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China announced key economic targets for the next five years on Friday, avoiding an absolute cap on greenhouse gas output and instead setting intensity goals that if met would see annual emissions rise around 1.9% over the period.
China National Coal Association expects the government to cap yearly coal consumption at 4.2 billion tonnes by the end of the 2021-25 five-year plan, it said this week, a move that could potentially generate millions of tonnes worth of additional CO2 emissions.
One year after it was proposed, the European Climate Law is still far from being concluded, as mainly leftist and liberal MEPs insist on increasing the EU’s level of ambition and won’t budge on key demands including a carbon budget and an independent scientific council.
Introducing position limits into the EU’s carbon market will not be “as simple nor as effective as it sounds” and could take years to negotiate before being introduced, two former top European Commission officials said in a report released Thursday.
European rebounded after sinking to an eight-day low on Thursday, pulled lower initially by risk-off sentiment in wider markets.
Utility Uniper saw its European carbon intensity increase in 2020 as a new coal plant came online and another came back into service, it said in results on Thursday, marking a sharp contrast to deep decarbonisation among its rivals.
China should set an absolute cap on CO2 emissions in its national ETS, expand beyond spot trade, and phase out the pilot trading schemes to improve the effectiveness of its carbon market, the Shanghai director of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has said.
Japan is likely to opt for a combination of emissions trading, a carbon tax, and subsidies, according to analysts that view the mix as the most effective way of driving GHG cuts, meeting international climate expectations, and overcoming industry opposition.
Global carbon prices need to rise to about $160/tCO2e over the next decade to support the economic transition necessary to limit global warming to 1.5C, according to consultants Woodmac.
Offset standard developer and manager Verra announced plans on Thursday to revise the methods for setting reference levels under its VCS project-level and Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (JNR) programmes, aiming to streamline emissions accounting and incorporate scientific best practices.
RGGI allowance (RGA) prices rose slightly on the secondary market this week ahead of the publication of the scheme’s first 2021 auction results, while California Carbon Allowance (CCA) values dipped after its own quarterly sale sold out slightly above the floor price.
Delta Air Lines announced plans on Thursday to spend more than $30 million on voluntary emissions reductions (VERs) to offset its GHG output last year, with the company slated to include forestry projects that reduce, avoid, and remove emissions in its portfolio.
BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Phaseout fast forward – Hungary’s last coal power plant will be shut down in 2025 instead of 2030, the country’s secretary of state for EU affairs announced earlier this week. “Our plan is to reach 90% carbon neutral electricity generation by 2030,” Attila Steiner said Tuesday at the annual summit of the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The announcement was hailed by green activists as a major victory for the climate and workers affected by the shutdown, who will receive support from the EU’s just transition fund. However, they were disappointed that a 500MW gas plant will be built on the site of the country’s Matra coal plant, warning that this risked locking Hungary into more carbon-emitting fuels for years to come. (Euractiv)
Put on track – German lobby group Rail Alliance has called for a quick ramp-up of cross-border European express and night train services as a way to replace EU ETS-covered flights and thus combat the transport sector’s effects on the climate. So far, Europe has not exploited its full potential of growing more connected through rail offers, the group’s leader Dirk Flege said. The group called for support programmes to make all border crossings usable for electric, not just diesel-powered, trains. It also called on several EU member states to exempt international train tickets from VAT, so long as the same is true for flight tickets. It also called for an end to the EU-wide tax exemptions for the flight fuel kerosene. (Clean Energy Wire)
Farm feature – US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he plans to move swiftly on initiatives to lower carbon emissions from farms, including the “possibility” of support for a carbon market, Bloomberg reports. Vilsack said his team is looking at redirecting existing farm conservation programmes to encourage practices to lower carbon emissions, and added it will be important for competitiveness of US farmers domestically and internationally as consumers demand sustainable agriculture products.
Strings attached – Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the agency will require companies receiving government-backed loans in the clean energy sector to create high-paying jobs to align with President Joe Biden’s climate promise, according to Politico. Granholm said the DOE’s loan programme would aim to speed up deployment of clean energy sources to meet Biden’s goal of eliminating carbon emissions from the power sector by 2035. Former California Independent Emissions Market Advisory Committee member Jennifer Kropke will also be tasked with identifying resources to revitalise communities that have been impacted by the closure of coal mines or power plants.
SCIENCE & TECH
Copper, price topper – Look just beneath the surface of many of the technologies powering the energy transition and there’s a red metallic glint. Copper is a vital part of green infrastructure from grids to wind turbines, and a recent price surge threatens to make decarbonization more costly. Copper has roughly doubled from the lows seen a year ago and was near a nine-year high at the start of the month. Amid predictions of a new commodity supercycle kicking off, many analysts say the top hasn’t yet been reached for a metal that’s core to the green energy drive. The price weakened as much as 4.9% to $8,660 on Thursday, the most in five months. (Bloomberg)
Leaky pipes – The number of methane plumes emitted from Russian gas infrastructure rose by 40% in 2020, satellite monitoring has revealed, raising concerns over the global warming impact. Increasingly frequent methane releases from venting, flaring or leakage along two major gas pipelines came despite an estimated 14% drop in exports to Europe. Analysis firm Kayrros detected 13 methane emission events around the Yamal-Europe pipeline – a 4,196 km pipeline running through Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany – and a further 33 around the Brotherhood pipeline, 2,750-km long gas pipeline through Russia, Ukraine and Slovakia. Operators told Kayrros these methane releases were related to planned maintenance and had been reported to the relevant authorities. Analysts said a number of factors could have contributed to the spike in methane emissions over Russia, including a drop in oil and gas prices and a lack of maintenance of gas pipelines during the pandemic. (Climate Home)
Copy & paste – Gene editing technology will play a vital role in climate-proofing future crops to protect global food supplies, according to scientists at The University of Queensland. Scientists have published a review of gene editing technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 to safeguard food security in farming systems under stress from extreme and variable climate conditions. “Farmers have been manipulating the DNA of plants using conventional breeding technologies for millennia, and now with new gene-editing technologies, we can do this with unprecedented safety, precision and speed,” said Karen Massel from UQ’s Centre for Crop Science. “This type of gene editing mimics the way cells repair in nature.” Her review recommended integrating CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing into modern breeding programmes for crop improvement in cereals. Energy-rich cereal crops such as wheat, rice, maize and sorghum provide two-thirds of the world’s food energy intake. “Just 15 plant crops provide 90% of the world’s food calories,” Massel said.
Good wood – Scientists at US university MIT are working on a plan to “grow” wood in a laboratory without sunlight or soil, hoping that the material could one day supplement traditional forestry methods and leave more land for carbon-absorbing forests. The method uses a 3D-printed gel to mould plant cells into the desired shape for furniture parts or planks. (BBC)
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