Whose side is it on? The US EPA has relaxed emission reduction targets for coal plants to shore them up, conveniently ignoring calls to slash fossil fuel use | Image credit: SouthEastCoalAsh

Trump rolls back Clean Power Plan, allows states to set own emission targets for coal plants

US President Donald Trump has rolled back his predecessor’s Clean Power Plan, under which coal plants were mandated to cut emissions by 32% by 2030 over 2005 levels. The new plan is called “Affordable Clean Energy” and instead allows US states three years to set their own emission reduction targets for their coal plants — which may or may not be approved by the EPA.  

The plan supposedly aims to end the “war on coal” that the administration alleges was unleashed by Barack Obama, and again dismisses scientific warnings on cutting fossil fuel emissions. It could also be another lifeline to the US’ fast declining coal-power capacity. Incidentally, the administration has been dragged to court over rolling back spill-prevention regulations on offshore drilling sites to save drillers up to $1 billion over 10 years. 

Fossil fuel subsidies rose to $400 billion in 2018, US spent 10X less on education 

A new IEA report says global fossil fuel subsidies rose to $400 billion in 2018 (from $300 billion in 2017) over higher oil prices and several national currencies losing value against the US dollar. Oil-related subsidies alone accounted for $183 billion, and the report says the wealthy are disproportionately benefited by the subsidies. 

Meanwhile, Forbes has reported that the US spent 10X more on subsidising fossil fuels in 2015 ($615 billion) than on funding education. Despite the mismatch between figures reported by the IMF and the IEA on the quantum of (global) subsidies ($5.2 trillion vs. $300 billion, respectively), the US is one of the world’s largest spenders on the subsidies — even with analyses suggesting that up to 80% of its energy supplies could come from renewables. 

G20 nations undermine climate action; coal subsidies tripled in recent years

A report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has revealed that subsidies to coal-fired power plants given by G20 countries almost tripled between 2014 and 2017 despite growing calls to move away from coal. The report, released just days before the G20 Summit kicks off on June 28 in Osaka, Japan, says that China and India give the biggest subsidies to coal, with Japan third, followed by South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia and the US. 

The researchers totalled the financial and tax subsidies given for mining coal and building and maintaining coal-fired power plants, including investments by state-owned companies. They found the average annual amount increased from $17bn in 2014 to $47bn in 2017. In contrast, the subsidies for coal mining halved, from $22bn to $10bn.

UK: Power from fossil fuels falls below 50% for the first half of 2019

The share of power from fossil fuels in the UK has fallen to 47% for the first half of 2019, while power from renewables accounted for 48% of the total output. The feat comes soon after the country ran entirely on wind, solar and hydro power for two weeks straight. The National Grid — UK’s central power grid — is also predicting that renewables will dominate UK’s power share for the rest of 2019. 

However, the news also follows a UK Export Finance (UKEF) report that shows the country handed out 96% of its energy sector finances ($3.2 billion) to support fossil fuel projects in developing nations since 2013. 

Major banks to throttle funding to polluting ships, EU leaders call for taxing aviation fuel

Eleven major banks have come together under the Poseidon Principles to assess whether their loans to shipping firms and vessels fall in line with — or fall short of — the principle of reducing the sector’s CO2 emissions. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had agreed to cut the sector’s annual CO2 emissions by 50% (over 2008 levels) to reduce its carbon footprint, and the banks could make it difficult for the most polluting vessels to secure loans. 

Meanwhile, ministers from the Netherlands and Sweden have called upon EU nations to increase taxes on emissions-heavy aviation fuels to provide a level playing field to cross-border transport within Europe. Low-cost airlines have proliferated air travel and its emissions, but a European Commission study found that the sector remains hugely undertaxed in the continent. 

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