CP Daily: Tuesday January 19, 2021

Published 23:07 on January 19, 2021  /  Last updated at 23:07 on January 19, 2021  /  Newsletter  /  No Comments

A daily summary of our news plus bite-sized updates from around the world.

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TOP STORY

US federal court strikes down Trump administration’s power sector GHG rule

A federal court on Tuesday vacated an industry-friendly rule to lower US power sector emissions, saying the EPA did not act lawfully when adopting the policy to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

EMEA

ANALYSIS: Merkel’s party successor may need to show more on climate to win German elections

The newly elected leader of Germany’s powerful CDU party may need to forge a more ambitious climate stance ahead of this September’s federal election, when environmental issues are likely to feature strongly.

EU Market: EUAs jump nearly 5% on gas market reversal

EUAs leapt back above €33 on Tuesday, snapping a four-day decline as colder weather prospects prompted a gas-led reversal in the energy complex.

AMERICAS

EJ groups castigate Washington cap-and-trade bill, as House offers $15 carbon tax on fuels

Environmental justice (EJ) organisations on Tuesday argued Washington lawmakers’ plans to implement a WCI-modelled carbon market will not address frontline communities’ concerns about exacerbating local pollution and giving a pass to emitters, while the House Democratic caucus proposed a rising carbon fee as part of a multi-billion transportation funding package.

ASIA PACIFIC

Taiwan readies carbon pricing proposal

Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) is consulting with other government agencies on the details of a carbon pricing proposal, saying such a mechanism is inescapable.

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BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Charm City offensive – The US Supreme Court today heard arguments on the lawsuit brought by the city of Baltimore against 26 oil and gas companies for their role in causing climate change, arguing that extreme weather puts the city’s future at risk. Although Tuesday’s arguments were over a procedural matter – can localities sue fossil fuel majors in state court, as Baltimore has, or can the companies force the cases to be heard in federal court? – oil majors believe they have a better chance at prevailing in federal courts, where consideration is more likely to focus on GHGs under the Clean Air Act, than in state courts, where the focus would be on the cost of damages to infrastructure and implementing mitigation measures. The case – which has implications for 23 other pending city, county, and state lawsuits – will be the last argued by President Donald Trump’s administration before President-elect Joe Biden (D) is sworn in Wednesday. A decision is expected later this year. Newest Justice Amy Coney Barrett will not recuse herself from the case even though her father worked for Shell. (Climate Nexus)

Treasury team – US Treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen on Tuesday pledged to create a team to focus on climate change, in a move that’s likely to put the powerful agency at the forefront of the Biden administration’s efforts to combat what she called an “existential threat”. At a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Yellen said she planned to start a new Treasury “hub” that would examine financial system risks arising from climate change and on related tax policy incentives. She also intends to appoint a “very senior-level” official to lead climate efforts. (Politico)

Last minute leases – The Trump administration finalised lease sales to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on its final day in office, raising concern from critics about the speedy timeline. The Bureau of Land Management held lease sales two weeks ago and sold nine tracts of land, but the agency typically spends roughly 60 days to vet and secure payment from prospective buyers. Critics said the “absolutely unprecedented” turnaround suggests the Trump administration may have cut corners along the way, particularly since the main purchaser, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, is not an oil company. Environmental groups and Democrats have long opposed the federal government allowing drilling in the ANWR. (The Hill)

Key to success? – TC Energy, the company behind the proposed expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline, is planning net zero emissions from the project if the incoming Biden administration opts to continue the cross-border project. The company said net zero emissions will be achieved when the pipeline is placed into service in 2023 by buying renewable energy from electricity providers, and if it is not available it will purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) or carbon offsets. TC Energy is also committing that additional renewable sources along the pipeline’s route will be developed by 2030, phasing out any potential need for RECs or offsets in the medium-to-long term. Canadian and American media outlets reported in recent days that Biden is expected to issue an executive order on Wednesday that will scuttle the pipeline expansion. Biden was vice president in 2015 when President Barack Obama rejected Keystone XL for fear it would worsen climate change. However, President Trump approved it again in 2019. (The Canadian Press)

Glas-goal – The UK is “doing everything it can” to make sure the COP26 UN climate conference in November in Glasgow is an in-person event, though is exploring virtual elements with a parallel aim of making the meeting the most inclusive possible. That’s according to COP26 President Alok Sharma, speaking to a UK parliamentary committee in response to concerns about coronavirus pandemic in a week that the country had the highest COVID-19 death rate and its population in its third lockdown since the pandemic began.

Boom times – The world committed a record $501.3 bln to decarbonisation in 2020, beating the previous year by 9% despite the economic disruption caused by the pandemic, according to BloombergNEF’s newly published Energy Transition Investment Trends report. Global investment in renewable energy capacity moved up 2% to $303.5 bln in 2020. This was the second-highest annual figure ever – after 2017’s $313.3 bln – and the seventh consecutive total of more than $250 bln.

Life and death – The EU’s proposed carbon border charge is essential to the survival of its own industries and the bloc will impose the levy on non-EU competitors unless they commit to lowering their emissions, the bloc’s climate policy chief said on Monday. The European Commission is expected to propose its CBAM policy before the end of June as part of a broader package of climate laws aiming to cut emissions by 55% before the end of the decade. “It’s a matter of survival of our industry. So if others will not move in the same direction, we will have to protect the European Union against distortion of competition and against the risk of carbon leakage,” Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans told an online event hosted by consultancy Global Counsel. “Carbon leakage” would occur if companies left Europe to avoid the cost of its emissions-cutting policies. That said, Timmermans also expressed hope that other major emitters will soon adopt carbon pricing policies as well, citing China’s pledge to go carbon neutral by 2060 and pledges by the incoming US administration to rejoin the Paris Agreement. (Euractiv and Reuters)

Bad for your health – Czech health minister Jan Blatny is aware of the negative impacts of coal mining on the environment and human health. “Personally, I am in favour of a coal mining phase-out as soon as possible,” he told EURACTIV.cz. The Czech government will discuss plans to phase out coal next week. A special coal commission already recommended in December to close down coal mines and power plants by 2038, but the final decision is up to the government.

Mine probe – The OECD will begin the process of investigating three international mining giants (BHP, Anglo American, and Glencore) and Ireland’s state-owned energy provider, the ESB, over serious human rights abuses and devastating environmental pollution at the Cerrejon coal mine in Colombia, according to CAN Europe. Parallel complaints were filed simultaneously in Australia, Ireland, Switzerland, and the UK by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) with the support of a coalition of Colombian, Irish, and international human rights and environmental NGOs. If successful, the three companies which jointly own the Cerrejon mine will have to take steps to comply with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, including progressively closing down the mine in full and environmental restoration. The complaints against the mining giants also call for the full compensation of communities for the harms they have suffered. The complaints outline how Cerrejon, one of the largest open-pit mines in the world, is linked to the forced displacement of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and the widespread, persistent, and extreme pollution of the air and water in the vicinity of the mine. High concentrations of harmful metals, which can cause diseases such as cancer, were found by Colombia’s Constitutional Court to exist in the blood of those living nearby.

Au revoir – The French central bank said on Monday it would exit from coal and limit exposure to gas and oil in its investment portfolio by 2024, as part of a shift towards more environmentally friendly assets. It said in a statement that by the end of this year it will no longer invest in companies that generate more than 2% of their revenues from coal, and reduce the threshold – currently standing at 10% – to zero by the end of 2024. It added it would also exclude by 2024 companies with more than 10% of revenue coming from oil or 50% from gas, which could potentially mean the central bank would have to shun firms like French energy major Total. (Reuters)

Pump the brakes – Climate policies are triggering “the biggest structural break in the [German automotive] industry in decades,” a monitoring report released by Deutsche Bank on Tuesday said. Stricter CO2 limits for new passenger cars in the EU for 2021 as well as for 2030 mean that manufacturers will have to bring more EVs to the market, and the resulting increase in costs will likely have a negative effect on employment in the sector, the report states. Deutsche Bank advocates instead for the integration of transport emissions into the EU ETS via an upstream approach. Other factors that challenge the position of Germany as an automotive location include the uncertainties regarding climate and energy policy, which cause a reluctance to invest in energy-intensive sectors, the report added. (Clean Energy Wire)

Does it matter? – A study by the German Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam has shown that carbon pricing has been less effective in driving technological change than previously anticipated, despite many governments relying on it to encourage climate change action. The research focused on the effects of carbon pricing in the EU and the Nordics, New Zealand, and British Columbia. The data has shown that while the introduction of carbon pricing has led to GHG reductions in some countries, it has not significantly stimulated technological change. According to the study, bringing about the necessary transformation will require sector-specific promotion of climate-friendly technologies, such as changes in electricity market design, efficient charging network for EVs, and significant investments. The study has also identified that overallocation of permits, leading to low prices, is a key factor in the failure of carbon pricing to drive change. The research suggests that instead of pricing itself, it is other policy measures such as programmes to promote renewable energy generation, that have driven energy transition in some regions, with these targeted measures offering investors stronger incentives. (PowerTechnology)

In-flight drinks – A consortium led by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supplier SkyNRG, with LanzaTech as the technology provider, is to build Europe’s first LanzaJet alcohol-to-jet (AtJ) facility. The pre-commercial production plant will convert waste-based ethanol to 30,000 tonnes – about 37 mln litres – of SAF per year and is expected to pave the way for extended commercial production capability across Europe and globally. The project has received €20 mln in grant funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The facility is expected to be fully operational in 2024. (GreenAir Online)

And finally… Easy EV – Batteries capable of fully charging in five minutes have been produced for the first time. They were developed by Israeli company StoreDot and manufactured by Eve Energy in China. This marks a significant step towards electric cars becoming as fast to charge as filling up petrol or diesel vehicles. Daimler, BP, Samsung, and TDK have all invested in StoreDot, which has raised $130 mln to date. (Guardian)

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