Aug 27, 2019

IEA: New coal plants are a "blind spot" in climate change debate

Coal-fired power station in Hanover, Germany. Photo: plus49/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

The International Energy Agency (IEA) will analyze the climate change and economic costs of the world’s coal plants in its 2019 world energy outlook, set for release in November, the agency's top official told Axios in a recent interview.

Why it matters: "There is an important problem here," said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. "The existing infrastructure provides a lifeline to people in developing countries, but at the same time, it’s the single most important driver of global carbon dioxide emissions."

By the numbers:

  • Today’s coal plants emit more than 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which amounts to 1/3 of all energy-related CO2 emissions, Birol said.
  • Coal plants in Europe and the United States are around 40 years old, but ones in Asia are far newer — closer to 11 years old — and still produce profits for the companies that operate them.
  • Those plants in particular are what Birol calls a “blind spot” in our climate and energy debate, given they are likely to be emitting for decades longer.

The big picture: IEA’s analysis will include a detailed, plant-level analysis of all the world’s coal plants, looking at what their "continued operation would mean for global emissions, energy security and costs,” an IEA spokesman said. IEA is an intergovernmental organization funded partly by its 30 member countries.

Go deeper: Why climate change is so hard to tackle

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Inside hackers' pivot to medical espionage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A wave of cyber-spying around COVID-19 medical research is once more demonstrating the perils of treating cybersecurity as a separate, walled-off realm.

Driving the news: U.S. officials recently announced an uptick in Chinese-government affiliated hackers targeting medical research and other facilities in the United States for data on a potential COVID-19 cure or effective treatments to combat the virus. Additionally, “more than a dozen countries have redeployed military and intelligence hackers to glean whatever they can about other nations’ virus responses,” reports the New York Times.

The downsides of remote work

Data: Reproduced from Prudential/Morning Consult "Pulse of the American Worker Survey"; Chart: Axios Visuals

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a large-scale experiment in working from home. It has gone well enough that many companies are expanding their remote work expectations for the foreseeable future, and remote employees want to continue to work that way.

Yes, but: The downsides of remote work — less casual interaction with colleagues, an over-reliance on Zoom, lack of in-person collaboration and longer hours — could over time diminish the short-term gains.

Hong Kong's economic future hangs in the balance

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Beijing forces a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, the once semi-autonomous city's status as one of Asia's largest financial hubs is at risk.

Why it matters: Political freedoms and strong rule of law helped make Hong Kong a thriving center for international banking and finance. But China's leaders may be betting that top firms in Hong Kong will trade some political freedoms for the economic prosperity Beijing can offer.