BYD Challenges Tesla for Global Electric Vehicle Sales Supremacy

A (Jan 13): In the last edition of Bloomberg’s Hyperdrive newsletter, BloombergNEF offered up three predictions for the electric vehicle market in 2023: that sales will keep growing, albeit at a slower pace; that this will be a big year for plug-in trucks and vans; and that the global public charging station network will continue to steadily expand.BYD SD Motors Malaysia as part of Sime Darby Motors (SDM), with the distributorship agreement between both parties having been signed in September 2022.A (Jan 12): Chinese carmaker BYD Co is planning a bold push into India’s electric car market, joining a rush of foreign carmakers jockeying for a bigger share of the world’s fourth-biggest auto market.HANOI (Jan 13): Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker BYD Auto Co plans to build a plant in Vietnam to produce car parts, three people with knowledge of the plan told Reuters , in a move that would reduce the company’s reliance on China and deepen its supply chain in Southeast Asia as part of a global expansion.

Today, let’s look at four more prognoses for the year, having to do with Tesla’s budding rivalry with BYD, the outlook for EV startups and battery prices, and the impact of the US Inflation Reduction Act.Might BYD overtake Tesla in battery-electric vehicle sales? Betting against Tesla historically has been a bad wager more often than not, but BNEF’s team of analysts reckon 2023 could end with a new EV volume leader.Both feature Blade EV batteries which the manufacturer has developed in-house, and both power a front-mounted electric motor rated to produce 204 PS and 310 Nm of torque.BYD has been expanding its model lineup, geographic footprint and manufacturing capacity very rapidly in the last two years.India is a good bet because “people are realizing the need for EVs and the charging infrastructure is picking up.If you include the company’s plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, it already overtook Tesla in 2022, and its sales of fully electric vehicles soared to around 911,000 last year from 321,000 in 2021.3 seconds.BNEF still expects Tesla’s sales to grow by 30% to 40% in 2023 as its new plants near Berlin and in Austin, Texas, continue to ramp up.Backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, BYD makes both plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles.

But the macroeconomic environment is shifting rapidly, with higher interest rates, falling home prices and battered stock markets all starting to weigh heavily on consumers’ purchase decisions.Standard kit for the Atto 3 Standard Range includes a panoramic sunroof, heated electric wing mirrors, 5.MG Motor India, a unit of China’s SAIC Motor Corp on Wednesday said it plans to launch three electric models by the end of next year, while South Korea’s Kia Corp said it plans to invest 20 billion rupees (US$245 million) in India over the next four to five years to develop electric vehicles and launch its first domestically made EV in 2025.Elon Musk’s Twitter antics also are turning off some potential buyers just as the competition heats up.Tesla’s Model Y will still be the best-selling EV in the world in 2023 and likely will make it into the top-three models of any type after cracking the top five in 2022.BYD Atto 3 – click to enlarge Next up, the Extended Range adds an electronic tailgate, multi-colour gradient rhythmic ambient lighting on the door handles (single colour on the SR) and eight speakers with “Dirac HD” sound, PM2.Tesla’s Supercharger network is also still a major differentiator, particularly in North America, where public charging is less developed.It’s planning to sell 15,000 electric vehicles this year.This race will go down to the wire and depend heavily on pricing strategies.Rolling stock distinguishes the two; the SR rolls on 215/60 R17 tyres, while the ER wears 215/55R18 rubber.One said construction was planned to start by mid-year.

With major price cuts just made in the US and Europe, and already in play in China, Tesla is showing willingness to wage a price war to keep its volume growing.Tesla has room to manoeuvre here and probably can stay ahead for much of the year, but BYD may be able edge out its competitor in the final months.Meanwhile, the drive unit in the Atto 3 gets its own warranty as well, with eight-year, 150,000 km coverage for the motor, motor controller, DC assembly and electric control assembly.The company’s expansion comes at a time when India is increasing scrutiny of Chinese firms.BYD’s sales are still mostly concentrated in China, so its success will depend in large part on how the country unwinds its Covid Zero policy.Both will remain miles ahead of legacy automakers, with Volkswagen finishing a distant third place.Driving heaven to him is exercising a playful chassis on twisty paths; prizes ergonomics and involvement over gadgetry.Battery prices stay elevated, averaging US$152 per kilowatt-hour In 2022, the volume-weighted average prices of lithium-ion battery packs across all sectors averaged US$151 per kWh, a 7% increase and the first time BNEF recorded a rise.BYD will position itself as a “global” technology powerhouse to overcome the barriers of operating as a Chinese company in India and bring “confidence to customers,” Gopalakrishnan said.BYD is looking to lease 80 hectares of industrial land, more than doubling its footprint in Vietnam, where its electronic unit rents 60 hectares, a second source said.

BNEF expects the average battery pack price to rise slightly this year to US$152 per kWh..Lithium prices will remain elevated, but should stay below earlier highs and pave the way for battery prices to decline again in 2024.The US Inflation Reduction Act puts the US in the EV and battery-making game One of the big surprises of 2022 was the Inflation Reduction Act and its provisions to help boost EV adoption and on-shore EV manufacturing and the battery supply chain.Gopalakrishnan said consumers are no longer so price-sensitive, with 41% of the 3.While some details are still forthcoming, automakers and battery manufacturers are already responding.BNEF tracked almost US$28 billion in new investment announcements in North America related to e-mobility and batteries after the law passed in August.If finalised in May, that finding would mean those companies would be subject to duties on products made in Vietnam and some other Southeast Asian countries.

China’s lead here is formidable, but it’s still early days for this transition.It will explore adding manufacturing facilities when demand increases in the next two to three years, Gopalakrishnan said.Only 2% of cars on the road globally are electric today, and there’s a lot to play for as nations and regions looks to build the next clusters of technology and manufacturing.Importantly, with much of the investment in the US flowing into red states, EVs should be a less-partisan issue this year and beyond.We expect that more than US$80 billion will be committed to the North American battery supply chain in 2023.Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ push, BYD doesn’t have immediate plans to localize battery production and will continue importing them.These decisions are complex and often evaluated over many years, so pinning causality purely on IRA isn’t appropriate.

Still, incentives are tipping the scales, and we’ll gradually get more clarity on how other regions will respond.Industrial policy is back in vogue, with EVs and batteries at center stage.A wave of bankruptcies and consolidation There are too many automakers, and 2023 will make this painfully clear.The number of auto producers has been rising steadily for the last decade as the combination of cheap money and a window of opportunity with respect to electrification enticed new entrants.Slowing EV sales growth will cause a reckoning, as many realize they either don’t have the capital to reach scale, the segments they’re targeting are already crowded (for example, the premium end of the market) or consumers are simply not interested in taking a leap on a relatively unknown brand during a time of economic uncertainty.

The window of opportunity for new entrants has closed, and the number of automakers will decline this year.Other areas of the e-mobility value chain should fare better but also could see a thinning of the ranks.Subscribe to Mid-day email alert We deliver news to your inbox daily.

Debunking Solar Geoengineering

Proponents of solar geoengineering say that lowering Earth’s average temperature by reflecting sunlight into space will tackle global warming. But if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe, there is no substitute for phasing out fossil fuels.

BERLIN – As climate chaos threatens the Global North and the lifestyles of the world’s richest people, we might expect to hear elites demand a rapid exit from reliance on fossil fuels. Instead, a controversial idea is coming to the fore: dimming the sun. Advocates claim that through science fiction-like methods, known as solar geoengineering, we can dial down the planet’s thermostat by decreasing the amount of energy that reaches the atmosphere. The idea has gained enough traction for rich philanthropists to notice and for the White House to fund research. There’s just one problem: it’s a recipe for disaster.

One technological proposal currently making headlines is Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI), with advocates claiming releasing aerosols into the upper atmosphere and bouncing sunlight back into space would reduce surface temperatures. This idea is gaining traction at a time when some contend that we should be working on a plan B because it is too late to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius as agreed in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. But giving up this ambition would be a gift to carbon polluters, as International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol recently explained, and the notion that solar geoengineering could ever be a plan B is false and dangerous.

Experts have repeatedly debunked the idea that we can “control” the earth’s thermostat. The world’s foremost authority on climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has warned that solar geoengineering is not a credible solution. Climate models show that masking global heating with sunlight reduction could bring massive changes in atmospheric circulation and alter rainfall patterns – such as the monsoon – with especially pronounced effects in countries that are already experiencing increasingly severe and frequent storms, droughts, fires, and other climate-related events.

To work, solar geoengineering technologies like SAI would require unprecedented international cooperation. Governments would need to align to get chemical-spraying airplanes off the ground, for example, implying that only powerful countries or military regimes could provide the necessary infrastructure. Chemical mining and production would require additional infrastructure on a massive scale. And all of this would need to be sustained for decades or longer. If a new government stopped an aerosol injection program after regime change, it could trigger a “termination shock” that sent global temperatures soaring, in line with existing greenhouse-gas levels in the atmosphere.

Despite this, Harvard University is set to test the equipment associated with SAI in the context of a controversial research project. But this method is effectively ungovernable. That is why hundreds of academics are calling for a Solar Geoengineering Non-Use Agreement to block public funds for the technology, ban outdoor experiments, patenting, and deployment, and to counter support in international fora and policy discussions.

In addition to the technological and political limitations, prominent lawyers say solar geoengineering is at odds with international human rights and environmental law. If geoengineering changes weather patterns, it could infringe on people’s rights to life, health, and a livelihood. Moreover, SAI could violate the legal duty to avoid causing transboundary environmental harm. A technology set to impact the climate on the global scale would also require everyone potentially affected to have a say – an impossible idea.

But if we know these schemes won’t work, are full of risks, cannot be tested or governed, and delay near-term climate action, why are we seeing increased momentum and support for them? Put simply, they give big polluters a get-out-of-jail-free card and allow them to patent and profit from the relevant technologies and associated infrastructures.

Oil and gas companies have been researching and patenting (solar and other) geoengineering technologies for decades. In fact, most solar geoengineering models rely on large-scale deployment of Carbon Dioxide Removal to deal with the continued production and combustion of fossil fuels. Proponents of CDR offer carbon removal offsets to polluters, undermining long-term solutions and exacerbating the climate emergency. Worryingly, calls for CDR gained momentum at this year’s COP27, which risks blowing a massive hole in the Paris agreement.

While geoengineering supporters often say it is in the interest of the disadvantaged Global South, the Global South isn’t buying it. In fact, most groups in the global climate movement reject solar geoengineering entirely. Indigenous communities have rallied against solar geoengineering experiments in places such as Alaska and Sweden. In reality, it is the richest and most polluting countries (especially the United States) that are researching and funding these technologies.

Once the world awakens to the reality that there is no quick fix to remove carbon from the atmosphere and no substitute for a rapid phaseout of fossil fuels, solar geoengineering might gain undeserved credibility as a last-ditch option – full of risks but supposedly without alternative. We must not allow that scenario to come true.

This means that we must not allow it to become normalized through policy debates, private initiatives, government proposals, and research. The science is clear: We can still prevent irreversible harms to ecosystems and human rights. But the only way to avoid further climate disasters is real climate action now. We must accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels – and leave the science fiction on the shelf.

Green power is the first domino

As world leaders convene at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), it is obvious to all that bolder action is needed to avert disaster. The UN warns that global efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions remain insufficient to limit temperature increases to 1.5C, relative to pre-industrial levels.
To meet this target, decarbonising the power sector is critical. Electricity accounts for about 25% of the world’s GHG emissions, and it also will play a critical role in decarbonising other sectors, such as buildings, transportation, and manufacturing. The challenge, then, is to achieve “24/7 carbon-free energy” (24/7 CFE): the total elimination of carbon from the electricity sector – at every hour of every day, in every grid around the world.
Research in the United States and Europe has shown that 24/7 CFE strategies have a greater impact on the decarbonisation of electricity systems than the current practice of purchasing electricity from renewable sources to match annual consumption patterns. Recent International Energy Agency modelling for India and Indonesia shows that hourly matching strategies lead to more diverse technology portfolios, with the clean, dispatchable generation and storage needed for net-zero transitions in the power sector. Critically, this approach helps electricity systems shift away from fossil fuels by accelerating uptake of the full suite of carbon-free technologies needed to deliver around-the-clock clean power.
Decarbonising energy systems worldwide is possible, but it will require collective action to accelerate the development and deployment of advanced clean-energy technologies. New investments, supportive public policies, and partnerships among stakeholders are all part of the solution. That is why the UN, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), Google, and a diverse group of signatories launched the 24/7 CFE Compact in 2021. The compact represents a growing global community of stakeholders that are committed to providing the support, tools, and partnerships needed to make 24/7 CFE a reality everywhere.
Among the most recent to join the 24/7 CFE Compact is the Scottish government. “Scotland was the first country in the United Kingdom to declare a climate emergency, and indeed among the first in the world to recognise the importance of taking immediate and bold action,” notes Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “Governments must hold themselves to account in limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C. We are committed to putting accountability at the centre of all that we do. Our position is clear that unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations.”
Similarly, just last month, Google and C40, a network of almost 100 cities, launched a first-of-its-kind 24/7 CFE programme focusing on regional electricity grids. With urban areas accounting for over half the world’s population and more than 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions, cities have a critical role to play in driving the changes needed to tackle the climate crisis.
Developing and emerging economies will need more energy to bridge energy-access gaps, and to support economic growth and development. But as capacity expands, it must be clean. A 24/7 CFE approach can serve both purposes, providing both greater access and cleaner energy. We therefore must move faster to make 24/7 CFE cheaper and more accessible globally. According to the latest IEA data, the number of people living without electricity will rise by almost 20mn in 2022, reaching nearly 775mn. Most of that increase will be in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the size of the cohort lacking access has nearly returned to its 2013 peak.
The world cannot achieve net-zero emissions without first ensuring universal electricity access. That will require annual investments of at least $30bn – two-thirds of which will need to go to Sub-Saharan Africa – between now and 2030. Fortunately, not only is 24/7 CFE a moral imperative, but it also represents the most cost-effective option for connecting underserved populations.
Many of these populations will otherwise continue to rely on dirtier sources of energy. Small island developing states such as Nauru, Palau, the Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago, for example, all have electricity grids that depend heavily on inefficient, carbon-intensive technologies such as diesel generators. These countries’ experience shows why 24/7 CFE must not be framed merely as a European or North American issue. It is a global one, and it has become increasingly urgent for developing countries on the front lines of climate change.
Implementing 24/7 CFE strategies globally will require not only funding but also measures to scale up the deployment of advanced technologies, to create more favourable market conditions, and to share best practices and data. If we can fully decarbonise our grids, the rest of the green transition should become cheaper and easier.
The 24/7 CFE Compact provides an opportunity to drive the much-needed policy change, investment, and research in this crucial next phase of climate action. We invite all governments, companies, and organisations to join us and help chart a more sustainable path toward a net-zero future. – Project Syndicate

COP27: Financing for climate ?damages gets a foot in the door

AFP/Sharm El-Sheikh

UN climate negotiations yesterday offered a sliver of hope and “solidarity” for developing countries battered by increasingly costly impacts of global warming, in agreeing to discuss the thorny issue of money for “loss and damage”.
Countries least responsible for planet-heating emissions — but hardest hit by an onslaught of weather extremes — have been ramping up the pressure on wealthy polluting nations to provide financial help for accelerating damages.
But in a sign of how contentious the issue is among richer nations fearful of open-ended climate liability, the issue was only added to the formal agenda to the UN’s COP27 climate summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh after two days of last-ditch negotiations.
This “reflects a sense of solidarity and empathy for the suffering of the victims of climate induced disasters,” Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry, the COP27 president, said to applause.
At last year’s UN summit in Glasgow, the European Union and the United States rejected calls for a separate financial mechanism.
Instead, negotiators agreed to start a “dialogue” extending through 2024 on financial compensation.
The issue has grown ever more urgent in recent months as nations were slammed by a crescendo of disasters, such as the massive flooding that put a third of Pakistan under water in August.
Senegal’s Madeleine Diouf Sarr, who represents the Least Developed Countries negotiating bloc, said climate action across the board had been far too slow.
“Lives are being lost. Climate change is causing irreversible loss and damage, and our people carry the greatest cost,” she said, adding that an agreement on funding arrangements must be reached in Egypt.
Appeals for more money are bolstered by a field known as event attribution science, which now makes it possible to measure how much global warming increases the likelihood or intensity of an individual cyclone, heat wave, drought or heavy rain event.
“Today, countries cleared an historic first hurdle toward acknowledging and answering the call for financing to address increasingly severe losses and damages,” said Ani Dasgupta, head of the World Resources Institute, a climate policy think tank.
But he said that getting negotiators to agree to discuss the issue was only an initial step.
“We still have a marathon ahead of us before countries iron out a formal decision on this central issue for CO27,” he said.
Wrangling over loss and damage has unfolded against the backdrop of an unmet promise by rich nations to provide $100bn a year starting in 2020 to help the developing world green their economies and anticipate future impacts, called “adaptation” in UN climate lingo.
That funding goal is still $17bn short. Rich nations have vowed to hit the target by the end of 2023, but observers say the issue has severely undermined trust.
The UN Environment Programme has said the goal – first set in 2009  – has not kept up with reality, and estimates that funding to build resilience to future climate threats should be up to 10 times higher.
Meanwhile, countries are far off track to reach the Paris deal goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The UN says the world is currently heading to 2.8C of warming, or a still-catastrophic 2.4C even if all national pledges under the Paris treaty are fulfilled.
Depending on how deeply the world slashes carbon pollution, loss and damage from climate change could cost developing countries $290-580bn a year by 2030, reaching $1-1.8tn in 2050, according to the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London.
The World Bank has estimated the Pakistan floods alone caused $30bn in damages and economic loss. Millions of people were displaced and two million homes destroyed.
Simon Stiell, the UN’s climate change executive secretary, said vulnerable countries are “tired” and “frustrated”.
“Here in Sharm el-Sheikh we have a duty to speed up our international efforts and turn words into action to catch up with their lived experience,” he said.
Up to now, poor countries have had scant leverage in the UN wrangle over money. But as climate damages multiply, patience is wearing thin.
The AOSIS negotiating block of small island nations told AFP that they would like to see the details for a dedicated loss-and-damage fund worked out within a year.
“There’s not enough support for us to even to begin to prepare for the loss and damage that we are expected to face,” said AOSIS lead negotiator on climate finance Michai Robertson.

China is doubling down on coal despite its green ambitions

Bloomberg / Beijing

China is building a vast array of new coal-fired power stations, potentially more than the operating capacity of the US, even though it knows the plants will probably never be fully used.
The puzzle of why the world’s leading installer of clean energy is investing so much in the worst polluting — and increasingly expensive — fossil fuel shows the depth of Beijing’s concern over the global squeeze in energy supplies. But it also reflects planning for a gradual relegation of coal’s role, from prime power source to a widely available but often idle backup to China’s rapidly expanding renewables fleet.
Work on at least 165 gigawatts of plants powered by coal should begin by the end of 2023, the National Development and Reform Commission told executives at a meeting in September, according to state-backed Jiemian News. The chairman of China Energy Engineering Corp, meanwhile, has forecast the country could add a total of 270 gigawatts in the five years to 2025 — more than currently exists in any other nation.
New coal permits have already increased, and while the final extent of the ramp-up isn’t known, adding 270 gigawatts could cost 568bn to 766bn yuan ($79bn to $106bn), according to a calculation based on BloombergNEF data. Excluding China, the rest of the world’s pipeline of coal power projects stands at about 101 gigawatts, data compiled by Global Energy Monitor show.
China’s strategy is designed to avoid the pitfalls that have hobbled parts of the US and Europe, which stopped investing in fossil fuel production and infrastructure before renewables were ready to take over. That’s led to an over-reliance on imports in some places, and in others a dependence on grids that can fall prey to the unreliability of sunshine and wind.
At the recent party congress, President Xi Jinping laid out how China’s energy transition would be different by following “the principle of building the new before discarding the old.” In practice, that means adding both clean power and more coal to try and eliminate economy-crippling power shortages and create a buffer against volatile global fuel prices, while at the same time advancing the country’s long-term climate goals.
As China’s economy grows, it requires ever more power, and it has said it plans to peak coal consumption only by the middle of the decade.
But even as new plants are built, the intention is for them to be used less and less as they’re displaced by increasing amounts of clean energy.
In the context of global energy insecurity, it’s not surprising that China would ramp up its coal capacity, said Yan Qin, an analyst in Oslo, Norway, at Refinitiv. “But the push to add more clean energy to the grid hasn’t slowed down, meaning that growing renewables will squeeze the running hours of coal plants,” she said.
The plan carries big risks. Coal financiers are directing capital to investments that are almost designed to be stranded. If they protest because their projects are being underutilised, it could slow the decarbonisation of the planet’s worst polluter. And the world’s carbon budget is finite, which means that any coal burned at all in China increases the chances of missing targets to avoid catastrophic warming.
The NDRC’s proposal is already facing some pushback from utilities and local lenders, according to a person familiar with the matter. Many coal power generators are losing money amid high fuel prices and aren’t enthusiastic about funding and running plants that would only be used during times of peak demand, the person said, declining to be identified because the talks are private.
Still, it’s clear that the regulator’s tone on coal power has changed since last year’s energy crisis, according to the person. More plants will be built in areas that are reliant on hydropower, and near the massive wind and solar farms being built in the desert interior, to ensure reliable supply when intermittent renewables generation stalls, the person said.
China is also making efforts to lessen the burden on coal power generators, in large part by leaning on miners to boost output to record levels and keep the Chinese market well below sky-high international prices. The government has also given utilities leeway to charge higher rates to industrial customers. And, it’s making progress in developing a mechanism that would compensate coal plants that sit idle while on backup duty, Refinitiv’s Qin said.
In any case, the rate at which clean energy is added will probably be more instructive than power plant spending in determining when coal burning starts to dwindle, said Dave Jones, a lead analyst at the climate think tank Ember in London.
Once renewables are installed they’re basically free to produce, which means they’ll be prioritised over coal. The moment that new clean energy generation outpaces new power demand is when coal use begins to fall, he said.
China is by far the world’s largest renewables market, and its expansion continues to accelerate. Spending in the first half of this year more than doubled to $98bn, compared to $12bn in the US. As wind, solar and hydropower all charted strong growth over the period, mostly coal-based thermal power generation dropped 3.5%.
Although the historic drought in the summer curtailed hydropower so much that coal is back on track for a year-on-year increase, it won’t be long before new clean energy capacity puts the fuel into permanent decline, Jones said.
“There is so much wind and solar being built and generating clean electricity,” he said. “As long as China’s not inventing a whole new use for thousands of terrawatt-hours of power, then from a demand perspective it’s got to be reducing coal power, because there’s nowhere else for that electricity to go.”

The high stakes of climate-risk accounting

By Gernot Wagner And Tom Brookes/ New York

Economists are supposed to be good at understanding risk. Decision-making in the face of uncertainty, after all, is the discipline’s bread and butter. Yet at a time when real-world risks – geopolitical, macroeconomic, financial, public-health, and environmental – are piling up, many economists seem to be at a loss.
Although businesses and investors stand to make a lot of money if they can properly assess and navigate the current risk environment, no one seems to have a good explanation for why we are where we are. This is especially true in the case of climate change: It is now clear that the risks have been systematically underestimated, and thus mispriced, all along.
One explanation for this is that market participants have failed to understand the size and the probability of the risk, because they have been thinking about the issue in the wrong way. The climate system is not like a casino with well-defined outcomes and probabilities. As a 1987 comment in Nature put it, changes within our planet’s systems may bring all kinds of “unpleasant surprises.” It is as if we were playing with decks of cards that include some unknown number of jokers. Moreover, one also must account for the inherent conservatism of the science. Climate researchers, especially, tend to err on the side of caution.
A classic case is the quantification of sea-level rise. Broadly speaking, sea levels rise for three reasons: melting polar ice caps, melting inland glaciers, and the fact that warmer water takes up more space. But in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports in the early 2000s, the headline figures fully accounted only for melting glaciers and thermal expansion. Scientists of course knew that global warming would melt polar ice, and that this effect might be the most consequential of the three. But because the estimates for how much faster the poles would melt differed by so much at the time, they were excluded from the headline figures.
That omission has long since been corrected. But it is now economists who are lagging behind in quantifying the economic damages associated with rising seas and the many other interlinked risks and uncertainties accompanying climate change. Quantifying climate-related damage is painstaking work; and in an academic environment that prizes new ideas over what might seem like a mere “accounting” exercise, it is not the kind of work that brings much reward or recognition.
Nonetheless, economists going back to Simon Kuznets, the “father” of the gross domestic product, have been some of the leading critics of economic metrics that purport to represent overall well-being. GDP is central to macroeconomic analysis, but it leaves out many other important indicators, such as those measuring human and planetary health. Standing forests and clean air and water have no value in national-income accounting unless they enter the economy directly as factors of production.
Fortunately, an initiative by US President Joe Biden’s administration aims to correct this shortcoming by developing a new set of “statistics for environmental-economic decisions.” While this effort is not the first of its kind in the world, it is among the most ambitious. The goal is to supplement GDP with a far more comprehensive set of accounts, and then to use this new metric to guide policy decisions.
Such a change is long overdue. Climate change might not have grown into the problem that it has become if its damages had been incorporated into national accounts all along.
This points to a second, equally important reason why climate and other risks have been mispriced. It is one thing for scientists, economists, and informed members of the public to recognise that many risks and uncertainties are not priced; it is quite another to adopt policies that discourage businesses from pushing those risks onto society.
For business leaders, the top climate risk, according to a recent Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco survey, is that climate change will influence “rules and regulations related to our business.” Executives correctly anticipate that policymakers will want them to pay for greenhouse-gas emissions and other negative externalities instead of being permitted to socialise those costs.
Such measures inevitably will fall into the realm of politics, but economists must not confuse their political preferences with sound policy. Those who are ideologically inclined to look to the “free” market as a guiding principle for organising society must recognise that a market can function well only when no externality is left unaccounted and unpaid for.
Another Biden administration accounting initiative could help here. The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed rules for climate-related disclosures would compel companies to standardise and report both the impact of their operations on the climate and the risks that climate change poses to those operations. The SEC’s effort stops short of asking all polluters to pay for their own pollution; instead, it leaves it up to investors to decide what to do with the new information.
Economists must defend the pivotal role their advice plays in policymaking. The political forces and special interests that bear on this issue will skew their advice and skewer the advisers. But that must not become an excuse for inaction. Intellectual honesty demands that economists and policymakers grapple with how new risks and uncertainties can and will affect outcomes.
Tallying what’s known is hard enough. Accounting for hard-to-price risks and uncertainties like climatic tipping points is harder still. But recognising those risks and uncertainties makes clear that political action must come sooner rather than later. – Project Syndicate

• Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia Business School, is the author, most recently, of Geoengineering: The Gamble (Polity, 2021). Tom Brookes is Executive Director of Strategic Communications at the European Climate Foundation.

The EU’s carbon border tax could hurt developing nations

By Miriam Gonzalez Durantez And Calli Obern/ Stanford

In July 2021, the European Commission did something that no other major governing body had ever attempted: It tied trade policy to climate policy. Reaching the European Union’s goal of cutting net greenhouse-gas emissions by 55% by 2030 will require the EU to reduce emissions both at home and beyond its borders. To this end, the Commission’s Fit for 55 initiative, a package of proposals aimed at meeting the bloc’s emissions-reduction target, includes a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) – an import tax designed to corral other countries into tackling climate change.
The CBAM would tax imported goods sold in EU markets on the basis of their carbon content (the emissions required to produce them), which depends on their material and energy inputs. The proposed levy is intended to address so-called carbon leakage, which occurs when businesses in the EU move production to non-member countries with less stringent emissions rules.
In other words, Europe would no longer ignore the climate effects of foreign goods. But while the measure could help to reduce emissions and level the competitive playing field for EU-based firms, the trade protectionism that it entails risks hurting developing countries.
The CBAM will initially apply to the highest-emitting industries most at risk of leakage – iron and steel, cement, fertilisers, aluminium, and electricity generation – and will likely be expanded to other sectors in the coming years. Currently, EU-made products in these industries are taxed under the domestic carbon price, but those from outside the bloc are not. If a country already has a domestic carbon price, the border tax will be lowered or waived; this is meant to encourage countries to tax carbon in their own markets. Those that cannot or will not institute a carbon tax will have to pay the full levy.
The EU tax will be phased in over the next four years. By 2023, importers will be required to report emissions embedded in the goods they import, though the tax on those emissions will not be imposed until 2026. The €1bn ($1.1bn) of annual revenue expected from the CBAM, as well as the €9bn in annual revenue expected from the EU Emissions Trading System from 2023-2030 and taxes on multinational corporations, will support the Union’s €750bn Covid-19 pandemic recovery fund. These new sources of revenue will embed EU priorities – including the green transition – in the bloc’s budget for the first time.
Though not yet approved, the proposed tax is already influencing the decisions of policymakers and companies in the EU’s trading partners. For example, Turkey and Indonesia plan to introduce carbon taxes to mitigate the CBAM’s effects on their economies. Turkey is highly exposed, because the EU accounts for 41% of its exports. Indonesia exports billions of euros’ worth of palm oil and chemicals to the EU – goods that could fall under a broader border tax. Adopting a domestic carbon price will allow them to avoid some or all of the CBAM and keep the tax revenues instead of transferring them to the EU.
Meanwhile, some EU-based companies in industries such as computer hardware are looking to reshore manufacturing operations ahead of the CBAM’s introduction. Their main motive does not reflect the cost of the tax so much as the likely complexity, bureaucracy, and unpredictability of the system. It is easier and cheaper for companies to relocate production to the EU and avoid the administrative hurdles that the CBAM could create.
Such shifts will be a win for the EU’s economy and the environment. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could accelerate the EU’s efforts to achieve greater economic self-sufficiency, not least by reducing its dependence on energy-intensive imports of Russian iron and steel.
But developing economies, which often depend on manufactured products, will likely experience an outflow of activity as firms relocate to the EU. Rather than addressing only carbon leakage and leaving developing countries to adapt as best they can, the EU should allocate part of the revenue from the proposed CBAM to help foster a just green transition for poorer countries.
It is not easy or cheap to decarbonise energy-intensive goods like cement and steel. But the EU could prevent negative knock-on effects for developing economies – not only by waiting for lower-income countries to introduce their own carbon taxes (which will be a challenge given their limited administrative capability in the field), but also by supporting those that need the most help to reduce their emissions.
Such support could be provided by dedicating resources and technology to improve the efficiency of industrial processes, financing renewable energy projects, and exempting the poorest countries from the CBAM where necessary. The EU should also dedicate part of the CBAM revenue to help developing countries adopt cleaner technologies – to produce greener cement in Vietnam or chemicals in Indonesia, for example – and thus reduce emissions in the long run.
Europe sees itself as a global leader in the race to net-zero emissions. By helping to finance the developing world’s green transition, the EU could mitigate the protectionist threat in its own climate agenda. – Project Syndicate

• Miriam Gonzalez Durantez is an international trade lawyer and guest lecturer at Stanford University. Calli Obern, a master’s candidate in international policy at Stanford University, is a research fellow at Ecospherics, an advisory firm focusing on environmental and national-security issues.

The coming green hydrogen revolution

By Jean Baderschneider/ Washington, DC

Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread environmental disruption and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world faces unavoidable climate hazards over the next two decades. But, with average annual global greenhouse-gas emissions reaching their highest levels in human history between 2010 and 2019, we are simply not doing enough to limit global warming to 1.5C.
The IPCC report released in April recommended that the world rapidly reduce fossil-fuel supply and demand between now and 2050: by 95% in the case of coal, 60% for oil, and 45% for natural gas. But how can we possibly achieve such ambitious targets?
The answer is by switching to green hydrogen, which can be produced from all forms of renewable energy, including solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. Green hydrogen is a zero-emissions fuel; when produced through electrolysis, the only “emission” is water. It is a practical and implementable solution that, by democratising energy, decarbonising heavy industry, and creating jobs globally, would help revolutionise the way we power our planet.
A rapid acceleration of the green-energy transition can also fundamentally alter the geopolitical landscape, since countries will no longer be powerful simply because of the fossil fuels they produce. In 2021, Russia provided 34% of Germany’s crude oil and 53% of the hard coal used by German power generators and steelmakers. Russian-piped natural gas was Germany’s largest source of gas imports in December 2021, accounting for 32% of supply. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his horrific, unjust war in Ukraine in February, fossil-fuel exports to Europe have been earning Russia roughly $1bn a day.
But since the start of the invasion in February, European Union countries in particular have moved quickly to reduce their energy dependence on Russia, recently agreeing to ban all seaborne imports of Russian oil. These new sanctions against Putin’s war machine could cut the amount of oil the EU buys from Russia by 90% this year. The United States has declared a complete ban on Russian oil, gas, and coal imports, while the United Kingdom is phasing out imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022.
These policies have sent fuel prices soaring. But sharply higher prices have also highlighted the opportunity to drive down energy costs by investing in renewables and the production of green hydrogen.
New research suggests that green hydrogen will be competitive with fossil fuels over the next decade. The cost of green hydrogen is expected to decline significantly by 2025 and to fall to $1 per kilogram by 2030 in favourable locations such as Australia. For comparison, grey hydrogen, which is made using polluting liquefied natural gas, currently costs around $2 per kilogram.
Some advocate using LNG to “solve” the current energy-security crisis, but “natural gas” contains methane, and the IPCC says that we must reduce use of natural gas by almost 45% by 2050; adding more to the energy mix now would be a catastrophic mistake.
So, there is now a global race for green energy, and specifically for green hydrogen. Dozens of countries that have abundant renewable-energy sources can develop energy independence by producing green hydrogen at scale. And energy importers will not have to rely only on the few countries (such as Russia) that have a natural endowment of fossil fuels.
In a recent report, the International Renewable Energy Agency said that (green) hydrogen can bolster energy security in three main ways: by reducing import dependence, mitigating price volatility, and boosting energy systems’ flexibility and resilience through diversification. As technologies improve, the cost of green hydrogen will fall. We must do everything we can to accelerate this process.
Companies like Fortescue, where I am a board director, are investing significantly in green hydrogen and will help to replace Russian fossil fuels with green energy. Fortescue recently announced an agreement with Germany’s largest energy distributor, E.ON, to supply Europe with 5mn tonnes of green hydrogen a year by 2030 – the equivalent of one-third of the calorific value of the energy that Germany currently imports from Russia.
But while rapid changes in the energy and geopolitical landscape present a clear opportunity to address the energy and climate crises simultaneously by investing in green energy, there is a clear perception of unfairness when developed countries claim that relatively low-emitting developing economies need to shut down fossil-fuel use. Why should they risk slowing their development to address a problem they played no part in causing?
It’s a valid question. Policymakers will need to account for developing countries’ interests during the green transition and enhance funding and incentives for them to move to clean energy as the basis of industrialisation.
The world is clearly at a fork in the road. We can remain locked into a costly, polluting future that is hideously inefficient and empowers only a handful of fossil-fuel-rich countries. Alternatively, we can choose a green revolution of low-cost energy for all that keeps our future secure from pollution, global warming, and dictators. Given that green energy has the power to democratise global supply as more countries achieve energy independence, the choice is not difficult. – Project Syndicate

• Jean Baderschneider is a non-executive director of Fortescue Metals Group.

Cheaper, changing, crucial: the rise of solar power


Generating power from sunlight bouncing off the ground, working at night, even helping to grow strawberries: solar panel technology is evolving fast as costs plummet for a key segment of the world’s energy transition.
The International Energy Agency says solar will have to scale up significantly this decade to meet the Paris climate target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The good news is that costs have fallen dramatically.
In a report on solutions earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said solar unit costs had dropped 85 percent between 2010 and 2019, while wind fell 55%.
“There’s some claim that it’s the cheapest way humans have ever been able to make electricity at scale,” said Gregory Nemet, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a lead author on that report.
Experts hope the high fossil fuel prices and fears over energy security caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will accelerate the uptake of renewables.
Momentum gathered pace last Sunday with the ambitious US climate bill, which earmarks $370bn in efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.
An analysis by experts at Princeton University estimates the bill could see five times the rate of solar additions in 2025 as there were in 2020.
Nemet said solar alone could plausibly make up half of the world’s electricity system by mid-century, although he cautioned against looking for “silver bullets”.
“I think there really is big potential,” he told AFP.

Rapid changes 
The “photovoltaic effect” — the process by which solar cells convert sunlight to electrical energy — was first discovered in 1839 by the French physicist Edmond Becquerel.
After decades of innovations, silicon-based solar cells started to be developed in the United States in the 1950s, with the world’s first solar-powered satellite launched in 1958.
The IPCC said of all energy technologies, small-scale ones like solar and batteries have so far proved quicker to improve and be adopted than bulkier options like nuclear.
Today, almost all of the panels glimmering on rooftops and spreading across vast fields are made in China using silicon semiconductors.
But the technology is changing quickly.
In a recent report, the IEA said these new solar cells have proven to be one-fifth more efficient in converting light to energy than standard modules installed just four or five years ago.
There are also a host of new materials and hybrid cells that experts predict could supercharge efficiency.
These include cheap, efficient and lightweight “thin film” technologies, like those using perovskites that can be printed from inks.
Experts say they raise the prospect of dramatically expanding where solar energy can be harvested — if they can be made durable enough to withstand a couple of decades of use.
Recent research has raised hopes that it could be possible.
In one study, published in the journal Science in April, scientists added metal-containing materials to perovskite cells, making them more stable with efficiency near traditional silicon models.
Other research mixes materials for different purposes.
One study in Nature used “tandem” models, with perovskite semiconductors to absorb near-infrared light on the solar spectrum, while an organic carbon-based material absorbed ultraviolet and visible parts of the light.
And what happens after sunset?
Researchers from Stanford said this year they had produced a solar cell that could harvest energy overnight, using heat leaking from Earth back into space.
“I think that there’s a lot of creativity in this industry,” said Ron Schoff, who heads the Electric Power Research Institute’s Renewable Energy and Fleet Enabling Technologies research.

Location, location 
Generating more energy from each panel will become increasingly crucial as solar power is rolled out at greater scale, raising concerns about land use and harm to ecosystems.
Schoff said one efficiency-boosting design that is becoming more popular for large-scale projects is “bifacial” solar.
These double-sided units absorb energy not just directly from the sun’s rays, but also from light reflected off the ground beneath.
Other solutions involve using the same space for multiple purposes — like semi-transparent solar panels used as a protective roof for strawberry plants or other crops.
India pioneered the use of solar panels over canals a decade ago, reducing evaporation as they generate power.
Scientists in California have said that if the drought-prone US state shaded its canals, it could save around 63bn gallons.
Construction on a pilot project is due to begin this year.

All shapes, sizes 
Experts say solar will be among a mix of energy options, with different technologies more suitable for different places.
Schoff said ultimately those energy grids with more than 25% solar and wind need ways to store energy — with batteries or large-scale facilities using things like pumped water or compressed air.
Consumers can also play their part, said Nemet, by shifting more of their energy use to daytime periods, or even hosting their own solar networks in an Airbnb-style approach.
He said the modular nature of solar means it can be rolled out in developing countries with sparse access to traditional grids.
“You could have solar on something as small as a watch and something as big as the biggest power plants in the world,” he said.
“I think that’s what’s making people excited about it.” — Reuters

No net zero without nature

By Nigel Topping And Mahmoud Mohieldin/ London

Businesses, investors, and governments that are serious about fulfilling net-zero emissions pledges before 2050 should be rushing to protect, conserve, and regenerate the natural resources and ecosystems that support our economic growth, food security, health, and climate. Yet there appear to be worryingly few trailblazers out there.
Worse, we are quickly running out of time. The science makes clear that to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change and to build resilience against the effects that are already inevitable, we must end biodiversity loss before 2030. That means establishing lasting conservation for at least 30% of land and sea areas within eight years, and then charting a course toward living in harmony with nature by 2050.
Though the challenge is massive, ignoring it makes no sense from a business perspective. A World Economic Forum white paper estimates that nature-positive policies “could generate an estimated $10tn in new annual business value and create 395mn jobs by 2030.” Among other things, such policies would use precision-agriculture technologies to improve crop yields – diversifying diets with more fruit and vegetables in the process – and boost agroforestry and peatland restoration.
A nature-positive approach can also be more cost-effective. For example, the Dasgupta Review (the Final Report of the United Kingdom’s Independent Review on the Economics of Biodiversity) finds that green infrastructure like salt marshes and mangroves are 2-5 times cheaper than grey infrastructure such as breakwaters.
Nonetheless, private-sector action is lagging, including in economic sectors where the health of value chains is closely tied to that of nature. That is one key finding from an analysis just released by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, Global Canopy, Rainforest Alliance, and others.
Out of 148 major companies assessed, only nine – or 6% – are making strong progress to end deforestation. Among them are the Brazilian paper and pulp producer Suzano and five of the largest consumer goods companies: Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars, and Colgate-Palmolive.
Unilever, for example, is committed to a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023, and thus is focusing on palm oil, paper and board, tea, soy, and cocoa, as these contribute to more than 65% of its impact on land. Nestlé has now made over 97% of its primary meat, palm oil, pulp and paper, soy, and sugar supply chains deforestation-free. And PepsiCo aims to implement regenerative farming across the equivalent of its agricultural footprint by 2030, and to end deforestation and development on peat.
These are positive steps, but they represent exceptions, rather than any new normal. Moreover, the financial sector has also been slow to turn nature-positive. Since the COP26 climate-change conference in Glasgow last year, only 35 financial firms have committed to tackle agricultural commodity-driven deforestation by 2025. The hope now is that more firms will join the deforestation commitment by COP27 this November. Under the umbrella of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, 500 financial firms (representing $135tn in assets) have committed to halving their portfolios’ emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. And now, the Alliance has issued new net-zero guidance that includes recommended policies for addressing deforestation.
Nature functions as a kind of global capital, and protecting it should be a no-brainer for businesses, investors, and governments. The World Economic Forum finds that “$44tn of economic value generation – over half the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services.” But this profound source of value is increasingly at risk, as demonstrated by the current food crisis, which is driven not just by the war in Ukraine but also by climate-related disasters such as drought and India’s extreme heatwave, locust swarms in East Africa, and floods in China.
Businesses increasingly have the tools to start addressing these kinds of problems. Recently, the Science Based Targets initiative released a methodology for targeting emissions related to food, land, and agriculture. Capital for Climate’s Nature-Based Solutions Investment platform helps financiers identify opportunities to invest in nature with competitive returns. And the Business for Nature coalition is exploring additional moves the private sector can make.
Governments have also taken steps in the right direction. At COP26, countries accounting for over 90% of the world’s forests endorsed a leaders’ declaration to halt forest loss and land degradation by 2030. And a dozen countries pledged to provide $12bn in public finance for forests by 2025, and to do more to leverage private finance for the same purpose. They can now start meeting those commitments ahead of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, by enacting the necessary policies, establishing the right incentives, and delivering on their financial promises.
Meanwhile, the UN-backed Race to Zero and Race to Resilience campaigns will continue working in parallel, helping businesses, investors, cities, and regions put conservation of nature at the heart of their work to decarbonise and build resilience. The five strong corporate performers on deforestation are in the Race to Zero, and the campaign’s recently strengthened criteria will pressure other members to do more to use biodiversity sustainably and align their activities and financing with climate-resilient development.
The world is watching to see if the latest promises of climate action are robust and credible. By investing in nature now, governments and companies can show that they are offering more than words. – Project Syndicate

• Nigel Topping is the United Kingdom’s High-Level Climate Champion for COP26 in Glasgow. Mahmoud Mohieldin is Egypt’s High-Level Climate Champion for COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh.