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The cancellation of Ontario’s carbon market and green energy programmes has put the jurisdiction in danger of backsliding on its recent progress in cutting greenhouse gases, according to a report issued Tuesday by the province’s environmental watchdog.
European carbon slid by more than euro on Tuesday on technical selling, softer energy prices, and as another weak auction failed to inspire confidence that buyers would emerge to push EUAs back to their recent 10-year high.
The UK opposition centre-left Labour party said on Tuesday that it would set a net zero 2050 emissions target should it win the country’s next election.
Northeast US states are making progress in developing a programme to regulate transportation emissions from 13 states, but the initiative still needs to tackle some significant questions.
The inclusion of a speaker from a fossil fuel-tied think-tank at an Oregon legislative hearing on Tuesday drew criticism from stakeholders who said the appearance was detracting from the state’s efforts to develop a carbon reduction policy, including a cap-and-trade system, ahead of the 2019 legislative session.
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BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
20-20 revision – Current carbon pricing levels in the world’s largest countries won’t curb emissions nearly enough to prevent high amounts of warming, according to a report from consultancy IHS Markit. The analysis said that the average CO2 price amongst the G20 countries is just $16 per tonne, whereas prices in the range of $40-80 by 2020 are necessary to keep global temperatures in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The company also noted that price signals that are in place or may be implemented in the future may also be distorted by the prevalence of fossil fuel subsidies in these 20 countries. (Axios)
Up in the air – The New Brunswick provincial election was thrown into chaos Monday as both the incumbent Liberals and Progressive Conservatives jockeyed to form the province’s first minority government in 100 years. Although PC leader Blaine Higgs claimed victory after his party eked out 22 seats versus the Liberals’ 21, in a legislature that requires 25 to form a majority, the incumbents won the popular vote, leading Liberal Premier Brian Gallant to vow that he would remain in office. However, Higgs is insisting that he’s the premier-elect and that Gallant is just “prolonging the inevitable.” After meeting with the province’s lieutenant-governor on Tuesday morning, Gallant said he has permission to continue governing the province while he and his Liberals try to form a government. That would involve ‘king-makers’ the Greens and right-wing People’s Alliance, which each picked up three seats. However, Higgs said he was told by the lieutenant-governor’s office that Gallant hadn’t, in fact, received permission to continue governing. The Tories have vowed to, if elected, reject the Liberals’ climate plan of effectively relabelling New Brunswick’s gasoline and diesel taxes as a carbon tax and adopting the federal ‘backstop’ output-based pricing system for large emitters. Higgs has also said he would follow the lead of Ontario and Saskatchewan in suing Ottawa over the imposition of the ‘backstop’. (CBC)
Those worst hit – The social cost of carbon is likely to be highest in India, China, Saudi Arabia, and the US, according to analysis led by a team from the University of California San Diego. To estimate the cost for each country, the researchers combined recent climate model projections, empirical climate-driven economic damage estimations, and socio-economic projections. The results show that the global cost is likely to be around US$417 per tonne of CO2 – many times higher than most previous estimates – while the country-level cost varies widely from nation to nation. (Nature Climate Change)
Out of coal – Standard Chartered has become the latest bank to announce it’s withdrawing from funding new coal projects, although it will maintain existing obligations at 14 projects across the world, Bloomberg reports. The bank had previously pulled out of funding new stand-alone thermal coal mines. HSBC, Societe Generale, and Deutsche Bank along with some Japanese and Australian banks have previously made similar pledges.
Cashing in – Information on allocation and emission trends from the Chinese pilot emissions trading schemes is patchy, but Guodian Fuzhou Power Generation Co. – a subsidiary of Guodian, one of China’s five biggest power companies – has told domestic power industry media its participation in the Fujian ETS has been a positive experience so far. Since the market started in 2016, the company has sold 40,000 surplus allowances, earning 700,000 yuan ($102,000) in profits. The coal-generator confirmed the latest Fujian allocation plan awarded it more or less the same amount of permits for 2018, meaning there are likely more profits ahead, even though the firm was concerned CO2 prices might be falling as the main market participants get closer to joining the national ETS. Fujian permits are currently worth 18.76 yuan ($2.73) but traded in a 20-22 yuan range in the months leading up to the mid-year compliance deadline.
Well blow me down – Wind energy is set to become the EU’s largest power source well before 2030, said IEA Executive Director, Fatih Birol at the Global Wind Summit. According to the IEA’s projections, wind will become the EU’s largest power source in 2027, several years before its previous prediction of “soon after 2030”. The more optimistic outlook is based on the EU’s recently-agreed 32% target for renewable energy for 2030, which caused the IEA to revise its projections, WindEurope said. According to the IEA, wind electricity generation in the EU will more than triple to 1,100 TWh by 2040. Separately, credit ratings agency Moody’s has forecast that this year, emerging markets will overtake developed nations in terms of the amount of renewable wind and solar power they have installed.
Merks’ Mercs – Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the country should not push for more ambitious EU car fleet emission limits as they carried the risk that carmakers would move production outside Europe. The European Commission has proposed to reduce car emissions 30% under 2021 levels by 2030. Germany’s environment ministry has pushed for a deeper goal, but the ministries for economic affairs and transport are both against. Merkel has also voiced reluctance to strengthen the EU’s existing 2030 GHG reduction goals beyond 40%. (Clean Energy Wire)
Mega mine – Public hearings for Teck Resources’ colossal Frontier mine project begin this week – opening an intense debate about whether and how the project’s emissions can be squared with either Alberta’s highly publicised emissions cap or Canada’s commitments to fight climate change. The proposed mine would produce 260,000 barrels per day of bitumen at its peak, cover 24,000 thousand hectares and — during its 41-year lifespan — tap into reserves in the neighbourhood of 3.2 billion barrels. Teck says Frontier will produce 4 Mt of GHGs per year throughout its lifespan, but that its emissions represent the “best-in-class” when compared to other oilsands projects – a claim disputed by environmental experts. (The Narwhal)
Pipeline palava – Meanwhile, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is demanding major changes to federal environmental assessment legislation, arguing the current bill before the Senate extends Ottawa’s reach into provincial jurisdiction and undermines energy industry competitiveness. Notley said her NDP government is pushing the federal Liberals to rapidly re-start the stalled Trans Mountain expansion project, and to retool its legislation – Bill C-69 – under which future resource projects will be reviewed. The House of Commons passed the Impact Assessment, which sets tighter timelines for project reviews but also requires regulators to consider a host of social and environmental issues and gives review panels the discretion to stop the clock on hearings, and the Minister of Environment wide powers to intervene. Conservative Senators are gearing up for an effort to defeat the bill in the upper chamber, while Notley has complained the legislation does not explicitly prevent regulators from considering GHGs related to the consumption of fuel shipped through pipelines, though no other types of project face such a test. She also argued the bill allows Ottawa to intrude on provincial jurisdiction. (The Globe and Mail)
PEI-ce of mind – On Monday, Prince Edward Island’s Liberal Environment Minister Richard Brown, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, PC environment critic Brad Trivers and NDP Leader Joe Byrne discussed their party’s platforms during a carbon pricing roundtable with CBC News. The four parties set out their positions on carbon pricing in Canada’s smallest province. Earlier this year, Brown announced he was taking the fight to Ottawa to oppose a carbon tax for the province because PEI is already on a path to cut its emissions significantly and doesn’t need carbon pricing. With an electric cable to New Brunswick and “world-class wind farms,” he said PEI is already working to drastically reduce greenhouse gases and oil consumption. Conservative Trivers said his party would focus on stationary sources and producing more local renewable energy to avoid the introduction of a carbon tax. Although, he added, if Ottawa forces its backstop tax on the province the PCs would adjust for it by raising the basic personal tax amount to give money back to Islanders. The Greens said a PEI carbon price is “past due” and last week revealed their own strategy for a revenue neutral tax, which would also allow the province to collect its C$34 million share of federal low-carbon investment funding. The NDP added that its focus would be on implementing a ‘tip-to-tip’ public transit system, installing EV charging stations, and investing wind, solar, and other renewable energies, all with the help of a carbon tax. PEI is due to go to the polls by Oct. 2019.
Another one bites the ash – American Electric Power AEP will retire its 680MW Oklaunion coal plant in 2020 because it cannot compete with cheaper power from gas and renewables, the utility has announced. The plant, partially owned by Oklahoma utilities, is located on the Texas side of the border between the two states and feeds power into the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). AEP previously warned the profitability of Oklaunion and its other coal properties was declining. (Utility Dive)
Wonk corner – The global modelling community and national governments apply different methods to measure and report land-based greenhouse gas emissions. In a guest article for Carbon Brief, a group of scientists explain how these different methods can produce inconsistencies that make it difficult to track progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement. They then make recommendations of how to reconcile these differences.
And finally… Not the good kind of bubbly – Rapidly-melting permafrost in the Arctic is causing the release of methane, leading one lake in Alaska to appear as if it’s boiling as the potent GHG rises to the surface. Researchers from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks found that so-called thermokarst lakes, which form when wedges of ice within permafrost melt and create voids that then fill with water, could more than double the GHG emissions coming from the Arctic’s soils by 2100. The scientists also found that Esieh Lake, which does not fully freeze over in the winter, was releasing methane not just from a direct thawing of frozen Arctic soil, but also from a reservoir of far older fossil fuels located beneath it. One researcher estimated that the lake was producing two tonnes of methane every day, the equivalent of emissions from 6,000 dairy cows. (The Washington Post)
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