Happy 50th earth day! Shell's "net zero" pledge & State's rights to fight covid+climate

A newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate

(source: Climate Central)


Happy 50th Earth Day - the US is now 2.4 degrees warmer!

April 22, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. On that historic day in 1970, more than 20 million people gathered and paved the way for cleaner air, cleaner water, and more protected land. If only similar efforts were being deployed to reduce  greenhouse gas emissions today, we could “flatten the curve” of rising temperatures.

Instead, climate change has caused annual temperatures to rise in 98% of the 242 cities analyzed, while the contiguous U.S. has warmed 2.4°F during the past five decades. 

Many of the fastest-warming cities are in the Southwestern U.S. Cities in Nevada led the nation with increases of 7.4°F and 5.5°F in Reno and Las Vegas, respectively. While temperatures were 4.8°F warmer in El Paso, Texas.

COVID-19 is showing us how much we are all connected and that science-guided action is essential. These lessons should be applied to climate action too. LINK

Issue No. 23

Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate.


This week on Wednesday at 9am EST, Carbon Creed will be launching our first open thread. We want to learn more about what you’re interested in and the creative things you’ve been up to during these challenging times. Anything from the books you’re reading to the new habits you’re practicing - whatever you’re willing to share.

My name is Walter McLeod, and I’m glad you’ve joined our tribe! We hope to hear from you as we navigate this weekly journey through the good, bad and ugly of carbon and climate. You can ping me anytime at mcleodwl@carboncreed.com.

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Covid-19 and climate change call for governors and mayors to lead

As the coronavirus pandemic broke over American shores in January, the federal government was missing in action.

Federal agencies, usually at the forefront of a natural disaster, have receded during the coronavirus pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bungled the first coronavirus test and failed to ramp up testing. The agency has since offered inconsistent guidance for healthcare workers and the public and stopped holding media briefings.

The US now has the highest death count from the coronavirus in the world.

States and Cities take the mantle

Working at cross purposes to the federal government is nothing new for those on the front lines of the climate crisis.

Since the US announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accords in 2017, sub-national authorities have assumed the mantle of the accords. More than 13 states now have 100% renewable or zero-carbon emission goals by or before 2050. At least 177 US cities now have public emission commitments representing 51% of US emissions—and nearly 70% of the US GDP. If considered as a single country with climate targets, these subnational entities would be second only to the US itself as the world’s largest economy.

States are walking a similar path with coronavirus. Within three months, states have gone far beyond federal guidance, enacted strong unilateral measures, and formed multi-state pacts to combat the virus. 

On the East coast, governors in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut began coordinating a regional response against the coronavirus. Four other states later joined to lift movement restrictions without triggering a new outbreak. 

The same dynamic has emerged on the West coast. A “Western States Pact” including California, Oregon, and Washington has been formed to establish common principles for when the three states will begin lifting restrictions and reopening their economies guided by “science and public health, not politics.”

Together, the two coalitions cover 107 million people, almost a third of the US population.

The path forward

But let’s not fool ourselves. State actions can’t make up for the absence of a unified federal response. At best, it’s a stopgap measure. For the climate, a federal commitment would enable roughly twice the emission cuts as subnational measures alone. In the coronavirus outbreak, a fragmented response means one lax jurisdiction can easily spark infections in another.

Yet, there is a playbook for states should we need it. The US is rare among countries for the power given to states and cities to govern their own residents under a federalist constitution. The pandemic and climate crisis is putting states in the lead role at a time the federal government is faltering. The nation just needs to follow. LINK


Shell Targets 'Net Zero' Emissions by 2050

(source: Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr)

Oil and gas major Shell is to ramp up its renewable energies division in order to decarbonise its operations and strive towards a net-zero-by-2050 target.

While specific details are scant, the energy giant is today updating investors on plans to become a net zero emissions business by 2050 or sooner, covering scope one, two and three emissions. The plan is similar to one announced by Microsoft earlier this year.

That target, Shell said, will require the business to sell more products with a lower carbon intensity than its staple O&G offering, including renewable power, biofuels and hydrogen.

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said that societal expectations around climate change had “shifted quickly”, and that the business now needs to go further with its own ambitions.

With the commitment, the net carbon footprint of energy products sold by Shell to customers will need to fall by around 30% by 2035 and nearly two-thirds (~65%) by 2050. This is an increase on previous targets of a 20% and 50% respective reduction.

It remains to be seen how Shell intends to meet those reductions specifically, but expect more emphasis to fall upon the shoulders of the solar, storage and energy flexibility companies within Shell’s New Energies division.

Shell’s large-scale solar interests now span several continents, having acquired a 43% stake in US-based outfit Silicon Ranch in February 2018, followed by Southeast Asian installer Cleantech Solar later that year and Australia’s ESCO Pacific last December.

It has also acquired battery storage specialist Sonnen, UK-based flexibility provider Limejump and EV charging firm NewMotion, in a bid to enhance its clean power expertise.

This is the latest indication that tradition energy companies (BP, Shell) are transitioning to the low carbon economy. Go deeper here. LINK


Renewables and geopolitics: Who will ‘win’ the energy transition?

(source: Energy Services Experts)

It is easy enough to pinpoint the geopolitical losers from a successful energy transition to renewables, with heavily hydrocarbon-dependent nations such as Brazil, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela at risk of crippling economic blows.

Picking winners in a clean energy world, however, is more tricky, according to the authors of a review of how the energy transition could shape global geopolitics.

The new academic paper posits the idea that multiple nations will enjoy a geopolitical windfall by freeing themselves from dependency on fossil fuel imports produced by an exclusive group of hydrocarbon-exporting nations. That alone, however, will not be enough to come out on top in a clean energy world.

The winners

The study’s authors say securing the biggest slice of the pie when it comes to cleantech manufacturing and intellectual property will ensure a place at the top table in the world of tomorrow.

In that respect, China, the EU, Japan and the U.S. are positioning themselves to take advantage and will also benefit from kicking their fossil fuel habits.

In terms of conflict, the central role played by fossil fuels in wars in the modern age is likely to make way for “a rise in cyberwars and trade conflicts” in the post-energy transition world.

For nations such as Australia, Canada and Norway, the economic disruption of the death of fossil fuels will be significant but each has an economy able to pivot towards renewable energy or new revenue streams.

The real losers in the energy transition can be expected to dig their heels in and lock in global carbon use for longer than necessary.

Peace dividend

Geopolitical literature is divided on the extent to which the triumph of renewable energy can bring peaceful outcomes. Abundant, more evenly distributed, constantly replenished clean energy resources offer the potential to decentralize political power and facilitate democratization where rolled out at scale.

However, switching to the current generation of renewables simply means relying on rare earth metals and other critical materials rather than fossil fuel deposits. Similarly, the decentralized, small scale nature of renewables generation may reduce the chance of global conflicts but it could also give rise to more local conflagrations. It is not likely that oil rich nations will easily cede power to renewable energy technologies. This is going to get more politically intriguing over the next decade. Go deeper here. LINK


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Curated by Walter McLeod, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Carbon Creed and Managing Partner with Eco Capitol Energy.