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EU carbon prices jumped by more than 7% to a new all-time high on Wednesday as traders scrambled to secure allowances, which led to a record auction clearance.
US EPA has “clean slate” for developing new power sector GHG regulation, though exact plan uncertain
President Joe Biden’s (D) administration has a “clean state” on developing a regulation to reduce power sector emissions, EPA administrator nominee Michael Regan said Wednesday, as he committed to let states implement more ambitious vehicle GHG standards than the federal government and bring greater transparency to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) if confirmed as head of the agency.
Republican Senators took aim at a suite of climate-related executive orders signed by President Joe Biden (D) during a committee hearing on Wednesday, saying the policies would provide little environmental benefit and negatively impact the economy.
Nearly 80% of all new coal-fired capacity commissioned in 2020 was in China, propping up the nation’s fossil fuel industry despite the promise to become carbon neutral in four decades, according to a report released Wednesday.
France is not doing enough to tackle climate change, a Paris court ruled on Wednesday, becoming the third EU nation to be held legally responsible for its climate inaction.
Danish utility Orsted reported an uptick in its coal power use over 2020 as its grid-balancing services were called upon more due to a pandemic-induced shift in power demand, the company said on Wednesday.
The German government has ‘named and shamed’ another group of companies for failing to comply with the EU ETS, including a pair of Egyptian airlines.
An UK appeals court has upheld convictions against seven men charged with committing fraud via various carbon markets, rejecting challenges over the prosecution’s use of an expert witness who was later discredited.
BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Chump change – The US could achieve net zero emissions by 2050, address societal inequities, and reap benefits far greater than the costs, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Academies of Sciences. The report recommends five main reforms, to be funded in part by a rising $40/tonne carbon tax: improving building efficiency, electrifying transportation and building heating, getting 75% of electricity from clean sources by 2030, increasing transmission capacity, and tripling government investment in clean energy research. At an annual cost of about $300 bln over status quo spending levels, the report found the reforms would more than pay for themselves in public health benefits alone. With the correct policies in place, the reforms would have dramatic benefits for working class communities and communities of colour disproportionately harmed for fossil fuel extraction and consumption, as well as communities historically dependent on fossil fuels. Meanwhile, analysis published by think-tank Energy Innovation on Wednesday concluded that while putting CO2 emissions on a steep downward path would cost plenty of money, waiting to act is far more expensive. The research firm modelled two policy scenarios for reaching net zero by mid-century: one in which aggressive climate measures start now, and the other that waits until 2030. The analysis found the cumulative costs of the 2030 scenario are 72% higher on a net present value basis. (Climate Nexus, Axios)
Bill bank – US Democratic lawmakers are pushing to include a $100 bln national green bank as part of an upcoming COVID-19 recovery and infrastructure bill. The money in the bill introduced on Wednesday, a smaller version of which Democrats passed twice in the House last Congress as part of broader packages, would be used to spur $500 bln in private investments and create 4 mln jobs over four years, its advocates say. President Biden’s climate change platform called for innovative financing mechanisms to leverage private capital investments on green energy, though it did not specify establishing a green bank. The National Academies of Sciences report released Tuesday also endorsed a green bank initially capitalised at $30 bln to help reach net zero emissions by 2050. (Politico)
New roadblocks – A set of 20 Republican Attorneys General have asked the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to continue a lawsuit challenging California’s fuel economy waiver under the Clean Air Act after the Biden administration requested the litigation to be halted, according to a brief filed Wednesday. The US Department of Justice asked that the lawsuit be stopped as it decides whether to change course, but the Republican intervenors said the federal government potentially changing its mind was not an adequate reason to halt the case. “The federal government’s consideration of whether to grant a waiver is a reason to expedite the resolution of this case,” the group wrote in the filing.
Science & Tech
Splitsville – German automaker Daimler announced Wednesday that it would split its car and truck divisions to help finance a shift to battery and hydrogen technology, coming roughly a week after US-based General Motors said it would end internal combustion engine vehicle production by 2035. Under the deal, Mercedes-Benz would become the carmarker, while the truck division would be named Daimler Trucks. Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius said the split would help both divisions combat major technological and structural changes. (NYT)
Faster action – Germany must rapidly step up its national climate and energy targets to bring efforts in line with new EU-wide goals, said the independent expert commission in charge of monitoring the country’s energy transition. As a result of the new EU-wide emissions reduction target of at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030, Germany will likely have to raise its own GHG reduction target to 65% from the current 55%, and raise its share of renewables to 70% by the end of the decade. Separately, Reuters reported that the government approved a draft law on Wednesday to set a more ambitious GHG reduction target for the transport sector, aiming for 2030 levels to be 22% below those in 1990. That compares with a current target of just over 6%. Transport is a laggard compared with the electricity and heating sectors where a greater degree of decarbonisation has been achieved as renewable energy sources replace fossil fuels. (Clean Energy Wire)
Outdated treaty – The EU and its member states should consider a coordinated withdrawal of the Energy Charter Treaty given the current stalemate in multilateral talks, France said in a letter seen by Euractiv. Signed in the early 1990s to protect oil and gas companies from political risk when investing in the former USSR, the treaty has since been decried as outdated by the EU, which wants to reinstate its “right to regulate” and align the treaty with its international climate obligations. Despite three rounds of talks held last year among the 54 signatories, however, not much progress has been made.
More details please – The EU has raised concerns over Austrian plans to set a minimum airfare, a spokesman said, weighing in on an environmental policy debate that pits traditional airlines against low-cost carriers. A minister from Austria’s Greens, the junior partner in the governing coalition, announced plans last June for a €40 minimum fare that explicitly targeted no-frills operators. The European Commission “expects to receive more detailed information from the Austrian authorities on the precise content of the envisaged measures,” the spokesman for the EU executive told Reuters on Wednesday. Faced with pressure for higher airline taxes to curb GHGs, flag carriers like Lufthansa and Air France-KLM have argued instead for minimum fares that could all but abolish much of the low-cost market. Austria unveiled its proposal after granting €600 mln in aid to Lufthansa-owned Austrian Airlines.
Tip of the (N)CAP(X) – US venture-backed climate tech company SilviaTerra on Tuesday announced the launch of the Natural Capital Exchange (NCAPX), a data-driven forest carbon marketplace. In a press release, SilviaTerra said the NCPAPX programme relies on its Basemap technology, which it says is the first high-resolution forest map of every acre in the US. The first NCAPX quarterly cycle begins on Apr. 1 and will source carbon credits from landowners in the Southeast, while all areas in the contiguous US will be eligible to participate by the end of this year. Microsoft announced last week that it purchased 200,000 tonnes of credits from NCAPX as part of the tech giant’s 1.3 Mt VER procurement.
Urban doubtfitters – American cities are undercounting their carbon pollution by an average of 18% – a significant gap with major implications for US climate action, according to a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications. Researchers measured 48 cities’ self-reported emissions estimates against the Vulcan Project – their national and highly-precise database reliant on multiple overlapping datasets and cross-checked against atmospheric CO2 levels. They found cities often failed to include all sources of pollution and were inconsistent in measuring transportation emissions. With an ever-growing number of cities across the country setting goals to reduce their GHGs, the discrepancies highlight the need for a systematic approach for calculating emissions, the scientists say, in order to accurately measure baselines and progress against those goals. Accurate measurements can also accelerate carbon reduction efforts by providing cities with insight into which measures are most cost-effective. (Climate Nexus)
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