Government Greenwash: Coal : Australia and Japan

 

In my previous blog I discussed the effect of government greenwash in relation to  their carbon position and budget. Comments to the IPCC to tone down parts of its 2021 report are understandably mainly reported in the countries themselves and it is often difficult to see the bigger picture, so in my next three blogs I’m going to focus on coal, meat and oil and what governments around the world have said to water down the report.

The primary comments on coal which have been leaked relate to Australia and Japan.

Australia

To quote ABC News Australia

“Documents suggest Australia also asked to be removed from a list of big coal-consuming countries. The draft report said “major coal-consuming countries are still far from phasing out coal”. “China, the US, Australia and South Africa continue to extract and use substantial amounts of coal,” it said. The official in Canberra noted Australia’s consumption was “an order of magnitude lower” than the other countries listed.

Analysis from analytics firm Ember ranks Australia as the world’s 10th biggest coal-fired power generator. Australia remains one of the world’s  biggest biggest coal producers and exporters.”

To state the obvious, Australia has a population of 25.7m people (2020), South Africa 59.3m, USA 333.5m and China 1,446.6m. Given the relative population size it would be surprising if Australia had the same level of consumption as larger countries. But as the chart above showing consumption per head 2019 shows Australia is top dog in terms of coal consumed per head.

I would suggest it is difficult to argue that Australia’s consumption is “an order of magnitude lower” than other countries. Instead, I think most people would say Australia is the largest per capita coal consumer and a major producer and needs to address these issues, not prevaricate and obfuscate.

Japan

To quote Unearthed

“Japan, which is hugely reliant on fossil fuels in its energy and transport systems, rejects a key finding in the report’s summary for policymakers detailing how coal and gas fired power stations will, on average, need to be shut down within 9 and 12 years respectively to keep warming below 1.5°C and 16 and 17 years to keep warming below 2°C. A director in Japan’s ministry of foreign affairs claims this paragraph is misleading and suggests deleting it “because the required retirements of fossil fuel power plants due to carbon budget depend on the emissions from other sectors as well as their capacity factor and the opportunities of CCS.””

“Japan also rejects analysis that “the overall potential for CCS and CCU to contribute to mitigation in the electricity sector is now considered lower than was previously thought due to the increased uptake of renewables in preference to fossil fuel”. The official argues that “it would be better to remove this sentence to be more policy neutral.””

I have written in “Zero Carbon our Choice” that fully scaled CCS (needed for power generation by fossil fuel to be net zero) has not been achieved to date. This doesn’t mean, of course, that it won’t be achieved. However, significant work on this has been in progress for 15 years and the usual time lag for scaled up, commercial new technology is 40 to 50 years according to an Imperial College London study (quoted in Zero Carbon Our Choice). To use the “opportunities of CCS” to keep coal power generation operational is bizarre – a Mr Micawber approach of “something may turn up”. At the very least how long does Japan propose we go on hoping for full scale CCS to allow fossil fuels to be used for power generation and still achieve net zero by 2050.

So consider, if I buy a green piece of Japanese technology – made in Japan with fossil fuel power – how green is that technology I’m buying in lifecycle terms?

Of course, this lobbying by countries is to protect economies which are carbon dependent from the effects of decarbonisation. To solve a global issue, carbon dependent economies are going to have to make serious adjustments and start reducing their use of carbon to power and fuel their economies and exports, and they will need to be honest with their populations what these changes entail.

This sort of economic protectionism, the denial of the contribution to global emissions by these countries while other countries decarbonise is exactly what will lead to the call for  border tax adjustments, otherwise carbon dependent economies will gain an economic and trade advantage in not decarbonising. Countries cannot expect to have a free ride in not reducing emissions without consequences (and GAAP permits tariffs for environmental protection).

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Government Greenwashing

First, an apology, I haven’t posted recently as I’ve been immersed in my divorce which appears to be resolved after a long period of negotiation. So I’m back.

COP 26 is shining a fascinating light on how serious players (be they governments, corporates or individuals) are about achieving net zero by 2050. This should not surprise anyone. The scale of change for many players to move to a net zero economic model is significant, well actually enormous, so attempting to slow the process, soften the impact and confuse the issue is to be expected.

The number of attempts by governments to influence the latest report by the IPCC, is a perfect example. These attempts are about national self interest of those economies where carbon plays a significant part in their economic success. So Coal, Gas and Oil  producer nations will experience a drop in economic activity, a change in their balance of payments, a resulting weakening of their currencies and a fall in taxation receipts when net zero starts to really bite, unless they change.

In my book, Zero Carbon our Choice, I devoted a chapter to the losers from net zero and the impact on geo politics including increasing instability in some regions as carbon becomes less of a source of wealth, unless these countries are able to reinvent their economies for a post carbon world. Africa is an interesting example, while affected by the changes of climate, many African nations are also significant carbon producers of coal, oil and gas, so their response to net zero will be equivocal.

The level of greenwash has scaled new heights. Perhaps best illustrated by Saudi Arabia promising net zero by 2060 but continuing to produce and sell petroleum products. But this greenwash isn’t just about producer nations, but about consumer nations as well. So in the run up to COP26, the EU has prepared its position to encourage other recalcitrant states to promise more, while at the same time moving forward on Nordstream 2 which will transport large quantities of gas to land in Germany and thence be distributed around Europe. This pipeline is a long term project, pipelines have expected lives ranging from 50 to 70 years, so this new pipeline will be functional in 2090.

The Nordstream2 website sets out the rationale:

“By 2035, the EU will need to import about 120 bcm more gas per year

The production outlooks of major gas producers such as Netherlands and UK, as well as Norway, are falling. At the same time, demand for gas is expected to continue, owing to its lower carbon qualities. This means that the EU will need to import more gas. Nord Stream 2 will have the capacity to meet about one third of the EU’s import requirement.”

And

“The new pipeline could play an important role in the EU’s climate strategy by making competitive supplies of natural gas available to replace high-carbon coal in the energy mix, in addition to providing back-up for intermittent wind and solar power. If the EU is serious about reaching climate goals, then the share of gas in the energy mix needs to increase to eliminate coal burning.”

Japan is investing in new coal powered power stations.

There are many more examples of government greenwash , but the question this poses is that if governments are economical with the truth about their net zero commitments, if they seek to move the debate and the carbon commitments to help their national economic interest, why should they expect either corporates or individuals to act in a different way?

My real concern is that we will see many promises coming from COP 26 which on proper examination will not achieve net zero by 2050. Beware greenwash, there is a lot of it about, whether by governments, corporates or individuals.

Zero carbon – a warning from Switzerland

Despite Orson Welles diatribe about Switzerland in the Third Man, the country is an important and successful economy. So, the recent June 2021 referendum result from Switzerland should be a wake-up call for the Green lobby around the world about zero carbon.

Voters voted against measures to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 51% to 49%. The measures include a tax of airline tickets and a car fuel levy. Opposition was strongest in poorer, rural areas.

My concern is that the referendum result is an example of the failure of the Green lobby to convince citizens of the measures needed to achieve carbon targets, of a complacency and laziness that people will accept measures whatever the cost. Unless this issue is addressed, then we will see further resistance to measures to reduce carbon which affect ordinary people and voters.

It is not as though recent events do not provide examples where citizens have not accepted policies imposed on them. The gilet jaune protests, Brexit and Trump all illustrate that elites should not ignore the ordinary citizen. This appears to have been significant in Switzerland. Being told something is good for you or is necessary is not enough. No matter how many times Sir David Attenborough tells us what we need to do, when the actions start to affect our lifestyles and standard of living, then people will question the remedies proposed, particularly the poorer members of society.

Instead, politicians and green experts need to be honest about the scope of change needed to achieve net zero. They need to be honest about what it will cost an ordinary family and the changes in their lifestyle and standard of living it will engender. They have to get out of the green bubble where the change to net zero is achieved effortlessly. It won’t be. Changing domestic heating, only allowing electric cars and pricing airline flights will all affect the poorest 50% the most. Reconciling reducing carbon and the cost on the poorer is a crucial challenge.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Offsetting – buy while stocks last

Offsetting is promoted for those hard to decarbonise activities as a green solution to meet net zero carbon. Apple has  announced a $200 billion forest fund and other corporates are using the same method.

This seems a great idea and as net zero needs finance, using corporate funds makes sense – or does it?

The issue that isn’t talked about is that offsetting isn’t a limitless way to escape from decarbonising. Offsetting requires land and as Mark Twain said, they’ve stopped making it. So offsetting will compete with other land use, agriculture, housing, etc and there isn’t an infinite amount of land for offsetting given these competing demands.

First mover advantage is therefore sensible as Apple is demonstrating. But which emission sources should be prioritised for offsetting? Should offsetting, in land use terms, in effect, be licensed by governments? If it isn’t regulated, will some activities that we really need lose out?

Should the disposable business model be prioritised  ( for example, upgrade your mobile phone every two years, don’t maintain the software for old models to nudge consumers to buy new phones or with new model i phones introduce a new charger and ensure the old charger won’t work) or should other sectors be prioritised?

On the basis that net zero goes hand in hand with the circular economy, shouldn’t governments be thinking about which sectors should have priority over others for access to offsetting in strategic terms (cement, steel etc).

This is not to criticise those businesses which are investing in offsetting, but to question whether we should allow the market to decide which businesses have access to offsetting, which is what is happening de facto at present.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Zero Carbon A Challenging Goal

 

I gave the attached presentation to students and staff at the University of Gloucestershire in March. I have given other presentations to amenity societies tailored to their interests.

What has been interesting is that people are unaware of how much their personal lifestyles will need to change to achieve zero carbon. As my subsequent post will show this is an indictment of politicians and advocates of carbon reduction who have failed to explain the consequences for ordinary people.

There is a real danger of a backlash against proposals a la yellow vests in France.

COP 26 needs to be honest with citizens about the changes as they affect them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing in a Changing Environment

Cotswold International Airport

I took this photo this afternoon at Cotswold International Airport which is near Cirencester. Yes it does exist and as you will see 747s can land there. The reason for the photo today, is that it is roughly 12 months since Covid 19 started to take hold of our attention. Would any of us have thought it would have led to the grounding and taking out of service of 747s? I doubt it.

What Covid has shown us, is that coping with change, let alone planning for it, is difficult. That our politicians are not very good with change. That lots of people are not very good at change because its not business as usual.

The journey to a net zero carbon global economy involves a vast amount of change for all of us, individuals, businesses and political systems from the local council to national governments and beyond. What coping with Covid should teach us, is that lots of people are not skilled in dealing with change. That some deny what is going on. It is highly probable that changing to net zero will produce many of the same issues as covid. If anyone tells you this will be easy, they haven’t thought about it or they have a vested interest they are protecting or they are dissembling.

Don’t underestimate the change that a net zero carbon economy requires.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Put a big fat price on carbon”: OECD chief bows out with climate rally cry.

Angel Gurria

This is the headline from a Guardian article. The article is an interesting spin on Gurria’s 15 years at the head of the OECD. I worked with him in BIAC from 2006 to 2012, he’s a nice person in my experience. But OECD hasn’t really taken the lead in pushing this agenda forward, perhaps constrained by the attitude of its biggest member, the US under both Obama and Trump.

I wrote a blog questioning why the OECD wasn’t working on the taxation of aviation and the tax subsidies which it enjoys.  “Why is the OECD not reviewing the taxation of aviation?” I’d asked insiders why the work wasn’t being done and they pointed to a lack of funding and “more important” projects.

The OECD is perfectly positioned to work on this subject. The zero rating of airline tickets and the exemption from fuel duty for airline fuel clearly sit within the OECD expertise. The issue of passenger duty also would fit. It is an obviously international issue in both tax and carbon.

So, if the OECD wants to “Put a big fat price on carbon”, why doesn’t it do this work on the taxing of a form of emissions which is often discretionary? On removing this carbon subsidy?

Instead that quote looks like a piece of greenwash. Do we want to put a big, fat price on all carbon? On domestic heating for instance? Or does the OECD lean towards taxation because it is part of their mandate, whereas regulation, which may be more suitable for some emissions, is more of a national competence.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Welsh Ministers have laid regulations in the Senedd that formally commit Wales to legally binding targets designed to deliver net-zero carbon emissions within 30 years.

“The Welsh Government has also accepted the revised advice of the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) that this goal is credible, feasible and – crucially – affordable.

Environment and energy minister Lesley Griffiths made it clear the administration would push to achieve zero-carbon sooner than 2050.

Latest analysis from the committee reveals that the most significant potential to accelerate emissions reductions in Wales is based on evidence suggesting greater abatement is possible in the industry and power sectors. This reflects the presence of a small number of high-emitting point sources in Wales, such as the Port Talbot steelworks.

However, the committee has also highlighted that the path to net-zero will be partly or fully driven by societal or behavioural changes.

“This means government, communities and businesses working together to change how we travel, shop, heat our homes, and switching to lower-carbon diets. In all cases, large reductions in the amount of energy and natural resources we use is necessary to achieve the targets,” said the government.

The committee assessment highlighted an accelerated shift in diets away from meat and dairy products, reductions in waste, slower growth in flights and reductions in demand for travel.

Improved energy and resource efficiency would be critical, stressed the committee. “By the early 2030s, all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings must be low-carbon – we expect largely electric.

“By 2040, all new heavy goods vehicles should be low-carbon. The South Wales industrial cluster (as well as other industrial sites in Wales) must either switch away from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives and/or install carbon capture and storage (CCS) at scale from the mid-2030s.”

Significant land use change will be involved, argued the committee. “A transformation is needed in Wales’s land while supporting Welsh farmers.”

By 2030, this should involve planting a cumulative 43,000 hectares of mixed woodland to remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, increasing to a total of 180,000 hectares by 2050.

Another 56,000 hectares of agricultural land should shift to bioenergy production (including short rotation forestry) by 2050.

The committee’s report stressed that peatlands must be restored widely and managed sustainably. Low-carbon farming practices must be adopted widely while raising farm productivity.

Ministers have promised to set out how the government intends to deliver the country’s new net-zero ambition in its next All Wales Plan. This will be published in advance of the United Nations climate summit, COP26, which is being held in Glasgow later this year.

The Path to Net Zero and Progress on Reducing Emissions in Wales can be read on the Committee on Climate Change website. 

The themes in this analysis, echo those in “Zero Carbon Our Choice”, particularly “The committee assessment highlighted an accelerated shift in diets away from meat and dairy products, reductions in waste, slower growth in flights and reductions in demand for travel.

Improved energy and resource efficiency would be critical, stressed the committee. “By the early 2030s, all new cars and vans and all boiler replacements in homes and other buildings must be low-carbon – we expect largely electric.”

I hope that we can now begin an informed debate about how to achieve these goals which are demanding.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Planning for net zero carbon

https://consult.rbkc.gov.uk/housing/draft-greening-supplementary-planning-document-spd/

RBKC in London is consulting on revising their planning guidelines to reach net zero carbon targets.

It is a fascinating, well written document and can be viewed through the link above. Here are some quotes from the document:

“We will aim to reduce the energy demand of new buildings. This will be done by optimising the design of buildings to take full benefit of sun orientation or natural ventilation for example. We are also setting high energy standards and will require ‘Net Zero carbon’ from all our major developments both residential and non-residential.”

“The Government’s recent Planning for net zero carbon Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution declares the phasing out of gas boilers. This section of the SPD provides guidance on using alternative means such as heat pumps and other forms 4 of renewable energy which are suitable in the Borough such as photo voltaic solar panels.”

“There is a clear recognition that development proposals need to consider the air quality given that the whole Borough is in an air quality management area. We will require Air Quality Assessments as part of major developments. Amongst other measures to improve air quality we support the provision of electric vehicle charging points. For all new developments where parking is proposed, applicants should seek to provide on-site charging points to accommodate the current and future requirements of the occupants. We also recognise the benefits of retrofitting charging points to existing parking spaces and support this.”

“Urban Greening: Urban greening describes the act of adding green infrastructure elements. Due to our dense built environment, green roofs, street trees, and additional vegetation are the most appropriate elements of green infrastructure. Urban Greening Factor: This is a land-use planning tool to help determine the amount of greening required in new developments.”

“Where an energy assessment demonstrates that the carbon savings required cannot be delivered on-site, the remaining regulated emissions will incur a charge in the form of a cash in lieu payment to the council’s carbon offset fund which will be secured through a legal agreement. The council has adopted the Mayor’s current carbon offset price. For all major developments the payment required is based on the nationally recognised ‘Zero Carbon Hub’ price per tonne of carbon dioxide of £60, offset over 30 years. At present, this gives an overall price of £1,800 (£60 x 30 years) per tonne of carbon to be offset. The tonnes of carbon that will need to be offset should be clearly set out in the applicant’s energy strategy.”

I think these quotes demonstrate how far we have come in a few years. The concepts and the type of framework described in the document needs to be adopted by all councils in the UK, and elsewhere. The consultation is about the built environment and infrastructure, but it demonstrates the changes needed in domestic heating and motor transport within this. Heat pumps and electric charging points will be key to this strategy.

I think these quotes demonstrate how far we have come in a few years. The concepts and the type of framework described in the document needs to be adopted by all councils in the UK, and elsewhere. The consultation is about the built environment and infrastructure, but it demonstrates the changes needed in domestic heating and motor transport within this. Heat pumps and electric charging points will be key to this strategy.

Business is responsible for less than 50% of UK emissions

Source : The Guardian

In “Zero Carbon Our Choice”, I argued that while many people think that achieving zero carbon is the responsibility of government and business, in fact it is impossible without a change to the choices which we as consumers make.

Using the 2018 final statistics as summarised in “2018 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final figures 4 February 2020 National Statistics” as the basis for this. “In 2018, 28% of net greenhouse gas emissions in the UK were estimated to be from the transport sector, 23% from energy supply, 18% from business, 15% from the residential sector and 10% from agriculture. The rest was attributable to the remaining sectors: waste management, industrial processes, and the public sector. The land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector acted as a net sink in 2018 so emissions were effectively negative.”

My argument is that we need to analyse these figures to look at who is responsible for the emissions by the choices they make?

On this basis, the emissions of energy supply (23%)  – mainly electricity generation – are decided by government decisions and regulations. It was government dictat which stopped coal use in power generation by imposing a cost penalty on coal burnt in power stations. These emissions are not business emissions as although business is an end user, like we the consumer, they do not determine the power mix of power generation, it is government regulation and pricing mechanisms which do.

18% from business is business’s responsibility.

28 % from transport. “Road transport is the most significant source of emissions in this sector, in particular passenger cars; and the changes which have been seen over the period were heavily influenced by this category. Figure 5 shows how the volume of traffic on the roads has changed over time in Great Britain, which reflects the trend seen for the UK. Motor vehicle traffic volumes have generally increased throughout this period, other than a fall seen between 2007 and 2012 following the recession.”

56% of transport emissions relate to passenger cars, so even if one assumes that all the other transport emissions are business then 12% of total UK emissions are business transport emissions but 16% are public emissions, from our choice to drive ICE vehicles.

15% from the residential sector “The residential sector consists of emissions from fuel combustion for heating and cooking, garden machinery, and fluorinated gases released from aerosols and metered dose inhalers. It is estimated to have been responsible for around 15% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, with carbon dioxide being the most prominent gas for this sector (96%). The main source of emissions from this sector is the use of natural gas for heating and cooking.”

These are not business emissions. Again, these are emissions from our choice to use carbon fuels in our homes. There are roughly 27 million homes in the UK, the government has a target to install 600,000 heat pump systems per annum. At this rate, we will still have carbon heating in 2066 and nearly 10 million UK homes will still have carbon heating by 2050. To put this in perspective in 2017, 20,000 heat pump systems were installed.

10% Agriculture. If one considers agriculture to be a business, then these emissions are business emissions. But half these emissions arise from the production of meat products. One can argue that again these emissions arise as a result of the choice which we the consumer makes to eat meat and therefore that “business emissions” in agriculture are 5% of the total.

2% from industrial processes is a business responsibility.

2% Public sector is not a business responsibility.

5% Waste management (mainly landfill). At least half of this is from food waste in landfill. So, I would suggest business is responsible for 2% of these emissions at most.

Land use is negative 2-3% mainly from forestry.

Using this basis, business is responsible for the emissions from total UK emissions of business 18%, business transport 12%, Industrial processes 2%, waste management 2% , a total of 34%. If agriculture is included this increase to either 39% or 44% (depending on how meat production emissions are treated).

Consumers are responsible for emissions from private transport 16%, residential 15%, waste 3%, a total of 34%.

Government is responsible for Energy supply 23% and public sector 2%, a total of 25%

This doesn’t allocate the negative land use of 2-3%.

Using these UK numbers, business is responsible for (and can control and reduce) under half of the UK emissions. It does not control the emissions of Energy Supply, (even if it is a part end user like consumers) nor of the public sector nor of consumers themselves.

A recent poll showed that 67% of UK respondents thought the government should do more about zero carbon. What these figures show is that those respondents need to do more about their own emissions if net zero carbon, is to be achieved. Buying electric cars, using non carbon heating for their homes, minimising food waste in land fill and probably eating a lot less meat are all decisions we need to make. And I haven’t included emissions from flying.

Net zero carbon is about our choices as well as government action.

© Chris Lenon and http://www.zerocarbonourchoice.com  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and www.zerocarbonourchoice.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.