Category Archives: Economics

Wind power bids to save the North Sea oil industry

Can the world’s largest floating offshore wind farms help the North Sea oil industry to cut carbon emissions? Should they?

LONDON, 12 July, 2021 – In one sense it is a renewable energy scheme that ticks all the wrong boxes. The idea is to help the North Sea oil industry survive longer by saving oil rigs money.

In another way the development is a great leap forward. Altogether 200 turbines are planned in two offshore wind farms that, without any public subsidy, will produce as much power as three large nuclear power stations.

The floating farms will be able to provide the forest of oil platforms in the North Sea with all the electricity they need, and also to produce surplus energy to supply large amounts of green hydrogen for sale.

The developer, Cerulean Winds, believes the key to the scheme’s success lies in the oil industry’s current need to use expensive gas piped to its platforms to generate the electricity needed to light and power its operations and pump the oil ashore. By selling the industry cheaper wind energy, it judges that it can make a profit without government subsidy, thereby avoiding months of negotiation and red tape.

Hearts and minds

Electricity generated direct from floating turbines near the oil fields would both undercut the current cost of generation and substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the offshore oil industry – something the industry has pledged to do and is desperate to achieve, to avoid not only further public opposition, but also carbon taxes.

The platform operators are committed to reducing their carbon emissions by 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027, so buying carbon-free electricity would be a significant help.

The project will cost £10 billion (US$13.8bn), and the developers hope to be installing the turbines by 2024-2026, an ambitious timetable for such a huge project compared with the 10-20 years needed to plan and build a nuclear power station.

One farm will be sited in the Central Graben area of the North Sea, almost halfway to Norway, and the second west of Shetland.

“The UK oil and gas industry’s emissions have to be cut significantly to make production greener”

The development will far exceed the UK’s current target of 1GW of floating wind power by 2030. If it is successful it will cut installation costs substantially, paving the way for even bigger projects. Cerulean says it wants to install 14 to 15MW turbines – far larger than anything currently deployed.

One key aspect of the project is its ability to produce more power than the oil platforms will need, with the surplus going to produce green hydrogen (using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen) for which there is a growing market.

Green hydrogen’s problem has been that it is more expensive than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, so-called grey hydrogen, which is carbon-intensive and needs unproven carbon capture and storage technology to make its production acceptable to the environment movement.

The future of what is called the hydrogen economy is still uncertain, but Cerulean predicts it will be able to produce enough green hydrogen to yield export potential worth £1bn.

Race against time

It says speed is essential for the project because its success depends on selling its electricity to the oil industry in time to for that to reach its carbon reduction targets. So it has already submitted proposals to the Scottish Government for seabed leases.

The dubious carrot it is offering the UK and Scottish governments is the prospect that it can help to keep the North Sea oil and gas industry producing fossil fuels for longer. Cerulean believes that if the industry can avoid carbon taxes and penalties for its emissions, it will be able to continue production.

Dan Jackson and Mark Dixon, the founders of the company, are industry veterans. Jackson says the UK has world-leading targets for the energy transition but needs a sense of urgency and “joined-up thinking.”

If oil platforms do not cut their pollution by the mid-2020s, he believes, increased emission penalties through carbon taxes will see many North Sea fields becoming uneconomic and facing shut-down.

Greener production?

“That would seriously compromise the UK oil and gas industry’s role in home-grown energy security,” he says. “It must remain a vital element in the transition journey for decades to come, but emissions have to be cut significantly to make the production greener.”

Cerulean says many of the current 160,000 jobs would be protected by its plan, with potentially 200,000 new roles in the wind and hydrogen industry within five years.

It is, many energy analysts would say, a brave company, perhaps even a foolhardy one. Not only are most climate scientists adamantly opposed to the continued use of fossil fuels. So too, increasingly, is the market. From that perspective, Cerulean’s joined-up thinking may very soon need to stretch a whole lot further. – Climate News Network

Can the world’s largest floating offshore wind farms help the North Sea oil industry to cut carbon emissions? Should they?

LONDON, 12 July, 2021 – In one sense it is a renewable energy scheme that ticks all the wrong boxes. The idea is to help the North Sea oil industry survive longer by saving oil rigs money.

In another way the development is a great leap forward. Altogether 200 turbines are planned in two offshore wind farms that, without any public subsidy, will produce as much power as three large nuclear power stations.

The floating farms will be able to provide the forest of oil platforms in the North Sea with all the electricity they need, and also to produce surplus energy to supply large amounts of green hydrogen for sale.

The developer, Cerulean Winds, believes the key to the scheme’s success lies in the oil industry’s current need to use expensive gas piped to its platforms to generate the electricity needed to light and power its operations and pump the oil ashore. By selling the industry cheaper wind energy, it judges that it can make a profit without government subsidy, thereby avoiding months of negotiation and red tape.

Hearts and minds

Electricity generated direct from floating turbines near the oil fields would both undercut the current cost of generation and substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the offshore oil industry – something the industry has pledged to do and is desperate to achieve, to avoid not only further public opposition, but also carbon taxes.

The platform operators are committed to reducing their carbon emissions by 10% by 2025 and 25% by 2027, so buying carbon-free electricity would be a significant help.

The project will cost £10 billion (US$13.8bn), and the developers hope to be installing the turbines by 2024-2026, an ambitious timetable for such a huge project compared with the 10-20 years needed to plan and build a nuclear power station.

One farm will be sited in the Central Graben area of the North Sea, almost halfway to Norway, and the second west of Shetland.

“The UK oil and gas industry’s emissions have to be cut significantly to make production greener”

The development will far exceed the UK’s current target of 1GW of floating wind power by 2030. If it is successful it will cut installation costs substantially, paving the way for even bigger projects. Cerulean says it wants to install 14 to 15MW turbines – far larger than anything currently deployed.

One key aspect of the project is its ability to produce more power than the oil platforms will need, with the surplus going to produce green hydrogen (using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen) for which there is a growing market.

Green hydrogen’s problem has been that it is more expensive than hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, so-called grey hydrogen, which is carbon-intensive and needs unproven carbon capture and storage technology to make its production acceptable to the environment movement.

The future of what is called the hydrogen economy is still uncertain, but Cerulean predicts it will be able to produce enough green hydrogen to yield export potential worth £1bn.

Race against time

It says speed is essential for the project because its success depends on selling its electricity to the oil industry in time to for that to reach its carbon reduction targets. So it has already submitted proposals to the Scottish Government for seabed leases.

The dubious carrot it is offering the UK and Scottish governments is the prospect that it can help to keep the North Sea oil and gas industry producing fossil fuels for longer. Cerulean believes that if the industry can avoid carbon taxes and penalties for its emissions, it will be able to continue production.

Dan Jackson and Mark Dixon, the founders of the company, are industry veterans. Jackson says the UK has world-leading targets for the energy transition but needs a sense of urgency and “joined-up thinking.”

If oil platforms do not cut their pollution by the mid-2020s, he believes, increased emission penalties through carbon taxes will see many North Sea fields becoming uneconomic and facing shut-down.

Greener production?

“That would seriously compromise the UK oil and gas industry’s role in home-grown energy security,” he says. “It must remain a vital element in the transition journey for decades to come, but emissions have to be cut significantly to make the production greener.”

Cerulean says many of the current 160,000 jobs would be protected by its plan, with potentially 200,000 new roles in the wind and hydrogen industry within five years.

It is, many energy analysts would say, a brave company, perhaps even a foolhardy one. Not only are most climate scientists adamantly opposed to the continued use of fossil fuels. So too, increasingly, is the market. From that perspective, Cerulean’s joined-up thinking may very soon need to stretch a whole lot further. – Climate News Network

Nuclear legacy is a costly headache for the future

How do you safely store spent nuclear waste? No-one knows. It’ll be a costly headache for our descendants.

LONDON, 28 June, 2021 − Many states are leaving future generations an unsolved and costly headache: how to deal with highly dangerous nuclear waste.

The decision to start closing down the United Kingdom’s second generation of nuclear power stations earlier than originally planned has highlighted the failure of governments to resolve the increasingly expensive problem of the waste they leave behind them.

Heat-producing radioactive spent fuel needs constant cooling for decades to avoid catastrophic accidents, so future generations in countries that have embraced nuclear power will all be paying billions of dollars a year, every year, for at least the next century or two to deal with this highly dangerous legacy.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its Nuclear Energy Agency looks at 12 member countries facing the problem: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The report shows that none of the 12 has yet got to grips with the legacy bequeathed by producing nuclear waste. None has any means yet of disposing of it. It says every country must quickly realise that the money the industry has put aside to deal with the problem is inadequate, leaving successive future generations with the bill for keeping themselves safe.

Failure to progress

Finland is closest to dealing with the internationally preferred route for making spent nuclear fuel safe: building an underground repository in rocks deep underground to store and ultimately seal up the waste in this final burial place.

The Finns have actually started building such a facility and regard it as the complete solution to the problem, even though it is still decades away from completion.

Finland’s progress is a shining example to the rest of the nuclear world. International rules require countries that create nuclear waste to deal with it within their own borders − yet most governments have failed to make progress on doing so. Some have spent decades looking for a suitable site and have failed to find one.

This has often been because local opposition has forced governments to abandon a chosen location, or because scientists judge the site too dangerous to store wastes for the required 100,000 years or so, because of poor geology. They may suspect a risk that the radioactivity could leak into water supplies, or rise to the surface and kill unwary future generations.

The funding shortfall has become much more problematic because of low inflation and the current Covid pandemic. Governments previously put money aside on the assumption that economies would constantly grow and positive interest rates would create massive long-term investments.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for nuclear wastes.

But the current low or negative return on government bonds means investments made in the past and designed to pay huge future bills will no longer be enough to deal with the cost of spent fuel and other high-level wastes.

The report says governments’ assumptions have proved optimistic. It is not directly critical of governments, but points out that “the polluter pays” principle is not being applied. New funding needs to be found, it says, if future generations are not to be saddled with this generation’s expensive and life-threatening legacy.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for past and present nuclear wastes.

As early as 1976, in the Flowers Report on nuclear power and the environment, the UK was warned that it should not build any more nuclear power stations until it had found a way of getting rid of the waste. The government agreed.

Since then, for more than 40 years, successive governments have been looking for a repository to make good on their promise. But none has yet been found, and none is expected until the current target date of 2045.

True cost unknown

Yet the OECD says the original nuclear weapons programme, plus the first generation of nuclear stations, now all closed, are costing today’s taxpayers US$4.58 billion a year (£3.3bn) just to manage the waste and keep the population safe. The cost is around $185bn (£133bn) for 17 sites over 120 years. There could be liabilities of another $200bn (£144bn) to restore the installations to greenfield sites.

The second generation of nuclear stations can call on the Nuclear Liabilities Fund, set up by the UK government when the French company EDF took over the newer British advanced gas cooled reactors (AGRs) in 2009 so that money from electricity sales could be invested to pay for de-fuelling and decommissioning at the end of their lives. The first of these, Dungeness B, on the English Channel coast, started de-fuelling this month.

The cost of dismantling this generation of reactors is estimated at $28.57bn (£20.59bn) by EDF  $10bn more than the Nuclear Liabilities Fund provides for. This shortfall is almost certainly a large under-estimate because the actual cost of closing the stations and storing the waste is unknown, let alone that of restoring the sites to greenfield conditions.

Partly this is because AGRs have never yet been taken out of service before there is a disposal route for the waste. If none is found, taxpayers will have to pay to keep it safe in closely managed stores for many decades.

Despite this, the current UK government is now building a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point in the West of England, and wants to build many more. Meanwhile the mounting financial liabilities for future generations who will need to keep the waste safe in a time of climate change are left unresolved. And so the costly headache remains for countless generations to come. − Climate News Network

How do you safely store spent nuclear waste? No-one knows. It’ll be a costly headache for our descendants.

LONDON, 28 June, 2021 − Many states are leaving future generations an unsolved and costly headache: how to deal with highly dangerous nuclear waste.

The decision to start closing down the United Kingdom’s second generation of nuclear power stations earlier than originally planned has highlighted the failure of governments to resolve the increasingly expensive problem of the waste they leave behind them.

Heat-producing radioactive spent fuel needs constant cooling for decades to avoid catastrophic accidents, so future generations in countries that have embraced nuclear power will all be paying billions of dollars a year, every year, for at least the next century or two to deal with this highly dangerous legacy.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its Nuclear Energy Agency looks at 12 member countries facing the problem: Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

The report shows that none of the 12 has yet got to grips with the legacy bequeathed by producing nuclear waste. None has any means yet of disposing of it. It says every country must quickly realise that the money the industry has put aside to deal with the problem is inadequate, leaving successive future generations with the bill for keeping themselves safe.

Failure to progress

Finland is closest to dealing with the internationally preferred route for making spent nuclear fuel safe: building an underground repository in rocks deep underground to store and ultimately seal up the waste in this final burial place.

The Finns have actually started building such a facility and regard it as the complete solution to the problem, even though it is still decades away from completion.

Finland’s progress is a shining example to the rest of the nuclear world. International rules require countries that create nuclear waste to deal with it within their own borders − yet most governments have failed to make progress on doing so. Some have spent decades looking for a suitable site and have failed to find one.

This has often been because local opposition has forced governments to abandon a chosen location, or because scientists judge the site too dangerous to store wastes for the required 100,000 years or so, because of poor geology. They may suspect a risk that the radioactivity could leak into water supplies, or rise to the surface and kill unwary future generations.

The funding shortfall has become much more problematic because of low inflation and the current Covid pandemic. Governments previously put money aside on the assumption that economies would constantly grow and positive interest rates would create massive long-term investments.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for nuclear wastes.

But the current low or negative return on government bonds means investments made in the past and designed to pay huge future bills will no longer be enough to deal with the cost of spent fuel and other high-level wastes.

The report says governments’ assumptions have proved optimistic. It is not directly critical of governments, but points out that “the polluter pays” principle is not being applied. New funding needs to be found, it says, if future generations are not to be saddled with this generation’s expensive and life-threatening legacy.

The UK, one of the pioneer nuclear states because of its race to develop a nuclear bomb, is a classic example of leaving the grandchildren to pay for past and present nuclear wastes.

As early as 1976, in the Flowers Report on nuclear power and the environment, the UK was warned that it should not build any more nuclear power stations until it had found a way of getting rid of the waste. The government agreed.

Since then, for more than 40 years, successive governments have been looking for a repository to make good on their promise. But none has yet been found, and none is expected until the current target date of 2045.

True cost unknown

Yet the OECD says the original nuclear weapons programme, plus the first generation of nuclear stations, now all closed, are costing today’s taxpayers US$4.58 billion a year (£3.3bn) just to manage the waste and keep the population safe. The cost is around $185bn (£133bn) for 17 sites over 120 years. There could be liabilities of another $200bn (£144bn) to restore the installations to greenfield sites.

The second generation of nuclear stations can call on the Nuclear Liabilities Fund, set up by the UK government when the French company EDF took over the newer British advanced gas cooled reactors (AGRs) in 2009 so that money from electricity sales could be invested to pay for de-fuelling and decommissioning at the end of their lives. The first of these, Dungeness B, on the English Channel coast, started de-fuelling this month.

The cost of dismantling this generation of reactors is estimated at $28.57bn (£20.59bn) by EDF  $10bn more than the Nuclear Liabilities Fund provides for. This shortfall is almost certainly a large under-estimate because the actual cost of closing the stations and storing the waste is unknown, let alone that of restoring the sites to greenfield conditions.

Partly this is because AGRs have never yet been taken out of service before there is a disposal route for the waste. If none is found, taxpayers will have to pay to keep it safe in closely managed stores for many decades.

Despite this, the current UK government is now building a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point in the West of England, and wants to build many more. Meanwhile the mounting financial liabilities for future generations who will need to keep the waste safe in a time of climate change are left unresolved. And so the costly headache remains for countless generations to come. − Climate News Network

Buy forest rescue at $25 a year from everyone alive

All win by protecting nature, not exploiting it. That needs huge sums: buy forest rescue at $25 a year from everyone alive today.

LONDON, 4 June, 2021 − In the next 30 years, to save the planet, nations will have to spend a total of $8.1 trillion dollars. We could buy forest rescue at $25 a year if everyone on Earth paid up.

Only big money can now address the interconnected challenges of potential climate catastrophe, the devastation of the planet’s wildlife and the degradation of the ecosystems on which humans and all other living things depend.

This is the message from a new study by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Economic Forum and an organisation called the Economics of Land Degradation: by 2030, investment in what will be called “nature-based solutions” must treble, and by 2050 have increased fourfold.

The ambition is that by 2050, the world’s public and private agencies will be spending $536 billion each year − based on 2020 figures − on direct economic investment into restoring the planet, rather than destroying any more of it.

Not so big

That sum sounds enormous. It is however precisely what the global print market was thought to be worth in 2015; it is what the Saudi Arabian stock exchange was valued at in 2019; it is what a new medical field called digital therapeutics could be worth in 2025.

It is exactly the estimate of sums raised for the sustainable bond market − investment in the “green economy” − on the London Stock Exchange in 2020.

The new report urges a re-examination of priorities, by “repurposing” agricultural and fossil fuel subsidies that now actively harm the planet: that is, harm the forests, wetlands, savannahs, mangroves and other ecosystems that underwrite all economic activity in myriad ways.

Living things soak up greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, restore water supplies, pollinate crops and provide the genetic material for new discoveries.

“We need a fundamental shift in mindset, transforming our relationship with nature”

But − as researchers have repeatedly warned − human activity has triggered an episode of mass extinction as great as any in the planet’s history.

“Biodiversity loss is already costing the global economy 10% of its output each year. If we do not sufficiently finance nature-based solutions, we will impact the capacities of countries to make progress in other vital areas such as education, health and employment,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. “If we do not save nature now, we will not be able to achieve sustainable development.”

The report’s authors think the planet will have to spend $203 bn a year from now on just to manage, conserve and restore the world’s forests: that works out at $25 a year from everybody on the planet in 2021. The pay-off would be an extra 300 million hectares, or three million square kilometres, of forest and agro-forestry plantations by 2050. This is an area of land slightly bigger than India.

Right now, the world loses 100,000 sq kms of forest − this is about the area of South Korea − every year: demand for beef, palm oil, soy, cocoa, coffee, rubber and wood fibre account for a quarter of that loss.

Neglected message

Right now, the world spends $133 bn a year on conservation and nature-based solutions: this is just 0.1% of global gross domestic product or GDP, the UNEP report says.

And yet, over and over again, researchers have demonstrated that the world’s forests and natural wildernesses are worth more, in strict economic terms, and to the whole world, rather than to individuals, than any profit to be gained from their destruction. The message has yet to get through.

“Our livelihoods depend on nature. Our collective failure to date to understand that nature underpins our global economic system will increasingly lead to financial losses. More than half of the world’ s total GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature,” the report says.

“In order to ensure that humanity does not breach the safety limits of the planetary boundaries, we need a fundamental shift in mindset, transforming our relationship with nature.” − Climate News Network

All win by protecting nature, not exploiting it. That needs huge sums: buy forest rescue at $25 a year from everyone alive today.

LONDON, 4 June, 2021 − In the next 30 years, to save the planet, nations will have to spend a total of $8.1 trillion dollars. We could buy forest rescue at $25 a year if everyone on Earth paid up.

Only big money can now address the interconnected challenges of potential climate catastrophe, the devastation of the planet’s wildlife and the degradation of the ecosystems on which humans and all other living things depend.

This is the message from a new study by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Economic Forum and an organisation called the Economics of Land Degradation: by 2030, investment in what will be called “nature-based solutions” must treble, and by 2050 have increased fourfold.

The ambition is that by 2050, the world’s public and private agencies will be spending $536 billion each year − based on 2020 figures − on direct economic investment into restoring the planet, rather than destroying any more of it.

Not so big

That sum sounds enormous. It is however precisely what the global print market was thought to be worth in 2015; it is what the Saudi Arabian stock exchange was valued at in 2019; it is what a new medical field called digital therapeutics could be worth in 2025.

It is exactly the estimate of sums raised for the sustainable bond market − investment in the “green economy” − on the London Stock Exchange in 2020.

The new report urges a re-examination of priorities, by “repurposing” agricultural and fossil fuel subsidies that now actively harm the planet: that is, harm the forests, wetlands, savannahs, mangroves and other ecosystems that underwrite all economic activity in myriad ways.

Living things soak up greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, restore water supplies, pollinate crops and provide the genetic material for new discoveries.

“We need a fundamental shift in mindset, transforming our relationship with nature”

But − as researchers have repeatedly warned − human activity has triggered an episode of mass extinction as great as any in the planet’s history.

“Biodiversity loss is already costing the global economy 10% of its output each year. If we do not sufficiently finance nature-based solutions, we will impact the capacities of countries to make progress in other vital areas such as education, health and employment,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. “If we do not save nature now, we will not be able to achieve sustainable development.”

The report’s authors think the planet will have to spend $203 bn a year from now on just to manage, conserve and restore the world’s forests: that works out at $25 a year from everybody on the planet in 2021. The pay-off would be an extra 300 million hectares, or three million square kilometres, of forest and agro-forestry plantations by 2050. This is an area of land slightly bigger than India.

Right now, the world loses 100,000 sq kms of forest − this is about the area of South Korea − every year: demand for beef, palm oil, soy, cocoa, coffee, rubber and wood fibre account for a quarter of that loss.

Neglected message

Right now, the world spends $133 bn a year on conservation and nature-based solutions: this is just 0.1% of global gross domestic product or GDP, the UNEP report says.

And yet, over and over again, researchers have demonstrated that the world’s forests and natural wildernesses are worth more, in strict economic terms, and to the whole world, rather than to individuals, than any profit to be gained from their destruction. The message has yet to get through.

“Our livelihoods depend on nature. Our collective failure to date to understand that nature underpins our global economic system will increasingly lead to financial losses. More than half of the world’ s total GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature,” the report says.

“In order to ensure that humanity does not breach the safety limits of the planetary boundaries, we need a fundamental shift in mindset, transforming our relationship with nature.” − Climate News Network

Old King Coal is forced at last to pull out of Asia

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

Solar is much better than fossil fuel for bringing electricity to the poor, so Old King Coal is quitting Asia.

LONDON, 14 May, 2021 − The Asian Development Bank (ADB), which serves more than half the world’s population, has decided it will no longer finance coal for electric generation and heating plants and instead will aid poor countries in the rapid phase-out of existing coal plants. So for Old King Coal, it’s good-bye to Asia.

The bank’s new policy document says coal has no future if developing countries are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It aims to phase out all coal plants in Asia by the middle of the century.

Despite the shift in policy, the plan remains to equip the entire population of the region the bank serves with access to electricity by 2030. It will also commit US$80 billion between now and 2030 to support climate change mitigation and adaption in the most vulnerable communities.

The bank’s decision is important because the Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest proportion of the world’s population and to many of its poorest people. It includes both China and India and also many island states in the Pacific.

ADB says the region’s progress in poverty reduction and economic growth has been remarkable, but that reliance on coal has not solved the problem of access to electricity. Fossil fuels are harming the region’s environment and accelerating climate change.

Vulnerable region

Because of this reliance on coal the bank’s developing member countries contribute 45% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector. “With continued economic growth, emissions from these countries will further increase if energy systems continue to rely on the expanded use of fossil fuels,” the policy document says.

In addition to the challenges of climate change mitigation, many member countries “are highly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change, such as the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increasing temperatures.

“Disaster-related losses are already growing due to insufficient regard for climate and disaster risk in either the design or location of new infrastructure. Climate change impacts and disruption of ecosystem services can lead to severe effects on livelihoods and food security, which in turn would affect human health.

“Indeed, the region is known to be the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, from typhoons and flooding to earthquakes and tsunamis.

“To become truly sustainable, economic growth must be decoupled from environmental degradation.”

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option”

Instead of investing in coal, the bank will give priority to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Even without coal, it believes it can secure a grid supply by 2030 for the 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region who still lack access to electricity. This, it says, can be done best with renewables, especially solar power.

The bank says some countries have made notable strides with electrification since 2010. One of the greatest success stories is Cambodia, where electrification has increased from 31% in 2010 to 93% in 2018.

South Asia, as a whole, has extended electricity services to a “remarkable 286 million people” in the same time period. All countries in the region now have more than 50% of their population with grid electricity, although a number still fall below 80%.

These countries include Pakistan, Myanmar, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The people still without a supply are largely in outlying islands or in hard-to-reach mountainous regions. Solar energy is particularly suitable for these areas.

Expanding access to clean cooking facilities, vital for promoting indoor and outdoor air quality, has been less successful. Central and South Asia had less than 50% access in 2018, and other regions only about two-thirds.

Gas still an option

Ensuring 100% of the population rely primarily on clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030 “is clearly more challenging than electrification,” the bank says.

Partly for this reason, it has not entirely ruled out the use of gas, particularly for cooking, but says it would need to be convinced that there was not a better alternative. It will review its energy policy in 2025.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia Finance Campaigner for 350.org, said: “We welcome this step because it brings to fruition the years of painstaking resistance from communities and organisations against energy projects that come at the expense of health, ecosystems, and the climate.

“The exclusion of coal in the new investment policy further affirms that coal is not only bad for the environment and our climate, it is also a bad investment because of the growing risk of coal infrastructure becoming stranded assets.

“Investors have already caught on to the fact that coal can no longer be the least-cost option for demand, even before factors such as public health impacts and environmental damage are priced in.” − Climate News Network

Drastic methane cuts are both urgent and possible

It’s a very potent greenhouse gas, and very short-lived. So drastic methane cuts should be a priority for rapid action.

LONDON, 13 May, 2021 − UN experts have found a new way to limit climate change, save lives, save the economy and reduce crop losses. It’s simple: start reducing emissions of the natural gas methane and bring them down by 45% in one generation. Drastic methane cuts can work wonders for the global climate.

Methane − also known as marsh gas − is a potent greenhouse gas and a dangerous air pollutant. According to a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment, a cut of approaching half of emissions by 2045 would prevent an estimated 260,000 premature deaths, save 775,000 asthma-related visits to hospital, and prevent 73 billion hours of labour lost because of extreme temperatures and annual crop losses of 25 million tonnes.

“Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years and complements necessary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director.

“The benefits to society, economies and the environment are numerous and far outweigh the cost. We need international cooperation to urgently reduce methane emissions as much as possible this decade.”

The proposal is unlikely to meet with any argument from the world’s climate scientists, who have welcomed the report and its conclusions. “Seldom in the world of climate change action is there a solution so stuffed with win-wins,” said Dave Reay of the University of Edinburgh’s climate change institute.

“Methane not only causes climate damage, but also air pollution that leads to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths”

“This blunt report makes clear that slashing emissions of methane − a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas − will deliver large and rapid benefits for the climate, air quality, human health, agriculture, and the economy too.”

And Joeri Rogelj, who directs research at the Grantham Institute of Imperial College London, said: “Methane occupies a special place in the land of climate pollutants.

“It’s the second most important greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide; its emissions can be reduced rapidly with readily available measures and this can impact temperature over the next decades; and finally, it not only causes climate damage, but also air pollution that leads to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and crop harvest losses. Together, this costs the economy billions.”

Methane accounts for almost one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions: about 30% of the warming in the last 200 years can be attributed to methane, escaping from oil fields and refineries; from the stomachs of cattle and other ruminants; from burning peatlands and thawing permafrost.

And prompt and determined action to reduce methane would, UNEP argues, deliver swift results. Molecule for molecule, it is many times more potent as a warming agent than carbon dioxide, but much shorter-lived. Carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for 100 years or more; methane has a lifetime of about 10 years.

Atmospheric methane is a key component in the formation of low-level ozone in polluted cities: ozone pollution or smog is blamed for around half a million premature deaths per year. It also diminishes growth and reduces crop productivity. And best of all, the researchers agree, is that industries, researchers and conservationists all know ways of effectively stopping its release into the atmosphere: it could be reduced by a third just in the next 10 years.

Top-priority pollutant

That is because the oil and gas sector releases, through leaks and escapes, almost 23%. Around 12% escapes from decomposing waste in landfill sites; 32% escapes from livestock and 8% from rice cultivation.

Almost two thirds of the action the report recommends could be undertaken at low cost but − as the researchers keep saying − high rewards in health, agriculture and global temperature control. The pay-off could be measurable: with global action on a sufficient and determined scale, the world could reduce potential global average warming by 0.3C by 2025.

In the last century, the world has already warmed in response to greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1°C, and is on course to rise by 2100 by more than 3°C above the long-term average for almost all human history.

But global agreement in Paris in 2015 set a target by 2100 of “well below” 2°C − shorthand for an ideal limit of 1.5°C. Right now, this target looks increasingly optimistic. Drastic methane cuts could help. The US, the European Union, Russia and many of the world’s oil-producing nations have already announced plans to act.

“It is by far the top-priority short-lived climate pollutant that we need to tackle to keep 1.5°C within reach,” said Rick Duke, once a climate adviser to US President Obama and now part of President Joe Biden’s climate team. “The United States is committed to driving down methane emissions both at home and globally.” − Climate News Network

It’s a very potent greenhouse gas, and very short-lived. So drastic methane cuts should be a priority for rapid action.

LONDON, 13 May, 2021 − UN experts have found a new way to limit climate change, save lives, save the economy and reduce crop losses. It’s simple: start reducing emissions of the natural gas methane and bring them down by 45% in one generation. Drastic methane cuts can work wonders for the global climate.

Methane − also known as marsh gas − is a potent greenhouse gas and a dangerous air pollutant. According to a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment, a cut of approaching half of emissions by 2045 would prevent an estimated 260,000 premature deaths, save 775,000 asthma-related visits to hospital, and prevent 73 billion hours of labour lost because of extreme temperatures and annual crop losses of 25 million tonnes.

“Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years and complements necessary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director.

“The benefits to society, economies and the environment are numerous and far outweigh the cost. We need international cooperation to urgently reduce methane emissions as much as possible this decade.”

The proposal is unlikely to meet with any argument from the world’s climate scientists, who have welcomed the report and its conclusions. “Seldom in the world of climate change action is there a solution so stuffed with win-wins,” said Dave Reay of the University of Edinburgh’s climate change institute.

“Methane not only causes climate damage, but also air pollution that leads to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths”

“This blunt report makes clear that slashing emissions of methane − a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas − will deliver large and rapid benefits for the climate, air quality, human health, agriculture, and the economy too.”

And Joeri Rogelj, who directs research at the Grantham Institute of Imperial College London, said: “Methane occupies a special place in the land of climate pollutants.

“It’s the second most important greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide; its emissions can be reduced rapidly with readily available measures and this can impact temperature over the next decades; and finally, it not only causes climate damage, but also air pollution that leads to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and crop harvest losses. Together, this costs the economy billions.”

Methane accounts for almost one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions: about 30% of the warming in the last 200 years can be attributed to methane, escaping from oil fields and refineries; from the stomachs of cattle and other ruminants; from burning peatlands and thawing permafrost.

And prompt and determined action to reduce methane would, UNEP argues, deliver swift results. Molecule for molecule, it is many times more potent as a warming agent than carbon dioxide, but much shorter-lived. Carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for 100 years or more; methane has a lifetime of about 10 years.

Atmospheric methane is a key component in the formation of low-level ozone in polluted cities: ozone pollution or smog is blamed for around half a million premature deaths per year. It also diminishes growth and reduces crop productivity. And best of all, the researchers agree, is that industries, researchers and conservationists all know ways of effectively stopping its release into the atmosphere: it could be reduced by a third just in the next 10 years.

Top-priority pollutant

That is because the oil and gas sector releases, through leaks and escapes, almost 23%. Around 12% escapes from decomposing waste in landfill sites; 32% escapes from livestock and 8% from rice cultivation.

Almost two thirds of the action the report recommends could be undertaken at low cost but − as the researchers keep saying − high rewards in health, agriculture and global temperature control. The pay-off could be measurable: with global action on a sufficient and determined scale, the world could reduce potential global average warming by 0.3C by 2025.

In the last century, the world has already warmed in response to greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1°C, and is on course to rise by 2100 by more than 3°C above the long-term average for almost all human history.

But global agreement in Paris in 2015 set a target by 2100 of “well below” 2°C − shorthand for an ideal limit of 1.5°C. Right now, this target looks increasingly optimistic. Drastic methane cuts could help. The US, the European Union, Russia and many of the world’s oil-producing nations have already announced plans to act.

“It is by far the top-priority short-lived climate pollutant that we need to tackle to keep 1.5°C within reach,” said Rick Duke, once a climate adviser to US President Obama and now part of President Joe Biden’s climate team. “The United States is committed to driving down methane emissions both at home and globally.” − Climate News Network

The price of coal weighs heavy on planetary health

In air pollution terms alone, the price of coal is huge. The true price of energy in almost any fossil form is colossal.

LONDON, 11 March, 2021 − Does anyone think fossil fuels should be more expensive? The true price of coal, oil and gas − the cost they exact on human health and in environmental destruction − in the energy and transport sectors worldwide could add up to very nearly US$25 trillion (£18tn).

And in the economists’ favourite measure of wealth, that is more than one fourth of the whole world’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

That fossil fuels are subsidised and their “external” costs rarely factored in to the price is well known and widely condemned.

But researchers in the UK and Korea report in the journal Energy Research and Social Science that they decided to try to put a price on all the “externalities” − both the unrecorded or unexpected costs and the unconsidered benefits to be connected with the supply of electricity, energy efficicency, and transport.

“Our research has identified immense hidden costs that are almost never factored into the true expense of driving a car or operating a coal-powered power station”

Their considered estimate? It adds up to $24.662 million million. And measured against the global GDP, that reaches 28.7%.

What the scientists see in this accounting is a measure of the way the market has failed the world’s energy systems. If governments included the social costs as well as the production costs of nuclear power plant and fossil-fuelled generation systems, they’d pronounce them economically unviable.

“Our research has identified immense hidden costs that are almost never factored into the true expense of driving a car or operating a coal-powered power station,” said Benjamin Sovacool of the University of Sussex, UK, who led the study.

“Including these costs would dramatically change least-cost planning processes and integrated resource portfolios that energy suppliers and others depend on. It is not that these costs are never paid by society, they are just not reflected in the costs of energy. And unfortunately, these costs are not distributed equally or fairly.”

Coal’s highest price

The “externalities factor” extends to all human action: there are unconsidered costs to wind, hydro, solar and other renewable energy systems too. What Professor Sovacool and his colleagues did was scrutinise 139 separate studies of these hidden costs to identify 704 separate estimates of externalities. Of these, 83 were for energy supply, 13 for energy efficiency, and 43 for transport.

Coal exacted by far the highest hidden price across the energy markets of just four countries and regions: China, Europe, India and the US. Coal had three times as many “negative externalities” as solar photovoltaic power generation, five times that of wind turbines and 155 times more than geothermal power.

Climate risks from fossil fuel emissions could cost some countries 19% of their GDP by 2030: developing nations would be hardest hit.

That coal and oil combustion has, over two centuries, cost lives, damaged human health and blighted natural ecosystems is not news. Indoor and outdoor pollution, from power utilities, exhaust pipes and household ovens is behind 4.7 million deaths and the loss of 147 million years of healthy life, every year.

Guiding post-Covid recovery

Pollution kills three times more people than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-Aids combined. The surprise is in the scale of economic costs.

The point of research like this is to help national and regional governments to make practical and sustainable decisions in a concerted effort to revive economic activity but at the same time to contain climate change.

“Our findings are timely and we hope they will help inform the design of Green New Deals or post-pandemic Covid-19 recovery packages around the world,” said Jinsoo Kim, a co-author, of both Sussex and Hanyang University in Korea.

“Some of the most important commonalities of many stimulus packages have been bailouts for the fossil fuel, automotive and aeronautic industries, but a global and national recovery may not be sustainable if the true cost of these industries is not factored in.” − Climate News Network

In air pollution terms alone, the price of coal is huge. The true price of energy in almost any fossil form is colossal.

LONDON, 11 March, 2021 − Does anyone think fossil fuels should be more expensive? The true price of coal, oil and gas − the cost they exact on human health and in environmental destruction − in the energy and transport sectors worldwide could add up to very nearly US$25 trillion (£18tn).

And in the economists’ favourite measure of wealth, that is more than one fourth of the whole world’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

That fossil fuels are subsidised and their “external” costs rarely factored in to the price is well known and widely condemned.

But researchers in the UK and Korea report in the journal Energy Research and Social Science that they decided to try to put a price on all the “externalities” − both the unrecorded or unexpected costs and the unconsidered benefits to be connected with the supply of electricity, energy efficicency, and transport.

“Our research has identified immense hidden costs that are almost never factored into the true expense of driving a car or operating a coal-powered power station”

Their considered estimate? It adds up to $24.662 million million. And measured against the global GDP, that reaches 28.7%.

What the scientists see in this accounting is a measure of the way the market has failed the world’s energy systems. If governments included the social costs as well as the production costs of nuclear power plant and fossil-fuelled generation systems, they’d pronounce them economically unviable.

“Our research has identified immense hidden costs that are almost never factored into the true expense of driving a car or operating a coal-powered power station,” said Benjamin Sovacool of the University of Sussex, UK, who led the study.

“Including these costs would dramatically change least-cost planning processes and integrated resource portfolios that energy suppliers and others depend on. It is not that these costs are never paid by society, they are just not reflected in the costs of energy. And unfortunately, these costs are not distributed equally or fairly.”

Coal’s highest price

The “externalities factor” extends to all human action: there are unconsidered costs to wind, hydro, solar and other renewable energy systems too. What Professor Sovacool and his colleagues did was scrutinise 139 separate studies of these hidden costs to identify 704 separate estimates of externalities. Of these, 83 were for energy supply, 13 for energy efficiency, and 43 for transport.

Coal exacted by far the highest hidden price across the energy markets of just four countries and regions: China, Europe, India and the US. Coal had three times as many “negative externalities” as solar photovoltaic power generation, five times that of wind turbines and 155 times more than geothermal power.

Climate risks from fossil fuel emissions could cost some countries 19% of their GDP by 2030: developing nations would be hardest hit.

That coal and oil combustion has, over two centuries, cost lives, damaged human health and blighted natural ecosystems is not news. Indoor and outdoor pollution, from power utilities, exhaust pipes and household ovens is behind 4.7 million deaths and the loss of 147 million years of healthy life, every year.

Guiding post-Covid recovery

Pollution kills three times more people than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-Aids combined. The surprise is in the scale of economic costs.

The point of research like this is to help national and regional governments to make practical and sustainable decisions in a concerted effort to revive economic activity but at the same time to contain climate change.

“Our findings are timely and we hope they will help inform the design of Green New Deals or post-pandemic Covid-19 recovery packages around the world,” said Jinsoo Kim, a co-author, of both Sussex and Hanyang University in Korea.

“Some of the most important commonalities of many stimulus packages have been bailouts for the fossil fuel, automotive and aeronautic industries, but a global and national recovery may not be sustainable if the true cost of these industries is not factored in.” − Climate News Network

Could ecological interest rates help the Earth?

The global economy doesn’t reflect the Earth’s crisis and its warming climate. Might ecological interest rates help link them?

Andrew Simms, a political economist and co-author of the original Green New Deal, believes ecological interest rates could prevent financial institutions investing in fossil fuels and connect the monetary system to the reality of the planet’s finite ecosystems. This is an edited extract from his new pamphlet written jointly for Prime Economics, the New Weather Institute and the Rapid Transition Alliance.

LONDON, 3 March, 2021 − We need a new global economy, one which recognises the deepening crisis facing life on Earth and is designed to help to solve it. And a good way to build one, experts say, is to switch to something called ecological interest rates.

Interest rates usually capture people’s attention only if they have savings, when they’re bothered by low rates, or borrowings such as a mortgage, which means high ones. But economists are becoming unusually preoccupied with them, partly because it’s very likely that they will soon do something shocking and unusual: go negative.

There’s another reason, though. With intense focus on a green economic recovery after the pandemic, there’s a growing realisation that there is no real link between money, its cost and our ecological life-support system.

The global economy has outgrown the biosphere’s carrying capacity, as a conservative annual assessment of ecological overshoot makes clear. It is as if we were trying to shove size 10 economic feet into size six planetary shoes.

The size of the economy, in turn, is fuelled by the supply of credit in different monetary forms. More money in circulation tends to increase conventional economic growth.

Excessive economic footprint

This doesn’t necessarily mean the productive economy is getting bigger, though. For example, if banks lend money in a risky way – as happened with the sub-prime mortgage debacle behind the 2007-08 financial crisis – they can create an asset bubble which, when it bursts, can trigger recession.

Interest rates are the price we pay to borrow money, and when the price of money is positive, which it usually is, we have to pay back more than we actually borrowed. So interest also motivates orthodox growth, which relies on exploiting the biosphere and human labour.

What matters with an issue like climate breakdown is what happens in aggregate, and how this relates to any change in impact needed for the economy to operate within a particular planetary boundary – in effect, to fit its shoe size.

The economy’s footprint is already too big. So, to be environmentally sustainable, improvements in material efficiency must be big enough not only to compensate for the effects of growth, but also to reduce absolute consumption in line with getting back to the right shoe size again.

For example, there’s a lot of hype about improved aviation fuel efficiency. But, between 2013 and 2019, aviation passenger traffic went up four times faster than fuel efficiency improved. Elsewhere, the carbon emission benefits of supposedly efficient hybrid cars were shown to be only around one third of those promised.

The International Resource Panel (IRP) report, Resource Efficiency and Climate Change: Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low-Carbon Future, found that emissions from the extraction and production of materials such as metals, minerals, woods and plastics more than doubled from 1995 to 2015, accounting for a quarter of global emissions. Measures to improve resource efficiency did not come close to cancelling out the rise.

“The global economy has outgrown the biosphere’s carrying capacity. It is as if we were trying to shove size 10 economic feet into size six planetary shoes”

Global resource use continues to grow. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently spoke of humanity waging a “suicidal war” on nature:  global material use is projected to rise to 170-184 billion tonnes by 2050.

Money is a means of exchange, a store and a measure of value, or a unit of account. In essence, though, it isn’t a note or a coin but a social contract, an agreement about how to allocate resources. And the way our current money system is allocating resources is pushing us rapidly over a climate and ecological cliff.

That’s because money – a social construct, “a promise to pay” – cannot be finite. We can always make another promise. But the ecosystem’s ability to fulfil that promise – to meet the liability – is finite.

A price is what you pay, in money, for goods or services. But in practice prices often don’t carry vital information − the human cost of production, the impact on human health, or current and future environmental damage.

And there are larger issues. If someone planned to build on a much-loved meadow, you would face two questions: how much would you pay to save it, or how much compensation would you demand for its loss? Two very different prices would result, one limited by your ability to pay, the other possibly infinitely high. It could be no price.

Prices are judgements of value. How would you set the price of the notional tonne of carbon which, when burned, tipped the balance towards irreversible runaway global warming? You’d ask the price of a climate capable of supporting human civilisation.

Heading for 4°C

Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, has said that the financial sector is investing in fossil fuels so “that if you add up the policies of all of the companies out there, they are consistent with warming of 3.7-3.8°C”. The globally agreed target is to keep climate heating below 1.5°C.

Many currencies are too big, covering areas that are too large and include a range of economic circumstances for which no single interest rate can be optimal. There are always some areas likely to be “overheating” and others that are struggling. You cannot set an interest rate that suits everyone; money is likely to be too cheap in one place or too expensive in another. Many people therefore argue for more currencies.

One way of reconnecting the money supply to the real world of natural resources is to have currencies which are backed by something real – like commodities. Several could address economic inequality (think various ways of providing universal income and/or services, such as access to energy and built-in incentives to veer away from carbon use).

It’s a sign of the times that alongside the base rate on the Bank of England’s website, the large-scale public creation of money (quantitative easing) has gone from being a seemingly exotic tool to one so standard that it is now one of the two default tools of monetary policy.

Ultimately, though, overuse of the biosphere requires limits on resource consumption. This still leaves quite a lot of room for action, such as making money expensive for what you want to avoid, like more fossil fuel, and cheap for what you need, a switch to job-creating, and clean, renewable energy. So credit should be more expensive for what you want less of.

Mark Carney says banks currently have portfolios of investment that will lead to catastrophic global heating of around 4°C. That shows the cost of borrowing should be made much higher for those investors who are fuelling the crisis.

Lessons from the pandemic

An ecological rate of interest would price money in terms of environmental limits. Current interest rates rarely if ever do this. A few banks are starting to incorporate so-called ESG factors (environmental, social and governance). A few are ceasing to lend to some of the most climate-damaging activities and to vary the cost of capital to reflect environmental risks. But they’re not even scratching the surface of the problem.

One way to do this would be to raise sharply the so-called risk weighting of all high-carbon loans, whether from a bank to a coal mine or for the purchase of a petrol-driven car, making the loan more expensive and sending a decisive market signal.

Central banks and supervisory monetary authorities have as their core mandate the maintenance of financial and monetary stability. Acting to prevent the allocation of vast financial resources to climate breakdown, with its catastrophic implications for humanity and the wider economy, is therefore directly aligned with their fundamental purpose.

What the world needs is something which goes beyond a greener money supply, something which deals with the aggregate size of the economy. There is a growing consensus among a wide spectrum of progressive voices about how a range of economic and social problems could be addressed at the same time as moving away from a growth-dependent economy.

With a rapid, just transition, to live within our ecological means (and the potential for radical policy and behaviour change has been widely demonstrated by responses to the coronavirus pandemic) what might it mean to align the economy with planetary boundaries?

Climate scientists say we should be aiming to return to a carbon concentration in the atmosphere no higher than 350 parts per million of CO2. An ecological growth rate would then be one compatible with stabilising greenhouse gases at no higher than this level. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Andrew Simms is an author, political economist and campaigner. He is co-director of the New Weather institute, co-ordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance, assistant director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, and a research associate at the University of Sussex. He was for many years the policy director of the New Economics Foundation and led its work on environment, energy, climate and interdependence, as well as on the health of local economies. He tweets from @andrewsimms_uk

The global economy doesn’t reflect the Earth’s crisis and its warming climate. Might ecological interest rates help link them?

Andrew Simms, a political economist and co-author of the original Green New Deal, believes ecological interest rates could prevent financial institutions investing in fossil fuels and connect the monetary system to the reality of the planet’s finite ecosystems. This is an edited extract from his new pamphlet written jointly for Prime Economics, the New Weather Institute and the Rapid Transition Alliance.

LONDON, 3 March, 2021 − We need a new global economy, one which recognises the deepening crisis facing life on Earth and is designed to help to solve it. And a good way to build one, experts say, is to switch to something called ecological interest rates.

Interest rates usually capture people’s attention only if they have savings, when they’re bothered by low rates, or borrowings such as a mortgage, which means high ones. But economists are becoming unusually preoccupied with them, partly because it’s very likely that they will soon do something shocking and unusual: go negative.

There’s another reason, though. With intense focus on a green economic recovery after the pandemic, there’s a growing realisation that there is no real link between money, its cost and our ecological life-support system.

The global economy has outgrown the biosphere’s carrying capacity, as a conservative annual assessment of ecological overshoot makes clear. It is as if we were trying to shove size 10 economic feet into size six planetary shoes.

The size of the economy, in turn, is fuelled by the supply of credit in different monetary forms. More money in circulation tends to increase conventional economic growth.

Excessive economic footprint

This doesn’t necessarily mean the productive economy is getting bigger, though. For example, if banks lend money in a risky way – as happened with the sub-prime mortgage debacle behind the 2007-08 financial crisis – they can create an asset bubble which, when it bursts, can trigger recession.

Interest rates are the price we pay to borrow money, and when the price of money is positive, which it usually is, we have to pay back more than we actually borrowed. So interest also motivates orthodox growth, which relies on exploiting the biosphere and human labour.

What matters with an issue like climate breakdown is what happens in aggregate, and how this relates to any change in impact needed for the economy to operate within a particular planetary boundary – in effect, to fit its shoe size.

The economy’s footprint is already too big. So, to be environmentally sustainable, improvements in material efficiency must be big enough not only to compensate for the effects of growth, but also to reduce absolute consumption in line with getting back to the right shoe size again.

For example, there’s a lot of hype about improved aviation fuel efficiency. But, between 2013 and 2019, aviation passenger traffic went up four times faster than fuel efficiency improved. Elsewhere, the carbon emission benefits of supposedly efficient hybrid cars were shown to be only around one third of those promised.

The International Resource Panel (IRP) report, Resource Efficiency and Climate Change: Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low-Carbon Future, found that emissions from the extraction and production of materials such as metals, minerals, woods and plastics more than doubled from 1995 to 2015, accounting for a quarter of global emissions. Measures to improve resource efficiency did not come close to cancelling out the rise.

“The global economy has outgrown the biosphere’s carrying capacity. It is as if we were trying to shove size 10 economic feet into size six planetary shoes”

Global resource use continues to grow. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently spoke of humanity waging a “suicidal war” on nature:  global material use is projected to rise to 170-184 billion tonnes by 2050.

Money is a means of exchange, a store and a measure of value, or a unit of account. In essence, though, it isn’t a note or a coin but a social contract, an agreement about how to allocate resources. And the way our current money system is allocating resources is pushing us rapidly over a climate and ecological cliff.

That’s because money – a social construct, “a promise to pay” – cannot be finite. We can always make another promise. But the ecosystem’s ability to fulfil that promise – to meet the liability – is finite.

A price is what you pay, in money, for goods or services. But in practice prices often don’t carry vital information − the human cost of production, the impact on human health, or current and future environmental damage.

And there are larger issues. If someone planned to build on a much-loved meadow, you would face two questions: how much would you pay to save it, or how much compensation would you demand for its loss? Two very different prices would result, one limited by your ability to pay, the other possibly infinitely high. It could be no price.

Prices are judgements of value. How would you set the price of the notional tonne of carbon which, when burned, tipped the balance towards irreversible runaway global warming? You’d ask the price of a climate capable of supporting human civilisation.

Heading for 4°C

Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, has said that the financial sector is investing in fossil fuels so “that if you add up the policies of all of the companies out there, they are consistent with warming of 3.7-3.8°C”. The globally agreed target is to keep climate heating below 1.5°C.

Many currencies are too big, covering areas that are too large and include a range of economic circumstances for which no single interest rate can be optimal. There are always some areas likely to be “overheating” and others that are struggling. You cannot set an interest rate that suits everyone; money is likely to be too cheap in one place or too expensive in another. Many people therefore argue for more currencies.

One way of reconnecting the money supply to the real world of natural resources is to have currencies which are backed by something real – like commodities. Several could address economic inequality (think various ways of providing universal income and/or services, such as access to energy and built-in incentives to veer away from carbon use).

It’s a sign of the times that alongside the base rate on the Bank of England’s website, the large-scale public creation of money (quantitative easing) has gone from being a seemingly exotic tool to one so standard that it is now one of the two default tools of monetary policy.

Ultimately, though, overuse of the biosphere requires limits on resource consumption. This still leaves quite a lot of room for action, such as making money expensive for what you want to avoid, like more fossil fuel, and cheap for what you need, a switch to job-creating, and clean, renewable energy. So credit should be more expensive for what you want less of.

Mark Carney says banks currently have portfolios of investment that will lead to catastrophic global heating of around 4°C. That shows the cost of borrowing should be made much higher for those investors who are fuelling the crisis.

Lessons from the pandemic

An ecological rate of interest would price money in terms of environmental limits. Current interest rates rarely if ever do this. A few banks are starting to incorporate so-called ESG factors (environmental, social and governance). A few are ceasing to lend to some of the most climate-damaging activities and to vary the cost of capital to reflect environmental risks. But they’re not even scratching the surface of the problem.

One way to do this would be to raise sharply the so-called risk weighting of all high-carbon loans, whether from a bank to a coal mine or for the purchase of a petrol-driven car, making the loan more expensive and sending a decisive market signal.

Central banks and supervisory monetary authorities have as their core mandate the maintenance of financial and monetary stability. Acting to prevent the allocation of vast financial resources to climate breakdown, with its catastrophic implications for humanity and the wider economy, is therefore directly aligned with their fundamental purpose.

What the world needs is something which goes beyond a greener money supply, something which deals with the aggregate size of the economy. There is a growing consensus among a wide spectrum of progressive voices about how a range of economic and social problems could be addressed at the same time as moving away from a growth-dependent economy.

With a rapid, just transition, to live within our ecological means (and the potential for radical policy and behaviour change has been widely demonstrated by responses to the coronavirus pandemic) what might it mean to align the economy with planetary boundaries?

Climate scientists say we should be aiming to return to a carbon concentration in the atmosphere no higher than 350 parts per million of CO2. An ecological growth rate would then be one compatible with stabilising greenhouse gases at no higher than this level. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

Andrew Simms is an author, political economist and campaigner. He is co-director of the New Weather institute, co-ordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance, assistant director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, and a research associate at the University of Sussex. He was for many years the policy director of the New Economics Foundation and led its work on environment, energy, climate and interdependence, as well as on the health of local economies. He tweets from @andrewsimms_uk

London plans tribute to green investments pioneer

The financial heart of London is to house a memorial to a woman who championed switching to green investments.

LONDON, 15 December, 2020 − A woman credited with pioneering green investments and shifting billions of pounds away from destructive industries is to have a memorial in the City of London – a first for an environmental campaigner.

Tessa Tennant, who died two years ago of cancer, aged 63, started green financial funds in 1988 to show that investing in the industries of the future not only helped the planet: it could also be both successful and consistently profitable.

By the time of her death she was known across the world in stock exchanges and boardrooms as a successful green campaigner who had converted many of the world’s largest investment funds to the principles of sustainable development.

Such was the affection and esteem in which she had been held by the financial community that a competition was held to design a public artwork to celebrate her life.

The winning design was by two well-known Scottish artists, Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion. It takes the form of an amulet intended to represent the powerful symbolic union of people and environment that is at the heart of sustainable finance and green investments.

“There has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric”

Once the design had been settled, a search began for a site suitable for the two-tonne amulet. The City and the Church of England have now agreed it should be erected at Christ Church Greyfriars graveyard in the heart of the City.

Because the amulet, together with its foundation of eight tonnes, will be sitting on top of an important archaeological site, the site permission is currently for five years.

James Cameron, a lawyer who chairs the Sustainable Finance Sculpture Project, says the site is perfect: “Greyfriars was an important and highly respected seat of learning in the 14-15th century, rivalling only Oxford University in status.

“Interestingly, their extensive library was funded by the Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington.

“The Franciscans advocated a different type of lifestyle where knowledge and integrity were valued over wealth and property, and we believe these ideals closely mirror the contemporary objectives of our project.”

Clear influence

The project is now raising the £300,000 (US$396,000) needed to commission the memorial, which Cameron hopes will be unveiled in time for the next annual UN climate conference, to be held in 2021 in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

The impact that Tessa Tennant had already had was apparent two decades ago when she gave a lecture entitled Business Alarm Call on 4 December 2000 at 10 Downing Street, hosted by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, and his wife Cherie.

It helped to launch CDP, a not-for-profit charity that runs a global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts. It now has more than 10,000 company and city members.

The lecture, reproduced here, describes how this was going to be the solar century, and how the world of business must change to embrace that new reality in order to save the planet from climate change.

Ceaseless campaigner

A great number of the advances in renewables that Tennant predicted seemed far-fetched at the time but have since happened. Green investments were only one part of her concerns, and many of her other  environmental ideas for improving sustainability have been adopted.

Many other more advanced proposals are still under consideration. Tessa was still campaigning to speed up the scale of change that was needed to address the perils of climate change when she died.

Cameron said: “Twenty years on (from that speech), there has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing, and its resilience has been exceptional during this difficult year of the global pandemic.

“It is also fitting that the amulet will be sited first in the City of London – a leading innovator of change and a global leader in green finance. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric and fully harness its innate ingenuity and creativity to fully deliver on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.” − Climate News Network

 

The financial heart of London is to house a memorial to a woman who championed switching to green investments.

LONDON, 15 December, 2020 − A woman credited with pioneering green investments and shifting billions of pounds away from destructive industries is to have a memorial in the City of London – a first for an environmental campaigner.

Tessa Tennant, who died two years ago of cancer, aged 63, started green financial funds in 1988 to show that investing in the industries of the future not only helped the planet: it could also be both successful and consistently profitable.

By the time of her death she was known across the world in stock exchanges and boardrooms as a successful green campaigner who had converted many of the world’s largest investment funds to the principles of sustainable development.

Such was the affection and esteem in which she had been held by the financial community that a competition was held to design a public artwork to celebrate her life.

The winning design was by two well-known Scottish artists, Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion. It takes the form of an amulet intended to represent the powerful symbolic union of people and environment that is at the heart of sustainable finance and green investments.

“There has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric”

Once the design had been settled, a search began for a site suitable for the two-tonne amulet. The City and the Church of England have now agreed it should be erected at Christ Church Greyfriars graveyard in the heart of the City.

Because the amulet, together with its foundation of eight tonnes, will be sitting on top of an important archaeological site, the site permission is currently for five years.

James Cameron, a lawyer who chairs the Sustainable Finance Sculpture Project, says the site is perfect: “Greyfriars was an important and highly respected seat of learning in the 14-15th century, rivalling only Oxford University in status.

“Interestingly, their extensive library was funded by the Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington.

“The Franciscans advocated a different type of lifestyle where knowledge and integrity were valued over wealth and property, and we believe these ideals closely mirror the contemporary objectives of our project.”

Clear influence

The project is now raising the £300,000 (US$396,000) needed to commission the memorial, which Cameron hopes will be unveiled in time for the next annual UN climate conference, to be held in 2021 in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

The impact that Tessa Tennant had already had was apparent two decades ago when she gave a lecture entitled Business Alarm Call on 4 December 2000 at 10 Downing Street, hosted by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, and his wife Cherie.

It helped to launch CDP, a not-for-profit charity that runs a global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts. It now has more than 10,000 company and city members.

The lecture, reproduced here, describes how this was going to be the solar century, and how the world of business must change to embrace that new reality in order to save the planet from climate change.

Ceaseless campaigner

A great number of the advances in renewables that Tennant predicted seemed far-fetched at the time but have since happened. Green investments were only one part of her concerns, and many of her other  environmental ideas for improving sustainability have been adopted.

Many other more advanced proposals are still under consideration. Tessa was still campaigning to speed up the scale of change that was needed to address the perils of climate change when she died.

Cameron said: “Twenty years on (from that speech), there has been an extraordinary growth in sustainable investing, and its resilience has been exceptional during this difficult year of the global pandemic.

“It is also fitting that the amulet will be sited first in the City of London – a leading innovator of change and a global leader in green finance. However, much more must be done to culturally embed sustainable finance into the City’s core fabric and fully harness its innate ingenuity and creativity to fully deliver on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.” − Climate News Network

 

Covid-19’s spread: Into the second lockdown

Parts of the UK are in a second lockdown aimed at stopping Covid-19’s spread. The first one left some useful lessons.

LONDON, 5 November, 2020 − Many countries have tried to arrest Covid-19’s spread by imposing a temporary lockdown on daily life, usually at grave cost to economies and to people across society, and many of them, including parts of the United Kingdom, faced with the pandemic’s second wave, have opted for a second lockdown.

So we’ve been here before. As we tread reluctantly into this renewed attempt to tame the virus, there is some hope that we can use the lessons the first effort taught us.

Just over a month ago the Climate News Network published a highly abridged summary singling out a few of the specific life-saving lessons identified by the UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) in its three published briefings on what we can learn so far from our response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The RTA argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change).

This update includes three short RTA films, embedded below, which show the reactions and experiences of people who told the Alliance what lessons they had learnt − people not only from the UK itself but from a range of countries, among them France, Sweden, Hong Kong and the US. The Alliance hopes the films “find the balance between hope and realism”.

To see them (each film is from six to nine minutes long), click on the title of the report to which it refers. The text following each film has been added by the Network and is intended to provide a thumbnail sketch.

Looking after each other better

The rules by which we have lived have changed, and we know that our behaviour can change radically overnight, not just incrementally − which the urgency of the climate and extinction crisis means we cannot afford anyway. Governments can find immense sums of money quickly. We need to value the people on whom society depends better than we have − carers, workers in food production and distribution, for example. Covid has traumatised us, but it is also helping us to think in new ways.

More space for people and nature

We do not need to travel so much: working from home is easy for many of us, and so is growing food closer to home. But we need to recognise that while space is essential for our health, it is out of reach for many people on this fast-urbanising planet, and for growing stretches of the natural world. In the UK, and elsewhere, there is a national divide in access to green open space, and to much more of what is essential for a healthy life.

Living with less stuff

We can live well by buying less and making more for ourselves; this way we can even cut our debts. Thinking afresh will help us to survive Covid − and that includes realising that many of us are time-rich. One UK respondent says: “To find that extra six hours down the back of the sofa has been wonderful.” So there are grounds to hope that we may be better prepared for the second lockdown. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Parts of the UK are in a second lockdown aimed at stopping Covid-19’s spread. The first one left some useful lessons.

LONDON, 5 November, 2020 − Many countries have tried to arrest Covid-19’s spread by imposing a temporary lockdown on daily life, usually at grave cost to economies and to people across society, and many of them, including parts of the United Kingdom, faced with the pandemic’s second wave, have opted for a second lockdown.

So we’ve been here before. As we tread reluctantly into this renewed attempt to tame the virus, there is some hope that we can use the lessons the first effort taught us.

Just over a month ago the Climate News Network published a highly abridged summary singling out a few of the specific life-saving lessons identified by the UK-based Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) in its three published briefings on what we can learn so far from our response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The RTA argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change).

This update includes three short RTA films, embedded below, which show the reactions and experiences of people who told the Alliance what lessons they had learnt − people not only from the UK itself but from a range of countries, among them France, Sweden, Hong Kong and the US. The Alliance hopes the films “find the balance between hope and realism”.

To see them (each film is from six to nine minutes long), click on the title of the report to which it refers. The text following each film has been added by the Network and is intended to provide a thumbnail sketch.

Looking after each other better

The rules by which we have lived have changed, and we know that our behaviour can change radically overnight, not just incrementally − which the urgency of the climate and extinction crisis means we cannot afford anyway. Governments can find immense sums of money quickly. We need to value the people on whom society depends better than we have − carers, workers in food production and distribution, for example. Covid has traumatised us, but it is also helping us to think in new ways.

More space for people and nature

We do not need to travel so much: working from home is easy for many of us, and so is growing food closer to home. But we need to recognise that while space is essential for our health, it is out of reach for many people on this fast-urbanising planet, and for growing stretches of the natural world. In the UK, and elsewhere, there is a national divide in access to green open space, and to much more of what is essential for a healthy life.

Living with less stuff

We can live well by buying less and making more for ourselves; this way we can even cut our debts. Thinking afresh will help us to survive Covid − and that includes realising that many of us are time-rich. One UK respondent says: “To find that extra six hours down the back of the sofa has been wonderful.” So there are grounds to hope that we may be better prepared for the second lockdown. − Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

China’s climate lead offers the planet new hope

Beijing’s plan to cut greenhouse gases could mean a global expansion of green industries following China’s climate lead.

LONDON, 19 October, 2020 – Whatever mixture of motives lies behind the announcement by President Xi Jinping that his country’s carbon dioxide emissions will peak before 2030, resulting in carbon neutrality before 2060, China’s climate lead offers the prospect of a new era in world affairs.

It alters the face of international negotiations to tackle the climate crisis and boosts hopes that catastrophic global heating can still be avoided.

It is not quite a month since the president took everyone by surprise by making the announcement at the United Nations. Cynics immediately began to question his motives.

Was he trying to corner the vast market in renewables, was he trying to upstage climate-denying and coal-loving President Trump, was he trying to divert attention from internal human rights issues and Hong Kong, or from accusations against China over the Covid crisis? Was he trying re-cast himself as a world leader on environmental matters?

Few seemed generous enough to accept that President Xi was making the announcement because he was genuinely concerned about the effects of climate change on China and the rest of the planet.

Either way, the President’s new targets were certainly a remarkable turnaround. Although there have been more positive statements recently, for more than a decade at successive climate talks China, along with the rest of the developing world, regarded climate change as the developed nations’ problem.

“China should strictly control coal consumption and the expansion of coal-fired power capacity in the next five years, aiming to cap carbon emissions from coal sectors by 2025”

The old industrial countries of the EU, the US and Japan had caused global heating by burning fossil fuels, they argued, so it was up to them to solve the crisis. The immediate job for the developing world’s leaders was to raise their citizens’ living standards, and to worry about their domestic carbon emissions later.

But this was never the whole story. Chinese scientists had long pointed out to its leaders that the country’s future was as bleak as any other nation’s in the world if climate change was not controlled – and quickly.

The major rivers that feed Chinese agriculture will dry up as the glaciers on the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau disappear; typhoons will regularly threaten the populous south; and the deserts of the north will grow.

And more recently fast-accelerating sea level rise has begun to threaten the economic powerhouse of Shanghai and much of the low-lying coast with inundation.

In addition, since the Beijing Olympics in 2008 it has been clear that air pollution from coal-burning and traffic fumes is a serious economic and health issue in China, while some drastic measures have succeeded in improving air quality.

On 12 October 18 Chinese think tanks combined to put some flesh on the bare bones of President Xi’s bold announcement. In a report published by the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University, Beijing, they said immediate carbon cuts were required to keep temperature increases within 1.5°C by 2050.

Globally significant

Reuters news agency reported that a seminar held in Beijing to launch the Institute ’s report was attended by China’s top officials responsible for shaping the country’s energy policy.

One of the report’s contributors, He Jiankun, vice-director of the National Expert Committee on Climate Change, told the meeting: “China should strictly control coal consumption and the expansion of coal-fired power capacity in the next five years, aiming to cap carbon emissions from coal sectors by 2025 and even realise negative growth.

“China is still expected to see the growth of natural gas consumption in 2026-2030, so the growth of carbon emissions from gas use should be offset by the reduction from the coal sector.”

The report also called for China to cut its carbon intensity – the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per GDP unit – by 65% by 2030 from 2015 levels, and to raise non-fossil fuel consumption to 25% by 2030.

This is way above anything that the Chinese government has committed to in the annual UN climate talks and would mean a drastic change in direction, since new coal power stations are still being constructed in large numbers to meet an ever-growing energy demand.

Whatever the motives behind these reduction targets, they matter hugely to the rest of the world. China is currently the world’s largest carbon emitter, with about 29% of the total. This is mainly due to massive coal burning for electricity and for major heavy industries like steel-making, which have moved there from Europe and the US. Switching away from coal would make an immediate difference.

Eye on exports

While critics, particularly climate deniers and right-wing think tanks in the US and Europe, constantly remind the world of Chinese coal-burning habits, they often neglect to mention that the country is a world leader in on-shore wind energy and solar power.

China is also aiming to soon have the largest off-shore wind market, overtaking the United Kingdom.

This might be the key to the President’s thinking. China has a massive domestic demand for renewables, but with wind and solar being the two fastest-growing industries in the world the export market is a great prize.

With President Trump firmly stuck in the fossil fuel age, China has an opportunity to become the lead provider of the technology that many countries in the world need to meet their climate targets.

Depending on who wins the US election on 3 November, President Xi may consolidate his renewables lead at leisure, or be in a race against the Democrat contender, Joe Biden, who has pledged to turn America from a climate laggard to a world leader.

If Biden does win he may find President Xi is already a lap ahead, and hard to overtake. – Climate News Network

Beijing’s plan to cut greenhouse gases could mean a global expansion of green industries following China’s climate lead.

LONDON, 19 October, 2020 – Whatever mixture of motives lies behind the announcement by President Xi Jinping that his country’s carbon dioxide emissions will peak before 2030, resulting in carbon neutrality before 2060, China’s climate lead offers the prospect of a new era in world affairs.

It alters the face of international negotiations to tackle the climate crisis and boosts hopes that catastrophic global heating can still be avoided.

It is not quite a month since the president took everyone by surprise by making the announcement at the United Nations. Cynics immediately began to question his motives.

Was he trying to corner the vast market in renewables, was he trying to upstage climate-denying and coal-loving President Trump, was he trying to divert attention from internal human rights issues and Hong Kong, or from accusations against China over the Covid crisis? Was he trying re-cast himself as a world leader on environmental matters?

Few seemed generous enough to accept that President Xi was making the announcement because he was genuinely concerned about the effects of climate change on China and the rest of the planet.

Either way, the President’s new targets were certainly a remarkable turnaround. Although there have been more positive statements recently, for more than a decade at successive climate talks China, along with the rest of the developing world, regarded climate change as the developed nations’ problem.

“China should strictly control coal consumption and the expansion of coal-fired power capacity in the next five years, aiming to cap carbon emissions from coal sectors by 2025”

The old industrial countries of the EU, the US and Japan had caused global heating by burning fossil fuels, they argued, so it was up to them to solve the crisis. The immediate job for the developing world’s leaders was to raise their citizens’ living standards, and to worry about their domestic carbon emissions later.

But this was never the whole story. Chinese scientists had long pointed out to its leaders that the country’s future was as bleak as any other nation’s in the world if climate change was not controlled – and quickly.

The major rivers that feed Chinese agriculture will dry up as the glaciers on the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau disappear; typhoons will regularly threaten the populous south; and the deserts of the north will grow.

And more recently fast-accelerating sea level rise has begun to threaten the economic powerhouse of Shanghai and much of the low-lying coast with inundation.

In addition, since the Beijing Olympics in 2008 it has been clear that air pollution from coal-burning and traffic fumes is a serious economic and health issue in China, while some drastic measures have succeeded in improving air quality.

On 12 October 18 Chinese think tanks combined to put some flesh on the bare bones of President Xi’s bold announcement. In a report published by the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University, Beijing, they said immediate carbon cuts were required to keep temperature increases within 1.5°C by 2050.

Globally significant

Reuters news agency reported that a seminar held in Beijing to launch the Institute ’s report was attended by China’s top officials responsible for shaping the country’s energy policy.

One of the report’s contributors, He Jiankun, vice-director of the National Expert Committee on Climate Change, told the meeting: “China should strictly control coal consumption and the expansion of coal-fired power capacity in the next five years, aiming to cap carbon emissions from coal sectors by 2025 and even realise negative growth.

“China is still expected to see the growth of natural gas consumption in 2026-2030, so the growth of carbon emissions from gas use should be offset by the reduction from the coal sector.”

The report also called for China to cut its carbon intensity – the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per GDP unit – by 65% by 2030 from 2015 levels, and to raise non-fossil fuel consumption to 25% by 2030.

This is way above anything that the Chinese government has committed to in the annual UN climate talks and would mean a drastic change in direction, since new coal power stations are still being constructed in large numbers to meet an ever-growing energy demand.

Whatever the motives behind these reduction targets, they matter hugely to the rest of the world. China is currently the world’s largest carbon emitter, with about 29% of the total. This is mainly due to massive coal burning for electricity and for major heavy industries like steel-making, which have moved there from Europe and the US. Switching away from coal would make an immediate difference.

Eye on exports

While critics, particularly climate deniers and right-wing think tanks in the US and Europe, constantly remind the world of Chinese coal-burning habits, they often neglect to mention that the country is a world leader in on-shore wind energy and solar power.

China is also aiming to soon have the largest off-shore wind market, overtaking the United Kingdom.

This might be the key to the President’s thinking. China has a massive domestic demand for renewables, but with wind and solar being the two fastest-growing industries in the world the export market is a great prize.

With President Trump firmly stuck in the fossil fuel age, China has an opportunity to become the lead provider of the technology that many countries in the world need to meet their climate targets.

Depending on who wins the US election on 3 November, President Xi may consolidate his renewables lead at leisure, or be in a race against the Democrat contender, Joe Biden, who has pledged to turn America from a climate laggard to a world leader.

If Biden does win he may find President Xi is already a lap ahead, and hard to overtake. – Climate News Network