Saturday, 31 January 2009

Benefits of wind energy are mapped out

Published Date: 31 January 2009
By John Ross

A GOVERNMENT study says onshore wind energy could offer great economic and community benefits for the Western Isles – less than a year after ministers rejected plans for Europe's biggest wind farm in the islands.

The report predicts that green energy projects can be key drivers for the islands' economy without harming the environment.The study was commissioned by the government after it refused consent for a 181-turbine project in Lewis last April. The results were welcomed yesterday by Western Isles Council, which has been promoting the islands as a green energy centre. It says Lewis could support bigger projects than those now planned by ministers because of its excellent natural resources.The study says the best opportunities are south and west of Stornoway, with potential for a 150 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Lewis in addition to projects already planned.Smaller, community-led wind development is more suitable in Harris, the Uists and Barra, it suggests, while there is marine potential of 105MW by 2015.Inshore wave potential is around 30MW, with tidal potential of 75MW in the Sound of Harris, and much more in the offshore wave resource.The report also suggests developing a local wind energy control centre and for developers to manufacture turbines at Arnish Point in Lewis to create jobs in the islands.Jim Mather, the enterprise minister, said: "We want all areas of Scotland to be able to fully harness our vast potential for cheap, clean and green electricity."Maximising that potential brings economic and community benefits and the people of the Western Isles are no different in wanting to use their natural resources to build a sustainable economy."Angus Campbell, the leader of Western Isles Council, said he was encouraged that the Scottish Government shared the authority's long-held view on renewable energy as an economic driver."It is good that the study is clear that 150MW of generation can happen in Lewis in harmony with environmental designations," he said. "It is disappointing, however, that the report only identifies a potential of 150MW for Lewis, particularly given the excellent wind resources of the islands. That is a wasted resource at a time of economic challenge for the islands."Mr Campbell also called for a speedy approval of a planned £120 million, 53-turbine project at Eishken in Lewis. "Any other decision would be a bitter blow," he said.The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, one of the objectors to the 181-turbine project, also welcomed the report.Stuart Housden, the society's Scotland director, said: "Individual proposals will still need to be carefully sited and designed to ensure they do not harm the environment or adversely affect European designated sites."Last week it was announced the world's largest wave farm would be built off Lewis. The £30 million, 4MW Siadar Wave Energy Project will provide enough electricity to power about 1,800 homes.

Carbon capture fine in theory but untested

Published Date: 31 January 2009

THE technology the Scottish Government is hoping will clean up fossil-fuel power stations has yet to be proven on an industrial scale.

If it works, so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) has the potential to cut 90 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel power stations.This would allow power stations to be cleaned up so they could continue to be used to generate electricity, while enabling climate change targets to be met. However, there is no clear evidence that the technology will work. Although it has been used in pilot schemes, it has yet to be demonstrated on a commercial scale.Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "What any expert will say is it's technologically proven at every stage of the chain, but putting those steps together at the scale of a large power station and doing so in a commercially viable way is yet to be proven."There are promising signs from small-scale projects around the world. In east Germany, a plant a tenth of the size of a normal power station has been built using CCS. Norway's oil industry has been capturing for years and storing it under the North Sea, and projects similar to CCS are up and running in Dakota, in the United States, and Algeria. In the UK, a competition is taking place to develop a CCS demonstration project, with Westminster prepared to fund up to 100 per cent of the cost of the technology. ScottishPower has entered Longannet, one of Scotland's two coal-fired power stations, in the competition.The winner is due to be announced in the spring and the project should be operational by 2014. CCS involves taking from power stations, compressing it then transporting it along a pipeline and storing it deep underground where it cannot escape into the atmosphere. After the gas is captured, it is stored indefinitely deep under the ground, such as in the spaces within rocks. It is believed there would be suitable locations beneath the North Sea, as well as in many other parts of the world. However, there is concern that applications to build pipelines to transfer the liquid gas could meet with environmental concerns, holding up projects. The UK Committee on Climate Change has said all coal-fired power stations should be using the technology by the early 2020s, with gas-fired plants following soon after. It spelled out that without the "decarbonisation" of electricity generation, there was no possibility of achieving the government's targets of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, the report also highlighted that the unproven technology will be expensive.

Third of new homes failing to meet energy standards, warns expert

Almost a third of new homes in some areas are failing to meet the required energy saving standards, an expert has warned.

By Jon Swaine Last Updated: 7:38PM GMT 30 Jan 2009

Philip Sellwood, the chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said the Government's sustainable buildings code - which sets gradually tightening limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new properties - was not being adequately enforced.
He described the situation as a cause for "real concern" and said extra investment and action was needed.
Gordon Brown has said that by 2016 every new home built in Britain will be carbon neutral, through improved energy efficiency and use of renewable power.
The Government estimates that more than 20 per cent of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions come from homes.
It believes reducing households' fossil fuel consumption is key to meeting a 80 per cent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, which was made legally binding in the Climate Change Act last year.
Yet Mr Sellwood said that in some areas, up to 30 per cent of new properties would fail existing regulations.
"Our building regulations in the UK are among some of the toughest in Europe, but they are extremely poorly enforced as far as energy efficiency goes," he told the BBC.
"To me, this highlights a real gap between the aspiration to do something appropriate and the actual delivery on the ground.
"It is simple things like people not fitting windows or doors correctly. Instead of getting energy efficiency, we are getting energy inefficiencies.
"When you think that we are putting a lot of reliance on meeting our CO2 reduction targets by increasing the toughness of our building regulations, this is a real concern."
Mr Sellwood said local authorities must be given more money to help residents make their homes energy efficient and to increase the number of building inspections.

Indians: Invasions of Amazon reserves continue

The Associated Press
Published: January 30, 2009

BELEM, Brazil: Amazon Indian reservations continue to be invaded by loggers, ranchers and farmers, despite a global financial crisis that has hurt the demand for their commodities, representatives from across the region said Friday.
Indians at the World Social Forum told The Associated Press that a lack of government support is undercutting the fight against illegal invasions by people seeking to clear the rain forest for profit.
"Our territory is supposedly protected, but the loggers are always coming in and taking our land," said 19-year-old Leve Srezasu, an Indian of the Guarani tribe in Brazil's Tocantins state, where there have often been violent clashes over land.
Environmentalists and the government blame most Amazon deforestation on illegal clearing for lumber, farming and grazing of livestock, much of it on ancestral lands that the Brazilian government in 1988 promised to return to its Indian tribes. While that process has yet to be completed, about 11 percent of Brazilian territory and nearly 22 percent of the Amazon is now in Indian hands.
In the last 20 years, Brazil's government has made big efforts to protect Indians and the Amazon, creating government agencies and watchdog groups to stop the damage to forests and those who live in them.

But critics say the government either lacks the money or political will to give the agencies the manpower, boats and helicopters needed to police the Amazon, a sparsely populated region the size of western Europe.
"The majority of senators are supported by big business," said indigenous rights leader Marcos Xukuru. "This has completely trapped the process of demarcating Indian reserves."
Brazil's national Indian bureau, known as Funai, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the protection of Indian reserves and illegal logging on them.
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has often bristled at criticism — especially coming from outside Brazil — on his government's handling of the Amazon.
"There are many people making guesses about the Amazon without knowing that almost 25 million people live here who want to work, who want access to material goods and who don't want the Amazon to be a sanctuary for humanity," he told reporters in Belem.
More than 20 percent of the forest has been destroyed since scientists began tracking its destruction about two decades ago.
After declining for three years, deforestation spiked early last year as rising commodity prices drove farmers, ranchers and loggers to raze even more land.
Last week, however, the environmental group Imazon, which tracks deforestation, said the rate of destruction of the forest had dropped 82 percent from August through December, when compared to the same period in 2007.
Environment Minister Carlos Minc said in December that Brazil plans to boost spending and programs to significantly slow destruction of the Amazon by 2017, when they hope deforestation will annually be half of the 4,633 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) of jungle that were destroyed between August 2007 and July 2008.
But Indians said they are wary of government promises and hopes that the economic meltdown will slow deforestation.
"It hasn't stopped, regardless of this crisis," said Resivaldo Xipaia, a 33-year-old farmer from the Kupi reserve in Para state.
Associated Press writer Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil, contributed to this report

Friday, 30 January 2009

Carbon trading may be the new sub-prime, says energy boss

• System 'risks being diverted from purpose'• Weakness of government regulation highlighted
Terry Macalister
The Guardian, Friday 30 January 2009

The row over the working of the European Union's emissions trading scheme intensified last night when EDF Energy warned that speculators risked turning carbon into a new category of sub-prime investment.
Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of the UK arm of the French-owned gas and electricity group, said politicians and regulators needed to revisit the way the ETS was working and whether it was bringing the results they wanted. "We like certainty about a carbon price," he said. "[But] the carbon price has to become simple and not become a new type of sub-prime tool which will be diverted from what is its initial purpose: to encourage real investment in real low-carbon technology."
Green campaigners have long been critical of the way the emissions trading scheme was set up, but it is unusual for a leading industry figure to cast doubt on it, as power companies lobbied hard for a market mechanism to deal with global warming.
"We are at the tipping point where we ... should wonder if we have in place the right balance between government policy, regulator responsibility and the market mechanism which will deliver the carbon price," said de Rivaz.
De Rivaz's comments came as Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, emphasised that a predictable global carbon price was important because it would make "vast numbers of alternative energy sources competitive". He told the World Economic Forum in Davos that certainty over carbon emissions would help "solve the world's energy problems".
Their comments came days after the Guardian revealed that steelmakers and hedge funds were cashing in ETS carbon credits obtained for free, causing the price of carbon to plunge. The price of carbon has slumped from €30 a tonne to below €12, leading to a tail-off in clean-technology offset projects in the developing world.
The EU's emissions trading scheme was set up as a market solution to cut greenhouse gas pollution from industry. Polluters were issued with permits that can be traded between companies and countries as a way of encouraging an overall reduction in carbon output. However, companies are now cashing them in. Up to €1bn-worth of permits are said to have been sold off in recent months as companies see an opportunity to bring in funds at a time when their carbon output is expected to fall due to lower production.
De Rivaz said an over-reliance on markets without tougher safeguards was responsible for the financial turmoil that has sent banks into administration or forced sale. He believed there had been a "lost sense of values" and he was anxious that this should not extend into the energy sector, but was not prepared yet to call for a carbon tax to replace the ETS.
Point Carbon, an information provider and consultancy, claims the sell-offs are only one of a number of factors influencing carbon prices and argues it is "rational" for them to be selling off credits.
"Recession in Europe is bringing a slowdown in manufacturing, meaning less production and less emissions," said Henrik Hasselknippe, global head of carbon at Point Carbon. "Companies are doing exactly the rational thing in these circumstances, which is to sell if they are long on credits. If they are emitting less then they do not need the credits so much and the price of carbon will fall."
However, Bryony Worthington, an expert on climate change and founder of, said: "What should have been a way to kick-start investment in much needed low-carbon, efficient technologies is now a cash redistribution exercise." A study commissioned by the WWF environmental organisation from Point Carbon, published in March last year, estimated that "windfall profits" of between €23bn and €71bn (£20.9bn-£64.4bn) would be made under the ETS between 2008 and 2012, on the basis that the price of carbon would be between €21 and €32. Up to €15bn could be made by British companies that were given credits they did not need.

Wind-farm plans set for 40m boost from Europe

Published Date: 30 January 2009

CONTROVERSIAL proposals for a giant offshore wind farm received a major boost yesterday following the revelation that the European Commission is considering investing 40 million in the project.
The Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) and the Swedish utility company Vattenfall have formed a joint venture company to build a £100 million offshore wind farm, stretching three miles along the coast from the Bridge of Don to Blackdog. There will be 23 wind turbines at sea, each up to 490ft high.The Aberdeen offshore wind farm was yesterday listed as a "European test centre", with a recommendation that the project should received 40 million in funding, as part of a proposed 5 billion energy spending package being championed by José Manuel Barroso, the commission president.Jeremy Creswell, the chairman of AREG, said: "This is great news for Aberdeen and Scotland. Being considered for European funding on this scale for an energy project is a fabulous opportunity for this region. "Coupled with the potential for this project to become a European test centre, benefiting local businesses and attracting new players into the region, this funding announcement puts Aberdeen in pole position as a UK renewable energy hub."

Energy: Foreigners battle for nuclear power stake

By Amy Kazmin in New Delhi
Published: January 30 2009 00:10

For decades, India’s nuclear establishment worked in almost total isolation, the result of US-led international sanctions intended to punish the country for refusing to relinquish its nuclear weapons programme.
Barred from obtaining nuclear fuel or technology from abroad, the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India, working with private firms, installed a mere 4,000 megawatts of nuclear power capacity, with another 2,600MW under construction.
But when New Delhi was finally accepted last year as a de facto member of the global nuclear club – as part of a deal with the US – India became an accepted partner for the international civil nuclear trade.
Since then, western energy companies have been beating a path to New Delhi. Yet even as they tout their wares, New Delhi is still grappling with sensitive questions of how much foreign involvement to permit.
After decades of self-reliance – and little outside scrutiny of its operations, India’s powerful nuclear establishment is ambivalent about foreign involvement – and apparently determined to ensure the state is not upstaged. “If you have been under sanctions for 30 years, you have a certain mindset, saying ‘Okay, we’ll do this on our own’,” Arundhati Ghose, former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, says.
Chronically short of power, and heavily dependent on imported oil, India wants to massively expand its nuclear power output to improve its long-term energy security and meet surging demand. India’s national energy plan calls for 30,000MW of nuclear power by 2020, 63,000MW by 2030 and 250,000MW by 2050.
Western companies see opportunities. In January, executives from 30 US companies, including GE, Westinghouse, Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox, and Shaw Power, visited India for discussions with government officials and the NPCI on meeting India’s power needs. The US delegation was followed swiftly by top British nuclear energy experts, led by Peter Mandelson, the UK’s minister for business.
Yet profiting from India’s thirst for power looks set to be an arduous process, especially for private US firms. “The hype on the deal that it is going to open up tens of billions of dollars of business to the US was just that – hype,” says Brahma Chellany, director of the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research.
India’s Atomic Energy Act now restricts ownership and operation of nuclear power plants to government-owned companies – and any amendment that opens the sector to even limited foreign ownership is likely to trigger heated parliamentary battles.
US firms are also unwilling to conduct any nuclear commerce with India until New Delhi adopts internationally binding legislation to limit private liability in case of a nuclear accident, potentially another highly contentious political issue.
“India has been very accustomed to doing these through its state-owned companies or dealing with foreign state-owned companies,” says Ted Jones, a director of the US-India Business Council. “To induce the participation of private companies, they need to ... create an enabling framework.”
The NPCI is working with Russia’s state-owned AtomStroy Export to build two new 1,000MW reactors – projects that predate the sanctions – and the Russian agency is to help build another two reactors at the site. The NPCI also has an agreement to acquire technology from France’s state-controlled company Areva.
But while the NPCI wants foreign collaboration to help it rapidly expand energy production, India’s nuclear research establishment – obsessed with ideas of achieving technological supremacy – appears anxious.
Last year, Anil Kakodkar, the Atomic Energy Commission chairman, publicly cautioned that foreign co-operation should not erode India’s technological capacity, and warned of potential intellectual property disputes, with foreign companies claiming Indian technology as their own.
“The motto of self-reliance is not just a slogan,” he says. “It is an important element of our technological march and our ambition to lead the world,” he says. “We must conduct business in a manner that does not constrain us from getting into a top position, otherwise we simply become the so-called fabricators or service providers – fabricating something for x’s orders, y’s orders, or z’s orders.”
India’s Congress-led government has yet to unveil publicly a proposed legal framework for nuclear commerce. But local newspapers say a current draft would limit foreign companies to selling technology, supplies and services and prohibit foreign equity stakes in any nuclear power plant.
That would be a significant brake on India’s development, given the state’s limited resources for such expensive projects. “It won’t be possible for the government of India to find the resources on its own, which means international finance will be required – and a lot of that is going to be equity,” says V. Raghuraman, a Confederation of Indian Industry adviser. “We’ll have to really see what comes out and how it gets legislated. There are many questions that have to be answered.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Plans to rent out swathes of Scotland's forests win MSPs' vote

Published Date: 30 January 2009
By David Maddox
Political Correspondent

SCOTTISH Government moves to rent out large sections of Scotland's forests were narrowly approved last night.
A motion by Labour calling for the consultation into the future of Forestry Commission land to be abandoned was in effect defeated by one vote when MSPs backed a government amendment by 62 to 61.The controversial proposals would see large tracts of land from Scotland's largest landowner, the Forestry Commission Scotland, rented out on 75-year leases.The measures would appear in the Climate Change Bill later this year after a consultation process.Opposition MSPs have accused SNP ministers of trying to sell off the family silver, but the Scottish Government has argued it is the best way to pay for increased forestation in Scotland.The SNP won the day, with the backing of the Conservatives, because several Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs were missing.Ahead of the debate, wildlife groups hit out at the plans which could see a quarter of Scotland's forests leased to private firms.David Grundy, vice-chairman of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, warned that handing over woodlands to the commercial sector could be dangerous."We firmly believe that the wildlife living within our national forests will be safer under the expert stewardship of the Forestry Commission Scotland as opposed to a large commercial company which will naturally put economic considerations first," he said.The message was picked up later in the debate by Labour, who pointed out that the proposal, when put forward by the merchant bank Rothschilds, had even been rejected by former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher as "a privatisation too far".Sarah Boyack, Labour's environment spokeswoman, called for a rethink of the plans at Holyrood yesterday."They are deeply damaging to jobs, not just in the future but now," she said. "The SNP government must do the right thing: dump these unpopular, ill-thought out, damaging proposals and let us focus on the way forward."But the SNP accused its opponents of needless scaremongering, although Mike Russell, the environment minister, conceded more might need to be done to provide assurances on jobs.He pointed out that 1,000 Forestry Commission jobs were lost under Labour in Scotland and he insisted that the proposal was an "imaginative way" of paying for extra forestation."There will be no loss of jobs," he said. "I know it is an unusual concept for Labour to think of trust and ministers in the same sentence. But the reality is there will be no loss of jobs, there will be no loss of biodiversity, there will be no loss of access, there will be no difficulties of the type talked about."He added: "The reality is there are no downsides for Scotland and none for those who work in forestry."However, even though the SNP won the day, its principle supporters yesterday, the Conservatives, said they were less than convinced by the proposal. John Scott, the party's environment spokesman, said they were voting to continue the consultation.The campaign against the plans has been led by the Liberal Democrats, who are collecting signatures on a petition opposing the leases.Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume hit back at claims his party had been scaremongering."This government's proposal to auction off one of Scotland's most prized natural assets for a one-off, bargain-basement sum under the guise that the money could be used for climate change measures, does not add up," he said."It is naive at best, and reckless at worst."BACKGROUNDTHE proposal to lease out Forestry Commission land is to be considered in the Scottish Climate Change Bill to come before MSPs this year.The bill's main purpose is to look at ways of reducing carbon emissions 80 per cent by 2050, with an interim target of 50 per cent by 2030. The Scottish Government agreed to annual targets, but will not set a level for this until 2020.The bill was brought forward two years early as part of an agreement with the Greens.

Ministers ask EU for more time to cut pollution in 'no clean city' Glasgow

Published Date: 30 January 2009
By Jenny Haworth
Environment Correspondent

SCOTLAND'S largest city is so polluted that the government is planning to beg the EU to be allowed more time to meet air-quality standards.
There are so many dust particles in the air above Glasgow that it is not meeting pollution targets that should have been reached three years ago.The European Commission announced yesterday it was starting legal action against the government, after eight areas of the UK, including Glasgow, failed to meet the targets for dust particles, known as PM10.They are mainly caused by traffic and the pollution has been linked with heart and lung problems. The targets should have been met by 2005, and they were set in 1996.WWF Scotland hit out at the failure and said Glasgow would be a disgrace when it hosts the Commonwealth Games if it does not clean up its act.Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at the environment charity , said: "Glasgow will be hosting a major international event with thousands of visitors – surely we want to be able to promote Glasgow as a clean and healthy city rather than one with an air pollution problem?"He added: "It is shocking that we still have areas of poor air quality here in Scotland."We have known for a decade what these limits were. We have failed to take action."Scotland's biggest city has been breaching the target levels for years and the government's approach is to seek approval for it to continue to do this. "It's ducking the action necessary to address this."Target levels of the dust particle are being met across 99 per cent of the UK, but not by eight areas, including Glasgow, Swansea, Southampton, Brighton and the West Midlands. The UK is one of ten EU countries that have failed to keep concentrations of the particles below set levels.The European Commission has sent a first warning letter to the UK, which now has two months to respond before further action may be taken.If the UK continues to fail to comply, it could face a fine.The UK and Scottish Governments are consulting on a plan to ask the EU for a time extension, to give the country until 2011 to meet the targets.Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment, said: "Air pollution has serious impacts on health and compliance with the standards must be our utmost priority."While the new directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe allows time extensions for compliance if certain conditions are met, these must not delay measures to reduce emissions."A Scottish Government spokesman said: "EU limits have been met across most of Scotland."The only monitoring station where they have been exceeded is in central Glasgow, around Hope Street."Road traffic is by some margin the main source of this pollution and much of the reasons for non-compliance at this specific site are down to its characteristics – a narrow street and high buildings."He added: "Most other European member states have found it difficult to meet limit values across all of their territory and will therefore need to apply to the commission for time extensions similar to the UK's."A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said it was working on a new action plan."The plan sets out a number of proposed actions, ranging from the introduction of low emission zones within the city to tree planting, which have been identified to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter," he said.BACKGROUNDTHE consquences of inhaling particles of pollution known as particulates include asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular issues and premature death.It is estimated the problem causes between 22,000 and 52,000 deaths per year in the United States and 200,000 deaths a year in Europe.The small particles settle in people's bronchi and lungs, causing damage and disease.Particulate pollution's effects were first demonstrated in the early 1970s. The main cause is traffic, but industrial processes also create large amounts of the particles known as PM10.The smaller the particles, and the longer they have been in the atmosphere, the more serious the health problems they can cause.The problem is normally most acute in large cities.Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, vegetation and even sea spray.

Europe to prosecute Britain for breaking air pollution laws

Environment commissioner begins proceedings for failure to reduce particulate pollution from traffic and industry
John Vidal, environment editor, Thursday 29 January 2009 15.23 GMT

Europe is prosecuting Britain for consistently breaking air pollution laws and endangering people's health in urban areas.
Legal proceedings against the government were started today by the EU environment commissioner, Stavros Dimas, and could result in unlimited daily fines.
Britain had been given nearly 10 years by Europe to reduce its levels of the minute, sooty "particulate matter" known as PM10s, which are mainly emitted by industry and traffic.
But EU documents seen by the Guardian earlier this month showed that Britain had been breaking the regulations, now part of UK law, for three years. More than 20 cities and conurbations were found to have dangerous levels of particulate matter between 2005-7.
In a statement, the commission said we have "started infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom for failing to comply with the EU's air quality standard for dangerous airborne particles known as PM10. These particles can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death."
The decision to take Britain to the court of justice will embarrass the government because it has had since 1999 to come up with a plan to reduce PM10 levels, but has failed to do so. All other major EU countries have submitted plans and successfully negotiated a time extension.
This week the government launched a consultation on the issue, but this was widely seen in Europe as a delaying tactic. The UK has two months to respond to the EU's letter before further action may be taken.
Dimas showed his exasperation with Britain. "Air pollution has serious impacts on health and compliance with the standards must be our utmost priority. It is essential that where time extensions are not applicable the standards are fully respected."
Air pollution near many roads in British cities averages well over twice the UN's World Health Organisation maximum recommended level. If Britain is to reduce PM10 levels it will have to substantially reduce traffic congestion, which could mean unpopular congestion charging and low emission zones.
A spokesman at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "The UK, along with other member states, intends to apply for a time extension to meet PM10 air quality limits. Twenty-four out of 27 member states also reported breaches of the limits in 2007. We expect to apply for this extension following a public consultation that began on Tuesday 27 January."
But Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green party and MEP for the South East, said the move by the commission was a "damning indictment of Labour's aspirations to position itself as having any credibility on the environment at all". And she said it sent a clear signal to ministers who were going ahead with plans to expand Heathrow airport despite concerns that more planes will push pollution levels up even further.
"Legal action is long overdue," added Simon Birkett, director of Clean Air for London. "This should be a real wake up call to Britain to take air pollution seriously."
In a coincidence, the government also released data on air quality for 2008, showing that particulate pollution varied from year to year, and while there was a long-term decline, the fall was not fast enough to meet the new limits.
A Defra report said that "in urban areas, air pollution in 2008 was recorded as moderate or higher on 27 days on average per site, compared with 24 days in 2007, and 59 days in 1993".

Is there a technological solution to the problem of global warming?

By Steve ConnorThursday, 29 January 2009

Why are we asking this now?

For two reasons. A German research ship, the Polarstern, is steaming towards a region off the coast of Argentina in the South Atlantic, where it intends to release six tonnes of iron sulphate over an area of 115 square miles. The aim is to study the impact of this "iron fertilisation" on the blooms of plankton that absorb carbon dioxide from the sea and, ultimately, the atmosphere. Some scientists believe this could offer a way of boosting a natural carbon "sink", where carbon is stored or sequestered for a long time. The second reason is a study published yesterday in the journal Nature which backs up this idea of a geo-engineered solution to global warming with hard, scientific observations.
What are these latest observations?
A team at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton studied two areas of the Southern Ocean around the Crozet Islands and Plateau, about 1,400 miles south-east of South Africa. One region is rich in iron, because of the run-off from the volcanic islands, whereas the other is deficient in iron. The researchers found that the iron-rich region also has between two and three times as much carbon sequestered in seafloor sediments and the deep ocean beneath the plankton blooms that form at the sea surface each summer. These sediments have built up over thousands of years since the last ice age. The scientists point out that this supports the idea that iron-rich seas result in greater amounts of carbon being sequestered in deep layers, because atmospheric carbon dioxide is drawn into the sea by the vast blooms of plankton at the surface.
How will fertilisation help fight global warming?
The increase in average global temperatures over the past century or two is now widely accepted as being linked with the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. About half of the man-made carbon dioxide released since the Industrial Revolution has been absorbed by the natural carbon "sink" of the ocean. Scientists believe one way of augmenting this natural sink is to boost concentrations of iron, which is known to be the limiting factor that inhibits the absorption of carbon dioxide by plankton. Fertilising the sea with iron, the limiting mineral in seawater, is known to stimulate phytoplankton blooms. Phytoplankton, the microscopic plants at the base of the marine food chain, convert sunlight into chemical energy using the raw material of carbon dioxide dissolved in seawater. The more they grow, the more carbon they use and the more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere ends up being dissolved at the sea surface.
How will we know if it works?
The key to the success of iron fertilisation is showing that much of the carbon trapped in the cells of dead plankton ends up falling to deeper layers of the ocean and on to the seafloor, where it will be trapped for a least 100 years – and so be taken out of the more immediate carbon cycle. Some studies have suggested that, although iron fertilisation can cause blooms to form, they are quickly eaten up by other marine organisms and digested in a way that releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The latest study, however, implies that, in the natural situation, iron-rich water does indeed lead to long-term sequestration of carbon. This is why iron fertilisation is being seen as a possible technical fix to the problem of global warming.
Are there any other fixes?
Several, but only a few are being taken seriously. For instance, the Nobel prize-winner Paul Crutzen, of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, has suggested it would be possible to inject sulphate particles into the atmosphere to mimic the effects of a volcanic eruption. These particles could act as a reflective surface for incoming sunlight, producing a discernible cooling effect on Earth. For example, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, on the Philippine island of Luzon, in 1991 released vast amounts of sulphate particles into the global atmosphere, with the result that the Earth cooled by about 0.5C for the year or two following the eruption. Mr Crutzen suggested that, in extremis, it could be possible to mimic this effect by releasing artificial sulphate particles, a process that which could easily be reversed if necessary. But some have questioned possible side-effects, such as acid rain.
Are there any other viable ideas?
Other scientists have suggested doing something similar by creating low clouds over the ocean by spraying water droplets into the air from ships. The formation of these clouds would have a cooling effect and the process could be quickly turned off if necessary. Another theory is to stimulate the mixing of the ocean with long, floating, vertical pipes that take surface water down to deeper levels using wave energy. This would result in carbon dioxide dissolved in surface layers being taken down to deeper layers and deposited there for long periods. James Lovelock, the author of the Gaia hypothesis, is known to favour this idea. One of the more extreme suggestions for the geo-engineering of the climate is to put mirrors in space to deflect incoming sunlight – a technical fix too far for most scientists who are investigating this area of research. Apart from the expense and the practical implications of parking such a complicated set of mirrors is space, people will want to know who would have control such an important technical structure?
Is anyone taking these ideas seriously?
It is fair to say that most experts would, until recently, have discounted such suggestions to counter global warming. However, there is growing concern that international attempts to curb rising levels of carbon dioxide could fail. Since the signing of the Kyoto agreement a decade ago, carbon dioxide concentrations have risen faster than even the worst-case scenarios that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested. Some scientists are now saying we should have a back-up, or "plan B".
Is there a consensus about a 'plan B'?
A survey of climate experts carried out by The Independent at the end of last year found that many now believe that a "plan B" is necessary if global temperatures continue to rise. Just over half – 54 per cent – of the 80 international specialists who responded to our survey said the situation was now so dire that we must consider the artificial manipulation of the global climate to counter the effects of man-made emissions of greenhouse gases.
So where can we go from here?
The Royal Society has set up a working committee to study the feasibility of geo-engineering and its report is due to be published this summer. A number of research projects, such as the one being conducted aboard the Polarstern, are under way and their results will be published in the scientific literature. The opponents argue that the Earth's climate system is far too complex to be interfered with in this way, but others argue that we may end up having no alternative if carbon dioxide concentrations continue to rise, along with global temperatures. There may come a point when we have no alternative but to try geo-engineering.
Should we fight climate change with iron dust and solar screens?
* Carbon dioxide levels are rising so fast we may have no alternative if we are to maintain a habitable world
* Natural carbon sinks that absorb carbon dioxide are weakening, so we need to may need to boost them
* We are already engaged in a massive climate experiment by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere
* The risks of uncontrolled side-effects are too great
* Geo-engineering is a dangerous distraction from the goal of curbing man-made greenhouse gas emissions
* We caused one environmental disaster with global warming and we have no right to risk causing another with geo-engineering

Climate change forces moths to higher ground

Four decades ago researchers visited Borneo to examine moth populations. Today, they have found the animals now live 67m higher as temperatures have risen
Juliette Jowit, Thursday 29 January 2009 12.44 GMT

Global warming is forcing tropical species uphill to escape the rising temperatures at a rate of more than a metre a year, a new study from the mountains of Borneo suggests.
More than four decades after a group of undergraduate students visited the south-east Asian island in 1965, a team of British scientists returned to the same sites on Mount Kinabalu to repeat their survey of moths.
The group of six, including a member of the original trip, found that on average the insects had raised the altitude of their range by 67m.
Although the trip had only been repeated once so far, they did everything possible to repeat the original survey, travelling at the same time of year in July and August, using photographs to identify exact sites for moth traps, and even carrying out the work at the same phases of the moon. The researchers used light to attract moths which were then trapped by nets or in empty "egg boxes" designed so they could not crawl out.
The results are also supported by other studies of tropical species in Madagascar, Monte Verde and Cost Rica, and temperate species in North America and Europe, said Chris Thomas, professor of biology at the University of York.
"While this is the first example with insects, there are a few other tropical examples that are starting to emerge," said Thomas. "If you look across all those studies they are all showing the same response, and it's extremely difficult to think of any other possible explanation that was causing all of those."
I-Ching Chen, the PhD student who led the research, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, said: "Our new study is good in that it increases the evidence available, but it is potentially bad for biodiversity."
While some species might survive by migrating up mountains to similar temperatures, others could find there is too little space, or even run out of habitat on the barren rocky peaks, warns the study.
"The fact that over however many tens of thousands or millions of years they have failed to expand their distribution away from those areas makes it vanishingly likely [that] in the next 50-100 years they'll suddenly be able to up sticks and find a cooler part of the world they can expand in rapidly," said Thomas.
In a paper in Nature in 2004, Thomas and 13 other experts analysed the habitats of 1,100 species in five continents and estimated on average one quarter were at risk of extinction.
The tropics make up only 12% of the landmass of Earth, but contain an estimated 60% of all species. Last year a paper in the PLoS ONE journal, published by the Public Library of Science in the US, warned the risk of extinction in the tropics was "escalating". The authors, Jana Vamosi and Steven Vamosi, of the University of Calgary in Canada, later estimated that 20-45% of tropical species were at risk of extinction.

European commission proposals start gun to find Kyoto successor

Race is on to negotiate global climate change deal – but will Europe's ideas cross the finish line at Copenhagen?
Bryony Worthington, Thursday 29 January 2009 11.49 GMT

The European commission's proposals add some significant new ideas and have fired the starting gun in the race to negotiate a global climate change deal to succeed the Kyoto protocol.
As well as being comprehensive and largely sensible, the ideas in the document include how to pay for the reduction of emissions and deal with climate change, an issue that will result in very hard bargaining at Copenhagen in December.
Also raised are: reform of the often-criticised Clean Development Mechanism; a phase out of rich nation's offsetting of emissions; inclusion of the aviation and shipping industries in any future deal.
The emissions targets it sets out are nothing new — a 30% cut by 2020 for rich countries compared with 1990 levels, 15-30% off "business as usual" trajectories for rapidly developing countries, with the long-term aim of delivering a global reduction of 50% by mid-century. But detail has been added about how these targets should be shared by countries and what mechanisms will need to be in place to deliver them. The recommendation that global emissions need to peak and decline before 2020 is an important additional element — one which might be helped by the current recession but which nevertheless requires significant action in the short term to prevent emissions rising again in tandem with economic recovery.
A key new idea is that global financing for the necessary mitigation and adaptation measures could be raised according to the "polluter pays principle", ie countries' contributions are pegged to their emissions levels. It is further suggested that this could take the form of an auction of permits rather than handing them out for free as is currently the case under Kyoto.
This is a sensible suggestion though not without its complexities, and could, over time, evolve to solve the eternal conundrum of how to allocate fairly who can emit what: let the market decide. Of course this could mean that under a global cap only China will be able to afford to raise the cash necessary to grow emissions and the US would be forced to cut down on its excessive energy consumption — an interesting turn around that is much more reflective of current economic circumstances than the current imbalanced system under Kyoto of partial caps and free handouts.
Another significant element of the proposals is the acknowledgment that the Clean Development Mechanism is in need of major reform. This is the instrument under Kyoto that allows wealthy countries to offset their emissions reductions obligations through investment in green projects in the developing world.
The suggestion is that the complicated and often abused system should be largely replaced by the extension of the carbon market in the form of cap and trade and/or sectoral crediting. One of the motivations behind this idea is to correct the distortion that currently occurs where global steel companies can raise cash for carbon reductions in one half of the world, via the CDM, but face carbon penalties in the other, from cap and trade schemes, distorting competition in what is increasingly a homogenous industry.
Perhaps the most interesting proposal, however, is that rich countries should no longer be able to simply pay for emissions reductions, and that over time "offsetting" should be phased out all together.
This is a welcome admission that at the moment, both the international Kyoto market and the EU ETS are doing little to stimulate investment in clean technology in the developed world and that more needs to be done at home to demonstrate a commitment to taking action and to commercialise technologies and solutions.
The recommendation that aviation and shipping be included in the future deal is also welcome and is a clear shot across the bows of the international organisations charged with reaching agreement for climate mitigation measures in these sectors: the International Maritime Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization, both of whom have made lamentably slow progress. Hopefully this will provide the stimulus that is needed to reach a global agreement in these sectors that will internalise the cost of their emissions.
Although the EU is in no real position to lecture the world about how to build successful global carbon markets, especially given the current low prices in the EU ETS, the document is a step in the right direction and it will be interesting to see how countries react to it once there has been sufficient time to assess the detailed implications.
As the home of the industrial revolution and therefore the largest contributors of global emissions, the EU must show leadership — and it will almost certainly need to give more ground to persuade others to share their vision — even the proposed 30% target is too low. But it has at least put together a defensible position and issued it early enough for discussion to take place. Let's hope the plan works.
Bryony Worthington is the founder of

World Economic Forum wants $10tn to save the world

Larry Elliott, economics editor, Thursday 29 January 2009 16.42 GMT

More than $10 trillion must be invested in clean technology between now and 2030 to spare the Earth from an unsustainable increase in global temperature, the World Economic Forum warned today.
A report from the body that organises the Davos meeting of political and business leaders said at least $515bn should be spent annually on measures to limit carbon emissions.
Although the worsening financial and economic crisis has pushed climate change down the Davos agenda this year, the WEF study stressed that countries needed to vastly increase spending on safeguarding the environment.
Green investment has increased more than fourfold, from $30bn to $140bn, between 2004 and 2008, but would still need to triple to meet the target set by the WEF and the co-authors of the report, New Energy Finance. Outlays of $500bn a year would be needed to prevent a rise of more than 2C in global temperatures by 2030.
The study identified eight emerging, large-scale clean energy sectors that were seen as playing a crucial role in the transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy strategy over the next two decades. These were: onshore wind, offshore wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal electricity generation, municipal solar waste-to-energy, sugar-based ethanol, cellulosic and next-generation biofuels, and geothermal power.
Max von Bismarck and Anuradha Gurung from the World Economic Forum, and Chris Greenwood and Michael Liebreich from New Energy Finance, said "enormous investment in energy infrastructure is required to address the twin threats of energy insecurity and climate change. In light of the global financial crisis, it is crucial that every dollar is made to 'multi-task' to create a sustainable low-carbon economy."
At a time when the global economy has been struggling, the report said business had an opportunity to make healthy profits from the fight against climate change. An index of the world's 90 leading clean energy companies had a five-year compounded annualised return of almost 10%, unmatched by the world's major stock indices.
Earlier a group of climate change experts including Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the UK government's report on the economics of climate change, warned against complacency in the UN climate talks, due to conclude in December in Copen­hagen to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. They said the economic and climate change agendas should be yoked together in 2009 to ensure that spending had long-term benefits for the environment.

Green investment must triple to save planet

Times Online
January 29, 2009
Jenny Booth

Clean energy investment needs to more than triple to $515 billion a year to stop planet-warming emissions reaching levels deemed unsustainable by scientists, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said in a report today.
The hefty investments required in renewable energy sectors such as solar and wind energy need to be made between now and 2030, says the report, which was co-written by New Energy Finance, a research group.
“Clean energy opportunities have the potential to generate significant economic returns,” the WEF said in a statement accompanying the report.
Clean energy investments were $155 billion last year, up from $30 billion in 2004 but still far below the $515 billion the report’s authors say is needed to combat climate change.

Eight sectors are expected to contribute to the shift toward green energy, the report said. They include onshore wind, offshore wind, photovoltaic solar power, solar thermal energy, municipal solar waste-to-energy, sugar-based ethanol, cellulosic and other second-generation biofuels and geothermal power.
Meanwhile, climate change officials, including Yvo de Boer of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, today urged heads of state attending the annual WEF meeting in Davos to use a portion of fiscal stimulus packages to invest in clean energy.
The also warned against complacency in UN climate talks.
Governments from around the world will meet in Copenhagen later this year to try to reach a deal to replace the Kyoto protocol, which sets targets for cutting carbon emissions.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Fishing rules body OK's Gulf offshore fish farming

The Associated Press
Published: January 29, 2009

BAY ST. LOUIS, Mississippi: The agency that sets fishing rules in the Gulf of Mexico has approved a plan to allow offshore fish farming.
The plan still would have to be approved by the U.S. Commerce Department before the Gulf becomes the first area of federal ocean waters off the U.S. where the farming's allowed. Some states allow fish farming close to shore.
Fishermen say the large cages and pens that would raise fish far offshore would pollute the ocean with fish waste and chemicals and drive them out of business.
But supporters say the farming could give the U.S. a bigger piece of the multibillion-dollar seafood industry.
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted 11-to-5 Wednesday in favor of fish farming. One member abstained.

Sun, sea and sewage in the playground of the rich in Dubai

The Times
January 29, 2009

A noxious tide of toilet paper, raw sewage and chemical waste has transformed Dubai’s most prestigious stretch of shoreline into a foul-smelling health hazard.
A stretch of the exclusive Jumeirah Beach — a magnet for Western tourists and home to a string of hotels — has been closed. “It’s a cesspool. Our tests show too many E. coli to count. It’s like swimming in a toilet,” said Keith Mutch, the manager of the Offshore Sailing Club, which has posted warnings and been forced to cancel regattas.The pollution is a blow to Dubai’s reputation as an international holiday destination offering almost guaranteed sunshine and clear seas.
The debate over who is to blame is also turning toxic, pitting the city’s wealthy expatriates against local authorities, who have been criticised for failing to stop lorry drivers dumping human and industrial waste into the ocean.
The row also illustrates how Dubai’s rapid development threatens to outpace the Emirates’ ability to enforce environmental standards, angering the foreigners that the boom town seeks to attract. Mr Mutch first detected trouble during a walk on the beach last summer. “The stench was unbearable and the water was a muddy brown. There was toilet paper in the sand,” he recalled.

He traced the sludge to a storm drain, buried behind a pile of rocks near the dock. It was spewing effluent into the sea. He followed the drain several kilometres inland to the Al Quoz industrial area, which houses the cement, paint and furniture factories that have helped to fuel the city’s rapid growth.
There he discovered that dozens of sewage lorries carrying human waste from Dubai’s 1.3 million inhabitants emptied their tanks into storm drains such as the one leading to the sailing club. The drains, all connected, were built to carry excess water that falls during Dubai’s short rainy season.
According to some truckers — mostly poor workers from southern Asia – illegal dumping of waste is a purely financial decision.
In interviews, several said that they were paid by the truckload to collect waste from the city’s septic tanks and transport it to the only sewage treatment plant in the area.
This involved a long drive into the desert with lengthy queues at the end — so they opted to dump their loads in the storm drains.“We are paid so poorly, we have no other choice,” said one driver, who insisted on remaining anonymous.
Mr Mutch spent several nights documenting the illegal dumping. He sent letters and photographs to the municipality and departments of tourism, health and environment.“At first I was ignored,” he said — but when the local press took up the story the city took action, imposing fines of up to $25,000 and threatening to confiscate tankers and deport drivers. City authorities have since promised to build another sewage pit as a “medium-term solution”, while insisting that the latest test results show water samples to be within safe standards.
Mr Mutch, however, disagrees, citing independent tests commissioned by the sailing club showing that the water is still badly contaminated with bacteria, human faeces and chemicals.
“The water is still not safe. It’s a bleak situation and we don’t know what else we can do,” he said.

Japan faces up to the prospect of ‘peak fish’

By David Pilling
Published: January 28 2009 19:18

Japan’s little secret is out. All over Asia, and indeed the rest of the world, people are discovering what the Japanese have known for centuries: fish is good for you.
This may seem a relatively benign discovery as far as cross-border proliferation goes. But in the case of seafood, as with any finite resource, it raises awkward questions about how spoils should be divided and what happens if competing interests cannot be reconciled.
Seafood has formed a crucial part of the Japanese diet for millennia, providing the main source of animal protein for a nation with little tradition of eating meat or drinking milk. Other countries have long prized an aquatic diet; some Chinese cuisine emulates the taste and texture of fish with ingenious use of vegetables. Now, as China and others become richer, they have converted dietary aspiration into reality.
Per capita consumption of fish in China has soared: from a mere 3.6kg in 1970 to 27kg in 2009. That is still some way off Japan, where people on average get through 67kg a year. But it might not be long before China catches up. Can the world sustain such an appetite?
The emergence of Japan as a global force in the 1970s changed the structure of global finance and manufacturing. That foreshadowed the challenges China now presents; only China has 10 times the population of Japan . When it came to Japan’s predilection for fish, globalisation initially worked in its favour. It sent an advanced fishing fleet to trawl the world’s oceans. Japan Airlines began a lucrative trade flying freshly caught tuna from America’s Atlantic seaboard to Tokyo. Until then those fish, highly prized in Japan, were pet food in the US. Such initiatives brought the Japanese a huge variety of fish all year round.
Then the rest of the world realised it could charge Japan for fish caught in its waters. Worse, it developed a taste for the Japanese diet. Sushi has caught on from Houston to New Delhi. Consumption of fresh fish is on the rise the world over.
Japan is still the world’s biggest importer by some way. It has gone from being a net exporter in 1964 to importing more than 40 per cent of its fish requirements today. But Japanese buyers are now regularly outbid in auctions. This month, two sushi bar owners, one from Hong Kong, paid $104,000 (€78,800, £73,800) for a 282lb blue-fin tuna, the highest price in years. (If the artist Damien Hirst had cut it in two, it might have been worth more still.)
Each year, about 100m tonnes of fish, 5 per cent of the 2bn tonnes of seafood biomass, are hauled from the oceans, according to a recent study published in Science. Many conservationists espouse “peak fish” theories, suggesting that catches have reached a limit, or gone beyond.
That may not be true for all species. But for some it is undeniable. In November, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which includes Japan, sliced the 2009 blue-fin quota by a fifth. Japan gobbles 90 per cent of all blue-fin. Some scientists say the quota must be halved to let stocks recover.
Japan’s fishing industry faces crisis. The number of fishermen has sunk to 200,000 from a peak of 1m. That is still too many, compared with 10,000 in Norway. Too many boats chasing too few fish have devastated fish resources. By 2006, according to the Japan Economic and Social Research Institute, more than half of Japan’s fishing grounds had dangerously low stocks. Masayuki Komatsu, professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, says Japan needs a science-based quota system and a sustainable fisheries plan predicated on the concept that fish are a common property of the Japanese people not bona vacantia, ownerless goods belonging to whoever nets them first. Today’s policies stem from a desire to protect jobs and the notion that fishermen know better than scientists, he says.
It is far from Japan’s problem alone. Lida Pet-Soede of environmental group WWF says the Chinese taste for grouper, a top-predator reef fish, is destroying reefs and imperilling ecosystems. China is still only the world’s sixth biggest importer, producing most of its own fish, a lot on farms. Aquaculture may be part of the solution, though it is no panacea; artificially raised fish also need feeding, whether on marine products or on competing food sources, such as soyabeans. In any case, as the taste of Chinese and other emerging consumers turns to international varieties, fish stocks will come under increasing pressure.
Fish resources are devilishly difficult to manage internationally. Many fish species migrate wantonly across territorial waters. Indonesians have an economic incentive to grab juvenile tuna in their waters before they head for the high seas to be snagged – more rationally – as mature adults by stronger fishing nations. The idea of a war over fish is no more preposterous than that of a conflict over water or petroleum.
Nor, sadly, is the prospect of humans irreparably damaging, even destroying, a renewable resource. Jared Diamond, an evolutionary biologist, wonders what was going through the mind of the Easter Islander who cut down the last tree, thereby condemning his civilization to virtual extinction. It may have been: “We need more research, your proposed ban on logging is premature and driven by fear-mongering,” he speculates in his book, Collapse. It would be a tragedy if we come anywhere near asking the same question about the planet’s fish.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Europe seeks global carbon trading market

The European Commission has called for a global emissions trading market, even as its own scheme comes under fire following a slump in the price of carbon.

By Josephine MouldsLast Updated: 12:52AM GMT 29 Jan 2009
Analysts suggest companies are flooding the market by cashing in their emissions allowances to raise money, rather than for any environmental benefit.
The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) was set up as a market mechanism to help companies reduce carbon emissions. Polluters are granted a certain number of emissions allowances that can be traded. So a heavy polluter can buy carbon allowances from a company that has succeeded in reducing its emissions.
Almost €3bn (£2.8bn) worth of allowances have been sold since the beginning of December, driving the carbon price down by almost 30pc.
Consultancy IDEAcarbon said the sheer volume of sales suggests companies are not just selling their surplus, but also allowances that would normally be used to comply with the scheme.
"Companies may well be deciding to worry about EU ETS compliance later – their very survival is more important in the short run," it said.
The price of carbon has plunged 60pc since July last year also driven by a decline in industrial activity, which results in lower emissions and therefore lower demand for carbon allowances.
Alessandro Vitelli of IDEACarbon said: "[The scheme] is not serving its purpose. It's not the way that the architects envisioned emissions would be reduced. The fact that emissions are down means [companies] could sell these allowances and invest the revenues in low carbon technology, but because of the recession they are doing it just to survive.
"You may argue that governments should be able to interfere in the system by removing tonnes of carbon, but then you would remove confidence in the market."
The European Commission yesterday laid out proposals for a global pact on climate change to be discussed at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December. It said the EU should seek to build a carbon market across the developed markets of the OECD by 2015, by linking the EU ETS with other comparable systems.

Ocean iron plan approved as researchers show algae absorb CO2

Greenhouse gases trapped deep in ocean by iron-fertilised algae, scientists say, as experiment gets green light
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent, Wednesday 28 January 2009 18.47 GMT

Seeding the oceans with iron is a viable way to permanently lock carbon away from the atmosphere and potentially tackle climate change, according to scientists who have studied how the process works naturally in the ocean.
The study, from researchers at the University of Southampton, is published following the announcement earlier this week that scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany were finally given the go-ahead for a controversial experiment to drop several tonnes of iron into the Southern Ocean. Some environmentalists are concerned that the long-term ecological effects of iron seeding are unknown.
Ocean geo-engineering using iron as a fertiliser for microscopic creatures in the ocean is seen as a possible way to slow down global warming. Marine algae and other phytoplankton capture vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow, but this growth is often limited by a lack of essential nutrients such as iron. Artificially adding these nutrients would make algae bloom and, as the organisms grow, they take up CO2. When they die, some of the organisms sink to the bottom of the ocean, taking their carbon with them. But there has been little scientific work previously on whether the CO2 stays locked up for a significant period of time.
Understanding how much iron is needed, how it should be added and what effect it would have on the local ecology is crucial in assessing whether iron fertilisation would be a useful tool in reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In the latest research, published tomorrow in Nature, the Southampton scientists studied a natural source of iron into the sea near the Crozet Islands at the northern boundary of the Southern Ocean, 1,400 miles south-east of South Africa. Their work showed that iron – which is added by the volcanic rocks to the north but not to the south of the island – successfully tripled the growth of phytoplankton and also the amount that sank to the bottom of the sea.
Peter Burkill, director of the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Sciences in Plymouth, said: "This is a significant result. It suggests that ocean iron fertilisation might work for reducing atmospheric CO2 through export of carbon into the ocean's interior. But the next step from natural experiments, such as this one, to artificial ones is crucial. We now need to know what the ecological impacts of artificial fertilisation experiments are."
Andrew Watson of the University of East Anglia, said that previous small-scale artificial ocean fertilisation experiments had already shown that plankton are stimulated by iron, but there had long been questions about how deep the carbon is sequestered. "This paper suggests that Southern Ocean iron fertilisation can be quite effective at sending the carbon into the deep ocean."
The Southampton study also made progress in understanding how iron fertlisation might work best. Their work showed that the amount of carbon that sank per unit of iron added, called the downward flux, was 77 times lower around Crozet than the flux measured in the only other survey of a natural iron source, carried out several years ago by French scientists in the Kerguelen Islands in the Southern Ocean.
Richard Sanders of the University of Southampton, who took part in the study, said that the difference in algal blooms between different locations might be a result of several factors, including the type of iron compound used and also how it gets into the water. Around the Kerguelen Islands, the iron source comes from the relatively shallow sea floor. "Around the Crozet islands the iron seems to be coming in horizontally. It's possible that iron that comes off the land in this manner is different in some way," said Sanders. In addition, the Crozet iron is mainly in the form of small rock particles that do not dissolve in the water.
Sanders says that the results have implications for the way iron-seeding experiments might be carried out in the future. For a start, they would probably require more iron than previously thought for any serious geo-engineering purpose and the compounds they choose to drop into the sea would need to be carefully chosen so that they stayed in the water long enough to take effect, rather than simply sinking straight to the bottom.
Later this year, the team from the Alfred Wegener Institute will go out on the Polarstern research ship to examine some of these questions. They plan to place several tonnes of iron sulphate onto the surface of the Southern Ocean , primarily to study the role of iron in the biochemistry of the ocean. Karin Lochte, director of the institute said that its project would "help in arriving at a substantiated and fact-based political decision on whether or not iron fertilisation in the ocean is a useful technique that could contribute to climate protection."
Environmentalists from the Canadian group ETC raised concerns last week about the research trip, arguing that it flouts an international moratorium not to dump iron into the oceans and its effects on local ecology were unpredictable.
Watson said: "It's interesting that [the Polarstern] has been at the centre of a lot of controversy because they wanted to do an artificial experiment with 10 or 15 tonnes of iron. As this [Southampton] paper shows, much larger amounts of iron are being added daily by natural processes around the Crozet Island, and it doesn't seem to have done the Antarctic ecosystem any harm."

Iron-fed plankton can seal carbon for a century in ocean depths

The Times
January 29, 2009

Plankton fed with iron will absorb carbon dioxide to prevent it acting as a greenhouse gas, scientists have shown.
Measurements taken in the Southern Ocean confirmed that so-called iron fertilisation would help plankton to grow and thus take in more carbon. Indeed, they took the carbon so deep under the water that it would be locked away for a century.
The results, achieved by a team from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, were hailed by rival researchers as a significant step in the search for ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. But hopes that the technique could be developed commercially to counteract global warming took a blow because far less carbon was taken out of circulation than some experts had predicted.
Iron fertilisation is one of several schemes that have been put forward to try to slow global warming. The theory is that if tonnes of iron particles are dropped into the ocean, they would stimulate the growth of plankton that would remove carbon from the atmosphere.
The theory was put to the test around the Crozet islands by an international team led by Professor Raymond Pollard. The area was chosen because to the north of the islands volcanic rocks offer a natural supply of iron — and a wealth of plankton — while to the south, there is far less iron — and far less plankton.
Iron was dropped to the south, the plankton flourished and spread as hoped and when they died, the carbon they had absorbed went with them more than 200m down into the water, where it was locked in.
The research, whose results are published in the journal Nature, was the first to demonstrate that extra iron in the sea could take carbon out of circulation for at least a century — the time it would take for the currents to lift the deepest water into the island shallows where the carbon would be released.
But the team added that the result still fell 15 to 50 times short of some expectations, and that that would have significant implications for plans to use the technique to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Recycling 'could be adding to global warming'

Recycling could be adding to global warming rather than reducing it, a key government adviser on waste management has said.

By Louise Gray and Gordon Rayner Last Updated: 7:50PM GMT 28 Jan 2009

Peter Jones suggested that much of the country's waste should simply be burnt to generate electricity
Peter Jones suggested that an "urgent" review of Labour's policy on recycling was needed to make sure the collection, transportation and processing of recyclable material was not causing a net increase in greenhouse gases.
Mr Jones, a former director of the waste firm Biffa and now an adviser to environment ministers and the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, also dismissed kerbside recycling collections in many areas as "stupid" because they mixed together different materials, rendering them useless for recycling.
He suggested that much of the country's waste should simply be burnt to generate electricity.
"It might be that the global warming impact of putting material through an incinerator five miles down the road is actually less than recycling it 3,000 miles away," he said.
"We've got to urgently get a grip on how this material is flowing through the system; whether we're actually adding to or reducing the overall impact in terms of global warming potential in this process."
Mr Jones's outspoken comments come amid increasing controversy over household recycling.
Last month, The Daily Telegraph disclosed that councils in England and Wales were dumping more than 200,000 tons of recyclable waste every year – up to 10 per cent of all the glass, paper, plastic and other materials separated out by householders. Thousands of tons of recyclables are shipped to China because of insufficient capacity and demand in Britain.
In some parts of the country, residents have to sort their waste into as many as seven containers, including food waste bins, which has helped councils to justify the scrapping of weekly bin collections.
Some town halls have admitted using anti-terrorism legislation to snoop on householders who fail to recycle properly, but councils have so far refused to test the Government's bin taxes, under which people would be fined for throwing out too much rubbish.
But a collapse in the market value of recyclable waste as a result of the global recession means many waste disposal firms are having to stockpile paper, metals and plastics in vast warehouses because they are unable to sell it on.
Mr Jones's comments will add to the suspicion of many householders that the Government's recycling strategy is in chaos.
He said: "In overall terms we are reducing our carbon footprint by diverting material from landfill, but we are in danger of losing those reductions through the wrong policy decisions."
Mr Jones suggested generating electricity by burning waste instead. Alternatively, organic rubbish could be pulverised and stored in vats so that it releases methane, which could be captured and used to generate electricity.

Gore urges action on stimulus plan's environmental provisions

Former US vice-president told Senate that environmental initiatives would help job growth
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, Wednesday 28 January 2009 19.25 GMT

Al Gore reprised his role as environmental prophet today, laying out a road map for Barack Obama to push through his ambitious green agenda and re-assert American leadership on global climate change negotiations.
The former US vice-president and Nobel prize laureate called for swift passage of Obama's economic recovery plan, with its emphasis on green jobs and renewable energy.
He said Barack Obama's multibillion-dollar stimulus plan was a first step to moving America away from fossil fuels and reaching an international treaty on climate change in Copenhagen later this year.
"The road to Copenhagen has three steps to it," Gore told the Senate foreign relations committee.
Gore urged Congress not to be distracted by the economic recessions. Recent opinion polls have also shown a decline in concern about the environment as economic worries take hold.Gore said the plan would spur economic recovery - not stand in its way.
"The solutions to the climate crisis are the very same solutions that will address our economic and national security crises as well," he said. "The plan's unprecedented and critical investments in four key areas - energy efficiency, renewables, a unified national energy grid and the move to clean cars - represent an important down payment."
He went on to call for "decisive action" towards mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, saying the reductions achieved under the short-term economic recovery plan would make it easier for America to meet subsequent targets.
The knock-on effect would lay the foundation to a successful negotiation of a sequel to the Kyoto agreements later this year, Gore said.
"The United States will regain its credibility and enter the Copenhagen treaty talks with a renewed authority to lead the world in shaping a fair and effective treaty."
He said the scientific consensus of recent years would ensure support in Congress for an international treaty. Congress refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol a decade ago.
"The scientists are practically screaming from the rooftops," Gore said.
The largely reverential reception for Gore, from Republicans as well as Democrats on the Senate committee, was further evidence of the dramatic shift in thinking on the environment.
With Obama in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress, there is now broad support for dealing with climate change.
John Kerry, the incoming chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, has said he intends to use his new role to help further efforts for an international treaty on climate. "The committee is going to be relentless and super-focused," he said.
"As the new administration sets a new tone with the global community, this issue will be an early test of our capacity to exert thoughtful, forceful diplomatic and moral leadership on any future challenge that the world faces," Kerry said.
With Bush's exit from the White House, there was little sign today of the once formidable constituency of climate change deniers. Instead, the committee room was reduced to respectful silence as Gore deployed his now famous slide show on the urgency of dealing with climate change.
He included data showing that if emissions rise at current levels, the earth could see an 11 degree Fahrenheit rise in global average temperatures.
"This would bring a screeching halt to human civilisation and threaten the fabric of life everywhere on Earth," Gore said. "And this is within the century, if we don't change."
Obama took his first steps to make good on an election promise to put the environment at the top of his agenda on Monday.
In a pair of executive orders, Obama asked the Environmental Protection Agency to review its refusal to allow California and more than a dozen other states to enact stringent emission requirements.
Gore's testimony was part of a broader strategy by Obama to get Congress behind his stimulus package, but also to line up support further down the road for legislation to promote clean energy and counter the effects of climate change.
Since the success of his film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore has launched a public campaign for America to stop using fossil fuels entirely and move to clean energy sources within 10 years. Such targets are more ambitious than those set by Obama.
However, Gore did not refer to those targets today.

Stern calls for ‘green’ global stimulus

By Andrew Bounds in Manchester
Published: January 28 2009 23:22

The world needs a “green” stimulus of around $2,000bn to pull it out of recession, Lord Stern of Brentford, the climate economist, has said.
Lord Stern, author of the eponymous review in 2006 that laid out the economic case for fighting global warming, said that by spending about a fifth – $400bn – on green technologies the world could begin a path of sustainable growth.

However, he warned climate scientist and campaigners in a speech at Leeds University that there were only a few weeks to convince governments to back the idea.
“The arguments need to be made now because they need to get into the budgets being prepared by governments in the northern hemisphere which are announced in the spring. If we wait we will not succeed in giving a push to get it out of this recession. It will be too late.”
In an earlier interview, Lord Stern said that advances in science since he published his report had revealed the situation to be more alarming still. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere should be kept lower than he recommended, requiring faster and deeper cuts in emissions.
Rather than the range of 450-550 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent, he said it would need to be capped at 500ppm. The level now stands at 430ppm and is rising at 2-3ppm a year.
The fiscal stimulus should provide work for unemployed builders fitting insulation in homes and fund low-carbon technologies such as research on installing equipment to capture carbon from power plants and store it underground, he said.
Lord Stern, who advises José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said that he was cautiously optimistic that the world could clinch a deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a meeting in Copenhagen this year.
He said the election of Barack Obama was of “huge importance” and if the US president took decisive action to match his words on cutting emissions it could convince India and China to agree long-term reductions.
“It has given a great boost to the prospects in Copenhagen and . . . the rest of the world will respond. They have to see actions as well as words,” he said. “There was a great hunger for American leadership.”
He was launching the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, a £5m joint initiative of the London School of Economics and Leeds University, which he chairs. Munich Re, the German reinsurance giant, has put in £3m and commissioned research on the risks and opportunities for its business from climate change.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Pumping iron into the ocean could help slow climate change

Pumping iron into the oceans could help to reduce global warming, according to a new study.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 8:48PM GMT 28 Jan 2009

The nutrient leads to algae blooms which help to suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and take it to the sea-floor.
Scientists believe that by adding iron to vast areas of the ocean they may be able to take the greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere and therefore slow climate change.
The report, published in Nature, found that natural iron fertilisation from volcanic islands in the Southern Ocean increased algae blooms two to threefold and the quantity of carbon dispatched to the seabed 3,000 metres below by a similar amount.
The use of iron fertilisation of the oceans has been proposed alongside other forms of "geo-engineering" to stop global warming such as putting satellites into space to create a giant sunshade or covering the icecaps to prevent melting.
However it was difficult to clearly demonstrate how effective adding iron to the oceans would be in the long term and there is still an international ban on the proposal.
Professor Richard Lampitt, of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton where the study was carried out, said: "There is potential for that although until we have completed good experiments it is impossible to say.
"There could be some unacceptable consequences for marine life and even the production of other greenhouse gases that are released back into the atmosphere by phytoplankton," he said.
"There have been about a dozen studies so far into iron fertilisation and although they increased blooms of phytoplankton none have been long-term enough to see how effective it was at taking carbon out of the game."

Comment: boosting plankton is messing with a system we don’t understand

The Times
January 29, 2009
Frank Pope, Oceans Correspondent

The transformation of huge tracts of open ocean from lifeless blue deserts to carbon dioxide-hungry blooms of green organic growth should bring joy to the hearts of environmentalists. Instead, the prospect of large-scale iron fertilisation is met only by their panicked cries of alarm.
Those in favour of iron fertilisation say that half of our planet’s carbon dioxide is already absorbed by phytoplankton blooms. Why not just add a little iron to increase the uptake? It is, after all, a natural process.
The theory of how the artificial addition of iron — essential for phytoplankton growth but often lacking in the open ocean — can help to fight climate change is simple. The iron dust sparks a vast bloom of phytoplankton, locking up large amounts of carbon dioxide in their bodies. When the plankton die some sink to the seabed, along with their carbon, to become the future’s fossil fuel.
Natural systems are never so simple, however, and each stage comes with a range of variables that has geo-engineers quibbling over economic viability. Their complexity belies another problem: we’re messing with a system we don’t understand.

Even the physics of the weather escapes our detailed understanding, and reflecting sunlight with giant mirrors or seeded clouds may cause unintended consequences. Tinkering with biology, however, brings with it an entirely different level of complexity.Phytoplankton are not just any form of biology either. They make up the planet’s biggest biomass and are at the base of most marine food webs. Previous experiments show that fertilisation appears to alter the species composition of plankton communities, favouring larger species over small.
It’s tempting to think changes on this scale would make no difference, but microscopic animals that eat small species can’t eat the big ones, and the effects cascade upwards through food webs. Because of phytoplankton’s position at the very base of marine life, changes to their population dynamics and diversity could easily upset the balance of entire ecosystems.
Opponents of iron fertilisation say that climate change is only one of the problems we face.
The effects of plummeting biodiversity are harder to predict financially and so receive less attention, but ecosystems and the diversity of life they contain are just as important when it comes to making the planet habitable for the likes of us. To environmentalists, life in the sea is already on a knife edge. Endangering the resilience of these systems in an effort to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide is like swerving away from a six-headed monster only to end up heading for a whirlpool.

EU calls on America to create transatlantic carbon trading scheme

Brussels capitalises on optimism about Obama's green agenda with proposal to expand carbon trading system
Ian Traynor, Brussels, Wednesday 28 January 2009 15.54 GMT

The Obama administration should join Europe in an ambitious new transatlantic pact to combat climate change, Brussels proposed today.
Seeking to seize on the excitement generated by the election of the new US president and hoping to co-opt Barack Obama's green agenda for a powerful alliance to tackle global warming, the European commission called on the Americans to establish a joint carbon trading scheme with Europe modelled on the system operating in the EU since 2005.
Unveiling the commission's pitch for the crucial round of global climate talks later this year in Copenhagen, Stavros Dimas, the environment commissioner, added that if the new US administration joins the system for auctioning polluting rights, it should then be extended to other industrialised countries and later to the big developing countries, transforming it into a global carbon market by 2020.
Dimas described this year's Copenhagen meetings, aimed at clinching a new global climate change deal to succeed the Kyoto protocol, as "a last chance" to get global warming under control before it passes the point of no return.
He appealed to President Obama to join the EU in the fight to save the planet. "It appears Obama prefers cap and trade," said Dimas, describing the new US leader's initial statements on global warming as "tremendously encouraging."
Senior officials from Brussels set off for Washington today to try to get the measure of the new administration on climate change policy after Dimas wrote to Obama on Tuesday to try to enlist the Americans in his campaign.
"Many of the new ideas that will move us away from our carbon addiction will come from America," Dimas told Obama. "America has the diplomatic and financial resources that, when added to the efforts of the EU, can help bring the rest of the world on board."
Dimas clearly hopes that such a joint EU-US strategy could bear fruit in Copenhagen in December in persuading the likes of China, Brazil, India, Russia, and Japan to forge a common front across the developed and developing world.
Today's policy paper from the commission was the opening salvo in what will inevitably be tough negotiations in Copenhagen.
The policy outline, which is to be debated at a summit of European government leaders in March and may still be changed, calls on developing countries to limit the growth in their greenhouse gases by up to 30% by 2020, compared with business as usual, as revealed by the Guardian in December. In return, it commits the EU to a 30% cut compared to 1990 levels by the same deadline, if agreement is reached with the other big international polluters.
The EU is already pledged to a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 even without a Copenhagen accord.
The EU package is aimed at keeping the rise in the Earth's temperature to a minimum of 2C, and Dimas believes that global carbon emissions need to be halved by 2050. To achieve this Europe would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95% by that date.
The cost of success in meeting the targets, said the commission, will be €175bn a year by 2020, with around half of that money being spent in the developing world. Spending on research in green technologies would need to be quadrupled by 2020.
The commission reckoned that the industrialised world will need to pour in subsidies worth up to €54bna year into the developing countries.
But arguments are looming about who will foot the bill and about equitable burden-sharing.
NGOs such as Oxfam criticised the commission proposals as doing too little to alleviate poverty in the developing world, arguing that the poor countries faced the most "devastating impact" from global warming generated in the rich countries.
But Greenpeace welcomed the commission's paper as a good start while complaining that precise figures on how many billions would need to be transferred to the developing world had been dropped from earlier drafts.
"The commission has come up with a decent blueprint, but has shown it is unable to put its euros where its mouth is and support credible amounts of aid to prevent a global climate catastrophe," said Joris den Blanken, Greenpeace EU climate and energy policy director.
Dimas admitted that the issue of funding the impact of climate change in the poor countries would be a crucial topic at Copenhagen and mentioned a figure of £30bn in possible annual transfers from the rich to the poor. "Without a credible financial package there will be no deal in Copenhagen. No money, no deal," he said.
Senior commission officials also signalled that they would use the Copenhagen negotiations to push to reform and perhaps even scrap the so-called Clean Development Mechanism, an instrument under Kyoto that allows wealthy countries to offset their emissions reductions obligations through investment in green projects in the developing world.
The officials admitted that the system is being abused by both rich and poor countries, and noted that some of the beneficiary countries were wealthier than some of the countries doing the subsidising.
"There is some cheating," said a commission official. "And some of the developing countries are much richer than some [EU] member states."