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Making sense of batteries, with Giles Whittell

A race is on for control of vital materials that go into batteries. China is way out in front, and demand for these materials — lithium, copper, nickel, cobalt and rare earths few people can name — is going to quintuple by 2030. Is it time for democratic countries to form a western battery alliance to make sure they’re not held hostage by dictatorships as they make the energy transition?This ThinkIn is part of Tortoise’s Accelerating Net Zero coalition.The initiative brings together our members and a network of organisations across a programme of ThinkIns and journalism devoted to accelerating progress towards Net Zero.Visit the homepage to find out more about the coalition and join us. With thanks to our coalition members: a network of organisations similarly committed to achieving Net Zero. editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Amber RuddFormer Secretary of State, Energy and Climate Change Chris SkidmoreMP for Kingswood Lee RowleyMP for North East Derbyshire Steve LeVineEditor, The Electric


Is NIMBYism killing the planet?

This is a digital-only ThinkInRussia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown how risky it is for one country to hand over control of its energy supply to another. Switching to renewables will allow the UK to generate more energy domestically – something which gets strong support from all sectors of the public, even if they live close to an onshore wind farm. So why did Conservative MPs push onshore wind out of the government’s energy strategy? And are planning rules that allow a single local objection to kill windfarm projects a danger to the planet?This ThinkIn is part of Tortoise’s Accelerating Net Zero coalition. The initiative brings together our members and a network of organisations across a programme of ThinkIns and journalism devoted to accelerating progress towards Net Zero.Visit the homepage to find out more about the coalition and join us. With thanks to our coalition members: a network of organisations similarly committed to achieving Net Zero. editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Dr John ConstableDirector, Renewable Energy Foundation Dr Rebecca WindemerLecturer in Environmental Planning, UWE Bristol Dr Stephen JarvisAssistant Professor of Environmental Economics, London School of Economics


Climate Summit 2022

Long stories short EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Europe should adjust its rules on state aid to counter America’s green energy subsidies.The US accused Chinese companies of evading tariffs on solar panels by sending components to Southeast Asia to be processed.The UK’s political turmoil has delayed a project to connect Britain with a wind and solar farm in Morocco through an undersea cable. PE kit Is ownership of the world’s oil and gas fields moving into the shadows? As activist and investor pressure grows on publicly listed energy companies like BP and Shell, restricting their ability to raise finance, private equity firms have been snapping up assets from Alaska to the North Sea. Going private can free a business from the demands of having to explain a strategy to investors. Instead of facing market pressure to give cash back to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks, a privately run oil business is free to gamble on exploration, no matter what that means for the climate. An analysis of oil and gas deals over the past five years shows assets flowing from publicly listed to private hands at a significant rate. Deals tended to lead to weaker environmental oversight, according to the research published by the Environmental Defense Fund, a US advocacy group. There were more than twice as many deals where assets moved away from operators with strong environmental commitments than the reverse, the study finds. By the numbers: Private equity firms’ oil and gas deals jumped from $30 billion in 2021 to $38.5 billion this year to date, according to Preqin.Energy majors ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, Total and Eni sold assets totalling $16.3 billion last year and have sold $15 billion of assets so far this year, according to Wood Mackenzie.These six majors currently have plans to sell assets totalling a further $30.5 billion. But even in private markets, the longer-term trend appears to be a shift away from fossil fuels.  That’s partly a consequence of recent history: private capital helped drive the fracking boom in the US and many firms made heavy losses when an oil glut eight years ago brought crude prices crashing down and wiped out profits in the shale sector.  Some of private equity’s giants have since retreated from fossil fuels in favour of renewables.  Blackstone stopped doing new deals in oil and gas exploration and production in 2017 and told clients this year that its private equity arm will no longer invest in the upstream part of the sector. Apollo Global Management is avoiding fossil fuels in the $25 billion fund it is currently raising. That shift is likely to persist despite a backlash from Republican-governed US states (see nibs, below). Market forces are not the only factor. Private equity may feel like a shadowy world. But the money they deploy comes out of institutions like pension funds that are subject to social pressure. One private equity insider notes that university endowment managers have become increasingly conscious of how students will react to an investment decision. Last month, an alliance of asset owners including Aviva and CalPERS, the biggest US pension fund, urged private equity groups to raise their level of climate ambition. Private equity should use their influence to set climate on the agenda of all companies, the asset owners said. They urged private equity not to finance new oil investments “beyond those already committed by the end of 2021”. The traditional private equity approach to a business is to turn its performance around and then sell on public markets at a favourable time. That’s harder to do with fossil fuels as the pool of publicly listed buyers shrinks. This is likely to lead to pressure from private equity firms to reduce emissions coming from the oil and gas businesses they run. Even in the more opaque world of private capital, there may ultimately be no hiding place for fossil fuels. Football’s footprint: how much CO2 will Qatar’s World Cup emit? A message from Companies are investing more time producing climate risk disclosures based on the TCFD recommendations. However, these disclosures are not translating into actionable strategies to accelerate decarbonisation. The EY report analyses the reasons behind this by reviewing the disclosures made by 1,500 companies across 47 countries. This is sponsored by EY policy Coke Zero The Conservative party appears split over climate policy again, as Cop26 president Alok Sharma warned the government against opening a new coal mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria, saying it would damage the UK’s reputation “as a leader in the global fight against climate change”. A final decision is expected this week. The case for approving the mine is that it would reduce the imports of coking coal, used to make steel. But the UK steel industry says the mine’s coal has a sulphur content that’s too high for their use, while EU steelmakers are moving towards low-carbon production methods. The mine is expected to create around 500 jobs but many more green jobs could be created in the region, with the potential to provide employment for decades to come. nature For the birds Another month, another Cop. Delegates from 196 countries gather in Montreal this week for the UN’s Cop15 summit. These talks focus on biodiversity rather than climate change, and negotiators will seek agreement on halting the decline of ecosystems and wildlife by the end of this decade. The need for action is critical: global wildlife populations have plummeted by 69 per cent on average since 1970, according to the WWF. But this Cop faces the same fundamental problem as the better-known one; the immense challenge of getting nearly 200 countries to agree on solving a mutual problem, and of getting rich countries to shoulder a fair share of this burden. The biodiversity summit has the additional wrinkle of frosty relations between co-hosts China and Canada. Last month Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau accused Beijing of meddling in Canada’s 2019 elections. China’s President Xi then publicly rebuked Trudeau at the G20 summit in Bali. eco-nomics Anti-ESG Larry Fink, chief executive of BlackRock, says pursuing climate policies is about long-term returns and not about being ‘woke’. Tell that to Ron DeSantis. Florida is removing BlackRock as the manager of $2 billion in state assets. It’s a drop in the ocean for BlackRock, which manages $8 trillion, but a reminder of the increasing pressure on businesses from Republican politicians. Expect further pressure on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing when Republicans regain control of the US House of Representatives in January. One casualty could be a proposal from the US financial regulator, the SEC, to force companies to include climate risk disclosures in their annual reports. science The offset rule When Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup twelve years ago, it claimed the tournament would be carbon neutral, a bold pledge for a desert nation that needed to build seven stadiums from scratch and host 2 million visitors. The strategy relied on minimising emissions (see graphic above) and a system of offsetting with carbon credits issued by the Global Carbon Council, a Doha-based registry. An assessment by Carbon Market Watch earlier this year cast doubt on the accounting assumptions used to reach the official forecast of 3.6 million tonnes of carbon. The organisers reckoned the stadiums would be used for years into the future, spreading their footprint over time. But this seems implausible in a small country that only needed one stadium before. Carbon Market Watch puts the real emissions figure at 5 million tonnes. Stranger still is the way Qatar defines offsets. It claims credits based on renewable energy projects such as a wind farm in Serbia. These might, arguably, save carbon by providing green energy but they don’t actually remove any carbon from the atmosphere. Thanks for reading. Jeevan Vasagar@jeevanvasagar Additional reporting by Phoebe Davis. If you want to get in touch, drop us a line at netzero@tortoisemedia.com. Sponsored by With thanks to our coalition members: a network of organisations similarly committed to achieving Net Zero Visit the homepage to find out more about the coalition and join us. Slow newscast Egypt’s bad cop The story of one man, fighting to his last breath, to reveal the darkness that lies behind this year’s UN Climate Change Conference.


Should we stop flying?

Aviation has never been equitable. Just 1 per cent of people cause half of global aviation emissions. And while flying accounts for a relatively small percentage of global emissions – 3.5 per cent when CO2 and non-CO2 impacts are taken into account – it is really hard to decarbonise. In this session, we will test the idea that to go faster on aviation, we can’t rely on unproven tech. We have to make it more equitable. And in this case, that means driving down demand among the world’s wealthy. They must believe it is fair that they fly less. This session is part of the The Tortoise Climate Summit: Is a fair transition faster? editor and invited experts Jeevan VasagarOur Planet Editor, Tortoise Anna HughesDirector, Flight Free UK Cait HewittPolicy Director, Aviation Environment Federation Sebastian MikoszSenior Vice-President for Environment Sustainability at the International Air Transport Association (IATA)


Disappeared nations and flooded cities: what happens when a country drowns?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available.Kiribati is an independent island nation in the Pacific Ocean and home to 120,000 people. It’s also under threat from rising sea levels caused by global warming. Or to look at it another way, Kiribati is threatened by the current pace of reductions in carbon emissions. If nothing is done about rising sea levels, Kiribati, a place where humans have lived for nearly 5,000 years, will cease to exist by the end of the century. Kiribati is not alone. The Maldives, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and others all face an uncertain future due to climate change. And it’s not just island states under threat: cities like Bangkok, New Orleans, Jakarta and many more are vulnerable. Closer to home, Portsmouth, Chichester, Conwy and other coastal areas could be submerged by 2050. What happens when a town, city or nation sinks below the surface, and what does it mean for the people who live there? This ThinkIn is part of Tortoise’s Accelerating Net Zero coalition. The initiative brings together our members and a network of organisations across a programme of ThinkIns and journalism devoted to accelerating progress towards Net Zero.Visit the homepage to find out more about the coalition and join us. editor and invited experts Ellen HallidayEditor Liam SaddingtonESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University Michael B. GerrardAndrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice; Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School Simon CrowtherFlood resilience consultant


Climate backlash: are we bored of climate change?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available.With calls for green levies to be scrapped and celebrities mounting campaigns to fight off-shore windfarms, not to mention Nigel Farage talking about a ‘referendum on climate change’, does all this point to the fact we’re losing patience with climate change? Perhaps now we’re all more literate about the climate emergency, we’re more aware of greenwashing and performative activism. Everyone knows there are tough choices to be made, but do we – and our leaders – have the will to make them during a cost of living crisis? Are there different ways to talk about fighting climate change and make sure everyone is on board, or are we in danger of losing sight of what’s important? This ThinkIn is part of Tortoise’s Accelerating Net Zero coalition. The initiative brings together our members and a network of organisations across a programme of ThinkIns and journalism devoted to accelerating progress towards Net Zero.Visit the homepage to find out more about the coalition and join us. With thanks to our coalition members: a network of organisations similarly committed to achieving Net Zero. editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Anne McIntoshBaroness McIntosh of Pickering. Conservative Party politician and life peer Matt WinningComedian and Environmental Economist; Author, ‘Hot Mess: what on earth can we do about climate change?’ Rebecca WillisProfessor in Practice, Lancaster Environment Centre; Expert Lead, Climate Assembly UK Sam HallDirector, Conservative Environment Network


What will accelerate the UK’s EV transition?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn.The UK has made a good start in the shift to electric vehicles, introducing ambitious targets and incentives for EV adoption. We know that electric vehicles are the future: so what’s delaying the switch? According to Economist Impact’s rEV index, 24% of consumers in the UK intend to buy an EV in the next five years. But what’s stopping the remaining 76%? Affordability, choice, access to ultra-fast charging infrastructure and range anxiety are cited as the biggest barriers. So, with the 2030 deadline looming closer, what steps can the UK take to address these challenges? And what do the potential tipping points towards widespread EV adoption really look like?ReadoutWe were lucky enough to be joined by someone who could give us some fresh insights. Martin Koehring was one of the people behind the Economist Group’s rEV index, supported by bp and identified some key drivers of EV success:- Charging infrastructure- Energy infrastructure- Regulations- Availability- CostThe UK performs well in some areas, according to Koehring, but falls short on ultra fast charging (we need more of this in motorways and service stations), energy systems (we need more uptake of renewable energy), and price (compared with conventional cars, the cost of running an EV is 1.3 times higher in the UK).All this adds up to a lack of faith: just 24 per cent of UK consumers feel confident in buying an EV. Solving that is down to plugging the gaps above but there need to be behavioural shifts too. It’s lucky, then, that we were also joined by Mark Earls, the behavioural change expert. “The horrible hard truth,” he said, “is that people do things for all kinds of reasons. They do the thing they do normally because it’s the thing they did yesterday and the day before that.” The solution, Earls explained, is not to make people agree with the EV lovers but to make them want to do it on their terms. That can be boiled down to the following: 1. Make switching to an EV easy. 2. Help people see other people switch. 3. Hammer home the benefits of switching.Let’s not pretend though that there is not a material cost to EVs. As one of our speakers, Dr Ganga Shreedhar from the LSE, pointed out, two types of cost come from sourcing the materials to make EVs from global supply chains and potentially displacing pollution. We’re not going to get rid of the car altogether, but we need to acknowledge EVs aren’t a panacea. And walking and cycling are undoubtedly much better. Charlie Hicks, a county councillor in Oxfordshire, was right to stress the importance of planning in this regard, designing places where people can get to important amenities within 10–15 minutes by foot or by bike. We should try to make sure the relationship between EV users and people who take greener forms of transport is not oppositional. Having good public transport, Shreedhar explained, eases up the investments you might have to do to install EV infrastructure. And having an EV is still much better than having a car. They emit three times less carbon dioxide than conventional cars, and 20 per cent less even in countries with a low share of renewable energy.Marrying better infrastructure with some behavioural nudges will get the UK a long way in catching up with other countries on EV usage. That exciting future just shouldn’t get in the way of the people who prefer Bromptons, National Rail or their own two feet to get around. editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Dr Ganga ShreedharAssistant Professor, Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, LSE Mark EarlsAward-winning writer communications and behaviour change expert Martin KoehringSenior Manager for Sustainability, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Economist Impact


Accelerating Net Zero: what we’ve learnt, and what next?

This is a digital-only ThinkIn. Continuing our series of special edition Open News meetings, where Tortoise journalists and members come together to take stock of what our reporters have uncovered about what’s driven the news this year, and what it has told us about the forces that are shaping our world. What have we learned? What questions remain unanswered, and what new ones have arisen? At Tortoise, we always said that we would stay interested when the rest of the news media moves on. This week, now the dust has settled following Cop26, we return to our Accelerating Net Zero initiative. With our coalition partners and members, we will figure out a plan of action for 2022.  editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Friederike AndresPolicy Advisor, Federation of Small Businesses Stephen LorimerChief Executive, Centre for Net Zero


Goodbye Big Oil, hello Mega Oil?

If the world needs to cut carbon emissions by half by 2030, the message hasn’t got through in Saudi Arabia. Or Mexico, Venezuela, Iraq, Russia or Suriname. Saudi Aramco is planning to ramp up oil production by a million barrels a day by 2030 and other national oil companies (NOCs) are following suit. Their output and investment in exploration are heading up, not down. Their market share will grow to 75 per cent by 2040. They feel little pressure to respond to climate change or limit their environmental impact. The household names grouped together as Big Oil in the rich North may be reconciling themselves to net zero and a future in renewables, but the NOCs are eager to pick up the slack and the governments that depend on them for tax revenues are unlikely to interfere. So on Energy Day at Cop26 we’ll ask: what is to be done about the NOCs? Are any of them serious about diversifying away from oil and gas? If not, how can the governments that control them be persuaded to make the energy transition the planet needs, and who’ll pay for it? editor and invited experts Giles WhittellSensemaker Editor Akintunde BabatundeManager of the Natural Resources and Extractive Programme, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism Dr Valérie Marcel Associate Fellow, Environment and Society Programme, Chatham House Natalie BennettLeader of the Green Party England and Wales 2012-16