Weekly wrap: Gulf States eye oil-free future

UAE eyes greener future, UN climate chief bullish post Paris, China emissions fall, 2015 temps hit new record + Davos 2016 round-up

Shams 1 Parabolic Trough in Abu Dhabi (Pic: Masdar/Flickr)

Shams 1 Parabolic Trough in Abu Dhabi (Pic: Masdar/Flickr)

By Ed King

Crashing oil prices, struggling stock markets and a Gulf state leader who says he will celebrate when the country pumps its last barrel of oil. It has been a curious week.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE, said he planned to hold a ‘ministerial retreat’ to debate how the country moves away from oil.

That’s music to the ears of UN climate chief Christiana Figueres – in Abu Dhabi this week for the annual IRENA clean energy summit. The move from oil in the Gulf is “unstoppable” she told us.

“They are hunkering down to work out what is their strategic plan to take them beyond oil and gas,” said Figueres. “They were already walking down the path but [Paris] has put the wind in their sails.”

Will oil crash hit renewables?

“It has had a short term impact on some renewable energy companies and their share price – solar took something of a dip last year – but still wind was one of the best performing asset classes in 2015, despite the fact we saw a significant decline in oil price”Sarbjit Nahal, head of thematic investment at Bank of America Merrill Lynch

“I am a big investor in solar and I was advocating that there are 20 countries in the world where we can make solar profitable… It is not true today. At 30 dollars per barrel there is not a single one” – Total chief Patrick Pouyanne is not so sure

Feeling hot?
It’s unlikely if you live in Europe or the US at the moment – but average global temperatures were 1C warmer than pre-industrial levels last year, the UK’s Met Office confirmed this week. US agencies NASA and NOAA independently declared 2015 the warmest year on record by some margin, blaming human-caused climate change and a rampant El Nino.

Davos 2016
Climate risk:
Bloomberg unveils crack FSB team
Energy Africa: Leaders aim for over 300GW by 2025
Walmart CEO: Ignore climate sceptics, invest green
Greed of oil majors is wrecking planet

China decline
Coal burning in power plants fell 2.8% and coal mining output dropped 3.5% in 2015, according to official statistics released this week. Greenpeace analysts estimate the country’s emissions fell 3% in 2015 – roughly equal to Poland’s GHG total. Data from China is often unreliable, but experts seem convinced. “Declining is the long term trend” said Li Junfeng, head of the National Climate Change Strategy Research and International Cooperation Center.

Pope vs big oil

Two Catholic networks have thrown their weight behind a youth lawsuit against the US government, calling for stronger climate protections. It tees up the moral authority of Pope Francis against the legal might of oil lobbyists, who for once are taking the Obama administration’s side. They get their day in court on 9 March – expect drama.

Around the world
Pakistan: New coal mining deals signed with China
$200m fund launched to green textiles industry
CCS axe jeopardises climate policy, MPs told
Delhi pollution high despite new traffic regulations
US: Catholics back children’s climate lawsuit

US climate politics
So much to report in the last week. First up a DC appeals court has ruled against delaying the flagship Clean Power Plan policy to cut emissions from coal power plants. 27 states and a number of businesses had argued it would cause “irreversible harm” to the US economy. The judges disagreed.

Here’s the White House take: We are pleased that the court has rejected petitioners’ attempts to block the Clean Power Plan from moving forward while litigation proceeds. We are confident that the plan will reduce carbon pollution and deliver better air quality, improved public health, and jobs across the country.”

Trump v climate change

The Donald now says he was “joking” when he tweeted in 2012 that China had invented global warming – but he still opposes the carbon-cutting agenda. It is a “very, very expensive form of tax,” he said, speaking on Fox and Friends. The Republican frontrunner for presidential nomination has a history of slamming climate science and mocking the concept of global warming when it’s cold (expect a tweet today).

Supermodel Cara Delevingne appears unimpressed. She posted the following picture and message on Instagram “”Let’s see how you feel about climate change in 10 years Mr Trump! It is painfully real. Also, can Donald Trump do this???? #itrumptrump #ichallengetrump #climatechangeexistsfool.” Go Cara.

(Pic: Cara Delevingne/Instagram)

(Pic: Cara Delevingne/Instagram)

Best of the rest
Scotland to cut climate budget 10%
Carbon Pulse: EU carbon prices fall to 15-month low
20 US states contemplate carbon trading
Carbon Brief:
Heat absorbed by oceans doubled since 1997

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