for an undisclosed amount, aiming to strengthen its services amid growing corporate demand for green energy with voluntary initiatives such as RE100.
And finally… Don’t like those odds – There is a 1-in-10 chance that global average temperatures could “temporarily exceed” 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in at least one of the next five years, according to new UK Met Office analysis. The forecast expects the average global surface temperature from 2019-23 to reach between 1.03C and 1.57C above pre-industrial levels. Such a breach would not mean that the world has “missed” the Paris Agreement’s aspirational 1.5C target, scientists tell Carbon Brief. This is because the goal is concerned with stabilising global temperature to 1.5C over longer timescales of up to 30 years. Thus, a potential overshoot should be seen as a fluctuation – and should not mean the Paris target or the agreement itself can be discarded.
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