Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Woodland to waste land

A Forestry Commission plan to turn a Norfolk wood into Europe's biggest gravel and landfill site is meeting fierce opposition
Alex Pitt, Wednesday November 12 2008 00.01 GMT
The Guardian, Wednesday November 12 2008

You can just see the gently undulating central Norfolk landscape from the ancient beech and oak trees in Bintree wood: huge arable fields bordered by thorn hedges and Scots pines, scattered flint villages, isolated church spires, and glinting chalk streams. But it's hard to imagine that the 120-hectare wood carpeted in russet autumn leaves could soon be part of one of the biggest gravel and landfill works in Europe.
Proposals by the government's Forestry Commission, which owns Bintree, in partnership with the building materials company Ennstone Johnstone, include digging up the entire wood to extract the 3m tonnes of sand and gravel the county needs each year for roads and homes.
Bintree wood, in the Breckland district near Dereham, would become an industrial complex that includes asphalt and concrete batching plants, a processing works, a recycling plant, a waste recycling centre and a landfill site. The whole operation would be twice the size of the UK's current largest gravel pit at Brogborough in Bedfordshire. In all, it could yield 14m tonnes of minerals and last up to 50 years.
The proposals have met fierce opposition from people who value the wood as a landmark and amenity. "Bintree is an area of real beauty," says Keith Simpson, MP for Mid-Norfolk. "I am amazed that it should be considered as a site for a quarry."
Retired agricultural workers Donny and Joan Bell have lived in the wood at the centre of the proposed site since 1952. "It's stressful," says Joan Bell. "This is the best wood to walk in for miles around. Everyone says that, there's something different to see every day. In summer they even come from Norwich to picnic."
"The sheer scale and breadth of these proposals is frightening people," says Richard Haywood, the Save Bintree Wood (SBW) campaign coordinator. He argues that the woodland, bought by the government in 1933 from the Earl of Leicester, has been valued by local people for generations, and to replace it with an industrial area of such epic proportions flies in the face of global warming. "It threatens to blight the whole of central Norfolk. The traffic alone would mean a 20-tonne truck leaving the site every two minutes, trundling through quiet villages to begin a 20-mile trip to Norwich."
Fellow campaigner Simon Gilbert says: "In terms of impact on the villages and people around here, this is like digging up a local park in a city. We are surrounded by agricultural land and crops; the wood provides a place for walking, cycling, running and horse riding."
But Adrian Gunson, the Norfolk county council cabinet member for planning and transportation disagrees. "I'm not surprised people do not want them in their area, but if Norfolk is to build all these new houses [that the government wants] then we need gravel."
SBW says it "naively believed" in the Forestry Commission's commitment to climate change. "It sounds like a bad joke," the campaigning group adds. "How can the Forestry Commission preach in international conferences to developing countries to stop destroying forests in order to feed their people when they propose to destroy this wood just to balance their books?"
In a letter to the campaigners, Lord Clark of Windermere, chairman of the Forestry Commission, says: "Synergy with other government policies is a key part of the overall strategy for managing England's forests. This means that there is justification for any woodland where there are mineral reserves being considered in the initial stages of any county minerals plan."
Clark says that the issue should be viewed on an "international scale". "There is a significant difference between the destruction of virgin forest that we see in some countries and the removal of recently established plantation. There has been mineral extraction on the public forest estate for many years, and this can include deforestation, so the inclusion of Forestry Commission woodland in a minerals waste plan is nothing new. Woodland cannot be isolated from the wider demands of society and there are occasions when it has to be considered for an alternative use."
But campaigners say this argument has been debunked by Simon Hodgson, chief executive of the Forestry Commission. In April he said that after "further discussions with Norfolk county council, we have concluded that there are very adequate reserves in Norfolk to meet the needs of the county for the period up to 2026 without the need to include Forestry Commission land which, as we all recognise, carries high environmental constraints."
At a height of 46 metres in a flat landscape, the development would impact on a wide area. Chris Langford, chairman of Bintree parish council, warns that the visual impact and constant drone and clanking would be devastating.
Norfolk county council will decide in the new year whether to put Bintree on a list of its "preferred" sites for mining and extracting gravel. If it does, the Forestry Commission would then have to apply for planning permission, and this could lead to a public inquiry.
Mark Thornycroft, head of estates at the Forestry Commission, stressed that no decisison had been made. "We will always try to work any commercial opportunity in balance with our wider environmental objectives ... But we have to be aware of the potential of the estate to fund the environmental work that's done elsewhere."
But however long it takes, the opposition is not going to go away. "We will not let up until we know for sure that this threat is gone," Hayward says.

Nuclear scrap contaminating consumer goods

By Jonathan Tirone and Subramaniam Sharma Bloomberg News
Published: November 11, 2008

VIENNA: The French authorities made headlines last month when they said as many as 500 sets of radioactive buttons had been installed in elevators around the country. It was not an isolated case.
Improper disposal of industrial equipment and medical scanners containing radioactive materials is letting nuclear waste trickle into scrap smelters, contaminating consumer goods and spurring the United Nations to call for increased screening.
Last year, U.S. Customs rejected 64 shipments of radioactive goods at U.S. ports, including purses, cutlery, sinks and hand tools, according to data released by the Department of Homeland Security in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. India was the largest source, followed by China.
"The world is waking up very late to this," said Paul de Bruin, radiation safety chief for Jewometaal Stainless Processing in Rotterdam, the world's biggest stainless-steel scrap yard. "There will be more of this because a lot of the scrap coming to us right now is from the 1970s and 1980s, when there were a lot of uncontrolled radioactive sources distributed to industry."
Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Energy are already financing a $60 million program to install radiation monitors at ports around the world. The Secure Freight Initiative started in October 2007 at three sites in Britain, Pakistan and Honduras.

About 800 ports worldwide handle cargo containers, according to London's Drewry Shipping Consultants.
Health officials say the levels involved generally would be dangerous only if a person was exposed over a prolonged period of time - like sleeping in a building built with contaminated steel. That is usually not the case.
On Oct. 21, France's Nuclear Safety Authority said elevator buttons assembled by Mafelec, a company based in Chimilin, France, contained radioactive metal shipped from India. Employees who handled the buttons received three times the safe dose of radiation for nonnuclear workers, according to the agency.
But after discovering that their exposure was less than previously reported, another agency, the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Security, said on Oct. 27 that the buttons "should not have any consequences on the health of the exposed personnel."
Operations at the factory are now back to normal and the company has cut ties with the "source" of the radiation, Mafelec said in a statement. "In the worst-case scenario the exposure would have been under that of a medical scan," the chief executive, Gilles Heinrich, said.
Many atomic devices were not licensed when they were first widely used by industry in the 1970s. While most countries have since tightened regulations, it is still difficult to track first-generation equipment that is now coming to the end of its useful life.
Abandoned medical scanners, food-processing devices and mining equipment containing radioactive metals like cesium-137 and cobalt-60 are often found by collectors and sold to recyclers, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, the UN's nuclear arm. De Bruin said he has found items hidden inside beer kegs and lead pipes to prevent detection.
There may be more than one million missing radioactive sources of various levels worldwide, the IAEA estimates.
"We're passing by the first era of nuclear applications, so disused material is increasing," said Vilmos Friedrich, an IAEA inspector.
Smelting such items contaminates recycled metal used to make new products and the furnaces that process the material.
The danger increases when metal prices rise, pushing scavengers to pick up and sell more material, said Martin Magold, who led a UN team that tracked radioactive metal shipments in Europe.
Prices for scrap steel quadrupled to $665 a ton in Rotterdam during the past five years. After peaking on July 3, prices dropped to $115.50 last week as the slowing global economy eroded demand.
"Because of high scrap prices, any little piece is being sold for recycling," Magold said. "Alarms will go up dramatically in coming years."
Chronic exposure to low doses of radiation can lead to cataracts, cancer and birth defects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
A study of 6,252 Taiwanese people who lived in apartments built with radioactive reinforcing steel found that 117 cancer cases were diagnosed from 1983 to 2005. The research showed a statistically significant increase in leukemia and breast cancer.
"People don't understand the risk," said Dr. Peter Chang, a professor of environmental health at Taiwan's National Medical Center who developed the study. "We have an extreme lack of education."
In 1998, equipment containing cesium-137 was smelted at a foundry in Los Barrios, Spain, operated by Acerinox, the world's largest stainless steel producer. Radiation spread over Italy and France, triggering concern that a reactor had melted down in Russia, according to an IAEA report on the incident.

While only six people were exposed to radiation, the cleanup, hazardous waste storage and interruption of business cost the company an estimated $25 million, the report said.
At the time, Acerinox had radiation detectors installed in parts of the factory and assumed the scrap it purchased had been inspected by the dealer, said Juan Garcia, a spokesman in Madrid for the company. Acerinox has since improved security by spending about €100 million, or $126 million, on "advanced contamination-detection technologies," he said.
The event also led Spain to rewrite rules governing the scrap metal industry and to create an agency that helps recyclers dispose of radioactive materials.
The IAEA may recommend that governments increase monitoring of scrap shipments at international borders and recyclers screen all material entering their plants, according to draft guidelines circulated by the agency.
Many large metal producers in the United States and Western Europe say that they already screen for nuclear material.
"All our steelworks are equipped to verify possible radioactivity contamination of the scrap shipments," Jean Lasar, a spokesman for ArcelorMittal, the world's biggest steel maker, said in an e-mail message.
Much of the contaminated scrap originates in or passes through countries with inadequate licensing regulations and detection equipment.
For example, about 1,000 radio-electronic thermal generating units were misplaced after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Abel González, a former IAEA inspector who helped retrieve such orphaned sources in Russia. The devices, used to power remote lighthouses, each contain as much radiation as was released by the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, he said.
Russia and the other former Soviet states accounted for 13 percent of the scrap exported worldwide last year, according to the World Steel Association, which represents about 180 metal companies.
At the large Indian port of Kandla, most scrap is imported in shipping containers that are unloaded at one of 12 cargo docks. None of it is screened for contamination.
"There are no means as of today to check the radioactive material in the scrap that's imported or exported," said H.C. Venkatesh, a traffic manager at Kandla Port Trust.
India plans to install scanners at Kandla and three other ports that handle about 80 percent of the nation's container traffic. They will become operational starting in April.
Over all, 123 shipments of contaminated goods have been denied entry to U.S. ports since screening began in 2003, according to the Homeland Security data. Of those, 67 originated in India, 23 came from China and 20 were from Canada. This year, a total of 32 cases had been reported through early July.
There is no guarantee materials rejected by the United States will not reappear in countries with less stringent monitoring.
"The only authority we have is that we don't let them into the U.S., so that ship was turned around and those components left the U.S.," said Dale Klein, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "Where they went, we have no authority and no control."
In Rotterdam, the busiest European port, mountains rising 30 meters, or 100 feet, of disfigured metal wait to be processed by radiation monitors.
At nearby Jewometaal, De Bruin switched on a dosimeter, the modern equivalent of a Geiger counter. The device squealed as he entered the corner of a warehouse where radioactive metals are stored until they are sent to Covra, the Netherlands' state-run nuclear waste dump.
"We should accept these orphaned sources rather than making a fuss over which country is responsible and who should bear the burden," said Henry Codee, the manager of the facility.
Subramaniam Sharma reported from New Delhi.

Florida Revises Deal With U.S. Sugar to Save Everglades

MIAMI -- The state of Florida has agreed to pay the nation's biggest producer of sugar cane $1.34 billion, instead of the $1.75 billion originally proposed, under a revised deal to buy up vast tracts of farm land to restore the Everglades, the company said in statements Tuesday.
The state will acquire nearly the same number of acres it would have from U.S. Sugar in a deal announced last June, but it no longer has plans to buy up the company's high-tech mill, railroad lines or citrus processing plant.
Environmentalists praised the new deal, saying it's simpler and less expensive. The state is purchasing the land around Lake Okeechobee as part of an ambitious plan to save the Everglades after decades of farming and development nearby.

"The financial and real estate world has changed since the transaction was announced on June 24," leading to the change in terms, U.S. Sugar said in a statement.
Environmentalists had already lauded the original proposal because it would convert farm land into conservation land, allowing water managers to create a system to clean and store water before sending it south into the Everglades.
Now, "In a turbulent credit market it simplifies the deal," said the CEO of the nonprofit Everglades Foundation Kirk Fordham.
David Guest, an attorney for the ecological law firm Earthjustice, likened the deal to getting a hot dog without relish and mustard.
"It's cheaper and what you really wanted in the first place," said Mr. Guest, who has spent decades fighting for Everglades restoration.
According to the statement from U.S. Sugar, the deal includes the following terms:
-The state takes over approximately 181,000 acres as opposed to 187,000.
-U.S. Sugar is allowed to lease back the land at $50 an acre, per year for seven crop cycles or six years. After that, U.S. Sugar will still own the processing facilities and could continue to operate them even without farmland. The mill could simply refine raw sugar produced elsewhere or be converted for the production of alternative energy. The company didn't say what it planned.
Gov. Charlie Crist had been scheduled to announce the deal at the former Miami home of Marjory Stoneman Douglass, one of the state's most revered environmentalists and the author of the influential 1947 book "The Everglades: River of Grass."
But Gov. Crist's plane had mechanical trouble and was forced to make an emergency landing Tuesday. Officials said the governor would make his remarks at the home Wednesday morning.
The new proposal still requires the approval of the boards of U.S. Sugar and the South Florida Water Management District, a government agency responsible for water quality and environmental restoration. That deal could be signed as early as December according to the statement from U.S. Sugar.
Still unclear, however, is how much of the land will go to conservation and how much will stay as farmland, according to the Everglades Foundation's Fordham.
Regardless of this deal, some 300,000 acres in the Everglades, or about 500 square miles, will remain in agriculture production by other companies.
Farming in the region has long been considered a hindrance to restoring natural water flow to the Everglades, blocking flow patterns and contributing pollutants and fertilizers to the ecosystem.

A climate change conversion

We cannot tackle global warming by technology alone: we will need ethics, as individuals and as a society

Mark Vernon, Tuesday November 11 2008 09.30 GMT

Can the climate change crisis be answered purely by science and technology, or does it need to be understood as a moral and spiritual issue too? In a lecture for the Christian climate change agency, Operation Noah today, Christopher Jamison, the Abbot of Worth Abbey that featured on the TV series The Monastery, will make a compelling case that it is very much the latter.
An abbot would say that, wouldn't he. But read on. At root, Jamison is calling for a more serious engagement with ethics in public life. This means not just overcoming the fear of appearing to be merely moralizing. And not just learning to see ethics as more than a series of issues – as if it were mostly a matter of deciding whether you are for or against abortion, assisted dying, gay marriage, and so on. His agenda demands even more than equating ethics with human rights, for all that human rights can achieve. Rather, ethics is about the shape of life taken as a whole, and the direction in which a society is headed; it is about your vision of the good life, as the ancient Greek philosophers used to put it.
More particularly, when it comes to climate change, the argument is that rules and laws will not be enough, any more than they were enough to curtail the worst excesses of the City. (Incidentally, Jamison has been an advisor to the FSA, so he knows what he is talking about.) This is because climate change is not just about human behaviour, but human desire. It is our desire for freedom, for novelty, for comfort that lies at the heart of the crisis. Our piecemeal behaviours, such as hopping on cheap flights or leaving the heating on, are products of that desire.
Tackling climate change is, therefore, a matter of finding a new moral framework from within which to envisage life. Jamison believes that the Benedictine way of life, which he and his brethren follow, has some resources for doing that. He also believes they are accessible to all, regardless of vocation or faith.
Benedict thought the good life is about the cultivation of virtues. In this, he was following the ancient Greeks. Jamison highlights four virtues that might be particularly valuable today: fortitude (or courage), justice, temperance (or moderation) and prudence (or care). These four need to become part of the public discussion. Justice often is already, but alone it is not enough.
This is a big ask, though climate change is a big problem. The Pope recently spoke of the need for nothing less than an "ecological conversion", something that will take time to stimulate and sustain. There is an important link to the question of happiness here too: if a desirable life is at least in part a happy life then what do we take happiness to be? Again, along with the Greeks, Jamison is quite clear that we have got our answer to that question wrong. Happiness is not about feeling good; the hedonistic assumption is part of the problem. Rather, it is about pursuing the good, knowing the good and doing good. He believes that religious faith is a particular good way of nourishing such a vision of happiness, though he is quite prepared to admit that a faith is not necessary to it.
Now, it would be easy to respond by casting stones. For one thing, the church is a late convert to climate change. The head of Operation Noah is Mark Dowd. He makes films for TV and only a couple of years ago interviewed the Vatican's spokesman on climate change for his film "God is Green": it was quite clear then that the Vatican had barely any idea about climate change. However, when it comes to a subject like this, no-one is without sin.
So perhaps a more constructive way forward is to ask about the challenges the abbot's comments represent. For if you buy the argument that there is a need for more than science and technology to respond to climate change, then they are profound challenges indeed. (That some don't buy the argument is partly because they believe the moral ask is too much.) The challenge includes developing a different idea about happiness, which is to say an idea of the good life that is knowing and doing good rather than merely feeling good. The very notion of the good life raises a related issue, namely a sense of and commitment to community: community is difficult in a pluralistic society, where the nature of the good life is not agreed and people live fragmented lives.
There are other issues to confront, such as what we think about freedom. In the Benedictine way of life, freedom is seen primarily as an interior condition rather than a freedom to act in the world; it is about freedom of spirit rather than freedom of choice. Moreover, the Rule insists that it is necessary to give up on choice in order to find that inner freedom: another major challenge to most of Western living.
Jamison explores these issues at greater length in his bestselling books, that latest being Finding Happiness. No small part of his appeal is that he is actually living the life he commends, which is why he is an attractive figure, not a moralizing one. His points are well made, but if responding to climate change needs more than science it also needs more than argument. For if Jamison is right, then climate change demands nothing less than what religious people call a conversion, a fundamental reorientation of your way of life.

Japan emissions hit record high in 2007/08

Reuters, Wednesday November 12 2008
By Risa Maeda

TOKYO, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Japanese greenhouse gas emissions hit a record high in the year to March, the government said on Wednesday, raising more questions about whether Japan will fail to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol climate pact.
Wednesday's data could put pressure on Japan to impose mandatory emissions curbs after more than a decade of voluntary industry efforts that have failed to deliver.
Unlike the European Union, Japan has been reluctant to impose a mandatory cap on companies' emissions because of past efforts by industry to conserve energy.
Under the Kyoto pact, Japan must cut its emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases to 6 percent below 1990 levels starting in the year to next March.
But in 2007/08 they were 9 percent higher than that at 1.371 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
For a graphic of Japan's CO2 emissions, click on:
While Japan's utilities have stepped up buying of U.N. carbon offsets, Wednesday's data suggests they may have to buy more if the world's fifth-largest emitter is to meet its global pledge.
Emissions climbed 2.3 percent in the year to March, the preliminary government data showed, following a 1.3 percent fall the previous year.
A rise was widely expected after the world's biggest nuclear plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), had to suspend operations following a July 2007 earthquake.
The outlook for emissions remains unclear as the TEPCO plant remains shut indefinitely, although the global economic slowdown may contain Japan's energy use.
Japan is targeting emissions of 1.186 billion tonnes a year over the five years that started in April.
The government has set a private-sector target -- to be met through voluntary steps -- at 1.254 billion tonnes, which will be offset a further 68 million tonnes a year by government spending on domestic forest conservation and U.N. carbon offsets generated from the rest of the world.
To meet the Kyoto goal, the private sector would have to cut annual emissions by 9.3 percent from 1990/91's 1.261 billion tonnes, the ministry said.
Tokyo is relying mostly on voluntary pledges from the electric power industry to cut CO2 emissions per kilowatt hour to 0.34 kg on average over the years through 2012, but in the year to March that figure stood at 0.453 kg.
The closure of TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant has increased its use of fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil, to make up for the shortfall in nuclear power.
Restarting the plant could reduce Japan's CO2 emissions by 30 million tonnes a year, according to the company's calculations.
Nevertheless, even if the industry met the government target, emissions would have had totalled 1.267 billion tonnes, still above the private-sector target figure, the ministry said.
"Given the even larger gap, further efforts will be required" from the non-utility private sector, Hiroyasu Tokuda, director of the ministry's climate change policy division, told a news conference. (Additional reporting by Miho Yoshikawa and Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Farmers should be paid to protect 'carbon banks', says National Trust

Hill farmers to be given financial incentive to conserve peatlands, Britain's biggest carbon store
James Meikle, Wednesday November 12 2008 00.01 GMT

The Peak District near Hartington. Photograph: Don McPhee
Hill farmers should be rewarded for protecting wildlife, landscapes, water and carbon stores as well as livestock, the National Trust said today.
It warned that rising costs of food production and the global recession would make it even more difficult for livestock owners to make a living at a time when English and Welsh governments are seeking to replace existing subsidies paid to hill farmers.
The trust, which has 2,000 tenant farmers, most of them in upland areas, is already involved in pilot schemes to improve water quality at source, so water companies do not face such high costs at treatment plants, and in providing wetland areas to reduce the risk of flash floods.
It also wants financial incentives for farmers who conserve "carbon banks" in the soil including peatlands which are the largest carbon stores in Britain.
Peatlands are the single largest carbon reserve in the UK, storing around 3bn tonnes of carbon, more than in the woodlands of Britain and France combined. In areas such as the Peak District, over-grazing has been partly blamed for the erosion of peatland and worrying releases of carbon.
Iwan Hughes, the trust's director for Wales, said: "Ten years ago any notion that hill farmers would farm for water or for carbon would have been dismissed as fantasy. But with the pressures of a changing climate and the need to protect and value our natural capital, the future of hill farming will focus on a mixture of food production and providing wider environmental benefits for society."
So far the value of farms in managing countries' national assets was largely unrecognised. "With the right investment , these farms could be rewarded for their important contribution to our wildlife as well as the management of the finite resources such as water and soil which will benefit as all."

Big global investors urge action on climate change

Published: November 11, 2008

WASHINGTON: Global institutional investors holding more than $6 trillion (3.8 trillion pounds) in assets pushed policymakers Tuesday to quickly hash out a binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean technology.
More than 130 big investors, including London Pensions Fund Authority, want countries to agree to reduce the climate- warming emissions by 50 percent to 80 percent by 2050.
Those numbers are in line with global warming policy favoured by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who supports an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by mid-century.
The investors also want policymakers to set long and medium term emission reduction targets for developed countries and to provide for an expanded and more liquid global carbon market.
Already big U.S. investors, such as the California Public Employees' Retirement System, with $185.6 billion of assets under management, have been calling for legislation to promote new and existing clean technologies.

They have also called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to force publicly traded companies to disclose climate-related risks along with other factors that affect their business.
"As institutional investors, we are concerned with the risks presented by climate change to the global economy and to our diversified portfolios," said Mike Taylor, chief executive of London Pensions Fund Authority. "We are ... urging world leaders to implement strong and effective policies to support us in allocating capital towards low carbon investments."
The group of global investors want countries to sign on to a new binding agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol climate pact, which set binding targets for industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Union is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and increase the share of wind, solar, hydro, wave power and biofuels in their energy mix by the same date.
The United States is alone among major industrialized countries in rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, but is participating in discussions to craft a follow-up global agreement.
"It is time to put an agreement in place where the United States is involved," said Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental groups working on climate change issues.
The global group of investors is hoping its voice is heard ahead of a December climate change convention in Poland.
(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Andre Grenon)

World Investors Ask For Strong Agreement On Climate Change

By Jilian Mincer

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--More than 130 leading investors are asking international leaders to implement a strong, global agreement on climate change with binding emissions targets by the end of 2009.
The group, which has assets of about $6.4 trillion, on Tuesday plans to send its request to world leaders and climate negotiators preparing for talks to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
"The goal is to make it clear to negotiators that this is as much a financial issue as a scientific and environmental issue," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a coalition of investor groups, environmental organizations and investment funds, and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, one of the campaign organizers. "The leading financial players are saying the only way to deal with this is to put an international treaty in place."
The effort is coordinated by three leading investor groups on climate change including the U.S.-based Network on Climate Risk, the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change and the Investors Group on Climate Change in Australia and New Zealand.
The investors, who include BlackRock Inc. (BLK), the California Public Employees' Retirement System, HSBC Holdings PLC's (HBC) HSBC Investments and numerous other investment companies and pensions funds, are concerned about the potential impact of climate change on their investments and don't want the current economic downturn to delay an international agreement.
Among other things, they are asking for binding, long-term global targets to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, government support for research, development and deployment of low-carbon technology and technology transfer, and contributions from developing countries.
The investors also want an expanded and more liquid global carbon market and measures to reverse deforestation to enhance the role of forests as carbon sinks.
Lubber said the negotiations won't be easy, but she is optimistic.
"The science is more clear," she said. "The implications of climate change are being felt, and the United States is no longer sitting out."
-By Jilian Mincer, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-4042;