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Weekly Energy & Climate Update: Fri 19 May

Summary of the top energy & climate change news of the week.

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  1. Leading news this week came from the General Election campaign again, as the main parties all released their manifestos. Firstly came the Labour manifesto, which contained ambitious proposals around low-carbon energy and the green economy, including advancing public ownership of energy infrastructure and investment in energy efficiency. Following, the Liberal Democrats largely recycled plans from their 2015 manifesto, pledging five ‘green laws’ covering topics including transport, buildings and emissions reductions; both they and the Labour party also pledged to ban fracking. The Conservatives in contrast restated their support for shale gas development, as well as maximising North Sea oil and gas, alongside a commitment to develop the decommissioning industry. Their manifesto also opened the door for more onshore wind development in Scotland, and reiterated support for global action on climate change and technologies such as electric vehicles, whilst maintaining an emphasis on affordability throughout. Carbon Brief has summarised the manifestos into a useful table for comparison.
  2. The Conservative manifesto also, as expected, contained plans to cap energy prices, as the debate over energy bills continued to rumble on in the media, with warnings over the influence of the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers and of the costs to businesses. The news that SSE’s profits had risen only served to fuel anger over Big Six ‘profiteering’.
  3. In other UK news, the Daily Telegraph this week reported on the challenge the National Grid faces in the shift to a smart, flexible power network; elsewhere, the Grid put on hold plans to build power cables to a planned new nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria, as the future of the station looks doubtful. Questions were also raised this week about state support for a separate planned nuclear project at Hinkley Point, and Tesco made an ambitious pledge to source all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
  4. International news, and UN climate talks taking place in Bonn, which drew to a close today, were overshadowed by threats that the increasingly beleaguered Trump administration could pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. Nevertheless, delegates were heartened by the commitment of major emitters China and India to the deal, as research suggested that their overachievement on emission targets could make up for US foot-dragging. Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, which holds the presidency of this year’s climate talks taking place in Bonn in November, warned of the danger of neglecting climate action because ‘no-one, no matter who they are or where they live, will ultimately escape the impact of climate change’.
  5. In other news on renewables, EY’s latest renewable energy attractiveness index saw the UK move back into the top ten ranked countries globally, although the consultancy warned that uncertainty over the direction of policy, amplified by Brexit, continued to worry investors. The news came as the world’s biggest and most powerful wind turbines began generating electricity at the Burbo Bank windfarm extension off the Liverpool coast. Elsewhere, a detailed analysis by the Financial Times set out the scale of the global renewable energy boom, and major mining companies including fossil fuel suppliers were reported to be turning to renewables to cut both emissions and costs.
  6. Climate change news, and various reports this week warned of the impact of global warming: a report commissioned by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) warned of the impact of damaging windstorms in the UK; a study highlighted the threat posed by rising sea levels to cities worldwide; and there were warnings of oxygen starvation in the oceans,
    of heat records being broken in April, and of ecosystem changes in Antarctica. BMO Global AssetManagement, one of the UK’s biggest managers of responsible funds, also announced plans to divest £20m worth of shares in fossil fuel companies, with archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said to have played a critical role in the move.
  7. Lastly technology news, and the Daily Telegraph covered a report making ambitious projections on changes to the global transportation system.
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