Carbon Emissions

The Follies of ‘Net Zero’ Carbon Risk Consigning Millions to Energy Poverty

There follows a guest post by Ian Hore-Lacy, Senior Adviser to the World Nuclear Association, who is based in Melbourne, Australia, and is concerned about the direction of travel in his home country as it begins to take seriously cutting CO₂ emissions following COP26. Ian was recently interviewed on the Titans of Nuclear podcast (also available on iTunes and Spotify).

In Australia, media reporting of COP26 in Glasgow has been doubling down on reporting every anomalous weather event or sea-level concern as due to climate change, despite some fairly clear scientific findings in the AR6 science report showing such attribution as nonsense. Having spent the best part of two days looking at the AR6 science it is quite clear that we can live with the likely scenarios. The report itself notes that the very high emission and warming scenario SSP5-8.5 “has been debated in light of recent developments in the energy sector” and discounted but cannot be entirely ruled out. It projects a very great increase in coal use and has been carried forward from earlier modelling without real modification. Including this highly improbable, obsolete and extreme scenario, however, has fed a lot of extreme rhetoric by people who should know better, including the head of IPCC, António Guterres.

The language of crisis and catastrophe is used uncritically and without justification. It’s becoming evident that no panic measures will emerge from the Glasgow theatrics, but perhaps a steady focus on improvement, to minimise human contribution to CO₂ levels. In Europe the media focus has been on the current energy crisis, especially in the U.K. Australian PM Scott Morrison did well in Glasgow; he now needs to flesh out the ’technology’ that will save us. He needs to avoid a fight with the opposition Labor party, but somehow prevail in his fight with the renewables rent-seekers who are adding $7 billion per year to Australia’s electricity bills for little effect.

Leaked Documents Reveal Chancellor’s Concerns about Cost of Moving Towards a Zero-Carbon Economy

Leaked documents obtained by the Observer reveal deep concerns within the Treasury about the economic cost of moving towards a zero-carbon economy. The Chancellor is worried that additional costs from green initiatives would push companies to move production elsewhere.

As Johnson prepares to position the U.K. at the head of global efforts to combat climate change and curb greenhouse gas emissions as host of the Glasgow COP26 meeting, the documents show the Treasury is warning of serious economic damage to the U.K. economy and future tax rises if the U.K. overspends on, or misdirects, green investment.

Green experts said the “half-baked” and “one-sided” Treasury net-zero review presented only the costs of action on emissions, rather than the benefits, such as green jobs, lower energy bills and avoiding the disastrous impact of global heating. They said the review could be “weaponised” by climate-change deniers around the world before COP26, undermining Johnson’s attempts at climate leadership on the global stage.

The internal Treasury documents say that while there may be economic benefits to U.K. companies from swift and appropriate climate action, there is also a danger that economic activity could move abroad if firms found their costs were increasing by more than those of their overseas competitors.

The leaked papers are understood to have been produced to accompany a slide show given confidentially to key groups outside Government in the last month. The documents state: “The investment required to decarbonise the U.K. economy is uncertain but could help to improve the U.K.’s relatively low investment levels and increase productivity.

“However, more green investment is likely to attract diminishing returns, reducing the positive impact of ever more investment on GDP. Some green investments could displace other, more productive, investment opportunities. If more productive investments are made earlier in the transition, this risk may be accentuated later in the transition.”

On the risk of additional costs to companies from green initiatives, the documents say: “Climate action in the U.K. can lead to economic activity moving abroad if it directly leads to costs increasing, and it is more profitable to produce in countries with less stringent climate policies.”

On the fiscal implications, the documents say the cost of moving towards net zero could mean tax rises because of “the erosion of tax revenue from fossil fuel-related activity”. They say: “The Government may need to consider changes to existing taxes and new sources of revenue throughout the transition in order to deliver net zero sustainably, and consistently with the government’s fiscal principles.”

Worth reading in full.

U.K.’s Biggest Source of Greenhouse Gas is an ‘Eco’ Power Station

A ‘green’ power station subsidised with taxpayers’ money is Britain’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gas, according to new research. The Daily Mail has more.

Drax in Yorkshire burns wood pellets, which are treated as a ‘renewable’ fuel and the site has attracted more than £800 million of taxpayer subsidies.

But analysis shows that the burning of wood for power – known as biomass – has been the cause of more carbon dioxide emissions than coal since 2019.

Drax burns millions of tonnes of wood to provide around 12% of the UK’s total electric power, generating 15.6 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide emissions each year, which cause the planet to heat up by trapping heat around the Earth – the greenhouse effect.

The power station is also one of the top five emitters in Europe of toxic air pollution particles known as PM10.

Currently accounting rules allow Drax to be treated as ‘carbon neutral’.

It is argued that emissions from burning wood are offset by the growth of new trees to replace those harvested for burning – although trees burnt may have taken 40-100 years to reach maturity.

This assumption, shared by the EU and UK Government makes it eligible for significant public subsidy.

But scientific opinion is changing, and wood burning is increasingly seen as making climate change worse. The European Academies Science Advisory Council states that using woody biomass for power “is not effective in mitigating climate change and may even increase the risk of dangerous climate change”.

The research from pressure group Ember also shows emissions from burning wood now far exceed those from burning coal. Wood burning is now the second largest contributor to the power sector’s CO2 emissions overall after fossil gas.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Andrew Neil says the cost of the Government’s ‘net zero’ policy is finally hitting home. The Daily Mail has more.