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European Commission President nominee Ursula von der Leyen on Monday pledged to back a more ambitious 2030 EU emissions reductions target in a bid to secure the support of more MEPs ahead of her confirmation vote tomorrow.
The EU carbon bull run extended into a fourth day on Monday, with prices hitting a new 11-year high of €29.50 as power also soared to their loftiest level so far this year.
Greek utility PPC failed to attract any bids for three of its lignite assets by a Monday deadline, as bidders preferred to wait for the new government’s rescue package.
Allocations of free carbon allowances to new and expanding companies in the EU ETS dipped slightly in the first half of 2019, with some 65% of the earmarked permits still unused as the clock ticks down on tapping the reserve.
**This article has been withdrawn after Refinitiv corrected its analysis to reflect the fact that Poland and other countries eligible under Article 10c cannot withhold auction volumes in 2020 and therefore will sell the full amount of EUAs allotted to their power sectors.**
The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) has selected emission reduction programmes from five developing countries to participate in the organisation’s Carbon Fund, bringing the nations a step closer to signing agreements seen as a possible base for forestry international emissions trade.
Massachusetts will auction off allowances across two vintage years in December for its state-wide Global Warming Solutions Action (GWSA) programme, while the 21 regulated facilities have seen emissions drop through the first quarter.
Quebec’s retirement of 1.8 million V17 carbon allowances last week will shorten the duration over which its remaining unsold permits will return to quarterly auctions in the WCI cap-and-trade programme, according to Carbon Pulse analysis.
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BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Decade of growth – China’s GHG emissions not including land use hit 12.3 billion tonnes in 2014, up 53.5% in just a decade, the environment ministry said on Monday, citing the country’s latest carbon inventory submitted to the UNFCCC, with previous submissions in 2010 and 2005. Including carbon sinks from land use, total emissions would have stood at 11.2 billion tonnes in 2014, a 17% rise from 2010. Emissions are since believed to have levelled off for three years before resuming growth last year. (Reuters)
Polish promise – The main Polish opposition Civic Coalition group vowed Saturday to eliminate coal for home heating by 2030 and coal-fired power altogether by 2040 as it launched a general election campaign by November against the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which said last year that it would still use coal to meet 60% of the country’s electricity needs in 2030, compared with around 80% today. (AFP)
Hammond’s kibosh – British chancellor Philip Hammond is planning to block a set of government proposals to overhaul the UK energy industry because of “the potential spending implications for a new prime minister”, according to Bloomberg, which has spoken to “people familiar with the matter”. The plans are contained in a “long-awaited energy white paper that the business department has been working on for months”. Potential measures include changes to the way nuclear power plants get funding, more funding for CCS, increased decarbonisation of the power industry, and efforts to make housing more energy efficient. The white paper was due to be unveiled before parliament goes on summer recess at the end of this week. (Clean Energy Wire)
Offset expansion – California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed legislation into law Friday that would direct a new task force to develop offset protocols for natural and working lands (NWL) and methodologies that would enable projects to be developed jointly by landowners. AB-293 was approved by the Senate last week and sent to Newsom’s office for final approval. The proposal directs the Compliance Offsets Protocol Task Force to recommend to the California regulator ARB new offset protocols from the NWL sector and opens the door for potential aggregation, which currently is not allowed. Democrats advanced the proposal ahead of changes to California’s cap-and-trade programme that would reduce offset usage limit to 4% in 2021 and require half of those offsets to come from credits that provide direct environmental benefits (DEBs).
False argument – US EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler may have offered some new information last week about the legal arguments behind President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, E&E News reports. In a call with reporters last Monday ahead of Trump’s White House environment speech, the administrator told reporters that the US couldn’t have stayed in Paris because doing so would have jeopardised Trump’s deregulatory agenda. Wheeler’s explanation was different from his predecessor. When a reporter asked whether Trump still sought to “renegotiate” Paris, Wheeler mentioned a Clean Air Act provision that has been used once in the law’s 40-year history. He said it would have made Trump’s domestic agenda impossible if the US stayed in the deal. “Another aspect that a lot of people gloss over is that, under the Clean Air Act — I believe it’s Section 115 of the Clean Air Act — if we enter into an international treaty, such as the Paris climate accord — if we fail to meet our targets, those are enforceable under our domestic laws,” Wheeler said. “Most other countries who are signatories to the Paris climate accord don’t have that same constraint.” Section 115 allows EPA to force states to regulate pollutants that harm public health in foreign countries if those countries put in place similar controls to protect Americans’ health. However, it doesn’t turn US treaty commitments into domestic legal requirements, and Clean Air Act experts from both the environmental and industry sectors agree that Section 115 would not have amounted to a “constraint” on Trump’s abandonment of President Barack Obama’s Paris pledge, as Wheeler seemed to suggest.
Brace for impact – A new study estimates 77% of the world’s cities will experience a striking change in climate conditions by 2050, while 22% will experience conditions not currently found in any city in the world. The study published in scientific journal PLOS One last week found cities will see less temperature seasonality and warmer weather throughout the year. (Utility Drive)
Fire freak – Arctic wildfires emitted 50 million tonnes of CO2 last month, as much as Sweden does in a whole year and more from Arctic fires in the same month between 2010 and 2018 combined, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said. Most have been in the US state of Alaska and the Russian region of Siberia. (Reuters)
Greta effect – German airline Lufthansa expects passenger numbers to rise about 4% this year after hitting a record in 2018, Der Spiegel reports, with CEO Carsten Spohr playing down talk that public support for teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg might be curbing air travel. Spohr said less than 1% of Lufthansa customers currently make use of the voluntary option to offset a portion of their carbon emissions by paying a surcharge. He added that he is sceptical of a national – or higher European – CO2 price, but said some air fares are too low, creating “artificial demand” at “unrealistic prices”. Separately, low-fare airline Easyjet’s CEO for Germany, Stephan Erler, said his company also expected to grow this year. (Clean Energy Wire)
And finally… Getting to the root of the problem – Scientists have figured out how to genetically engineer plants to grow deeper roots, Vice reports, potentially improving carbon storage, drought resistance, and flood protection. This research comes as part of the Salk Institute’s Harnessing Plants Initiative, which seeks to use plants to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in the ground. When a plant grows a deeper root system, it helps store carbon deeper underground in more stable soil. The researchers anticipate this technique being particularly useful for crops. As well, while shallow roots proved better for drought resistance, deeper ones can help a plant survive on less water. So, not only can plants help slow climate change, they might be able to start protecting themselves against some of the extreme weather events that climate change causes.
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