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Economy

AM Briefing: Solar Milestone

A quick COP recap, solar hits a record, and a new high-speed train

AM Briefing: Solar Milestone
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Parts of the Great Plains and Upper Midwest could see record high temperatures today • Australia is in the grips of a ferocious heatwave • The Greek village of Metamorfosi has voted to relocate its residents to the nearby town of Palamas following devastating September floods. A thunderstorm warning is in effect today for Palamas.

THE TOP FIVE

1. A quick COP recap

It’s a “rest day” at COP28, which means there probably won’t be a ton of news coming out of Dubai. But now’s a good time to reflect on what’s happened so far, and what to expect as the conference enters its second half.

Key accomplishments:

  • Loss and damage fund: On day one of COP28, world leaders reached a landmark deal to set up a fund aimed at helping vulnerable nations deal with the costly effects of climate change. The early accomplishment set an optimistic tone for the summit. The Guardiannotes that wealthy countries have so far pledged $700 million to the fund, which is “far short of what is needed.”
  • Methane cuts: About 50 oil and gas companies pledged to slash their methane leaks by 2030. Critics cry greenwashing.
  • Renewables pledge: At least 120 countries backed a pledge to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030.
  • Support for phasing out oil and gas: The number of countries pledging to end oil and gas extraction and exploration grew to 24 after Spain, Kenya, and Samoa joined the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance.
  • Global cooling pledge: 63 countries including the U.S. and Canada have pledged to reduce their cooling-related emissions by at least 68% by 2050.

Still to come:

  • Global stocktake: Talks begin “in earnest” tomorrow about the key document that will set out the world’s climate goals for the coming years, and determine how they’ll be accomplished. The most contentious issue is whether the stocktake will include a call for a phase out of fossil fuels. A new draft of the global stocktake is expected Friday morning.

2. U.S. solar capacity to hit record high in 2023

The U.S. added 6.5 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity in the third quarter of 2023, up 35% year-over-year, according to a new report published this morning from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie. The report projects that in 2023 the U.S. will add a total of 33 GW of solar capacity, a 55% increase compared to new capacity in 2022. Growth is expected to slow slightly next year as the industry runs up against economic headwinds, but the dip will be temporary. By 2028, U.S. solar capacity is expected to reach 377 GW, up from 161 GW now, and solar is “still expected to be the largest source of generating capacity on the U.S. grid by 2050,” Electrekreports. The authors urge the industry to “continue to innovate to maximize the value that solar brings to an increasingly complex grid.”

solar chartSEI/Wood Mackenzie

3. Vivek Ramaswamy calls climate agenda a ‘substitute for modern religion’ in GOP debate

“The woke climate agenda” emerged as a villain at the fourth GOP debate on Wednesday night, reports Heatmap’s Jeva Lange. The topic first lurched on stage in the form of Republicans’ favorite three-letter boogeyman, ESG. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called ESG investing an attempt to use “economic power to impose a left-wing agenda on this country.” Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley alleged that DeSantis is beholden to Chinese companies like “JinkoSolar,” which he supposedly gave “$2 million in subsidies.” And in his closing remarks, Vivek Ramaswamy really let loose: “We should not be bending the knee to this new religion! That’s what it is, a substitute for a modern religion! We are flogging ourselves! And losing our modern way of life! Bowing to this new god of climate! And that will end on my watch!”

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  • 4. Biden awards $3 billion grant for Vegas-Los Angeles high-speed train line

    The Biden administration has awarded a $3 billion federal grant to Brightline West to develop an all electric high-speed rail line connecting Las Vegas to the outskirts of Los Angeles. The funding is an “almost unheard of infusion of federal money for a private project,” The Washington Postexplains. The project is expected to cost $12 billion in total and be completed in just four years, in time for the 2028 Olympic Games in L.A. Trains will travel at 186 miles per hour and transport commuters in about 2 hours – roughly half the driving time. “This is a historic moment that will serve as a foundation for a new industry, and a remarkable project that will serve as the blueprint for how we can repeat this model throughout the country,” Wes Edens, the founder and chairman of Brightline, said in a statement.

    TrainBrightline West

    Map of trainBrightline West

    5. Panama Canal bottleneck could affect Christmas shipments

    Reduced capacity for container ships in the Panama Canal due to ongoing drought in the region could cause a bottleneck that turns into “the Pinch that Stole Christmas,” saysBloomberg's Tim Culpan. Daily crossings have already been reduced from 36 to 25 and will be cut further to just 18 by February. Container vessels, which carry everything from cars to Christmas toys, are being hit especially hard. “After the drought made the canal shallower, ships now have to lighten their loads,” Cuplan explains. “The result is fewer containers making the crossing per day, heightening the chance that many goods won’t make it to their destinations in time for Christmas.”

    THE KICKER

    Despite OPEC production cuts, oil prices are at their lowest level in five months thanks to investor concerns over rising supply and waning global demand.

    Jessica Hullinger

    Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London. Read More

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