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Global Briefing: Coronavirus crisis will have 'negligible' impact on emissions without green recovery, study warns

Global Briefing: Coronavirus crisis will have ‘negligible’ impact on emissions without green recovery, study warns

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Global Briefing: Coronavirus crisis will have 'negligible' impact on emissions without green recovery, study warns

All the green business news from around the world this week

Study: Global lockdowns likely to curb temperatures by just 0.01C by 2030

A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has warned that the sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions experienced this year as a result of the coronavirus crisis are likely to a “negligible” impact on temperatures.

The study, which draws largely on Google and Apple mobility data, details how the impact of lockdown measures on emissions are proving shortlived and as such temperature projections for 2030 are only 0.01C lower than was previously the case.

However, the report also highlights how engineering a ‘green recovery’ backed by major investment in low carbon infrastructure could significantly increase the chances of the world meeting the 1.5C warming target at the heart of the Paris Agreement.

The study drew on data from 123 countries that together account for 99 per cent of fossil fuel emissions. It found that global carbon emissions fell by more than a quarter in April, but such sharp reductions in emissions have proven short-lived as lockedowns have been eased around the world

“The direct effect of the pandemic-driven [lockdown] will be negligible,” said the researchers. “In contrast, with an economic recovery tilted towards green stimulus and reductions in fossil fuel investments, it is possible to avoid future warming of 0.3C by 2050.”

Prof Piers Forster at the University of Leeds, who led the research, said it was “now make or break for the 1.5C target”. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really change the direction of society,” he added. “We do not have to go back to where we were, because times of crisis are also the time to change.”

The report analysed a number of recovery scenarios. It estimates that if the recovery emulates the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis then global temperature will rise by more than 1.5C by 2050. In contrast, it suggests a ‘green recovery’ that sees 1.2 per cent of global GDP invested in low-carbon technologies and curbs support for fossil fuel companies could cut projected warming by 0.3C, potentially bringing the 1.5C goal within reach.

Fresh warnings of European drought risks

A new report published in the journal Scientific Reports has warned that extreme droughts are set to become much more frequent across central Europe in the coming decades as climate impacts escalate.

The study predicts that under worst case emissions scenarios extreme droughts could become seven times more frequent, drastically increasing the area of crops at risk from extreme drought.

In contrast, researchers from UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany, forecast that moderate reductions in greenhouse gases from current levels could halve the likelihood of such extreme droughts, and shrink the affected land area by nearly 40 per cent.

“The findings indicate that introducing measures to reduce future carbon emissions may lower the risk of more frequent consecutive drought events across Europe,” Rohini Kumar, one of the authors of the study, told the Guardian. “On the one hand, we need to step up our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases worldwide, and at the same time deal with strategies to adapt to climate change.”

Tariff row threatens Indian solar boom

India’s ambitious plans to rapidly expand its solar capacity could be hit by new tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels. Climate Home News reported this week on plans from India’s Power and Renewable Energy Ministry to imposedutires of up to 25 per cent on solar modules and 15 per cent on cells imported from China and Malaysia. Under the plans the tariffs would then rise in the second year to 40 per cent and 30 per cent.

The tariffs were meant to replace existing anti-dumping measures introduced in 2018 that were due to expire this year, but the government has decided to extend the current measures, meaning imports are effectively taxed twice.

The decision is the latest move in a worsening trade war that was sparked by border clashes in June that reportedly left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

Germany advances plans for green hydrogen hub

Plans to build a green hydrogen hub in northern Germany have taken a major step forward with the award of €30m of funding from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.

The WESTKÜSTE100 project consortium this week received approval for the project, which brings together 10 partners to build a regional hydrogen economy in northern German, capable of producing green hydrogen on an industrial scale.

The project – which is backed by investment totalling €89 million – will now enter its first five year phase, which will involve the planning and construction of a 30MW electrolyser unit that will produce ‘green’ hydrogen using offshore wind power. The project will be driven forward by a newly formed joint venture – H2 Westküste GmbH – comprising of EDF Deutschland, Ørsted Deutschland, and Raffinerie Heide.

Study: China accounts for over 90 per cent of planned global coal power capacity

Global coal-fired generation capacity fell 2.9GW between January to June, as plant retirements across Europe and the US continued, according to a new report from US think tank Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

But at the same time China continued to expand its coal power pipeline, fuelling fears it could engineer a carbon intensive recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

The analysis confirms that China built more than half the world’s new coal-fired power plants this year and accounted for 90 per cent of new planned capacity. Despite its continued investment in renewables, China added 53.2GW of coal capacity to its project pipeline in the first half of this year.

European governments eye return of sleeper trains

France, Austria, and Sweden are all working on plans to re-open sleeper train routes in a bid to curb emissions and reduce the number of short haul flights in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. According to reports in The I this week, multi-million Euro investments are planned to introduce new sleeper trains to connect both Sweden and Germany and Germany and Austria. Meanwhile, the French government is hoping to revive a number of routes from 2022.

Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari recently confirmed overnight connections between Paris and Nice, as well as between Paris and Tarbes in the Pyrenees, would be restored.

Japanese offshore wind sets out ambitious expansion plans

The Japan Wind Power Association has announced new plans to expand the country’s offshore wind capacity to 10GW in 2030 and 30-45GW by 2040.

“Japan has huge potential for building large-scale offshore wind farms, 128 GW potential for fixed-bottom and 424 GW for floating,” Jin Kato, president of the JWPA, told a news conference.

“Nuclear power plants have been struggling to restart while Japan has decided to fade out ageing coal-fired power plants, renewable energy is the only solution to cover a shortfall from these power sources.”

Australia and Singapore edge forward with plans for giant solar powered interconnector

The Australian government has granted “major project status” to an ambitious A$22 billion project that would export power from a giant solar farm to Southeast Asia via undersea cable.

The status recognises the “strategic significance” of the project, Angus Taylor, minister for energy and emissions reduction, said in a statement issued late last month.

The Australia-ASEAN Power Link would connect a record-breaking solar farm and battery system in Australia’s Northern Territory to Singapore and Indonesia via a 2,300 mile undersea cable.

However, Bloomberg reported that the public backing from the Australian government is yet to be matched by their counterparts in Singapore. A spokesperson for the city-state’s Energy Market Authority would only confirm that it had had meetings with the project’s developer, Sun Cable Pty Ltd., but could not comment further due to commercial sensitivities.

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