Friday, 24 October 2008

Environment Agency accused of flouting EU laws over fish farms

By Graham Mole
Last Updated: 11:01am BST 23/10/2008
The Environment Agency is flouting EU law by letting fish farms pollute rivers and kill threatened salmon stocks, anglers claim.

The fishermen say a report revealing the problem was seen by the agency two years ago but it has failed to act. Even now, they say, the agency is still not planning any action.

Fish farm: Anglers claim the Environment Agency is letting fish farms pollute rivers
Ironically the report was the result of a five year study by another government agency, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) which was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
It concluded: "The research has indicated that the effluents from fish farms can have significant impacts on Atlantic salmon, particularly during sensitive life history stages such as reproduction and smoltification".
Smoltification is the stage of the salmon's life when it first makes it way from freshwater to saltwater. The report revealed that many smolts affected by the effluence died when they reached the sea.
On one location - the world famous River Test - the report said "the long term ability of male salmon to respond to reproductive pheromones from the female fish was significantly inhibited". It also found other compounds which, it said, suppressed the salmon's ability to reproduce.

The report also confirmed anglers' suspicions that the effluent was killing off the river borne insects on which the fish feed.
The research took place both in laboratories and on the rivers Avon and Test. River quality was tested above and below the fish farms and then upstream and downstream samples were compared.
Almost invariably the quality of the water below the fish farms was poor and contained testosterone, steroids, ammonia and several other substances harmful to the fish.
While the Test is fished by the rich and famous world wide, the nearby Avon has the highest possible European eco-rating - a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Under the Euro rules anyone doing anything that involves the river, such as fish farms, firstly has to prove it won't damage the stream.
This requirement, say anglers, was totally ignored by the EA and in the November round of regional fisheries committees they'll be insisting that the EA abides by EU law.
In a paper for those committees the EA's acting head of fisheries Matthew Crocker wrote: "We believe that further studies are needed to assess whether it is feasible to develop environmental quality standards to allow regulators to take relevant impacts into account."
Ian Johnson, fisheries policy manager for the EA said: "Cefas has said that further work is required to predict the possible impacts of effluents at the population level. We have recently been in discussion with Defra and Cefas to promote this being taken forward."
Asked about the EU rules on pollution in its most protected rivers he replied: "We have asked that this research should be progressed to provide us with specific information of any population level effects and the levels of any pollutants that are found to be the cause. Clearly, as such information comes available we would look to review relevant consent standards."
Of the two year gap since the results were known Mr Johnson said: "It has been referred to at various meetings when its findings and limitations have been discussed, but it is only recently, following specific interest from other committees, that it has been brought on to the agenda as an information paper.
"As much more detailed work remains before we can assess its implications, it is unusual that such early findings would attract this interest."
Anglers' spokesman Jim Glasspool of the influential Test and Itchen Association said: "The regulations stipulate that there's a rigorous assessment process to determine that it will not have a detrimental effect on the integrity of the SAC.
"The burden of proof is against the application and the precautionary nature of the regulations assumes that the application cannot proceed unless it can be proved it will not have an adverse effect. This interpretation has been tested in the courts."
When it came to the smolts or baby salmon starting to head for the sea the report found disruption in blood potassium regulation and lesions in the gills and kidneys.
It said "These two organs are key for salt regulation in salmon smolts and allow the fish to successfully adapt to the marine environment." As a result it found that when the smolts hit the seawater there were high mortality rates.
Despite this, say the anglers, the EA isn't planning anything. The only recommendation in the papers for November's meetings is that the report be noted.
Mr Glasspool added: "This is unacceptable. There needs to be a clear definition of what this work is and when it will be done."
A Cefas spokesman said: "We have sought/continue to seek further funding to revisit this work, but so far we have not secured any."

Green routes to growth

Recession is the time to build a low-carbon future with the investment vital for economy and planet

Nicholas Stern
The Guardian,
Thursday October 23 2008

There are two crucial lessons we must learn from the financial turbulence the world has been facing. First, this crisis has been 20 years in the making and shows very clearly that the longer risk is ignored the bigger will be the consequences; second, we shall face an extended period of recession in the rich countries and low growth for the world as a whole. Let us learn the lessons and take the opportunity of the coincidence of the crisis and the deepening awareness of the great danger of unmanaged climate change: now is the time to lay the foundations for a world of low-carbon growth.
High-carbon growth - business as usual - will by mid-century have taken greenhouse gas concentrations to a point where a major climate disaster is very likely. We risk a transformation of the planet so radical that it would involve huge population movements and widespread conflict. Put simply, high-carbon growth will choke off growth. To manage the climate, we must cut world emissions by at least 50% by 2050, as recognised by the G8 earlier this year. Given that rich countries' emissions are far above the world average, their cuts should be at least 80%, acknowledged in Europe and the UK, with the adoption of that target last week.
In recent days, Bank of England governor Mervyn King and Gordon Brown have indicated that Britain is heading into recession. We do not know how long it will last, but it is unlikely to be short. The relevant policies are being put in place to avoid plunging the UK further into crisis and to start constructing a more robust financial system. But as banks rebuild balance sheets and look for higher capital ratios they will have to restrict lending. Monetary policy alone, important though it is, is unlikely to pull us out of the recession quickly: fiscal policy to expand demand must play a role. But increased government spending should be focused not just on boosting short-term demand. We must promote growth that can be sustained.
The coming period of growth can be firmly based in the low-carbon infrastructure and investments that will not only be profitable, with the right policies, but also allow for a safer, cleaner and quieter economy and society. And if, as we must, we halt deforestation - the source of 20% of greenhouse gas emissions - at the same time we can also protect and enhance our biodiversity and water systems.
The International Energy Agency estimates that world energy infrastructure investments are likely to average about $1 trillion a year over the next 20 years. If the majority of this is low-carbon, and some of it is brought forward, it will be an outstanding source of investment demand. So too will be the investments for energy efficiency, many of which can be labour-intensive and are available immediately.
It is surely clear that a programme can be put together which both boosts demand in the short term and prepares for efficient, strong and sustainable growth in the medium term. It must be structured carefully with the public and private sectors working together. It will be the private sector that makes most of the investments, but the public sector must shape the incentives and the investment climate that allows the investment to take place. That will mean working with the EU and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen to sustain a price for carbon, by use of carbon trading and taxation. It means regulation, for instance, on car emissions to give clear signals that allow economies of scale and reduce uncertainty.
It is not, however, just a matter of the right motivation for the private sector and the appropriate scale and structure of public spending. The investment climate must be right, too. There could be a clear limit on time for planning decisions and a national energy strategy that shapes decisions. We should have a very open-minded attitude to technology and let the markets decide which to choose, without putting obstacles in the way that might arise from an antipathy to a particular technology. Demonstration of carbon capture and storage for coal and gas on a commercial scale in electricity generation should be a special priority, given the likely prevalence of coal in the future growth of many countries. Reform of the grid structure will be necessary to allow decentralised and local decisions for generation such as wind, solar and combined heat and power. And the energy strategy must factor in energy security and peak-load supply. With sound policies all this is possible, consistent with low-carbon technologies.
The next few years present a great opportunity to lay the foundations of a new form of growth that can transform our economies and societies. Let us grow out of this recession in a way that both reduces risks for our planet and sparks off a wave of new investment which will create a more secure, cleaner and more attractive economy for all of us. And in so doing, we shall demonstrate for all, particularly the developing world, that low-carbon growth is not only possible, but that it can also be a productive and efficient route to overcome world poverty.
• Lord Stern is IG Patel professor of economics and government at the LSE and leader of the Stern Review 2006 on the economics of climate change

The great green electricity con

In his first of his weekly Greenwash columns, Fred Pearce finds that "green" electricity tariffs are often far from what they seem

Fred Pearce,
Thursday October 23 2008 00.01 BST

The offers are tempting for any self-respecting green. For a small premium, or sometimes no premium at all, you can make sure that only clean, green, renewable electricity comes down the grid into your home. But what do you get for your money? Does the planet really benefit? Is this greenwash?
Most of us are not foolish enough to suppose that our electricity supplier specially packages up "green energy" for us, and shoves it down the wires. We just get regular electricity, of course. But most of us would suppose that if we pay a green tariff, someone somewhere generates more renewable energy – and burns less fossil fuel - than they would if we hadn't done our bit for the environment.
But no. In fact, we are usually subsidising the power companies to do what they are required by law to do already. Worse, despite us paying through our green noses, they still can't meet their targets. Then they rub our noses in it by selling what "green electricity" they do produce over and over again. This is all within the law, of course. But that is because the government's green laws are a mess. In many cases, buying green electricity is not so much greenwash as a full-scale green con. Certainly, that's the view of Virginia Graham, who six years ago drew up the first set of guidelines on green tariffs, for the industry regulator Ofgem. She is now wiser and more cynical. "It suits the companies for people to think they are getting green electricity if they sign up to green tariffs," she says. "But in most cases they are not, and people are being misled."
Let me explain how the system works. Under government rules, electricity suppliers have to make sure that a certain percentage of their electricity is generated from renewable sources, like wind turbines, solar panels and burning wood or plants. This is called the renewables obligation.
The percentage rises each year. For the year ending March 2007, the most recent for which there are published stats on how the companies performed, the obligation was 6.7%. But the companies collectively only managed to generate 4.7% of their electricity from renewables.
Most of the big companies missed the target by a country mile. EDF managed 5%, E.On 3.6% and British Gas 4%.This may not all be the fault of the suppliers. It would take another article to explain what has gone wrong with rolling out British renewables. But the fact remains that the suppliers are selling green energy, often at premium prices, to green-minded customers as if this were on top of their existing commitments.
Npower's juice tariff offers "clean green energy at no extra cost to you or the planet". The company says it gets sufficient power from offshore windfarms to supply its juice customers. Maybe so. But according to its fuel-mix declaration, only 3% of its overall supplies were renewable last year – less than half its obligation.
To shed some light on this mess, Ofgem, the industry regulator, has been talking to suppliers for over a year now about setting up a mandatory system of labelling and an independent auditor for green tariffs.
But insiders say the industry has been watering down the proposals, and no amount of fussing over the detail is going to get round the central point. Power companies that do not meet their legal renewables obligations are telling porkies if they suggest that when you sign up for their green tariff, they will deliver more green electricity. It just isn't so.
To be fair, some tariffs do offer something a bit more certain. They promise to plant a tree for you, or put money into research into renewables. The EDF green tariff, which advertises that it "lets you choose renewable energy for your home", funds solar panels on school roofs and similar projects.
But until they meet their existing renewable obligations, and demonstrate that people buying green tariffs will push them beyond the legal minimum, they won't get an extra penny out of me.
The story doesn't end there, however. You see, green electricity is not just for greens. Not even mainly for greens. The biggest buyers are companies. When their electricity comes with a green label, they have taken to going around calling themselves "carbon neutral". Which is good PR. BT has made great play of having cut its carbon emissions by more than half by buying green electricity.
So levy payers have been very willing to pay premium prices to buy "green electricity". So keen, in fact, that they buy more green electricity than is being generated in the first place. It is hard to believe that this is possible within the law, but I am told it is. An electricity supplier that has access to, say, two gigawatt (GW) hours of renewable electricity, can sell 4GW-hours labelled as renewable, says Graham. "Renewable electricity is often being sold twice, perhaps more. Double counting is enormous."
The government may be starting to get a handle on all this. In August, the environment secretary, Hilary Benn, announced plans for a crackdown on companies making dodgy claims about their carbon neutrality.
At this point, you might shrug your shoulders and walk away from this green fantasy land. But not so fast. Because it turns out we have been paying for it all. All electricity customers, regardless of what tariff they are on, pay an average premium on their bills of £10 a year specifically to help pay the electricity suppliers meet their renewable obligations.
We know they don't fully meet those obligations. But surely every scrap of green energy that they do produce is ours, paid for with our £10. But instead they are selling it to others, several times over. In the end, the biggest con seems have been perpetrated not on the buyers of green electricity, but on the rest of us.
• How many more green scams, cons and generous slices of wishful thinking are out there? Please send your examples of greenwash to or add your comments below

The great green swindle

As consumers become more eco-conscious, companies will go to ever greater lengths to present themselves as environmentally friendly. Some make exaggerated or absurd claims, others resort to downright lies. Fred Pearce, whose new weekly Greenwash column launches on the Guardian website today, reports on a sinister trend - and appeals to readers to help stamp it out
Fred Pearce
The Guardian,
Thursday October 23 2008

Back in the days of no-holds-barred advertising by Madison Avenue's finest, anything went. Drinking alcohol made you sexy, smoking cigarettes was good for your lungs and every washing powder contained a magic ingredient that made your whites super-white.
And guess what? Those days are back, at least for green advertising. As more and more customers demand environmental responsibility from companies, few large corporations with any sort of public profile now dare to enter the marketplace without a blizzard of sustainability audits and low-carbon-emissions targets. But that being so, the risk of being conned by slick corporate "greenwash" has never been greater, as the volume of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) testifies.
The green claims coming from corporations can be absurdly general. Nearly everything we buy these days seems to be "sustainably sourced" or "environmentally friendly". Sometimes, though, they are crazily specific. Virgin Trains declares: "Our Pendolino trains emit 76% less CO2 than cars or domestic flights." But which cars, which flights, and how full are the trains?
Or plain bonkers. One brand of bottled water says its product contains "300% more oxygen".
In August, the ad industry's watchdog, the ASA, rapped oil company Shell's knuckles for trying to claim, in an advertisement in the Financial Times, that its $10bn investment in sucking tar sands out of the Canadian midwest was a contribution to a sustainable energy future. Tar sands contain bitumen. It takes a great deal of energy to turn them into something you can put in a fuel tank. Overall, the emissions from mining, refining and burning tar sands are between three and 10 times greater than for conventional oil. Shell's sleight of hand was to use the much-abused word "sustainability" to imply a green agenda when what it was really on about was keeping a sustainable flow of fuel out of its forecourt pumps. The ASA cried foul.
Earlier in the year, the agency also upheld complaints against Renault for branding its Twingo an "eco" car and picturing it with leaves blowing out of its tailpipe, even though its emissions are among the worst for a car of its size.
Advertising, says the ASA, "should always avoid the vague use of terms such as sustainable, green, non-polluting and so on".
In the real world, we have to admit, things can be nuanced. Lots of corporate claims - about carbon neutrality, for instance - hang on exactly what activities are being audited. Take Manchester airport, which was outed in a recent report from the sustainable development organisation, Forum for the Future. Last year the airport's owners pledged to make the airport carbon-neutral, with one small caveat: the target does not include the 200,000-plus flights into and out of the airport each year. As Forum for the Future observed, "this jars somewhat".
And what are we to make of Fiji Water's claims to be cutting the carbon footprint of its water by 25% and offsetting the rest? "Every drop is green," it says. But isn't the whole idea of bottling water on a remote South Pacific island and shipping it to your dinner table just a tiny bit barmy?
Equally questionable are the claims of financial institutions. Back in the days (oh, only a few weeks ago) when the City of London was concerned with something other than day-to-day corporate survival, the City of London Corporation launched a City Climate Pledge, under which finance houses would pledge to "measure and monitor" their carbon footprint. Good for them. Perhaps a few will follow the lead of HSBC, which has developed close links with the environment group WWF and has claimed since 2005 to be the world's first carbon-neutral bank.
But the pledge looks suspiciously like greenwash. Companies simply have to fill out a form detailing their CO2 plans and they can use the pledge logo. "Companies using the logo will be recognised as exemplar sustainable businesses [able to] attract consumers who are becoming more discerning about the credentials of businesses they deal with," says the flyer. Not bad for just filling out a form. Especially as there doesn't seem to be any follow-up or auditing process involved.
But as with the efforts of Manchester airport and Fiji Water, there remains a rather large elephant in the living room. The carbon footprint of finance houses is not about whether they offset executive flights or put double glazing in the boardroom; it is about their investment decisions. The press release put out by the City of London said the pledge would "encourage City organisations to use their global influence to affect the behaviour of companies around the UK and the world". Could the City be about to impose a freeze on cash for tar sands or coal-fired power stations? Not so fast. The pledge itself makes no mention of this.
I would have expected City institutions to be falling over themselves to sign up to the pledge. But 11 months after companies were first asked to sign the pledge, and three months after its public launch, the pledge's website is still promising that a list of signatories "will be available shortly", and further inquiries revealed that just one company - Deutsche Bank - had so far completed registration. Right now the pledge looks like a one-day PR wonder to green the City's image, with no substance at all. Or maybe they are all just a little busy right now.
To try to keep up with the welter of environmental claims, test the green spin and spot the green frauds, the Guardian is launching today a regular online column, Greenwash, and calls on readers to submit their examples of the fraudulent, mendacious, confusing, ignorant or just daft claims jostling for our attention.
Along the way, we may get to the heart of a dilemma that faces us all. Can we shop our way to sustainability? Are some products so green it is better to buy two of them rather than one? Or are our own consumer lifestyles, suffused in greenwash, the problem? Is there really no alternative to putting away our credit cards, pulling on our thickest jumper and heading for the hills?
We won't be limiting our investigations to corporations - we'll have politicians in our sights, too. Scraping away at the green patina on the new-look, Zac Goldsmith-inspired Conservative environmental policies, puncturing Brown's grumpy greenery and unpicking the carbon contortions of the coal-loving Celts. And now that both Barack Obama and John McCain claim environmental credentials, we'll be looking for greenwash at the White House too.
And we won't forget that, even in the corporate world, greenwash is not just a defensive mantra to help maintain business as usual. Some people are out there pushing the environmental agenda with sinister intent. Take, for example, the green rebranding of Steptoe and Son.
Last year the EU introduced the charmingly named WEEE directive, which stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. The aim is to prevent millions of tonnes of toxic TVs, personal computers, toasters and other electronic goods being dumped into landfill each year. Instead, they have to be recycled. You may not have noticed this because there are no laws stopping you putting that laptop into your dustbin. But corporations and retailers are charged with making sure most of our electronic waste gets recycled. The question is how.
Some of this stuff is making its way to a handful of hi-tech metals recycling plants in Europe. But most is going to the developing world. Often it has paperwork claiming it will be refurbished and re-used, but nobody has the resources to police the system, so in practice much of it ends up in primitive workshops in India and west Africa and China, where it is stripped out, boiled up, dunked in acid or smashed to smithereens by unskilled, low-paid and frequently child labour. I have seen this "recycling" industry at work in Delhi, where barefooted children as young as eight dunk circuit boards in barrels of acid to remove traces of copper.
Last month, a charity called Computer Aid tried to blow the whistle on this. Computer Aid is one of the few organisations that is genuinely and safely refurbishing and reusing old computers, many of them going to schools in Kenya. It fears this "good" and socially responsible recycling will be undermined by the bad guys. Why is this happening? Partly because factories in India badly want the metals in your old computer. And partly because too many European companies have a no-questions-asked policy towards every broker and cowboy willing to take troublesome waste off their hands. As one industrial supplier told me last year, "A lot of these guys don't even have addresses, just mobile phone numbers."
Recycling may be a new term, but the trade is not new. Until the 60s, recyclers plied the streets of Britain with a horse and cart collecting old stuff that could be sold on. The characters in the television show Steptoe and Son were the archetypes. They have been succeeded by a generation of car-crushers and cable-burners. Nobody called it green then: now they do. But the same wide boys are in charge, so if anybody has their mobile numbers, do please get in touch.
We are too ready to suspend our critical faculties with anybody claiming to be green. But a great deal of recycling is not quite what it seems. What happens to recycled glass bottles, for instance? As we post them in the recycling bin, we presume they go to make new bottles and cut out the energy cost of making new glass from sand. My local supermarket bin in south London proudly proclaims that recycling one glass bottle "saves enough energy to power a TV for 20 minutes".
Well, it would if they turned the glass back into new bottles. But it turns out that often they don't. Much of London's recycled glass is actually crushed and sold to construction firms as a substitute for sand, or an ingredient in a substitute for asphalt such as Glasphalt - "specially treated so it won't puncture tyres," as one recycling website puts it. That's a relief, but how many assiduous recyclers trying to do their bit for the environment realise they are actually helping build new roads?
How many more green scams, cons and generous slices of wishful thinking are out there? We want to name and shame them before the whole green movement gets a bad reputation. "Green" has another meaning after all - naive. And we cannot afford that.
Greenwash: Fred Pearce on the con of green electricity
How to spot a fake
It's greenwash if it's ...
• Ludicrously generalAll claims for products being environmentally friendly or pollution-free should have evidence that clearly supports them.
• OverspecificBe on guard against numbers or other "facts" that can only be true in specific circumstances, such as Virgin Trains' claims to have 76% fewer emissions than planes or cars (see main feature). Often these come with a discreet asterisk referencing an obscure study - look the study up, or ask the Guardian's new Greenwash column to do so on your behalf.
• Reliant on nature picturesMost pernicious, perhaps, are attempts to green products by association, such as cars driving through verdant meadows.
• Backed up by a tame boffinCompanies like to spotlight their researchers working on renewable energy, even if it makes up less than 1% of their business. Anybody can keep a tame boffin: to mean something, such research must be a significiant part of the company's business. (Incidentally, has anyone met a researcher? We would like to hear.)
• Simply absurdIf a claim sounds absurd, it probably is. Inside knowledge can help you blow the whistle, but a nose for the absurd is just as good.
How to spot the real thing
It might just be true if ...
• What the company says matches what they doRob Harrison of Ethical Consumer thinks the most important question is: "Is their position consistent right across the group?" Some car manufacturers advertise their green cars but continue to lobby for lower carbon-reduction targets. Look for companies who match what they say and do, such as Peugeot, one of the only car manufacturers likely to come in under the European emissions targets in 2010.
• The company is in partnership with an independent ethical organisationForming a partnership with an independent organisation is voluntary and doesn't have to mean much: groups such as the Ethical Trade Initiative or the Carbon Disclosure Project have little power. All the same, it's an indicator of willingness. Some NGOs are more picky: their validation is, therefore, worth more.
• They take that extra, obsessive stepEvangelistically green companies such as Lush, Co-operative Food or Sawdays can never resist the chance to talk about the environment, and they've all taken radical steps within their own organisations. Lush uses minimal amounts of packaging and gives money to anti-road groups, Co-operative Food has clad its entire HQ in solar panels, and Sawdays publishers operates from zero-carbon offices.
• They are green innovatorsDIY Kyoto came up with the Wattson, a device for measuring how much electricity your house is using. BSkyB, headed by James Murdoch, has brought in the auto-standby device, which senses if the box hasn't been used in the two hours after 11pm, and automatically goes to standby.
• They set themselves targetsQuantifiable targets set for some specific time in the future - "we will reduce our water use by such and such by 2010" - are an indicator of seriousness: they are handing you and the press a stick to beat them with if they miss the target. In January, Tesco, for example, pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% by 2020.
• They take action even if it may harm businessMarks & Spencer's decision to charge for plastic bags, British Gas's encouragement of reduced use: these are not immediately obvious comfort zones for money-making enterprises. You can be cynical, or you can clap.
• They have been auditedSome companies get a third party in to check they're doing it right: Eurostar called in Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to go over their plans with a toothcomb before they kicked off their big Tread Lightly initiative. Some companies - the Guardian, for example - are so obsessive they will even audit their social report. This could be seen as just showing off.
• They make it easy for you to find all this out If you can't easily find the information, be suspicious and ring up the company. Other possible sources of info: Ethical Consumer, FTSE4Good Index, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and the ASA (which may be considering cases against the company you're looking into).
Bibi van der Zee
• Please send your examples of greenwash to

Climate change targets deal could include aviation and shipping emissions

Patrick Wintour, political editor,
Friday October 24 2008 00.01 BST

Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, is close to reaching an agreement on toughening his legally binding climate change targets by promising to take into account emissions from shipping and aviation. He is also expected to include a commitment that by 2012 businesses will be required to report annually on their carbon emissions. Business is responsible for 30% of total emissions.Miliband was praised by environmentalists last week when he increased the UK legal target to cut the greenhouse gas emissions target from 60% to 80% by 2050. Miliband said he was responding to evidence that the science showed the risk of climate change was growing, and said Britain would make an 80% cut to the headline target in its climate change legislation.
But he faced widespread criticism over plans to exclude aviation and shipping from his legally binding targets — blowing a massive hole in the 80% target, according to green campaigners, who argued that the omission of aviation would mean there was no serious business incentive to bring on a new generation of efficient aviation engines.
Sixty five Labour MPs, with the support of Frinds of the Earth and led by the former business minister Nigel Griffiths, immediately tabled an amendment to the climate change bill, due to be debated next Tuesday, demanding that ministers take aviation into account when setting the UK's carbon budgets.
Such a show of Labour backbench strength would be enough to ensure an embarrassing defeat for Miliband in the opening weeks of his department. Aviation and shipping are estimated to account for 7.6% of all UK emissions. Griffiths said yesterday: "We have had very positive meetings with Ed Miliband and Joan Ruddock. They … recognise the need to add emissions, including aviation and maritime. Our discussions have been about how this could be done. We are all agreed that this is desirable."
Officials have told green groups that they are working on an agreement to require ministers to take into account aviation and maritime emission, using existing international carbon reporting methodology. A duty may also be placed on ministers to report the emission of greenhouse gases from aviation or shipping.
Ministers have not yet reached agreement on these proposals with all government departments, with some reluctance from the transport department.
The climate change bill, an international first, is designed to set out an economically credible pathway for cuts in UK emissions by 2050 by putting into statute medium- and long-term targets.
Miliband has been reluctant to include aviation and shipping in the bill partly because his chief climate change adviser, Lord Turner, said there was no international agreement yet on how to measure aviation and shipping, or specifically on how to allocate emissions between states. It is not easy to reach international agreement, for instance, on how to allocate the emissions of a Spaniard flying on a Swiss aircraft from Madrid to London.
Ministers have said that it might take until 2009 to reach an international agreement on whether, or how, to include aviation.
A government official said: "We are hopeful we can reach agreement with our backbenchers, but we are anxious about including something in the bill that cannot yet be measured accurately. This is such an ambitious and ground-breaking bill that we cannot get it wrong."
Ministers have also given a separate undertaking in the Lords that they will amend the energy bill to support smaller producers of electricity generation. The scheme will give incentives to individual householders, as well as schools, hospitals and community projects. The bill will include an upper limit for feed-in tariffs, possibly set at just over 2 megawatts. An amendment will also be included to encourage small-scale combined heat and power projects.

Battle hots up for cleaner jet engines

By Kevin Done in London
Published: October 23 2008 18:58

General Electric is soon to begin tests of new jet engine technology that holds the prospect of sharply reducing aircraft fuel consumption and carbon emissions by the end of the next decade.
It is joining forces with Nasa, the US aeronautics and space administration, to begin wind tunnel testing early next year of innovative designs of so-called open rotor technology.

The tests will intensify the growing transatlantic competition to develop the jet engines to power the next generation of short-haul aircraft.
Rolls-Royce is making similar moves to GE, as the leading US and European engine makers investigate technologies they hope will be chosen by Airbus and Boeing for their future jets to replace their existing respective A320 and 737 families of aircraft.
These aircraft generate a large part of the revenues and profits of both Airbus and Boeing.
Winning the battle to power the aircraft is one of the biggest prizes available to the engine makers in coming years, but they also face a big gamble in investment and choice of technology.
GE and Rolls-Royce both believe open rotor engine technology offers the biggest potential gains in fuel efficiency and reducing emissions, but it has drawbacks in noise and would require radical departures in aircraft design, possibly with two large engines mounted at the rear of the aircraft.
The engines would have two open banks of counter-rotating fan blade systems with a diameter of about 14 feet and would be too big to mount under the wings as is the case with conventional jet engines.
GE will announce that it plans to begin testing open rotor fan blade designs in Nasa wind tunnel facilities early next year.
It said rising fuel prices had led it to return to the development of open rotor technology, which had been under investigation in the 1980s but had been shelved, when oil prices fell and there had not been the same drive to cut emissions of climate change gases.
GE Aviation unveiled a series of future technologies earlier this year for engines for narrow-body aircraft, which it claimed would cut fuel consumption and emissions by as much as 16 per cent and could be available by 2015-16.
Chet Fuller, chief marketing officer of GE Aviation, said open rotor technology could give further savings of 10-12 per cent, but would not be commercially available until 2018 at the earliest.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Drax has £2bn plan for biomass power stations

• Plant would supply 3% of country's needs• Siemens to provide turbine technology
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Friday October 24 2008

Drax Group, the owner of Britain's most carbon-intensive power station, is turning green with a £2bn plan to build the country's first large-scale biomass plants which burn plant-based materials.
The three facilities in Hull, Immingham and probably the North Yorkshire village of Drax itself, will have the capacity to produce 900 megawatts of electricity - enough to supply 3% of the country's total needs - but environmental groups warned that Drax must ensure the crop fuel is sustainable.
The company, which runs a massive coal-fired power station at Drax, has told shareholders that some of the cash it was going to pay back by way of dividends will now be switched into building biomass. But it said this would reap long-term rewards.
"This is an exciting opportunity for Drax to develop its business and to deliver shareholder value by exploiting our core competencies, whilst achieving fuel diversification and carbon abatement," said Dorothy Thompson, Drax's chief executive.
"We are strongly of the view that investment in the generation sector will provide attractive returns. We believe our venture into dedicated biomass-fired generation underpins our commitment to reducing the carbon footprint of electricity generation."
Drax will build, own and operate the three plants in co-operation with Siemens of Germany through a 60/40 joint venture. Drax will manage and operate the plants, which should be running by 2014, while Siemens will provide the turbine technology.
The British power group has already secured rights to port sites at Immingham and Hull and is looking at the possibility of constructing a third facility near the coal-fired station which has itself been experimenting with burning plant-based materials such as old timber and straw alongside its base load of coal.
So far, the biomass sector is in its infancy, with only a very small number of larger plants planned and a handful of very small ones in operation.
The port sites suggest that the bulk of the wood and other materials that will be used in the biomass plants will be imported. Drax declined to say how much of the fuel would be imported but admitted it would take time to build up local supplies.
Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace, said biomass plants could help in the fight against climate change, but only if they make the most of the waste heat they produce and use fuel from carefully chosen sources. "Otherwise they're cutting down trees, shipping them across the world and then throwing away the energy they get from them. Drax already owns the single most polluting power station in Britain, and if they fail to get the technology right on these power plants they could be making their carbon footprint bigger."
The company said its full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation would be "modestly higher" than the current market consensus, and trading conditions in commodity markets in which it operates have improved.
Drax disappointed some in the City by saying it would distribute all excess cash through dividends until 2010 when it would switch to paying out half of all underlying earnings.
Drax said it had the support of its main shareholders for its moves to go green.

Renewable energy - 'Massive shake-up needed to meet targets'

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 24/10/2008
A Churchillian effort will be needed if Britain is to meet its target of getting 15 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, Peers have warned.

And it will require a massive shake-up of how power is produced and distributed across the energy industry, the European Union Committee says in a new report.

Solar panels: the report calls for more home generation of electricity
Britain gets only about two per cent of its energy from renewable sources, mostly from wind farms and will be hard-pressed to meet the 15 per cent target imposed by the EU, the report concludes.
Much will depend on the Government being able to persuade the public to use less power and to begin thinking about producing their own electricity at home - so called micro generation.
To achieve this planning laws will have to be shunted aside and Ministers given more powers to drive through renewable energy schemes even when there is local opposition.
The Committee chairman, Lord Freeman, said: "The target is achievable but only through a tremendous national effort on a Churchillian scale.

"Priorities will have to be changed and will involve everybody from the consumer producing electricity at home to the big power companies."
The Government is criticised in the report for not tackling energy efficiency in its Renewable Energy Strategy and it calls for a 20 per cent energy reduction target by 2020.
The report claims 41 per cent of the UK's energy use is for heating and cooling and says renewable heat technologies and micro-electricity generation should form a key part of the strategy.
It calls for bigger grants to give homeowners the incentive to install the new technology needed to start generating their own electricity.
The committee warns that the rush to meet the 2020 target through wind farms might lead to more cost-effective technologies - such as wave and tidal energy - being ignored and it says a 2030 target should also be set to give alternative technologies more time to develop.
It says the Government should not rely on the proposed Severn Barrage to provide enough energy to meet its targets as, assuming it is approved, it won't be operational until 2022. And it says the length of time that will be needed to make a decision on the Barrage cannot be repeated in future projects if it hopes to meet its targets.
It agrees that renewable energy produced abroad should be bought in to help the UK meet its target subject to a limit of 10-15 per cent, and as long as it did not hamper the development of the renewables industry.
Lord Freeman added: "The 15 per cent target is laudable but is an enormous challenge for the UK, particularly given our current levels of renewable generation.
"Urgent and drastic action will need to be taken in terms of planning, the supply chain and the electricity grid. Energy efficiency and energy saving must be the starting points for meeting the target and policies to encourage reductions in energy use will need to be introduced as part of a comprehensive package of measures aimed at meeting the target.
"If we fail to meet this goal, the UK will become increasingly reliant on nuclear and fossil fuel power."
Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner Robin Webster said: "The House of Lords has recognised the need for urgent Government action to meet our target for boosting renewable energy.
"Ministers must stop trying to wriggle out of their commitments and get on with the job of harnessing Britain's huge potential for green power.
"This will help cut emissions, create many thousands of jobs and secure a safe energy supply - leading Britain to a cleaner and more prosperous future."

Republican senator attacks McCain energy plans

By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington and Kevin Allison in San Francisco
Published: October 23 2008 18:35

A senior Republican lawmaker has questioned John McCain’s energy proposals, including a plan to build 45 nuclear plants by 2030, given the Republican presidential nominee’s resistance to government subsidies.
Chuck Grassley, the Iowa senator, who has been a staunch supporter of federal subsidies for ethanol production and supports expansion of nuclear power, suggested in an interview with the Financial Times that the Arizona lawmaker’s views on federal subsidies on energy production were inconsistent.

Mr McCain has repeatedly said federal support for ethanol, the corn-based alcohol, distort the market and he has called for the elimination of mandates, subsidies, tariffs and price supports that “prevent the development of market-based solutions”. His energy proposals centre on increased domestic drilling, investments in “clean coal research” and alternative energy, and the construction of 45 new nuclear power plants.
“[You’ve heard McCain] on television saying that he was for solar and wind and he was for nuclear,” Mr Grassley said. “They’re all getting subsidies…So how are these going to get started if they don’t have the subsidy? And how does he justify if he’s for a subsidy for wind and for solar, how he can justify that subsidy and can’t justify one for ethanol?”
A spokesperson for Mr Grassley said that while the senator disagreed with Mr McCain on ethanol, he supported Mr McCain’s candidacy and his views on international trade and other issues.
A spokesman for Mr McCain’s campaign said: “Government incentives have a role in encouraging a market for promising new technologies, but that doesn’t mean all subsidies are good policy.” Mr McCain’s proposed cap and trade system, he said, would make the production of nuclear energy far more competitive as the cost of other carbon-emitting energy sources rose.
“One important barrier to the construction of new nuclear power plants is the federal government’s byzantine regulatory approval process. By streamlining the process for approving new plants, McCain’s plan will reduce that barrier,” the spokesman added.
Mr Grassley is not alone in questioning how Mr McCain might finance a huge expansion in nuclear power.
“While [McCain] doesn’t come right out and say these [new reactors] should be subsidised, it is pretty clear to most people that there is no way these reactors will be built without, in effect, socialising them via massive federal loan guarantees,” says Doug Koplow, founder of Earth Track, which researches subsidies.
He estimates that if a single reactor is 80 per cent federally guaranteed at a cost of $8bn, the federal government could end up subsidizing between $200bn to $290bn, making it the largest subsidy to a single privately owned industrial sector.
Lester Brown, a leading environmentalist and founder of the Earth Policy Institute, also believes it is unlikely new plants will sprout up given the expense.
“If we insist on full cost accounting, then anyone who wants to build a nuclear power plant has to be prepared to pay the cost of disposing of the waste, they have to find someone who will insure the reactor, and they have to include that in the utility rates the cost of decommissioning the plant,” he says. “If we do that, nuclear power just doesn’t get out of the starting blocks.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Electric-Car Maker Sets Sights on Australia

Better Place Hopes to Raise $669 Million for Ambitious Plan

TOKYO -- Even as tumbling gasoline prices threaten to undermine consumer interest in alternative-fuel cars, Better Place, a California-based electric-vehicle company, Thursday said it aims to raise one billion Australian dollars (US$668.5 million) to develop an electric-car network in Australia.
Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Project Better Place, displays the engine of Renault's electric car, built on the Megane model, as it makes its debut to the media.
It is the company's biggest effort yet to wean drivers off gasoline-powered cars.
Under the plan, announced in Melbourne, Better Place will work with Macquarie Capital Group Ltd. to attract investors to build recharging stations, with the goal of mass marketing the first electric cars by 2012. It also signed on Australian utility AGL Energy Ltd. to supply electricity from renewable sources like wind to power the network.
No auto maker has been named in the agreement. But the alliance of France's Renault SA and Japan's Nissan Motor Co., which is developing an electric car, is considering whether to provide vehicles to the Australian partnership.
Launched in 2007, the $200 million venture-funded Better Place is seeking to join forces with car makers, governments and investors to jump-start an electric-car industry. The Better Place concept is to create an electric-car business similar to the mobile-phone industry. Drivers would pay for access to battery-recharging stations and for the miles they drive -- similar to the way a mobile-phone user is charged for minutes.
It is already building electric-car networks in Israel and Denmark, where it plans to begin mass marketing electric cars in 2011. Australia would be the largest effort by Better Place to steer a country off oil dependence.
"Our network buildout in Australia will demonstrate that the Better Place model works in all countries, regardless of size," said Shai Agassi, chief executive and founder of Better Place.
The announcement comes at an uncertain time for alternative-energy projects like Better Place. Much of the excitement this year surrounding eco-friendly vehicles such as fuel-cell, hybrid and electric cars stemmed from soaring oil prices. But oil prices have fallen in recent weeks to less than $70 a barrel from a high of $147, stripping away one of the primary motivations for governments, investors and consumers to support alternative-energy efforts besides energy security and environmental concerns.
With credit markets frozen amid the global financial crisis, it may also be difficult to generate the funds for such large infrastructure investments like electric-car networks.
Indeed, just last week, Tesla Motors Inc. announced it was cutting staff and delaying the introduction of its second battery-powered vehicle, the Model S, until 2011. The move by the Silicon Valley electric-car start-up reflects tougher financial markets.
Still, Mr. Agassi remains optimistic about his electric-car project. Better Place expects the operating costs of electric vehicles will be about six to eight cents a mile, the rough equivalent of $1.50 per gallon of gasoline, he said.
While credit is tight, Mr. Agassi said investors are still searching for new opportunities and governments are looking to support projects that create green jobs. He said building the network will be cheaper because construction prices are falling amid the economic slowdown, adding that oil prices will eventually increase when the economy recovers.
"So we might be in the best position ever," Mr. Agassi said.
Write to John Murphy at