Edition for 13 March 2020

Top Stories

A renewable-energy boom is changing the politics of global warming (The Economist)

  • Federal policies have helped—wind has benefited from a production tax credit for decades, though it will expire in the next few years. A solar-investment tax credit will continue.
  • Meanwhile a growing number of large firms want to buy green electricity to reduce their own carbon emissions, which means producers can package up their renewable energy to sell with virtual power-supply agreements.
  • All of Vistra’s new investments are in renewable energy, and the firm now backs a carbon tax, which Mr Morgan says is the best way to incentivise firms like his to move away from polluting carbon.

For richer or poorer: coronavirus, cheap oil test climate vows (Reuters)

  • Climate change commitments by banks, pension funds and asset managers face their first major test as markets reel from the twin shocks of coronavirus and a sliding oil price.
  • When the 2008 financial crisis tipped the world into recession, carbon emissions fell.
  • The issue now is that at a crucial moment for international negotiations, the latest global economic blow could put paid to costly ideas for slowing climate change from political leaders and the private sector alike.

What Comes After Fossil Fuels? (The New Yorker)

  • Moreover, industry’s argument calls into question why you would allow the oil and gas activity in the first place, if the project cannot pay for its eventual retirement.
  • The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a London-based think tank, published a paper last month pointing out that “asset retirement obligations,” the term for what oil companies will have to pay to decommission their old wells, are significant, though hard to quantify, since “companies are not required to disclose the relevant information and rarely do.”
  • But, in Europe, for instance, in 2006, these environmental liabilities amount to half of the companies’ reported debt obligations.

Major Developments in International Climate Litigation in Early 2020 (Climate Law Blog)

  • Plaintiffs are also increasingly leveraging environmental assessment requirements to block discrete but significant greenhouse gas-emitting projects.
  • On January 15, 2020 a group of Indian tribes in Alaska and Louisiana submitted a complaint to ten United Nations Special Rapporteurs alleging the U.S. government has failed to address climate-driven violations of their rights to life, health, housing, water, sanitation, a healthy environment and food, among others.

Major super funds back companies using fracking (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • In an emailed statement, AustralianSuper director of ESG Andrew Gray said said divesting from fossil fuel companies would "undermine the capacity and incentive for companies to transition away from fossil fuels."
  • The decision was bitterly fought by a coalition of environmentalists, farmers and Indigenous communities who feared fracking would blow out Australia's carbon emission targets, contaminate land and water and lead to long-term health impacts.
  • Around the same time HESTA boosted its stake in Cooper Energy, it launched an advertising campaign in Sydney and Melbourne promoting its action on climate change.

Coal power developers 'risk wasting billions' (BBC News)

  • The shift is mainly down to the tumbling cost of wind and solar power, researchers from Carbon Tracker said.
  • The issue is crucial to global plans to tackle climate change.
  • Carbon Tracker says that to combat climate change effectively one coal plant has to retire every day until 2040.

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