Monday, 7 July 2008

Conservatives pledge 'fuel stabiliser'

By Andrew Porter, Political Editor
Last Updated: 6:27AM BST 07/07/2008

Duty on fuel would be lowered when oil prices are high and raised when they fall to give a fairer deal to motorists, under Conservative plans.
A "fair fuel stabiliser" is the Tory answer to rising costs of living and would enable the Government to reduce the pain of increases while "sharing the gain" when oil prices fall.
George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, claimed that if his plans had been introduced in the last Budget, motorists would now be paying 5p a litre less for petrol.
Mr Osborne said: "We need a totally different approach to fuel duty where government helps families instead of harming them.

"With duty rising when oil prices fall, we would be putting something aside in the good years to help in difficult times."
The Treasury denounced the plans as "gambling with public finances". However, Edmund King, the AA's president, broadly welcomed them, saying his organisation had suggested a similar system to the Chancellor in January.
Mr King said: "Record pump prices and high levels of excise duty are affecting the mobility of millions. The Government needs to review fuel duty as the price of a barrel of oil has doubled in just 12 months."
Kitty Ussher, the Treasury minister, said: “If George Osborne were to do this, he would need to raise nearly another £3 billion in taxes elsewhere to plug his tax gap — that’s getting close to an increase of 1p in basic income tax.
“This is on top of the £10 billion of unfunded spending commitments he has already made. His proposal is a dishonest gimmick that would either mean the Tories would have to hike up taxes somewhere else or leave a massive hole in the public finances.”
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, also poured scorn on the proposals. He said: “Mr Osborne is presuming a knowledge of future trends in oil prices not shared by most people who look at these things professionally.”
The Conservatives’ plan would take Treasury predictions for oil prices as a “base” — and fuel duty would then be altered if they subsequently proved to be wrong.
Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, predicted in the Budget that a barrel of oil would cost about $84 per barrel, but it has since risen to more than $140.
Mr Osborne insisted that the system would be cost-neutral. He also contrasted the proposals, which are being put out for consultation, with the Government’s 2p increase in fuel duty, scheduled for October.
However, both Gordon Brown and Mr Darling, have been dropping heavy hints that the 2p rise will again be frozen, as it was in March.

UK needs more wetlands, say conservationists

Large areas of wetland need to be created in the next 50 years to protect wildlife, reduce flood risks and store carbon, conservationists say today. According to the Wetland Vision Partnership, England has lost 90% of its wetlands in the past 1,000 years. Carrie Hume, its project manager, said: "Wetlands offer natural flood storage and improved water quality, lock away huge amounts of carbon, provide havens for wildlife and fantastic places for people to visit." One of the partnership's schemes is the Great Fen project, which aims to create 3,700 hectares of wetland between Huntingdon and Peterborough.
Press Association

Waste not want not, Gordon Brown tells families

From The Times
July 7, 2008
Britons are throwing away £1 billion of food a year
Philip Webster, Political Editor in Hokkaido

Families facing spiralling shopping bills were told by Gordon Brown yesterday to stop wasting food, as a government report said that Britons were throwing away groceries worth more than £1 billion a year.
A cross-Whitehall study into higher food costs has identified waste as a factor. The report said that British households disposed of four million tonnes of food each year that could have been eaten. The Cabinet Office inquiry into food policy, ordered by Mr Brown soon after he became Prime Minister, accuses families of wasting an average of £420 a year on food, The Times has learnt.
Mr Brown reinforced its message yesterday, calling on people to stop throwing food away as he travelled to the G8 summit in Japan. “If we are to get food prices down, we must do more to deal with unnecessary demands, such as by all of us doing more to reduce our food waste,” he said.
A second government report will blame the switch to biofuels in Britain and Europe for a big part in pushing up food prices. It will also raise serious questions over whether this has produced the environmental benefits that were expected from adding plant-based fuels to petrol and diesel.

The two reports, aiming to tackle the demand side of the food price problem, will be published as Mr Brown calls on the G8 to address the supply problems by taking action to double production of key food staples in Africa within 5 to 10 years.
He and other leaders will demand international action to contain food prices, including a doubling of investment in agricultural research and development, and help for training a new generation of scientists and experts in developing countries.
The 140-page Cabinet Office report on food, which took 10 months to prepare, was discussed by the Cabinet last Tuesday. It finds that, having been broadly stable for 20 years from 1985 to 2005, world food prices have risen substantially because of a combination of poor harvests in exporting countries, higher energy and fertiliser costs, the diversion to biofuels and a long-term rise in demand for grain.
The average British household now devotes 9 per cent of its spending to food, down from 16 per cent in 1984. But the poorest households use 15 per cent of their spending for food while the richest pay just 7 per cent.
The pressure is even worse for low-income households because they spend proportionately more on basic foodstuffs such as milk, eggs and bread – products that have seen the biggest price rises in recent months.
Globally, soaring food costs have hit developing countries the hardest. Household spending on food by poorer families in these areas is typically between 50 and 60 per cent of income.
The report is understood to conclude that cereal production needs to increase by 50 per cent and meat production by 80 per cent between now and 2030 to meet demand. The solution lies in raising production in the developing world.
If yields in Africa and elsewhere reached their potential, global food output would be much higher, far fewer people would go hungry and social instability would decrease. In the developing world, up to 40 per cent of food harvested is lost because of inadequacies in the processing, storage and transport systems, the report added.
“We would like to see production of key foodstuffs in Africa double,” Mr Brown said yesterday. There are growing warnings that soaring prices could spark unrest and political instability.
The Gallagher report on biofuels, to be published by the Transport Department, is expected to sound a warning that far more research is needed on the impact of biofuels such as corn ethanol and biodiesel on land use and food production before the Government sets any targets for their use in transport.
Britain is expected to press for EU targets on extending the use of biofuels to be scaled back. Food prices have risen because farmers have replaced traditional food crops with those to produce biofuels.
The Gallagher report is expected to accept there is a case for biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels and a source of income for poor farmers.
But it will distinguish between first-generation fuels, which use food crops such as corn and rapeseed, and second-generation fuels, based on fibrous nonfood plants, which can be grown without taking the place of other crops and raising prices.
Mr Brown will today press for the creation of a new expert panel, similar to that on climate change, to be an early warning system on food supplies and demand, and the risk of price shocks.
One of the priorities at the G8 in Japan will be to give impetus to the struggling world trade talks to cut distortions in the markets and allow farmers in the developing world to exploit their comparative advantage.
Britain has already spent more than $1 billion on tackling rising food prices, through agricultural research, humanitarian relief and strengthening crop resistance to climate change.
In an interview at the weekend, Mr Brown said that there were “good and bad biofuels”.
The Prime Minister also said that rich nations must not abandon action to tackle climate change and world poverty in the face of the credit crunch.
Amid campaigners’ fears that the summit in Japan could see previous pledges on aid and global warming scaled back, the Prime Minister said they should, in fact, be accelerated.
“The world is suffering a triple challenge: of higher fuel prices, higher food prices and a credit crunch,” he said.
“My message to the G8 will be that, instead of sidelining climate change and the development agenda, the present economic crisis means that instead of relaxing our efforts we have got to accelerate them.
“This agenda is not just the key to the environment and reducing poverty, but the key to our economic future as well,” Mr Brown said.

'Green' marketing loses buzz and credibility

By Eric Pfanner
Published: July 6, 2008

PARIS: At an annual gathering of the advertising industry a year ago in Cannes, the environment was the topic du jour. "Be seen, be green," one agency urged on the invitation to its party at a hillside villa. Al Gore, invited by another agency, flew in to deliver a message linked to "An Inconvenient Truth," his film about climate change: that the ad industry could play an influential role in encouraging business and consumers to change their ways and slow the process of global warming.
The sun was still beating down on the Côte d'Azur last month as advertising executives from all over the world returned for this year's festival. But Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, was nowhere to be found, and the party buzz was about the U.S. presidential elections, the Euro 2008 soccer tournament or even the business of advertising itself. "Green" marketing, while booming, had lost some of its buzz.
The advertising industry is quicker than most to pick up on changing consumer tastes and moods, and experts say many people are growing skeptical about the proliferation of ads with an environmental message.
Over the past year, as if in answer to Gore's plea, marketers around the world have jumped onto the green bandwagon.
But the sheer volume of environmental advertising and the flimsiness of the claims in some of the campaigns show signs of generating an unintended effect. Instead of serving as a call to action or casting brands in a positive light, these ads are generating an increasingly skeptical response.

"After 18 months, levels of concern on any issue tend to drop off," said Jonathan Banks, business insight director at Nielsen, the market research company, in Britain. "I fear that something similar may happen with this."
With everyone - from oil companies to dishwasher makers to banks - promoting environmental credentials, consumers have been deluged in green-linked advertising and consumer complaints have risen.
The Advertising Standards Authority, an industry-financed organization that monitors the contents of advertising in Britain, said it had received 561 complaints from consumers about environmental claims made in 410 ads last year. That was up from 117 complaints in 83 ads only a year earlier.
The European Advertising Standards Alliance, an umbrella group for similar organizations across Europe, said it had seen sizable increases in complaints in other countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands, particularly involving automotive advertising.
Watchdog organizations like these say they are struggling to deal with the increased numbers both of ads and complaints. The British standards authority has guidelines for environmental ads, stating that they must not be misleading, but Matthew Wilson, a spokesman, said the agency was sometimes finding these rules insufficient to deal with the growing volume and complexity of environmental advertising.
The authority last month held a seminar on the issue, inviting marketers, ad agencies and environmental groups to discuss ways to update the guidelines.
In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission, which monitors the contents of advertising, has begun a similar process, holding hearings and workshops on possible changes to its codes relating to green marketing.
Some countries have already gone further. In France, for instance, politicians, environmental groups and industry leaders at a summit meeting last autumn agreed to take steps to ensure the responsibility of green-themed advertising. Following the meeting, a special panel was established to review such ads.
As regulators work out their response, bloggers and other Internet critics have already started to expose what they see as "greenwash" advertising.
A French group called l'Alliance Pour la Planète, for example, cites an ad for a Japanese-made sport utility vehicle that billed it as having been "conceived and developed in the homeland of the Kyoto accords," the international emissions-reduction agreement.
Some ad executives in France are concerned that their industry seems to be bearing a disproportionate amount of blame as environmental groups seek to raise awareness about climate change.
Jean-Pierre Séguret, chief executive of the French arm of the advertising agency DDB, said that many young employees in France were leaving the ad business to go to work for nongovernmental organizations, including green campaign groups.
To try to improve the image of advertising, agencies like DDB are creating sustainable development programs, moving to make their own businesses more environmentally friendly.
"We're not working on this because it's trendy," he said. "We want to implement a real strategy."
Agencies are also trying to work their way around consumer skepticism as they devise strategies for clients.
Mike Lawrence, executive vice president of corporate responsibility at Cone, a brand strategy agency in Boston, said some consumer concerns may stem from the way in which many green-themed ads are done, rather than any objection to associating brands with an environmental message.
"There's a gap between what the marketers are doing and what the consumers are receiving," he said. "The marketers may not realize the gap is there, and that's a dangerous thing."
The problem, he said, occurs when marketers make exaggerated claims about a product's attributes, which may be fine when selling toothpaste or vacations. Most people probably know that the toothpaste won't actually make their teeth sparkle or help them get the girl, but they play along with the joke.
But when an advertiser says its product will actually "improve the environment," or some variation on that theme, savvy consumers recoil, Lawrence said, knowing that, in all likelihood, what is actually meant is that the product is only less bad for the environment than it could be, or than competing goods.
"This can really backfire with environmental advertising," Lawrence said.
To try to avoid this problem, agencies are advising marketers to back away from vague, unsubstantiated claims, the kind that bloggers and other critics are quick to spot.
Instead, they are urging advertisers to make sure their environmental messages are highly specific, pointing to specific steps that a company has taken to improve its record or to get consumers to take small but concrete action that can help reduce carbon emissions. Increasingly, such ads also feature a link to a Web site for viewers to read more.
For example, Procter & Gamble, which makes laundry detergent, has been running an ad campaign in Britain in which it urges consumers to wash clothing at 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), rather than higher temperatures, as a way to use less energy. Similarly, Reckitt Benckiser has been advertising what it says are the environmental benefits of washing dishes in a machine, rather than by hand; this consumes less water and energy, the company says.
Skeptics, however, might note that Reckitt makes dishwashing detergent for machines, but not for washing dishes by hand.
Arlene Fairfield, senior vice president at the DDB Brand Integrity Group in Seattle, said advertisers were increasingly worried about looking inconsistent if sweeping green claims were followed by a corporate crisis - even one not directly related to the environment.
"They want to make sure there aren't going to be any skeletons in the closet," she said. "Or if there are, they want to be prepared."
BP, one of the first big companies to give itself a green makeover, has recently scaled back its image-building activities, after an explosion at a refinery in Texas in 2005 killed 15 people. The explosion was unrelated to environmental issues, but made claims of good citizenship seem hollow.
The Brand Integrity Group works with companies on how to avoid inconsistencies, helping them devise internal as well as external environmental policies and communications strategies. Amid the growth in green marketing, business for such agencies has been booming. Big ad agency companies are creating specialist units to work on environmental campaigns, and green-focused start-up agencies are proliferating, too.
All of them face a challenge long confronted by marketers dealing with more mundane matters, like how to move the merchandise.
"We're going to get to a point where green is ubiquitous and you have to do something pretty different to distinguish yourself," Fairfield said.
For some consumers, advertisers and regulators, it seems, that point has already been reached.

Bioplastics: The challenge of viability

By Erica Gies
Published: July 6, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO: Biodegradable plastic products offer the possibility of relieving consumers of guilt and manufacturers of the responsibilities associated with growing landfills and garbage-choked oceans. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 6.9 percent of plastics were recycled in the United States in 2006, partly because many plastics are composites of different materials and are hard to recycle.
In addition, consumers have recently become more aware of how many products are oil-based, said Steve Davies, marketing director of NatureWorks, a company that makes a bioplastic from plants. With oil prices up sharply, "it's now obvious to just about everybody that our overdependence on oil is bad for our environment, bad for our economy."
The term bioplastics actually has two meanings: sometimes it is used to refer to plastics that contain a percentage of renewable materials; and sometimes to plastics that are both made from renewable materials and are biodegradable.
This ambiguity - and the fact that some bioplastics may also contain petroleum-based polymers - can cloud the green pedigree of a product.
Meanwhile, studies show that consumers are also confused about terms like "renewable" and "biodegradable." "Consumers believe that if it's renewable, then it's inherently good and it's inherently biodegradable," said Steve Mojo, executive director of the Biodegradable Products Institute, an advocacy group. "They also believe that biodegradation is a magical process that will make things disappear."

In fact, biodegradable means susceptible to degradation by microorganisms. But nothing actually breaks down in landfills. Modern landfills are, by design, hermetically sealed tombs for waste.
Nor will biodegradable products necessarily break down if tossed on the side of the road or buried in a backyard. A less confusing term is compostable, which means a product that can be returned to the soil in a beneficial manner.
"Compostable tells a consumer what to do with it," Mojo said, "whereas biodegradable doesn't."
Manufacturers can label products sold in the United States as compostable if they meet standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Eugene Stevens, a member of the society and a chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton, has conducted research on biopolymers for more than 30 years. "It's a little complicated, but in general, if it biodegrades to 90 percent within six months in an industrial composting environment with no toxic components, that's compostable," he said.
Europe has a similar protocol.
There are currently three main types of bioplastics, all derived from plant-based starch, which in the United States is typically cornstarch. Vegetable oil or animal fat can also be used to produce polymers that can be substituted for petroleum-based polymers in starch blends to increase overall bio-based content, Mojo said.
Bioplastics manufacturers also are researching the possibility of using cellulose as a feedstock. As in the search for biofuels, cellulose offers the prospect of an abundant supply that could be harvested without chopping down forests or diverting crops and arable land from food production.
But cellulose-based methods, which use acid hydrolysis or enzyme processes, still have technical and cost problems that have blocked development on a commercial scale.
The most recent advances try to combine acid hydrolysis and enzyme digestion into a single process; but commercial success is probably still 5 to 10 years away, Stevens said. "Whoever finds the answer to that will be very, very rich," he said. "That is the holy grail."
NatureWorks, a joint venture between Cargill, the U.S. agribusiness giant, and the Japanese chemical company Teijin, manufactures pellets of polylactic acid, or PLA, one of the three main starch-based bioplastics.
PLA can be used to make flexible packaging for fresh foods and beverages like water, milk or orange juice, and to make protective film for wrapping fresh vegetables and flowers. It can also be processed into more rigid products like disposable knives, forks and plates, or hard plastics for cellphone or laptop casings. PLA fibers can also be manufactured for clothing, home textiles, diapers or personal hygiene wipes.
Davies, the marketing director of NatureWorks, said that most manufacturers would be able to modify existing plants to process PLA, rather than having to invest in new equipment. But he also said that the end product had to sell on its merits, like any other.
"What we hear loud and clear from the brand or the retailer that's facing the consumer is that it can't feel 'green,"' Davies said. Consumer priorities, from the highest down, are that a product must perform well; be emotionally or aesthetically appealing; and last, that it be better for the environment.
"What we've seen in the green movement, going back 20 years, is the expectation that 'green' would sell," he said. "And it hasn't."
Still, NatureWorks has enjoyed double-digit growth, helped by Wal-Mart, which has switched more than 100 million of its delicatessen food containers to PLA from polyester and has also prompted its suppliers to deliver more environmentally responsible products.
Compostable bioplastics are designed to be stable while in use. Breakdown begins when they are exposed to moisture, water, microorganisms and a high temperature - the environment created in an industrial composting facility.
Yet, when it comes to disposing of a used product, composting, attractive as it sounds, is not always the best option.
As with any product purporting to be green, "you need to do a life-cycle analysis on these new materials relative to the incumbents in order to better understand the environmental benefits of production, use, and disposal," said Mojo of the biodegradable products advocacy group.
Davies, of NatureWorks, said the best thing to do with used PLA bottles, from an economic and environmental perspective, was usually to recycle them, even though they might be compostable.
"That's one of the most promising things about PLA," said Brenda Platt, director of the sustainable plastics initiative for the Institute for Local Self Reliance, an organization that promotes environmentally sound and equitable community development. "It can be chemically recycled back into lactic acid. So just like with glass and metal, those materials can be recycled over and over again."
Across the entire U.S. economy, however, so-called closed-loop recycling, in which used PLA is endlessly recycled into new products, is perhaps 20 years away, Platt said.
It is a chicken-or-egg problem: Because PLA represents a tiny percentage of the total plastics market, traditional recycling plants lack the equipment needed to manage it; conversely, there is no financial incentive to invest in recycling PLA until the available material reaches a critical mass.
"Right now, if a PLA bottle ends up in a recycling facility, it's either going to be rejected and end up in a landfill, or it is going to be a contaminant in PET recycling," Platt said, referring to polyethylene terephthalate, the material used in most plastic bottles. Contaminated bales of PET plastics are not recycled.
For this reason, the Institute for Local Self Reliance says that it is best to avoid the widespread distribution of products marketed as green or sustainable when there is little chance that they will be either recycled or composted. Compostable is a misnomer in a country where only a handful of cities have curbside compost pickup, said Platt, of the institute.
Davies, of NatureWorks, agreed. If consumers see a product labeled compostable, "they'll think, 'oh, I can flip it out the car window and it will disappear on the side of the road,' and it absolutely won't," he said.
Davies said that responsible labeling is essential. He also advocates fitting infrared scanning technology at recycling facilities to identify and separate bioplastics from conventional materials.
But, Platt said, that proposal is utopian. The technology is expensive, and out of reach for the 400 to 500 recycling facilities in the United States, most of which sort plastics by hand.
Robert Reed, public relations manager for Norcal Waste Systems, a solid-waste company based in San Francisco, agreed. Norcal, which runs comprehensive recycling and composting programs, employs workers to sort and separate different materials. Germany, Switzerland and Sweden require manufacturers to prominently mark products that are compostable, and U.S. manufacturers should do the same, Reed said.
If manufacturers do not take responsibility for easy sorting, the problem is just pushed to someone further down the line, he said. "If you're going to take a step, take a step. Don't take a half-step."
Platt said her institute wanted pilot studies on products in closed venues, where end-of-life solutions can be developed under controlled conditions and then scaled up.
But ultimately, she said, bioplastics are part of an "intermediate economy." When consumers finally recognize the value of materials, they will reject throw-away solutions in favor of more durable and reusable products, she said.

French nuclear rivalry may hamper UK energy plans

David Gow in Brussels
The Guardian,
Monday July 7, 2008

France's two biggest energy groups, EDF and GDF Suez, are vying to build the country's latest nuclear power plant, casting fresh doubt on their participation in Britain's planned nuclear renaissance.
Last week President Nicolas Sarkozy gave the go-ahead for a second new-generation European pressurised reactor (EPR) on an existing site. It will be France's 60th nuclear power plant.
State-owned EDF said immediately it was ready to take part in the project in view of the increased demand for electricity and constraints imposed by global warming, and said it owned several potential sites for the new reactor.
GDF Suez indicated its interest but said it would decide by early 2009 at the latest. Analysts said it is certain to go ahead given its plans to extend its nuclear presence from Belgium to France.
EDF, which is helping to build France's first EPR at Flamanville on the Normandy coast, is still said to be considering whether to increase its rejected offer to buy British Energy, Britain's main nuclear power operator. Industry sources say its interest is waning, given that BE shareholders want much more than EDF's indicative offer of 680p a share. EDF is thought unwilling to go much above 700p.
The French group is the only player left in the running to acquire the government's 35% stake in BE after Suez, Spanish group Iberdrola and Germany's RWE withdrew from the bidding process. It has been talking with Centrica, owner of British Gas, about the UK group's role in the process.
The British government, already facing delays to its planned nuclear new-build programme because of skills shortages, could meet further setbacks if the BE sale fails to materialise.

Field narrows in bid to clean up Sellafield nuclear site

The winner of the Sellafield contract will be at the forefront of the UK’s £70 billion nuclear decommissioning industry

Angela Jameson, Industrial Correspondent

Ministers have whittled down the contenders for a £1 billion-a-year contract to clean up the Sellafield nuclear site to two, with a decision expected to be announced next Friday, The Times understands.
The favourites, from a shortlist of four, are understood to be CH2M Hill - the US engineering and construction services company that was hired to clean up New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and SBB Nuclear - a consortium that includes Babcock & Wilcox, Serco, and Bechtel, the privately-owned US engineering consultancy.
Senior industry sources believe that the SBB Nuclear consortium is well ahead on price, but that the Government favours CH2M Hill primarily because it is a single company with clear lines of responsibility.
CH2M Hill is also renowned for its involvement in Rocky Flats, a former weapons facility that required one of the largest and most complex clean-up projects in the US.

The company has also spent a lot of time in Cumbria and has more support from the local community and unions.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority was understood to have sent its recommendations to John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, at the start of the month. However, the final decision on who will win the contract, which starts next March, rests with Mr Hutton.
The winner of this competition will be at the forefront of the UK's £70 billion nuclear decommissioning industry. The contract is initially for five years but could be extended to 17 years.
A nuclear industry insider said: “[SBB Nuclear] appears to be far cheaper than the other parties. But Bechtel is renowned for bidding low to secure contracts.
The Jubilee Line Extension, in which Bechtel was involved, experienced delays accompanied by soaring costs. Bidders for the clean-up contract have been asked to propose financial models of how they would wish to be reimbursed and incentivised for the contract.
It is thought that SBB Nuclear may have suggested a financially engineered repayment model that looks cheap in the early years but sees the consortium's rewards accelerate further into the contract.
As well as CH2M Hill and SBB Nuclear, the other bidders are a partnership between Fluor Corp and Toshiba, and Nuclear Management Partners, a consortium comprising Washington International Holdings, Amec Nuclear Holdings and Areva.
Whichever consortium wins will find itself in the throes of a dispute with Sellafield's 10,000-strong workforce.
After months of negotiations the employees have rejected a 2percent pay settlement and will ballot on industrial action later this month. Workers are expected to vote for a strike which would shut down of the plant for up to a week.
Nuclear workers have received relatively generous awards in the past, but unions believe that the latest below-inflation offer is too little during a time in which the nuclear industry is undergoing considerable change.
They were calling for a 3.8per cent increase - the same level as the retail prices index (RPI) in March. However, views have hardened since then as the Government has dug in its heels and RPI has gone above 4 per cent.
Mike Graham, national officer for energy at Prospect, the engineering union, said: “We are absolutely disgusted with the pay offer and it could well lead to industrial action. This is the time of the biggest change for Sellafield and we are being offered a very low reward.”
Prospect's opposition to the offer is backed by the GMB and Unite, the general unions.

Toyota plans solar-powered air conditioning on next Prius gas-electric hybrid model

The Associated Press
Published: July 7, 2008

TOKYO: Toyota's ecological Prius gas-electric hybrid will become even greener next year with solar-powered air conditioning on some high-end models, The Nikkei reported Monday.
The solar panels on the roof of the new Prius model will provide 2 to 5 kilowatts of electricity, the major Japanese business daily said in a report without citing sources.
Toyota Motor Corp. plans to purchase the panels from Japanese electronics maker Kyocera Corp., the newspaper said.
Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco declined comment, saying the company doesn't comment on product plans.
A Toyota official, speaking on condition of anonymity because product plans are not supposed to be disclosed to the media ahead of time, has said details on what will be a third-generation Prius will likely be revealed in May of next year. He did not elaborate.

Sales of the Prius have been booming, thanks to soaring gasoline prices and growing worries about global warming. A hybrid delivers better mileage by switching between a gasoline-fueled engine and an electric motor.
Toyota has made hybrid technology the pillar of its growth strategy, promising to deliver hybrids in every model in its lineup soon after 2020. Toyota has sold more than a million Prius models over the past decade and is planning to sell a million hybrids a year sometime after 2010.
Toyota is also pursuing an aggressive strategy for ecological production by using solar panels and other technology at its plants.
Adding solar panels to a model targeting mass consumers would mark a first for a major automaker, The Nikkei said.

Green worker

Be cool at work - wear fewer clothes to beat the heat
The Guardian,
Monday July 7, 2008

Tsutomu Hata was ahead of his time. In 1994, the then-Japanese prime minister appeared in public wearing what he described as an energy-saving suit. But this wasn't some hi-tech Honda-designed outfit that allowed him to work for twice as long without the need for sleep or coffee - but a conventional office suit with the sleeves chopped off at the elbow. The idea was to encourage Japanese office workers to dress down in the summer so that their companies could turn down the air conditioning, and save some energy.
For the last four years, the Japanese government has been running an extremely successful campaign to get office workers to wear fewer clothes. The environment ministry estimates that around a third of the country's offices take part in the Cool Biz initiative, turning down their air conditioning units and saving millions of tonnes of C02 emissions in the process.
For those few days each year when the sun finally shows its face in the UK, it would be much greener if we, too, didn't crank up the air conditioning. You will need to get your colleagues on side though - there's no point turning up to the office in your Bermuda shorts and expecting all the fans to be switched off.
When you suggest the idea to your co-workers - and you may need to word the proposal carefully to avoid any embarrassing misunderstandings regarding your intentions - there is a precedent in this country. In July 2006, as we headed into a minor heatwave, the TUC launched its own Cool Work campaign, mirroring the Japanese approach. It asked employers to relax dress codes in the summer for the sake of the environment - and efficiency.
For some people, dressing down opens up the can of fashionista worms that used to come out on school mufti days. Instead of putting on the regulation clothes, you're forced into making a public statement about yourself. For some of us, that's an unnerving proposition. In Japan, fashion designers designed alternative Cool Biz work styles. There are even Cool Biz fashion shows and a Cool Biz manual, offering advice on matching belts and shoes.
· Adharanand Finn is the author of Make a Difference at Work. To order a copy for £8.99 with free UK p&p, go to

Religion's role in the climate debate

It is the duty of the religious, scientific and political communities to persuade a cynical public that global warming is a very real threat

Danny Rich,
Sunday July 6, 2008

A recent Observer Ipsos Mori poll found that the majority of the British public is still not convinced that climate change is caused by humans, and believes, despite the assertion by 2,500 experts on the United Nations international panel on climate control, that scientists are exaggerating the problem. The poll concluded that many did not want to restrict their lifestyles and only a small minority thought they need to make "significant and radical changes".
It makes a refreshing change that it is scientists who are coming under the cosh, since very often it is those same scientists — including the high priest of atheism, Richard Dawkins — who have led the ferocious assault on religion and its value to modern society.
A few days before the poll was reported, a delegation, of which I was a member, presented to Hilary Benn MP, secretary of state for the environment, a photograph petition taken at the recent biennial conference of Liberal Judaism, a group of 34 synagogues representing some 10,000 Jews.
A session at the conference had been devoted to a debate on climate change and was addressed by a rabbi, a senior researcher from the oil industry and an academic, and at its end those participants who wished to gathered for the photograph.
The photograph called for two major provisions in the climate change bill: that the level of carbon emission reduction should be 80% (and not the original 60%, which is based upon dated science); and that action and its reporting by industry should be mandatory.
Liberal Judaism's representatives made such a demand, knowing that every one of us would have to pay a price, not because it is fashionable but because our tradition teaches us that the natural world is "loaned" to humanity to exploit but not to destroy.
Benn spent more than 45 minutes with the delegation, appeared to take seriously what it was saying, and observed that "even cabinet ministers need support".
Religion and politics are both human phenomena connected with various aspects of human life. Religion ought to impel its adherents to act and politics is the means by which that action is implemented. Both politics and religion can be double-faced. They can contribute to the welfare of individuals by, for example, serving the poor and vulnerable. But equally they may be utilised to support oppression and exploitation.
It is, therefore, not difficult to "blame" either religion or politics for the ills of our world, but suspicion and cynicism — whether of politics, science or religion — are cut from the same cloth and are equally destructive. Fundamentalists of all kinds expose the weaknesses of an alternative system but are blind to its strengths. The faults in both our modern political system and our ancient religions can be rectified but their strengths may be hard to replace.
If the world faces climate catastrophe then maybe it is time for the scientific and religious communities to come together, working with governments, to persuade a suspicious and cynical population that it is in their own interests — and particularly the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable of the world's inhabitants — to act now. And if you are religious, it should not be difficult to persuade you.

Road hauliers face pollution toll

By Tony Barber in Brussels
Published: July 7 2008 03:00

European Union member states will for the first time be able to charge road hauliers for harm caused to the environment, under "green transport" proposals to be unveiled tomorrow.
Antonio Tajani, the newly appointed transport commissioner, told the Financial Times the initiative was needed to convince citizens that Brussels was serious about tackling pollution and to strengthen the transport sector's contribution to business competitiveness.
The sector - principally road vehicles - accounts for about 28 per cent of EU carbon dioxide emissions, according to the European Commission, but under EU rules heavy freight vehicles are currently charged only for using road infrastructure.
The proposal, which is expected to receive the green light from the 27-member Commission at a meeting in Strasbourg tomorrow, would relax these rules by allowing governments to include costs related to air and noise pollution as well as traffic congestion.
"We're trying to establish a transport system that will be more sustainable, less polluting and faster, avoiding bottlenecks," Mr Tajani said. "We're facing an emergency. We can't play a defensive game. We need to be on the attack. It's the citizens who are asking us to play an attacking game."
Representatives of the road haulage industry are unhappy about the proposal, saying it risks bleeding companies dry while they are battling with severe rises in petrol prices.
But environmentalists say the industry has got off lightly because the Commission has dropped the idea of allowing freight companies to be taxed for costs attributed to global warming.
Mr Tajani said: "This is not an initiative designed to harm those in the road freight transport business. It has no mandatory features. It's not a new tax. Rather, it's a positive initiative to reduce pollution."
Hauliers currently pay only for use of roads, he said, while under the new proposal they would pay "a bit more" to cover the pollution they cause. "Ultimately it will reduce costs and it will be good for entrepreneurs," said Mr Tajani.
The proposal must be approved by EU governments and the European parliament to become law. With the parliament to wind up its affairs next March ahead of elections in June, doubts remain over how much progress will be made during the next eight months.
However, the principle of integrating the environmental costs of road freight transport into toll prices has been established in an EU directive of May 2006 that, like the new proposal, affects only goods vehicles that weigh more than 3.5 tonnes.
Discussions continue over whether the revenue should be earmarked for measures to cut environmental costs throughout the transport sector or just road usage.
Mr Tajani's proposal is part of a broader plan to improve efficiency in transport, with measures to promote investment in maritime and inland waterways, develop port services and boost railway passenger and freight transport.
The Commission launched an initiative two weeks ago to cut carbon dioxide emissions in aviation by simplifying the EU's airspace control systems and shortening passenger routes.
"We have a duty to make people understand that Europe is not only a great bureaucratic machine, not only red tape, but a service to citizens," Mr Tajani said.
"If we don't do that we risk outcomes like the Irish referendum," he added, referring to June's vote against the Lisbon treaty.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Climate change report like a disaster novel, says Australian minister

· Scientists predict 10-fold increase in heatwaves· Greenhouse gases blamed for half of rainfall decrease
Barbara McMahon in Sydney
The Guardian,
Monday July 7, 2008

A new report by Australia's top scientists predicts that the country will be hit by a 10-fold increase in heatwaves and that droughts will almost double in frequency and become more widespread because of climate change.
The scientific projections envisage rainfall continuing to decline in a country that is already one of the hottest and driest in the world. It says that about 50% of the decrease in rainfall in south-western Australia since the 1950s has probably been due to greenhouse gases.
Yesterday, Australia's agriculture minister, Tony Burke, described the report as alarming and said: "Parts of these high-level projections read more like a disaster novel than a scientific report."
The analysis, commissioned by the government as part of a review of public funding to drought-stricken farmers, was published days after another report, by Professor Ross Garnaut, warned that Australia had to adopt a scheme for trading greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 or face the eventual destruction of sites including the Great Barrier Reef, the wetlands of Kakadu and the nation's food bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin.
The prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who swept to victory on a green agenda last November, said the analysis by the Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was "very disturbing".
The reports will put pressure on him to act swiftly on his pledge for Australia to lead the world in tackling polluters. However, the rising cost of living has dented his government's popularity and his plans for a carbon trading scheme have begun to unnerve voters and industry. Rudd has acknowledged that tough debate lies ahead and has said the government will map out its policy options this month.
Yesterday's report revealed that not only would droughts occur more often but that the area affected would be twice as large as now. The proportion of the country having exceptionally hot years could increase from 5% each year to as much as 95%, according to the projections.
The report says rainfall in Australia has been declining since the 1950s and about half of that decrease is due to climate change. It says the current thresholds for farmers to claim financial assistance are out of date because hotter and drier weather will become the norm.
Burke said it was clear that the cycle of drought was going to be "more regular and deeper than ever before". He added: "If we failed to review drought policy, if we were to continue the neglect and pretend that the climate wasn't changing, we would be leaving our farms out to dry."
Parts of Australia are now in a sixth year of drought, and the report coincided with an announcement that there has been a worsening of the drought in New South Wales. Some 65% of the state is affected, an increase of more than 2.3% on last month, although opinion is divided on whether it can be attributed to climate change.
A plague of locusts is also threatening crops in the state, with farmers on 900 farms reporting finding locust eggs. The government plans to fight the infestation with aerial spraying before the eggs hatch.

Australian Adviser Urges Broad Carbon-Trading Plan


CANBERRA, Australia -- Australia's climate-change adviser issued a draft report recommending the government adopt a tough, broad-based emissions-trading plan that includes vulnerable sectors such as transportation and energy-intensive companies from the outset.
Australia contributes only around 1.5% of global emissions but tops the U.S. on a per-person basis because of its heavy reliance on hydrocarbons for generating power.
Trade-exposed and energy-intensive industries look like the biggest losers under the preferred approach of the adviser, Ross Garnaut. The report recommends compensation for industry be capped at 30% of all revenue generated through the auction of carbon permits.
Under an emissions-trading plan, countries cap the amount of carbon dioxide that companies can produce. If they exceed this cap, they must buy so-called carbon permits from companies that have surplus permits.
Equity analysts have warned that emissions trading may derail the country's resource-based economic boom by pulling the plug on the supply of cheap fossil fuel-based energy that has allowed industry to prosper in recent years.
Mr. Garnaut said Australia has a "larger interest in a strong mitigation outcome" on greenhouse emissions than other developed countries, because it is a hot, dry country, and even small variations in climate are damaging.
"The structure of our economy suggests that our terms of trade would be damaged more by the effects of climate change than would those of any other developed country," he said.

Designing cars for low-carbon chic

By Simon Marks
Published: July 6, 2008

PARIS: As governments seek to cut carbon emissions through regulation and consumers react to rising fuel prices, automakers and designers are mapping out a new generation of lighter, sleeker vehicles that could give a radical new look to urban streets.
Toyota has already set a benchmark for low emissions and fuel economy. Its Prius model, introduced in 2000, pioneered new technologies, including the first fully integrated hybrid engine, able to switch between gasoline and battery power, and electronic and computerized controls replacing heavy hydraulic systems.
Toyota has been followed by another Japanese company, Honda, with a Civic hybrid, and a string of releases or planned models from European and U.S. competitors. Carmakers are now racing to design more innovative bodies incorporating advanced aerodynamics and light, biodegradable plastic components. They are also trying to second-guess the kind of styling that the next generation of car buyers will want.
Gilles Vidal, designer of a recent "green" concept car, the C-Cactus, for the French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroën, said, "To make a real environmental effort, you need to work on all of the possible factors - materials, optimization of processes, simplifying, going back to essentials."
Students at Créapôle, a leading industry-sponsored design school in Paris, are among those working with manufacturers to develop new designs and technologies that could become auto industry standards.

Alec Moran, a final-year master's student at the school, said that instead of selling cars based on the size of the engine, the car's relationship with its surroundings and how it interacts with people should be increasingly important.
"We are trying to develop the aesthetic element of the shape and interior comfort while assimilating the car's essence to the cultural needs of a particular social group," he said.
The evolution in fuel economy is continuing. For example, Ford fitted its EcoBoost engine this year to the new Lincoln MKS and Ford Flex models. The motor combines direct injection for higher fuel efficiency with additional turbo-charged power generated by using waste exhaust gas energy.
Guy Negre, a motor engineer and founder of MDI Enterprises, a company that studies new technologies and production concepts to reduce the environmental impact of carbon dioxide, invented a compressed-air engine in 1996. The engine emits one-third the carbon dioxide of conventional motors of the same size. Cold air, compressed in tanks to 300 times atmospheric pressure, is heated and fed into the cylinders of a piston engine. No combustion takes place, meaning there is no pollution, although the energy needed to compress the air may still come from polluting oil- or coal-burning power stations.
"Obviously, we are obliged to make changes to the design in relation to the requirements and specifics of new technologies," Negre said. "The weight, for example, is extremely important for many reasons. The heavier a vehicle is, the more energy is needed to power it and the more it pollutes."
Negre's engine will be offered as an option in Tata Motor's new production model, the Nano, next year. The Nano, a minicar with an ultralow price tag, was introduced in January and is primarily aimed at the Indian market. Negre said a full tank of compressed air would cost about $3 and provide about 200 kilometers, or 125 miles, of driving. The tank could be filled by gas station compressors used for inflating tires, or a built-in compressor powered by plugging in to an electrical outlet, he said.
Designers at automakers like Chrysler, Toyota and Citroën are already adapting to changing customer needs and perceptions. The Citroën C-Cactus, a retro take on the legendary 2CV, is designed for a post-SUV urban world where small is beautiful and low environmental impact is a top priority.
Maria Mack, a senior design specialist in Brussels for Toyota, said, "From the very first stage of design, the project leader responsible for a particular vehicle sets environmental impact reduction targets."
The C-Cactus is an example of how manufacturers are experimenting to reduce the industry's total carbon footprint, including production and driving emissions. Besides choosing a hybrid engine, Vidal, its designer, said he halved the weight of the car and simplified everything that could be simplified to cut energy consumption.
Olivier Frémont, head of Créapôle's department of transport design, said: "Four or five years ago much of our design work was focused on the Chinese and emerging markets. But in the last three years or so trends have radically changed as designers have become much more ecologically minded."
He added, "We are regularly looking to simplify the vehicle whether it be outside or inside," and he said that "we are coming back to basic questions of what is actually useful inside the vehicle, what we actually need."
Moran, the Créapôle student, has designed a car that addresses two main issues: the escalation of oil prices and the need to minimize environmental impacts. His car runs on an electric motor using a lithium-ion battery, substantially lighter than traditional lead-acid batteries. It has a chassis made of bamboo, reinforced with spiders' silk and plant resin.
Car companies like Mazda are looking to bioplastics for the fenders and dashboards of future models. Mazda says that the plastic will be made from cellulosic biomass produced from inedible vegetation like plant waste and wood shavings. Toyota's concept car, the COMS BP, an electric vehicle, also uses bioplastics for some of its body parts, including the hood, pillars and roof.
Moran said his car was designed for people he likes to call "No-Nos" - those who reject mainstream consumerism and popular advertising.
"'No-Nos' are a growing minority of people who care a great deal about their carbon footprint," Moran said. "Aesthetically conventional but technically advanced," he said, his target buyers would be "activist consumers who are both thoughtful and introspective."
Cyril Randuineau, another master's student at the school, spent some time at Toyota's main design center in Tokyo, where he studied cultural trends and noticed that many Japanese people had small garages and tended to travel in groups.
His response was to design a car with a miniaturized hybrid engine to maximize passenger space within a small frame, and a molded cocoonlike interior where driver and passengers could relax in comfort when stationary.
He has also designed a car for an emerging African market that he hopes will take off in the future. He says that rising oil prices will open up the market for exciting new technologies using electricity and solar power, all of which will change the shape and functions of the car.
"It's uncertain that this type of car would actually have mass appeal," said Moran. "The aim of this project is really to throw the idea out there."

Bush defends decisions on NKorea, Olympics as leaders focus on climate change, gas prices

The Associated Press
Published: July 6, 2008

TOYAKO, Japan: President Bush on Sunday defended removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and attending the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics as world leaders assembled to address soaring gas prices, climate change and African aid.
They faced major differences, especially over how far to go in trying to set limits on pollutants that contribute to global warming.
The host of this year's Group of Eight summit, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, and other leaders would like to see the top industrialized nations and other fast-growing economies such as China and India pledge a 50 percent cut by 2015 in the emissions that contribute to global warming. The Bush administration has not shown any enthusiasm for such a commitment without cooperation from the Chinese and Indians.
"I've always advocated that there needs to be a common understanding and that starts with a goal. And I also am realistic enough to tell you that if China and India don't share that same aspiration, that we're not going to solve the problem," Bush said at a pre-summit news conference with Fukuda.
The leaders of the U.S., Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Canada and Russia planned to kick off the meeting Monday at a remote mountaintop resort overlooking a lake formed by a volcanic crater on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The session ends Wednesday with a larger gathering that brings in eight additional countries — Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa.

Hundreds of protesters rallied under heavy police security Sunday. A demonstration by about 2,500 people on Saturday led to a brief clash with police; four people, including a television cameraman, were detained. Protesters have not been able to get near the summit venue, but have scheduled daily rallies about 60 miles north, in Sapporo, the largest nearby city.
Before the G-8 talks, Bush planned to meet with Russia's new president, Dmitry Medvedev, who took office last month as ex-President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor. Putin still wields enormous influence at home as prime minister.
White House aides said Bush hoped to bring up areas were the countries could cooperate more, including missile defense and Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.
Medvedev's appearance could help him make the case he is emerging from Putin's shadow and carving out a leadership role. In an interview with journalists from G-8 countries last week, Medvedev suggested that he, not Putin, is in charge.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain has urged stripping Russia of its G-8 membership because of autocratic steps by Putin. Neither fellow Republican Bush nor Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama shares that view.
At a news conference with Fukuda, Bush defended his decision to attend the Olympics opening ceremonies Aug. 8. Among the leaders who plan to skip that event are British Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering not attending.
China's role as host has focused attention on its human rights record and the security crackdown in Tibet; some U.S. conservatives have criticized Bush for planning to go to the opening ceremonies.
"The Chinese people are watching very carefully about the decisions by world leaders and I happen to believe that not going to the opening ceremony for the games would be an affront to the Chinese people, which may make it more difficult to be able to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership," the president said.
Fukuda announced that he also intended to go.
"There are many aspiring athletes that will be going to Beijing, and I would like to cheer them on, too, which I think is only natural. I don't think you really have to link Olympics to politics," the prime minister said.
Bush also addressed Japanese concerns over the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Those abducted apparently were used to train North Korean agents in Japanese language and customs.
Japanese citizens are upset about the U.S. move to remove North Korea from the State Department's terror blacklist in exchange for the North's decision to admit to some of its nuclear weapons work and begin dismantling its nuclear facilities.
As a condition for sending aid and improving relations with the impoverished North, Japan long has pushed for the resolution of the issue of the abductions.
Bush recalled a White House meeting a few years ago with Sakie Yokota, the mother of a 13-year-old Japanese girl kidnapped by North Koreans agents on her way home from school in 1977. "As a father of little girls, I can't imagine what it would be like to have my daughter just disappear," Bush said at the news conference. "So, Mr. Prime Minister, as I told you on the phone when I talked to you and in the past, the United States will not abandon you on this issue."

Bush said the two leaders also talked about the gloomy economy. Many of the world's older economic powers are suffering from low growth.
"With regard to soaring food and oil prices, which are having negative impact on the world economy, we agreed there's a need for expeditious efforts on these fronts," he said.
The U.S. economy, he said, "is not growing as robustly as we'd like. ... We're not as strong as we have been during a lot of my presidency." He hoped the economic aid checks going out to many in the U.S. "will continue to have a positive effect."

Bush says China, India need to come on board for global greenhouse gas reduction

The Associated Press
Published: July 7, 2008

TOYAKO, Japan: U.S. President George W. Bush said Asian giants China and India must sign on to measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve a global agreement to combat climate change.
Global warming, along with soaring gas prices and African aid, will be among the topics discussed at the Group of Eight summit that kicks off later Monday in northern Japan. G-8 leaders face major differences over how far to go in trying to set limits on pollutants that contribute to climate change.
The host of this year's G-8 summit, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, and other leaders would like to see the top industrialized nations and other fast-growing economies such as China and India pledge a 50 percent cut by 2050 in the emissions that contribute to global warming.
The Bush administration has not shown any enthusiasm for such a commitment without cooperation from the Chinese and Indians.
"I've always advocated that there needs to be a common understanding and that starts with a goal. And I also am realistic enough to tell you that if China and India don't share that same aspiration, that we're not going to solve the problem," Bush said at a pre-summit news conference Sunday with Fukuda.

Climate scientists have urged rich countries to reduce emissions by between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020 to avoid the worst effects of warming. Scientists say warming weather will lead to widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening storms.
Even a 3.6-degree-Fahrenheit (2-degree-Celsius) temperature rise could subject up to 2 billion people to water shortages by 2050 and threaten extinction for 20 percent to 30 percent of the world's species, according to a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. network of 2,000 scientists.
The leaders of the U.S., Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Canada and Russia planned to start the meeting Monday at a remote mountaintop resort overlooking a lake formed by a volcanic crater on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The session ends Wednesday with a larger gathering that brings in eight additional countries — Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa.
Hundreds of protesters rallied under heavy police security Sunday. A demonstration by about 2,500 people on Saturday led to a brief clash with police; four people, including a television cameraman, were detained. Protesters have not been able to get near the summit venue, but have scheduled daily rallies about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north, in Sapporo, the largest nearby city.
Before the G-8 talks, Bush met with Russia's new president, Dmitry Medvedev, who took office last month as ex-President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor. Putin still wields enormous influence at home as prime minister.
Bush called Medvedev a "smart guy" who understands the issues. But the U.S. president would not go so far as to say he got a sense of Medvedev's soul, as he once famously said of Putin after their first meeting.
"I'm not going to sit here and psychoanalyze the guy," Bush said after his first sit-down with Medvedev since the Russian president took office. "He's comfortable and competent, and I believe when he tells me something, he means it."
The two leaders emphasized there were issues of agreement between their countries_ such as dealing with North Korea and Iran — but also areas of disagreement, such as U.S. plans for a European-based missile shield.
Russia has vehemently opposed U.S. plans to place missile defense sites in Europe saying it would threaten its security.
Medvedev, who referred to Bush informally as "George," said Bush's presidency isn't over and that he intends to intensify discussions with him. The new Russian leader said he would build upon U.S.-Russia relations with the next U.S. president, whomever that turns out to be.
Medvedev was also to hold separate talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the sidelines of the summit Monday.

Bush says China key to climate progress

By David Pilling in Rusutsu
Published: July 6 2008 19:04

George W. Bush said on Sunday he was prepared to be “constructive” in discussions on climate change, although he insisted that any agreement was contingent on the participation of China and India.
Group of Eight leaders, who begin a three-day summit in Hokkaido, northern Japan, on Monday, are seeking to advance from last year’s commitment at Heiligendamm when they pledged to “consider seriously” halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Some G8 leaders would like that statement upgraded to “agree to halve emissions”, though the US has been reluctant to commit.
On Monday the G8 will meet African leaders for discussions expected to focus on finding solutions to the crisis caused by sharp rises in food prices. Japanese officials said leaders might consider proposals to create stockpiles of grain that could be released in a co-ordinated way to stabilise prices.
The summit, the biggest in G8 history with leaders of 14 countries outside the group invited, will discuss what Kazuo Kodama, press secretary of Japan’s foreign ministry, described as a “nexus of interrelated issues”. These are expected to include rising oil prices, the financial crisis and ways of preventing nuclear proliferation even as the use of “carbon-free” nuclear energy becomes more attractive.
José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said he would like G8 leaders to commit to carbon emission cuts by 2020. “We will be working for real commitments from this G8, not only reinforcing ones taken last year but also, if possible, to go beyond that with a mid-term commitment.”
Mr Bush and Yasuo Fukuda, Japan’s prime minister, on Sunday said they would press big developing nations, particularly China, to agree to carbon cuts as part of a global agreement to succeed the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.
After meeting his Japanese counterpart in Toyako, the site of the summit, Mr Bush, said: “I’ve always advocated there needs to be common understanding and that starts with a goal.” However, he added: “I am also realistic enough to tell you that, if China and India don’t share the same aspiration, we’re not going to solve the problem.”
China and India, both part of meetings at which climate change will be discussed, have argued that they cannot be expected to cut emissions before they have industrialised. Mr Fukuda hopes to encourage concessions with cash and technology to help their transition.
Although the Japanese leader has spoken about a convergence of views on climate change, he has also sought to play down expectations of a breakthrough at Toyako.
Experts say significant agreement is unlikely, largely because the deadline for a post-Kyoto deal is still 18 months away.
Marthinus van Schalkywk, South Africa’s environment minister, described a pledge to cut emissions in half by 2050 as an “empty slogan”. Many experts are pressing for rich nations to commit to cutting carbon ­emissions by 25-40 per cent by 2020.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

It may seem ineffective, but we need G8 in order to face the daunting future

Common action against shared perils like poverty and climate change may not be forthcoming. Still, it is our best hope

Max Hastings
The Guardian,
Monday July 7, 2008

The G8 summit, which opens today on Hokkaido, in Japan, conjures images of a political A&E ward on a Saturday night. President Bush, leader of the greatest nation on earth, is discredited and almost time-expired. Gordon Brown leads a government most of whose own members want him to disappear into a hole.
Silvio Berlusconi presides over a gangster culture that renders it impossible for Italy to present a serious face to the world. Nicolas Sarkozy should enjoy the prestige of a French president secure in office until 2012, but he has grievously injured his own power base by his first-year antics. Russia's new president, Dmitry Medvedev, may well add up to nothing, in the absence of Vladimir Putin to tell him what to think.
All this matters, when the G8 is called upon to address the gravest issues of modern times. In some years, in advance of these gatherings, national sherpas are obliged to scrabble around exchanging emails, to identify a plausible agenda for their bosses. On Hokkaido, by contrast, they are debating shocking evidence on climate change, together with economic slowdown in the wake of soaring food and energy prices and world poverty.
These are daunting challenges, which most of the assembled leaders are ill-positioned to address. At G8s, unlike other international forums where big bureaucracies represent national interests, personalities matter. To get results the Japanese, as hosts, must exercise impressive powers of leadership. Instead, there are already signs that they will pursue their usual search for consensus, which means the triumph of a lowest common denominator.
G8 meetings can no longer carry conviction until China and India are granted full membership. There are also arguments for admitting representatives of other important global interests, for instance Brazil, South Africa, maybe an Islamic nation. The difficulty is that, if the group expands significantly, it will forfeit the intimacy which is hailed as its most important virtue. Chinese leaders are always uncomfortable in informal discussion, preferring to address carefully prepared scripts. Cynics observe that most of the communique for the Hokkaido meeting has already been drafted. The view of G8s as mere theatrical performances is liable to gain ground if the group expands.
Yet, whatever their limitations, it seems sorely mistaken to dismiss these summits as wastes of time and money. Globalisation both of problems and commerce is the dominant force of our times. It must therefore be useful, indeed indispensable, for national leaders to make human contact with each other. Bilateral conversations, even hampered by the necessity for interpreters, possess significant value.
The most notorious G8 of recent times was that held at Gleneagles in 2005. Not only was the occasion overshadowed for the hosts by the horror of the London bombings, but extravagant promises were made to attack world poverty. These won acclaim for Tony Blair, who was perceived as having responded to the appeals of Sir Bob Geldof with energy and success.
Unfortunately, of course, much of the pledged cash has never been delivered. It was the G8's Alberto Vilar moment. Vilar, you may remember, was a tycoon who promised huge sums to good causes, including the Royal Opera House, but who failed in the end to make good on those pledges.
Last weekend I put the Vilar point to a Gleneagles veteran, a diplomat. He responded that he thought cynicism misplaced, about both G8s in general and the Scottish one in particular. It was an important achievement to set targets, he said, even if they are still unmet. As a result of the 2005 agreement, more money for poor countries has been forthcoming. A fortnight ago, the Japanese significantly increased their international aid commitment. They were moved to act explicitly because, as Hokkaido hosts, they needed to be seen to display generosity.
Unfortunately for the developing world, and for Africa in particular, most G8 members this week will be more interested in the plight of their own societies than of anybody else's. Lip service will be paid to good causes. But the overwhelming preoccupation of leaders will be the impact of rising food and energy costs upon the world's biggest economies.
Tensions will soon become apparent, between the perils posed by climate change and the clamour for relief from threatened living standards. Democracies being what they are, the latter force is likely to gain priority. The power of green lobbies will diminish in the lean years ahead, just as in supermarkets cheap food is likely to gain ground against expensive organic products.
Any political party in the west that wants to get itself elected will have to offer an electorate prospects of secure energy sources and stable food prices, even if both carry additional environmental risks and costs. We are likely to hear much more about both nuclear power and GM crops. Most of the G8 leaders know this. The more extravagant the green rhetoric that emerges, the less likelihood there is that its authors will mean what they say. Idealism shrinks in times of economic stress.
No doubt the summit will spare some unkind private words for Robert Mugabe, especially as South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki is calling in on Hokkaido. But in the case of Zimbabwe, also, breadbasket issues at home make national leaders less interested in addressing moral ones abroad.
The American guru Richard Haass wrote recently in Foreign Affairs journal that rather than a multi-polar world, we are moving into a non-polar one. It is becoming progressively difficult to mobilise an international quorum in support of any objective, however worthy and important. This reflects not only the US's loss of moral authority, but also a dilution of power in consequence of globalism, which makes it ever harder for any nation to forge a consensus in support of decisive action.
This works to the advantage of tyrants and mischief-makers. The EU, for instance, should be presenting a united front to prevent the Russians from using their newfound energy clout to blackmail individual nations. Instead, much to the delight of the Kremlin, each EU member state is scrabbling to extract the best bilateral deal it can get from Moscow. The UN security council shows itself increasingly weak and more anachronistic. Nato is atrophying. The IMF and World Bank face growing sceptical scrutiny.
Capitalist societies found life much less complicated in the cold war era, when it was perceived as essential to follow strong US leadership amid the threat from the Soviet Union. Those days have gone. If the world's major powers are henceforward to get anything done, it must be through the concerted efforts of members of such bodies as the G8. Today, unfortunately, most still prefer to hang separately than together. Our global predicament may have to get a good deal worse before they acknowledge that common action against shared perils must transcend the familiar, disastrously outdated pursuit of national interests.

Leaders lack power to take action on the biggest issues at G8 summit

Resolutions on food, fuel and climate change likely to be watered down
Richard Lloyd Parry in Hokkaido

The G8 summit is supposed to bring together the most powerful leaders in the world, but seldom have they formed a less credible group than the one that meets in the Japanese resort of Lake Toya today.
Gordon Brown, President Sarkozy of France and Yasuo Fukuda, the Japanese Prime Minister, all suffer from desperately low approval ratings. With just four months to go until the US election, President Bush and his fellow summiteers know that he is in no position to make long-term promises. President Medvedev of Russia is the summit’s fresh face, but he is dogged by the perception that he is the puppet of his predecessor, Vladimir Putin. Only Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and Silvio Berlusconi, the re-elected Italian Prime Minister, arrive in relatively robust political health.
What, then, can be expected of a meeting whose strength lies in the personal interactions of its leaders?

Mr Fukuda has staked his reputation as summit host on this issue, so expect a much-hyped claim of progress, whether or not the meeting delivers it. The arguments continue between the US and Europe, with Japan uncomfortably in the middle.
The Americans believe that negotiation on greenhouse gas reduction targets are best left to a separate grouping, the Major Economies Meeting; they demand emissions reductions from developing countries such as China and India before they will promise drastic cuts of their own.
The Europeans believe that the developed nations must commit first to ambitious and specific reduction targets. Japan has presented the “Fukuda vision”, a promise to reduce Japan’s emissions by 60 per cent or more by 2050. Environmentalists say that setting long-term goals is easy; more important are medium-term targets for reductions by 2020, though these are unlikely to emerge from this meeting.
At the Heiligendamm summit in Germany last year, the G8 said it would seriously consider reducing global emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2050. The crux of this week’s discussions will be whether that language is strengthened or watered down. Can Mr Fukuda persuade the US to match his target? Or will the words “at least” be dropped?
Fuel and food prices
All the G8 countries are feeling the pain of rising fuel prices that, in turn, are worsening worldwide increases in the cost of grain and other foods, forcing poor people into outright hunger. Even the price of the tuna sushi that the G8 leaders will eat this week is set to go up, because Japanese fishermen find it increasingly expensive to go to sea. Food riots have occurred across the developing world, but the G8 leaders have seen demonstrations against rising fuel costs in their own back-yards. The urgency of these two short-term issues threatens to upset Mr Fukuda’s carefully prepared environmental agenda.
The task of overcoming these complex problems is beyond the capacity of even the G8, but the leaders will express their concern about the situation and set out some guiding principles in an effort to calm jittery nerves. They will urge an increase in crude oil production, including long-term investment to that end. They will promise to cooperate in improved energy-saving and in sharing information about oil supply to prevent rumour-driven panic in the markets.
The UN meeting on food and agriculture in Rome agreed on measures to deal with the food crisis, including financial aid for hard-hit countries, seed and fertiliser for poor farmers, and long-term investment in improved agriculture. The G8 leaders will announce the creation of a task force on food and issue a separate document on the problem. They will agree to contribute to a collective food reserve to be dispensed to needy countries. They will urge the phasing out of export restrictions on food, which have forced its price up still further – a sensitive measure for Russia, which has restrictions of its own.
Other areas of potential disagreement include biofuels, which have contributed to price increases by encouraging farmers to plant crops for fuel instead of for food. The US has provided subsidies to biofuel farmers; Mr Fukuda has said that he will urge a rethink of such policies.
Overseas aid
At Gleneagles in 2005 the G8 won praise for its promise to increase overseas aid to $50 billion (£25.2 billion at today’s prices) a year by 2010, half of it for Africa. Since then, however, a chill has passed over the global economy; early drafts of the leaders’ communi-qué restate the commitment only partly, omitting key figures and dates. Any sign that the G8 is watering down its commitment to Africa will meet with an angry reaction from international NGOs and third world governments.
Other issues
The leaders will express indignation over the suppression of the opposition in Zimbabwe by President Mugabe, and cautious approval of North Korea’s recent declaration of elements of its nuclear programme (in return for which the US will remove it from the list of terrorist nations). This will be tempered by Mr Fukuda’s concern that the rest of the world is rewarding North Korea before it has come clean about the Japanese citizens it kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s.
One regular feature of the G8 that is unlikely to be seen this year is boisterous protest. The Japanese have mobilised 21,000 police and confined opponents of the G8 to areas well away from the summit venue. According to Japanese NGOs, dozens of foreign antiG8 activists have been refused entry to Japan.
On the agenda
Today Focus on African development in expanded meeting with leaders of seven African countries; bilateral meeting between leaders of Japan and Germany; US-Russia leaders’ bilateral meeting; G8 leaders’ Africa outreach working lunch with leaders of Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and chairman of African Union Commission; Japan to hold bilateral meetings with South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria; G8 social dinner
Tomorrow Focus on food and oil prices and on climate change; US-Germany leaders’ bilateral meeting; G8 leaders’ sessions including working lunch of nonG8 countries; Japan to hold bilateral meetings with Russia and Italy; G8 working dinner
Wednesday US-India leaders’ bilateral meeting; G8 working session with leaders of Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa; major economies meeting with G8 leaders plus Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea; US-China leaders’ bilateral meeting; US-South Korea leaders’ bilateral meeting; Japan to hold bilateral meetings with China, India, Mexico, Brazil, Australia
Sources: Reuters;

Tumult Surrounds G-8 Summit, But Bush Is Bullish on Progress

By JOHN D. MCKINNONJuly 7, 2008

RUSUTSU, Japan -- As world leaders arrived Sunday in Japan for their annual summit, the Group of Eight is experiencing some of the greatest transformations -- and troubles -- in its history.
Prospects were doubtful for this year's big initiative on greenhouse-gas limits, amid concerns that strict emissions caps might burden the emerging nations that influence the G-8, and even harm some developed nations that are hurting economically.
Associated Press
In a joint news conference Sunday, President George W. Bush expressed greater optimism than Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda of Japan about the prospects for a substantial climate agreement at the G-8 summit in Japan.
In a news conference Sunday, President George W. Bush sought to dispel speculation that the summit may not be productive. "I've got a pretty good sense about when a G-8 is going to be a success or maybe not such a success, [and] this one's going to be a success," he said. But the summit's host, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, was more cautious about prospects for a substantial climate agreement. "What the results will be -- well, we have to wait until the conclusion comes out," Mr. Fukuda said during his joint appearance with Mr. Bush.
The summit participants are headed toward an agreement for international food reserves to help the poorest countries deal with soaring grain prices. But progress on other fronts has appeared to slow in recent days, as differences between the old-line and emerging countries have become obvious, and more-immediate worries about the global economy have intensified.
Increasing disagreements are the price the G-8 is paying to maintain its relevance. The clubby group that became the G-8 -- conceived in the mid-1970s in the wake of the oil embargo of 1973 and the resulting global recession -- traditionally comprised the U.S., Japan, Canada and Europe's industrial powers -- France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. Russia joined in 1998.
But starting with the 2000 Okinawa summit, worries about globalization led the G-8 to start inviting representatives of the emerging economies. And in 2005, concerns about climate change led it to invite China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, countries that have attended "outreach" sessions ever since.
Nonetheless, there are calls to expand or revamp the G-8's membership to reflect the new global realities. The traditional membership "no longer has the power and wealth to resolve the world's major problems," explains Carlos Pascual, director of foreign policy at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank. On a variety of issues, "a much wider representation of countries has become necessary."
But as the G-8 meetings grow, it becomes more difficult to reach consensus on some fundamental problems. U.S. officials complain that protectionist sentiment among some of the big emerging economies has held up progress on the Doha Round of trade negotiations. The presence of Russia -- an influential oil and gas producer -- also complicates discussions on energy security.
The wave of change also is exposing old-line member countries -- and particularly the U.S. -- to uncomfortable new criticisms. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev -- with whom Mr. Bush is scheduled to meet Monday -- has been particularly outspoken in recent days, saying the U.S. is in a virtual depression and that it is time to reconsider the world's dollar-centric financial order.
Mr. Fukuda, the summit chairman, aims to act as the diplomatic bridge between the U.S. and its critics, particularly on climate change. U.S. officials had hoped to reach agreements on binding interim limits for all the major economies through 2020, as well as long-term targets for global emissions by about 2050. But over the weekend, they said privately that they might fall short of their goal, due in part to resistance from emerging countries such as India. With per-capita energy consumption that is far below that of the developed countries, India faces political opposition at home to limiting its emissions growth.
Some environmentalists say the Bush administration and its allies aren't so eager for a breakthrough agreement on climate change. They say the U.S. is trying to avoid tough short-term curbs on its energy consumption, while it seeks to draw the emerging economies into a long-term climate-control regime that eventually will place strict caps on them.
In a best-case scenario for the summit, the developing countries could agree to the need for a long-term global target -- say, a 50% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 -- in exchange for broadly worded promises by the G-8 countries to take the lead in reductions over the next decade or so. That would leave the tough negotiations over specific country-by-country limits to be accomplished in time for an agreement that the United Nations hopes to conclude by the end of next year.
Write to John D. McKinnon at