Tag Archives: Shale gas

Fracking won't avert energy crisis, Davos is told

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Some of the planet’s richest nations, meeting at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, are to hear a warning that a global oil crisis could happen as early as next year. 

LONDON, 24 January – A British businessman will tell world leaders meeting in Switzerland today that it is dangerous to argue that fracking for shale oil and gas can help to avert a global energy crisis.

Jeremy Leggett, a former Greenpeace staff member who founded a successful solar energy company, has been invited to the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos from 22 to 25 January. The theme of the meeting is The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.

Leggett told the Climate News Network: “The WEF likes to deal in big ideas, and last year one of its ideas was to argue that the world can frack its way to prosperity. There are large numbers of would-be frackers in Davos.

“I’m a squeaky wheel within the system. I’m in Davos to put the counter-arguments to Big Energy, and I’ll tell them: ‘You’re in grave danger of repeating the mistakes of the financial services industry in pushing a hyped narrative.” This refers to the way in which banking leaders had “their particular comforting narrative catastrophically wrong, until the proof came along in the shape of the financial crash”.

Leggett founded Solarcentury, the UK’s fastest-growing solar electric company since 2000. He also established the charity SolarAid which aims to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020, and chairs the Carbon Tracker Initiative. His book Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis was published in 2005, and his latest, The Energy of Nations: Risk blindness and the road to renaissance, in 2013.

‘Sunset industry’

Leggett says the conventional oil industry is facing an imminent crisis, because existing crude oil reserves are declining fast, it is having to find the money for soaring capital expenditure, and the amount of oil available for export is falling.

“Big Oil is still extremely powerful and well-capitalised”, he says, “but it is fast approaching sunset. The profitability of the big international groups – like Exxon, Shell and BP – is a real worry for investors, and they’ve been largely locked out of the easy oil controlled by national companies – just look at BP and Russia.

“Gas? Unless the price goes up, the whole US shale gas industry is in danger of becoming a bubble, even a Ponzi scheme. All but one of the biggest production regions have peaked already, and losses are piling up. This is an industry that’s in grave danger of committing financial suicide.”

A linked message that Leggett will deliver is that there is a growing danger of a carbon bubble building up in the capital markets. He says investors who think governments may agree stringent and strictly-enforced limits on greenhouse gas emissions might decide their investments in oil and gas are at risk of becoming worthless.

Crunch next year?

There is little sign yet that such limits are likely any time soon. But Leggett says that is to miss the point: “You don’t have to wait until agreement is close, or even probable. You have to believe only that there’s a realistic chance of policymaking which means assets might be stranded.”

He will also tell his audience “to take out insurance on the risk of an oil crisis, by accelerating the very things we need to deal with climate change”. Chief among these, he says, is the need to channel funds withdrawn from oil, gas, and coal into clean energy instead – though he acknowledges that, as a renewable energy entrepreneur himself, he may be accused of self-interest.

Leggett fears a world oil crisis could occur as early as 2015. And when it comes, it will certainly mean “ruinously high prices”, for a start. But it will mean something more, he says. Last December he worked with a US national security expert, Lt-Colonel Daniel Davis, to organise the Transatlantic Energy Security Dialogue. Leggett has a regard for the views of people like Davis. “The military are better than your average politician or consultant to Big Energy at spotting systemic risk”, he says.

Leggett says military think-tanks have tended to side with those who distrust “the cornucopian narrative” of the oil industry. One 2008 study, by the German army, says: “Psychological barriers cause indisputable facts to be blanked out and lead to almost instinctively refusing to look into this difficult subject in detail. Peak oil, however, is unavoidable.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Some of the planet’s richest nations, meeting at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, are to hear a warning that a global oil crisis could happen as early as next year. 

LONDON, 24 January – A British businessman will tell world leaders meeting in Switzerland today that it is dangerous to argue that fracking for shale oil and gas can help to avert a global energy crisis.

Jeremy Leggett, a former Greenpeace staff member who founded a successful solar energy company, has been invited to the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos from 22 to 25 January. The theme of the meeting is The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.

Leggett told the Climate News Network: “The WEF likes to deal in big ideas, and last year one of its ideas was to argue that the world can frack its way to prosperity. There are large numbers of would-be frackers in Davos.

“I’m a squeaky wheel within the system. I’m in Davos to put the counter-arguments to Big Energy, and I’ll tell them: ‘You’re in grave danger of repeating the mistakes of the financial services industry in pushing a hyped narrative.” This refers to the way in which banking leaders had “their particular comforting narrative catastrophically wrong, until the proof came along in the shape of the financial crash”.

Leggett founded Solarcentury, the UK’s fastest-growing solar electric company since 2000. He also established the charity SolarAid which aims to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020, and chairs the Carbon Tracker Initiative. His book Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis was published in 2005, and his latest, The Energy of Nations: Risk blindness and the road to renaissance, in 2013.

‘Sunset industry’

Leggett says the conventional oil industry is facing an imminent crisis, because existing crude oil reserves are declining fast, it is having to find the money for soaring capital expenditure, and the amount of oil available for export is falling.

“Big Oil is still extremely powerful and well-capitalised”, he says, “but it is fast approaching sunset. The profitability of the big international groups – like Exxon, Shell and BP – is a real worry for investors, and they’ve been largely locked out of the easy oil controlled by national companies – just look at BP and Russia.

“Gas? Unless the price goes up, the whole US shale gas industry is in danger of becoming a bubble, even a Ponzi scheme. All but one of the biggest production regions have peaked already, and losses are piling up. This is an industry that’s in grave danger of committing financial suicide.”

A linked message that Leggett will deliver is that there is a growing danger of a carbon bubble building up in the capital markets. He says investors who think governments may agree stringent and strictly-enforced limits on greenhouse gas emissions might decide their investments in oil and gas are at risk of becoming worthless.

Crunch next year?

There is little sign yet that such limits are likely any time soon. But Leggett says that is to miss the point: “You don’t have to wait until agreement is close, or even probable. You have to believe only that there’s a realistic chance of policymaking which means assets might be stranded.”

He will also tell his audience “to take out insurance on the risk of an oil crisis, by accelerating the very things we need to deal with climate change”. Chief among these, he says, is the need to channel funds withdrawn from oil, gas, and coal into clean energy instead – though he acknowledges that, as a renewable energy entrepreneur himself, he may be accused of self-interest.

Leggett fears a world oil crisis could occur as early as 2015. And when it comes, it will certainly mean “ruinously high prices”, for a start. But it will mean something more, he says. Last December he worked with a US national security expert, Lt-Colonel Daniel Davis, to organise the Transatlantic Energy Security Dialogue. Leggett has a regard for the views of people like Davis. “The military are better than your average politician or consultant to Big Energy at spotting systemic risk”, he says.

Leggett says military think-tanks have tended to side with those who distrust “the cornucopian narrative” of the oil industry. One 2008 study, by the German army, says: “Psychological barriers cause indisputable facts to be blanked out and lead to almost instinctively refusing to look into this difficult subject in detail. Peak oil, however, is unavoidable.” – Climate News Network

US fracking revolution dilutes EU climate & energy plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tackling climate change comes off second best in the European Union’s latest package of climate and energy targets. Instead, maintaining economic competitiveness – particularly with the US – is the priority.

LONDON, 23 January – On the face of it, this week’s EU climate and energy package, with its targets for cutbacks in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and the uptake of renewable energy up to the year 2030, looks impressive.

The central element in the package is a binding EU-wide 40% reduction in GHG emissions over 1990 levels by 2030. Significantly, this has to be achieved “through domestic measures alone” – meaning member states can’t meet emissions reductions obligations by making offsetting GHG cutbacks in other countries.

There’s also a binding target of achieving at least a 27% share of the European energy mix from renewables by the same year and plans for a major overhaul of the EU’s ill-performing Emissions Trading System (ETS), with the aim of lifting the market price for carbon and encouraging emission reductions across the industrial sector.

“If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape”, says Connie Hedegaard, the EU Climate Commissioner.

Yet while the figures might impress, it’s clear the fracking revolution in the US has the EU’s energy strategists on the run. According to the European Commission, US gas prices fell by 66% between 2005 and 2012 while in Europe they rose by 35% over the same period.

‘No contradiction’

Reflecting intense lobbying by Europe’s industrialists and several governments, the EU package repeatedly emphasises the need to retain economic competitiveness.

“Climate action is central for the future of our planet, while a truly European energy policy is key to our competitiveness” says Jose Manuel Barroso, the EC President.

Barroso insists that tackling the two issues simultaneously is not contradictory, but the EU’s critics say the latest package is designed more to satisfy short-term economic aims than to seriously tackle climate change.

The long-term goal of EU climate and energy policy is to reduce GHG emissions by up to 95% by 2050, limiting the rise in global average temperature to 2°C over pre-industrial levels and so hopefully averting runaway climate change.

Climate scientists and green groups within the EU say the 2030 targets are not nearly ambitious enough and make the 2050 goal very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

“We ask questions as if the science is in any real doubt. It is not.”

“We have to take into account that the 40% target is the death knell of 2°C and probably much more aligned with 4°C once all the trading/CDM/offsetting scams are factored in”, says Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in the UK and deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

“As a climate community, we continually forget that not acting now has repercussions that in themselves change what the future will be – we ask questions as if the science is in any real doubt. It is not.”

The EU’s target for renewables has also come under fire, with critics saying the Commission has once again given in to powerful EU fossil fuel, nuclear and shale gas lobby groups.

Goal optional

Earlier proposals by a number of countries, including Germany, called for a 2030 renewables target of at least 30%.

At the insistence of countries such as Britain, which has both announced plans for a large-scale expansion of nuclear energy and is giving incentives to encourage the fracking industry, and Poland, which is heavily reliant on coal for its power and is also intent on exploiting shale gas, the target was lowered.

Furthermore the 27% goal for renewables is binding only on an EU-wide basis and not on individual member states: the result is likely to be that some countries will choose to reduce or opt out of meeting the target figure, leaving others to make up the shortfall by dramatically upping renewables use. In such circumstances, arguments could quickly develop.

By contrast, the present EU renewables target – a 20% share in the energy mix by 2020 – is binding on individual states.

Door open for shale

Ultimately, it is the need for Europe to maintain its economic competitiveness that is dominating EU strategy. That has meant scaling back on emissions cutbacks and renewable ambitions – and opening the door to the shale gas industry.

EC President Barroso says shale gas is changing the energy landscape in a dramatic way. Many in Europe are fiercely opposed to shale gas, yet the EU has stood back from imposing any EU-wide regulations on the industry, only issuing guidelines in its new package covering health and safety issues.

“It’s a good demonstration of the role the EU should play, setting the cross-border rules for environmental health and safety but not meddling in the energy mix that is chosen by member states”, says Barroso.

The package of EU proposals will now move on to be discussed by Europe’s leaders in March. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tackling climate change comes off second best in the European Union’s latest package of climate and energy targets. Instead, maintaining economic competitiveness – particularly with the US – is the priority.

LONDON, 23 January – On the face of it, this week’s EU climate and energy package, with its targets for cutbacks in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and the uptake of renewable energy up to the year 2030, looks impressive.

The central element in the package is a binding EU-wide 40% reduction in GHG emissions over 1990 levels by 2030. Significantly, this has to be achieved “through domestic measures alone” – meaning member states can’t meet emissions reductions obligations by making offsetting GHG cutbacks in other countries.

There’s also a binding target of achieving at least a 27% share of the European energy mix from renewables by the same year and plans for a major overhaul of the EU’s ill-performing Emissions Trading System (ETS), with the aim of lifting the market price for carbon and encouraging emission reductions across the industrial sector.

“If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape”, says Connie Hedegaard, the EU Climate Commissioner.

Yet while the figures might impress, it’s clear the fracking revolution in the US has the EU’s energy strategists on the run. According to the European Commission, US gas prices fell by 66% between 2005 and 2012 while in Europe they rose by 35% over the same period.

‘No contradiction’

Reflecting intense lobbying by Europe’s industrialists and several governments, the EU package repeatedly emphasises the need to retain economic competitiveness.

“Climate action is central for the future of our planet, while a truly European energy policy is key to our competitiveness” says Jose Manuel Barroso, the EC President.

Barroso insists that tackling the two issues simultaneously is not contradictory, but the EU’s critics say the latest package is designed more to satisfy short-term economic aims than to seriously tackle climate change.

The long-term goal of EU climate and energy policy is to reduce GHG emissions by up to 95% by 2050, limiting the rise in global average temperature to 2°C over pre-industrial levels and so hopefully averting runaway climate change.

Climate scientists and green groups within the EU say the 2030 targets are not nearly ambitious enough and make the 2050 goal very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

“We ask questions as if the science is in any real doubt. It is not.”

“We have to take into account that the 40% target is the death knell of 2°C and probably much more aligned with 4°C once all the trading/CDM/offsetting scams are factored in”, says Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in the UK and deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

“As a climate community, we continually forget that not acting now has repercussions that in themselves change what the future will be – we ask questions as if the science is in any real doubt. It is not.”

The EU’s target for renewables has also come under fire, with critics saying the Commission has once again given in to powerful EU fossil fuel, nuclear and shale gas lobby groups.

Goal optional

Earlier proposals by a number of countries, including Germany, called for a 2030 renewables target of at least 30%.

At the insistence of countries such as Britain, which has both announced plans for a large-scale expansion of nuclear energy and is giving incentives to encourage the fracking industry, and Poland, which is heavily reliant on coal for its power and is also intent on exploiting shale gas, the target was lowered.

Furthermore the 27% goal for renewables is binding only on an EU-wide basis and not on individual member states: the result is likely to be that some countries will choose to reduce or opt out of meeting the target figure, leaving others to make up the shortfall by dramatically upping renewables use. In such circumstances, arguments could quickly develop.

By contrast, the present EU renewables target – a 20% share in the energy mix by 2020 – is binding on individual states.

Door open for shale

Ultimately, it is the need for Europe to maintain its economic competitiveness that is dominating EU strategy. That has meant scaling back on emissions cutbacks and renewable ambitions – and opening the door to the shale gas industry.

EC President Barroso says shale gas is changing the energy landscape in a dramatic way. Many in Europe are fiercely opposed to shale gas, yet the EU has stood back from imposing any EU-wide regulations on the industry, only issuing guidelines in its new package covering health and safety issues.

“It’s a good demonstration of the role the EU should play, setting the cross-border rules for environmental health and safety but not meddling in the energy mix that is chosen by member states”, says Barroso.

The package of EU proposals will now move on to be discussed by Europe’s leaders in March. – Climate News Network

US fracking revolution dilutes EU climate & energy plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tackling climate change comes off second best in the European Union’s latest package of climate and energy targets. Instead, maintaining economic competitiveness – particularly with the US – is the priority. LONDON, 23 January – On the face of it, this week’s EU climate and energy package, with its targets for cutbacks in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and the uptake of renewable energy up to the year 2030, looks impressive. The central element in the package is a binding EU-wide 40% reduction in GHG emissions over 1990 levels by 2030. Significantly, this has to be achieved “through domestic measures alone” – meaning member states can’t meet emissions reductions obligations by making offsetting GHG cutbacks in other countries. There’s also a binding target of achieving at least a 27% share of the European energy mix from renewables by the same year and plans for a major overhaul of the EU’s ill-performing Emissions Trading System (ETS), with the aim of lifting the market price for carbon and encouraging emission reductions across the industrial sector. “If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape”, says Connie Hedegaard, the EU Climate Commissioner. Yet while the figures might impress, it’s clear the fracking revolution in the US has the EU’s energy strategists on the run. According to the European Commission, US gas prices fell by 66% between 2005 and 2012 while in Europe they rose by 35% over the same period.

‘No contradiction’

Reflecting intense lobbying by Europe’s industrialists and several governments, the EU package repeatedly emphasises the need to retain economic competitiveness. “Climate action is central for the future of our planet, while a truly European energy policy is key to our competitiveness” says Jose Manuel Barroso, the EC President. Barroso insists that tackling the two issues simultaneously is not contradictory, but the EU’s critics say the latest package is designed more to satisfy short-term economic aims than to seriously tackle climate change. The long-term goal of EU climate and energy policy is to reduce GHG emissions by up to 95% by 2050, limiting the rise in global average temperature to 2°C over pre-industrial levels and so hopefully averting runaway climate change. Climate scientists and green groups within the EU say the 2030 targets are not nearly ambitious enough and make the 2050 goal very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

“We ask questions as if the science is in any real doubt. It is not.”

“We have to take into account that the 40% target is the death knell of 2°C and probably much more aligned with 4°C once all the trading/CDM/offsetting scams are factored in”, says Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in the UK and deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “As a climate community, we continually forget that not acting now has repercussions that in themselves change what the future will be – we ask questions as if the science is in any real doubt. It is not.” The EU’s target for renewables has also come under fire, with critics saying the Commission has once again given in to powerful EU fossil fuel, nuclear and shale gas lobby groups.

Goal optional

Earlier proposals by a number of countries, including Germany, called for a 2030 renewables target of at least 30%. At the insistence of countries such as Britain, which has both announced plans for a large-scale expansion of nuclear energy and is giving incentives to encourage the fracking industry, and Poland, which is heavily reliant on coal for its power and is also intent on exploiting shale gas, the target was lowered. Furthermore the 27% goal for renewables is binding only on an EU-wide basis and not on individual member states: the result is likely to be that some countries will choose to reduce or opt out of meeting the target figure, leaving others to make up the shortfall by dramatically upping renewables use. In such circumstances, arguments could quickly develop. By contrast, the present EU renewables target – a 20% share in the energy mix by 2020 – is binding on individual states.

Door open for shale

Ultimately, it is the need for Europe to maintain its economic competitiveness that is dominating EU strategy. That has meant scaling back on emissions cutbacks and renewable ambitions – and opening the door to the shale gas industry. EC President Barroso says shale gas is changing the energy landscape in a dramatic way. Many in Europe are fiercely opposed to shale gas, yet the EU has stood back from imposing any EU-wide regulations on the industry, only issuing guidelines in its new package covering health and safety issues. “It’s a good demonstration of the role the EU should play, setting the cross-border rules for environmental health and safety but not meddling in the energy mix that is chosen by member states”, says Barroso. The package of EU proposals will now move on to be discussed by Europe’s leaders in March. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tackling climate change comes off second best in the European Union’s latest package of climate and energy targets. Instead, maintaining economic competitiveness – particularly with the US – is the priority. LONDON, 23 January – On the face of it, this week’s EU climate and energy package, with its targets for cutbacks in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and the uptake of renewable energy up to the year 2030, looks impressive. The central element in the package is a binding EU-wide 40% reduction in GHG emissions over 1990 levels by 2030. Significantly, this has to be achieved “through domestic measures alone” – meaning member states can’t meet emissions reductions obligations by making offsetting GHG cutbacks in other countries. There’s also a binding target of achieving at least a 27% share of the European energy mix from renewables by the same year and plans for a major overhaul of the EU’s ill-performing Emissions Trading System (ETS), with the aim of lifting the market price for carbon and encouraging emission reductions across the industrial sector. “If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape”, says Connie Hedegaard, the EU Climate Commissioner. Yet while the figures might impress, it’s clear the fracking revolution in the US has the EU’s energy strategists on the run. According to the European Commission, US gas prices fell by 66% between 2005 and 2012 while in Europe they rose by 35% over the same period.

‘No contradiction’

Reflecting intense lobbying by Europe’s industrialists and several governments, the EU package repeatedly emphasises the need to retain economic competitiveness. “Climate action is central for the future of our planet, while a truly European energy policy is key to our competitiveness” says Jose Manuel Barroso, the EC President. Barroso insists that tackling the two issues simultaneously is not contradictory, but the EU’s critics say the latest package is designed more to satisfy short-term economic aims than to seriously tackle climate change. The long-term goal of EU climate and energy policy is to reduce GHG emissions by up to 95% by 2050, limiting the rise in global average temperature to 2°C over pre-industrial levels and so hopefully averting runaway climate change. Climate scientists and green groups within the EU say the 2030 targets are not nearly ambitious enough and make the 2050 goal very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

“We ask questions as if the science is in any real doubt. It is not.”

“We have to take into account that the 40% target is the death knell of 2°C and probably much more aligned with 4°C once all the trading/CDM/offsetting scams are factored in”, says Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in the UK and deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “As a climate community, we continually forget that not acting now has repercussions that in themselves change what the future will be – we ask questions as if the science is in any real doubt. It is not.” The EU’s target for renewables has also come under fire, with critics saying the Commission has once again given in to powerful EU fossil fuel, nuclear and shale gas lobby groups.

Goal optional

Earlier proposals by a number of countries, including Germany, called for a 2030 renewables target of at least 30%. At the insistence of countries such as Britain, which has both announced plans for a large-scale expansion of nuclear energy and is giving incentives to encourage the fracking industry, and Poland, which is heavily reliant on coal for its power and is also intent on exploiting shale gas, the target was lowered. Furthermore the 27% goal for renewables is binding only on an EU-wide basis and not on individual member states: the result is likely to be that some countries will choose to reduce or opt out of meeting the target figure, leaving others to make up the shortfall by dramatically upping renewables use. In such circumstances, arguments could quickly develop. By contrast, the present EU renewables target – a 20% share in the energy mix by 2020 – is binding on individual states.

Door open for shale

Ultimately, it is the need for Europe to maintain its economic competitiveness that is dominating EU strategy. That has meant scaling back on emissions cutbacks and renewable ambitions – and opening the door to the shale gas industry. EC President Barroso says shale gas is changing the energy landscape in a dramatic way. Many in Europe are fiercely opposed to shale gas, yet the EU has stood back from imposing any EU-wide regulations on the industry, only issuing guidelines in its new package covering health and safety issues. “It’s a good demonstration of the role the EU should play, setting the cross-border rules for environmental health and safety but not meddling in the energy mix that is chosen by member states”, says Barroso. The package of EU proposals will now move on to be discussed by Europe’s leaders in March. – Climate News Network

Energy change means peril for investors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Making the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is essential for the future of our planet, but taking the first steps towards real change will make hugely challenging demands. LONDON, 1 November – The global energy system is rather like an oil supertanker, sailing the oceans with its vast cargo. Everything is fine as long as the giant ship doesn’t have to alter course or stop suddenly. The system, overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels, is highly complex but over time has been remarkably resilient, delivering considerable economic growth and political and societal stability in many regions. The trouble, according to a new report, is that climate change and other factors mean the good ship energy is having to change course – but most investors in the sector are either asleep or looking the other way. The report, compiled by Meteos, a UK-based not-for-profit think tank and strategy company, is the result of an ongoing dialogue between a number of heavy hitters in the investment community along with advisors from the fossil fuel industries and representatives from academia. “The fact that energy contributes so much both to economic activity and political stability often leads analysts to conclude that the main characteristics of today’s fossil fuel-reliant system are immutable”, says the report. Many of those contributing to this study do not agree. “The pace of change (in the sector) has been astonishing”, says the study. If investors and the industry itself don’t take notice of what’s going on, then they’ll end up shipwrecked. Shale oil and gas have brought about an energy revolution in the US, with a dramatic drop in overall energy prices: all this is having a big impact on the finances of the energy companies. Meanwhile in Europe energy utilities are being hit by falling fossil fuel energy demand, particularly in Germany where renewables are taking an ever greater share of the market.

Beware stranded assets

The report says China might exploit its shale gas reserves, the world’s biggest. There’s also a push in the country towards cleaner energy and a decline in the take-up of some fossil fuels, particularly of coal. “Efficiency improvements, slowing economic growth and aggressive pollution abatement measures are combining with competition from alternatives (particularly hydro and nuclear), leading some analysts to predict an absolute decline in Chinese coal consumption by 2016”, says the report. And, overhanging the whole energy sector, is the question of climate change. The study says the market continues to underestimate the potential for climate-related change to the energy system. “…At some point the disruptive economic impacts of climate change will come to outweigh the benefits of business as usual, and that will eventually lead to a concerted effort to constrain how much carbon is put into the atmosphere.” Energy investors, says the study, should be more concerned about so called “stranded assets” – fossil fuel reserves listed as corporate assets which will have to stay in the ground if any meaningful action is to be taken on global warming. They also need to keep pace with climate- and energy-related policy and regulatory changes in various countries. Investors should also take note of significant changes in public opinion on climate-related issues, such as the concerns raised about smog in China which led to environmental issues being highlighted in the country’s 2011-15 Five Year Plan. The other factor having a big impact on the global energy system is the move towards greater energy efficiency in many countries.

Thinking local

“Across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (OECD) energy consumption has fallen while the economy has grown; for instance, in 2012 energy consumption fell 1.2% while the economy grew 1.4%.” In Europe there is a big push for more energy efficiency, driven by both climate change and price factors. China has developed targets to reduce the energy intensity of its economy. Even the US, the world’s most profligate energy user, aims to double energy productivity by 2030. The big energy companies are also threatened by a move towards localised, micro-generation power projects in many areas which could spark a phenomenon described as the “utility death spiral”. “…As more customers leave, fewer utility customers are left to finance an expensive infrastructure. This in turn drives up utility prices, leading to more customers leaving the utility, and so on.” Some groups say investors in the fossil fuel industry should divest quickly so as to avoid a fall in corporate share prices when the carbon bubble finally bursts. Those involved in the Meteos report take a more measured approach, saying investors need to be far more proactive and to take a systematic approach to analysis of the energy system. The considerable risks of investing in the sector need to be understood. Perhaps most important of all, fossil fuel companies need to be more transparent and willing to disclose their strategies for the future, including how they plan to tackle the risks to their operations posed by climate change. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Making the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is essential for the future of our planet, but taking the first steps towards real change will make hugely challenging demands. LONDON, 1 November – The global energy system is rather like an oil supertanker, sailing the oceans with its vast cargo. Everything is fine as long as the giant ship doesn’t have to alter course or stop suddenly. The system, overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels, is highly complex but over time has been remarkably resilient, delivering considerable economic growth and political and societal stability in many regions. The trouble, according to a new report, is that climate change and other factors mean the good ship energy is having to change course – but most investors in the sector are either asleep or looking the other way. The report, compiled by Meteos, a UK-based not-for-profit think tank and strategy company, is the result of an ongoing dialogue between a number of heavy hitters in the investment community along with advisors from the fossil fuel industries and representatives from academia. “The fact that energy contributes so much both to economic activity and political stability often leads analysts to conclude that the main characteristics of today’s fossil fuel-reliant system are immutable”, says the report. Many of those contributing to this study do not agree. “The pace of change (in the sector) has been astonishing”, says the study. If investors and the industry itself don’t take notice of what’s going on, then they’ll end up shipwrecked. Shale oil and gas have brought about an energy revolution in the US, with a dramatic drop in overall energy prices: all this is having a big impact on the finances of the energy companies. Meanwhile in Europe energy utilities are being hit by falling fossil fuel energy demand, particularly in Germany where renewables are taking an ever greater share of the market.

Beware stranded assets

The report says China might exploit its shale gas reserves, the world’s biggest. There’s also a push in the country towards cleaner energy and a decline in the take-up of some fossil fuels, particularly of coal. “Efficiency improvements, slowing economic growth and aggressive pollution abatement measures are combining with competition from alternatives (particularly hydro and nuclear), leading some analysts to predict an absolute decline in Chinese coal consumption by 2016”, says the report. And, overhanging the whole energy sector, is the question of climate change. The study says the market continues to underestimate the potential for climate-related change to the energy system. “…At some point the disruptive economic impacts of climate change will come to outweigh the benefits of business as usual, and that will eventually lead to a concerted effort to constrain how much carbon is put into the atmosphere.” Energy investors, says the study, should be more concerned about so called “stranded assets” – fossil fuel reserves listed as corporate assets which will have to stay in the ground if any meaningful action is to be taken on global warming. They also need to keep pace with climate- and energy-related policy and regulatory changes in various countries. Investors should also take note of significant changes in public opinion on climate-related issues, such as the concerns raised about smog in China which led to environmental issues being highlighted in the country’s 2011-15 Five Year Plan. The other factor having a big impact on the global energy system is the move towards greater energy efficiency in many countries.

Thinking local

“Across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (OECD) energy consumption has fallen while the economy has grown; for instance, in 2012 energy consumption fell 1.2% while the economy grew 1.4%.” In Europe there is a big push for more energy efficiency, driven by both climate change and price factors. China has developed targets to reduce the energy intensity of its economy. Even the US, the world’s most profligate energy user, aims to double energy productivity by 2030. The big energy companies are also threatened by a move towards localised, micro-generation power projects in many areas which could spark a phenomenon described as the “utility death spiral”. “…As more customers leave, fewer utility customers are left to finance an expensive infrastructure. This in turn drives up utility prices, leading to more customers leaving the utility, and so on.” Some groups say investors in the fossil fuel industry should divest quickly so as to avoid a fall in corporate share prices when the carbon bubble finally bursts. Those involved in the Meteos report take a more measured approach, saying investors need to be far more proactive and to take a systematic approach to analysis of the energy system. The considerable risks of investing in the sector need to be understood. Perhaps most important of all, fossil fuel companies need to be more transparent and willing to disclose their strategies for the future, including how they plan to tackle the risks to their operations posed by climate change. – Climate News Network

Frack first, repent at leisure

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The arguments for and against fracking seem clear-cut. But it’s not that simple, and there is mounting evidence that exploiting shale gas may be neither necessary nor sensible. LONDON, 17 August – As the international debate intensifies over the arguments for and against exploiting shale gas, the largest British nature conservation charity has objected to proposals to drill at two sites in Britain. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is concerned that fracking – hydraulic fracturing of underground rock – at a site in northern England close to an internationally important protected area for pink-footed geese and whooper swans could disturb the birds. With the second site, in the south of England, the RSPB is objecting because it says the developers have not carried out an assessment of the environmental impact of the exploitation. But significantly, the conservationists are raising a second objection as well: that “increasing oil and gas use will scupper our chances of meeting climate targets.” Some supporters of shale exploitation say the cheaper and (relatively) cleaner energy it would produce could serve as a bridge to usher the UK into an era of secure supplies and low-carbon emissions. Others see shale not as a bridge but as a dead end. The RSPB concludes: “…concentrating our resources on extracting fossil fuel from the ground instead of investing in renewable energy threatens to undermine our commitment to avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.”

Coal’s silver lining

But one climate scientist uses a different argument against shale gas: he says exploiting it could in fact worsen climate change, the very problem it is meant to solve. Tom Wigley, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, reported as long ago as 2011 in the journal Climatic Change that replacing coal with gas could increase the rate of global warming for decades to come. Dr Wigley concluded that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion could certainly be cut by burning natural gas rather than coal, as gas produces about half as much CO2 for each unit of primary energy as coal does. But coal does something else as well. It releases a lot of sulphur dioxide and black carbon, which help to cool the climate. The British journalist Fred Pearce, writing in the journal New Scientist, says Wigley told a recent conference that these releases counteract up to 40% of the warming effect of burning coal. Additionally, the technology used in fracking also causes methane to leak into the atmosphere. Methane is at least 23% more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and Dr Wigley says a change from coal to gas will bring benefits this century only if leakage rates are below 2%.

Easier low-tech solution

If they reached 10%, the highest current US estimate, the gas would increase rather than decrease global warming until the middle of the next century, though the overall effects on global average temperature over that century would be small. And even if resorting to shale gas does not worsen climate change, it can still be an unnecessarily hi-tech solution which blinds its supporters to a far simpler answer, some critics argue. The London Guardian quotes the UK’s Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association as saying a tenth of the country’s domestic gas needs could be supplied by biogas, given the UK’s wealth of waste and agricultural products. This, the Association says, could save the UK at least 7.5m tonnes of CO2 a year, because the waste would otherwise be sent to landfill or left to rot and release methane. The country is estimated to produce 15 million tonnes of food waste a year, and about 90 m tonnes of another potent source of energy, animal waste. But only a small part of both is used for producing energy. One British company which is successfully exploiting the bio-waste market is producing electricity and fertiliser, and also preventing the release of thousands of tonnes of CO2 annually. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The arguments for and against fracking seem clear-cut. But it’s not that simple, and there is mounting evidence that exploiting shale gas may be neither necessary nor sensible. LONDON, 17 August – As the international debate intensifies over the arguments for and against exploiting shale gas, the largest British nature conservation charity has objected to proposals to drill at two sites in Britain. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is concerned that fracking – hydraulic fracturing of underground rock – at a site in northern England close to an internationally important protected area for pink-footed geese and whooper swans could disturb the birds. With the second site, in the south of England, the RSPB is objecting because it says the developers have not carried out an assessment of the environmental impact of the exploitation. But significantly, the conservationists are raising a second objection as well: that “increasing oil and gas use will scupper our chances of meeting climate targets.” Some supporters of shale exploitation say the cheaper and (relatively) cleaner energy it would produce could serve as a bridge to usher the UK into an era of secure supplies and low-carbon emissions. Others see shale not as a bridge but as a dead end. The RSPB concludes: “…concentrating our resources on extracting fossil fuel from the ground instead of investing in renewable energy threatens to undermine our commitment to avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.”

Coal’s silver lining

But one climate scientist uses a different argument against shale gas: he says exploiting it could in fact worsen climate change, the very problem it is meant to solve. Tom Wigley, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, reported as long ago as 2011 in the journal Climatic Change that replacing coal with gas could increase the rate of global warming for decades to come. Dr Wigley concluded that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion could certainly be cut by burning natural gas rather than coal, as gas produces about half as much CO2 for each unit of primary energy as coal does. But coal does something else as well. It releases a lot of sulphur dioxide and black carbon, which help to cool the climate. The British journalist Fred Pearce, writing in the journal New Scientist, says Wigley told a recent conference that these releases counteract up to 40% of the warming effect of burning coal. Additionally, the technology used in fracking also causes methane to leak into the atmosphere. Methane is at least 23% more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and Dr Wigley says a change from coal to gas will bring benefits this century only if leakage rates are below 2%.

Easier low-tech solution

If they reached 10%, the highest current US estimate, the gas would increase rather than decrease global warming until the middle of the next century, though the overall effects on global average temperature over that century would be small. And even if resorting to shale gas does not worsen climate change, it can still be an unnecessarily hi-tech solution which blinds its supporters to a far simpler answer, some critics argue. The London Guardian quotes the UK’s Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association as saying a tenth of the country’s domestic gas needs could be supplied by biogas, given the UK’s wealth of waste and agricultural products. This, the Association says, could save the UK at least 7.5m tonnes of CO2 a year, because the waste would otherwise be sent to landfill or left to rot and release methane. The country is estimated to produce 15 million tonnes of food waste a year, and about 90 m tonnes of another potent source of energy, animal waste. But only a small part of both is used for producing energy. One British company which is successfully exploiting the bio-waste market is producing electricity and fertiliser, and also preventing the release of thousands of tonnes of CO2 annually. – Climate News Network

Flaring lights up North Dakota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE North Dakota, now the second-largest oil-producing state in the US, is neglecting the gas that also comes from its wells, says a report, wasting money and adding to greenhouse gas emissions. LONDON, 2 August – Flaring of gas associated with oil production has long been a contentious issue: it not only releases millions of tons of harmful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere but it’s also a chronic waste of a valuable energy resource. Considerable progress has been made over recent years in reducing flaring: the World Bank estimates that between 2005 and 2011 there was a 20% drop in flaring worldwide. But in North Dakota, one of the pivotal regions driving the boom in US shale oil and gas production, flaring is very much in fashion. A new report says flaring in North Dakota – now visible from space – has doubled over the past two years, with gas worth approximately $1 bn literally going up in smoke in 2012. “Over the course of 2012, natural gas flaring in North Dakota emitted 4.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the annual emissions of approximately one million cars”, say the report’s authors. The report, Flaring Up, is produced by Ceres, a US organisation promoting more sustainable business practices. It says nearly 30% of North Dakota gas is at present being burned off each month as a byproduct of oil production: as a result, the US has now joined Russia, Nigeria and Iraq among the world’s top 10 flaring countries. North Dakota, a predominantly farming area and traditionally one of the less developed regions in the US, has seen its economic fortunes radically change in recent years. Technological advances such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – have unlocked vast deposits of shale gas and oil in the Bakken area in the state’s north-west. Early last year North Dakota surpassed Alaska to become the second largest oil-producing state in the US – after Texas. Oil production has multiplied 40 times since 2007, with production rising from 18,500 barrels per day (bpd) to 760,000 bpd. North Dakota’s economy is now growing far faster than anywhere else in the US: the population – and the crime rate – are also on the up. The report gives two main reasons for the upsurge in flaring. As oil commands a far higher price than gas, companies investing in shale-based energy focus on oil.

$25 billion up in smoke

“A large differential between the prices for oil and gas acts as a deterrent for developers to invest capital in natural gas utilization”, says the study. Also, natural gas needs its own infrastructure in order to be collected and put on the market. Gas pipelines and other facilities are undeveloped in North Dakota compared with other gas-producing states. And North Dakota’s flaring regulations are unusually permissive, says the report, when compared with other resource-rich states such as Texas, California or Alaska. “In the absence of a strong regulatory framework that prohibits flaring, companies working with a limited amount of capital (which is to say all companies) have a strong incentive to put their capital toward oil production, given its higher return relative to natural gas.” Some exploration companies, pressured by investors worried about both the environmental and financial impact of flaring, have agreed to limit or stop burning off gas. A recent rise in natural gas prices might give an incentive to build the necessary infrastructure for capturing gas. Yet the emphasis is still very much on exploiting far more financially attractive oil resources. The World Bank estimates that flaring around the world accounts for the release of 400 million tons of CO2 each year. The World Petroleum Council says the amount of gas flared annually is worth about $25 bn in energy terms and is equivalent in volume to approximately 5% of total global natural gas production. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE North Dakota, now the second-largest oil-producing state in the US, is neglecting the gas that also comes from its wells, says a report, wasting money and adding to greenhouse gas emissions. LONDON, 2 August – Flaring of gas associated with oil production has long been a contentious issue: it not only releases millions of tons of harmful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere but it’s also a chronic waste of a valuable energy resource. Considerable progress has been made over recent years in reducing flaring: the World Bank estimates that between 2005 and 2011 there was a 20% drop in flaring worldwide. But in North Dakota, one of the pivotal regions driving the boom in US shale oil and gas production, flaring is very much in fashion. A new report says flaring in North Dakota – now visible from space – has doubled over the past two years, with gas worth approximately $1 bn literally going up in smoke in 2012. “Over the course of 2012, natural gas flaring in North Dakota emitted 4.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the annual emissions of approximately one million cars”, say the report’s authors. The report, Flaring Up, is produced by Ceres, a US organisation promoting more sustainable business practices. It says nearly 30% of North Dakota gas is at present being burned off each month as a byproduct of oil production: as a result, the US has now joined Russia, Nigeria and Iraq among the world’s top 10 flaring countries. North Dakota, a predominantly farming area and traditionally one of the less developed regions in the US, has seen its economic fortunes radically change in recent years. Technological advances such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – have unlocked vast deposits of shale gas and oil in the Bakken area in the state’s north-west. Early last year North Dakota surpassed Alaska to become the second largest oil-producing state in the US – after Texas. Oil production has multiplied 40 times since 2007, with production rising from 18,500 barrels per day (bpd) to 760,000 bpd. North Dakota’s economy is now growing far faster than anywhere else in the US: the population – and the crime rate – are also on the up. The report gives two main reasons for the upsurge in flaring. As oil commands a far higher price than gas, companies investing in shale-based energy focus on oil.

$25 billion up in smoke

“A large differential between the prices for oil and gas acts as a deterrent for developers to invest capital in natural gas utilization”, says the study. Also, natural gas needs its own infrastructure in order to be collected and put on the market. Gas pipelines and other facilities are undeveloped in North Dakota compared with other gas-producing states. And North Dakota’s flaring regulations are unusually permissive, says the report, when compared with other resource-rich states such as Texas, California or Alaska. “In the absence of a strong regulatory framework that prohibits flaring, companies working with a limited amount of capital (which is to say all companies) have a strong incentive to put their capital toward oil production, given its higher return relative to natural gas.” Some exploration companies, pressured by investors worried about both the environmental and financial impact of flaring, have agreed to limit or stop burning off gas. A recent rise in natural gas prices might give an incentive to build the necessary infrastructure for capturing gas. Yet the emphasis is still very much on exploiting far more financially attractive oil resources. The World Bank estimates that flaring around the world accounts for the release of 400 million tons of CO2 each year. The World Petroleum Council says the amount of gas flared annually is worth about $25 bn in energy terms and is equivalent in volume to approximately 5% of total global natural gas production. – Climate News Network

Climate chaos 'needn't happen – IF…'

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Thursday 11 July
Two reports suggest that it may be possible to avoid serious climate change, or even to reverse it. But both come with key qualifications – conditions that will have to be met if the predictions are to prove correct.

LONDON, 11 July – Two separate groups of researchers say there are grounds for hope that the world can escape the prospect of a possibly uncontrollable and very damaging level of climate change. But they agree that world governments will have to meet rigorous conditions to make this happen.

The first study, published in the journal Environmental Research Lettsrs, is by a team from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. It makes the bold claim that ambitious temperature targets “can be exceeded then reclaimed” by around mid-century.

The way to achieve this, the study says, is by combining bio-energy with carbon capture and storage – a marriage of technologies it calls BECCS. This, it says, “can reverse the global warming trend and push temperatures back below the global target of 2°C above pre-industrial levels, even if current policies fail and we initially overshoot this target”.

If BECCS is used on a sufficiently large scale, the team says, along with other renewable energy sources, then “temperature increases can be as low as 1.5°C by 2150”.

The study says stringent temperature targets can be met at significantly lower costs if BECCS is implemented 30 to 50 years hence, though this may mean a temporary overshoot of the 2°C target.

One of the study’s co-authors, Professor Christian Azar, said reversing the warming trend “requires both large-scale use of BECCS and reducing other emissions to near-zero levels using other renewables – mainly solar energy or nuclear power”.

But the authors say their study is not an argument for delay. Professor Azar says: “BECCS can only reverse global warming if we have net negative emissions from the entire global energy system. This means that all other CO2 emissions need to be reduced to nearly zero.

“Also, temperatures can only be reduced by about 0.6°C per century, which is too slow to act as an ’emergency brake’ if climate damages turn out to be too high.”

However many and serious the provisos and qualifications the study makes, it does strike a hopeful note, one which is echoed by the second study, from the publishers of the original Hartwell paper, co-ordinated at the London School of Economics (LSE) and published in 2010.

“It is simply not acceptable to pursue policies that will leave the bottom billion of humanity without the energy services they require for wellbeing and dignity”

This new Hartwell paper is entitled The Vital Spark: innovating clean and affordable energy for all, and its tone is set by a question posed by the Hartwell group convenor, LSE emeritus research Professor Gwythian Prins, one of the authors of The Vital Spark,

He writes in the study: “Only general prosperity can produce widespread consent for emissions reductions, and only affordable energy for all can deliver prosperity.” So how can the world square that circle?

The study’s international team of 20 authors proposes 11 building blocks which it says are the necessary conditions for success in the energy transition that humanity needs. “Some may be tough for today’s policy-makers to accept”, the authors say, arguing that all are essential.

They argue that only a high-energy planet is morally defensible or politically viable. But at present, they say, only carbon-intensive sources of energy offer a realistic prospect of this, with obvious hazards to the climate.

Asked by the Climate News Network whether he thought the obstacles to providing affordable energy for all were technical or human, Professor Prins replied: “Asymetrically the latter.

“The lessons of the last 15-20 years have seen the failure of attempts at driven transitions, when you try to cause a change in an energy regime by policy, a fragile and unpredictable tool. We need humility and pragmatism.

“For example, shale gas has tremendously positive environmental implications, so long as you regard it as a bridge, not a destination.”

Professor Prins says: “It is simply not acceptable to pursue policies that will leave the bottom billion of humanity without the energy services they require for wellbeing and dignity.

“This paper attempts to form a common foundation which will enable us to provide large quantities of energy at low cost, and with low environmental impact.” – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Thursday 11 July
Two reports suggest that it may be possible to avoid serious climate change, or even to reverse it. But both come with key qualifications – conditions that will have to be met if the predictions are to prove correct.

LONDON, 11 July – Two separate groups of researchers say there are grounds for hope that the world can escape the prospect of a possibly uncontrollable and very damaging level of climate change. But they agree that world governments will have to meet rigorous conditions to make this happen.

The first study, published in the journal Environmental Research Lettsrs, is by a team from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. It makes the bold claim that ambitious temperature targets “can be exceeded then reclaimed” by around mid-century.

The way to achieve this, the study says, is by combining bio-energy with carbon capture and storage – a marriage of technologies it calls BECCS. This, it says, “can reverse the global warming trend and push temperatures back below the global target of 2°C above pre-industrial levels, even if current policies fail and we initially overshoot this target”.

If BECCS is used on a sufficiently large scale, the team says, along with other renewable energy sources, then “temperature increases can be as low as 1.5°C by 2150”.

The study says stringent temperature targets can be met at significantly lower costs if BECCS is implemented 30 to 50 years hence, though this may mean a temporary overshoot of the 2°C target.

One of the study’s co-authors, Professor Christian Azar, said reversing the warming trend “requires both large-scale use of BECCS and reducing other emissions to near-zero levels using other renewables – mainly solar energy or nuclear power”.

But the authors say their study is not an argument for delay. Professor Azar says: “BECCS can only reverse global warming if we have net negative emissions from the entire global energy system. This means that all other CO2 emissions need to be reduced to nearly zero.

“Also, temperatures can only be reduced by about 0.6°C per century, which is too slow to act as an ’emergency brake’ if climate damages turn out to be too high.”

However many and serious the provisos and qualifications the study makes, it does strike a hopeful note, one which is echoed by the second study, from the publishers of the original Hartwell paper, co-ordinated at the London School of Economics (LSE) and published in 2010.

“It is simply not acceptable to pursue policies that will leave the bottom billion of humanity without the energy services they require for wellbeing and dignity”

This new Hartwell paper is entitled The Vital Spark: innovating clean and affordable energy for all, and its tone is set by a question posed by the Hartwell group convenor, LSE emeritus research Professor Gwythian Prins, one of the authors of The Vital Spark,

He writes in the study: “Only general prosperity can produce widespread consent for emissions reductions, and only affordable energy for all can deliver prosperity.” So how can the world square that circle?

The study’s international team of 20 authors proposes 11 building blocks which it says are the necessary conditions for success in the energy transition that humanity needs. “Some may be tough for today’s policy-makers to accept”, the authors say, arguing that all are essential.

They argue that only a high-energy planet is morally defensible or politically viable. But at present, they say, only carbon-intensive sources of energy offer a realistic prospect of this, with obvious hazards to the climate.

Asked by the Climate News Network whether he thought the obstacles to providing affordable energy for all were technical or human, Professor Prins replied: “Asymetrically the latter.

“The lessons of the last 15-20 years have seen the failure of attempts at driven transitions, when you try to cause a change in an energy regime by policy, a fragile and unpredictable tool. We need humility and pragmatism.

“For example, shale gas has tremendously positive environmental implications, so long as you regard it as a bridge, not a destination.”

Professor Prins says: “It is simply not acceptable to pursue policies that will leave the bottom billion of humanity without the energy services they require for wellbeing and dignity.

“This paper attempts to form a common foundation which will enable us to provide large quantities of energy at low cost, and with low environmental impact.” – Climate News Network

Climate chaos ‘needn’t happen – IF…’

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Thursday 11 July Two reports suggest that it may be possible to avoid serious climate change, or even to reverse it. But both come with key qualifications – conditions that will have to be met if the predictions are to prove correct. LONDON, 11 July – Two separate groups of researchers say there are grounds for hope that the world can escape the prospect of a possibly uncontrollable and very damaging level of climate change. But they agree that world governments will have to meet rigorous conditions to make this happen. The first study, published in the journal Environmental Research Lettsrs, is by a team from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. It makes the bold claim that ambitious temperature targets “can be exceeded then reclaimed” by around mid-century. The way to achieve this, the study says, is by combining bio-energy with carbon capture and storage – a marriage of technologies it calls BECCS. This, it says, “can reverse the global warming trend and push temperatures back below the global target of 2°C above pre-industrial levels, even if current policies fail and we initially overshoot this target”. If BECCS is used on a sufficiently large scale, the team says, along with other renewable energy sources, then “temperature increases can be as low as 1.5°C by 2150”. The study says stringent temperature targets can be met at significantly lower costs if BECCS is implemented 30 to 50 years hence, though this may mean a temporary overshoot of the 2°C target. One of the study’s co-authors, Professor Christian Azar, said reversing the warming trend “requires both large-scale use of BECCS and reducing other emissions to near-zero levels using other renewables – mainly solar energy or nuclear power”. But the authors say their study is not an argument for delay. Professor Azar says: “BECCS can only reverse global warming if we have net negative emissions from the entire global energy system. This means that all other CO2 emissions need to be reduced to nearly zero. “Also, temperatures can only be reduced by about 0.6°C per century, which is too slow to act as an ’emergency brake’ if climate damages turn out to be too high.” However many and serious the provisos and qualifications the study makes, it does strike a hopeful note, one which is echoed by the second study, from the publishers of the original Hartwell paper, co-ordinated at the London School of Economics (LSE) and published in 2010.

“It is simply not acceptable to pursue policies that will leave the bottom billion of humanity without the energy services they require for wellbeing and dignity”

This new Hartwell paper is entitled The Vital Spark: innovating clean and affordable energy for all, and its tone is set by a question posed by the Hartwell group convenor, LSE emeritus research Professor Gwythian Prins, one of the authors of The Vital Spark, He writes in the study: “Only general prosperity can produce widespread consent for emissions reductions, and only affordable energy for all can deliver prosperity.” So how can the world square that circle? The study’s international team of 20 authors proposes 11 building blocks which it says are the necessary conditions for success in the energy transition that humanity needs. “Some may be tough for today’s policy-makers to accept”, the authors say, arguing that all are essential. They argue that only a high-energy planet is morally defensible or politically viable. But at present, they say, only carbon-intensive sources of energy offer a realistic prospect of this, with obvious hazards to the climate. Asked by the Climate News Network whether he thought the obstacles to providing affordable energy for all were technical or human, Professor Prins replied: “Asymetrically the latter. “The lessons of the last 15-20 years have seen the failure of attempts at driven transitions, when you try to cause a change in an energy regime by policy, a fragile and unpredictable tool. We need humility and pragmatism. “For example, shale gas has tremendously positive environmental implications, so long as you regard it as a bridge, not a destination.” Professor Prins says: “It is simply not acceptable to pursue policies that will leave the bottom billion of humanity without the energy services they require for wellbeing and dignity. “This paper attempts to form a common foundation which will enable us to provide large quantities of energy at low cost, and with low environmental impact.” – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Thursday 11 July Two reports suggest that it may be possible to avoid serious climate change, or even to reverse it. But both come with key qualifications – conditions that will have to be met if the predictions are to prove correct. LONDON, 11 July – Two separate groups of researchers say there are grounds for hope that the world can escape the prospect of a possibly uncontrollable and very damaging level of climate change. But they agree that world governments will have to meet rigorous conditions to make this happen. The first study, published in the journal Environmental Research Lettsrs, is by a team from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. It makes the bold claim that ambitious temperature targets “can be exceeded then reclaimed” by around mid-century. The way to achieve this, the study says, is by combining bio-energy with carbon capture and storage – a marriage of technologies it calls BECCS. This, it says, “can reverse the global warming trend and push temperatures back below the global target of 2°C above pre-industrial levels, even if current policies fail and we initially overshoot this target”. If BECCS is used on a sufficiently large scale, the team says, along with other renewable energy sources, then “temperature increases can be as low as 1.5°C by 2150”. The study says stringent temperature targets can be met at significantly lower costs if BECCS is implemented 30 to 50 years hence, though this may mean a temporary overshoot of the 2°C target. One of the study’s co-authors, Professor Christian Azar, said reversing the warming trend “requires both large-scale use of BECCS and reducing other emissions to near-zero levels using other renewables – mainly solar energy or nuclear power”. But the authors say their study is not an argument for delay. Professor Azar says: “BECCS can only reverse global warming if we have net negative emissions from the entire global energy system. This means that all other CO2 emissions need to be reduced to nearly zero. “Also, temperatures can only be reduced by about 0.6°C per century, which is too slow to act as an ’emergency brake’ if climate damages turn out to be too high.” However many and serious the provisos and qualifications the study makes, it does strike a hopeful note, one which is echoed by the second study, from the publishers of the original Hartwell paper, co-ordinated at the London School of Economics (LSE) and published in 2010.

“It is simply not acceptable to pursue policies that will leave the bottom billion of humanity without the energy services they require for wellbeing and dignity”

This new Hartwell paper is entitled The Vital Spark: innovating clean and affordable energy for all, and its tone is set by a question posed by the Hartwell group convenor, LSE emeritus research Professor Gwythian Prins, one of the authors of The Vital Spark, He writes in the study: “Only general prosperity can produce widespread consent for emissions reductions, and only affordable energy for all can deliver prosperity.” So how can the world square that circle? The study’s international team of 20 authors proposes 11 building blocks which it says are the necessary conditions for success in the energy transition that humanity needs. “Some may be tough for today’s policy-makers to accept”, the authors say, arguing that all are essential. They argue that only a high-energy planet is morally defensible or politically viable. But at present, they say, only carbon-intensive sources of energy offer a realistic prospect of this, with obvious hazards to the climate. Asked by the Climate News Network whether he thought the obstacles to providing affordable energy for all were technical or human, Professor Prins replied: “Asymetrically the latter. “The lessons of the last 15-20 years have seen the failure of attempts at driven transitions, when you try to cause a change in an energy regime by policy, a fragile and unpredictable tool. We need humility and pragmatism. “For example, shale gas has tremendously positive environmental implications, so long as you regard it as a bridge, not a destination.” Professor Prins says: “It is simply not acceptable to pursue policies that will leave the bottom billion of humanity without the energy services they require for wellbeing and dignity. “This paper attempts to form a common foundation which will enable us to provide large quantities of energy at low cost, and with low environmental impact.” – Climate News Network

China 'moving to lead on climate change'

EMBARGOED until 1401 GMT on Sunday 28 April
The world’s two greatest emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the US, earn high praise for their efforts to tackle climate change from an Australian report. But it says much more radical global action is urgently needed.

LONDON, 28 April – Both China and the US, the world’s two principal emitters of greenhouse gases, have been making significant recent progress on tackling climate change, a report by an influential Australian advisory group says.

Its report, The Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change, has particular praise for China, saying its efforts “demonstrate accelerating global leadership”.

The other “energy giant”, the US, is also commended for showing “a new commitment to lead”. The report says the US “appears to be gaining momentum with President Barack Obama outlining his strong intent to address climate change…”

The report is the work of the Australian Climate Commission, an independent body set up in 2011 to provide authoritative and trustworthy information on climate change science and solutions.

Its authors are Professor Tim Flannery, chair of the Commission, Gerry Hueston, former CEO of BP Australasia, and Roger Beale, an economist and former Secretary of the Australian Department of Environment.

The report says China and the US, the world’s two largest economies which together produce about 37% of world emissions, are both on track to meet their international commitments on climate change, something they said in this month’s “historic agreement” they would tackle together. “Today the energy giants are undoubtedly on the move, which will fuel global momentum.”

Halving electricity demand

China earns praise for several reasons. It is reducing its emissions growth, and in 2012 cut the carbon intensity of its economy more than expected. After years of strong growth in coal use, the rate of growth has declined substantially. It is also “the world’s renewable energy powerhouse”.

Professor Flannery says: “China has halved its growth in electricity demand… [and] is quickly moving to the top of the leader board on climate change.”

Emissions have also been declining in the US, which is on track to meet its goal of cutting them by 17% on 2005 levels by 2020. The authors note that the economic downturn and a shift away from coal to gas have helped here.

Global progress on renewable energy Image: Climate Commission

Global progress on renewable energy
Image: Climate Commission

The report says every major economy is tackling climate change, introducing policies to drive down emissions and encouraging renewable energy.

But in a section headed “This is the critical decade for action”, it says the significant progress made so far is not enough. “Globally emissions are continuing to rise strongly, posing serious risks for our society. This decade must set the foundations to reduce emissions rapidly to nearly zero by 2050.”

The scale and the pace of the changes needed to reduce emissions as drastically as that – something which many scientists insist is vital – is a huge challenge, and many countries appear on present trends very unlikely to meet it.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 April, headlined “Japan turns back to coal-fired power plants”, included this observation on the country’s post-Fukushima prospects: “…with the government considering the closure of much of the installed nuclear capacity over the medium term, the spotlight is back on coal as the cheapest energy source, notwithstanding plans to cut carbon emissions.

“A commitment to slice 2020 carbon emissions by 25 per cent from their 1990 level will be revised by October, according to Japanese newspaper reports.”

Action needed now

The Australian report’s praise for China and the US commends their recent performance – or at least their stated intentions – in comparison with their past records. But they will need to do far more than show the relative improvement the Commission recognises.

If the Earth is still to have any chance of staying below the 2°C global average temperature rise which most governments say is essential to prevent dangerous climate change, the energy giants (and the rest of the world) will have to make vastly greater absolute progress.  – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 1401 GMT on Sunday 28 April
The world’s two greatest emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the US, earn high praise for their efforts to tackle climate change from an Australian report. But it says much more radical global action is urgently needed.

LONDON, 28 April – Both China and the US, the world’s two principal emitters of greenhouse gases, have been making significant recent progress on tackling climate change, a report by an influential Australian advisory group says.

Its report, The Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change, has particular praise for China, saying its efforts “demonstrate accelerating global leadership”.

The other “energy giant”, the US, is also commended for showing “a new commitment to lead”. The report says the US “appears to be gaining momentum with President Barack Obama outlining his strong intent to address climate change…”

The report is the work of the Australian Climate Commission, an independent body set up in 2011 to provide authoritative and trustworthy information on climate change science and solutions.

Its authors are Professor Tim Flannery, chair of the Commission, Gerry Hueston, former CEO of BP Australasia, and Roger Beale, an economist and former Secretary of the Australian Department of Environment.

The report says China and the US, the world’s two largest economies which together produce about 37% of world emissions, are both on track to meet their international commitments on climate change, something they said in this month’s “historic agreement” they would tackle together. “Today the energy giants are undoubtedly on the move, which will fuel global momentum.”

Halving electricity demand

China earns praise for several reasons. It is reducing its emissions growth, and in 2012 cut the carbon intensity of its economy more than expected. After years of strong growth in coal use, the rate of growth has declined substantially. It is also “the world’s renewable energy powerhouse”.

Professor Flannery says: “China has halved its growth in electricity demand… [and] is quickly moving to the top of the leader board on climate change.”

Emissions have also been declining in the US, which is on track to meet its goal of cutting them by 17% on 2005 levels by 2020. The authors note that the economic downturn and a shift away from coal to gas have helped here.

Global progress on renewable energy Image: Climate Commission

Global progress on renewable energy
Image: Climate Commission

The report says every major economy is tackling climate change, introducing policies to drive down emissions and encouraging renewable energy.

But in a section headed “This is the critical decade for action”, it says the significant progress made so far is not enough. “Globally emissions are continuing to rise strongly, posing serious risks for our society. This decade must set the foundations to reduce emissions rapidly to nearly zero by 2050.”

The scale and the pace of the changes needed to reduce emissions as drastically as that – something which many scientists insist is vital – is a huge challenge, and many countries appear on present trends very unlikely to meet it.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 April, headlined “Japan turns back to coal-fired power plants”, included this observation on the country’s post-Fukushima prospects: “…with the government considering the closure of much of the installed nuclear capacity over the medium term, the spotlight is back on coal as the cheapest energy source, notwithstanding plans to cut carbon emissions.

“A commitment to slice 2020 carbon emissions by 25 per cent from their 1990 level will be revised by October, according to Japanese newspaper reports.”

Action needed now

The Australian report’s praise for China and the US commends their recent performance – or at least their stated intentions – in comparison with their past records. But they will need to do far more than show the relative improvement the Commission recognises.

If the Earth is still to have any chance of staying below the 2°C global average temperature rise which most governments say is essential to prevent dangerous climate change, the energy giants (and the rest of the world) will have to make vastly greater absolute progress.  – Climate News Network

China ‘moving to lead on climate change’

EMBARGOED until 1401 GMT on Sunday 28 April The world’s two greatest emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the US, earn high praise for their efforts to tackle climate change from an Australian report. But it says much more radical global action is urgently needed. LONDON, 28 April – Both China and the US, the world’s two principal emitters of greenhouse gases, have been making significant recent progress on tackling climate change, a report by an influential Australian advisory group says. Its report, The Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change, has particular praise for China, saying its efforts “demonstrate accelerating global leadership”. The other “energy giant”, the US, is also commended for showing “a new commitment to lead”. The report says the US “appears to be gaining momentum with President Barack Obama outlining his strong intent to address climate change…” The report is the work of the Australian Climate Commission, an independent body set up in 2011 to provide authoritative and trustworthy information on climate change science and solutions. Its authors are Professor Tim Flannery, chair of the Commission, Gerry Hueston, former CEO of BP Australasia, and Roger Beale, an economist and former Secretary of the Australian Department of Environment. The report says China and the US, the world’s two largest economies which together produce about 37% of world emissions, are both on track to meet their international commitments on climate change, something they said in this month’s “historic agreement” they would tackle together. “Today the energy giants are undoubtedly on the move, which will fuel global momentum.”

Halving electricity demand

China earns praise for several reasons. It is reducing its emissions growth, and in 2012 cut the carbon intensity of its economy more than expected. After years of strong growth in coal use, the rate of growth has declined substantially. It is also “the world’s renewable energy powerhouse”. Professor Flannery says: “China has halved its growth in electricity demand… [and] is quickly moving to the top of the leader board on climate change.” Emissions have also been declining in the US, which is on track to meet its goal of cutting them by 17% on 2005 levels by 2020. The authors note that the economic downturn and a shift away from coal to gas have helped here.

Global progress on renewable energy Image: Climate Commission

Global progress on renewable energy
Image: Climate Commission

The report says every major economy is tackling climate change, introducing policies to drive down emissions and encouraging renewable energy. But in a section headed “This is the critical decade for action”, it says the significant progress made so far is not enough. “Globally emissions are continuing to rise strongly, posing serious risks for our society. This decade must set the foundations to reduce emissions rapidly to nearly zero by 2050.” The scale and the pace of the changes needed to reduce emissions as drastically as that – something which many scientists insist is vital – is a huge challenge, and many countries appear on present trends very unlikely to meet it. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 April, headlined “Japan turns back to coal-fired power plants”, included this observation on the country’s post-Fukushima prospects: “…with the government considering the closure of much of the installed nuclear capacity over the medium term, the spotlight is back on coal as the cheapest energy source, notwithstanding plans to cut carbon emissions. “A commitment to slice 2020 carbon emissions by 25 per cent from their 1990 level will be revised by October, according to Japanese newspaper reports.”

Action needed now

The Australian report’s praise for China and the US commends their recent performance – or at least their stated intentions – in comparison with their past records. But they will need to do far more than show the relative improvement the Commission recognises. If the Earth is still to have any chance of staying below the 2°C global average temperature rise which most governments say is essential to prevent dangerous climate change, the energy giants (and the rest of the world) will have to make vastly greater absolute progress.  – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 1401 GMT on Sunday 28 April The world’s two greatest emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the US, earn high praise for their efforts to tackle climate change from an Australian report. But it says much more radical global action is urgently needed. LONDON, 28 April – Both China and the US, the world’s two principal emitters of greenhouse gases, have been making significant recent progress on tackling climate change, a report by an influential Australian advisory group says. Its report, The Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change, has particular praise for China, saying its efforts “demonstrate accelerating global leadership”. The other “energy giant”, the US, is also commended for showing “a new commitment to lead”. The report says the US “appears to be gaining momentum with President Barack Obama outlining his strong intent to address climate change…” The report is the work of the Australian Climate Commission, an independent body set up in 2011 to provide authoritative and trustworthy information on climate change science and solutions. Its authors are Professor Tim Flannery, chair of the Commission, Gerry Hueston, former CEO of BP Australasia, and Roger Beale, an economist and former Secretary of the Australian Department of Environment. The report says China and the US, the world’s two largest economies which together produce about 37% of world emissions, are both on track to meet their international commitments on climate change, something they said in this month’s “historic agreement” they would tackle together. “Today the energy giants are undoubtedly on the move, which will fuel global momentum.”

Halving electricity demand

China earns praise for several reasons. It is reducing its emissions growth, and in 2012 cut the carbon intensity of its economy more than expected. After years of strong growth in coal use, the rate of growth has declined substantially. It is also “the world’s renewable energy powerhouse”. Professor Flannery says: “China has halved its growth in electricity demand… [and] is quickly moving to the top of the leader board on climate change.” Emissions have also been declining in the US, which is on track to meet its goal of cutting them by 17% on 2005 levels by 2020. The authors note that the economic downturn and a shift away from coal to gas have helped here.

Global progress on renewable energy Image: Climate Commission

Global progress on renewable energy
Image: Climate Commission

The report says every major economy is tackling climate change, introducing policies to drive down emissions and encouraging renewable energy. But in a section headed “This is the critical decade for action”, it says the significant progress made so far is not enough. “Globally emissions are continuing to rise strongly, posing serious risks for our society. This decade must set the foundations to reduce emissions rapidly to nearly zero by 2050.” The scale and the pace of the changes needed to reduce emissions as drastically as that – something which many scientists insist is vital – is a huge challenge, and many countries appear on present trends very unlikely to meet it. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 April, headlined “Japan turns back to coal-fired power plants”, included this observation on the country’s post-Fukushima prospects: “…with the government considering the closure of much of the installed nuclear capacity over the medium term, the spotlight is back on coal as the cheapest energy source, notwithstanding plans to cut carbon emissions. “A commitment to slice 2020 carbon emissions by 25 per cent from their 1990 level will be revised by October, according to Japanese newspaper reports.”

Action needed now

The Australian report’s praise for China and the US commends their recent performance – or at least their stated intentions – in comparison with their past records. But they will need to do far more than show the relative improvement the Commission recognises. If the Earth is still to have any chance of staying below the 2°C global average temperature rise which most governments say is essential to prevent dangerous climate change, the energy giants (and the rest of the world) will have to make vastly greater absolute progress.  – Climate News Network