U.S.’s Kerry Calls for a Global Carbon Market: Energy Update

A global carbon market would be a “helpful” mechanism to encourage investment and drive emissions down, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said.

Lawmakers and industry executives from around the world are debating climate change and how best to tackle it at the government-backed German Energy Transition Dialogue 2021. Saudi Arabia is promoting carbon-capture technology at the two-day virtual conference in Berlin where politicians have repeatedly said hydrogen produced by renewable energy will be crucial to replace fossil fuels.

Key developments:

  • Germany’s emissions fell by the most since 1990 last year
  • World is in danger of missing climate opportunity: IEA chief
  • EU plans stronger carbon market by extending it to shipping
  • German foreign minister calls for global market for green hydrogen

(All times CET)

U.S. Calls for Global Carbon Market at Transatlantic Energy Meet (4:45 pm)

The Biden administration called for the development of a global carbon market to put the brakes on climate change, despite there being no consenus on the mechanism.

“It would help a great deal if we had a carbon market,” John Kerry, who’s been nominated to become the White House’s climate envoy. Kerry said he’s already convened a group of financial experts to explore and potentially “create new financial instruments” that mitigate global warming.

Putting a price on pollution could unleash new investments in clean technologies and accelerate the transition from greenhouse-gas emitting fuels. Carbon permit prices climbed to a record in European markets even as electricity demand remained muted because of Covid-19 lockdowns, a signal that investors increasingly see emission offsets as an asset class.

“We have to push more green financing,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said. While “the EU has been the world frontrunner” when it comes to issuing green bonds “it’s important to mobilize the private sector, banks and other financial institutions” by cutting red tape, he said.

Kerry said he wanted to gather the 20 largest emitting countries later this year when they meet in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss their climate pledges. “We need transparency and accountability to then follow that,” he said.

Kerry Says Emissions Need to Halve by 2030 (3:45 pm)

U.S. President Joe Biden’s chief climate envoy, John Kerry, called for an international strategy that galvanizes action on climate change. “We’re in a decisive decade for climate action,” he said.

To meet the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, the world needs to halve emissions by 2030, the former Secretary of State said.

Biden is due to present the U.S.’s 2030 climate targets at a summit he’s convening on April 22, and Kerry said the world was still on track for warming on 3.7 degrees Celsius. “We are in a decade of vision and the decisions we make right now” are going to truly write the future, he said.

EU’s Green Deal Risks Rise in Energy Poverty (11:40 am)

Europe must mitigate the risks linked to stricter climate targets and energy transformation, according to Adam Guibourge-Czetwertynski, Poland’s deputy environment minister.

“We see huge challenges with the risk of rising energy poverty linked to increased energy costs, also job losses in regions most relying on fossil fuels extraction,” he said.

For the European Green Deal to be successful, policy makers must ensure the overhaul does not create burdens but offers new growth and employment opportunities instead, he said.

World Risks Missing Climate Opportunity: Birol (11 am)

The world risks missing a historic opportunity in limit climate change, International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol said. Global carbon emissions dropped 6% in 2020 as the pandemic paralyzed economic activity, but by December they were back above the previous year’s levels -- and now stand to rebound strongly as the recovery gathers pace.

The IEA is preparing research on pressing topics such as ways to stimulate investment in clean technologies in emerging nations -- the countries where emissions are rising most sharply. It will also study the environmental and social impact of booming demand for critical minerals -- nickel, cobalt and manganese -- needed in electric cars and other new technologies.

With climate once again a political priority for the U.S., and for young people around the world, Birol said he’s “definitely optimistic” that COP-21 will provide a practical roadmap for the future.

Saudis Aim to Pioneer Carbon-Capture Tech (10:45 am)

Saudi Arabia said technology will secure its future as a “long-term hydrocarbon producer.” The kingdom wants to be a pioneer in implementing projects like carbon capture and sequestration in order to limit emissions, Prince Abdulaziz said.

“We believe in the Paris Agreement” and “won’t be shy” about playing a role in the global push to fight climate change, he said. Still, the international process has to take into account “national circumstances” in order for the agreement to be inclusive, the minister said.

Saudi Arabia plans to increase power generation from natural gas and renewable sources including solar to account for all of its electricity production capacity, Prince Abdulaziz said, without saying when it would achieve that goal.

Even if traditional markets for oil shrink, Saudi Arabia is looking for other uses for its oil, like converting it to chemicals, that will ensure those supplies “will be monetized and used in a better way,” he said.

German Emissions Fell 8.7% in 2020 (10:30 am)

Germany’s greenhouse-gas emissions declined by 8.7% last year, the biggest drop since the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, according to the country’s Environment Agency.

Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said the decline was partly due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, especially on the transport sector, while its planned exit from coal also contributed. Emissions have fallen 41% since 1990, the agency said.

EU to Propose Stronger Carbon Market in June (9.30 am)

The European Union must step up emissions reductions now to meet strict 2030 climate goal, said European Commission President von der Leyen.

To achieve that, the Commission will propose in June a package to strengthen the bloc’s carbon market by extending it to shipping. Expansion into transport and heating is also being considered. The EU’s regulatory arm will also put forward a plan to boost renewable energy and efficiency, and invest in electric-car charging infrastructure.

“Finally, we want to take green financing to a next level because to achieve our 2030 goal we need to boost green investment,” von der Leyen said. “Our EU green bonds standard and the EU taxonomy will lead the way.”

Germany Pushing Partnerships on Hydrogen (9 am)

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for close global cooperation on hydrogen and said Europe’s biggest economy will be pushing to create an international market for the fuel.

Germany will expand dialog with fossil-fuel producers such as Russia and Saudi Arabia to “encourage them to adapt their business models in time.” The country is working on setting up offices in Moscow and Riyadh among other cities to coordinate the hydrogen push, Maas said in a speech.

“A future global hydrogen market must be open to everyone and that will only happen through binding international agreements,” Maas said. “This means looking at, for example, how we want to define green hydrogen and examining issues such as market access and connectivity.”

Construction of large hydrogen pilots are underway in Chile, Morocco and Australia using renewable energy, Maas said. Germany can’t produce enough hydrogen on its own to meet its transition goals so it’ll need to import the fuel from other countries.

German Ministers Urge Global Climate Action (8:45 am)

Maas earlier called for countries to seize the momentum from the U.S. rejoining the Paris climate accord and push forward with the transition to cleaner energy.

“New dynamics will present themselves that will also create tension,” he said in an emailed statement. “That is why we need forward-looking external energy policies with which we can promote cooperation and avoid conflict.”

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the energy transition and climate protection can be motors for “innovation and lasting growth” as long as countries adopt an “intelligent” approach and there is close international coordination.

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