The North Sea oil and gas industry is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to emitting dangerous greenhouse gases.
Shell and Exxon are packing up and moving out of the famous Brent oil and gas field in the North Sea. As a final hurrah, almost 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be emitted as four platforms are dismantled and parts are either left to erode in the ocean or moved onshore and recycled.
That’s equal to about five percent of the UK's North Sea industry’s annual emissions — from the start to very end, the Brent oil field continues to contribute to climate change.
But emitting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of dangerous greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, nitrous dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere is not the only environmental danger that comes with plugging and abandoning the wells.
If you’re thinking it has been an abnormally warm December, you’re not alone.
This year has surpassed all modern records. You were more likely to have a BBQ in your backyard than snow angels on Christmas Day across many parts of Britain which experienced one of the warmest Christmasses on record.
And the UK’s Met office predicts that 2017 will keep in the trend of the last few years, with the global average temperature for next year expected to be between 0.63°C and 0.87°C above the long-term average.
For the Arctic, like the globe as a whole, 2016 has been exceptionally warm. For much of the year, Arctic temperatures have been much higher than normal, and sea ice concentrations have been at record low levels.
The Arctic’s seasonal cycle means that the lowest sea ice concentrations occur in September each year. But while September 2012 had less ice than September 2016, this year the ice coverage has not increased as expected as we moved into the northern winter. As a result, since late October, Arctic sea ice extent has been at record low levels for the time of year.
So, 2016 happened.
Fair to say, it wasn’t exactly a vintage year for action on climate change.
Brace yourselves, here’s DeSmog UK’s review of the year. It wasn’t all bad! (But mainly it was, let’s be honest).
Energy minister and fracking fan Baroness Neville-Rolfe has been shuffled out of her job at the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). She will be replaced by Lord David Prior.
Neville-Rolfe was last seen attending the climate denying Global Warming Policy Foundation’s annual lecture. The lecture was delivered by coal baron Matt Ridley, with scientists subsequently criticising its misleading and uncscientific content.
Prior has spent most of his time in recent years working on health issues, and joins BEIS from his position at the Department of Health.
Norwegian oil major Statoil will be pulling out of its Canadian oilsands project after nearly a decade with an expected loss of at least USD$500 million.
In yet another sign that Canada’s oilsands – one of the most polluting fossil fuel projects on the planet – is becoming increasingly costly, Lars Christian Bacher, Statoil’s executive vice-president for international development and production, said in a statement: “This transaction corresponds with Statoil’s strategy of portfolio optimisation to enhance financial flexibility and focus capital on core activities globally.”
The 14 December announcement comes just weeks after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline in a move to facilitate growth in the oilsands and create jobs.
Europe’s most fossil-fuelled country, Poland, has just announced a new scheme to finance ‘green’ projects. But analysts are concerned it could be used to bolster the coal industry.
Poland became the first country to implement a state-backed green bonds scheme, on 12 December.
The UK’s largest bank, HSBC, along with JP Morgan and PKO BH guaranteed around £600 million of loans under the scheme.
Poland does not have its own climate targets but is included in the EU’s promises under the Paris Agreement, which it hasn’t ratified because it wants special exemptions for its coal industry.
While investors may have bought the green bonds in good faith, Poland’s poor track record on climate change means financial analysts have some concerns about the ‘greenness’ of the scheme.
A new report from a group chaired by Tory MP Grant Shapps today claimed that the lights could go out next Christmas due to the UK’s commitment to phasing out coal. The analysis has received widespread media coverage, but has been quickly discredited.
The claims are found in a report from the British Infrastructure Group.
It says that the UK’s capacity margin – the amount of spare power it always has on hand in case there is a spike in demand or drop in supply – could be down to as little as one percent, due to “interventionist policies”.
Shapps was this morning quoted as saying, “it is clear that a perfect coincidence of numerous policies designed to reduce Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions has had the unintended effect of hollowing out the reliability of the electricity generating sector”.
This is simply not true, according to Sussex University Professor Jim Watson, who is director of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).