Weekly News Review - 28th April 2023

European countries pledge huge expansion of North Sea wind farms

Nine countries from western Europe have pledged to increase North Sea offshore wind capacity to 120GW by 2030 and 300GW by 2050 in a bid to reduce carbon emissions. The plan was announced at a summit in Ostend, Belgium, on Monday by The French president, Emmanuel Macron, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen.

Also at the summit were the prime ministers of Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Ireland, Denmark and Luxembourg. Energy security minister, Grant Shapps, also confirmed the UK’s commitment to the target which will involve building more wind farms, developing “energy islands” and investing in carbon capture projects.

The declaration states that: “Underlining that energy security and the fight against climate change are crucial to the future of Europe, we need to strengthen our cooperation to ensure affordable, secure and sustainable energy, while at the same time, continuing our efforts to protect the marine ecosystem.

“In response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and attempts of energy blackmail against Europe we will accelerate our efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption as well as dependence on fossil fuel imports and promote the rapid upscaling and deployment of renewable energy for an energy resilient Europe.”

Belgian energy minister, Tinne van der Straeten, said: “We are unlocking our offshore energy ambitions. Coordination is absolutely essential. If each of the nine countries acts alone, we’ll collectively fail. Planning is at the core of everything.”

At the summit in Ostend, plans were also announced to build a 1.8GW interconnector between the UK and the Netherlands. The LionLink project is being developed by the National Grid and Dutch electricity network TenneT and could be running by the early 2030s. The electricity cable would connect to offshore wind farms in the North Sea and transfer electricity between the two countries.

BP faces rebel shareholders over new climate goals

Oil giant BP faced a shareholder backlash at their annual general meeting on Thursday following the scaling back of climate targets. In the meeting, which was also disrupted by climate protestors, a number of the UK’s biggest pension funds voted against reappointing BP chairman, Helge Lund, as they raised concerns over the financial viability of future fossil fuel projects.

In 2022, BP initially set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35-40% by the end of the decade. However, in February they announced that the target had been reduced to a 20-30% cut in emissions as it intended to extend the life of existing fossil fuel projects following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The five pension funds – Nest, the Universities Pension Scheme, LGPS Central, Brunel Pension Partnership and Border to Coast – decided to vote against Mr Lund as a protest against the company’s actions. Together the pension funds have £440m invested in BP, which represents less than 1% of the company’s total shares. However, they manage the pensions of more than a third of the UK’s workers so are an influential voice.

Despite the rebellion, Mr Lund was reappointed as BP chairman after receiving 90% of votes, although this was down from 97% last year. The pension funds also voted in favour of a resolution put forward by climate group Follow This, which called for BP to align its emissions reduction plans with the 2015 Paris agreement. The resolution received slightly more backing with 16.75% of BP shareholders voting in favour.

Mark Van Baal, the founder of Follow This, said: “Science and responsible investors are clear: to achieve the goal of Paris to limit global warming to 1.5C, the world must almost halve emissions by 2030. BP has many aims, but none of these covers BP’s total emissions by 2030 in absolute terms. Promises for 2050 are empty without meaningful interim targets. Therefore, BP’s overall aims are not Paris-aligned yet.”

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