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ANALYSIS: Conservative-dominated US Supreme Court would pose dangers to current, future climate policy
The US Supreme Court tilting further to the right in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing could narrow existing legal avenues to regulate GHG emissions on the federal level, while also making it more difficult to craft future climate legislation, legal experts told Carbon Pulse.
China will likely eventually need to store as much as 800 million tonnes of CO2e annually in natural sinks to meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral before 2060, according to a key climate policy advisor to the government.
South Korea’s cabinet on Tuesday approved the final version of the 2021-25 ETS allocation plan, making late adjustments including tightening benchmarks for coal power plants and loosening them for LNG.
Emitters should gradually scale up their buying of carbon removals as part of a credible voluntary climate strategy, UK academics said in a report on offsetting launched Tuesday that takes a cautious line on land-based initiatives.
The EU could launch a pilot carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) by adding cement and power imports to its ETS, according to the most likely scenario outlined by a study due to be unveiled this week.
Czechia is lagging behind in fulfilling its national climate strategy, including enacting several provisions related to the use of funds from EU ETS auctions and implementing a domestic carbon tax, an independent research group said in a report published on Tuesday.
EU carbon prices declined on Tuesday, giving back much of the previous day’s strong gains despite the best auction showing in a week.
A new service is offering to “reformat” carbon offsets into more valuable EU Allowances – a conversion that isn’t actually possible based on the European carbon market’s existing rules.
A low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) could help Colorado’s plans to hit statutory GHG reduction targets over the coming decades, on top of the main goal to nearly zero out carbon emissions from electricity by 2030, according to a report released Monday.
CARBON FORWARD 2020
**THIS IS A FREE ARTICLE** – The fifth instalment of the premier annual environmental markets conference is back with a stellar virtual line-up, examining how EU climate ambition weighs against the COVID-19 pandemic and why carbon is a key commodity for investors to watch over the next decade.
BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Go with the flow – The EU’s aim to be the world’s first climate-neutral region by 2050 could disrupt global commodity trade flows, as it mulls ways to cut its emissions while protecting its industry and raising money for post-pandemic recovery spending. The European Commission wants EU governments to focus on switching more sectors to renewable electricity, improving energy efficiency, and replacing fossil fuels with hydrogen and other low-carbon gases and liquids, as part of its European Green Deal strategy. If successful, this will change EU energy supply and demand patterns, and trade relations with external countries – particularly China, Russia, and the US, S&P Global Platts reports. The EC is looking at several options for implementing its Green Deal, each with a direct external trade impact that would change the relative attractiveness of energy and commodities from different sources and regions. For example, a CBAM could affect imports from China and the US, while plans to address methane emissions would have a major impact on the EU’s natural gas, LNG, and potential fossil-based hydrogen suppliers.
Go in circles – Under Saudi leadership, G20 energy ministers have rubber-stamped fossil fuel bailouts while neglecting to mention climate change or the group’s long-standing pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies. Instead, a joint statement from the group of major economies on Monday, following a two-day virtual meeting, focused on stabilising energy markets disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Ministers pledged to collaborate “to encourage dialogue to help mobilise public and private investment in various energy sectors”. Discussion of energy efficiency and renewables was put in the context of a “circular carbon economy”, with equal weight given to reusing and removing CO2 from the air. (Climate Home)
I can’t quit you – Earlier this year, oil giants BP and Shell assessed the climate lobbying done by trade associations with which they have been involved, and publicly quit a handful of high-profile industry groups campaigning to undermine regulations to reduce GHGs. But the two companies – the second- and fourth-largest oil companies by revenue last year – are still active members of at least eight trade organisations lobbying against climate measures in the US and Australia that were not disclosed in the public reviews, an Unearthed and HuffPost investigation has found. In the US, both Shell and BP support groups such as the Alliance of Western Energy Consumers, which successfully crusaded against Oregon’s efforts to pass WCI-modelled cap-and-trade legislation the past two years, and the Texas Oil & Gas Association, a trade group in the nation’s top oil-producing state battling rules to restrict output of methane. Down under, the pair back the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association and the Business Council of Australia – groups fighting to undercut the country’s contributions to the Paris climate accords. Shell, meanwhile, has quietly held its seat on the Queensland Resources Council, which is a key advocate of building the world’s largest coal mine.
Missing a trick – Significant barriers are preventing workers transitioning from oil and gas to renewable jobs, a report has claimed. More than 75% of offshore workers surveyed said they would be willing to make the move between sectors. Half of them said their first choice would be a switch to wind energy, but many expressed concerns that there are limited opportunities for them and that retraining is prohibitively expensive. (BBC)
Turbine turbulence – President Donald Trump administration’s directive to ban oil and gas extraction off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas would bar wind energy development as well, according to media reports. The move comes as offshore wind energy developers are investing hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to build farms along the US East Coast. Trump also said his administration would extend the offshore energy ban to include waters off the coast of Virginia, but would reverse the ban if it was unpopular. No official directive had been issued as of Monday evening, while existing leases are not directly affected by the orders but are expected to stymie offshore renewable energy development in the region. The move was harshly criticised by renewable energy developers who said banning offshore wind development threatened tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic investment. (Climate Nexus)
California cliff-hanger – The US EPA is making its opening moves against California’s plan to phase out sales of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 – the latest front in the battle between the White House and the state over climate policy. EPA boss Andrew Wheeler sent California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) a letter Monday saying there are “serious questions” about the plan’s legality and that it may require a waiver from the federal agency. The letter also took aim at California’s recent rolling blackouts, with Wheeler asking Newsom “how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today.” In response, a Newsom spokesperson said the Trump administration is trying to “drive this country off a climate cliff”. (Axios)
Sulfur for the ARB – California regulator ARB’s board last week advanced new rules to phase out the potent GHG sulfur hexalfluoride (SF6) in electrical transmission and distribution equipment, but are citing the importance of ensuring the state’s power grid in directing staff to provide the industry more flexibility to qualify for exemptions under certain circumstances. A staff board presentation said the new regulation will reduce SF6 gases – which are 22,800 times more potent than CO2 – by 3.1 Mt by 2036, compared to the state’s current regulation. California currently has 55,000 gas insulated switchgear devices in operation that are the target of the regulation. (InsideEPA)
Malignant markets – Oregon and Washington residents across the political spectrum agree climate change is a problem, but many think the market-based measures that their state governments are taking to address the issue are the wrong approach, according to a survey. The survey, conducted by the Northwest Policy Priorities Project, found that respondents did not favour market-based solutions to the climate problem like carbon taxes and “cap and invest.” Instead, the survey found Oregon and Washington residents preferred direct action by the government, including strict limits on the amount of CO2 emissions and enforcement on those who fail to comply. Respondents also favoured raising taxes on high-income earners to fund environmental initiatives. Oregon Republicans fled the capitol during the past few years to deny the Democratic legislative majority a quorum to vote on WCI-modelled cap-and-trade proposals, while CO2 tax and carbon pricing bills have also failed to advance in Washington during the same period. (The Oregonian)
Strategic permitting – Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has moved to boost her mining credentials ahead of the Australian state’s election next month, by giving the green light to a new A$1 bln coal mine. After her Labor party suffered a humiliating defeat in last year’s federal election by avoiding supporting Adani’s controversial A$3 bln Carmichael mine, the state’s government has moved to embrace coal again, announcing on Tuesday it had approved the mining lease for a metallurgical mine. (Australian Financial Review)
Double defence – Researchers have drawn up a blueprint of areas that need additional conservation to stem biodiversity and climate crises. Overall, the proposed ‘Safety Net’ areas overlap significantly with the world’s largest natural carbon stores. “Global strategies to halt the dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate change are often formulated separately, even though they are interdependent,” the authors write. (Guardian)
Sinking in – A recent paper suggests that the ocean carbon sink could be larger than previously thought. The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, indicate that the surface of the ocean tends to be markedly cooler than the water at a few metres depth, resulting in a substantially larger net uptake than current estimates, which amount to around a quarter of annual CO2 emissions from human activity. Accounting for the results will likely involve some revision to the way global carbon budgets are quantified. (Carbon Brief)
And finally… In the weeds – German agro-chemical company Bayer sees the EU’s Green Deal as an opportunity for the increased use of its herbicide glyphosate, despite the bloc’s goal to halve the use of pesticides by 2030. Bayer wants to help achieve the EU’s net zero emissions goal with its product, which “brings many advantages for the environment, especially as it supports a sustainable, low-emission agriculture”, Bayer board member Liam Condon said in an interview with Die Welt. Glyphosate is enabling ploughless agriculture in the US and Brazil, helping the sector to become climate neutral, Condon said. More gentle ploughing methods help to build up a CO2-absorbing humus layer in the soil, but less use of herbicides normally means that deeper ploughing is necessary to get rid of weeds. With Bayer’s 2018 acquisition of Monsanto, it also inherited a number of lawsuits alleging the carcinogenic qualities of glyphosate herbicide RoundUp, and this has led to settlement payments of over $10 bln to plaintiffs. Bayer wants to propose a different model that the European Commission could follow instead of the ‘50% less pesticides in 2030’ approach, and it has also initiated the process to renew the approval of glyphosate in the EU, which runs out in 2022. (Clean Energy Wire)
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