UK and U.S. Announce Energy Agreement to Stimulate Flow of Natural Gas and Collaborate on Renewables Transition
U.S. President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Wednesday a “UK-US Energy Security and Affordability Partnership” to bring down prices and increase energy security in the short term and collaborate on the clean energy transition in the long term.
“Together the UK and US will ensure the global price of energy and the security of our national supply can never again be manipulated by the whims of a failing regime,” Sunak said in a statement. “We have the natural resources, industry and innovative thinking we need to create a better, freer system and accelerate the clean energy transition. This partnership will bring down prices for British consumers and help end Europe’s dependence on Russian energy once and for all.”
The U.S. has already been sending more gas to UK terminals to help Europe wean itself from Russian gas. Politico said the UK’s three LNG terminals had become a “vital lifeline” through which U.S. gas had reached the EU since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The U.S. said it would work to more than double its 2021 gas exports to the UK to at least 9 to 10 billion cubic meters (approximately 318 to 353 billion cubic feet) over the next year. However, the Financial Times pointed out that this promise was more about establishing a longer-term relationship, because 2021 exports had already been doubled, according to Carbon Brief. In 2021, the U.S. sent 3.9 billion cubic meters (approximately 138 billion cubic feet) of LNG to the UK, accounting for 26 percent of its imports, The Guardian reported. Between October 2021 and October 2022, however, that number rose to 9.7 billion cubic meters (approximately 343 billion cubic feet), or 42 percent of imports. The U.S. actually became the world’s No. 1 LNG exporter during the first six months of 2022, as Reuters reported.
The energy agreement between the two nations comes as the UK has promised to be carbon neutral by 2050, while Biden has also set a nationwide goal of zeroing out emissions by that date. Yet neither country has set national targets under the Paris agreement in line with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to Climate Action Tracker. The group has further warned that the push to expand natural gas infrastructure in the immediate response to the energy crisis puts the 1.5 target at risk:
Between 2020 and 2050, cumulative emissions from LNG could be over 40 GtCO2 [gigatonnes of carbon dioxide] higher, equal to around 10% of the remaining carbon budget. In 2030, oversupply could reach 500Mt [megatonnes] LNG, almost five times the EU’s imports of fossil gas from Russia in 2021, and overdouble Russian total exports. This reaction to the energy crisis is an over reach that must be scaled back.
Planet Mark CEO Steve Malkin warned in October that the energy crisis was an “existential threat” to national climate goals, as Reuters reported at the time. However, others have argued that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent hike in energy prices could ultimately speed the transition to renewable energy by exposing both the volatility of the fossil fuel market and giving countries another motive to generate their own energy through renewable sources.
The new deal between the U.S. and the UK, which grew out of talks between Biden and Sunak at the G20 Summit in Indonesia, will be headed by a UK-U.S. Joint Action Group that will also collaborate on more climate-friendly solutions such as reducing gas demand and increasing energy efficiency; decarbonizing the aerospace and aviation sectors; and developing electric vehicles, efficient appliances, hydrogen and carbon capture technology. The two countries also said they would work together on civilian nuclear energy.
“Working with our allies, the United States and United Kingdom commit to intensify our collaboration to support international energy security, affordability, and sustainability, as Europe reduces its dependence on Russian energy,” Biden and Sunak said in a joint statement, as The Guardian reported.