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Saudi Joins with Other Oil and Gas Giants over Emission Targets

Saudi Arabia and other top oil and gas producers have teamed up to help implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and move towards achieving net zero emissions.
Other countries who are part of the Net Zero Producers Forum are the US, Canada, Norway, and Qatar.
The Saudi energy ministry recognized the global impact of climate change, reiterating the Kingdom’s commitment to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.
“Canada, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States, collectively representing about 40 percent of global oil and gas production, will come together to form a cooperative forum that will develop pragmatic net zero emission strategies,” according to a joint statement from the member countries.
The strategies include methane abatement, advancing the circular carbon economy approach, development and deployment of clean-energy and carbon capture and storage technologies, as well as diversification from reliance on hydrocarbon revenues, it said.
The forum will help the countries remain accountable to the goals of the Paris Agreement, which recognizes unique national circumstances in achieving emission targets.
Saudi Arabia, in particular, said it was a “strong advocate of the key role that technology and innovation can play” in the fight against climate change, while highlighting the importance of collaboration in the international community.
The announcement comes as world leaders gather for US President Joe Biden’s climate summit, where setting goals for emission reductions was a key discussion point.
Analysts have pointed out the growing optimism in international climate action in recent years.
“The willingness of all the world’s major leaders to take part in Biden’s summit is encouraging,” Ed Crooks, vice chair of global natural resources consultancy Wood Mackenzie’s Americas unit, said.

CO2 Increase for 2021 Predicted to be Largest in over a Decade

Global CO2 emissions from energy are seen rising nearly 5% this year, suggesting the economic rebound from Covid-19 could be “anything but sustainable” for the climate, the International Energy Agency says.
The IEA’s Global Energy Review 2021 predicted carbon dioxide emissions would rise to 33 billion tonnes this year, up 1.5 billion tonnes from 2020 levels in the largest single increase in more than a decade.
“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.
This year’s rise will likely be driven by a resurgence in coal use in the power sector, Birol added, which the report forecast to be particularly strong in Asia.
Biden to hold virtual summit
It should also put pressure on governments to act on climate change. US President Joe Biden will hold a virtual summit for dozens of world leaders this week to discuss the issue ahead of global talks in Scotland later this year. Last year, when power use dropped due to the Covid-19 pandemic, energy-related CO2 emissions fe ll by 5.8% to 31.5 billion tonnes, after peaking in 2019 at 33.4 billion tonnes.
The IEA’s annual review analysed the latest national data from around the world, economic growth trends and new energy projects that are set to come online.
Global energy demand is set to increase by 4.6% in 2021, led by developing economies, pushing it above 2019 levels, the report said.
Demand for all fossil fuels is on course to grow in 2021, with both coal and gas set to rise above 2019 levels.
The expected rise in coal use dwarves that of renewables by almost 60%, despite accelerating demand for solar, wind and hydro power.
More than 80% of the projected growth in coal demand in 2021 is set to come from Asia, led by China.
Coal use in the United States and the European Union is also on course to increase but will remain well below pre-crisis levels, the IEA said.

The Scale of China’s Bitcoin Mining Rush could Undermine Its Carbon-Zero Goals

China’s electricity-guzzling Bitcoin mines, which power nearly 80 per cent of the world’s cryptocurrency trade, could undermine the country’s climate goals, according to a study published on Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature.
While the terminology cunjures up images of digging up precious minerals from a hole in the ground, mines from which Bitcoins are extracted are in fact sites full of microprocessors running to perform mathematical calculations.
These computers, which are the source of Bitcoins, consume huge amounts of electricity, some of it originating in one of more than a thousand coal-fired power plants across China.
According to the Nature study, if left unchecked, China’s Bitcoin mines will produce 130.50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2024, nearly equivalent to the total annual greenhouse gas emissions of Italy or Saudi Arabia.
As of April 2020, Chinese companies with access to cheap electricity and equipment were running 78.89 per cent of the world’s bitcoin operations, according to Nature.
About 40 per cent of China’s Bitcoin mines are powered by coal-fired electricity, while the rest use renewable energy, the study said.
But these coal-intensive facilities are so large that they could end up undermining Beijing’s environmental commitment to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060, the study warns.
Undermining efforts to reduce emissions
“The intensive exploitation of bitcoin in China can quickly become a threat that could potentially undermine the effort to reduce emissions,” Wang Shouyang, a co-author of the study from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told AFP.
He said the Chinese government should focus on upgrading the power grid to ensure a stable supply from renewable sources.
“As energy prices in China’s clean energy regions are lower than those in coal-fired regions, ‘miners’ – who run their computer hardware to perform mathematical calculations and participate in the network, with the aim of receiving a reward in Bitcoin – should have more incentive to move to clean energy regions,” he added.
This year, the Bitcoin mining industry is expected to consume 0.6 percent of the world’s total electricity production, more than Norway needs annually, according to the University of Cambridge’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index.
The price of bitcoin has risen fivefold in the past year, reaching a record high of more than $61,000 (€70,000) in March, and is now hovering just below the $60,000 (€69,000) mark.
Given the profits that can be made, Wang believes that imposing carbon taxes is not enough to deter miners.
In 2019, China banned trading in cryptocurrencies to combat money laundering. But Bitcoin “mining” is still permitted.

Hydrogen Production Is a ‘Climate Killer’

The production of hydrogen today is a “climate killer” according to Carlo Zorzoli of Enel Green Power.
He said some “98% of it is produced from steam reforming and gasification, which equates to yearly carbon emissions comparable to that of Indonesia and the UK combined. Just 2% is produced from electrolysis.”
“Today, hydrogen is anything but clean. That 98% produced today is an industrial feedstock. Just 2% is produced from electrolysis.”
“Hydrogen today is not a solution to decarbonisation: hydrogen is a part of the problem. So the very first thing to do is convert grey hydrogen to green.”
Zorzoli, who is head of business development at Enel Green Power, was speaking in an Enlit Europe webcast titled ‘Scaling up renewables for smart electrification and carbon neutrality’, in which he stressed Enel’s belief that “electrification is by far the cheapest and simplest way to decarbonise our economies”.
But he acknowledged that “of course you cannot electrify everything – and so there is a need for something to complement electrification. And green hydrogen is definitely a complement.”
And to make it ‘green’, he said it was a priority for the energy sector to bring down the cost of electrolysers.
“Because the future for the not-electrifiable sector relies mostly on hydrogen or hydrogen-based vectors. We need to focus on making green hydrogen cheaper.”
He said Europe’s road to decarbonisation was “a big task we’re on” and added that Enel Green Power had orgainised its sustainable business model around four major trends: decarbonisation, electrification; digitalisation; and new customer needs.
In addressing a question around what needed to change to speed up a greater deployment of renewables, he said: “We see a slow permitting process – and a lack of capability to deliver enough permits. We definitely have a problem – there is an issue of timing with permits and, in my view, permitting in most countries is a bottleneck.”

Chevron Launches $300m Fund to Focus on Low-Carbon Technology

Chevron Corp on Thursday said it had launched a $300 million fund focused on low-carbon technology, as traditional global oil and gas firms attempt to invest more in green energy and tackle climate change.
Major energy firms have set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or are exploring investments in renewable energy and green technology amid rising pressure from investors and activists.
Earlier this month, top U.S. oil producer Exxon Mobil Corp unveiled a carbon-removal technology venture that would directly compete with Occidental Petroleum Corp’s efforts to develop the largest ever facility to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Chevron Technology Ventures, the venture capital division of the company, launched the first Future Energy Fund in 2018 and has invested in more than 10 companies in the field that focus on carbon capture and energy storage.
Last month, Chevron invested in Blue Planet Systems Corp, a startup commercializing a technology that makes a substitute for limestone in concrete and building materials from carbon dioxide.
The oil major in October also formed a joint venture to market dairy biomethane, a renewable natural gas made of methane emissions from cattle burps as part of its push to reduce emissions.

China’s Emissions of Ozone-Harming Gas Are Declining, Studies Find

Emissions from China of a banned gas that harms Earth’s ozone layer have sharply declined after increasing for several years, two teams of scientists said Wednesday, a sign that the Beijing government had made good on vows to crack down on illegal production of the industrial chemical.
The findings ease concerns that increased emissions of the gas, CFC-11, would slow progress in the decades-long environmental struggle to repair the ozone layer, which filters ultraviolet radiation from the sun that can cause skin cancer and damage crops.
“We see a huge decline both in global emission rates and what’s coming from Eastern China,” said Stephen A. Montzka, a research chemist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the lead author of one of the studies. Work by Dr. Montzka and others three years ago first revealed the illegal emissions.
“It looks like there’s been a substantial response, potentially as a result of us raising a flag and saying, ‘Hey, something’s not happening as it should,’” Dr. Montzka said.
Matthew Rigby, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Bristol in England and an author of the second study, said that if emissions had not declined, “we could be seeing a delay in ozone recovery of years.” As of now, full recovery is still expected by the middle of the century.
Chinese government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Chemical traders in Shandong, a heavily industrialized province in Eastern China where CFC-11 was widely used for making insulating foams, said trade in the banned gas had largely dried up. “It hasn’t disappeared entirely, but it’s much scarcer than before,” Gao Shang, a chemical merchant in Shandong, said in a telephone interview.
CFC-11 was outlawed a decade ago under the Montreal Protocol, the treaty established in the 1980s, when research revealed its effects on atmospheric ozone, along with the effects of similar widely used chemicals.
The revelation in a 2018 study of rogue emissions from China that began five years before was a shock to scientists, policymakers, environmentalists and others who monitor the protocol, which is largely regarded as the most effective environmental treaty in history.
Meg Seki, acting executive secretary of the Ozone Secretariat, the United Nations body that administers the treaty, said the organization was pleased to see that emissions had dropped and that the effect on the ozone layer was likely to be limited. “It is important, however, to prevent such unexpected emissions in the future through continued, high-standard monitoring by the scientific community,” she said in a statement.
The 2018 research did not pinpoint the source of most of the emissions beyond locating them as coming from East Asia. But investigations that year by the Environmental Investigation Agency, an independent advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., and by The New York Times found evidence that the gas was still being produced and used in Eastern China, particularly Shandong.
An atmospheric analysis led by Dr. Rigby in 2019 found that Shandong, as well as a neighboring province, Hebei, were major sources.
When first confronted with the evidence, Chinese environmental authorities hedged and raised doubts about the findings, suggesting that there could be other, unaccounted sources of the chemical or that manufacturers of insulating foam would not use so much CFC-11.
At the same time, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environmental Protection vowed “zero tolerance” for businesses found illegally making or using CFC-11.
Policy announcements, industry reports and court judgments all indicate that the Chinese government cracked down on the illicit trade, even as it kept denying that there ever was a serious problem. Last year, the government publicized a conviction of a businessman, Qi Erming, as the first case in China of a criminal prosecution for illegally trading in ozone-damaging chemicals.
As well as prosecutions, the government tightened rules and monitoring of the chemical and foam production industries, and promised to create a comprehensive data system to trace the movement of chemicals that could be used to make CFC-11.
There are legal gases that can replace CFC-11 in foam production. Mr. Gao, the chemical merchant in Shandong, said his company specializes in one of them.
The availability of substitutes may have helped China’s efforts to reduce CFC-11 emissions. Zhu Xiuli, a sales manager at another company in Shandong that sells foaming agents, said that customers previously had asked whether they had CFC-11. But “in the past couple of years there have been fewer and fewer inquiries,” she said.
CFC-11 has also been used in refrigeration equipment. As the gear ages, and as foams containing CFC-11 degrade over time, the gas will slowly be released. Although the size of this “bank” of CFC-11 is not precisely known, it is accounted for by the protocol, and is one reason full ozone recovery will take decades.
The new papers, which were published in the journal Nature, also do not account for the entire global increase in CFC-11 emissions that had occurred since 2013. The gas may still be being produced or used in other countries or in other parts of China, but the researchers said there are not enough air-sampling stations worldwide to know for certain.
“This is a useful lesson that we really need to expand our monitoring capabilities,” Dr. Rigby said.
Avipsa Mahapatra, a climate campaign lead for the Environmental Investigation Agency, said of the new findings that it was “exciting to see atmospheric studies confirming that on-the-ground intelligence and subsequent enforcement have culminated in a spectacular climate win.” But she said her group had indications that enforcement may have been more successful in some parts of China than others. “This is not the time for complacency,” she said.
Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in the research, said the work was “a real triumph for science.”
But the problem is not over, Dr. Solomon said, because in addition to CFC-11, there are other, similar chemicals being emitted. “There’s a whole zoo of molecules,” she said, and although the amounts are smaller, they add up.
They also are potent greenhouse gases, she said, although their contribution to warming is much less than the far more prevalent heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane. “The chemical industry worldwide is still not monitored closely enough for us to actually be confident in how much greenhouse gases they’re making and how much ozone-depleting gases they are making,” she said.

IEA Debuts Scenario for Net Zero Emissions in 2050

In its World Energy Outlook 2020, released in November 2020, the International Energy Agency (IEA) for the first time added a scenario in which the world’s energy sector would achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, as it underscored the importance of bringing the world’s carbon emissions under control.
Compared to IEA’s base case of a global recovery from Covid-19 by the end of 2021 and maintenance of national emissions goals (but no new goals), the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 (NZE2050) scenario would accelerate energy efficiency measures and installation of solar and photovoltaic power generation. NZE2050 also includes acceleration of energy efficiency programs and equity investments, such as universal substitution of cooking with biomass with propane or electricity.
“Primary energy demand in the NZE2050 falls by 17% between 2019 and 2030, to a level similar to 2006, even though the global economy is twice as large. Electrification, efficiency gains and behaviour changes are central to achieving this. Coal demand falls by almost 60% over this period to a level last seen in the 1970s,” IEA said.
NZE2050 takes the SDS’s modeling of about 26.7 Gigatons (Gt) of CO2 emissions in 2030, and then asks how this can be reduced to 20.1 Gt, which is the midpoint of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s estimate of the level of emissions that could enable the world to limit global warming to 1.5oC. This reduction would start the path towards zero net emissions in 2050.
Electrification drives the change. “The rapid reduction of emissions from electricity generation in the NZE2050 is critical because electrification based on low-emission electricity is one of the key mechanisms to reduce emissions in end-use sectors. These emissions reductions therefore occur against the backdrop of expanding electricity demand. Globally, electricity demand grows by around 400 terawatt-hours (TWh) each year on average to 2030, or 1.6% a year. This is equivalent to adding the current electricity demand of India, the fourth-largest global electricity market, to the power mix every three years,” IEA said.
To meet demand, worldwide annual solar PV additions would grow from about 110 GW in 2019 to 500 GW in 2030 and would leave renewables generating about 60% of power in 2030, compared to 27% today. This would enable unprecedent growth in actual renewable power generation, from a record 440 TWh in 2018 to 1,100 TWh per year.
Those changes would drive down CO2 emissions from the power sector by 60% from 2019 through 2030. For context, IEA noted that the only recent example of a country’s power sector reducing emissions at that pace is the UK during the period of 2008 to 2018.
Ambitious
NZE2050 is very ambitious. The investment by the power sector would be immense: $2.2 trillion per year by 2030, with about one-third of that on strengthening and expanding the power grid. For comparison, global power sector investment in 2019 was $760 billion.
“Realising the pace and scale of emissions reductions in the NZE2050 would require a far-reaching set of actions going above and beyond the already ambitious measures in the SDS. A large number of unparalleled changes across all parts of the energy sector would need to be realised simultaneously, at a time when the world is trying to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic,” IEA said.
In addition to shifts in power generation, another key element would be reduction in power demand. This would include 50% of new passenger cars in 2030 being electric, compared to 2.5% today. IEA notes that EV engines are fie times more efficient than internal combustion engines, which will further improve global energy efficiency.
Other measures would include retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient; use of electric heat pump systems in 100 million or more residences; mandating the use of ultra-efficient air conditioners; and electrification of one-third of low-temperature heating in industrial settings. IEA also forecasts that “green” hydrogen (hydrogen made through processes that do not generate carbon emissions) and other clean fuels would represent about 25% of the fuels mix.
Comparison to IPCC
IEA noted that the IPCC has created more than 90 forecasts of how the world can reach at least a 50% chance of limiting global warming to 1.5oC by 2100. In many ways, NZE2050 is more aggressive in renewables investments and more conservative about nuclear power and carbon capture than IPCC’s 1.5oC scenario:
• NZE2050 assumes a higher population and higher economic growth (both of which increase energy demand).
• NZE2050 forecasts a 10% lower energy intensity level for electricity generation.
• IPCC’s scenarios generally assume much higher growth in nuclear power than NZE2050’s 36% through 2030.
• NZE2050 generally assumes higher growth in renewables to 60% of global energy supply and lower use of oil and coal. NZE2050 forecasts global oil demand will fall from 98 million barrels per day (MMb/d) in 2019 to 65 MMb/d in 2030.
• IPCC generally assumes greater use of carbon capture and utilization technology.

Global Coal Demand to Rise 2.6% in 2021 after Record Decline This Year

Global demand for coal is set to jump 2.6% next year after a record pandemic-led drop this year, as recovering economic activity will lift use for electricity and industrial output, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday.

Demand for thermal and metallurgical coal should rise to 7,432 million tonnes in 2021, from 7,243 million tonnes this year, the Paris-based agency said in its Coal 2020 report.

Global coal demand fell by 5% this year as the impact of the pandemic curbed usage, IEA said.

Between 2018 and 2020, global coal demand will have fallen by an unprecedented 7%, or 500 million tonnes, the agency said, due to the pandemic and as countries around the world seek to shift to cleaner sources of energy.
“Before the pandemic, we expected a small rebound in coal demand in 2020, but we have since witnessed the largest drop in coal consumption since the Second World War,” IEA’s director of energy markets and security, Keisuke Sadamori, said in a statement.

While even the United States and Europe could see their first increases in coal consumption in nearly a decade next year, demand in 2021 would still trail 2019 levels and the IEA expected coal use to flatten out by 2025 at around 7.4 billion tonnes.
Renewables would likely surpass coal as the largest global source of electricity by 2025, while natural gas would take coal’s place as the second largest primary energy source after oil, Sadamori said.

“But with coal demand still expected to remain steady or to grow in key Asian economies, there is no sign that coal is going to fade away quickly,” he added, with key Asian markets accounting for 75% of global coal demand.
Coal is a key driver of CO2 emissions and governments around the globe have pledged carbon neutrality in the next decades, including China, which has set its target for before 2060.

The IEA said it would need to review its 2025 coal demand forecast, once the Chinese government releases its economic plans for 2021-2025, due in March.

Japan Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fall in FY2019 for 6th Straight Year

Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions fell in fiscal 2019 for the sixth straight year to reach their lowest level since comparable data became available in fiscal 1990, partly due to the impact of the U.S.-China trade dispute, the Environment Ministry said Tuesday.
The equivalent of 1,213 million tons of carbon dioxide was emitted in the year through March 2020, down 2.7 percent from a year earlier to rewrite the previous low recorded in fiscal 2018, according to preliminary data.
The ministry attributed the drop to declines in production in the steel and other industries affected by the U.S.-China trade war, and expansions of renewable energy.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, Japan aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent in fiscal 2030 compared with fiscal 2013.
With total emissions falling 14 percent in fiscal 2019 from fiscal 2013, the ministry believes the reduction target is attainable if the current pace of decline in greenhouse gas emissions continues.
However, the ministry thinks Japan cannot achieve its longer-term goal of cutting emissions to zero on a net basis by 2050 “unless all sorts of measures are taken.”
There have been calls for steps such as raising the fiscal 2030 emissions-cut target in order to meet the longer-term goal, which is on a par with pledges by other economies including the European Union and Britain.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to establish a fund of 2 trillion yen ($19.2 billion) for firms developing green technologies as part of efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and spur economic growth.
In fiscal 2019, electricity consumption by Japan’s steel and machinery industries fell along with a decline in their exports to China, affected by trade disputes between the world’s two largest economies.
Meanwhile, the share of electricity generated in Japan using renewable sources rose to 18 percent on the back of an increase in solar power.
Nuclear power generation accounted for just 6 percent as many nuclear plants remained offline under stricter safety regulations implemented after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
The ministry said emissions in fiscal 2019 saw almost no impact from the coronavirus outbreak, but called for the need to monitor the situation.

China’s CO2 Emissions will be Higher in 2020 than in 2019

China’s greenhouse gas emissions will increase in 2020 compared to 2019 as they have rebounded after the COVID-19 outbreak, the head of the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.
“As of today, Chinese emissions this year, 2020, will be higher than in 2019, they rebounded,” Fatih Birol told a digital energy conference organised by Norwegian oil firm Equinor.