Scampering before the deadline: The UK may rush to approve financing for the Brazilian offshore project before its government bans all fossil fuel financing, possibly before COP26 | Photo: CDN Statistics

UK may rush to finance overseas drilling project in Brazil before COP26

A news investigation suggested that the UK’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance, may rush to finance an offshore oil and gas project in Brazil before the government institutes a ban on all financing for fossil fuel projects — at home or overseas. If financed, the project would release two million tonnes of CO2 every year just from its construction and operations, besides the estimated equivalent emissions of 800,000 cars annually from the burning of its hydrocarbon output. 

The approval has not yet come through, but the proposal itself has drawn heavy criticism because the UK had previously decided to ban the financing of all fossil fuel projects. The country will also host the COP26 later in 2021 to discuss the path forward on the Paris Agreement, even though the UK Export Finance has funded £3.5 billion worth of new fossil fuels projects since the agreement was signed in 2016. The ban itself may be instituted anytime between March to December 2021 — or even later — and climate activists are fearful that overseas funding for fossil fuels may be retained under certain loopholes. 

Greenpeace: UK’s offshore rigs deliberately burned off enough gas to heat 1 million homes 

Greenpeace’s investigative arm released a new report that said UK’s North Sea offshore rigs deliberately burned off enough natural gas in 2019 to heat one million homes in the country. The burning off of the extra gas released from oil wells is known as “flaring”, and the report found that in the past five years, the rigs released 20 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere — or as much as a coal plant. 

However, most importantly, the practice is avoidable as Norway banned it in the 1970s. In response, one of the worst offenders, Shell, said it lowered its flaring by 19% in the past five years, while BP would aim to stop the practice entirely by 2027 after cutting it down by 45% over 2019 levels last year. 

Italy’s Enel to exit natural gas by 2050, pans carbon capture as a decarbonisation tool

Italy’s Enel SpA announced that it would shutter all its natural gas plants to reach its target of carbon neutrality by 2050, and that CCS (Carbon Capture and Sequestration) had “failed to take off” as a viable solution for the power industry because it may not “eliminate 100% of emissions”. Enel is the world’s largest renewable power generator and also Europe’s largest carbon emitter at an average intensity of 254g/kWh in 2020. 

The utility currently runs 15,000 MW worth of gas plants across Europe and South America and the decision comes despite well known consultancy firm Deloitte backing CCS. Enel’s previous CEO had interestingly suggested that it try nature-based solutions to recapture carbon, such as mass reforestation, and the utility currently plans to invest €70 billion in renewables by 2030. 

Dutch court rules against Shell in landmark case, could pave the way for more such litigation

A court in The Netherlands ruled against oil giant Shell in a case that was first filed in 2008, saying that the driller’s Nigerian subsidiary SPDC was indeed responsible for the contamination of the country’s agricultural fields. The case was filed by four Nigerian farmers and activist group Friends of the Earth, and the ruling could set an ominous precedent for other oil drillers. While Shell maintained that the oil leaks that affected the farmers’ fields were as a result of sabotage and not “poor maintenance”, the court ruled that Shell had failed to provide sufficient evidence and instead ordered it to compensate the farmers (the amount remains undisclosed). 

Shell was also ordered to install a leak detection system in its Oruma pipeline (the pipeline at the centre of the legal challenge), and Friends of the Earth’s Netherlands head Donald Pols said the case would help people living in developing countries challenge oil drillers for causing environmental damage. 

Alberta reinstates 1976 policy to keep coal mining out of the Rockies after public outcry

The Canadian province of Alberta reinstated a policy that was first affected in 1976 to keep open-pit coal mining out of sensitive areas in the Rocky Mountains. The policy was abruptly rescinded last year by the incumbent United Conservative Party (UCP) to ease coal mining in Category 2 land — areas that are classified as ecologically sensitive, but are not already protected as national or provincial parks — and Alberta’s premier Jason Kenney had recently called the policy “obsolete”

However, a huge outcry from native populations, small-town councils, ranchers and even celebrities forced the UCP to backpedal and reinstate the policy. Going forward no new mountaintop removal mines will be allowed, and in places where coal exploration is already underway, the policy will ban surface mining.