Thursday, 10 July 2008

Global polluters agree need for cuts in emissions - but not how or when

Larry Elliott and Patrick Wintour in Hokkaido,
Wednesday July 9, 2008

The G8 rich western nations and leading developing countries today papered over their differences on cutting greenhouse gases as they said they shared a "joint vision" for action to combat climate change.
A meeting of 16 major economies held on the fringes of the G8's three-day summit in Hokkaido recognised the need for "deep cuts" in carbon emissions but left difficult issues unresolved.
George Bush has championed the idea of broadening talks on climate change from the G8 to other big polluting countries and has insisted that the US will only sign a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto agreement if countries like China and India are involved.
Today's talks involved the G8 plus the EU, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Australia, China and Brazil and came after developing countries gave a cool reception to the G8's latest blueprint on tackling emissions.
The G8 yesterday called for next year's climate change conference in Copenhagen to embrace a cut of at least 50% in global emissions by 2050.China and India made it clear, however, that they were not willing to sign up to the G8's target but, according to sources at the summit, said they would be willing to take action later. They believe G8 countries should shoulder most of the burden for tackling climate change and are seeking cuts of between 80% and 90% in the west.
As a result, the statement issued today by the 16 major economies made no mention of any specific target for cutting emissions, gave no baseline date from when the cuts might begin, and made only passing reference to a mid-term target for cuts in the developed world.
President Hu of China said his country's first priority was economic development to lift people out of poverty and that its per capita emissions were low.
Jose Manuel Baroso, president of the European commission, said it was time for the world's biggest polluters to "get real" on fighting climate change and said all large economies had to play their part.
Baroso said today's meeting had allowed "a useful and wholly constructive exchange of views".
He added: "It is quite wrong to see this in terms of a confrontation between developed and developing countries. Of course we accept the lion's share of responsibility but this is a global challenge, which requires a global response."
Environmental campaigners Greenpeace described the meeting as a "real diversion from real action on climate change".

Europe's first electric super car, with a top-speed of 130mph, launched this month

By Lucy Cockcroft
Last Updated: 8:34AM BST 10/07/2008

A British firm has designed Europe's first eco-friendly sports car, the Electric Lightning GT, which can put the acceleration of a Jaguar to shame and reach a top speed of 130mph.

With a luxury interior and slick design, the vehicle has everything that you would expect from a super car, except that it is powered by 30 onboard rechargeable electric batteries.
At £130,000 it is not cheap, but the manufacturers claim that with savings on road tax, congestion charges, and car and fuel taxes the average London commuter would save £17,000 a year compared to a similar petrol car.
It also comes with a number of optional extras, including a sound generator, for those sports car enthusiasts who like their engines to make a distinctive growl. Electric cars are usually silent.

The Lightning Car Company, based in Peterborough, will unveil its prototype at the British International Motor Show in London this month.
By 2009, it hopes to begin delivering them to customers, some of whom are rumoured to be celebrities, although the company has refused to confirm names.
A spokesman for the company said: "The stunning performance of the Lightning GT will likely surpass almost all large engine high performance sports cars in the 0-60mph range.
"The sensation of harnessing power and performance will be felt by the sheer exhilaration of the power pushing you back in your seat as the car accelerates.
"Because there is no engine, the Lightning has a maintenance-free motor with just a few parts and together with the control electronics and special batteries, will not need anywhere near the servicing of other sports cars."
The Lightning GT will accelerate from 0-60mph in four seconds and will be able to travel up to 200 miles on a single battery charge.
It will generate 700 brake-horse-power, about the same as seven Ford Fiestas. Charging the batteries can be done by plugging the car into the mains supply overnight.
In time, it is hoped that supermarkets and garages would offer fast, high-power charging points that would refuel the car in a matter of minutes.
The Electric Lightning is not the first electric sports car. The US firm Tesla started producing its £55,000 battery-powered Roadsters earlier this year.

Power of a Porsche, roar of a milk float: UK's first green supercar

· £120,000 car capable of 0-60mph in four seconds · Silent motors need sound simulator to provide growl
David Adam, environment correspondent
The Guardian,
Thursday July 10, 2008

The Electric Lightning GT appears to have everything an eco-conscious lover of British sports cars could want: luxury interior, top speed of 130mph and acceleration to shame a Porsche. And it's all generated from 30 onboard rechargeable electric batteries, with no direct greenhouse gas emissions.
Perhaps just one thing is missing - the throaty growl of a fossil-fuelled high performance engine that turns heads and opens wallets. The engineers have thought of that too; the Lightning comes with a "programmable external engine sound generator", for drivers who don't want their £120,000 green supercar to sound like a milk float.
The Lightning Car Company, based in Peterborough, will unveil its handbuilt prototype at the British International Motor Show in London this month. By next year, it hopes to begin delivering them to customers, many of whom have already paid a £15,000 deposit. Chris Dell, managing director of the company, said the car is aimed at people "who are happy to be perceived as being a little bit different but who also care about the environment". They are also "high net worth individuals" with an interest in cars. Several celebrities have already paid deposits, he said, but would not reveal names.
The company says the Lightning GT does 0-60mph in four seconds and is able to travel up to 200 miles on a single battery charge. It will generate 700bhp, about the same power as seven Ford Fiestas. Charging the batteries can be done by plugging the car into the mains supply overnight. In time, Dell hopes supermarkets and garages will offer rapid charging points that would refuel the car in minutes.
The Electric Lightning is not the first electric sports car. The US firm Tesla launched its £55,000 battery-powered Roadsters this year. About 900 have been ordered and Tesla has just opened its first showroom in Los Angeles. The Tesla will also be at the motor show in London.
Dell denied the Lightning was a British version of the Tesla. The motor technology is different, he said, and the Lightning uses longer-lasting batteries which can be charged more quickly. The Lightning is bigger inside too, and the interior can be tailored to an individual's specifications. It is a two-seater, but promises "plenty of boot space, with golf clubs no problem".
Based on a petrol-powered Lightning produced by the company since 1999, the electric version replaces the fuel tank, engine and transmission system with an electric motor inside each wheel. There is no gear stick, axle or drive shaft.
"All of the power is generated at the wheel, the point at which it's required, which eliminates mechanical complexity and power losses experienced in standard sports cars," the company says.
The motors draw electricity from 30 batteries, each the size of a regular car battery. The Electric Lightning has borrowed the idea of "regenerative braking" used on other electric vehicles such as trains: when the car brakes, the electric motors become dynamos and generate electricity to top up the batteries.
The car will not be a true zero-emission vehicle unless the electricity used to charge the battery comes from a wholly renewable source, such as wind power. Renewables make up only about 5% of national grid electricity supply. But, according to the Energy Saving Trust, charging an electric car from the mains still produces "significantly less" carbon pollution than using petrol or diesel.
Only a few hundred electric cars are sold in Britain each year, but the government plans a big expansion as part of a £100bn investment in renewable energy to meet EU targets. They are exempt from car tax and city congestion charges, and could become more attractive as fuel price rises bite harder. The maker of the Lightning argues that it could save drivers of equivalent petrol cars in London as much as £17,000 a year.
One question remains: what would Jeremy Clarkson make of it? The outspoken BBC Top Gear presenter is no fan of environmental causes and electric vehicles; the programme once raced a G-Wiz electric car against a table.
Dell said: "That's a question we've often asked and joked about ourselves in the early hours of the morning. Honestly, I don't know, I'd be interested to find out but we won't be chasing a view."
Richard Dyer, transport campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: "We very much welcome the increased interest in electric cars recently, but we have to ...say they are a long way off being a realistic solution to climate change."
Switched on
Electric Lightning GTPower Full electricTop speed 130mphRange 200 milesPrice £120,000
Tesla RoadsterPower Full electricTop speed 130mphRange 220 milesPrice £55,000
G-WizPower Full electricTop speed 50mphRange 48 milesPrice £7,500
GM Volt (Due 2010)Power Plug-in hybridTop speed 120mphRange 40 miles (battery)Price £15,000-£24,000
Honda FCXPower Hydrogen fuel cellTop speed 100mphRange 350 milesPrice £300/month lease

Both food and biofuels 'are possible'

THERE is no need to make a choice between growing biofuels and food in Scotland, according to the head of a farmers' union.
Jim McLaren, NFU Scotland president, said the farming industry is more than capable of producing food and biofuels. "Many farmers and processors have invested a great deal of time, money and environmental commitment into the production of biofuels and they must not be stopped in their tracks," he said."The UK government must continue its commitment to renewable targets, rather than hide behind biofuels as an excuse for higher food prices."His comments follow suggestions the government is considering slowing down production of biofuels.

Blackstone to invest €1bn in wind farm

By James Wilson in Frankfurt and Fiona Harvey in London
Published: July 9 2008 19:45

Blackstone, the buy-out group, is to invest €1bn ($1.6bn) in developing a wind farm off the German coast in a sign that investors are ready to commit substantial sums to alternative energy projects while oil prices seem set to remain high.
Blackstone will form a partnership with private investors who own development rights for the project, which was approved last year and is expected to be built in the North Sea over the next two years.
The investment will be Blackstone’s first in alternative energy. It is unusual for a private equity firm to commit such a sum to start a wind energy project, particularly offshore where projects are riskier to develop.
However, Germany’s government is stepping up support for wind energy and lawmakers have recently agreed to stimulate more wind farms through higher electricity tariffs while lowering subsidies for the solar power industry.
Germany has one of the most developed wind energy sectors in Europe, where most projects have so far been onshore.
But this is set to change, with Wolfgang Tiefensee, the infrastructure minister, telling a German newspaper this month that the country should build up to 30 offshore wind farms that would compensate for an expected decline in energy from nuclear plants and help the country meet targets for renewable energy.
Other investors have already applied to build offshore wind farms as the number of available sites on land declines.
“This gets more important the more the price of oil rises. The amount of interest from investors shows that it is economically viable,” Mr Tiefensee told Die Welt.
The growth of wind energy is also prompting energy companies to spend more in transmission infrastructure. This month, RWE announced €2.2bn of investment to expand its German power grid, partly because more wind farms are being built farther from the main centres of population.
Blackstone, which declined to comment on its involvement in the energy project, has forged close links with Berlin after a €2.7bn purchase last year of a 4.5 per cent stake in Deutsche Telekom. The project in which Blackstone is investing will build an initial 80 turbines with a capacity of up to 400MW.
The German company that will go into partnership with Blackstone could not be reached for comment.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

GE reaches $4 billion mark for wind energy investments

Bloomberg News
Published: July 9, 2008

NEW YORK: General Electric, the world's biggest maker of power generation equipment, said that it would invest a total of $100 million in three wind farms under construction in northern and western New York.
The investment by GE Energy Financial Services brings the total commitment in renewable energy to more than $4 billion, the company said Wednesday in a statement.
GE, the largest supplier of wind turbines in the United States, is expanding investments to take advantage of federal tax credits and minimum state requirements for renewable energy. Wind is the fastest growing source of renewable energy worldwide because it's cheaper than solar or geothermal plants.
"We have reached the $4 billion milestone just five months after hitting $3 billion, confirming that renewable energy is our fastest-growing business," said Alex Urquhart, president and chief executive of GE Energy Financial Services.
GE Energy Financial Services has or will invest in 76 wind farms worldwide with a total capacity of more than 4,000 megawatts. The company plans to spend $6 billion on renewable energy by 2010.

The Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE will buy the New York wind park stakes from the developer Noble Environmental Power, a majority-owned unit of JPMorgan Chase. Noble will continue to own an undisclosed share, complete construction and operate the facilities.
They include a 126-megawatt wind farm in Wethersfield, a 106.5-megawatt farm in Chateaugay and a 97.5-megawatt site in Altona. Combined, the turbines can generate power for about 110,000 homes, the company said.
GE's power-plant unit is supplying each of the wind parks with 1.5 megawatt turbines.
When completed later this year, the turbines will increase New York's wind capacity by 47 percent. New York utilities are required to buy 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2013.
GE fell 41 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $27.65 in early New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have slipped 25 percent this year.

MPs fear taxpayer could end up paying nuclear clean-up bill

· No certainty over costs or safeguards, says watchdog · US group may win £1bn contract to clear Sellafield

Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Thursday July 10, 2008

A parliamentary watchdog has accused the government of failing to provide sufficient safeguards to ensure that the clean-up costs of a planned new generation of atomic power stations do not end up in the lap of the taxpayer.
A damning report from the House of Commons committee of public accounts (CPA) also criticises ministers for providing no certainty over the future cost of decommissioning Britain's existing nuclear sites - estimated at £73bn.
"We cannot be confident ... that even this figure will not be significantly upped when the estimates are next revised," said Edward Leigh, chairman of the CPA. "Estimating costs far into the future is of course a precarious business; but elements of cost that might be expected to be more predictable - such as the work expected to be undertaken over three next five years - have risen steeply.
"The Department [of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform] is unable to provide complete assurance that the costs of decommissioning new nuclear power stations will not fall back on future taxpayers."
The Department of Business last night rejected criticism about the rising clean-up bill and said it had always made clear that the taxpayer would not be burdened with the cost of new nuclear clean-up.
"This is the first government to have risen to the challenge of establishing the scale and cost of cleaning up the UK's nuclear legacy. The Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) is already succeeding in providing greater clarity, but we have always acknowledged that the cost estimate would increase in the short term as the NDA gained greater understanding of what it is dealing with," said a department spokesman.
"As for the building of new nuclear power stations, we've been clear from the very start that energy companies - not taxpayers - must meet the full costs of eventual decommissioning of new nuclear power stations and their full share of waste management and disposal costs. Government is putting in place, through the energy bill, one of the most robust regulatory frameworks in the world."
The two sides differ on the issue because the government committed itself in its consultation document only to ensure all new clean up is paid for "as far as possible". Independent experts have repeatedly warned there is a grey area which could leave the public purse exposed.
Robin Oakley, head of Greenpeace's climate and energy campaign, said the CPA report once again underlined the unpredictable and soaring costs associated with atomic power.
"More nuclear power stations will hit the taxpayer in the wallet. It's already costing the UK public billions to decommission and clean-up existing nuclear plants, and the misguided government push for more nuclear power stations will sting taxpayers for billions more.
"And, worryingly, this report points out that the NDA is years away from pinning down an estimate of how much it will cost to deal with the nuclear waste that we're already burdened with; it stands at £73bn, and it's highly likely that it will pass the £100bn mark."
The clean-up of the existing UK sites is in the hands of the government-established NDA whose budget is mainly provided by the Treasury but is meant to be topped up with income coming from customers using the Thorp and Mox reprocessing plants at Sellafield in Cumbria.
The CPA report - "Nuclear Decommissioning - taking forward decommissioning" says this decision left the NDA with a £31.6m bill to cover the costs of early contract closure, staff training and redundancies at the Magnox facilities.
DBERR, the Treasury and the NDA should all look at ways of ensuring this does not happen again by a range of methods including building financial reserves to provide a buffer against unexpected demands, says the House of Commons committee.
Meanwhile, the government will announce tomorrow which private sector company will win the contract to take over clean-up of Sellafield from the state-owned Sellafield Ltd, part of BNFL. There is speculation that the US group CH2M Hill is most likely to land the £1bn-a-year deal which will initially run for five years but could go on for up to 17 years.

Game theory could save the world

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 6:01pm BST 09/07/2008

New hope that people around the world can work together to combat global warming has come from a new theoretical study.

A team has been using "game theory" - where mathematics is used to capture how people deal with each other - to show that a classic problem that undermines the ability of individuals to cooperate can be overcome, if people are diverse enough, as is the case when it comes to the 6.5 billion citizens of planet Earth.

Working together for the common good is crucial for progress in any society - not least for effectively addressing big issues such as recycling and tackling climate change. But there is a basic problem with how to make the public share responsibility for common problems, such as climate change.
This was most vividly illustrated by Prof Garrett Hardin, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in his highly influential 1968 paper 'The tragedy of the commons'.
He used the example of a public pasture. Each herdsman will keep adding cows to a common field, because the benefit of an additional cow goes exclusively to the herdsman. Because the cost of overgrazing is shared by all, the pasture will end up ruined.
Mathematical models have confirmed that this is a profound problem, whether for coming together to fight climate change or pay taxes, but today, in the journal Nature, hope for cooperation is raised by Prof Jorge Pacheco of the University of Lisbon, who did the work there with Ms Marta Santos and Dr Francisco Santos from the Free University of Brussels.
Existing mathematical models treat individuals as equivalent, ignoring real-life diversity and population structure. So the team made the mathematics more realistic in this respect.
The team shows that, contrary to expectations, the temptation to cheat ("Why shouldn't I let others pay more for being green?") declines as society becomes more diverse.
Another discovery is that diversity also plays an important role in wealth distribution.
"Cooperation blooms whenever the act of giving is more important than the amount given," said Prof Pacheco.
The most important factor, he said, seems to be that people actually contribute to the public good.
"In particular, the fact that the wealthy minority contributes stimulates the contribution from the rest, who take them as role models," he said.
Prof Pacheco recalled the words of Anna Dreber and Prof Martin Nowak from Harvard University, leading game theorists, who stated that “preserving the global climate is the biggest public good dilemma ever, the one we cannot afford to lose."

Sky cleared over carbon-neutral ads

Mark Sweney,
Wednesday July 9, 2008

BSkyB has survived a challenge to its much-hyped carbon-neutral status after the advertising regulator rejected complaints about its first TV ad trumpeting its eco policy.
The TV ad, which featured an animated character called Cool Cat singing Three Dog Night's Joy To The World, promoted Sky's eco-friendly policies, first introduced in 2006.
Two national press ads also promoted the fact that "Sky is a CarbonNeutral company".
The Advertising Standards Authority received four complaints challenging whether the satellite broadcaster could substantiate that it was carbon neutral.
Complainants argued that the installation of satellite dishes required engineers travelling in carbon-emitting vans and that Sky had not included emissions produced by set-top boxes, so the figures were inaccurate.
Sky said its claim related to achieving carbon neutrality working with the CarbonNeutral Company.
This meant a measurement of Sky's carbon footprint had been taken, "operational steps" had been taken to reduce it and offsets purchased to counteract remaining emissions.
Sky said it included emissions from employee business travel and company-owned vehicles, but not set-top boxes because they were not within the company's "direct control".
In its ruling the ASA noted that "Sky had taken steps to reduce to net zero the carbon emissions from its business activities that were within its reasonable control and offset any remaining emissions through robust and verifiable schemes."
The ASA took independent advice to evaluate Sky's claim that it was carbon neutral against "generally accepted best practice".
This adviser concluded that by including some things out of Sky's "direct control", such as business travel, it had "sought to go above and beyond generally accepted best practice".
The ASA concluded that the ads were not misleading and that Sky had substantiated its claims about carbon neutrality.
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Old idea of using bioplastics gets a new lease of life

Researchers are following Henry Ford's footsteps by developing food-based plastics as oil prices rise
Lee Bruno
The Guardian,
Thursday July 10, 2008

Landfills and plastics don't mix well. It takes several hundred years for an oil-based plastic bottle to breakdown in a landfill. And plastics can consume as much as 25% of the landfill space, according to the US government's Energy Information Administration.
Those two problems are helping drive innovation into new bioplastic packaging material at research institutions including Missouri University Science and Technology. There, researchers are cooking up recipes for super-biodegradable plastics that decompose in a few months.
These bioplastics are welcome improvements for US cities running out of landfill capacity over the next two decades. In several states - such as Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Rhode Island - capacity is expected to run out in just five years.
Dr KB Lee, professor of chemical engineering at Missouri S&T, and his team are investigating super-biodegradable plastic recipes made up of fillers, such as starch and fibres. Those natural building blocks make it possible for living organisms to break down waste material. Not only do these fillers accelerate the decomposition, but they also reduce the cost in a variety of commercial applications.
Wear, tear and weather
Lee's team is experimenting with renewable polymers such as glycerol, a byproduct of biodiesel manufacturing, and polyactic acid, a byproduct of ethanol fermentation. By combining and creating blends of polymers, the researchers believe the formulations will be suitable for applications such as agricultural films, bottles, biomedical and drug delivery devices.
Researchers agree that bio-based plastics have shortcomings, including being more expensive than petroleum plastics to produce and having limited mechanical strength properties. "It would be hard to expect a plastic product with excellent resistance against wearing, tearing, and weathering during its service life to also have biodegradability after usable service life," says Lee.
The challenges of higher prices are not new. Early in the 20th century, American inventors Henry Ford and George Carver tested formulations of plastics derived from foodstuffs in their labs. But they found the material wasn't cost-competitive with cheap oil-based plastics.
Today, the rising price of oil, coupled with innovative bio-plastic formulations, has improved the commercial outlook for these products. For example, bioplastics are considered good fits for different types of single-use products, such as low-grade stuffing materials, agricultural product containers and bags and packaging for materials with short expiration dates.
US-based market research body Freedonia Group estimates that demand in the $330m (£161m) US market in degradable plastic will grow 13.7% each year as prices and properties become more competitive with conventional polymers.
Other research efforts are focused on improving the strength of these bioplastic materials. Dr David Grewell, assistant professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University and colleagues are tackling the mechanical weakness by reinforcing bioplastics with nanoclays. These tiny pieces of clay are between just 10- and 20-billionths of a metre in thickness.
The Iowa State researchers are using zein - natural proteins derived from corn and soy plants - which have stronger mechanical properties. One application for bioplastic formulations, says Grewell, is for garden plant pots. The bioplastic pots can be placed in the ground with the plant, thus supplying nutrients to the plant as it breaks down. Other potential applications for bioplastics made from crop proteins include disposable wraps for hay bales and packaging for the food industry. Another application is making green, biodegradable lubrication sticks from soy grease: Grewell and the Cornell researchers are working with prototypes as part of a 20-month pilot project.
Another research effort, 1,000 miles to the east of Iowa State, is based at Dr Emmanuel Giannelis' lab at Cornell University. The researchers there are also using nanotechnology techniques to build composite materials with properties that permit them to decompose faster, yet have mechanical strength and durability. "What we're trying to do is make biodegradable plastics far more attractive," says Giannelis.
Giannelis and his team have used a natural polymer called poly 3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) to make a bin bag. The microbes produce the material as a way to store energy in the same way the human body produces fat to store energy.
Mad munching microbes
The Cornell team's composite material behaved as a clear plastic polymer but broke down almost completely in compost at room temperature within seven weeks. The rapid breakdown is enhanced by small spaces between the particles, which make the material more vulnerable to chemical attack and consumption by microbes. What's more, the material can also tolerate higher temperatures, thus making it suitable for a broader range of applications.
The outlook for bioplastics research is encouraging. The two most promising areas of research are in the use of polymer-clay nanocomposites (PCNs) and using nanoparticles or nanostructured materials as modifiers, compatibilisers and fillers. With new legislation under consideration across the US for raising landfill prices, plus the increasing cost of oil, the market opportunity for bioplastics may have its day, long after Ford and Carver tinkered with recyclable plastics.

Cheney's office accused of editing climate change testimony

By Andrew C. Revkin
Published: July 9, 2008

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's office was involved in removing statements on health risks posed by global warming from a draft of a health official's Senate testimony last year, a former senior government environmental official said on Tuesday.
The former official, Jason Burnett, made the assertion and described similar incidents in a three-page letter to Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who is the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He then stood with her at a news conference at which she excoriated the Bush administration.
"History will judge this Bush administration harshly for recklessly covering up a real threat to the people they are supposed to protect," Boxer said.
Burnett, a lifelong Democrat, resigned in May from his post as an associate deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and chief adviser on climate to Stephen Johnson, the EPA administrator. Burnett has previously criticized the administration's climate policies and endorsed and contributed to Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
In the letter, while declining to name individuals, Burnett said the offices of Cheney and the White House Council on Environmental Quality "were seeking deletions" of sections of draft testimony describing health risks from warming. The testimony was prepared by Dr. Julie Gerberding, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for a hearing last October before Boxer's committee.

Burnett's letter said the council "requested that I work with CDC to remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change."
The changes were made before the testimony was delivered. At the time, the EPA was finishing a document assessing whether carbon dioxide, the main emission linked to global warming, endangered public health.
At the news conference, Boxer strongly chided Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, for asserting last year that the changes in testimony were justified because the statements did not comport with the influential review of climate risks by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"This was a lie," Boxer said. "We proved it before."
She demanded that Johnson turn over all documents related to the assessment of carbon dioxide's risks, or else resign.
White House officials bluntly rejected the points in Burnett's letter and Boxer's statements, both those made on Tuesday and others last fall after the editing was described in news reports.
"We stand 100 percent behind what Dana said," said Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman.
"Senator Boxer should not throw around charges like lying in cases where there might be a difference of opinion," he said.
Marc Morano, a spokesman for James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and the ranking minority member on the Senate environment committee, also said the criticism was unjustified.
"We consider this to be a nonissue," he said.
"All administrations edit testimony before it is submitted to Congress," he added, describing incidents during the Clinton administration involving Roy Spencer, a NASA scientist at the time who questioned the dangers of human-caused warming. Spencer said his superiors told him not to express his views about the dangers of global warming in testimony.
Boxer insisted that the efforts last year by the White House constituted a "cover-up" and "censorship," and she announced plans for more hearings. She and Burnett said that their political affiliation had nothing to do with their assertions.
Austin Bogues contributed reporting from Washington

President George Bush: 'Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter'

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor and Urmee Khan
Last Updated: 7:52AM BST 10/07/2008

George Bush surprised world leaders with a joke about his poor record on the environment as he left the G8 summit in Japan.

George Bush proves to be quite an entertainer
The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."
He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.
Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.

One official who witnessed the extraordinary scene said afterwards: "Everyone was very surprised that he was making a joke about America's record on pollution."
Mr Bush also faced criticism at the summit after Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, was described in the White House press pack given to journalists as one of the "most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for government corruption and vice".
The White House apologised for what it called "sloppy work" and said an official had simply lifted the characterisation from the internet without reading it.
Concluding the three-day event, leaders from the G8 and developing countries proclaimed a "shared vision" on climate change. However, they failed to bridge differences between rich and emerging nations on curbing emissions.

Divisions emerge over G8 climate change goals

By David Blair in Rusutsu, Hokkaido Island
Last Updated: 12:01pm BST 09/07/2008

Bitter disagreements between rich and poor countries over climate change have emerged into the open as China and India refused to adopt the G8's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent.

This aim was adopted by the world's eight wealthiest nations, including America, during the G8 summit on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.

Developing nations don't want to hamper growth
When China, India and the leaders of six other large economies joined the G8 for the gathering's final day, they pointedly declined to do the same.
Because America has made action by India and China the crucial condition for curbing its own greenhouse gas emissions, their stance casts doubt over the value of the G8's agreement.
The developing countries argue that rich, industrialised nations have caused global warming through their carbon emissions over the last century. This gives them a special responsibility to act.
Meanwhile, developing countries do not want to hamper their own future economic growth by signing up to binding cuts in greenhouse gases.

One president of a developing country told the G8 during a closed session: "My country has a great many people living in poverty. They all need support in health, sanitation and basic needs. So we cannot accept the introduction of measures which may hinder our economic growth. If we are going to accept these measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this must be linked to sustainable growth."
The joint declaration by the G8 and the other major economic powers, including China and India, called climate change "one of the great global challenges of our time" and endorsed a "long term global goal for emission reductions". But it failed to specify what this would be or when it might occur.
A global agreement to deal with climate change, embracing all the largest economies, remains as elusive as ever.
The worth of the G8's own agreement was called into question when Yasuo Fukuda, Japan's prime minister and the summit's chairman, appeared not to know the base year for calculating the agreed 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions.
Asked whether this cut would be from 1990 levels, Mr Fukuda replied: "This 50 per cent reduction is 50 per cent in the light of the recent situation. Various numbers are suggested as the base year and these may change at any given moment."
The prime minister added: "I don't think there's any confusion with regard to this."
Environmentalists condemned his statement as evidence of a high level muddle that undermined the G8's deal on climate change.
Tom Sharman, from ActionAid, said that Mr Fukuda's words showed the "supposed breakthrough on climate change has descended into farce".

China and India hold out on emission targets

By David Pilling in Toyako
Published: July 9 2008 09:25

China and India failed on Wednesday to give their support to halving carbon emissions by 2050, dimming briefly raised hopes of a breakthrough on climate change at the Group of Eight summit.
The inability to win over the developing countries is a blow to the G8, which had expected their support. This is the first time they have defied the developed world openly on this issue.

The G8 summit this week has grappled with what Gordon Brown, UK prime minister, called the “triple shock” of a food, oil and financial crisis. But G8 leaders struggled to take decisive action, merely expressing “serious concern” at high oil prices and seeking to sketch out longer-term solutions to food shortages.
Leaders of the big emerging economies showed little willingness to compromise, insisting it was largely for rich nations to clear up their own mess.
Japan said Australia, South Korea and Indonesia had expressed support for the 50 per cent cuts agreed by the G8. But China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa issued a statement saying that rich countries needed to slash carbon emission levels by 80-95 per cent from 1990 levels.
The UK appeared to agree with the statement. David Miliband, the UK’s foreign minister, signed a communique with South Africa this week calling on rich countries to embrace the deeper cuts.
Yasuo Fukuda, Japan’s prime minister, tried to put a positive spin on the talks, saying: “We saw eye to eye.”
US officials who have blocked previous attempts to reach agreement declared themselves happy. James Connaughton, chairman of President George W. Bush’s council on environmental quality, said: “The G8 has taken a significant step forward in its level of ambition.”
In a conference dominated by what one Japanese official called a “nexus of interrelated issues” – climate change, rising oil and food prices, African poverty and financial strains in the west – the G8 was sometimes revealed as lacking in clout.
Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, floated the idea of enlarging the G8 to a G13, but his proposal was cold-shouldered by the US, Japan and other countries happy with present arrangements.
Mr Fukuda said the summit was the most important in years, coming as it did amid a welter of urgent global problems. But he also hinted at the G8’s impotence, saying, for example, that high oil prices were largely a “structural problem” of supply and demand.
Mr Fukuda expressed hope, but little conviction, that rising fuel and food prices – which are threatening global inflation – might calm down following the summit.
Without major Middle Eastern oil producers present, experts said, there was little G8 leaders could do on petroleum prices except call for more investment and market transparency. They did express a desire for more regular dialogue between producers and consumers. They also stressed the importance of energy efficiency as a long-term solution to fossil-fuel dependence.
Oxfam’s Jeremy Hobbs said: “The G8 failed to rise to the challenge of a world crisis” describing the consensus reached on climate as “at best shallow”. WWF called the Major Economies Meeting of G8 plus major emitters, which campaigners see as a willful distraction from the UN process, as a “Major Embarrassment Meeting”.
G8 leaders also discussed aid to Africa amid accusations from charities that they were reneging on their own pledges made at Gleneagles in 2005. Mr Fukuda denied that, saying: “Some might suggest we are not delivering on our commitments. But don’t we meet those commitments? Well, probably we do.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Biggest polluters back deep cuts to emissions

By Krishna Guha and Reuters in Toyako
Published: July 9 2008 04:16

The world’s biggest polluters agreed on Wednesday on the need for ”deep cuts” in greenhouse gas emissions, but differences between developed and emerging economies kept them from setting specific targets.
Climate change has been the most contentious topic at this year’s Group of Eight summit in Japan, which the heads of big emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil were invited to join on the third and final day.

The statement by leaders of 16 countries, including top emitters China and the United States, came a day after the G8 rich nations endorsed a target of halving global emissions by 2050 while stressing they could not achieve that goal alone.
Tuesday’s G8 statement papered over deep gaps, with the United States opposed to committing to firm targets without assurances big emerging economies will act too.
Developing countries, along with the European Union and green groups, say rich countries must take the lead and specify interim targets for how to reach the mid-century goal, which scientists say is the minimum needed to prevent dangerous global warming.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Wednesday’s meeting had been constructive.
”We have to get real,” Barroso said in a statement.
”It is quite wrong to see this in terms of a confrontation between developed and developing countries. Of course we accept the lion’s share of responsibility but this is a global challenge, which requires a global response.”
But environmentalists immediately blasted the agreement, which represented no changes from an earlier draft agreed on in late June by negotiators from the same countries in Seoul.
”It’s the stalemate we’ve had for a while,” Kim Carstensen, director of the WWF’s global climate initiative, told Reuters.
”Given the lack of willingness to move forward, particularly by the U.S., it hasn’t been possible to break that.”
Climate experts are sceptical that any significant advance on steps to combat global warming can be made until a new U.S. president comes to office in January 2009.
On Wednesday, the 16 countries’ leaders agreed major developed economies would set mid-term goals, but set out no specific numbers. The group also said poorer countries would act to rein in rapid growth in their emissions.
The stance of emerging nations is important. The G8 nations emit about 40 percent of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions. China and India together emit about 25 percent of the total, a proportion that is rising as their coal-fueled economies boom.
A Japanese government official told reporters that only Indonesia, Australia and South Korea had supported the G8 call to share their vision of halving global emissions by 2050. The others arguing that advanced countries that are responsible for the bulk of historical emissions must act first.
”China is a developing country and is in the process of industrialisation and modernisation,” China’s state Xinhua news agency quoted President Hu Jintao as saying.
”People’s living standards are still not high, and China’s core task at present is developing its economy and improving people’s welfare.”
The G8 summit on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido brings together the leaders of Japan, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and the United States.
Climate change was not the only bone of contention at Wednesday’s talks. The Group of Eight has expressed “strong concerns” about the sharp rise in the price of oil, which “poses risks to the global economy”.
But the leaders of the main industrialised economies did not take any concrete steps to try to moderate the oil price in the near term. Instead, the group called for concerted efforts to address underlying supply and demand pressures.
While reaffirming its faith in global growth prospects, the G8 said the world economy “is now facing uncertainty, and downside risks persist”. It warned of the specific danger that high oil and food prices could “increase global inflationary pressure” as well as have “serious ­implications for the most vulnerable”.
The G8 communiqué said financial market conditions had “improved somewhat in the past few months” but that serious strains still existed. The group urged banks and regulators to implement quickly all the measures to increase financial resilience set out by the Financial Stability Forum.
The top industrialised nations made a further attempt to revive the Doha round of trade talks, calling on all countries to “work as a matter of urgency toward the conclusion of the ­negotiations”.
Earlier, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said she hoped the negotiations could be wrapped up “over the next few weeks”. Trade ministers meet on July 21.
US officials said a deal would require significant movement on all three fronts – agriculture, goods and services. They said this could not be achieved by the G8 alone and would need concessions by the big emerging markets.
The G8 said oil production and refining capacity “should be increased in the short term” and steps taken to boost investment in oil over the medium term.
Meanwhile, leaders said it would be “important” to make “further efforts to improve energy efficiency as well as pursue energy diversification”.
The G8 – which includes only one big net oil exporter, Russia – said it would enhance its “partnership” with oil producers and would create an energy forum to focus on energy efficiency and new technologies.
The group reiterated its strong support for efforts to increase energy market transparency, including moves by regulators for increased transparency of commodity futures markets.
Dan Price, deputy US national security adviser for international economic affairs, told reporters that the economic declaration “does not contain per se any specific commitments”. But the fact that the G8 had set out an agreed approach to tackling high oil prices, including by reaching out to other nations, was “itself a very significant step”.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Pipe dreams and cigar smoke

Published: July 9 2008 20:19

For proof that the G8 has outlived its usefulness, one need look no further than the inability of the world’s richest democracies to forge an agreed global strategy for tackling climate change. The refusal by China and India to endorse its proposed cuts in carbon dioxide emissions renders this week’s G8 summit in Japan pointless. Any notion a club of eight nations could run the world – never plausible – is now so discredited as to call into question the value of all its declarations.
World leaders have since Monday talked about global warming, rising food and oil prices, African poverty and the financial strains of the global credit squeeze. But what use is a “shared vision” of cutting carbon emissions without the endorsement of the developing world’s fastest-growing and biggest polluters? How is it possible to pronounce on inflation and try to tame soaring oil prices without the involvement of Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude oil producer? And who in the G8 has the influence or power to isolate Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, when no African nation is present?
The G8’s problem is that it has become so divided and poorly led that its annual summits have deteriorated into little more than photo opportunities and exercises in drafting bland communiqués.
The severity of the current financial crisis only emphasises the G8’s impotence. The world has changed beyond recognition since the original group was formed more than 30 years ago to discuss economic policy. Financial markets are much deeper and the flows between asset classes have grown more complex. The G8’s influence over the markets has diminished with the power of its finance ministers to move them. Moreover, any discussion on exchange rates, where governments and central banks can still be effective, is doomed to be unproductive while China stays a non-member.
The answer lies in reform of the club rather than abolition. A talking shop for like-minded democracies – as the G7, minus Russia, was – serves a purpose. But it cannot be a steering group for the world. Reducing membership to the econ­omic superpowers – US, EU, China and Japan – would be divisive. Instead, it should be extended to fast-growing Brazil and India as well as China. A “G12” of the largest economies would include Spain and ensure nobody was ejected. It would have the virtue of covering more than 70 per cent of global GDP. Chinese ambivalence towards membership reflects fears it will be criticised at summits. But if Beijing wants to project its influence and act in concert with other nations, this is a risk worth taking.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Climate change deal agreed by G8 nations

By David Blair in Rusutsu, Hokkaido Island
Last Updated: 1:01pm BST 08/07/2008

The world's eight richest nations have achieved a landmark deal on climate change, promising to cut carbon emissions by "at least 50 per cent" by 2050.

The communiqué on the "environment and climate change" agreed at the G8 summit in Japan marked a softening of President George W Bush's position, who had always resisted committing the United States to reducing greenhouse gases on this scale.

Oxfam have described the target as 'tepid'
Yet campaigners stressed the deal's vague language.
The G8 has agreed a "goal" of "achieving at least a 50 per cent reduction of global emissions by 2050". But a "goal" does not amount to the binding targets that environmentalists had sought.
Moreover, there is a dispute over the base year from which a 50 per cent cut would be calculated. Campaigners say there should be a reduction from the emission levels of 1990. But there is no mention of this in the communiqué.
Yasuo Fukuda, Japan's prime minister and the G8's current chairman, betrayed his own confusion over this vital topic. Briefing journalists outside the Windsor Hotel on the shores of Lake Toya on Hokkaido island, where the G8 leaders were meeting, Mr Fukuda said the reduction would be from "1990 levels". A nervous aide immediately stepped forward and handed him a note. The prime minister hastily corrected himself, saying the cut would be from "present levels".

The leaders had also been under pressure to set a "mid-term" target, specifying an interim reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. Instead, the G8 pledged only that each member would "implement ambitious economy-wide mid-term goals", but failed to specify what these would be – or lay down a clear deadline.
Peter Grant, the director of Tearfund International, a campaign group, said this was a "very disappointing outcome" that demonstrated a "lack of leadership and vision".
America's position remains that India and China, the emerging giants of the global economy, must also agree to cut their carbon emissions. Mr Bush is deeply reluctant to commit the US to any goal that these countries have not endorsed. Hence the G8 communiqué stresses that climate change can only be takled by a "global response" with contributions from "all major economies".
India and China will be among eight other countries with rapidly growing economies joining the G8 leaders in Hokkaido on the final day of their summit today. Mr Bush will ask them to agree to the same goal on climate change as America.
Campaigners accuse Mr Bush of using this issue as a way of hiding America's lack of commitment.
Privately, G8 officials say that clear agreement on binding targets will have to await his successor in the White House.
John Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK, accused the G8 of "failing the world again" and said: "Thank God this was Bush's last G8."
But Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said he was "very happy" with the agreement and argued that G8 leaders were "on track" to achieve their goals on climate change.

G8: India and China tell rich nations to lead greenhouse gas curbs

Richard Lloyd Parry and Philip Webster at Lake Toya, Japan

India and China rejected the Group of Eight's declaration on climate change yesterday as leaders of the developing world demanded that rich countries should take a stronger lead on preventing global warming.
On the last day of their summit in Japan leaders of the G8 met their counterparts from emerging economic powers in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but failed to reach a collective agreement on reducing the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Their joint statement contained no numerical targets, as developing nations accused the rich countries of not doing enough.
“This must change,” Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, said. “You must all show the leadership that you have always promised by taking and then delivering truly significant greenhouse gas reductions.”
On Tuesday the G8 leaders issued their own communiqué on climate change, setting out the “vision” of a 50per cent cut in greenhouse gases by 2050. European countries, including Britain, favour an ambitious medium- term goal for reductions to be achieved by the year 2020. But Japan, Canada and the US refused to agree to such a target, insisting that India and China must take their share of responsibility.

Developing nations, which have taken part in meetings on the sidelines of the main summit, say that the rich nations must bear the burden of cutting emissions, since it is the vastly greater carbon emissions from the industrialised world that have caused the global warming crisis.
“Developed countries should make explicit commitments to continue to take the lead in emissions reduction,” Hu Jintao, the Chinese President, told the Major Economies Meeting (MEM), a gathering of 16 leaders held on the fringes of the G8 yesterday.
The G8 summit concluded on a light-hearted note, as President Bush bade farewell to world leaders with the words: “Goodbye from the world's greatest polluter”.
The other statesmen laughed, at first nervously, and then more enthusiastically when they realised Mr Bush was making a joke, mocking America's reputation on global warming.