Friday, 19 September 2008

Carbon trading boss rejects fears of slowdown in pollution permits business

Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Friday September 19 2008

There has been a 150% increase in the volumes of carbon trading on the European Climate Exchange in the first six months of the year and its boss predicted there would be further growth despite a global economic slowdown.
Shares in the parent company - UK-based Climate Exchange - briefly added to this week's falls in early trading yesterday amid widespread concern that the company's rapid growth cannot be sustained in a world hit by the credit crunch. The group published a first half pre-tax loss of £304,000, well down from the £2.8m deficit it ran up in the same period in 2007, while operating revenues nearly doubled to £10.5m. "We've had a great first half. I'm pretty bullish about the foreseeable future," said Neil Eckert, chief executive, who said he had seen no slowdown in business.
Climate Exchange owns and operates a carbon bourse in Europe, ECX, and Chicago while also having joint ventures in China, India, and Japan. Shares in the parent group fell almost 45% from a three month high of £20.41 in August, and analysts have expressed concerns about the company's rapid growth. Yesterday the shares turned up after an early 1.5% fall. By the close they had risen 70p to £12.
"Climate Exchange has been growing like stink, but there are a lot of ifs [surrounding emissions trading] and this staggering valuation takes some justification," one analyst said.
"Volumes have been strong and we have no exposure to sub-prime," Eckert said, referring to the mortgage-related debt that has led to a meltdown in the global financial markets.
Average monthly volumes for European Union allowances, credits traded under the EU's emissions trading scheme, almost doubled to 167.3m, representing 88% of all such exchange-traded volumes in Europe. Volumes for CERs, the UN-issued emissions offsets generated by clean energy projects in developing countries, averaged 47.2m per month since being launched by the ECX in March, or 84% of all European exchange-traded volumes. "Ironically, the one time you really need an exchange is when credit is so frightening," said Eckert in reference to the global financial crisis.
The Climate Exchange boss was most excited by China's emissions trading plans, saying Climate Exchange was the only western bourse with a shareholding in an exchange in China. In July, Climate Exchange announced a pact with Chinese National Petroleum Corporation Asset Management and the city of Tianjin to launch a new trading platform. "China's going to be the biggest market ... it'll take a while for them to do it, but once they do it will be a monster," Eckert said.

Climate Exchange defies gloom as volumes rise

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: September 18 2008 17:18

Climate Exchange defied the gloom that has settled over the carbon markets, saying trading volumes had risen strongly.
However, its share price slipped 15p to £11.15, reflecting doubts over its high valuation. The company, which runs an exchange on which carbon credits are traded, said it had narrowed its pre-tax losses from £2.8m for the first half last year to £304,000 for the six months to June 30.
Neil Eckert, chief executive, said trading in carbon credits over the exchange was about 150 per cent higher than usual, reflecting continued interest in the sector in spite of the turmoil in other financial markets.
He said the company was entering new areas, with products such as a hurricane contract that pays out on the basis of the severity of hurricanes, and partnerships in markets such as China. He also pointed to the US, where both presidential candidates have pledged to put in place a federal carbon trading system.
But Climate Exchange’s share price has fallen by nearly half. Its high valuation – its market capitalisation is more than £500m – relative to the carbon trading sector is one reason.
Ken Rumph, analyst at Noble, said the fall in the share price was to do with the way in which its shares were valued by the wider market: “Climate Exchange was valued with a remarkable willingness to look a long way into the future. Most investors are now not willing to make those assumptions.”
He added: “The company is not doing anything wrong – they have cash and money in the bank – but life is a bit less buoyant than it was in the first half of the year.”
Although a US carbon trading system would broaden the market, Climate Exchange would face increased competition from mainstream exchanges diversifying into the carbon market, Mr Rumph said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Planners give eco-housing project the green light

Published Date: 18 September 2008

A NEW housing development featuring solar-powered water heaters and streets without pavements has received the go-ahead from the city council.
The 58-home project is the latest phase of Craigmillar's £200 million regeneration scheme, with demand for the new properties likely to be intense.New images were unveiled today of the buildings at The Square, which are designed to be environmentally-friendly and energy efficient, with a high level of insulation.Outside, a European-inspired "home zone" with no pavements, road signs or markings, is intended to strike a balance between traffic and everyone else who uses the street. Made famous in Holland in the 1970s, the presence of pedestrians is supposed to force traffic to drive more slowly and take greater care.The entire regeneration of Craigmillar will eventually include more than 3000 new homes, with 150 acres of surrounding green space transformed into a "green quarter" with parks, river walkways, woodland and play areas.The first stage of the project got under way in early 2007 and involved building a multi-million pound campus bringing together St Francis and Niddrie Mill primary schools. The overall scheme is designed to take 15 years to build, although the credit crunch has already caused some delays.Craig Fotheringham, development surveyor for the firm behind the project, Parc, said: "The creation of high quality, sustainable homes is at the heart of the regeneration process."The first batch of new homes to go on sale in the area proved popular earlier this year. Appointments to reserve the plots were snapped up within 12 minutes of phone lines opening. The latest development, around Wauchope Square, forms the eighth phase of work on the Craigmillar masterplan. It is due to be completed by 2010.The homes have been designed by Edinburgh-based architects, Smith Scott Mullan Associates.Director Alistair Scott said: "We have focused on lifestyle and technical issues, creating homes that are both economic to run and inspirational to live in."Highly energy efficient, with standards substantially in advance of current regulations, the homes achieve this through a high level of insulation and the use of a direct solar system to contribute to water heating."The development includes terraced and mews houses, duplex apartments and conventional flats, and Parc said there will be a "strong relationship" between the design of the buildings and the newly completed primary school. There will be a range of one and two-bedroom flats and four-bed family houses, with a mix of private and public landscaped gardens and communal courtyards. The masterplan for the town centre includes a large supermarket, a town square, and a £30m high school and public library.

Renewables do add up

We've done the sums, and renewable sources could supply all of our energy. But we've got to make the commitment, and fast

Alex Randall,
Thursday September 18 2008 17:32 BST

"I can't do the sums any way without having a slice of nuclear power in the mix. It doesn't work. I ask my enthusiastic green friends if they'll do the sums – and they can't" said Professor Ian Fells on Radio 4's Today programme yesterday. As a stalwart member of the nuclear lobby it's unlikely Fells has many green friends. Last year we did the sums and found that through a radical rethink of how we use energy and massive investment in renewables, the UK could meet its energy needs without fossil fuels or nuclear. "The sums", as Professor Fells calls them are contained in our report, Zero Carbon Britain.
Fells' comments coincide with the release of his report, A Pragmatic Energy Policy for the UK. The report claims that without a nuclear revival and investment in coal the UK will face an "energy gap" within the next decade. The report also states that renewables have a role to play, but the hope that they could provide large amounts of energy is "wishful thinking" and demonstrates a "staggering lack of understanding of the technical and engineering reality of what can be built".
Zero Carbon Britain provides exactly the "technical and engineering reality" that Professor Fells claims is missing.
The report models current UK energy demands across all sectors of the economy and assesses the potential for different renewable sources to replace fossil fuel and nuclear generation. This isn't wishful thinking; we've carefully modelled exactly where and when we use energy, and how we could replace current generation with renewables. The scenario uses a broad spread of different sources – onshore and offshore wind, solar, small-scale hydro and tidal power. It's true that the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. But we've mapped the UK for renewable energy potential and found that by distributing the generation around the country, using storage and managing our energy use intelligently we can even out the ups and downs in supply and demand.
Energy saving is crucial. The scenario requires us to reduce ourenergy use by almost half. This won't mean a few energy saving lightbulbs and washing your clothes at 30C. It means big changes in our energy infrastructure – switching to electric cars and public transport, serious investment to insulate our existing buildings, and rethinking how we use energy to deliver our wellbeing.
The combined threats of energy security and climate change mean that these changes need to happen quickly. The latest climate science suggests that we need to make reductions in greenhouse gases much faster than government targets – faster even than most campaigners and NGOs are calling for. If we want to avoid seriously destabilising the climate we've got roughly 20 years to reduce our emissions to zero. Zero Carbon Britain proves that this is technically possible. Because the timescale is so short this energy scenario only uses technology that is developed and ready to go. The urgency of the situation means we need to invest our limited resources in technologies we know are going to deliver within this 20 year timeframe.
At the Centre for Alternative Technology we produce all our electricity from our own renewable sources. I'd say we are pretty in touch with "technical and engineering reality". We know what works and what doesn't. We've been building, installing and living with these technologies for 35 years. Zero Carbon Britain shows that the UK can achieve energy security without fossil fuels and nuclear power. If Fells wants some new "enthusiastic green friends" to do the sums for him, he should come and visit.

Greenhouse gas emissions jump 5% in year

Published Date: 19 September 2008
By Jenny Haworth

SCOTLAND'S greenhouse gas emissions rose by more than 5 per cent in a year, new figures show.
Despite the Scottish Government's ambitions to reduce damaging emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, latest figures show they increased by 5.4 per cent between 2005 and 2006.The main reason was a shift to a higher dependence on coal-fired power stations for electricity, because of fluctuating gas prices.Environment groups have described the figures as a "wake-up call" and said they emphasised the need for new carbon-capture and storage technology to be used to clean up power stations.In contrast, in England during the same period, emissions dropped by 1.4 per cent.The energy sector accounted for 89 per cent of emissions in Scotland in 2006, with power stations alone creating 32 per cent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.And whereas overall emissions fell by 13.4 per cent between 1990 and 2006, in transport they increased by 13.5 per cent.Stewart Stevenson, climate change minister, said: "I am in no doubt about the serious challenge we face in combating climate change and in cutting emissions. "This latest data illustrates the scale of action that is required."Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said it underlined the need to back clean coal technology."This confirms that plans to introduce any new unabated coal power … in Longannet in Scotland would endanger climate targets and the sooner both governments insist that any new coal plant is operating carbon-capture and storage from day one, the better."Mr McLaren said he thought transport was the "big question mark" over the government's climate aspirations."The question is, how will they increase transport infrastructure and cut emissions from transport at the same time?" he asked.Dr Sam Gardner, WWF Scotland's climate change policy officer, said the rise presented a "clear wake-up call for the Scottish Government" and that the Scottish Climate Change Bill, due to go before parliament later this year, needed to be as robust as possible.A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it expected a large-scale carbon-capture and storage process to be up and running by 2015.

For good neighbours, live in a quiet, car-free street

· People in busy roads more likely to be ill, says study · Lack of traffic promotes sense of community
John Vidal, environment editor
The Guardian,
Friday September 19 2008

Mrs A lives in Dovercourt Road in north Bristol and considers five people on her street as friends. But Mrs B, who is roughly the same age and lives round the corner in a very similar house in Muller Street, has only one friend.
The difference, says a study, has nothing to do with personality, but is because of the weight of traffic. Fewer than 150 vehicles a day pass down Dovercourt Road, compared with more than 21,130 a day on Muller Street.
New research, based on interviews with households on three Bristol streets, has found that people who live with high levels of motor traffic are far more likely to be socially disconnected and even ill than people who live in quiet, clean streets.
It confirms a study done by a British academic in San Francisco in 1969. This found the weight of traffic in urban areas largely determined people's quality of life and also identified a major erosion of community on busy streets. The Bristol study is the first time that research has been conducted in Britain.
Joshua Hart, a researcher at the University of the West of England, Bristol, looked at Muller Street, Filton Avenue and Dovercourt Road, three streets with very different traffic flows.
He dubbed them Heavy (Muller Street), Medium (Filton Avenue), and Light (Dovercourt Road) streets and mapped the movement of residents. People were asked to identify their social contacts, and say what they considered to be their "home".
He found wide differences in community interaction and a serious deterioration of community life on busy roads. On average, residents on Heavy Street had about one fifth the number of local friends and only half the number of acquaintances compared with the people living in Light Street.
People there admitted to knowing very few others in the road, had very few friends on the other side of the street and seldom crossed over. "It's hellishly busy. The buses and lorries shake the house and the air pollution can be quite bad," said one man. Residents on Light Street, however, reported that they felt a sense of community, frequently popped in and out of each others' homes and said that they felt personally responsible for a much larger area than residents on Heavy Street.
More than half the people interviewed said they felt "at home" in other people's houses. "People stay for a while and put down roots," said one man. "We look after each other," said another.
Hart also found people were taking extreme measures to adapt to the noisy, dirty environment on Heavy Street. Residents largely lived in the back rooms of their houses and many chose dark or black curtains to conceal the soot build-up from vehicles.
They kept their front windows closed, did not allow children to play in the street and usually accompanied them to school, he said.
Heavy Street also found people less likely to care for their street. "The whole street needs knocking down and rebuilding" was one comment. "People argue and shout regularly."
It could not have been more different on Light Street, reported Hart. There, very few people felt the need to build a fence or a wall in the front garden, and most people had their windows open.
Residents there reported almost three times the number of gathering spots compared with Heavy Street.
"The primary influence on social deterioration is the external effect of traffic, not any possible personality differences among residents of the three streets," he concluded.
"Growing car dependence is creating an epidemic of deteriorated mental and physical health associated with air and noise pollution, inactivity and road deaths and injuries.
"It seems that community and quality of life have been neglected whilst planning and transport policies have led to a massive growth in motor vehicles in the UK," said Hart.
"More than 5 million extra cars are expected on the UK's roads by 2031, and these findings point to an urgent need for the government to provide healthy residential environments and to stem traffic growth by investing in public transport, walking and cycling in order to avoid many more local communities being impacted."

Arctic sea ice at second lowest extent ever recorded

The area of ice at least five years old has fallen by more than half since 1985 and the Northwest and Northeast Passages are now navigable by sea
John Vidal,
Thursday September 18 2008 15:27 BST

Sea ice limits ... red shows this year's limit, while yellow shows the average summer extent from 1979 to 2000. Click for a larger version
Arctic sea ice has reached the second lowest extent ever recorded, according to the US national snow and ice centre, and a new map shows how far the 2008 melt has receded compared to the historical average.
The map, produced by Collins, illustrates that the area of ice that is at least five years old has fallen by more than half since 1985. It comes as the Northwest Passage, above north America, and the Northeast Passage, over the top of Russia, are both free of ice for the first time.
"While slightly above the record-low minimum set last year, this season further reinforces the strong negative trend in summer sea ice extent observed during the past 30 years. Before last year, the previous record low for September was set in 2005", said a spokesman for the Snow and Ice center based at the University of Colorado.
A spokesman for WWF International said: "This means two years in a row of record lows. The trend of melting Arctic sea ice is alarming for the rest of the world. The Arctic is a key factor in stabilising the global climate so this is a global problem that demands an immediate and global response."
The daily rate of ice loss usually starts to slow in August as the Arctic begins to cool. But in August 2008, the daily decline rate remained steadily downward and strong.
The average daily ice loss rate for August 2008 was 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) per day. This was the fastest rate of daily ice loss that scientists had observed since satellite photographs were started in 1979.

Business chiefs urge action on climate change

· E.ON and BAA bosses sign letter to Number 10 · Environment activists say signatures 'hypocritical'
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Friday September 19 2008

Business leaders including directors at Tesco, Lloyds TSB and other top high street names have urged Gordon Brown to drop his slowly, slowly approach to tackling global warming and go for "transformational change", saying the prime minister should not be held back by fears over the current financial crisis.
But the involvement in the initiative of BAA, owner of Heathrow, and the energy firm E.ON angered environmentalists, who said the companies that encouraged flying and built coal-fired power stations showed "hypocrisy of the purest strain".
A letter signed by some of the biggest figures in British business, to be sent today to Brown and to David Cameron and Nick Clegg, said the party leaders should work together urgently on measures such as higher energy efficiency standards, support for low-carbon technology and the auctioning of carbon allowances.
The companies, all members of The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, said they saw their own business opportunities in being at the head of a green revolution, but wanted regulatory certainty to help them plan their investments better.
The letter said: "Climate change poses global social, environmental and economic risks and demands a transformational change in how we manage our economy. Incremental change will not do.
"We have addressed this letter to the leaders of all political parties with representation in the houses of parliament with a view to encouraging a cross-political consensus on the scale and speed of change required, and a constructive
political debate on how this can be achieved." The note was signed by Lucy Neville-Rolfe, director of corporate and legal affairs at Tesco, and Ian Cheshire, boss at B&Q owner Kingfisher, but also Paul Golby, the chief executive of E.ON UK and Colin Matthews at BAA.
Greenpeace said the signatures of the German-owned energy group and Spanish-owned airports operator were inappropriate. "This is hypocrisy of the purest strain. It's astounding that E.ON would call for action on climate change when they're agitating to build Britain's first coal-fired power stations in decades. It makes an environmentalist's jaw drop to see the BAA logo on this letter when they're trying to expand airports across the nation," said Ben Stewart, the Greenpeace communications director.
"This is like Howard Marks calling for a crackdown on pot. If the executives of these companies want action on climate change they should immediately lock themselves in their boardrooms and not come out until Kingsnorth and Heathrow expansion have been dropped."
The business group, coordinated by a Cambridge university programme for industry, said Brown should assume a legally binding deal on a 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions will be signed at the 2009 United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen.
It tells political leaders problems in the financial markets and an economic slowdown cannot stand in the way of action on climate change.
"The global economic slowdown may cause some to question whether the UK can afford to act so boldly, but we believe action cannot be delayed, and furthermore that decisive action will stimulate economic activity and job creation in certain sectors," it said.
Cheshire denied the letter implied the signatories did not believe the government was serious enough about climate change.
"No, its the reverse," he said. "The government needs some space to implement change and we are showing our support for new measures."
Business leaders calling for regulation could be viewed as turkeys voting for Christmas, but the primary aim of this initiative is to save themselves. Some of this is to do with reputation: it is good to be seen leading a green revolution when your customers accept climate change is of huge importance. But chief executives also hate uncertainty and find it difficult to make long-term investment decisions when they do not have a good idea of what the regulatory framework will look like. Business leaders are keen to win public money for experimental schemes such as carbon capture and storage, which has been linked with E.ON's proposed Kingsnorth coal-fired power station. They would also like public bodies to "go green", providing opportunities for business.

Businesses push for strong lead on climate change

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: September 19 2008 03:00

Turmoil in the financial markets should not prevent the UK from taking a strong lead on tackling climate change, a group of leading businesses said yesterday.
The 18 businesses, including household names such as B&Q, Lloyds TSB, Shell and Vodafone, wrote to Gordon Brown, the prime minister, and the leaders of the opposition parties to ask for stronger action on climate change.
The group said the UK should work on the assumption that emissions would have to be cut by 30 per cent by 2020. This is much more than the 20 per cent reductions that the government has agreed to under a European Union proposal.
The group also called for the government to do more to ensure the money spent on procuring goods and services for the public sector was spent in an environmentally sound way, which would prop up the market for "green" goods.
Neil Carson, chief executive of Johnson Matthey, the speciality chemicals company, said: "Public procurement drives about one-third of the UK economy but to date, attempts to 'green' procurement have largely failed. The public sector should be setting bold, new and sustainable specifications for the products and services it buys."
The business leaders urged the government to adopt higher energy efficiency standards and supported the "progressive shift" to auctioning allowances under the EU's emissions trading scheme, rather than giving them away for free. The Treasury yesterday said the first carbon permit auction would take place on November 19. It will be the first such auction in the EU.
The group, brought to-gether by Cambridge University under a programme initiated by Prince Charles, is made up largely of companies that have taken on environmental commitments and are seeking a level playing field with competitors who have not committed themselves to cut emissions.
The companies signing the letter were Anglian Water Group, B&Q, BAA, Centrica, Eon, F&C Management, Faber Maunsell, John Lewis, Johnson Matthey, Lloyds TSB, Reckitt Benckiser Group, Shell, Standard Chartered Bank, Sun Micro-systems, Tesco, Thames Water, Unilever and Vodafone.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008