Friday, 31 October 2008

Pickens delays world's biggest wind farm project

Texas oilman's wind farm project hit by financial crisis and drop in price of natural gas
John Sterlicchi,
Thursday October 30 2008 18.06 GMT

The multibillion dollar project to build the world's biggest wind farm in Texas has been delayed because of the fall-out from the credit crunch and the drop in the price of natural gas, it emerged today.
T Boone Pickens, a renowned Texan oilman who is raising the capital for the wind farm, told a US television station today that the twofold problem was slowing down his ambitious plan. Pickens, who made a fortune from the oil industry but has been converted to renewable energy as a means of ending US dependence on foreign oil, announced the original plan for the wind farm last year and construction was supposed to start in 2010.
"I think it is all going to be put off because we have got the credit crunch, one, but, two, natural gas prices [are down], so you are going to price wind off natural gas power and right now natural gas is so cheap there will be no new wind deals until natural gas price gets back up," he said. Natural gas prices are hovering around $6.80 per million British thermal unit (BTUs) down almost 50% since July.
Over the same time period, Pickens's hedge fund BP Capital has lost $2bn — or 60% of its value — since peaking in June. And according to a Wall Street Journal report, investors are bailing out.
In May this year, when oil and natural gas prices were still rising, Pickens said he had ordered $2bn worth of wind turbines from GE. At the time he estimated the total project would cost between $10-$12bn and would be finished by 2014.
The wind farm would be built on 400,000 acres across the Texas panhandle. It was eventually have 4,000MW of capacity, which is enough to supply electricity to 1.3m homes.
In July, the billionaire launched what he called The Pickens Plan, a $58m PR campaign aimed at convincing Americans to replace petrol with natural gas and wind.
In today's interview on CNBC he said all lorries should be run on natural gas. If America switched 2 million "18 wheelers" to natural gas it would reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil by 30%, he said. He saw no reason to halt this switchover even though his wind power plans are delayed. "It's an easy step and it can happen very, very fast."

Manmade global warming evident on every continent, polar report finds

Data compiled by the University of East Anglia finds evidence of warming in Antarctica that can for the first time be directly attributed to human emissions
David Adam, environment correspondent,
Thursday October 30 2008 18.01 GMT

Melting ice in the polar regions will have a major impact on future sea levels. Photograph: John McConnico/AP
No corner of the Earth is immune from the effects of global warming, according to a new study that confirms manmade temperature rises in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Temperature records over the last century show that warming in the planet's coldest and most remote wildernesses is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.
The study, published today in Nature Geoscience, is the first to find the fingerprints of manmade global warming on the Antarctic, where a shortage of data makes it hard to be sure. Last year's report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said human influence could be detected on every continent, except Antarctica. Climate sceptics have exploited this omission to question the science of global warming.
In the new study, Nathan Gillett, then working at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, though now at Environment Canada, compiled, with colleagues, climate data across the Arctic and Antarctic regions since 1900, and compared the patterns with those produced by computer simulations with and without human activity.
They say only the models that included human influences – such as emissions of carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – were able to reproduce the observed temperature trends.
Gillett said: "The main message is that for the first time we are able to directly attribute warming in both the Arctic and Antarctica to human influence. Melting of ice shelves has implications for sea-level rises."
Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office, who worked on the study, said: "In both polar regions, the observed warming can only be reproduced in our models by including human influences, natural forces alone are not enough.
For a long time climate scientists have known that Arctic areas would be expected to warm most strongly because of feedback mechanisms. But the results from this work demonstrate the part man has already played in the significant warming that we've observed in both polar regions."
The polar regions have seen some of the most dramatic impacts of climate change on the planet in recent years. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average, which has contributed to record melting of sea ice in the Arctic summer and thinning in the winter.
The picture in Antarctica is more complex, but the rocky Antarctic peninsula has experienced temperature rises of 3C over the past 50 years – among the largest recorded. Other parts, including the vast east-Antarctic ice sheet, have seen less change.

Uphill struggle for coal-fired Poland

By Jan Cienski in Belchatow and Joshua Chaffin in Brussels
Published: October 30 2008 18:04

Driven to distraction by the flat plains of central Europe, Polish skiers flock to an enormous pile of rubble near the central town of Belchatow where they can slalom atop the refuse from a nearby mine that fuels Europe’s largest coal-fired power plant.
Providing almost a fifth of Poland’s electricity, Belchatow spews out more than 30m tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, according to a report by WWF, the environmental group.

Altogether, it and other coal-fired plants supply 96 per cent of Poland’s electricity and help explain why the country has been one of the least enthusiastic about the EU’s plan to curb greenhouse gases with the help of a revamped emissions trading scheme. Under the plan, utilities would be forced to buy their emissions allowances at auction from 2013 – an adjustment Poland believes could push up electricity prices by 90 per cent.
Warsaw argues that the plan imposes a particular burden on the EU’s former communist countries, which are growing much faster than those in western Europe and are far more dependent on coal.
“The way that the package is designed makes it much less advantageous for poor countries than for rich ones, and is especially unfavourable towards Poland, which is particularly dependent on coal,” said Jacek Rostowski, the finance minister, in a newspaper interview after this month’s EU summit.
During that meeting Poland formed a coalition with eight ex-communist countries and Italy, allowing them to veto any final plan.
In Brussels, European officials argue that they have already taken into account the challenges faced by Poland and other members of the “coalition of the unwilling”. For example, the climate package calls for 10 per cent of the trading scheme’s auction revenues to be redistributed to poorer countries. That would hand Poland an additional €1bn ($1.2bn, £800m) a year to invest in cleaner technologies.
Some Commission officials believe that share could be increased in order to reach a final deal. “There are legitimate concerns, but you have to relativise them,” one said.
Whatever the case, it seems Poland will still be using coal for the foreseeable future. Nuclear power is a distant and expensive alternative and switching to natural gas carries security risks as the gas would have to come from Russia. In other words, the slope at Belchatow – 123 metres high this year – is likely to grow.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Europe's Jolly Green Auto Loans


European taxpayers already have a meaty hunk of bank bailouts to swallow. Now they're getting something green on their plates as well.
Just weeks after EU lawmakers passed strict new carbon-emission regulations despite warnings that they would cost auto makers dearly, Brussels called Wednesday for €40 billion in loans to the industry so that it can comply with the new rules. The EU taketh away, the EU giveth.
Brussels describes the loans from the European Investment Bank as being necessitated by the financial crisis. The looming recession will no doubt hurt auto sales in Europe, which fell further than expected during the third quarter.
But the freezing of credit markets and stream of banking failures were already well under way when the European Parliament voted in late September to force auto emissions lower by 18% within just four years. MEPs knew about the economic conditions, but nonetheless rejected proposed compromises to spread out the reductions over more time and lessen the fines for noncompliance. It's also devious, even by political standards, to approve an obviously expensive regulation and then, a month later, to provide the funding for it -- all the while acting as if the two moves are unrelated.
In their more honest moments, eurocrats acknowledge that they're following America's lead here. Washington has guaranteed $25 billion, or about €20 billion, in loans to the Big Three U.S. auto makers so that they can meet new fuel-economy standards passed last year, and Barack Obama wants to give them $25 billion more.
It wasn't so long ago that the Bush Administration sued Europe at the World Trade Organization for its soft loans to Airbus; now it's setting the trend in corporate handouts. The U.S. used to be the only side of the Atlantic willing to try to stop these kinds of subsidies, which Europe is only too happy to grant.
If Mr. Obama wins next Tuesday, expect a subsidy synergy between Europe and America as each pushes the other to greater heights -- or should we say depths -- of public largesse. The main effect will be to increase governmental influence over the industrial sector at the expense of taxpayers on both sides of the pond.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

World is facing a natural resources crisis worse than financial crunch

• Two planets need by 2030 at this rate, warns report • Humans using 30% more resources than sustainable

Juliette Jowit
The Guardian,
Wednesday October 29 2008

The world is heading for an "ecological credit crunch" far worse than the current financial crisis because humans are over-using the natural resources of the planet, an international study warns today.
The Living Planet report calculates that humans are using 30% more resources than the Earth can replenish each year, which is leading to deforestation, degraded soils, polluted air and water, and dramatic declines in numbers of fish and other species. As a result, we are running up an ecological debt of $4tr (£2.5tr) to $4.5tr every year - double the estimated losses made by the world's financial institutions as a result of the credit crisis - say the report's authors, led by the conservation group WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund. The figure is based on a UN report which calculated the economic value of services provided by ecosystems destroyed annually, such as diminished rainfall for crops or reduced flood protection.
The problem is also getting worse as populations and consumption keep growing faster than technology finds new ways of expanding what can be produced from the natural world. This had led the report to predict that by 2030, if nothing changes, mankind would need two planets to sustain its lifestyle. "The recent downturn in the global economy is a stark reminder of the consequences of living beyond our means," says James Leape, WWF International's director general. "But the possibility of financial recession pales in comparison to the looming ecological credit crunch."
The report continues: "We have only one planet. Its capacity to support a thriving diversity of species, humans included, is large but fundamentally limited. When human demand on this capacity exceeds what is available - when we surpass ecological limits - we erode the health of the Earth's living systems. Ultimately this loss threatens human well-being." Speaking yesterday in London, the report's authors also called for politicians to mount a huge international response in line with the multibillion-dollar rescue plan for the economy. "They now need to turn their collective action to a far more pressing concern and that's the survival of all life on planet Earth," said Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the president of WWF International.
Sir David King, the British government's former chief scientific adviser, said: "We all need to agree that there's a crisis of understanding, that we're removing the planet's biodiverse resources at a rate which is as fast if not faster than the world's last great extinction."
At the heart of the Living Planet report is an index of the health of the world's natural systems, produced by the Zoological Society of London and based on 5,000 populations of more than 1,600 species, and on an "ecological footprint" of human demands for goods and services.
For the first time the report also contains detailed information on the "water footprint" of every country, and claims 50 countries are already experiencing "moderate to severe water stress on a year-round basis". It also shows that 27 countries are "importing" more than half the water they consume - in the form of water used to produce goods from wheat to cotton - including the UK, Switzerland, Austria, Norway and the Netherlands.
Based on figures from 2005, the index indicates global biodiversity has declined by nearly a third since 1970. Breakdowns of the overall figure show the tropical species index fell by half and the temperate index remained stable but at historically low levels. Divided up another way, indices for terrestrial, freshwater and marine species, and for tropical forests, drylands and grasslands all showed significant declines. Of the main geographic regions, only the Nearctic zone around the Arctic sea and covering much of North America showed no overall change.
Over the same period the ecological footprint of the human population has nearly doubled, says the report.
At that rate humans would need two planets to provide for their wants in the 2030s, two decades earlier than the previous Living Planet report forecast just two years ago. This figure is "conservative" as it does not include the risk of a sudden shock or "feedback loop" such as an acceleration of climate change, says the report. But it warns: "The longer that overshoot persists, the greater the pressure on ecological services, increasing the risk of ecosystem collapse, with potentially permanent losses of productivity."
In the 1960s most countries lived within their ecological resources. But the latest figures show that today three-quarters of the world's population live in countries which consume more than they can replenish.
Addressing concerns that national boundaries are an artificial way of dividing up the world's resources, Leape says: "It's another way of reminding ourselves we're living beyond our means."
The US and China account for more than two-fifths of the planet's ecological footprint, with 21% each.
A person's footprint ranges vastly across the globe, from eight or more "global hectares" (20 acres or more) for the biggest consumers in the United Arab Emirates, the US, Kuwait and Denmark, to half a hectare in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Afghanistan and Malawi. The global average consumption was 2.7 hectares a person, compared with a notional sustainable capacity of 2.1 hectares.
The UK, with an average footprint of about 5.5 hectares, ranks 15th in the world, just below Uruguay and the Czech Republic, and ahead of Finland and Belgium.

Waste not, want not

Recyling is good, but precycling - cutting out packaging in the first place and buying only what you need - is better. Tanis Taylor tried it for a month
Tanis Taylor
The Guardian,
Thursday October 30 2008

A woman shopping at Unpackaged, a shop in London. Photograph: Frank Baron/Guardian
Every Tuesday, as a house, we put out two big green boxes of recycling. I say green because a) they literally are and b) the presumption is that by using them, so are we. But wouldn't it be greener not to put out the recycling - to generate so little waste that, come Tuesday, there is nothing to put in the green box? It is an idealistic notion, but is it practical? I decided to try it for a month to find out. And in doing so, I inadvertently discovered that I'd joined a movement.
Precycling is the practice of reducing waste by attempting to avoid accumulating it in the first place. Precyclers try to cut out as much packaging as possible and, to this end, they think ahead, shop locally, buy things loose and bring their own containers. The benefits are various; from saving money and creating less landfill to reducing food miles and conserving natural resources.
The term was coined in 1988 for a waste awareness campaign in Berkeley, California. Residents were encouraged to avoid single-use items and to buy in bulk. Affectionately known as "wombles", they refused junk mail, carried precycling "kits" (such as cloth sandwich bags and cutlery) and when the internet came, they did their reading online to cut down on pulp. Today, however, precycling is generating interest among the eco-aware. In its report in May, the US market research firm Intelligence Group found that half of all consumers thought about an item's reuse or resale cost before purchase, that 45% of US trendsetters and 14% of mainstream consumers have cut down on bottled water purchases and 49% and 16% respectively have cut down on the use of plastic bags. In the UK, financially concerned and environmentally aware consumers are turning to tap over bottled water and carrying canvas shopping bags; Sainsbury's is even reporting a 36% rise in its sales of lunchboxes.
UK households throw away 5.9m tonnes of packaging every year, 4.7m tonnes of which is food related. Recyling is a greener option - saving between 25% and 90% of the energy it would take to create new products - but there is still an environmental cost. Recycling a plastic bottle takes a lot of time and energy; washing it under the tap does not.
The key to being a good precycler is being prepared. This I learn on day one of my trial when I forget to bring my lunch to work and am reduced to eating fruit and ice-cream (the cone being the ultimate in edible packaging). The following day, I get organised: daily sandwiches (in a washable sandwich wrap), a travel mug, cloth shopping bags and a water bottle are on hand at all times. Gone are the impulse, convenience shopping sprees of old - to be replaced by an intentional, almost military approach to what I need to buy and from where.
I patronise local markets, fishmongers, butchers and bakers and rediscover the joys of having bottles of milk delivered to my doorstep (milk and orange juice bottles can be reused 20 times before they are recycled). There is a nostalgic, parochial pleasure that comes from asking bemused staff at Costa Coffee to fill up my china mug, of carrying apples in a paper bag and using a handkerchief to blow my nose. It speaks of gentler times, a greater custody of care, and thoughtful, less harried, consumption. It saves me money and encourages experimentation. I make bread and cook strange recipes in a kitchen clear of jostling brands.
However, convenience food is aptly named. Buying unpackaged is, initially, hugely inconvenient. Finding naked staples takes real tenacity, but they do exist. Shops such as Unpackaged in north London sell dried goods in open bins, beside loose toilet rolls and a small line in refillable juices and cosmetics - and give you a discount when you bring your own container. Rural and city farms are alive and well, and great for eggs and dairy, while farmers' markets and box schemes provide your five-a-day. For pulses and staples, ethnic high street stores such as Green Valley, off the Edgware Road in London, are bulk-buy havens - with sacks and spice bins of jarish and Lebanese thyme next to tubs of cashews, apricots, figs and dried sharon fruits. At the lower-budget end of the spectrum, Weigh & Save outlets can still be found on the outskirts of some towns, where you can stroll through aisles of ginger cake-mix, pearl barley and dried dog food, buying only as much as you need by the gram. Meanwhile, shopkeepers in smaller, artisan shops, such as the Monmouth Coffee Company, have witnessed a bring-your-own revival, with more customers bringing their own jars to be filled. "People are plumping for less packaging for a variety of reasons, economic and environmental," says Cath Conway of Unpackaged.
So how did I do? During my month, the green halo slipped often. I still bought my mayonnaise in bottles and tuna in cans and I never did find a solution to the wine issue. (It is hard to find decanted wine, and I couldn't face Wetherspoon's superchilled draught wine.) But by the end of the month, my black bin was hardly being used and we were putting out one green bin, a quarter full.
Eventually, says Nimish Shah, a 35-year-old precycler from London, it will be empty. Shah hasn't been to a supermarket for years. He shops at small stores and always brings his own bags. He cuts an eccentric figure at his local market, putting fish fillets in a cloth bag that he washes and reuses. "When I look at an item," he says, "the first thing I think is whether I could just do away with the packaging or, failing that, reuse it somehow. Recycling a product should be the last option really".
• Post questions and answers to Ask Leo The Guardian, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1 3ER Fax: 020-7713 4366. Email: Please include your address and telephone number

Upbeat RPS eyes strong year

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: October 29 2008 23:18

RPS Group defied the gloom in other parts of the market on Wednesday with an upbeat management statement predicting a strong year.
The environmental consultancy said trading in the first half had been “robust” and that this trend had continued, leaving the company “well positioned” to deliver results in line with expectations for the full year.
The company cut its net bank debt from £38.8m at the end of June to £36.7m by the end of September, and said it had bank facilities of £100m in place until 2013.
RPS’s turnover for the first half was £226m, up by almost a third on the same period for 2007, with a similar increase in pre-tax profits to £28.5m. Earnings per share were 9.5p.
RPS shares rose by more than 10 per cent in early trading but gave up most of their gains to end about 2 per cent higher at 142p.
Although some of the company’s planning and development clients in the UK postponed investment decisions owing to the falling property market, the company said its energy and environmental management businesses made up for the decline.
Brook Land, chairman, said: “RPS is diverse and resilient with a proven business model. Our broad range of services, combined with our expanding geographic footprint, give the board continued confidence about the outlook for [this] year.”
Several analysts reacted positively to the statement. RBS said the company’s shares “looked cheap” and rated them an “add”.
RPS, along with companies such as Environmental Resources Management, WSP Group and SLR Consulting, is one of a handful of big environmental consultancies in the UK, in a highly fragmented market. It has pursued an aggressive strategy of acquisitions, buying nine smaller companies so far this year.
Most recent acquisitions were of Paras, an energy consultancy, for about £6.4m this month, and a specialist laboratory, Mountainheath Services, for about £1.9m last month.
Numis, house broker along with Investec, said in a note: “We believe RPS has the ability to offset deteriorating trading conditions through acquisition.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Rural communities feel marginalised, MPs committe says

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Last Updated: 11:01am GMT 29/10/2008
The countryside feels neglected by the Government, according to a committee of MPs.

In a report on the rural economy, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee found a "strong perception" among the rural community that country issues have been "marginalised" by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in favour of climate change.

However now that the issue of global warming has been taken on by the new department for energy and climate change, the committee urged rural affairs be given priority once again.
The report also recommended rural affairs be taken more seriously across the different government departments.
Michael Jack, committee chairman, said: "Defra must raise its game on rural affairs if it is to unlock the billions of pounds of untapped economic potential in the countryside.
"With climate change gone from Hilary Benn's in-tray, his department must spend more time banging heads together across Whitehall to really make thorough 'rural-proofing' of Government policy a reality.
"Entrepreneurialism is 'alive' in the rural economy. But if it is to be 'well', Government must now find a lasting solution to the challenges of affordable housing, transport costs and the maintenance of a skilled labour force.
"Defra should look again at its rural departmental objectives, as few have any belief that the current ones really will build a successful and sustainable rural economy."
Tom Oliver, head of rural policy at the Campaign for Rural England, said further investment in the countryside would boost the whole economy.
He concluded: "The goose of a protected and respected countryside lays golden economic and social eggs. Government understanding of this is the key to well-being and success in the countryside for the future."

Royal Society to research potential of geo-engineering to limit global warming

Science academy to launch a feasibility study to establish which techniques might best tackle climate change
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent,
Thursday October 30 2008 00.01 GMT

The Royal Society has announced plans today to study which planetary-scale geo-engineering techniques might play a practical role in stemming the worst impacts of climate change.
Geo-engineering includes everything from placing mirrors in space that reflect sunlight from the Earth to seeding the oceans with iron to encourage the growth of algae that can soak up atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Royal Society study will look at which techniques might be feasible to carry out and what their impacts or unintended consequences might be on society.
"Some of these proposals seem fantastical, and may prove to be so. Our study aims to separate the science from the science fiction and offer recommendations on which options deserve serious consideration," said John Shepherd, an oceanographer at Southampton University, and chair of the Royal Society working group that will carry out the study. "We need to investigate if any of these schemes could help us avoid the most dangerous changes to our climate and to fully understand what other impacts they may have."
In September, the Royal Society published a special edition of its journal, Philosophical Transactions, dedicated to geo-engineering. In their introduction to the papers in that edition, Brian Launder of the University of Manchester and Michael Thompson of the University of Cambridge wrote: "While such geo-scale interventions may be risky, the time may well come when they are accepted as less risky than doing nothing. There is increasingly the sense that governments are failing to come to grips with the urgency of setting in place measures that will assuredly lead to our planet reaching a safe equilibrium."
In the papers, experts said that a reluctance "at virtually all levels" to address rising greenhouse gas emissions meant carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were on track to pass 650 parts per million (ppm), which could bring an average global temperature rise of 4C. They called for more research on geo-engineering options to cool the Earth.
But not everyone is convinced of the need for such radical techniques to halt climate change. Greenpeace chief scientist Doug Parr said: "The wider point is not the pros and cons of particular technologies, but that the scientific community is becoming so scared of our collective inability to tackle climate emissions that such outlandish schemes are being considered for serious study. We already have the technology and know-how to make dramatic cuts in global emissions - but it's not happening, and those closest to the climate science are coming near to pressing the panic button."
Shepherd said that, whatever his study finds, the world cannot ignore the need to cut carbon emissions anyway. "Whatever solutions technology may offer us in the future, it's clear that the need to cut emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is now more urgent than ever."
The working group's report is expected to be published next year.

Turning up the heat - Climate bill

The Guardian,
Wednesday October 29 2008

A revolution in slow motion, the climate change bill has been two years in the making. In 2006 Friends of the Earth began a campaign, which was picked up first by the Conservatives and soon after by the government, for a law committing Britain to a sharp cut in greenhouse gas emissions. Yesterday evening the bill finished its Commons stages. It was a radical moment, unmatched anywhere else in the world, the drama only slightly diminished by the threadbare debate that preceeded it.
With the law comes a new reality. Parliament has set demanding targets and deserves congratulation for that. But it has barely begun the task of finding a way to meet them. All the laws in the world will not stop carbon levels soaring to dangerous levels if they do not lead to policy action. The long passage of the bill has been something of a placebo, giving the impression of progress without, so far, producing much in reality. The new climate change secretary, Ed Miliband (whose brother David originally gave the bill government backing) has been admirably ambitious, accepting that aviation and shipping emissions should, in some form, be included in overall reduction targets and raising the proposed cut in greenhouse gases by 2050 from 60% to 80%. He now has to show that these impressive goals can be something more than legislative fantasy.
The low-carbon future always seems to begin tomorrow. If the law works as it should, governments will have no option other than to get it under way today. It should be a straitjacket, binding departments into policies they would not otherwise follow: no new third runway at Heathrow, and no new coal power station at Kingsnorth. But the shame of busting five-yearly carbon budgets may turn out to be much smaller than the political pain caused by enforcing emissions reductions. The call from both main parties for lower petrol prices is just a small hint of contradictions to come.
In the meantime, the task of mitigating climate change is getting harder. Yesterday's Living Planet report from WWF International warned that human demands on the planet's resources have doubled in 45 years, and that 75% of people live in countries that demand more resources than they can provide. The new Garnaut report from Australia warns that emissions are running away, increasing by 3% a year to 2030, making a mockery of British targets. Some scientists are close to panic: a recent collection of essays from the Royal Society suggested targets will never be met, and that the world should attempt "geoscale" interventions instead, such as dimming the sun. That sounds like fantasy. The better alternative is to make the climate change law work.

China Asks Rich to Pay for Cleanup


BEIJING -- China issued a major policy on climate change Wednesday, acknowledging its own growing contribution to the problem and its increased vulnerability to a warming planet, but arguing that rich nations should pay poorer countries for the giant costs of cleaning up.
"Based on information we have at hand, our emission level is roughly the same as that of the United States," Xie Zhenhua, a deputy chief in charge of climate change policy at the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic policy-making body, said at a news conference. But "whether our emissions are higher than the United States is not what really matters," he added.

Instead, Chinese officials argue that the real issue is who will foot the bill for the costly cleanup. Mr. Xie said "developed countries should, at least, contribute 0.7% of their GDP" to help fund poorer countries fight global warming. The figure represents a possible opening for future climate-change negotiations, as China envisions some sort of global climate tax.
The 44-page report comes ahead of an international conference on climate change next month in Beijing, organized by the U.N. and the Chinese government to help promote the exchange of green technologies. It details what steps China has taken to ease pollution, and the costs to its agriculture and environment from rising temperatures.
Even more crucial will be a meeting in December in Poland to start negotiations over what to do after the U.N.-backed Kyoto Protocol on climate change expires in 2012. Under the Kyoto Protocol, developing nations, such as India and China, were exempt from limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. Some rich countries, such as the U.S., which didn't join the treaty, said excluding poor countries basically added an unfair burden to rich nations while allowing poorer countries to keep polluting.
China argues that because rich countries had contributed the bulk of greenhouse gasses during their industrialization, they should foot the bill for cleaning up. But when Kyoto was first negotiated, scientists had greatly underestimated the speed with which China's economy would grow.
Now, by some estimates, China has already matched or surpassed U.S. levels of greenhouse gasses as its economy works in overdrive, burning more coal, producing more steel and pouring more cement than any other country. Increasingly, scientists fear that failing to limit China's and India's greenhouse gasses could wipe out any gains made in the developed economies.
Though China acknowledges the drastic threats of climate change, especially because its mostly poor, predominantly rural economy is more vulnerable to drought and flooding than the richer economies of the West, it still rejects any absolute caps on emissions, arguing they limit economic growth.
Instead, China has set targets to increase the energy efficiency of its economy, squeezing more output of every ton of coal it burns. Part of that project has led to the closure of hundreds of inefficient power plants, steel mills and cement plants, the white paper said.
Write to Shai Oster at

BiFab powers ahead with renewable plan

Published Date: 30 October 2008
By Erikka askeland

THE LAST heavy fabrication yard in Scotland is planning to open a new manufacturing facility in Germany in order to make further headway producing offshore wind turbine structures.
Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) also has plans for a "major" expansion at its fabrication yards at Burntisland and Methil.The company, which fabricates platform decks and other support structures for the offshore oil and gas industry, aims to bolster its presence in the UK and European renewables market, including offshore windfarms as well as wave and tidal energy technologies.The group recently completed a £5 million contract to provide substructures to Talisman Energy's and Scottish & Southern Energy's flagship Beatrice Wind Farm in the North Sea. John Robertson, the managing director of BiFab, is currently in negotiations with two or three potential joint venture partners in Germany. Robertson said the renewables sector was "an opportunity for continual growth over the next five to ten years."We are in final discussions regarding major expansion plans at our facilities in Scotland and now the setting up of new overseas manufacturing facilities in Germany."The company was established in 2001 following a management buyout from Aberdeen-based engineering firm Consafe.The company employs 250 people and recently resolved a large scale industrial dispute. The expansion is also rare good news for Royal Bank of Scotland, which has backed the group's plans for expansion with a new revolving line of credit. RBS has banked BiFab since 2003. Peter Hodgkinson of RBS commercial banking in Fife said: "We are pleased to support the firm."

Offshore wind farms a challenge

Published Date: 30 October 2008
IT IS difficult to imagine groups of enormous wind turbines towering out of the seas around Scotland. However, this could happen within decades if recent developments are anything to go by.
The Crown Estate has revealed that 14 developers have expressed an interest in building schemes in 23 sites.To many in the renewables sector this shows there is a bright future for the industry, which has the potential to provide a significant amount of Scotland's clean, green energy.However, sceptics cite a long list of barriers, which they say might be insurmountable.The technology required to create the enormous 5Mw turbines, which tower more than 300ft tall and must withstand the harsh ocean environment, could be one.In addition, the devices must be serviced, which is not an easy task when there are hazardous waves to contend with.There are also fears that the devices could damage the marine environment, block shipping routes, and hamper the fishing industry.The potential barriers have led one industry insider to say: "I just don't think the technology is advanced enough to make offshore wind farms feasible."It will take years and years before we are at the stage where they can be installed with confidence that they will survive the conditions – and before that stage they won't be attractive to investors."However, a source in the environment sector, disagreed."I'm very optimistic. Yes it's technologically more challenging in most Scottish locations than most English ones, primarily because of the water depth that they are likely to have to operate in."But there's a significant amount of investment going in to improve the technology," the source said.Another industry insider added: "There are definitely challenges about developing renewable energy in offshore environments."However, we can start to transfer the experience from the oil and gas industry."

Olive stones could be made into biofuel

By Richard Alleyne
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 30/10/2008

Olive stones can be turned into bioethanol, a renewable fuel that can be produced from plant matter and used as an alternative to petrol or diesel, scientists have discovered.
The development gives the olive processing industry an opportunity to make valuable use of the four million tons of waste in olive stones it generates every year and sets a precedent for the recycling of waste products as fuels.
Researchers from the Universities of Jaén and Granada in Spain developed the process which they published in the Society of Chemical Industry's (SCI) Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology.

"The low cost of transporting and transforming olives stones make them attractive for biofuels," said researcher Sebastián Sánchez.
Bioethanol is increasingly used in cars, but its production from food crops such as corn is controversial because it uses valuable land resources and threatens food security.
The olive stone, produced in processing of olive oil and table olives, makes up around a quarter of the total fruit. It is rich in polysaccharides that can be broken down into sugar and then fermented to produce ethanol.
"This research raises the possibility of using of olive stones, which would otherwise be wasted, in producing energy. In this way we can make use of the whole food crop," said Mr Sánchez.

Biofuels debate

By 2050 the world will need twice as much energy while emitting half of today's greenhouse gases. As the global population heads for 9 billion, supplies of conventional oil and gas will not keep up. Solar and wind will struggle to fill the gap and nuclear will be needed, but poses its own environmental challenges. Shell say biofuels cannot be left out of the mix and have the potential to be an affordable, genuinely low CO2 fuel in the near term.
Rob Rout, in charge of Shell's expansion of biofuels, answers your questions on the most controversial issue being debated by the energy giants.
Send your questions to

Defence groups enter green zone

By Sylvia Pfeifer
Published: October 30 2008 02:00

When a Scottish farmer applied for planning permission to build four wind turbines in a field this year, his plans were almost derailed by Aberdeen airport. The turbines were in line of sight of the airport's radar and could interfere with it, potentially hampering air traffic, the airport said.
The farmer turned to an unlikely source for help: Qinetiq, the defence and research technology group that developed radar in its formative years during the second world war.
Today, it has found a new use for its expertise, adapting its computer modelling techniques to help airports, developers and energy companies analyse the impact of a new wind farm on the performance of radars. The group is also developing the world's first "stealthy" composite wind turbine blade that will not interfere with radar systems.
The farmer's approach to Qinetiq paid off. The company proved the turbines would have only a negligible impact on the radar and Aberdeen airport withdrew its objection.
It was a small victory but a significant example of how some of the world's leading defence companies are applying their military technologies to one of the fastest-growing markets: energy and renewable energy and climate change, in particular.
"Energy and environment is emerging as a key strategic focus for Qinetiq alongside security and defence," says Mark Roberts, energy and environment director at Qinetiq.
Many defence companies already use their engineering skills to provide energy-efficient solutions to the armed forces (the US army has launched an initiative to cut down on the logistical cost of transporting fuel across large battle areas), while their satellite technology has for decades been used by the military to provide weather forecasts.
Until now, though, there has been little evidence of a "holistic approach" to the energy sector, said Nick Cook, founder of Dynamixx, a consultancy focused on opportunities in the energy and environmental market for the aerospace and defence industry.
With government defence budgets under pressure, more industry executives are waking up to the fact that their skills, including system integration expertise and the ability to model large amounts of data, can be used to help combat climate change, the ultimate system of systems.
"Action needs to be taken now and the defence industry is the best placed sector on the planet to deal with the threat," says Mr Cook.
Even Lockheed Martin is going green. The world's largest defence company, better known as the maker of fighter jets such as the F-16, is already one of the largest providers of energy efficient programmes for utilities and federal agencies in the US but is now using its engineering expertise - it employs about 70,000 engineers and scientists - to pursue other opportunities in the energy sector.
It has teamed up with Starwood Energy Group, an affiliate of private equity investment group Starwood Capital, to investigate commercial-scale concentrated solar energy generation facilities in North America.
Dr Ray Johnson, chief technical officer, believes the energy market is a "good fit" with defence. "Lockheed is a national security company and we see energy as a growing national security concern of the US and our allies," he says. Its scientists are doing cutting-edge research in areas such as renewable energy and alternative sources of power.
In January, Lockheed signed a licence agreement to integrate and market so-called Electrical Energy Storage Units from Texas-based EEStor for military and homeland security applications. EEStor is developing a ceramic battery chemistry that can provide 10 times the energy density of lead acid batteries at one tenth the weight and volume.
This month Lockheed was granted $1.2m by the Department of Energy to demonstrate that ocean thermal energy conversion is possible. Although oceans do not always feel warm, the difference in temperature between the surface and the cold depths below is great enough to be transformed into electrical energy.
Given the changes in weather that are taking place, in part due to climate change, predicting these changes accurately both for the military and business is another increasingly lucrative area.
Raytheon, for example, has for decades supplied weather-monitoring sensors on ground-based radars, on aircraft and even space craft.
The information it processes is invaluable not just for weather forecasters but also for the military, which can use it to help influence tactical decisions during a conflict. But other markets such as agriculture can increasingly profit from accurate information: farmers can use the data, for instance, to decide when to harvest.
"Detailed information on weather and climate trends can be critical to improve the effectiveness of alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar power," says Thomas Culligan, executive vice-president of business development at Raytheon.
Saab, the Swedish aerospace and defence group, also supplies weather stations to the country's transport authorities, helping them plan when to remove snow and ice from the roads.
At the end of last year the company took its first step into the waste management business, investing in a company called Usitall, which specialises in waste management and energy recovery. According to Ake Svensson, chief executive of Saab, the move will allow it to export this knowledge and offer it to customers as an "offset potential" against harmful carbon emissions.
"[Defence companies] can manage big programmes," he adds. "Some of these cases are huge integration tasks, we can also provide command and control systems that have been developed for military purposes."
As defence companies identify more opportunities in the sector, there are likely to be significant partnerships with energy companies; most already admit to holding early-stage talks. But they are unlikely to start selling wind turbines in your local supermarket. The consumer market is one area that will remain out of reach.
"It is difficult for us as the defence industry to approach the consumer market," says Mr Svensson. "We are good when you have bigger customers, like authorities or major industries that need your expertise."
Signs of Britain's nuclear renaissance
The British nuclear industry is enjoying a renaissance after the government gave the green light for a new generation of reactors - and defence contractors believe they can play an active role.
Rolls-Royce, which makes nuclear reactors to power Royal Navy submarines, announced in the summerplans to launch a nuclear power division focused on reactor components. It said concerns about global warming, energy security and the high cost of fossil fuels meant the global market for civil nuclear energy could be worth £50bn in 15 years.
BAE Systems, which builds Britain's nuclear submarines, is also eyeing opportunities in the sector, while VT Group last year spent £75m buying a division of British Nuclear Fuels.
Companies are already forming partnerships. Last month Westinghouse, the nuclear engineering company sold to Toshiba of Japan, signed agreements with BAE, Rolls-Royce and Doosan Babcock to collaborate on its AP1000TM nuclear power plant proposal.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

EU mulls loans for green cars

By Joshua Chaffin and Nikki Tait
Published: October 30 2008 02:00

European carmakers could get up to €40bn ($51bn, £31bn) in "soft loans" from the European Investment Bank to help develop more fuel-efficient technologies, a top European Union official said yesterday.
Günter Verheugen, the EU's industry commissioner, said that loan subsidies could be provided through the EIB in an effort to develop greener cars and meet EU environmental targets, although he said it was ultimately a matter for the bloc's member states and the EIB to decide. Nikki Tait and Joshua Chaffin, Brussels
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Ecological credit crunch potentially more damaging than financial crisis, says WWF

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 29/10/2008
The world is in the grip of an ecological credit crunch potentially far more damaging than the financial crisis, conservationists have warned.

The Earth's natural resources are being used up to 30 per cent faster than they can be replaced in a reckless environmental spending spree, according to a WWF report.
Thuya forest, in Morocco, which is not managed (left) foot prints in Sahara desert sand dunes (middle) and a paper mill in Hlsingland, Sweden (right)
As a result half the countries in the world are in ecological debt and unless the trend is reversed by 2030 it will take the equivalent of two planets to keep pace with demand.
The WWF Living Planet report, produced every two years, provides a stock take of natural resources and an update on the health of the planet's living systems.
It warns world leaders that they need to tackle the problems of depleted eco systems in the same way as they have co-ordinated efforts to revive financial institutions.
WWF international director general James Leape said people - whether they live in the forest or in big cities - depend on the services provided free by natural systems but the resources are being used up faster than they can be replenished.

"The recent downturn in the global economy is a stark reminder of the consequences of living beyond our means. But the possibility of financial recession pales in comparison to the looming ecological credit crunch," he said.
"Just as reckless spending is causing recession so reckless consumption is depleting the world's natural capital to a point where we are endangering our future prosperity."
The Living Planet report claims that species and wildlife are being pushed to extinction and that since 1970 there has been a 30 per cent decline in the wildlife populations of measured species mostly because of damage caused decades ago in temperate northern regions.
But now tropical zones are suffering and wildlife numbers have been cut by 50 per cent in 35 years mainly because of deforestation and loss of habitat.
Three-quarters of the world's population are living in countries that are ecological debtors and consuming more than their land can produce and 50 countries are slipping into a state of permanent or seasonal water loss.
"Most of us are propping up our current lifestyles and our economic growth by drawing -and increasingly overdrawing - on the ecological capital of other countries," Mr Leape added.
The report said fossil fuels and the need for land are responsible for most of humanity's footprint which underlined the threat of climate change.
The people of the US and the United Arab Emirates have the biggest ecological footprint while Malawi and Afghanistan the smallest.
The UK's national ecological footprint is the 15th biggest in the world, and is the same size as that of 33 African countries put together, WWF said.
A Chinese person has an ecological footprint equivalent to 2.1 hectares per person while an American needs 9.4 hectares and a Briton 5.3 hectares to support their lifestyle.
On average each person needs 1.24m litres of water annually but in the US the average use is 2.48m litres and in the Yemen 619,000 litres.
But the report, produced with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Netwrok (GFN), claims that it is not too late to reverse the ecological credit crunch by more efficient energy use, cutting greenhouse gases and by investing and preserving the Earth's ecosystems.

Eco-tourism key to protecting Karpaz

By Agnieszka Rakoczy
Published: October 29 2008 02:00

On a Saturday afternoon in Buyukkonuk, a small village at the entrance to the remote Karpaz peninsula in north Cyprus, Lois Cemal is teaching three women how to make samsi, a traditional Cypriot almond baklava.
"We don't only promote eco-tourism, we live it," says Mrs Cemal, a Canadian who runs a bed-and-breakfast establishment and a craft shop with her Turkish Cypriot husband. The couple also work to conserve local crafts, from basket making, spinning and weaving to adobe-style brick-making.
Since being selected two years ago for a pilot eco-tourism project in north Cyprus, Buyukkonuk's 800 residents have used €1.8m in grants from Turkey, USAID and the United Nations Development Programme to renovate landmark buildings and convert others into restaurants and guesthouses. They have also created several nature trails.
Turkish Cypriot officials say eco-tourism projects are an important way of protecting the Karpaz, an 80km-long peninsula that narrows from a 20km-wide base to a rocky headland marking Cyprus's north-eastern tip.
The Karpaz "panhandle" hosts a wealth of wildlife. Pine trees, cypress and scrub cover its rolling hills. As many as 300 species of birds pass through each year, flying along one of the main migration routes. Endangered sea turtles use its isolated beaches as nesting grounds.
The peninsula's 25 villages have about 15,000 residents, both Turkish Cypriots and mainland Turks, mainly from the Black Sea coast. The Greek Cypriot population has dwindled to around 370 people, living separately in small enclaves.
After the island's forcible division in 1974, most Greek Cypriots moved to the south. Families who remained to protect their property and continue farming their land have gradually left as their children reached high-school age. Only one Greek Cypriot school is still open, with fewer than 30 pupils.
Hasan Kilic, tourism undersecretary, says: "We want to protect the area but also bring in more tourists and create jobs for local people. But we don't want big hotels. We prefer to develop projects like Buyukkonuk that involve agro-tourism."
He says $3m has been spent in the past three years on 13 village eco-tourism projects, with another 11 underway.
But more intrusive development could threaten the Karpaz, following the construction of a road linking the peninsula with Kyrenia, the main tourist centre in the north, and a recently completed electrification scheme stretching along its length to the Apostolos Andreas monastery close to the tip.
About €200m of private investment is being poured into several resort complexes at Bafra, on the southern edge of the Karpaz. A €15m marina with more than 500 berths is being built at Yeni Erenkoy on the north coast.
Mr Kilic says there has been pressure from potential investors for permits to build more hotels. He says north Cyprus will try to avoid what happened in the south where "the Greek Cypriots lost many beautiful places" because of poorly-managed tourist development,
But more buildings are appearing along the Karpaz coastline, such as a collection of wooden cabins, overlooking the main turtle-nesting beach, that are used by weekend visitors.
Turkish Cypriot environmental officials have been trying to secure the creation of a Karpaz National Park that would be regulated by the environment ministry. A draft law provides for bringing the different bodies responsible for the area under a single umbrella and for restricting development.
Dogan Sahir, an environmental activist, says the proposed legislation is "vague and inconsistent". It would allow development as far as Dipkarpaz, a large village close to the northern tip. While the village itself would be protected, new building would be allowed nearby. Foreigners are already buying land around the village in anticipation of development, according to residents.
Archaeologists are also seeking tighter protection for the Karpaz, which is believed to have been densely populated in antiquity because of its sheltered valleys and large areas of pastureland.
Uwe Muller, director of Eastern Mediterranean University's Dakmar Research Centre, says: "No research excavations have been done in this area for 80 years, but when our centre conducted a small-scale survey last year, we found over 100 sites."
Turkish Cypriot legislation protects registered ancient sites, but few in the Karpaz have been registered, mainly because exploration by the antiquities department has lagged, according to Tuncer Bagiskan, a member of the north Cyprus Supreme Monuments Council, which oversees the protection of historic sites.
"I'm concerned about the Karpaz. When we talk about the environment and protected areas, this means a place that you can't touch. You can't combine protection with investment," Mr Bagiskan says.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Mark Lynas: the green heretic persecuted for his nuclear conversion

The climate change expert Mark Lynas has been scorned by eco-colleagues for daring to speak up for atomic power

I know I should be furious. The EDF takeover of British Energy means that four nuclear power stations could now be built around the UK, the first nuclear new build in a generation. As a long-standing Green party member, one who chops his own wood, grows his own leeks, keeps chickens and puts the kids in washable nappies, antinuclear indignation should spring easily to my lips.
After all, energy is something I care about. The last time I checked my carbon budget, I came in at a fifth of the national average. I rarely fly, even when booked to address faraway audiences about my personal obsession, climate change – a subject I’ve covered in three books. Whenever the word “nuclear” comes up at my talks, a shudder runs through the room. Because everyone knows that real environmentalists loathe nuclear power. It is just evil. Full stop.
Except, well, I don’t believe that any more. Just a month ago I had a Damascene conversion: the Green case against nuclear power is based largely on myth and dogma. My tipping point came when I discovered just how much nuclear power has changed since I first set my mind against it. Prescription for the Planet, a new book by the American writer Tom Blees, opened my eyes to fourth-generation “fast-breeder” reactors, which use fuel much more efficiently than the old-style reactors, produce shorter-lived waste and can also be designed to be “walk-away safe”.
Best of all, these new reactors – prototypes of which have already been tested – can produce power by burning up existing stocks of nuclear waste. As Blees puts it: “Thus we have a prodigious supply of free fuel that is actually even better than free, for it is material that we are quite desperate to get rid of.” Who could object to that?
Just about everyone on the eco-scene, it turned out. I began to receive e-mails from friends and colleagues warning me off the topic. Did I really want to risk my entire reputation by alienating the green movement? The backlash to my first magazine article on the subject prompted my inbox to collapse, the blogs to drip with venom, the dirty looks to multiply.
A former Greenpeace campaigner posted on my website that I needed to show “a bit of humility” and “less arrogance”. On Greenpeace’s blog my views were mocked as “wishful thinking of the day”. On Radio 4’s Today programme, Green party leader Caroline Lucas accused me of having “lost the plot”. When I argued back, she accused me of “just being silly”. I was a traitor.
This was a moment I had been dreading for nearly three years, ever since I first suspected that much of what I had been brought up to believe about nuclear power – that it is, without exception, dirty, dangerous and unnecessary – was untrue. Science has moved on. The old figures just don’t stack up any more.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nuclear is just as low-carbon a power source as wind and solar: the world’s 439 operating nuclear reactors save the planet from 2 billion extra tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which would have been emitted had coal been used instead.
And those dangers? They’re still there but we need to discuss them truthfully. Take Chernobyl. We all know it was a disaster: the Greenpeace website states a death toll of 60,000 already and predicts another 140,000 deaths in the future. But these statistics fly in the face of mainstream science: according to the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, 28 people died in the initial phase and several thousand more have suffered from nonfatal thyroid cancer because of the accident. The UN report concludes that “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident” – so the real death toll from the world’s worst nuclear accident is tiny. On a deaths per gigawatt-year basis, nuclear is safer than coal and oil.
Curiosity whetted, I searched the scientific literature for evidence to support the other great green charge levelled at nuclear power: it kills its neighbours. I sifted through piles of rigorous epidemiological studies from all over the world, searching for proof that people who live near nuclear sites are more prone to cancer and leukaemia. None of the reputable journals turned up a link.
These are just two examples of eco-myths: there are many more. If only we were allowed to discuss them without being flayed for heresy.
When I e-mailed a senior ecological scientist with my conclusions, he agreed, but only privately. “Do not cite me as promoting nuclear,” he begged. I am still shocked that people of his stature are too intimidated to speak out. The result of this fear is that the public is dangerously misinformed about nuclear power.
I have finally thought of something useful that I can do with my Green party membership card: I’ll auction it on eBay and send the money to EDF – with a suggestion that it beefs up its marketing department. Any bids?

Ford to build green engine in Wales

By John Willman, Business Editor
Published: October 28 2008 18:05

Ford of Europe is defying the gloom hanging over the motor industry with a £70m investment in Wales to produce the first of a generation of green petrol engines.
The EcoBoost engines, which are 20 per cent more fuel efficient and emit 15 per cent less carbon dioxide, will be made for the global Ford network only at the carmaker’s Bridgend factory.

The investment was secured with £13.4m in support from the Welsh assembly and will raise output above 1m units a year. It will also increase jobs at the Bridgend factory, the third-largest private sector employer in Wales, to more than 2,000.
The announcement follows a series of profit warnings from the big global car manufacturers, which have been cutting output and staff after a sharp decline in sales caused by the credit crunch.
Component manufacturers have followed suit, with GKN this week saying it would close plants and introduce short-time working for many of its 30,000 staff worldwide. Sales in its automotive division would be 15 per cent below last year in the final three months of 2008, GKN said – and predicted sales would fall 8 per cent next year.
All the UK’s large carmakers have revealed plans to reduce output for the rest of the year, with Ford introducing a four-day week at its Southampton Transit van factory. But its engine plants at Bridgend and Dagenham have not faced cuts, as demand remains buoyant for their smaller engines as drivers trade down to more fuel-efficient cars.
The Ford investment was welcomed by Rhodri Morgan, Wales’s first minister, as a tribute to the technical skills developed at Bridgend and the good working relations in the plant.
“The factory was opened 28 years ago amid the doom and gloom of the early 1980s. This investment probably means Ford will be making engines here for another 28 years.”
Mr Morgan said it was particularly pleasing that Bridgend would be the only source of the the EcoBoost, a new category for Ford. The 1.6-litre engines, which go into production in two years, provide an environmentally friendly alternative to hybrid engines and diesels, and utilise a range of fuel-efficiency technologies.
Unemployment in Wales, once a blackspot after the closure of the mines and much of the steel industry, is now 5.9 per cent, only slightly above the UK average of 5.7 per cent. Other car component manufacturers to have come to Wales include Takao, the Japanese company which has invested £15m in a plant acquired last year at Ebbw Vale and created about 100 jobs.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

MPs support tough bill on CO2 reporting

By Alex Barker and Fiona Harvey
Published: October 29 2008 02:00

Mid-sized companies face mandatory reporting of their carbon emissions from 2012 after MPs last night passed sweeping legislation setting ambitious targets to tackle climate change.
The climate change bill, approved by a clear Commons majority, commits Britain to slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, in what is the world's first legally binding national emissions reduction target.
The measures passed relatively smoothly after the government defused controversy through a series of critical concessions to placate backbenchers and environmental campaigners.
Most significantly, ministers halted a growing revolt over the proposed exemption of aviation and shipping from the targets by saying the sectors would be "taken into account" once a method of measuring "international" emissions was found.
Ed Miliband, energy secretary, also gave ground by raising the emissions reduction target from 60 to 80 per cent and including all six of the main greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.
The law places new responsibilities on large and medium-sized companies to disclose their carbon emissions and sets out a process for establishing more rigorous common reporting standards. It does not define exactly how big a company has to be to fall within the rules.
Under the bill, corporate reporting will be mandated from 2012. But before then ministers plan to review how it should be implemented and will retain the power to introduce a voluntary scheme, if that is considered more effective. A consultation will also begin on whether smaller businesses should face the same reporting requirements.
Many companies already disclose their carbon dioxide output, either under existing regulations or voluntarily. Heavy industry covered by the European Union's emissions trading scheme must monitor their discharges, while thousands of retail outlets, banks and other commercial premises will have to begin emissions trading from 2010 under government regulations called the "carbon reduction commitment".
Joan Ruddock, minister for energy and climate change, said the move would be valuable to shareholders by allowing companies to demonstrate "their green credentials".
The CBI employers' organisation welcomed the move. Neil Bentley, director of business environment, said reporting would help provide "a clear picture of . . . environmental impact" to company stakeholders.
But he added: "There will inevitably be a cost associated with mandating carbon reporting and that is why it is so important that a simple and standard method is devised."
The inclusion of aviation and shipping in the emissions targets was attacked by the airline industry. Michelle Di Leo, director of the pro-aviation group FlyingMatters, described it as a "hollow victory" for environmentalists that was both "ineffective and unfair".
* Companies should find it easier to put carbon labels on their products with the publication of a new standard today.
The government has worked with BSI British Standards to create a labelling formula, by which companies can work out the emissions resulting from the manufacture of their goods.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

China wants more help from West on curbing emissions

Published: October 28, 2008

BEIJING: China wants rich countries to commit 1 percent of their economic worth to help poor nations fight global warming and will press for a new international mechanism to spread "green" technology worldwide.
Unveiling the proposals on Tuesday, a senior Chinese official for climate change policy, Gao Guangsheng, said the global financial turmoil should not deter developed countries from increasing their contributions of funds and technology to poor nations.
"Developing countries should take action, but a prerequisite for this action is that developed countries provide funds and transfer technology," Gao said at a news conference.
Gao said current funds to help fight climate change are "virtually nothing." He said China would detail its proposal at a conference next week that will assemble representatives from the United States, Europe and many rich and poor countries.
Gao is the chief of the climate change office in the National Development and Reform Commission, a super-ministry steering Chinese economic policy. His call may signal that Beijing wants to take a more active role in climate change talks.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, felling forests and farming are trapping growing levels of solar radiation in the atmosphere, which may result in dangerous rises in average global temperatures.
China, with 1.3 billion people, a fast-growing economy and bulging exports, has pushed its emissions of greenhouse gases above those of the United States, which had long been the world's biggest emitter, according to many experts.
But under the Kyoto Protocol, China and other Third World economies have no required goals to contain emissions.
Washington has refused to ratify the Kyoto pact, saying that the lack of caps on China and other big developing emitters make it ineffective. Many foreign officials and experts say that in a new pact, which is the subject of ongoing talks sponsored by the United Nations, China should accept some binding goals.
These pressures put China at the heart of the accelerating negotiations for a treaty to replace the current Kyoto pact, which expires in 2012. Those negotiations culminate in Copenhagen late next year.
Gao indicated that in those talks China would not only resist calls for it to accept emissions targets, but would also press its demand for a huge increase in the flow of technology and funds to China and other developing nations.
Current climate change agreements provide for funds for technology and adaptation steps. But Chinese officials have long said that their country's ability to cut carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from power plants, factories and vehicles, is hampered by a lack of promised technology from wealthy Western nations.
"The present mechanism is unsuited to the needs of addressing climate change," Gao said. "Developed countries have not carried out their relevant commitments."
Western officials and experts have attributed the delays to worries about patent theft and sacrificed competitiveness. Some have also said China's demands for technology transfers have been too vague to negotiate.
Gao said China's proposal would address those worries and offer stronger protection for intellectual property.
At the two-day conference starting Friday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will give a keynote speech, underscoring the seriousness of the government's technology demands, Gao said.
On Wednesday, China is to issue a report detailing its policies and concerns on climate change.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Big decline in depth of Arctic winter sea ice

Juliette Jowit
The Guardian,
Tuesday October 28 2008

The thickness of sea ice in the Arctic dramatically declined last winter for the first time since records began in the early 1990s. The research by British scientists shows a significant loss in the thickness of the northern ice cap after the record loss of ice in the summer of 2007, although the weather was not abnormally warm.
The findings, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, raise the possibility that the loss of the Arctic sea ice could accelerate, because as the ice recedes the water temperature rises. This summer the sea ice recorded its second-lowest extent after the record low of 2007, again despite relatively cool air temperatures.
However, Katharine Giles of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at University College London, who led the study, said it was too soon to say whether the downward trend would continue and lead to summer sea ice disappearing even faster than forecast. "It's dangerous to extrapolate out because colder weather would mean the ice could recover again," said Giles. "This data will help climate modellers to validate their models and make them more accurate."
The study, part-funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the European Union, found the thickness of sea ice in the Arctic was almost unchanged in the five winters from 2002-6, but then declined 10%, or 26cm, last winter. In parts of the western Arctic, where the greatest loss was recorded the previous summer, the loss was nearly double the average.
But Vicky Pope, the Met Office's leading adviser to the government on climate change, warned: "There's clearly a decline over the last 30 years and we can detect a human signal in that, but the change in the last couple of years could be due to natural fluctuations in the weather."
Other causes of sea ice changes could include ocean currents and wind piling up ice, making it important to measure both thickness and extent to calculate total volume, said Giles.

Emissions from planes included for first time in climate change plans

Emissions from planes are to be included for the first time in ambitious government plans to cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent after ministers were forced into the change to head off a back bench rebellion.

by Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 3:23PM GMT 27 Oct 2008

The new amendment agrees to take international aviation into account
Ed Miliband, the new secretary of state for energy and climate change, won environmental plaudits when he declared earlier this month that the UK would be the first country in the world to commit to legally binding cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions.
The Climate Change Bill committed the country to cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050.
But the target did not include emissions from international aviation and shipping.
Green campaigners said the omission made the target meaningless - like agreeing to go on a diet but not including chocolate cake - and threatened to oppose the Bill until the law was strengthened.
An amendment including aviation in the target and backed by the Lib Dems, the Tories and enough Labour backbenchers to overthrow the government was put down in Parliament.
However in the face of a possible defeat, the Government has put forward a new amendment strengthening the Bill enough to keep the environmental lobby happy, while retaining enough control over the targets to reassure the business sector.
The new amendment, put down by Labour MP Elliot Morley, agrees to take international aviation into account when setting the five yearly budgets to meet the target.
Because there is not yet an agreed way to allocate emissions from international aviation to different countries, they cannot be included in the target. However by taking emissions from aviation into account it will force a larger cut in overall emissions.
The move is in line with the recommendations of Lord Adair Turner's Committee on Climate Change.
A government spokesman said: "We think we have an agreement which means Bill is workable."
Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, welcomed the move.
He said: "People from right around the UK demanded a strong law. The Government have listened."
Matthew Farrow, head of environment at the CBI, admitted the inclusion of aviation will make the target more challenging for all sectors.
But he said aviation should be included for the targets to really be effective.

The Clean Air Act: Jump-starting climate action

The next president should use the Clean Air Act to control greenhouse gas emissions and establish a national cap-and-trade programme, write Michael Northrop and David Sassoon. From Yale Environment360
Yale Environment360 and Guardian Environmental Network,
Monday October 27 2008 15.54 GMT

The urgency of the current situation cannot be overemphasized: The latest scientific research tells us that global warming is accelerating at a rate beyond previous expectations, and that the window for a timely response is closing quickly. Despite some political efforts to muddy the waters, there is scientific agreement that greenhouse gas emissions must now be stabilized within seven years or the world will face unpredictable climate-related catastrophes — far beyond the serious impacts already in evidence globally.
Climate action in the United States — at a federal standstill for the last eight years — is expected to finally move forward with the inauguration of a new president in January. What preparations can be made now to assure action within the first 100 days? Congress is expected to try to move cap-and-trade legislation again while also addressing related issues: energy, transportation, economic policy, and conservation. But the key question remains: Is there a leadership strategy that the next president can initiate to strengthen the likelihood of success, particularly during this time of economic crisis?
The latest science demands a strategy that provides a policy pathway that will begin to reduce emissions immediately, and a political pathway that avoids continued gridlock. Relying on a single piece of legislation runs the risk of failing to meet one or both of these nonnegotiable requirements. It could easily take more than seven years to get a federal carbon-trading mechanism to stabilize emissions. It's also possible that congressional compromise will water down cap-and-trade emissions targets and, worse, undermine existing state and regional efforts.
There is, however, a promising alternative strategy increasingly under discussion by a growing number of legal authorities, politicians, and policy experts: Activate the Clean Air Act — arguably the most cost-effective environmental law in the US — and use it to control greenhouse gas emissions. Such a move would not require controversial new legislation and would be on solid legal footing, thanks to the US Supreme Court's landmark 2007 decision, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which affirmed that carbon dioxide emissions are a pollutant as defined by the Clean Air Act and can therefore be regulated by the EPA.
That ruling is now informing Sen. Barack Obama's thinking. Jason Grumet, his energy adviser, said this month that if elected president, Sen. Obama would declare CO2 a dangerous pollutant under the Clean Air Act and use the act to limit emissions. Experts do not dispute the executive branch's authority to do so.
"EPA has the authority to regulate sources of pollution directly and could set emissions standards for new stationary sources of pollution — such as coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and steel and concrete plants — in relatively short order," said Lisa Heinzerling, professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, who wrote the petitioners' brief in Massachusetts v EPA.
She and many other legal experts believe that under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can also administer a national cap-and-trade program by writing federal rules to unify independent regional carbon markets. Already, 23 states and four Canadian provinces are forming such markets, with 10 additional states being brought into the process as observers. Experts believe the EPA can promulgate an additional set of regulations that would control transportation emissions — everything from cars and trucks to boats and airplanes.
"The high court essentially said the United States currently has a law for regulating carbon dioxide emissions, and it's called the Clean Air Act," said John Dernbach, a professor at Widener University Law School. Dernbach, who writes extensively on climate change, co-authored a friend-of-the-court brief in the landmark case on behalf of 18 prominent climate scientists.
This means that two branches of government — Congress, which enacted the law, and the Supreme Court, which confirmed its applicability to carbon dioxide — have already set the stage for an executive branch willing to implement the existing law to control greenhouse gas emissions. The next president can step into office and lay out a comprehensive strategy for a national climate plan that uses the Clean Air Act and identifies areas for congressional action. The moment is ripe for such bold executive leadership.
Robert McKinstry, a partner in the environmental group at the law firm of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll and a co-author of the brief with Dernbach, also believes that the act offers a parallel, lower-cost, and faster avenue for establishing a national carbon market than completely new legislation. He points to existing regional carbon-trading efforts as mechanisms that offer a head start.
Three regional programs are already in development — the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast, the Western Climate Initiative, and the Midwest Governors Greenhouse Gas Accord.
The first already has held its first carbon credit auctions and will begin regulating power plant emissions in January. Taken together, these initiatives to combat global warming now cover areas that include half the US population, and state governments are already considering how to harmonize regional trading systems with each other, as well as with the European Union's emissions-trading scheme. In addition, 39 states — and most Canadian provinces and Mexican states — established a climate registry to measure emissions, a cornerstone of an eventual national U.S. market.
This evolving US carbon marketplace can provide the framework around which a national system can grow from the bottom up, McKinstry maintains. Many experts do not believe the EPA can establish a carbon trading mechanism on its own authority. But they agree that states can do so, and that the EPA can play the role of regulator by writing federal trading rules. Why not allow the best-equipped federal agency to oversee and coordinate the ongoing development of regional carbon markets, which are already way ahead of anything likely to emerge anytime soon from new federal legislation?
It is tricky legal terrain and the debate among experts, who are now submitting recommendations to the EPA about how to apply the Clean Air Act to greenhouse gas emissions, will require the skills of a Talmudic scholar to follow. Some experts — including Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board — believe that the act could be amended to provide a specific global climate focus, perhaps through a new title, as was done for acid rain in 1990. "There is no reason to abandon a legislative framework that has worked well," says Nichols.
California has demonstrated to the nation how the law could be put to work to reduce greenhouse gases. The state asked the EPA for a waiver to impose more stringent auto-emissions standards than the current federal ones. Seventeen other states were ready to adopt the California standards, but the Bush EPA has refused. By instructing the EPA to grant this long-delayed waiver, the next president could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector with the stroke of a pen. The agency is sitting on eight other petitions that would reduce emissions from other mobile sources, such as trucks, locomotives, boats, and airplanes. This kind of rule-making — not lawmaking — immediately shifts the status quo from argument to action by applying already available regulatory mechanisms.
The Clean Air Act — first passed in 1963, with later amendments — is a mature, flexible, and successful law designed to integrate the work of all economic sectors and all levels of government. By applying the Clean Air Act, the next president can stand on the shoulders of legal and regulatory precedent. He can adopt an executive-branch strategy to complement the next round of legislative efforts. He can lead climate policy development by using existing authority and can ensure that the US has a strong position going into the next round of international climate negotiations. And action in the first 100 days can set the stage for genuine US re-engagement in international climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009.
An energy crisis, a climate crisis, and an economic crisis have joined forces in a perfect storm, which now requires a sound and swift response based on new thinking. Using the Clean Air Act to bring America's runaway greenhouse gas emissions under control could give the next president the tools he needs to respond to this challenge as well as leverage to use with Congress for broader action. There is no time to waste.
Michael Northrop is Program Director for Sustainable Development at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. David Sassoon runs, a website dedicated to debating and advancing solutions to global warming. Their last story for Yale Environment 360 examined how states are developing sweeping climate and energy policies in the absence of federal action.

China pays high environmental and social price for reliance on coal

Pollution, emissions and mining accidents cost £160bn each year, say Greenpeace, WWF and energy campaigners
Tania Branigan, China correspondent,
Monday October 27 2008 13.16 GMT

China's main source of power is so destructive that its social and environmental impact costs £160bn annually, warns a new report from green campaigners.
The country is the world's largest producer and consumer of coal, relying on it for more than 70% of energy production, compared with a global average of around 40%.
The True Cost of Coal, published by Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and The Energy Foundation, says by-products ranging from water pollution to mining deaths cost China an additional 1.7 trillion yuan, or more than 7% of annual GDP.
"From extraction to combustion, every step in the process of using coal damages the environment," warns the report.
"To ensure its energy security, environmental protection and healthy economic and societal development, China must reduce its reliance on coal."
The report catalogues the effects of the industry across a wide range of areas. According to official figures, coal is responsible for 70% of soot, 85% of sulphur dioxide, 67% of nitrogen oxides and 80% of carbon dioxide emitted in the country — leading to respiratory diseases and contributes to global warming.
Thousands die annually in the country's mines, despite a safety drive in recent years. Wastewater and solid residue damage water systems and agricultural land.
Land subsidence caused by mining damages road, railway lines and power lines and results in the relocation of 2,000 people for every 10m tonnes of coal produced.
Each tonne of coal consumed in 2007 cost China an extra 150yuan in environmental damage, the study shows.
The authors — from well-regarded research institutes in China — show how the government could ensure those costs are internalised, suggesting the price of coal would rise by 23%.
They accept that would reduce GDP by 0.07%, but argue it would increase China's long-term international competitiveness and increase social wealth by 940bn yuan.
"Environmental and social damages are underestimated while using coal in China, as a result of market failures and weakness in government regulations," said economist Mao Yushi, lead author of the report.The report suggests that imposing environmental taxes, improving compensation schemes and other restructuring the coal industry could all slash coal use.
"Recognising the true cost of coal would create incentives to developing cleaner, sustainable energy sources. The government should introduce an effective price signal for coal, which would ensure a massive improvement in energy efficiency and large-scale implementation of renewable energy.
"This would reduce China's environmental pollution and show its leadership in fighting climate change," urged Yang Ailun, climate and energy campaign manager of Greenpeace China.

Prince Charles arrives in Tokyo to campaign on global warming

Valentine Low, Tokyo

The Prince of Wales flew halfway round the world today for an official tour of Japan in which he will be calling for a drastic reduction in carbon output.
Accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, he was greeted in Tokyo by Crown Prince Naruhito, who cut a solitary figure, being unaccompanied, as usual, by Crown Princess Masako, who has not carried out official functions since being diagnosed with depression.
Clarence House officials are already working hard to promote the key messages of the tour: climate change and the destruction of the rainforests. In an advance notice of a speech the Prince is due to give tomorrow at a Tokyo science museum they said he will call for “nothing less than an urgent, full-scale transformation to a low-carbon society”.

In the speech, to an audience of business leaders and politicians, the officials said, he will reflect on the joint work already being done by Japanese and British scientists, and emphasise the important steps which the big G8 countries need to take in the fight against climate change.
Clarence House has already attempted to head off criticism that the five-day tour, which will be followed by visits to Brunei and Indonesia, will itself leave a large carbon footprint. The flights will be carbon-offset, and Clarence House has argued that sometimes a message has to be put across in person in order to be most effective.
The tour, which marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the United Kingdom, will also be building on the strong trade links between the two countries. The UK is the number one destination for Japanese investment in Europe and Japan is the UK's largest export market after Europe and the United States.
The British ambassador in Tokyo, David Warren, said: “The relationship between the UK and Japan continues to flourish. In this special year as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, I know that a great many people in Japan are looking forward to welcoming their Royal Highnesses to this country.”
The trip is Prince Charles's third visit to Japan, although the Duchess has never been there before. She will be finishing her tour after Brunei, partly in order to avoid the heat in Indonesia (the Duchess has an uncomfortable time in hot climates) and partly to return to the UK in time to help organise Charles's 60th birthday celebrations.

Britain's environmental heritage at risk, warns CPRE

Britain risks losing its "fabulous inheritance of landscape and wildlife" as the Government allows developments - including its flagship eco-town projects - to spring up across the countryside, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has warned.

By Louise Gray and Stephen Adams Last Updated: 6:09PM GMT 27 Oct 2008
The CPRE has accused ministers of ignoring its own independent advisor, Natural England, on a host of important environmental issues.
Two years after Natural England was set up to "act as a powerful champion for the natural environment", the Government has yet to prove it is serious about protecting the countryside, according to the CPRE.
Tom Oliver, head of rural policy at CPRE, said: "Its approach to eco-towns is part of the malaise in the Government's approach to planning.
"Our view is: good idea, bad way of going about it."
Environmental standards within eco-towns, while higher than elsewhere, will be "nothing like high enough", he said.
Colleague Kate Gordon, the CPRE's senior planner, also questioned why such standards were not being applied across the board.
Ministers want to build three million homes by 2020, she said, but only around five per cent of those will be in eco-towns.
She commented: "At a local or regional scale they will be quite large numbers. Councils are being asked the impossible."
She also queried the Government's insistence on eco-towns containing a minimum of 5,000 homes: "The Government is saying, 'They must be more than 5,000 homes because they won't attract the innovation below that'. But that's rubbish," she said.
The CPRE attack came days after Department for Communities and Local Government officials concluded "only one or two" of the 15 short-listed eco-towns sites were viable.
The CPRE also criticised the Government's wider environmental decisions since Natural England was created in 2006.
"Huge sums of public money" are still being pumped into controversial road-building schemes that will "shatter the tranquillity of the countryside", the group said.
Allowing more flights from Stansted Airport in Essex, "will inflict additional pollution and noise on the surrounding population" including medieval Hatfield Forest, it claimed.
Long term renewable energy solutions like wave and tidal power are being ignored in favour of "a narrow policy or reliance on large amounts of onshore wind energy", it said.
And it criticised the Planning Bill as being "a danger to democracy and the environment", by reducing people's ability to scrutinise major infrastructure projects and taking decisions out of ministers' hands.
Mr Oliver said: "On aviation and airports, road building, renewable energy and the planning process, Government policy appears to be giving little weight to Natural England's advice."
He added: "Unless the Government really listens to Natural England, the nation risks losing its fabulous inheritance of landscape and wildlife through bad decisions.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) rebuffed the accusations.He said: "Protecting the natural environment is central to the Government's decisions. Along with a number of other bodies Natural England provides valuable advice and is an effective champion of the natural environment.
"However, it is up to government to take the tough decisions that balance the environmental, economic and social needs of modern Britain."