Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Honda signs up Wieden & Kennedy to develop £100m green campaign

Mark Sweney
guardian.co.uk, Monday December 8 2008 07.11 GMT

Honda has appointed the creative agency Wieden & Kennedy to develop an environmental advertising plan using its £100m-plus budget across Europe and Africa
The Japanese car manufacturer, which pulled out of formula one on Friday, has set itself a target of becoming the automotive industry's most environmentally friendly company by 2015.
Honda has appointed W&K Amsterdam, following a five-way pitch, to work across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia.
The agency's first task in a wider, long-term strategy is to launch a new hybrid car, the Honda Insight, across Europe with a major TV, press and digital ad campaign in the new year.
W&K London, which started working with Honda in 2002, has created a string of award-winning TV commercials including "Cog", "Choir" and "Impossible Dream", as well as print ads such as "Banana" and "Perfume".
The agency was also responsible for the TV ad "Grrr", featuring an animated eco-friendly diesel engine and the jingle "Hate something, change something", and "Sense", which showed lights dimming and brightening as a car drives past to dramatise a hybrid model.
"Where we want to be by 2015 is the environmental leader. I mean that in a credible sense, not a greenwash sense," said Chris Brown, the head of marketing for Honda Motor Europe.
The car industry is facing increasing pressure to take more responsibility for its impact on the environment, with the European Parliament considering proposals including making manufacturers companies dedicate 20% of their advertising to tobacco-style warnings about CO2 emissions.
In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority has been on a crusade to stamp out misleading eco-claims in the increasing number of environmentally themed ads being run by car manufacturers.
Brown said that he would accept some form of eco-rating system being introduced for car advertising. Such a system already exists for washing machines and white goods to rate efficiency.
"We would have no problem with that [a system], anything that makes life easier for the consumer has to be good. We may take the lead and take some of these ideas on board. People still want four wheels, it is up to us to work out a solution," he added.
Brown said that Honda had run a multi-region pitch for the ad account because it was the best way to establish the company's eco-credentials in the long term across different markets and a wide product range.
"We want to change the conversation [about eco-ads] completely. At the moment everything is heavy-handed, preachy and overwhelming. We want it to be positive, optimistic, joyful, powerful," he added.
Lee Newman, managing director of W&K Amsterdam, said: "In a lot of ways this [new eco-marketing project] will be a continuation of what Honda has always been about.
"In terms of capturing a spirit of the campaign we are looking at things like the tone and character of 'Grrr' and extending that to other products [beyond the launch of Honda Insight]."
According to Nielsen Media Research Honda spends well in excess of £100m annually on advertising across Europe and Africa.

Alex Salmond warned to rethink opposition to nuclear power

Alex Salmond has been warned to rethink his opposition to a new generation of nuclear power plants if Scotland's future energy needs are to be met.

By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor Last Updated: 7:12AM GMT 09 Dec 2008

A new independent report has found SNP ministers' target of generating half Scotland's electricity from renewable sources by 2020 is achievable.
But it will require a five-fold increase in the number of wind farms and nuclear power should still be considered longer term to provide the 'base-load' the national grid requires.
The verdict comes after the First Minister's hand-picked team of economic advisers also told him to conduct an independent assessment of nuclear energy before dismissing it.
Scotland's two nuclear power stations at Hunterston and Torness, which supply up to 40 per cent of Scotland's electricity, are due to close within the next 15 years.
Despite warnings their stance could lead to the "lights going out", SNP ministers have vowed to use their control over planning applications to block any proposals for replacements.
The new report was conducted by consultants Wood Mackenzie for the Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI) and claims to be the first major independent study of the Scottish renewable energy targets.
It estimates that that onshore wind farms will provide more than 80 per cent of the increase in generation from 'green' sources.
But Scotland needs to spend £10billion on new projects between by 2020, with demand for electricity north of the Border predicted to rise 10 per cent.
The report concludes the best mix of electricity would be a balanced combination of renewables and fossil fuels that produce less carbon.
"It is our view that nuclear power should be considered as a potential part of the longer term generation base in Scotland," it states.
Although it is "very unlikely" that any new nuclear capacity could be delivered beyond 2020, a new generation of atomic power plants is possible after that date.
The closures of existing nuclear and coal-fired stations between 2020 and 2030 may bring a need for more capacity, the report states, or more reliance on imported electricity.
If Scotland is to become self-reliant, then it concludes it is likely the national grid will need a larger base-load, with nuclear energy a "viable option" to plug the energy gap.
Iain Duff, SCDI chief economist, said the study showed Scotland could hit its ambitious renewable targets, but only with "unprecedented" levels of investment in new generation.
This would involve projects being given speedier planning consent, and improvements to grid connections, such as the proposed Beauly to Denny line.
"This will allow us to meet demand from Scottish consumers and business and maintain exports to the rest of the UK into the future," Mr Duff said.
In August the Scottish Council of Economic Advisers warned Mr Salmond that without nuclear power, Scottish ministers will struggle to meet ambitious targets to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
Mike O'Brien, the UK's new energy minister, last month accused Mr Salmond of "ducking" the nuclear issue and taking a "punt" on hopes that renewable energy would meet Scotland's future needs.

Race to build deep-water wind farms is a long one

The Associated Press
Published: December 9, 2008

ORONO, Maine: Waters off the U.S. Northeast coast are called by some the Saudi Arabia of wind for their potential in providing massive amounts of energy to the region.
Yet even talk of placing huge turbines in shallow waters off scenic shores can raise an enormous public outcry.
Behind the scenes in the U.S. and in Europe, the race is on to build the world's first deep-water wind farms, ones that would operate on floating platforms in waters hundreds of feet (meters) deep, like oil rigs found in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
There are gargantuan technical hurdles, but there is also the potential for a huge payoff, said Habib Dagher, who is working on a deep-water wind turbine at the University of Maine.
"We can open up the largest renewable resource that the U.S. has," he said.

About 78 percent of the United States' electricity is consumed by people on the East and West coasts and along the Great Lakes, all places with enormous wind potential.
The potential in the U.S. and elsewhere has drawn a number of players into the race.
Boston-based Blue H USA is seeking permission to put a demonstration floating turbine in federal waters 23 miles (37 kilometers) off the coast of Massachusetts' Martha Vineyard.
Blue H's affiliate, Blue H Technologies BV in Denmark, has a 2/3-scale demonstration turbine operating off southern Italy and has proposed a full-scale prototype off France. It is also part of a consortium of companies that has proposed building a wind farm on floating platforms in the North Sea, with the first turbines being constructed as soon as 2013.
Elsewhere, the Norwegian company StatoilHydro is building a pilot wind turbine to be installed off Norway next year and tested over a two-year period. StatoilHydro says the windmill will be able to be placed in depths from 350 feet (100 meters) to more than 2,000 feet (600 meters).
Another Norwegian company, Sway, has designed a turbine for offshore use that has no platform and would be tethered to the ocean floor.
Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens has brought a lot of attention to wind power with a plan for large-scale projects in the Midwest. Land-based wind turbines this year will supply 48 billion kilowatt hours of power in the U.S., enough to meet the electricity needs of 4.5 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
But it makes more sense to look out to sea, where the nation's best winds and greatest population densities are found, said Raymond Dackerman, general manager of Blue H USA.
"With all due respect to North Dakota and South Dakota, which have also been labeled the Saudi Arabia of wind, people live along our coastlines," Dackerman said. "It's relatively easier to cable back in from offshore locations into demand centers as opposed to creating projects in locations that are far from population centers."
Europe already has shallow-water wind farms, mostly off Denmark and the United Kingdom. And the United States' first ocean-based wind farms are expected to begin operating in shallow waters off Atlantic Coast states in the coming years.
Erecting wind turbines in shallow-water sites is relatively simple. Huge steel stakes are driven into the ocean bottom to ground turbines.
But that's not feasible farther offshore, where winds are stronger.
Putting turbines far out to sea is a long-range goal, but the most recent energy shock has sparked more interest, said Walt Musial, one of the nation's top wind power experts.
"All we have now are computer models, so we need more testing in the ocean," said Musial, an engineer with the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. "We don't know yet what the detailed requirements are for a deep-water offshore site."
Dagher testified with Pickens about wind power before the Senate Homeland Security Committee in July.
Winds in the Gulf of Maine blow at 20 to 22 mph (32 to 35 kph) on average, compared to wind speeds of 15.5 to 18.5 mph in the Midwest, Dagher said. While the difference may not seem great, those offshore winds can produce 2 1/2 times the electricity of land-based turbines.
Placing turbines far offshore also eliminates the eyesore factor for people who might object to large towers in their view, he said.
In addition to the technical challenge of building 300-foot (90-meter) towers 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 kilometers) offshore, developers must find out how best to route power back to land through cables buried under the ocean floor.
Shipping lanes, marine mammals, fishing boats, sea birds and even airplanes, and how their radar would be affected by ocean towers, have to be considered.
There are also the financial costs, regulatory obstacles, not to mention hurricanes.
Dagher, who has been working with several companies on his prototype turbine, envisions wind farms 20 to 30 miles out in the Gulf of Maine — but not for at least 10 years.
StatoilHydro spokesman Oistein Johannessen said offshore wind power is evolving the same way offshore oil drilling did. The early oil rigs were in shallow waters on concrete platforms, and eventually went deeper and deeper until they became floating platforms far at sea.
"I think it's important when we think about this that we keep in mind this is a long-term perspective," Johannessen said. "We're talking about 10 years-plus, or 20 years maybe, before the technology is available on commercial terms."
While the technology isn't perfected yet, Musial said the interest is there. And, he added, one thing is for sure: "The wind is there."
On the Net:
University of Maine Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center: http://www.awea.orgDepartment of Energy:

Calif Solar Mkt Seen Growing Despite Slow Economy-Regulator

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)--California's solar panel market - the world's fourth largest - is expected to continue growing in 2009, despite the recession and financial crisis, due to lower prices and greater availability of solar panels, the California Public Utilities Commission said Monday.
About 1,288 California home and business owners applied for state solar-power incentives in November, the most applications filed in any month since the program started in January 2007, said Molly Sterkel, supervisor of the California Solar Initiative, an incentive program administered by the Public Utilities Commission. Interest in the incentive program is expected to grow in 2009, Sterkel said, speaking at a meeting of California energy regulators.
A widespread expansion of manufacturing facilities among solar panel makers is widely expected to lead to an oversupply of solar panels, as well as lower prices in 2009, Sterkel said, citing predictions from analysts and solar manufacturers. An oversupply could be absorbed in California, where demand for solar panels has outstripped supply, she said.
An oversupply of solar panels "is big news for solar in California," Sterkel said. "For years, we've been in a supply-constrained environment, even though we've had demand growth."
California's $3 billion Solar Initiative program is among the most generous state solar incentive programs. Meanwhile, retail power prices here are among the highest in the nation, making the prospect of switching to self-generated rooftop solar power an attractive option for utility customers who can afford the $20,000 to $40,000 capital outlay, or can tap third-party solar-power financing, a growing industry. California retail power prices average 12.82 cents a kilowatt-hour, compared to a national average price of 8.9 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Solar module makers that could benefit from a growing California solar market include Sunpower Corp. (SPWRA), Evergreen Solar (ESLR), First Solar Inc. (FSLR), Energy Conversion Devices (ENER), JA Solar Holdings Co. Ltd (JASO) and MEMC Electronic Materials (WFR), among others.
-By Cassandra Sweet, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-439-6468; cassandra.sweet@dowjones.com

Science paves way for climate lawsuits

David Adam and Afua Hirsch
The Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008

People affected by worsening storms, heatwaves and floods could soon be able to sue the oil and power companies they blame for global warming, a leading climate expert has said.
Myles Allen, a physicist at Oxford University, said a breakthrough that allows scientists to judge the role man-made climate change played in extreme weather events could see a rush to the courts over the next decade.
He said: "We are starting to get to the point that when an adverse weather event occurs we can quantify how much more likely it was made by human activity. And people adversely affected by climate change today are in a position to document and quantify their losses. This is going to be hugely important."
Allen's team has used the new technique to work out whether global warming worsened the UK floods in autumn 2000, which inundated 10,000 properties, disrupted power supplies and led to train services being cancelled, motorways closed and 11,000 people evacuated from their homes - at a total cost of £1bn.
He would not comment on the results before publication, but said people affected by floods could "potentially" use a positive finding to begin legal action.
The technique involves running two computer models to simulate the conditions that led to extreme weather events. One model includes human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, the second assumes the industrial revolution never happened and that carbon levels in the atmosphere have not increased over the last century. Comparing the results pins down the impact of man-made global warming. "As the science has evolved this is now possible, it's just a question of computing power," he said.
Allen and his colleagues previously demonstrated that man-made warming at least doubled the risk of heatwaves such as the 2003 event that killed 27,000 people across Europe. No legal action resulted, but Allen said that was partly because most of the deaths were in France, where the legal system makes such cases difficult.
"We can work out whether climate change has loaded the dice and made extreme weather more likely. And once the risk is doubled, then lawyers get interested," he said.
Peter Roderick, director of the Climate Justice programme, said the most likely route for seeking damages would be tort cases, which deal with civil wrongs. Several have been attempted by US states against power and car companies only to be rejected by the courts.
Roderick said developing countries such as Nepal could also sue for compensation over damage caused by global warming. "As the issue of damages gets worse and worse, the chances of this happening will get greater and greater," he said. "I hope it happens."
Lawyers say it is only a matter of time before class actions are brought. However, Stephen Tromans, an environmental law barrister, said establishing causation would be one of the main difficulties. "It is one thing to be able to link levels of greenhouse gases with a specific event causing damage but, even assuming you can do that, quite another to establish causation against a particular company or industrial sector."
There are legal precedents for making exceptions to normal rules of causation. One example is the decision of the House of Lords on mesothelioma, where past employers can be liable for having contributed to the overall exposure, though the harm cannot be scientifically attributed to any specific period of employment.
"In that case an exception was made to the normal rules on causation in order to prevent an injustice that would otherwise have occurred," Tromans said.
There may also be grounds for a case on the basis that firms have tried to misinform the public - as in US cases against tobacco firms - about the effects of their business.
Owen Lomas, head of environmental law at City firm Allen & Overy, said: "If you look at the extent to which certain major companies in the US are accused of having funded disinformation to cast doubt on the link between man-made emissions and global warming, that could open the way to litigation."

Shell Weighs Green Project

LONDON -- Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Dutch utility Essent NV said Monday they have agreed to study the feasibility of a 1,000-megawatt power plant in the Netherlands from which carbon-dioxide emissions would be captured and stored underground.
The plant would convert coal or solid biomass to synthetic gas, from which the CO2 would be extracted.
Many companies are planning projects to demonstrate the feasibility of capturing the CO2 emissions from power plants in order to meet European Union targets for emission reductions.
However, the process is expensive and any financial incentive from the carbon Emissions Trading System has diminished as the price of CO2 allowances has fallen by half since the summer amid the global financial crisis.
Shell and Essent said the project is likely to need some kind of subsidy.
"Dutch and European government support, financial and regulatory, will be indispensable for realizing pioneering projects like the one announced today," the companies said in a joint statement.

Cyberspace has buried its head in a cesspit of climate change gibberish

The Stansted protesters get it. The politicians of Poznan don't quite. But online, planted deniers drive a blinkered fiction

George Monbiot
The Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008

We all create our own reality, and shut out the voices we do not want to hear. But there is no issue we are less willing to entertain than man-made climate change. Here, three worlds seem to exist in virtual isolation. In the physical world, global warming appears to be spilling over into runaway feedback: the most dangerous situation humankind has ever encountered. In the political world - at the climate talks in Poznan, for instance - our governments seem to be responding to something quite different, a minor nuisance that can be addressed in due course. Only the Plane Stupid protesters who occupied part of Stansted airport yesterday appear to have understood the scale and speed of this crisis. In cyberspace, by contrast, the response spreading fastest and furthest is flat-out denial.
The most popular article on the Guardian's website last week was the report showing that 2008 is likely to be the coolest year since 2000. As the Met Office predicted, global temperatures have been held down by the La NiƱa event in the Pacific Ocean. This news prompted a race on the Guardian's comment thread to reach the outer limits of idiocy. Of the 440 responses posted by lunchtime yesterday, about 80% insisted that manmade climate change is a hoax. Here's a sample of the conversation:
"This is a scam to get your money ... The only people buying into 'global warming' have no experience with any of the sciences."
"If we spend any money or cost one person their job because of this fraud it would be a crime. When will one of our politicians stand up and call this for what it is, bullshit!"
"What a set of jokers these professors are ... I think I understand more about climate change than them and I don't get paid a big fat salary with all the perks to go with it."
And so on, and on and on. The new figures have prompted similar observations all over the web. Until now, the "sceptics" have assured us that you can't believe the temperature readings at all; that the scientists at the Met Office, who produced the latest figures, are all liars; and that even if it were true that temperatures have risen, it doesn't mean anything. Now the temperature record - though only for 2008 - can suddenly be trusted, and the widest possible inferences be drawn from the latest figures, though not, of course, from the records of the preceding century. This is madness.
Scrambled up in these comment threads are the memes planted in the public mind by the professional deniers employed by fossil fuel companies. On the Guardian's forums, you'll find endless claims that the hockeystick graph of global temperatures has been debunked; that sunspots are largely responsible for current temperature changes; that the world's glaciers are advancing; that global warming theory depends entirely on computer models; that most climate scientists in the 1970s were predicting a new ice age. None of this is true, but it doesn't matter. The professional deniers are paid not to win the argument but to cause as much confusion and delay as possible. To judge by the Comment threads, they have succeeded magnificently.
There is no pool so shallow that a thousand bloggers won't drown in it. Take the latest claims from the former broadcaster David Bellamy. You may remember that Bellamy came famously unstuck three years ago when he stated that 555 of the 625 glaciers being observed by the World Glacier Monitoring Service were growing. Now he has made an even stranger allegation. In early November the Express ran an interview with Bellamy under the headline "BBC shunned me for denying climate change". "The sad fact is," he explained, "that since I said I didn't believe human beings caused global warming I've not been allowed to make a TV programme." He had been brave enough to state that global warming was "poppycock", and that caused the end of his career. "Back then, at the BBC you had to toe the line and I wasn't doing that."
This article, on the web, received more hits than almost anything else the Express has published; so 10 days ago the paper interviewed Bellamy again. He took the opportunity to explain just how far the conspiracy had spread. "Have you noticed there is a wind turbine on Teletubbies? That's subliminal advertising, isn't it?"
There is just one problem with this story: it is bollocks from start to finish. Bellamy last presented a programme on the BBC in 1994. The first time he publicly challenged the theory of manmade climate change was 10 years later, in 2004, when he claimed in the Daily Mail that it was "poppycock". Until at least the year 2000 he supported the theory.
In 1992, for instance, he signed an open letter, published in the Guardian, urging George Bush Sr "to fight global warming ... We are convinced that the continued emission of carbon dioxide at current rates could result in dramatic and devastating climate change in all regions of the world." In 1996 he signed a letter to the Times, arguing: "Continued increases in the global emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels are likely to lead to climate change at a rate greater than the Earth has experienced at any time during the last 10,000 years." In the same year he called for the replacement of fossil fuels with wind power. In 2000 he announced that he was supporting a plan to sue climate change "criminals": governments and industries that blocked attempts to stop global warming (all references are on my website). But Bellamy's new claims about the end of his career have been repeated as gospel in several newspapers and all over the web.
In his fascinating book Carbon Detox, George Marshall argues that people are not persuaded by information. Our views are formed by the views of the people with whom we mix. Of the narratives that might penetrate these circles, we are more likely to listen to those that offer us some reward. A story that tells us that the world is cooking and that we'll have to make sacrifices for the sake of future generations is less likely to be accepted than the more rewarding idea that climate change is a conspiracy hatched by scheming governments and venal scientists, and that strong, independent-minded people should unite to defend their freedoms.
He proposes that instead of arguing for sacrifice, environmentalists should show where the rewards might lie: that understanding what the science is saying and planning accordingly is the smart thing to do, which will protect your interests more effectively than flinging abuse at scientists. We should emphasise the old-fashioned virtues of uniting in the face of a crisis, of resourcefulness and community action. Projects like the transition towns network and proposals for a green new deal tell a story which people are more willing to hear.
Marshall is right: we have to change the way we talk about this issue. You don't believe me? Then just read the gibberish that follows when this article is published online.www.monbiot.com

China waits for US climate signal

Until the new US administration makes clear its climate policy, China will not be moved from its opposition to internationally binding goals for emissions reductions. Jonathan Watts reports from Beijing

Jonathan Watts
guardian.co.uk, Monday December 8 2008 08.56 GMT

China sees the mechanics of technology transfer as the most likely area of progress at the Poznan summit, but negotiators downplay the likelihood of any major breakthroughs while the US is between administrations.
Beijing's position has not fundamentally changed since Bali, which means it will resist setting internationally binding goals for emissions reductions.
Before taking that step, it seeks assistance in building up a system to measure, report and verify emissions. This is a challenge in such a large country, where factories and local governments are supposed to voluntarily disclose data on emissions. Negotiators argue it is pointless to set a target if there is no accurate way to gauge the extent of the problem.
"I don't think it is realistic or feasible to set a specific emissions target at a national level," said a member of the negotiating team. "Politically, I don't think it is possible to set targets."
China has set non-binding domestic goals on energy efficiency, renewable energy use and the reduction of pollutants, including several greenhouse gases. Foreign diplomats praise the targets, but say implementation is patchy.
Without a metering system, emissions data is unreliable. Factories and local governments underreport gases like sulphur dioxide to avoid levies, or overreport when being assessed for permits. In the absence of any measurement of carbon emissions, estimates are based on energy usage statistics, which are also unreliable.
In academia, there is a growing debate on the issue, with one prominent government adviser, Hu Angang, urging China to score diplomatic points by fixing binding targets. But this is a minority position. Many other senior scientists are even sceptical that mankind has a significant impact on climate change.
The Chinese government is positioned between these two camps. It acknowledges a human contribution to global warming, but stresses that the main responsibility lies with developed nations. Before setting binding targets, China wants its economy to catch up more with the West. It seeks financial and technical assistance to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Earlier this month, the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, called on rich nations to abandon their "unsustainable lifestyle", saying the financial crisis was no excuse for inaction on climate change.
In a climate change policy paper last month, China said developed countries should contribute at least 0.7% of their GDP to help poorer nations acquire clean technology and to cope with the floods, droughts and storms created by rising temperatures.
In reality, few wealthy countries stump up this much cash for their entire aid budgets. In negotiations, China and other developing nations are likely to seek a lower, but still substantial sum of several tens of billions of dollars.
Given the current financial crisis, some European nations are already balking at the cost of previous climate change commitments, let alone any new additions. But the Chinese official said the amounts should be put in perspective of how much rich governments have spent rescuing financial institutions.
"The US can allocate $700bn for saving banks. We don't expect the same for the climate, but this is a reference for people to make a judgment. Compared to several hundred billion, several dozen billion is nothing," he said.
But, like the rest of the world, China is waiting to see what change of US policy will come with the Obama administration. Officials see the incoming president as more positive and active than Bush on climate change. But they expect him first to press for a domestic policy change and only then to switch to international dealmaking.

Why Poland is biting the hand that feeds it

Rather than resisting tougher emissions trading, Poland should set an example to the world – by becoming a less rich nation selling carbon credits and benefiting its economy

Bryony Worthington
guardian.co.uk, Monday December 8 2008 11.46 GMT

The spotlight of the world's climate change media will fall on the Polish town of Poznan this week as ministers gather for the UN climate change convention.
But at the same time as Poland is hosting this important meeting, heads of state will be meeting in Brussels to hammer out the EU energy and climate package – a critically important negotiation that has been seriously undermined by Polish complaints that the package is potentially too damaging to its economy. (Indeed, Poznan itself, as the fourth largest industrial centre in Poland, is home to many of the industrial lobbyists who have helped to fuel such concerns.)
The meeting in Brussels is arguably the more important of the two events. Europe has contributed more to the global climate problem than any other party represented at the negotiations, so the world will be watching very carefully. A weak deal there could have a much greater impact on next year's all-important UN summit in Copenhagen than the detailed discussions going on in Poznan.
Poland's unhelpful position is not hard to understand. Reliant on coal for 95% of its energy, the nation's carbon footprint is substantial. And as a result of acceding to the European Union in 2004, the country is now officially treated as a developed country and so has emissions targets to meet.
However, there is no evidence that Poland has suffered any negative effects from being subject to targets – nor any evidence that it need suffer in the future. Europe's main climate change policy – the emissions trading scheme (ETS), which covers half of the region's emissions – delivered Poland a generous amount of money in its first phase.
Polish companies were allocated around 90m tonnes' worth of carbon dioxide permits over and above what they actually needed. Roughly half of these were sold to other members of the EU – principally the UK, Spain and Italy – raising around €200m in income. It is likely that the same thing will happen in the current phase, which lasts until 2012, though until Poland's national allocation plan is approved or published, we won't know for sure.
In the negotiations about the future of the ETS the EU has already included important concessions that remove permits from richer European states and donate them to the accession countries. But Poland is insisting on more – despite the fact that, according to a recent news report, the country is seeking to sell up to €1bn worth of permits to other countries unable to meet their own targets.
Instead of embracing the trading schemes that it has profited from, Poland appears to be set on weakening them, and this is threatening to undermine the position of the EU internationally. Paradoxically, though, if the country is successful and emissions trading fails, civil society will almost certainly begin calling for it to be scrapped and replaced with more robust and (for Poland) much less profitable alternatives.
The problem lies in the fact that Poland's government, like those of many other countries, believes its role is to defend and preserve the status quo rather than manage a process of change. If global emissions are to peak and decline within a decade – as the scientists say they must – then a massive investment in a new energy infrastructure is necessary. This investment will generate jobs and economic growth but it will flow to non-traditional energy technologies and solutions; those profiting from the existing system will be required to adapt and governments need to help them to change.
Fortunately, the ETS provides a way of raising huge sums of money to pay for that change: the auctioning of permits. This will push up energy prices but if the money raised is invested in solutions then it insulates against future high costs.
If only Poland's prime minister, Donald Tusk, could take a leaf out of Barack Obama's book and adopt a positive attitude to change, he might then see why backing a strong ETS makes sense: a robust scheme will give a higher price of carbon and result in more money flowing into his economy from the West. Trading schemes offer the least painful way possible for Poland to leapfrog into a clean energy system, delivering numerous co-benefits in terms of health, air quality and job creation. He should be backing them all the way, both in Poznan and in Brussels.
If he did this, Poland could be an example to the rest of the world – a less rich nation which is party to an international emissions reduction scheme that is actually benefiting its economy. This would be a hugely valuable contribution towards securing the global deal that the world so badly needs.
• Bryony Worthington is the founder of the website Sandbag, a not-for-profit website that allows its members to buy up carbon emissions trading permits

Too late? Why scientists say we should expect the worst

As ministers and officials gather in Poznan one year ahead of the Copenhagen summit on global warming, the second part of a major series looks at the crucial issue of targets
David Adam
The Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008

At a high-level academic conference on global warming at Exeter University this summer, climate scientist Kevin Anderson stood before his expert audience and contemplated a strange feeling. He wanted to be wrong. Many of those in the room who knew what he was about to say felt the same. His conclusions had already caused a stir in scientific and political circles. Even committed green campaigners said the implications left them terrified.
Anderson, an expert at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, was about to send the gloomiest dispatch yet from the frontline of the war against climate change.
Despite the political rhetoric, the scientific warnings, the media headlines and the corporate promises, he would say, carbon emissions were soaring way out of control - far above even the bleak scenarios considered by last year's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Stern review. The battle against dangerous climate change had been lost, and the world needed to prepare for things to get very, very bad.
"As an academic I wanted to be told that it was a very good piece of work and that the conclusions were sound," Anderson said. "But as a human being I desperately wanted someone to point out a mistake, and to tell me we had got it completely wrong."
Nobody did. The cream of the UK climate science community sat in stunned silence as Anderson pointed out that carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world. So much extra pollution is being pumped out, he said, that most of the climate targets debated by politicians and campaigners are fanciful at best, and "dangerously misguided" at worst.
In the jargon used to count the steady accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth's thin layer of atmosphere, he said it was "improbable" that levels could now be restricted to 650 parts per million (ppm).
The CO2 level is currently over 380ppm, up from 280ppm at the time of the industrial revolution, and it rises by more than 2ppm each year. The government's official position is that the world should aim to cap this rise at 450ppm.
The science is fuzzy, but experts say that could offer an even-money chance of limiting the eventual temperature rise above pre-industrial times to 2C, which the EU defines as dangerous. (We have had 0.7C of that already and an estimated extra 0.5C is guaranteed because of emissions to date.)
The graphs on the large screens behind Anderson's head at Exeter told a different story. Line after line, representing the fumes that belch from chimneys, exhausts and jet engines, that should have bent in a rapid curve towards the ground, were heading for the ceiling instead.
At 650ppm, the same fuzzy science says the world would face a catastrophic 4C average rise. And even that bleak future, Anderson said, could only be achieved if rich countries adopted "draconian emission reductions within a decade". Only an unprecedented "planned economic recession" might be enough. The current financial woes would not come close.
Lost cause
Anderson is not the only expert to voice concerns that current targets are hopelessly optimistic. Many scientists, politicians and campaigners privately admit that 2C is a lost cause. Ask for projections around the dinner table after a few bottles of wine and more vote for 650ppm than 450ppm as the more likely outcome.
Bob Watson, chief scientist at the Environment Department and a former head of the IPCC, warned this year that the world needed to prepare for a 4C rise, which would wipe out hundreds of species, bring extreme food and water shortages in vulnerable countries and cause floods that would displace hundreds of millions of people. Warming would be much more severe towards the poles, which could accelerate melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.
Watson said: "We must alert everybody that at the moment we're at the very top end of the worst case [emissions] scenario. I think we should be striving for 450 [ppm] but I think we should be prepared that 550 [ppm] is a more likely outcome." Hitting the 450ppm target, he said, would be "unbelievably difficult".
A report for the Australian government this autumn suggested that the 450ppm goal is so ambitious that it could wreck attempts to agree a new global deal on global warming at Copenhagen next year. The report, from economist Ross Garnaut and dubbed the Australian Stern review, says nations must accept that a greater amount of warming is inevitable, or risk a failure to agree that "would haunt humanity until the end of time".
It says developed nations including Britain, the US and Australia, would have to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 5% each year over the next decade to hit the 450ppm target. Britain's Climate Change Act 2008, the most ambitious legislation of its kind in the world, calls for reductions of about 3% each year to 2050.
Garnaut, a professorial fellow in economics at Melbourne University, said: "Achieving the objective of 450ppm would require tighter constraints on emissions than now seem likely in the period to 2020 ... The only alternative would be to impose even tighter constraints on developing countries from 2013, and that does not appear to be realistic at this time."
The report adds: "The awful arithmetic means that exclusively focusing on a 450ppm outcome, at this moment, could end up providing another reason for not reaching an international agreement to reduce emissions. In the meantime, the cost of excessive focus on an unlikely goal could consign to history any opportunity to lock in an agreement for stabilising at 550ppm - a more modest, but still difficult, international outcome. An effective agreement around 550ppm would be vastly superior to continuation of business as usual."
Henry Derwent, former head of the UK's international climate negotiating team and now president of the International Emissions Trading Association, said a new climate treaty was unlikely to include a stabilisation goal - either 450ppm or 550ppm.
"You've got to avoid talking and thinking in those terms because otherwise the politics reaches a dead end," he said. Many small island states are predicted to be swamped by rising seas with global warming triggered by carbon levels as low as 400ppm. "It's really difficult for countries to sign up to something that loses them half their territory. It's not going to work."
A new agreement in Copenhagen should concentrate instead on shorter term targets, such as firm emission reductions by 2020, he said.
Worst time
The escalating scale of human emissions could not have come at a worst time, as scientists have discovered that the Earth's forests and oceans could be losing their ability to soak up carbon pollution. Most climate projections assume that about half of all carbon emissions are reabsorbed in these natural sinks.
Computer models predict that this effect will weaken as the world warms, and a string of recent studies suggests this is happening already.
The Southern Ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide has weakened by about 15% a decade since 1981, while in the North Atlantic, scientists at the University of East Anglia also found a dramatic decline in the CO2 sink between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s.
A separate study published this year showed the ability of forests to soak up anthropogenic carbon dioxide - that caused by human activity - was weakening, because the changing length of the seasons alters the time when trees switch from being a sink of carbon to a source.
Soils could also be giving up their carbon stores: evidence emerged in 2005 that a vast expanse of western Siberia was undergoing an unprecedented thaw.
The region, the largest frozen peat bog in the world, had begun to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago. Scientists believe the bog could begin to release billions of tonnes of methane locked up in the soils, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The World Meteorological Organisation recently reported the largest annual rise of methane levels in the atmosphere for a decade.
Some experts argue that the grave nature of recent studies, combined with the unexpected boom in carbon emissions, demands an urgent reassessment of the situation. In an article published this month in the journal Climatic Change, Peter Sheehan, an economist at Victoria University, Australia, says the scale of recent emissions means the carbon cuts suggested by the IPCC to stabilise levels in the atmosphere "cannot be taken as a reliable guide for immediate policy determination". The cuts, he says, will need to be bigger and in more places.
Earlier this year, Jim Hansen, senior climate scientist with Nasa, published a paper that said the world's carbon targets needed to be urgently revised because of the risk of feedbacks in the climate system. He used reconstructions of the Earth's past climate to show that a target of 350ppm, significantly below where we are today, is needed to "preserve a planet similar to that on which civilisation developed and to which life on Earth is adapted". Hansen has suggested a joint review by Britain's Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences of all research findings since the IPCC report.
Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the IPCC, argues that suggestions the IPCC report is out of date is "not a valid position at all".
He said: "What the IPCC produces is not based on two years of literature, but 30 or 40 years of literature. We're not dealing with short-term weather changes, we're talking about major changes in our climate system. I refuse to accept that a few papers are in any way going to influence the long-term projections the IPCC has come up with."
At Defra, Watson said: "Even without the new information there was enough to make most policy makers think that urgent action was absolutely essential. The new information only strengthens that and pushes it even harder. It was already very urgent to start with. It's now become very, very urgent."

India won't accept emissions limits, says climate envoy

The country's CO2 emissions are only one tonne per capita, compared with 20 tonnes a head in the USA
Randeep Ramesh in Delhi
guardian.co.uk, Monday December 8 2008 00.01 GMT

India is not a "major emitter" of greenhouse gases and will not volunteer to take on responsibilities that would see it accept legally binding limits, the country's special envoy on climate change has told the Guardian.Shyam Saran, India's top negotiator at the UN climate conference which begins in Poznan today, said capping the country's emissions would threaten the country's growth and prevent it from alleviating "energy poverty" which sees 500 million people live in darkness."In India I need to give electricity for lightbulbs to half a billion. In the west you want to drive your Mercedes as fast as you want. We have 'survival' emissions, you have lifestyle emissions.
"You cannot put them on the same basis. I am trying to give a minimal commercial energy service. Whereas you are not prepared to give up any part of your affluent lifestyle or give up consumption patterns."The diplomat, who was appointed earlier this year after successfully negotiating a key nuclear deal with Washington, said that Barack Obama's election in the United States was a "hopeful sign" and that the president-elect had already written to the Indian prime minister saying that he wants to work with India on climate change.Saran said the US position in recent years had been one where the negotiators will not accept "any kind of restraint".
He said: "The US says in talks that until 2025 they will not accept any emissions reduction target … They are willing to accept a vague political target by 2050 but nothing in the interim.
"The current position is that. That may undergo a change [with Barack Obama] but we will wait and see."India also had concerns that the global financial crisis will see climate change fall off the political agenda – and expressed surprise at the ease at which money has been found to cope with the slowdown."What we are saying is that if in a compelling crisis governments are able to find the resources amounting to hundreds of billion of dollars then what about climate change?
"So you able to mobilise hundreds of billions of dollars to deal with an economic crisis bust not able to mobilise part of that to meet a planetary crisis?"The Indian government has repeatedly pointed out that developed countries promised under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro that poor countries would get cash and know-how to deal with climate change. Yet little has arrived."The commitment was to transfer technology and commitment to transfer adequate financial resources. It is not charity. It is not overseas development assistance. It is a a legal commitment to climate change. Since 1992 what is the record on the technology transfer and capital? Nothing."Instead the Indian government suspects that rich nations have been using "trade threats" to withhold such funds and technology.
"What the west is saying is open up your markets and give us a congenial investment climate and capital and technology with come in. My government will not commit on these terms. These are simply trade threats."Saran also pointed out that rich nations had failed to meet their own targets made under the Kyoto protocol – and instead are attempting to scapegoat China and India.
"[Developed nations] have not met their targets. Emissions have increased not decreased. Then [developed nations] say there is something wrong with this agreement and the problem is not us. You India and China, you really are the problem. This simply is not true."Saran said that calls for "extra" commitments for countries like India ignore the fact that their per capita emissions - around one tonne - are much lower than those in developed economies. An equal emissions entitlement per person is, in his view, the minimum requirement for fairness."You have a little more than 20 tonnes per capita of carbon dixoide in the US … most of the Europeans have 10 to 12 and even China has little more than six tonnes. By no stretch of the imagination could India be included as a major emitter."The Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has said that India would be willing to undertake to keep its per capita emissions below those of industrialised countries, thus giving the latter a strong incentive to reduce their emissions as quickly as possible. "India is willing to accept a limitation but giving you a challenge. It is you that needs to be ambitious. Not tomorrow. Not the day after. It is about long-term convergence to lower per capita levels."India is already being affected by climate change. The frequency of catastrophic weather events such as flash flooding, say Indian meteorologists, is increasing. Clouds of brown soot cover the skies above the Indian Ocean for months each year.
Agricultural scientists in the subcontinent note rising temperatures caused wheat yields to drop by 10% in recent years. Saran says the cost for mitigation and adaptation already tops $20bn (£13bn)."We estimate about 2%-2.5% of India's GDP already being spent [because of climate change] for which we are not responsible. That cost will only increase.
"Because even if tomorrow go for zero emissions climate change will continue to take place. Not because of current emission but because of cumulative emissions of 200 years."

Ice sheet at risk

David Adam
The Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008

One of the most controversial areas of climate science is how high the seas are likely to rise in a warmer world. Last year, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that sea levels would rise by 15-59cm this century, an average of 38.5cm. Climate sceptics jumped on the figures as proof that the panel was downgrading the risk, as an IPCC report in 2001 had predicted 48.5cm.
In fact, the 2007 IPCC report also said it was unable to rule out higher increases, but could not reliably "provide a best estimate or an upper bound for sea level rise".
Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the IPCC, said: "Some are raising the [sea level] issue as being far more alarming than we had projected, but in the synthesis report we clearly said that we didn't know enough and therefore we can't place an upper limit on sea level rise this century."
The uncertainty derives from how the Earth's giant ice sheets will react to warmer temperatures. Most of the predicted change in sea level in the IPCC report comes from thermal expansion - if the world's oceans all warmed by 1C, then they would expand to raise the overall level by about 70cm.
Of far more significance is the immense amount of water locked in the ice sheets of the polar regions. The Greenland ice sheet and the West Antarctic ice sheet would together raise sea levels 12 metres if they were to melt. The East Antarctic ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea levels 50-60 metres, but is thought to be more resistant to global warming. Several hundred thousand small glaciers could also contribute.
The question is how quickly all that ice could crumble into the sea as global warming takes hold. Measurements on the ground and from space suggest the Greenland melt is accelerating, though scientists have struggled to recreate the process in computer models, which makes projections difficult.
In September, a team led by Tad Pfeffer at the University of Colorado at Boulder, published calculations using conservative, medium and extreme glaciological assumptions for sea rise expected from Greenland, Antarctica and the world's smaller glaciers and ice caps. They concluded the most plausible scenario, when factoring in thermal expansion due to warming waters, will lead to a total sea level rise of roughly 100-200cm by 2100.
Jim Hansen, of Nasa, has argued that most estimates of sea level rise are too conservative. He says that feedbacks in the climate system would quickly accelerate ice melt, and could lead to runaway collapse.

Fill your Thermos with hot tap water and save the planet

Tim Dowling
The Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008

Just stop for a minute and think about how much you are doing to save the planet, just by being poor. Now think about how much more you will be doing to save the planet in, say, six months' time.
Very soon a large chunk of your carbon footprint will become the problem of the guy you sold your car to. Shops will retain more heat thanks to you not happening by and opening the door. There will be no need to offset that ski trip you won't be going on. Expensive, electricity-hungry appliances won't make it on to your shopping list. Instead you will rediscover simple, wholesome, low-impact pleasures: thick socks, a Thermos full of hot tap water, a few moments spent haggling over the price of a distressed turnip or scavenging along railways lines for kindling. These are the things that make life worth living, or at least they will be.
In the meantime the planet will thank you, provided we haven't already reached some sort of tipping point whereby none of our efforts can do anything to prevent a cataclysmic period of warming. But this is not the time to ponder imponderables, unless you're being paid for it. You're doing your bit to curb CO² every time you decide to stay in bed all day, and every time you forego air-freighted, intensively farmed sea bass so you can afford an extra two litres of cider.
Take smugness where you can find it - it too will soon be in short supply.
Recession-busting tip: A hollow-stemmed plastic wine glass can be adapted into a festive funnel, designed to conduct wine poured by waiters at Christmas parties down a rubber hose and into an expandable plastic bladder concealed beneath your clothing. No one will suspect a thing - they'll just assume you have a drink problem!
What's going cheap right now: Tainted pork, office space, USB memory sticks, jelly.

'They are growing fast and are prepared to act'

John Vidal, environment editor
The Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008

Plane Stupid, the group behind yesterday's Stansted protest, is the fastest growing wing of the broad environmental movement, picking up activists across Britain as they emulate Greenpeace and the roads protesters of the mid-1990s in stunts and demonstrations.
In three years, Plane Stupid activists have blocked the runway at East Midlands airport, blockaded the offices of travel agents, airline and airport companies, occupied the roofs of parliaments in London and Edinburgh, and disrupted conferences in an attempt to draw attention to the lack of political and corporate action on climate change.
One man superglued himself to the prime minister, Gordon Brown, and others have demonstrated at Heathrow, Gatwick and other airports. The group has also blasted aircraft noise through the letterbox of the former transport secretary Ruth Kelly.
The group has no membership, leaders or constitution, but works in geographical cells with the name Plane Stupid a "virtual" umbrella network which can be used by any climate change activist wanting to take direct action against the growth of air transport and expansion of airports.
Earlier this year the police estimated there were about 400 climate activists in Britain but this is thought to be a major underestimation as a broad movement of climate change protesters emerges. Plane Stupid activists are closely linked to and regularly cross over with the other climate change protesters, including groups such as Leave it in the Ground, the Camp for Climate Action, Rising Tide, Climate Rush, and Campaign against Climate Change.
In the last year two open cast coal mines and Kingsnorth power station have been shut down briefly and a coal train going to Drax power station in Yorkshire was hijacked.
According to Joss Garman, one of the three students who set up Plane Stupid in 2005 but who now works for Greenpeace, the majority of the people taking part in the Stansted demonstration were new to environmental protest, with many still at university. "I have no idea who they all are. This was a new generation of Plane Stupid [at Stansted]. There were one or two road activists but I have no idea who most were except they are nearly all under 25.
"Greenpeace has been the main inspiration of what we do. They are the pros," said Garman, who added yesterday that he had played no part in the Stansted demonstration and that the environment group did not help Plane Stupid either financially or logistically.
The group, said Garman, was funded mainly by individuals sympathetic to the green movement and a few organisations. Mark Constantine, the head of Lush cosmetics, has funded some of its work and many of Plane Stupid's funders are wealthy west London opponents of the expansion of Heathrow.
"Climate change activists are in general articulate, bright and scientifically literate. What should worry the authorities is that this was one of the largest actions they have attempted and they are growing fast. They know how high the stakes are and they are prepared to act."
Leading voices in the movement include Garman, Plane Stupid co-founder Graham Thompson, who also works with Greenpeace, and Leo Murray, the grandson of Labour MP Anthony Greenwood. Others include Cambridge University-educated trainee priest Tamsin Omond, who occupied the roof of Westminster.
Group's stunts
November 28 2005: Three activists release balloons with personal alarms during speech by British Airways executive at an aviation conference
September 24 2006 25 activists block runway at East Midlands for four hours
October 8 2007 Dozens blockade check-in at Manchester where they handcuff themselves for three hours
February 27 2008 Parliament rooftop protest
July 4 2008 Demonstrators play 56 decibel noise outside Ruth Kelly's flat

Climate change ‘hits poor hardest’

The Times

December 9, 2008

Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

Sir David Attenborough and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have called on world leaders to do more to protect the poor from the devastating effects of climate change.
The two were among 19 signatories of a letter to The Times urging Western countries to “lead the way” at the United Nations climate change summit in Poznan, Poland. With disease, droughts and uncertainty over crops being blamed on global warming, they said it was essential that agreements were reached.
Signatories included campaigners such as Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a Canadian Inuit activist, and Janina Ochojska, president of the Polish Humanitarian Organisation, alongside musicians, authors and actors, including Scarlett Johansson, Annie Lennox, Ian McEwan and Colin Firth.
They said it was “desperately unfair that the poor should again feel the brunt, despite being least responsible”.

The letter, organised by Oxfam, was sent as the conference entered its second week and hopes of making progress on agreeing funds to help poorer nations to adapt to climate change began to fade. The economic downturn has raised doubts among delegates that measures to bring down emissions are financially viable.

Union reps could green UK business

Over half of the UK's carbon emissions are work-related. We need designated 'green reps' to help us cut down

Jean Lambert
guardian.co.uk, Monday December 8 2008 22.30 GMT
The EU climate package, which is currently under negotiation in the European parliament, stresses that employers have a vital role to play in tackling climate change. Over half of our climate emissions in the UK are work-related, yet most businesses have been slow to initiate and implement carbon reduction measures.
One way to increase momentum would be through recognising and developing the role of trade union green representatives. In the same way that health and safety reps address issues regarding workers' wellbeing, so green reps could resolve problems related to the environmental performance of their workplace.
The TUC's Green Workplaces project, which began in 2006, supported trade union initiatives to "green" six workplaces: the steelmakers Corus, Friends Provident, DEFRA, Scottish Power, the British Museum and the TUC. Joint union-management energy and environment committees were set up at all six, through which a range of energy saving and staff engagement initiatives are being implemented.
At the British Museum, the committee has shaped a sustainability policy, improved recycling, assessed ways of making jobs and travel to work more environmentally sustainable, looked at the heating and cooling system of the building and won commitments to making a new wing of the building carbon neutral. It also managed to reduce the museum's electricity bill by 7% in a single year, equating to an annual saving of around £44,000.
The TUC is now aiding more of their members to become effective green reps through the provision of training materials, as well as lobbying the government for an amendment to the employment bill to legally recognise such a role.
So far, the government has been opposed to the idea, but there are clear benefits from engaging with unions to meet new environmental standards. Given their established negotiating role within organisations, union members are ideally placed to promote, implement and help develop best environmental workplace practice.
The government has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. While they plan to do this in large part through off-setting emissions, substantial reductions will be necessary across all sectors. Given that so many individuals working inside industries are willing to aid such a shift it would be foolish not to enable them to deliver.
As well as changing practices in the workplace, dedicated green reps raise environmental awareness with employees, helping to change individual behaviour and spread the green message outside the workplace. This is something to consider with regard to the efficacy of national awareness campaigns.
At the Green party conference this autumn, the highest priority motion, calling for legally recognised green reps in the UK, passed without opposition. In the European parliament, I and my fellow Green MEP, Caroline Lucas, recently put forward a written declaration, co-signed by members of the Socialist and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats groups, calling on the commission and member states to also give legal rights to green reps. The idea is proving popular among most political groups and I encourage my other European colleagues to get behind this initiative.
The more immediate EU targets for 20-30% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 will require collective action and engagement with workers' unions. As well as helping industry meet current and future environmental targets, green reps would also help ensure any changes are undertaken in a just manner, with the participation and support of employees.
By delivering significant environmental improvements through peer-to-peer and employer-workforce engagement, green reps could help the UK and EU shift to a low carbon economy. However, they will only achieve their potential if they are afforded the rights to allow time for relevant training, the undertaking of workplace environmental audits and systems implementation. The government and the European commission have the opportunity to secure these rights and I urge them take this important step.

Barack Obama and Al Gore to discuss climate change

US President-Elect Barack Obama will meet Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore in Chicago on Tuesday to discuss energy and climate change, his office said.

Last Updated: 7:55AM GMT 09 Dec 2008

Mr Gore, who ran for president in 2000 against George W Bush and lost, will meet Mr Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden to discuss how energy and climate policies "can stimulate the economy and create jobs."
Mr Obama is in the process of narrowing down picks for top energy and environment cabinet posts and has signalled that both will be major policy priorities for his administration.
Gore has indicated he is not interested in a position of climate "tsar" or any cabinet post.
But Mr Gore, who starred in the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth and won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work to combat rising temperatures and boost awareness of climate change, will likely have a lot of suggestions for Mr Obama about how energy policies can help stimulate the economy.
Just two days after Obama won the Nov. 4 election, Mr Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection rolled out a media campaign to push for immediate investments in energy efficiency, renewable power generation like wind and solar technology and the creation of a unified national power grid.
Mr Obama, who takes over from Bush on Jan 20, has made it clear his White House would break from his predecessor on climate change and other environmental policy issues.
During this year's presidential election campaign, he pledged if he were elected he would make Mr Gore a major player on the topic of climate change.
Mr Obama has promised to increase US use of renewable energy sources dramatically and reduce dependence on foreign suppliers of oil.