‘Growing momentum’ behind efforts to limit carbon emissions: IEA

There is “growing momentum” to global efforts to accelerate carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) techniques to help the world meet increasingly urgent climate change targets, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 24 September 2020

‘Growing momentum’ behind efforts to limit carbon emissions: IEA

  • Global investment in CCUS techniques — which Saudi Arabia has placed at the center of its energy transition strategy — has already reached $4 billion this year,

DUBAI: There is “growing momentum” to global efforts to accelerate carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) techniques to help the world meet increasingly urgent climate change targets, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said global investment in CCUS techniques — which Saudi Arabia has placed at the center of its energy transition strategy — has already reached $4 billion this year, and will likely increase as pressure to meet international standards on greenhouse gas emissions intensifies.

“If oil- and gas-producing countries like Saudi Arabia make a big push for CCUS, it’s more than welcome,” he added.

“The issue is whether these technologies will reduce emissions in a timely and significant manner.”

Birol was speaking at a virtual event to mark the publication of an IEA report titled “CCUS in clean energy transitions,” which calls for a “profound transformation in the way we produce and use energy that can only be achieved through a broad suite of strategies.” He said: “We love energy, but we don’t like emissions. Energy is good, emissions are bad.”

The Kingdom’s energy strategy, which seeks to promote technologies and processes that actually remove carbon from the circular economy, will be on show at a virtual meeting of G20 energy ministers organized in Riyadh next Sunday.

Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman is expected to focus on the Kingdom’s efforts to develop technologies that eliminate carbon from the atmosphere, either storing it securely or using it in other industrial processes.

Birol said oil and gas producers have to manage a strategy that reconciles the requirements of their economies with long-term climate targets.

“It’s a very important task to see a marriage between the availability of energy and the need to reach target goals,” he added.

The IEA event was opened by Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway, which this week launched an energy program called Longship, named after the Viking raiding boats that Solberg said were the leading technology of their day.

The project aims to cut emissions in oil-exporting Norway and other countries, and invest in CCUS technologies.

The IEA said CCUS will form a “key pillar of efforts to put the world on the path to net-zero emissions.”

CCUS techniques are already in use in Saudi Arabia at several of its oil-production facilities, and new megaprojects such as Neom will aim to achieve “carbon balance,” partly through the use of clean hydrogen as an alternative to traditional hydrocarbon fuels, as well as other forms of renewable energy.


‘The stock market, stupid’ — Trump’s claim is looking hollow 

Updated 29 October 2020

‘The stock market, stupid’ — Trump’s claim is looking hollow 

  • The timing of the Wall Street downturn is the worst possible for the incumbent, who has declared every new peak in the S&P as a personal victory throughout his presidency
  • The likes of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook are due to declare their earnings for the third quarter, and how those numbers are received could give the indices a boost

Before the US election of 1992, candidate Bill Clinton summed up what he saw as the reason he would become president: “It’s the economy, stupid.” He was proved right as voters disowned the economic policies of President George H.W. Bush in their droves to elect Clinton. 

Until the COVID-19 pandemic began to ravage the US economy in March, President Donald Trump would have been able to make the same claim. For the four years of his presidency, the US economy had continued the progress initiated by his predecessor to recover from the 2009 global financial crisis.

By most measures — growth, employment, inflation — the Trump years had been good, and those on the top of the pile had even more reason to be grateful thanks to the big tax cuts he had made a flagship policy.

The pandemic changed all that in the space of a few weeks as lockdown measures shocked the economy. Jobless claims soared to all-time records, bankruptcies and closures affected large swathes of American business, and gross domestic product collapsed. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the American economy will shrink by 4.3 percent this year.

But Trump could still claim instead that “it’s the stock market, stupid” as a reason he could be re-elected. Mainly because of the trillions of dollars injected into the economy in the form of fiscal stimulus, US share indices had swum against the economic tide.

The S&P 500 index hit an all-time high in September, allowing Trump to boast that under his administration, investors and the millions of people whose livelihoods depended on the financial industry had never had it so good.

Now, it looks as though even that final claim is looking more fragile. For the past couple of days, US and European stock markets have gone into reverse as investors took fright at the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the re-imposition of economic lockdowns in many countries.

Trump might argue, with a little justification, that Wall Street is worried about the prospect of Joe Biden being elected president by the end of next week. Certainly the contender, by definition, is something of an unknown quantity in terms of economic policy.

He is also known to favor some policies — such as tighter regulation on environmental sectors, more spending on health care, and higher taxes for federal services and projects — that have traditionally been regarded as contrary to the philosophy of “free market” America.

In particular, the energy industry is worried about possible restrictions on shale oil and gas production that Biden and his “green” team are believed to favor. However, it should be pointed out that the Democratic candidate has specifically said he will not ban shale fracking, as some environmentalists want.

In any interesting side-story, the state of Texas — one of the biggest in terms of electoral college votes — would seem to have more to lose than any other if the energy scare stories about Biden were true. Yet the contest there between Democrats and Republicans is the closest it has been for decades, according to opinion polls.

The timing of the Wall Street downturn is the worst possible for the incumbent, who has declared every new peak in the S&P as a personal victory throughout his presidency and a sign of his deal-doing prowess. If even this claim is denied to him in the final week of campaigning, it would make the uphill battle against the polls even more difficult.

There is a chance that Big Tech might offer some relief. The likes of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook are due to declare their earnings for the third quarter, and how those numbers are received could give the indices a boost, given that they were the ones largely responsible for the big market gains earlier in the year.

But for Trump, any such respite might be too little, too late. It looks as though Wall Street and Main Street are finally catching up in their gloom, and there is nothing the president can do about it.