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New York’s economy-wide carbon market under development is poised to eventually link with other states, but whether that happens with California, Washington, or a revived Transportation and Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P) remains unclear, experts told Carbon Pulse.
Washington state will make a decision this summer on whether to join its new cap-and-invest programme with the California-Quebec system under WCI, with any potential linkage happening in 2025 at the earliest, the Department of Ecology (ECY) said Tuesday.
RGGI-regulated power generators saw their total CO2 output for 2022 end slightly above year-ago levels, despite a small downturn occurring during the fourth quarter, according to official data updated Tuesday.
The amount of credits generated in California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) registered record levels in Q3, as substantial volumes of renewable diesel (RD), electricity, and renewable natural gas contrasted with declining diesel and gasoline volumes and raised the credit surplus bank to new all-time highs, according to government data published Tuesday.
An initiative that scores carbon credits based on their quality across various criteria has assessed a majority of units as low in at least one category as part of a recent expansion, it announced during a virtual event Tuesday.
The largest carbon crediting programme in the world, Verra, responded on Tuesday with a full technical review of the recent media reports that over 90% of its rainforest carbon offsets were worthless, disputing the articles as unfounded.
Only a minority of REDD+ forest carbon credits currently available in the market are faulty, according to analysis by an investment group using rating agency data, suggesting the reverse of damning findings in media reports earlier this month that condemned almost all the units as worthless.
A rating agency has placed South Pole’s Kariba REDD+ project on watch for a potential score change amid media reports of widespread over-crediting, with a slew of other projects also coming under scrutiny.
EUA prices jumped to a five-month high on Tuesday, sparked by a midday buying spree that took prices up by €2.50 in minutes, while power and gas prices rose on forecasts for colder temperatures and a slight delay to the restart of a key LNG import terminal.
The EU has made slow progress towards connecting electricity markets, according to a report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) published on Tuesday, undermining efforts to ensure access to cheap and secure power while driving emissions cuts via the bloc’s carbon market.
Net zero is clearly now an economic opportunity in its own right, according to stakeholders in UK business and industry in a report due to be published on Tuesday that urges the British government to be bold in its approach to green growth ahead of several pieces of key legislation due in 2023.
A German startup aiming to facilitate early-stage funding for natural capital projects has closed a pre-seed round to bring its financing platform to market, the company announced on Wednesday.
The stockpile of NZUs in New Zealand’s ETS continues to grow, but at a slightly slower pace than in previous quarters as the NZU price remains flat following last month’s correction.
South Korea has moved the deadline for finalising the 4th basic plan for the national emissions trading scheme by a year in order to faster align the programme with its increased ambition under the Paris Agreement.
The four-month trial run of J-Credits on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended Tuesday, with the bourse now set to refine its carbon trading platform ahead of the April launch of the GX League.
A global institutional investor group on Tuesday set out fresh guidance to limit the use of carbon removals among its members’ holdings, doubling down on its hardline stance despite several recent high-profile exits.
Aviation faces a huge task to drastically reduce its GHG emissions given expected increases in demand for air travel and air freight transport over the next three decades, which in turn will require significant investment in a combination of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) deployment and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies for the sector to reach net zero emissions by 2050, research released on Monday has found.
BIODIVERSITY (FREE TO READ)
The UK government plans to expand or create 25 national nature reserves and ensure that everyone in the country is no more than a 15-minute walk away from a green space or area of water, it said Tuesday.
The Copenhagen-based Hempel Foundation has launched the Impact Investment Initiative for Biodiversity on Land, which has made its first investments in two funds that back sustainable plantation forestry and reforestation in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
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BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
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Imbalance – The 10% most polluting people in society are responsible for almost half of the annual GHG emissions behind climate change, creating a strong incentive for policies targeting the elite group, a UN-backed report has concluded. The sweeping research, by a group led by the Nobel Prize winning economist Thomas Piketty, examined the unequal effects of climate change and also found that the top 1% of global emitters were responsible for nearly a quarter of the total growth in pollution between 1990 and 2019. Carbon inequalities within countries were now greater than those between countries, said the researchers from the Paris-based World Inequality Lab. The concentration of emissions created a strong incentive for policies targeting the most polluting individuals, such as wealth taxes, said the report, which was supported by the UNDP. (FT)
Fossil reborn – Rystad Energy expects the global market for oil and gas contractors to rise to a peak of $1 trillion in 2025 and remain at high levels for several years thereafter. Helped by strong growth in the midstream part of the industry to liquefy, transport, and re-gasify natural gas, overall oil and gas spending will stay above $920 bln annually on average for the 2022-28 period, the firm said in a release. Despite the risk that another downturn cycle in oil and gas may occur after 2025, oilfield service suppliers should be able to balance out the downturn by branching out into other parts of the wider energy market – and in so doing, expanding the overall target market for contractors. The key for suppliers is to continue chasing obvious opportunities within geothermal energy, hydrogen, offshore wind, and CCUS. Together with oilfield services, this expansion into other energy areas could provide a $1 trillion market for suppliers by 2025, which could be sustained for several years after that.
Expression of interest – The Climate Action Data Trust (CAD Trust), an initiative to improve transparency for carbon markets that was recently established by the World Bank, IETA, and the government of Singapore, has opened an expression of interest to join the body. The call will be for market experts to join the so-called “User Forum” that is to act as a market sounding board for the CAD Trust’s Council and the Technical Committee on business, policy, and technical matters. The Forum shall be comprised of 40-60 members during the interim period and will include a varied mix of carbon markets stakeholders across the public and private sectors. IETA will draft an initial list of entities or individuals for the Forum, prepared in consultation with the World Bank and the Singapore government. The call for expression of interest will be open from Wednesday until Feb. 15 and can be accessed on the CAD Trust site.
Kampala calling – The Secretariat of the Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART) on Tuesday announced the approval of the TREES Concept for Uganda’s jurisdictional REDD+ programme. Under the programme, Uganda would generate carbon credits for deforestation reductions achieved over 2018-22, based on a 2013-17 reference period. Uganda said it would prefer a pathway that allows it to use its emissions reductions against its Paris Agreement targets, and the African country is the seventeenth national or subnational jurisdiction to have a TREES concept listed.
Drill delay in DRC – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has postponed its plans to allow oil companies to drill in its rainforests and peatlands. The government had planned to announce which companies were bidding to drill for oil in 27 areas of the DRC on Monday, Jan. 30. But on the Saturday before the deadline, hydrocarbons minister Didier Budimbu tweeted that the cut-off points had been pushed back to various dates between Apr. and Oct. 2023. Three of these oil blocks are particularly controversial because they include parts of the country’s Cuvette Centrale rainforest and peatlands. These have been postponed to deadlines in July and August. (Climate Home)
Hard-to-abate – The UAE industry minister, Ahmed Al Jaber, and French economy minister Bruno Le Maire agreed on Monday to launch a bilateral programme to accelerate the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate industries, including through clean hydrogen solutions for mobility. The two countries are combining their expertise and are building the initiative on previous successes, with over 6.2 GW and over $6 bln involved. Operations will be officially launched during COP28, to be held in Dubai in November. Al Jaber, who is also the designated president for COP28, said “this initiative builds on the long-standing partnership between the UAE and France to take advantage of practical, commercial opportunities for low carbon growth that will accelerate the energy transition and promote climate action and sustainable economic development in both our countries and across the globe”. He insisted the presidency is “intent on making it a COP of action and a COP for all”. Read more on a UN summit “to include everybody”.
Nuclear strike – A nationwide strike in France against pension reform led to a drop in electricity output and stopped deliveries from TotalEnergies sites on Tuesday, Reuters reports. French power supply has been reduced by about 4.5% or 3 GW as production was lowered at nuclear reactors and thermal plants, data from state-controlled nuclear group EDF showed. Nuclear capacity was reduced by 1.4 GW between four reactors and 1.6 GW of thermal capacity at three plants was taken offline.
Coal reckoning – Europe’s electricity sector is entering a period of regulatory uncertainty, with the European Commission due to table new proposals in the first quarter to reform the bloc’s power market, according to Vladimir Budinsky, vice-president of Euracoal, declaring it “a new era,”. When the first EU energy liberalisation directive was enacted in the early 2000s, the European power sector was in overcapacity – producing more than consumers needed – which led to a wave of privatisations from governments unwilling to invest, he remarked. “Now we’re seeing the opposite trend,” he told EurActiv, with electricity demand exceeding supply due to chronic under-investment in the last decade, new uses like electric mobility and mounting concerns related to energy security. Energy companies went bankrupt in Germany and the UK last year due to sky-high gas prices caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine. As a result, governments have increased their involvement in the energy sector, with some nationalising power utilities as was the case of Uniper in Germany, which bailed out last year because it could no longer afford to honour the terms of its gas contracts with suppliers. Other players like Gazprom Germania were also nationalised for energy security reasons.
Slovakian climate law – The Slovakian environment ministry has presented the country’s climate law, which for the first time officially enshrines in legislation the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The law also sets medium-term goals for reducing emissions at the level of entire states, regions, cities, or businesses, Euractiv reports. The proposal gives citizens the opportunity to file climate lawsuits against the state in the event that it does not fulfil its obligations in meeting climate goals. The law also creates a Council for the Climate, which will have the authority to control individual ministries in the implementation of climate plans and, if necessary, to impose sanctions on them.
State aid – A €104 mln Croatian scheme will help reduce an electricity consumption levy imposed on energy-intensive companies. The European Commission announced its approval on Tuesday. The aid, which will run until 31 December 2028, will be open to companies active in sectors that rely heavily on electricity and are exposed to international trade. Executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, in charge of Competition, said this “enables Croatia to reduce the risk that energy-intensive companies move their activities to locations outside the EU with less ambitious climate policies”. “At the same time, it maintains the incentives for an electrification and decarbonisation of the Croatian industry, in line with the European Green Deal objectives,” Vestager added.
Entree for eco-friendly ETF – Amundi is preparing to launch a new socially responsible ETF which is set to be the first in Europe to track a climate-conscious version of the flagship French equity index, the CAC 40, ETF Strategy reported Tuesday. The fund is set to list on Euronext Paris in the coming weeks. Amundi has not yet released details of the fund’s ticker code or its expense ratio, although the asset manager’s €3.2 billion regular CAC 40 ETF, as well as its €900 million ESG-tailored CAC 40 ETF, are both priced at 0.25%. The fund will track the CAC SBT 1.5° Index, developed by Euronext, which is constructed from the SBF 120 Index universe, a broad French equity benchmark consisting of the 120 highest-ranked stocks when ordered using a combination of float-adjusted market capitalisation and average daily trading volumes. The methodology first removes violators of UN Global Compact principles, companies embroiled in severe ESG-related controversies, and firms with business operations linked to tobacco, controversial or civilian weapons, unconventional oil & gas, and thermal coal. The index then hones in on climate-based criteria, selecting only companies that possess clear carbon emission reduction targets that have been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative, the gold standard for corporate climate goals.
Sunset, sunrise – The sales process for the developer of what could be the world’s biggest solar farm – and battery storage installation – has officially begun, with the voluntary administrators of Sun Cable putting up the for sale sign, RenewEconomy reports. FTI Consulting, which was appointed earlier in January after billionaire backers Andrew Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brookes couldn’t resolve their differences about the company’s business plan, has hired MA Moelis and Moelis and Co. to advise on the sale. The documents being circulated to potential buyers note that Sun Cable is a developer of large-scale renewable energy infrastructure projects, with 121 employees across Australia, Indonesia, and Singapore. The company has been able to retain the bulk of those employees thanks to an interest free $65 million loan from Cannon-Brookes private company Grok Investments, to ensure that the know-how and IP for company’s big export plans are not lost during the administration period. Sun Cable proposes to build up to 20 GW of solar, and up to 42 GWh battery storage, along with an 900 MW, 800km transmission line to Darwin, and a 4,200km sub-sea cable to provide a 1.75 GW power connection to Singapore.
A good compression — The Western Australian government has released a feasibility study on the possibility of using Provaris Energy’s compressed hydrogen technology, to export green hydrogen to neighbouring countries, the company announced. The study analysed the compression and export of 200,000 tonnes of green hydrogen from the proposed HyEnergy hydrogen production facility in the Gascoyne region of the state, and includes compression facilities, an outgoing pipeline to an offshore loading terminal, and a fleet of Provaris’ H2Neo compressed hydrogen carriers, and an import terminal in Singapore. The study indicates that a compressed hydrogen export supply chain is a technical and commercially feasible method for the offshore loading and export of green hydrogen, with an average delivery rate of over 98% of the target annual throughput, Provaris said. The study received funding from the WA government’s Renewable Hydrogen Fund.
Decarb club – Mizuho has established a strategic relationship with Decarbonisation Partners, a partnership between BlackRock, one of the world’s largest asset management firms, and Temasek, a global investment company and generational investor headquartered in Singapore, the Japanese bank stated in a press release . The strategic relationship between Mizuho and Decarbonisation Partners will enable Mizuho to introduce its clients to the global Decarbonisation Partners ecosystem, which may create financing and partnership opportunities for new, innovative companies in which Decarbonisation Partners invests. Leveraging the investment expertise and extensive networks of both BlackRock and Temasek, Decarbonisation Partners focuses on investing in late-stage venture and early growth companies with proven technologies that can help reduce or eliminate carbon emissions.
Hydrogen hopes – Eneos, Japan’s largest oil refining company, will open a demonstration plant in Brisbane, Australia, next month where methylcyclohexane (MCH), a liquid hydrogen carrier, will be made, Splash247 reports. MCH is typically produced by taking hydrogen stored in tanks and reacting it with toluene — an organic chemical compound — using synthesising equipment. Eneos is developing an electrolyser that turns water and toluene into MCH in one step. Hydrogen would be extracted from the MCH once it arrives at its final destination. Eneos plans to commence mass production of hydrogen by 2026. “ENEOS will work to develop production technology for stable and cost-competitive CO2-free hydrogen (green hydrogen) in Australia, a country with excellent potential for green hydrogen production due to its favorable climate conditions, including wind and sunlight, and expansive land, in anticipation of a hydrogen-oriented society toward decarbonisation,” the company stated in a press release.
Fossil fuel windfall – Oil and gas giant ExxonMobil on Tuesday reported a record $55.7 bln full-year profit and $12.8 bln in Q4 net earnings. The haul shows how high energy commodity prices due to Russia’s war in Ukraine have helped drive industry profits to new heights. (Axios)
Prime target – West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) will vote for a GOP-led effort to overturn a Biden administration rule on climate-minded investing decisions, his office confirmed Monday, E&E News reported. It will be the GOP’s first high-profile challenge of the new Congress to so-called ESG investing, which screens investments for environment, social, and governance risks. Republicans deride it as “woke capitalism.” The effort could prove successful: With Manchin’s endorsement, and assuming all 49 Republicans vote “yes,” Republicans need just one more Democrat to defect for the resolution to be adopted under the Congressional Review Act. The CRA allows Congress to overturn recently finalised rules via simple majority in both chambers.
CCS R&D – The US Department of Energy on Monday announced $131 mln for 33 research and development projects to advance the wide-scale deployment of carbon management technologies to reduce CO2 pollution. The projects will address technical challenges of capturing CO2 from power plants and industrial facilities or directly from the atmosphere and assess potential CO2 storage sites, increasing the number of sites progressing toward commercial operations. Expanding commercial CO2 storage capacity and related carbon management industries will provide economic opportunities for communities and workers, helping to deliver on President Biden’s goal of equitably achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.
Court clears clean car rule – The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Jan. 30 upheld the state’s “Clean Car Rule,” which ties the state’s vehicle emission standards to California regulations, as judges accepted assurances that California’s planned phase-out of gasoline-powered cars won’t automatically apply in Minnesota, the AP reported Monday. A three-judge panel rejected the arguments of Minnesota’s auto dealers, who argued that state pollution regulators exceeded their authority and unconstitutionally delegated their rulemaking authority to California. The appeals court concluded that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency acted within its statutory authority and that the state’s rule is therefore valid. The decision was a victory for the administration of Gov. Tim Walz (D), which adopted the rule in 2021 amid a fight with Republican lawmakers who were upset that the Legislature was cut out of the decision. It takes effect in the 2025 model year and is meant to increase the supply and selection of electric vehicles.
All aboard the new ARB – California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced the returning and new members for the ARB on Monday. Liane Randolph will remain Commissioner. Three of the eight seats are being filled by incumbents. John Eisenhut will stay on at the board, where he’s served since 2013 and brings experience from the almond agriculture sector. Diane Takvorian will return to board, where she’s been since 2016, and brings a background of advocacy and policy work at universities and government agencies. Gideon Kracov is returning to the South Coast Air Quality Management District Board and brings a background in mining. The new appointees are: Eric Guerra, a Vice Mayor for the City of Sacramento since 2023 and a city councilmember in the state capital since 2015; V. Manuel Perez, an assemblymember in the California State Assembly until 2013; Bill Quirk, a former assemblymember until last year, a city councilmember in Hayward until 2012, and a physicist for 26 years; and Susan Shaheen a Professor In-Residence in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley since 2019. The five new board members are replacing former Vice Chair Sandy Berg, Barbara Riordan, Dan Sperling, and Phil Serna. All of the board members are Democrats and their ages range from 44 to 77-years-old.
New blend – The launch of a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) technology firm called Blue Blade Energy was announced as a joint venture between United Airlines, Tallgrass Energy, and biofuel refiner Green Plains in a press release on Tuesday. The aim is to construct a pilot facility by next year and commercialise ethanol aviation fuel by 2028. The new company hopes to provide enough SAF to supply 50,000 flights between Chicago and Denver. The fuel Blue Blade will use has 85% lower carbon intensity over its lifecycle and was developed by the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. That degree of lower carbon intensity, however, will mean blending in a greater amount of SAF than is currently permitted.
Shell shocked – Asset managers Mirova would shun an approach by oil company Shell to invest in its nature-based fund for fear of being tainted by greenwashing, Citywire reports. “We need project integrity, but we also need to check investors’ integrity,” said Anne-Laurence Roucher, Mirova’s deputy chief executive and head of private equity and natural capital. “If they want to invest in carbon credit projects through us and then claim they offset their emissions, we’d help them greenwash basically.” Mirova is almost halfway to raising the €300 mln target for its new Climate Fund for Nature that was launched at the UN’s biodiversity conference, COP15 in Montreal in December. Global luxury group Kering and cosmetics company L’Occitane teamed up to invest €140 mln in the new fund, which mobilises resources from the luxury fashion and beauty sectors to nature protection projects generating carbon credits. Among the projects that have passed Mirova’s checks for high quality is the Sumatra Perang Peatland Project, which is restoring 23,000 hectares of peatland rainforest in Indonesia. The project closed in 2015 and Mirova provided a carbon loan of €5m, which was repaid with the sale of a portion of the carbon credits generated. Shell plans to spend $450 mln in carbon offsetting projects this year.
Renewable record – Tech giant Amazon on Tuesday announced that in 2022 it grew its renewable energy capacity by 8.3 GW through 133 new projects in 11 countries. This brings Amazon’s total portfolio to more than 20 GW — that could generate the amount of energy to power 5.3 mln US homes — across 401 renewable energy projects in 22 countries. The company’s renewable energy purchases continue to add new wind and solar projects on the grids that power Amazon’s operations, including Amazon Web Services data centres, Amazon fulfilment centres, and physical stores around the world. With these continued investments, Amazon set a new corporate record for the most renewable energy announced by a single company in one year. These purchases also bring Amazon closer to powering its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025 — five years ahead of its original 2030 target. In 2022, the company announced new projects in Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Singapore, Spain, and the US, and broke ground in Brazil, India, and Indonesia.
SCIENCE & TECH
Computer says “whoa” – A new study relying on machine learning methods finds the climate thresholds enshrined in the Paris agreement may be coming up faster than previously anticipated, Axios reports. The world is already suffering the impacts of 1.1-1.2 C (1.98-2.16 F) of warming to date, and passing 1.5 C or 2 C above pre-industrial levels could dramatically increase the risks to society and ecosystems. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses neural networks trained on climate model simulations to predict the time remaining until the Paris targets will be reached. The data-driven approach involves identifying patterns in historical temperature observations that provide clues to the time remaining until a warming level is exceeded. The researchers from Stanford University and Colorado State University found the world has about a decade until the 1.5 C target is reached and then exceeded, which is consistent with previous findings. Notably, it finds that even the lowest emissions scenario, featuring steep cuts to fossil fuel use in the next few decades, has a significant chance of breaching the 2 C target. The timeline for hitting 2 C ranges from 2043 to 2058, with a central estimate of 2050, the study finds. The study has some significant caveats, including the fact that the machine learning techniques may be biased by the computer models they were trained on.
Back to school – The new schoolyard at PS 184M Shuang Wen, a grade school in Manhattan’s Chinatown, features new play equipment, a yoga circle, a stage, and basketball and tennis courts. It also has a porous turf field that can capture an estimated 4.9 mln L of stormwater runoff, according to New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection. Urban planners, architects, and designers around the world are looking to make cities spongier – using nature-based solutions to better absorb water. In dense cities like New York, where open space is scarce, officials are rethinking a neighbourhood mainstay: the school playground. Concrete and asphalt contribute to urban heat islands, increasing average daytime temperatures by as much as seven degrees in hot weather. Green plots of land in cities do the opposite, reducing surrounding temperatures by up to 4C. That can mean the difference between life and death during heat waves – which are increasing in severity and frequency as the planet heats up. (Fast Company)
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