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Negotiators from the three EU institutions took baby steps towards aligning their views on the post-2020 ETS reform bill on Tuesday, in the first of their so-called ‘trilogue’ sessions.
EU carbon prices fell by 4.5% on Tuesday, giving back gains built up in a late spurt on Monday as coal prices fell and European lawmakers appeared in no rush to agree ETS reforms.
The European Commission has approved a Finnish support scheme to partially compensate some energy-intensive companies for higher electricity prices resulting from indirect emission costs under the EU ETS.
BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Back and forth – The Trump Administration is exploring the creation of two controversial new taxes – a carbon tax and a value-added tax – as part of a broad overhaul of the tax code, The Washington Post reported, citing two anonymous sources. Examination of the new options – which would represent major changes to American economic policy – comes as the administration looks to tax reform as its next major battleground for implementing its agenda. Trump wants to cut taxes sharply, but his advisers are looking for ways to raise revenue so as not to create a giant hole in the deficit. The news comes just two weeks after a White House official stated that Trump was not considering a carbon tax, an announcement that itself came just hours after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to confirm to reporters whether the administration was weighing this apparently divisive option. The White House is reportedly divided on the issue following a pitch by Republican elders earlier this year, with one side in support of the idea, led by Trump economic advisor Gary Cohn, and the other side against and headed by chief strategist Steve Bannon. Expect some more flip-flopping on this issue by anonymous sources before Trump or another administration official goes on the record to set said record straight.
“Arrogant and callous” – A retiring veteran climate change specialist has sent EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt a letter warning him of a sea change in agency morale and suggesting he needs to provide better reasons for changing course on policy if he wants the support of the agency’s rank-and-file, Politico reports ($). “One of the main purposes of my letter was to really get across to Administrator Pruitt that for him to be successful … the career staff have to really be a part of that whole thing,” Michael Cox said in the interview. Cox also said EPA staff were “frankly insulted” by President Trump travelling to the agency to sign an executive order last week rolling back much of EPA’s climate change work. “It was beyond comprehension that an administration could be so arrogant and callous,” his letter said. Pruitt is scheduled to meet with Trump later today in the Oval Office.
More puff, less guff – Expanded use of wind and solar energy helped Europe to cut its GHG emissions by about 10% in 2015, according to a report from the European Environment Agency. Renewables’ share of the energy sector rose to 16.7% from 15% in 2013, accounting for 77% of Europe’s new power capacity. But clean energy capacity is still not advancing fast enough to prevent a “lock-in” of thermal generation that would otherwise become stranded assets. (The Guardian)
California + Caledonia – Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has signed a joint agreement with the California Governor Jerry Brown, committing them to work together on climate change through the Under2 MOU initiative. (BBC)
Emission trade insurance – Economist Georg Zachmann of Brussels-based think-tank Bruegel has a proposal for a time-saving workaround to enable the cost benefits of emissions trade ahead of a cumbersome global framework. He proposes a club of carbon-buying countries that would regulate only imported mitigation units and allow private entities to transfer credits but be held liable if they are later deemed dodgy. Furthermore, “to bridge the period before final settlement, private parties would be able to borrow domestic compliance units, based on collateralising a certain amount of foreign units.”
Gold goals – NGO-backed certifier The Gold Standard has teamed up with the UNFCCC in its efforts to better measure corporate efforts towards sustainable development goals, including climate mitigation and adaptation. The two organisations said the collaboration will result in voluntary methodologies, tools and guidance. (Gold Standard)
And finally… Energy’s holy grail? – Not everyone in the US is ready to return to the age of fossil fuels. Mike Cassidy, a Google advisor and former vice president at Alphabet’s X research lab, is ready to try the nuclear option and has quietly started a new company, Apollo Fusion. On Friday, a website for the firm, which previously consisted only of a definition of the phrase “nuclear fusion,” was updated to include a vision statement that gives a tantalizing peek into Cassidy’s plans. “Environmentalists have struggled for a while over whether nuclear power is good or bad. I think most of the more thoughtful environmentalists now view nuclear as good. If you can find a way to do nuclear power that doesn’t have the downsides, the risky, runaway meltdowns, or things like that, it’s a real win for the planet,” he told Bloomberg. Only a few nukes have been constructed in North America over the last few decades, as politicians and communities worried about accidents like Fukushima and Three Mile Island and the implications of terrorist attacks aimed at such facilities. Apollo Fusion’s technology appears to be designed to assuage those fears. Read more from Bloomberg.
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