CP Daily: Thursday February 20, 2020

Published 02:53 on February 21, 2020  /  Last updated at 02:56 on February 21, 2020  / Carbon Pulse /  Newsletters

A daily summary of our news plus bite-sized updates from around the world.

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US agriculture secretary backs carbon trading, as Trump administration makes rare climate pledge

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue deviated from Trump administration policies and backed the idea of a carbon market for the rural economy on Thursday, as the Department of Agriculture (USDA) outlined a goal of halving the environmental footprint of the agriculture sector by 2050.


Oregon GOP eyes second consecutive walkout after Friday ETS vote

Oregon Republicans are once again formalising plans to flee the state to scuttle the passage of the state’s WCI-modelled cap-and-trade bill, sources and local media reported.

NA Markets: RGGI prices rise above 2021 supply trigger, as CCAs inch up ahead of auction

RGGI Allowance (RGA) prices this week exceeded the 2021 Emissions Containment Reserve (ECR) trigger price for the second time this year, while California Carbon Allowances (CCA) also increased ahead of the first quarterly sale of 2020.


South Korea must phase out coal within a decade to be in line with Paris target, researchers say

South Korea must phase out coal-fired power generation in less than a decade if it is to play its part in meeting the Paris Agreement goals, a research group said Thursday.


EU Market: EUAs fade after extending 4-week high

EUAs extended further their four-week high early on Thursday, inching closer to their loftiest so far this year as some corners of the energy complex edged upwards and worries about the Covid-19 coronavirus continued to ease.



The fracking Bloom – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the role of natural gas during his first appearance at a US Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday night. Bloomberg, who entered the Nov. 2020 race late and has spent a record $400 mln of his own money on campaign advertising, called natural gas a “transition fuel”, despite the billionaire’s Beyond Carbon initiative’s focus on slowing the expansion of gas-fired power plants. “We want to go to all renewables, but that’s still many years from now,” Bloomberg said, also calling for the “enforcement of rules” to lower emissions. That stands in contrast to the positions of fellow candidates Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who support the ban of fracking on public lands. Bloomberg also said that India was a bigger problem than China in the arena of global climate politics, while former Vice President Joe Biden said he would gather all members of the Paris Agreement in Washington DC on day one of his presidential term. “They know me. I’m used to dealing with international relations. I will get them to up the ante in a big way,” Biden said. (Huffington Post)

Gas hope – Methane emissions from fossil fuels are 25-40% higher than previously thought, according to a study published in the journal Nature. The research shows that naturally occurring emissions of fossil methane are lower than thought, meaning emissions from oil and gas extraction are higher and therefore a greater proportion of methane emissions could be addressed by climate action.

So it begins – Initial analysis showing that shutdowns in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak have shaved around 100 MtCO2e of China’s emissions have been tempered somewhat by the fact that most analysts agree this will likely be made up for and then some, as the government is expected to pump cash into energy-intensive industries to maintain economic growth rates. On Thursday, the government in Hebei province – a major iron and steel producing region surrounding Beijing – announced it has set up a $7.1-billion special financing project that will focus on getting facilities back online as well as channel money into new major infrastructure projects, Reuters reported. Observers say the economic focus in the wake of the virus is dimming hopes of any new climate policy measures or targets in the world’s biggest-emitting nation this year.

Green tension – The European Green Deal “will definitely create tensions” inside the EU, and risks pushing “two or three countries” to leave the Union altogether, warns Traian Basescu, Romanian President over 2004-14. He said the deal’s €10-bln funding proposal for Romania would make it impossible to close down the country’s coal energy production. Oil majors ExxonMobil and Lukoil are ready to exploit gas deposits in the Black Sea that will be essential to replace Romania’s coal power plants, he added. (EurActiv)

Closing time – The French government has announced plans to shut down its oldest nuclear power plant, in Fessenheim, which sits right on the German border, newswire dpa reports. German politicians have called for the plant to be taken offline for years. One of the plant’s two reactors will shut down this weekend, while the other will cease operation by the end of June. It will be the first nuclear plant to shut down as part of President Macron’s new energy strategy, which calls for all the closure of 14 of the country’s 58 reactors by 2035, while expanding renewable energy. (Clean Energy Wire)

Net zero – Labor, Australia’s main opposition party, is expected to announce on Friday a 2050 net zero emissions target, according to the Guardian. Climate has become an increasingly contentious issue for the party as some factions believe ambitious targets and policies have cost votes in recent elections. A net zero target announcement would also come just a couple of days after party leader Anthony Albanese said he supported the massive Adani-owned Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. Labor is also expected to confirm they oppose the use of carryover Kyoto carbon credits to meet the Paris target. The ruling Coalition, meanwhile, is reluctant to aim for net zero, and according to reports is working on a “Technology Investment Target” instead.

Industrial inquiries – California regulator ARB will take public comments through Mar. 6 on potential strategies to help the industrial sector contribute to the Golden State’s 2045 carbon neutrality goal. During a webinar Thursday, the agency provided an update on the state’s progress in decarbonising the industrial sector, having previously held a public workshop on the topic in July 2019 (See Carbon Pulse’s article here). The ARB provided an overview of its current industrial sector GHG regulations, including cap-and-trade and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), as well as other approaches in New Zealand, the EU, and Canada.

Merrimack’s back – One of the last coal-fired power plants in New England won its bid in the latest ISO-New England capacity auction, finalised Tuesday, and will now run until 2024, Utility Dive reports. The 448MW Merrimack station is the largest of the region’s three remaining coal plants and has drawn protests from environmentalists in the region determined to rid New England of the fuel. The plant had previously won payments to stay open until mid-2023, according to the Concord Monitor, and will receive another $8.1 mln through June 2024 to continue operating. States and stakeholders have become increasingly frustrated with ISO-NE for favoring incumbent generators over new clean resources, and some say the Merrimack plant — which operates at one-tenth of the power it ran on a decade ago — is a sign the capacity auction is not working as it should.

And finally … No ship Sherlock, it’s a carbon tax – The Panama Canal’s “freshwater” charge introduced this month of $10,000 per vessel to help the drought-hit shipping route cope with climate change will cost the maritime industry up to $370 million a year, according to the International Chamber of Shipping, an industry body. The canal authority also intends to bring in a variable surcharge based on the level of Gatun Lake to ensure the canal has enough water. It said the charges were a consequence of a lack of rainfall and said this was a short-term measure needed to tackle the impact of climate change. (Reuters)

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