Climate News of the Week Roundup: China’s Drive to Clean Up Air Pollution Has Strong Climate Co-benefits

This week’s roundup features the likely impacts of the Australian election for climate policy, Chinese efforts to reduce air pollution and their climate co-benefits, solar scale-up accelerating in the US and Japan, development banks putting record volumes into clean energy, a proposal to use the UNFCCC to promote renewables and efficiency, a discussion of the economic and political consequences of scaling up renewables, the interplay of efficiency policies and the EU ETS, contentious climate policy claims by Naomi Klein, arguments that the IPCC is being to conservative, the world wasting 1/3 of its food production while a billion people go hungry, and incidentally causing 3.3 billion tonnes of emissions per year, and more.

What next for Australia’s climate policy? Frank Jotzo did an interesting rundown of what’s likely to happen next in Australia. Given that the new government wants to repeal the carbon pricing scheme but also put a limit on what it’s willing to spend on its alternative “Direct Action” plan, he thinks “The question must be asked whether the government is indeed serious about cutting emissions.”

Markets bet on carbon repeal …and a new carbon price. Giles Parkinson reports that markets expect that the new Australian government will succeed in repealing the carbon pricing scheme – but will come under intense pressure to produce its own carbon pricing mechanism.

Tony Abbott gets crash course in carbon bubbles. Giles Parkinson also reports that one of Australia’s biggest coal mine projects got scrapped despite the conservative election victory as overseas demand keeps slowing down, in particular demand from China. Those green lunatics from Citigroup recently projected that Chinese coal demand was likely to peak before 2020, in one of their scenarios it could peak in 2014 already.

China Seeks to Eliminate Heavily Polluted Days in Decade. One of the drivers Citigroup sees as decisive is the increasing concern about air pollution. Bloomberg reports that China intends to limit coal use, close steel plants and limit car use to get it down.

Silver Lining in China’s Smog as It Puts Focus on Emissions. Along the same lines, the NYT covered the work of Chinese researcher and policy advisor Jiang Kejun who says China could make its entire national greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2025. “Several years ago, some scoffed at his earlier, less ambitious idea for an emissions peak by 2030, which is now widely accepted.”

Solar Panel Is Next Granite Countertop for Homebuilders. Bloomberg reports that integration of solar panels is becoming standard for US homebuilders.

New US Solar Market Insight Report: US Installs 832 MW of Solar PV in Q2 2013. Mike Munsell reports that the US installed 832 MW of solar PV in the second quarter of the year. This is about the same volume that was installed in Germany, seems the US is getting up there. The US projection for the entire year is 4.4 GW, which is more than what is projected for Germany.

Japan Solar PV Industry Reaches 10 GW Milestone. CleanTechnica reports that Japan has joined the select club of countries that have more than 10 GW of solar PV installed, following Germany, Italy, China and the US.

Development banks finance record amount in clean energy. Bloomberg reports that development bank financing for  renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electrical transmission and distribution crossed the 100 billion dollar threshold for the first time in 2012, posting an increase of 19% compared to 2011. The top three banks were Germany’s KfW, China Development Bank and the Brazilian Development Bank. I’d say it was about time they got green.

Increasing pre-2020 Mitigation Ambition through scaled up Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Initiatives.  WWF submitted an interesting proposal to the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action workstream 2 on how to promote renewables and efficiency under the climate regime. They think, “The time is ripe for the UNFCCC to start acting as an effective implementation forum, in addition to its traditional role as a negotiating forum.” In essence they suggest Parties should agree global goals and pledge national goals for renewables and efficiency and mobilise and enhance the UNFCCC’s financial, technological and capacity building institutions to achieve them.

The Economic and Political Consequences of the Last 10 Years of Renewable Energy Development. A rather long but worthwhile read on the “Resilience” blog. The article argues that “the cat is out of the bag: once renewable energy reaches a critical mass, its impact on power systems is pretty much irreversible and no amount of lobbying by utilities is going to get them their previous business model back: wind turbines and solar panels are there and they will keep on cranking out zero-marginal-cost MWh for a very, very long time… So utilities would be well advised to focus their lobbying on fixes to the system that actually solve problems (like capacity markets, or maybe new rules on grid access for “must-run plants), and to not cut the tree on which they are sitting (killing the support regime for offshore wind, the only sector in renewables which is “utility-scale” and where they have been able to take a leading share, and the only sector of the power sector where they can actually make money these days…)”. Rather relevant in the context of ongoing attacks on Germany’s feed-in system.

The impact of electricity demand reduction policies on the EU-ETS. In a new article published in Energy Policy, colleagues from the Wuppertal Institute, Cologne University and Ecofys have analysed the interaction of the EU ETS and policies to promote energy efficiency. They concluded that efficiency policies allow for a significant reduction of the ETS cap. Compared to the 2005 emission level, 30% emission reductions can be achieved by 2020 within the ETS with similar or even lower costs for the industrial sector than were expected when the cap was initially set for a 21% emission reduction.

Abrupt end ahead for America’s shale gas boom. German language “manager magazin” has a long article arguing that, due to rapid depletion of the wells, the shale gas boom is as unsustainable as the housing boom of the last decade, and might end in just as severe a collapse.

No, Naomi Klein And Salon, ‘Denialism’ By Enviros Has Not Been ‘More Damaging Than The Right-Wing Denialism’. Joe Romm takes issue with a recent Naomi Klein interview in which she among other things posited that a business partnership-based approach of some NGOs and their focus on cap-and-trade is largely to blame for the failure of climate policy. Romm argues that the notion that people who have the same objectives as you do are more damaging than the people who actively work against your objectives is absurd. But apparently progressives just love to fight among themselves.

NY Times: Did Denier ‘Intimidation Tactics’ Move IPCC To ‘Lowball’ Sea Level Rise And Climate Sensitivity? Joe Romm also recapitulated and expanded on a NYT article arguing that far from scaremongering, the IPCC is in fact overly cautious in its approach.

Food waste harms climate, water, land and biodiversity – new FAO report. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation published an new report highlighting that 1/3 of the world’s food production goes to waste in a world of about 1 billion chronically malnourished people. As if that travesty wasn’t bad enough, according to their calculations food waste each year causes 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. For comparison, among countries only China and the USA have higher emissions.

Municipal utilities as drivers of directional change in energy supply. The Wuppertal Institute published an new study on the resurgence of municipal utilities and what it means for the energy transition. It’s in German but Craig Morris covered it in English here. The study finds that municipal utilities allow communities to better exploit the potential of energy efficiency, renewables, and distributed cogeneration.

Top-down, bottom-up or in-between: how can a UNFCCC framework for market-based approaches ensure environmental integrity and market coherence? A bit of self-promotion, two colleagues and I published an article in the journal Greenhouse Gas Measurement and Management. It discusses options for the “framework for various” approaches that is being discussed in the UNFCCC to regulate and/or co-ordinate bottom-up development of market mechanisms.

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