Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Climate change experts call on G20 members to commit to action

• Last-ditch effort to gain specific promises at G20 • Leaked communique all but ignores green issues
Patrick Wintour and David Adam
The Guardian, Tuesday 31 March 2009

A last-ditch effort is being made to insert clearer green commitments into the global economic recovery package. The move comes amid fears amongst some British government officials that the G20 summit is in danger of missing a unique opportunity to prevent the world from being locked into irreversible and catastrophic climate change.
Gordon Brown yesterday promised that a commitment to tackle the environment will be one of the five tests of the communique due to be released following the summit on Thursday, adding "there were long hours of hard negotiations ahead".
Number 10 counselled caution insisting that the main climate change event of the year will be at Copenhagen in December, when the UN hopes to reach a global deal to replace the Kyoto agreement.
The draft G20 communique leaked at the weekend makes only the smallest reference to climate change, and appears to be vague on the subject of how green the $2tn (£1.4tn) stimulus package agreed by world leaders should be.
This provoked the eminent climatologist James Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, to tell the Guardian: "If this is the best they can do, then their 'planet in peril' rhetoric is probably just that - empty rhetoric."
Professor Robert Watson, chief scientific adviser for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also voiced concern about the limited commitment to a low-carbon economy: "I think it [low-carbon recovery] deserves a higher profile. Everybody seems to be focusing on short-term recovery and getting long-term regulation of the banks right. I haven't heard anything that suggests the green recovery and climate change are a major part of the [G20] agenda."
He added: "It would be a missed opportunity while they're talking about the economy not to talk about how to transform it to low carbon."
Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group, which works with major businesses and governments to promote a low-carbon economy, said: "What is lacking from the statement as a whole is timetables, targets and amounts. It lacks specifics on anything."
Some senior British officials privately believe the framing of the G20 stimulus package to ensure it has a large green element will be as decisive in the battle against climate change as the outcome of the UN talks on climate change in Copenhagen.
British ministerial sources insisted last night that there will be no mention in the communique of what proportion of the new jobs stimulated by the economic recovery package will be low-carbon roles. They suggested that any mention of green jobs might be seen as a form of covert protectionism by some members of the G20.
British officials said yesterday they regard it as essential that during the summit China gets a clear message from countries such as South Africa, Mexico, France, Germany, Britain and the US that they are all committed to tackling climate change and that China will not be put at a disadvantage if it shapes a low-carbon recovery.
Lord Stern, the government's former climate change adviser, yesterday tried to increase the pressure on the G20 by arguing that the worst recession since the 1930s gave the world the opportunity to lay the foundations for growth over several decades, based on low-carbon technology and energy efficiency.
He said the argument that the first priority was to deal with the current economic crisis and postpone action on climate change was "wrong and should be confronted".
He called for the G20 leaders to send out a signal that the "difficult" work of getting the specifics of a deal in place needed to be done. "This is an opportunity to have a green recovery that lays the foundations of growth for the next two to three decades."
A report by HSBC found that the US, Europe, China and South Korea lead global "green" spending plans after committing $300bn-$500bn to boost low-carbon technologies under wider plans to boost the global economy.
Green spend accounts for about 15% of the total economic spending of $2tn-$3tn.

Carbon Trust launches new guide to overcoming board resistance

Step-by-step guide aims to help green executives pitch projects to the board. From BusinessGreen.com, part of Guardian Environment Network

James Murray
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 March 2009 12.17 BST

Anyone who has spent any length of time working as a sustainability exec knows that if a green project is going to die a death it is most likely to do so on the altar of board resistance.
Now the Carbon Trust is seeking to aid executives struggling to convince senior management to support green investments with the launch of a new guide detailing how facilities managers, works engineers, and environmental managers should go about making an effective business case for low carbon investments.
Developed in response to repeated requests for support from managers who have found it difficult to convince the board to authorise green investments, the guide draws upon advice from senior board-level executives and offers step-by-step advice on how to properly research a project proposal, build the business case, and draft and present the final proposal.
"For any business there is a finite pool of resource, and the first priority for any investment will be to drive the business forward," said Hugh Jones, Director of Solutions at the Carbon Trust. "It is therefore vital for managers to be able to make a compelling and robust business case for their low-carbon project which stacks up against other business priorities and which clearly articulates the ROI [return on investment]."
The guide also sets out the common mistakes made by environmental professionals when asking for investment, including using inaccessible jargon, failing to identify projects risks, failing to use proper ROI and financial assessment calculations, and not giving a single clear recommendation.
It has been launched alongside a new online guide that also provides advice on each planning stage for a new project, including defining a projects needs, developing the business case, selecting a supplier and specifying project requirements.
• From BusinessGreen.com, part of Guardian Environment Network

Carbon blanket will soon be spread to cover emissions from mainstream industry

The Times
March 31, 2009

Robin Pagnamenta

Energy companies are already familiar with measuring and trading their carbon emissions, but now regular businesses and other organisations are poised to follow suit.
Under the Government's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme, announced last May, from next year every organisation that consumes more than 6,000 megawatt hours of electricity in 2008 — or about £500,000-worth — will need to buy carbon allowances.
The mandatory cap and trade scheme will affect 5,000 large companies and local authorities in Britain and is aimed at slashing the country's total carbon emissions by an extra 1.2 million tonnes a year by 2020.
The proceeds will be paid back later to participants based on their organisation's performance during that year, as ranked in a league table based on carbon reduction and early action.

For many chief executives, keeping on top of changing rules and regulations like this is a constant game of catch-up.
But, for those that manage to stay one step ahead by preparing for rules before their introduction, it can be an excellent way to gain advantages over their rivals, Harry Morrison, of the Carbon Trust, argues.
Curbing emissions by reducing energy waste can also deliver something even better, especially in these straitened times: cost savings.
That's why a growing number of organisations are turning to the Carbon Trust Standard, a voluntary and independent certification scheme designed to help them monitor their emissions using a respected, common methodology — and to demonstrate the cuts they achieve.
“We feel strongly that leading businesses that take action now can get a double benefit, both in preparing for the legislation and also in terms of their public reputation,” he said.
“These groups really need to be thinking now about how they are going to comply with the CRC scheme and achieving the Carbon Trust Standard will be a very good start.”
Sixty-five groups have already signed up to the standard, including some of the best-known names in British business such as B&Q, Morrisons and O2 and a string of public sector organisations like Woking Borough Council, the Crown Prosecution Service, London Fire Brigade and King's College London.
Adrian Swindells, general manager of Abbey Corrugated, the packaging group, said: “We now understand that having gained the standard we will have a higher ranking in the CRC league table. This will definitely reduce costs to the business. We are now much better on business housekeeping with controlled start-ups and shutdowns that help to reduce energy use.
“And the standard has aligned closely with other certifications that the company has, ensuring we have robust systems and procedures to continually reduce our carbon footprint and energy consumption.”
Mark Willcox, development director at Branston, the foods group, said: “Branston has improved its carbon efficiency by 6 per cent in 2008. Gaining the Carbon Trust Standard also makes us eligible for a significant reduction under the CRC.”
Not only is the standard a good way for organisations to prepare for the introduction of the CRC and to bolster their reputation among consumers, it is also delivering real cash savings by identifying waste in their use of transport fuels, electricity, gas and oil.
“The 65 groups that have signed up have already achieved savings totalling £73 million,” said Mr Morrison, who describes the programme as an “holistic package that is designed to measure, manage and reduce their emissions”.
Organisations that sign up to the Carbon Trust Standard undergo a rigorous analysis of their energy use across all their buildings, plants and vehicles over a three-year period.
A comprehensive set of data on emissions is then produced which, assuming the right actions have been taken, can hopefully be shown to be heading down over time.
While membership of the standard does not in itself ensure compliance with the CRC scheme, it is one of the factors that counts towards performance in the league table, as part of an organisation's early action score.
It also perfectly positions companies for its introduction by ensuring they are measuring and reducing their emissions using the correct methodology and focusing management attention on the issue.
The financial impact of the CRC scheme is set to grow over time. An introductory phase is due to start in April 2010, under which all allowances will be sold at a fixed price. However, from April 2013, allowances will be allocated through auctions, with the number of credits available being reduced over time.

180,000 tonnes of other people's waste dumped in Scotland

Published Date: 31 March 2009
By Jenny Haworth
Environment Correspondent

SCOTLAND disposed of more than 180,000 tonnes of rubbish from outside its borders in a single year, The Scotsman can reveal.
The waste sent to Scotland to be dealt with included contaminated soil, polluted dredging spoils, chemical waste, industrial sludge, scrap metal and asbestos. Almost 70,000 tonnes came from England and was either dumped in landfill, recycled or composted, according to new data from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).Some 35,364 tonnes was disposed of in Lothian and Borders, 12,466 tonnes was sent to Fife, 9,121 tonnes to Glasgow and the Clyde Valley, 3,610 tonnes to Tayside and 2,435 tonnes to the Forth Valley.Across Scotland, up to 94,000 tonnes of waste dumped in landfill came from outside this country, mainly from England and Northern Ireland. This was about 1 per cent of all the rubbish sent to landfill in Scotland.Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland said it was a "concern" and that rubbish should be dealt with as close to its site of origin as possible – known as the "proximity principle". Duncan McLaren, the chief executive of FoE Scotland, said: "It's a policy stance of ours and of the Scottish Government to use the proximity principle in terms of dealing with waste. Any amount that has been unnecessarily transported is of concern. "We have in the past commented pretty scathingly about mixed municipal waste coming from Northern Ireland. It shouldn't be transported across the Irish Sea."He said the severity of the problem would depend on how far the waste had been transported. "If it has literally come five miles over the Border, it may be obeying the proximity principle, but if it has come from London and gone to Fife, it is hard to see how it could be."The idea that something that comes from even the north of England needs to go as far as Fife raises questions as to whether the proximity principle is being adhered to."Sepa has published reviews that show the quantities of waste dealt with in each area of Scotland in 2006-7. It is the first time the data have been collected, so it is impossible to know whether the amount of waste from England dumped in Scotland has been increasing or decreasing.The reason rubbish is sent to Scotland could be because landfill companies charge cheaper prices, or because there are facilities to cater for specialist waste such as asbestos or electronics that do not exist near where it was produced.A spokeswoman for Sepa said on some occasions waste was transported so it could be dealt with in more suitable facilities."There are quite large electrical companies in Scotland that, instead of just dumping it, are recycling it and doing something with it," she said.She added some of the waste might not have travelled very far, despite coming from England.

'Super sized lions' roamed UK in ice age

'Super-sized lions' roamed the British Isles as recently as 13,000 years ago, according to an Oxford University study looking at the fossilised remains of the giant creatures.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 4:31PM BST 30 Mar 2009

Huge lions once roamed Britain alongside tigers and jaguars. By comparing their skulls, scientists revealed that British lions would have weighed up to 50 stone (317kg) ? the equivalent of a small car ? compared to African lions which weigh up to 39 ston

Previously, scientists had thought prehistoric big cats were more like jaguars or tigers.
However comparisons between the skulls of modern big cats and the fossilised remains of their ancestors revealed the animals found in the British Isles, Europe and North America as recently as 13,000 years ago were more like lions.

Dr Ross Barnett, who conducted the work at Oxford University's Department of Zoology, said the extinct species were "supersized lions" that hunted giant deer and woolly mammoth in a frozen landscape.
"These ancient lions were like a supersized version of today's lions, up to 25 per cent bigger than those we know today and, in the Americas, with longer legs adapted for endurance running.
"What our genetic evidence shows is that these ancient extinct lions and the lions of today were very closely related. Meanwhile, cave art suggests that they formed prides, although the males appear not to have had manes."
The researchers looked at remains of animals from the Pleistocene period (1.8 million years ago – 10,000 years ago). Fossils have been found in Germany, Siberia, Europe, Alaska and Wyoming in the USA.
Dr Barnett said the "Pleistocene lions" could be divided into two genetically distinct subgroups. One that inhabited northern Eurasia as well as Alaska and the Yukon and the other that lived in the southern half of North America.
He added: "This unusual distribution is explained by Ice Age geography when a land bridge linked Siberia and Alaska, enabling ancient lions to cross from Eurasia into North America. At some point the North American ice sheets would have interrupted this migration route – creating these two genetically distinct groups of animals."
The animals would have lived in a very different world from the African savannah, hunting for mammoth and giant deer in a landscape that represented the modern Russian Steppe. No one knows why they went extinct, but it has been suggested humans may have contributed to the decline.

Peter Mandelson puts UKAEA clean-up crew up for sale

The UK Atomic Energy Authority's decommissioning business will be the next piece of the nuclear industry to be privatised
Phillip Inman
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 March 2009 20.46 BST

The break-up and privatisation of Britain's nuclear industry will complete its first phase by the summer after business secretary Peter Mandelson today agreed to sell the UK Atomic Energy Authority's decommissioning business unit.
The planned sale follows the privatisation of large swaths of formerly government­-owned nuclear generation and decommissioning facilities, leaving the regulation of the industry, research and development and some consultancy businesses in public hands.
More than 200 staff at UKAEA who handle decommissioning, waste management and clean-up of Dounreay fast breeder reactors and ageing Magnox plants Harwell and Winfrith will be part of the sale.
In a written statement, Mandelson said the government would keep a minority stake in the business and hoped to complete a deal before the end of July.
The winning bidder is expected to be in prime position to pick up work undertaken by UKAEA and decommissioning work offered separately by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, though the government has pledged that rival bidders will enjoy a level playing field whichever firm succeeds in buying the unit.
Following the sale, the government is expected to offer contracts for decommissioning Dounreay, Harwell and Winfrith.
Mandelson said: "The sale is recognition of the work done by management in creating a commercially viable enterprise that has become an important repository of key nuclear skills that will help ensure that the UK will remain at the forefront of the nuclear services industry."
The Tories suggested the sale was motivated by a pressing need to boost the public finances. "The timing of this sale raises concerns," said the shadow energy secretary, Greg Clark. "This sale may be being made to help the government out of a short-term cash crisis at the expense of our long-term competitiveness.
"The government has awarded contracts worth millions of pounds to UKAEA Limited for decommissioning nuclear power stations and is reliant on the company to deliver them. The government must have cast-iron guarantees that any buyer will not hold the taxpayer to ransom for further payments for decommissioning Dounreay, Harwell and Winfrith."
UKAEA chairwoman Barbara Judge said more than 500 staff would remain at UKAEA to handle IT services for the industry, property development on nuclear sites and a fledgling consultancy business.
Bidders are expected to include several private equity firms and engineering firms such as Amec and Bechtel.
US energy firm Fluor has indicated it wants to enter the UK market after teaming up with Toshiba to develop a new generation of nuclear reactors in the US. Last year it lost out to Amec on a £1.3bn contract to clean up Sellafield. In January Mandelson welcomed Fluor's plans to expand its presence in the UK with a new headquarters in Farnborough, Surrey.

Tories attack plans to sell off UKAEA's clean-up business

By Ed Crooks and Jean Eaglesham
Published: March 31 2009 03:00

A sell-off of the UK Atomic Energy Authority's commercial nuclear clean-up business was announced by the government yesterday, prompting Conservative accusations of a "fire sale".
The privatisation of some or all of UKAEA Limited is expected to raise about £50m for the government, and represents one of the final sales from Britain's state-owned nuclear industry.
Last night, the Tories questioned whether selling the business in the "fire sale environment" of the financial crisis would reap the maximum return for the taxpayer. "Britain needs to be building up its nuclear capabilities," said Greg Clark, the shadow energy secretary.
He expressed concern that the sale could be designed "to help the government out of a short-term cash crisis, at the expense of our long-term competitiveness".
The criticism foreshadows a wider political debate over the timing of asset sales that will come to the fore with next month's Budget.
However, the company and the government said yesterday that the reason for the sale was not the need to raise funds for the hard-pressed public finances, but the ambition to free UKAEA Ltd to compete for nuclear decommissioning work in Britain and internationally.
The revival of the nuclear industry in many countries - prompted by recent high fossil fuel prices and concerns about climate change - is creating a huge market for companies with the necessary skills.
As well as the clean-up of old nuclear sites, companies seeking to build new reactors will need to make provision for the eventual decommissioning of the facilities, creating opportunities for UKAEA Ltd in consultancy and project management.
Lady Judge, who chairs the atomic energy authority, said: "UKAEA Ltd is a decommissioning business par excellence, and it has an awful lot of work to do. But to get into the new-build business, we need a stronger financial backer."
She rejected the suggestion that the government was being pushed into a quick sale, saying the privatisation had been in preparation since 2004.
Some British companies have already expressed an interest in the business, and potential international buyers are also likely to come forward. Lady Judge said the buyer was "at least as likely to be a British company as a foreign one".
Possible buyers include the UK businesses Amec and VT Group, both of which have nuclear engineering operations. Areva of France and CH2M and URS of the US are also likely to be interested. The sale was backed last night by Prospect, the union representing nuclear engineers. The chosen buyer will not simply be the highest bidder, but the company that offers the best combination of cash and development plans for the business.
UKAEA Ltd, with a current annual turnover of £31m, is working on Britain's fourth-largest decommissioning project at Dounreay, northern Scotland.
Under European Union rules, the government cannot give financial guarantees to help it win contracts.
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' energy spokesman, called government nuclear policy "costly, risky and unnecessary". He added: "Liberal Democrats believe that we should decommission our old nuclear power stations and not recommission new ones."
Meanwhile, potential privatisations expected to be highlighted in the Budget include the Royal Mint and the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London. Other state-owned assets that could be earmarked for sale include British Waterways's canal-side properties.
But last year's failure to sell the Tote highlighted the relative dearth of private sector buyers in current market conditions.
Alistair Darling, the chancellor, has asked Gerry Grimstone, the chairman of Standard Life, to review the state's portfolio of 29 businesses to find ways to maximise return to the taxpayer.
The UK and atomic energy
Nuclear businesses sold off: Westinghouse, the nuclear engineer: sold to Toshiba for £2.9bn, 2006
BNFL services: sold to VT Group for up to £75m, 2007
British Energy, the nuclear generator: 36 per cent stake sold to EDF for £4.4bn, 2008
Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston: one-third stake sold to Jacobs Engineering of the US for an estimated £100m, 2008
Nuclear assets still held UKAEA Limited: up for sale, price about £50m
Nuclear Decommissioning Authority sites: auction under way
Urenco, uranium enrichment company: sale of government's one-third stake delayed indefinitely
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

GM firmly in slow lane with ten-year-old 'green' technology

Published Date: 31 March 2009

JUST as General Motors is facing possible oblivion due to its over-reliance on 4x4s, its greener models are receiving plaudits.
Technology developed a decade ago for GM's EV-1, an innovative sports car, is being used for a new generation of hybrid electric-petrol engine vehicles, under the Volt banner, which are due on sale in the US next year.Dr Paul Nieuwenhuis, an industry expert from Cardiff University's business school, said GM scrapped the EV-1 after deciding it could make more money from 4x4-type vehicles. He said of the Volt: "Due next year, they say – they are good."Philip Gomm, a spokesman for the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, said: "It is ironic that GM's greener models have gained good reviews. "Perhaps GM should have used more of their profits during the good years to design and build cars for an age when oil is in ever shorter supply, when many of their customers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their decision making."Edmund King, the president of the Automobile Association, said: "The GM Volt is potentially a massive step forward in greener technology."

Comrie takes Quayle Munro down green route with Argyll plan

Published Date: 31 March 2009
By Hamish Rutherford

EDINBURGH investment bank Quayle Munro has signalled a new focus on green energy projects after being appointed to raise up to £70 million to build the Carraig Gheal Wind Farm in Argyll.
Quayle Munro's head of corporate finance Rob Cormie yesterday admitted that obtaining large debt facilities for new projects in the face of a recession continued to be difficult. But he struck a confident note over the Argyll scheme, maintaining he had a strong proposition to go to banks with.Speaking as his firm announced it had been chosen to raise the cash, Cormie added: "There is no reason why we can't get this done over the summer".Carraig Gheal is a joint venture between Alloa-based GreenPower and Statkraft, a Norwegian state owned electricity company. Granted planning permission last June, the 60 megawatt proposal could be completed next year. But it is dependent on debt finance and while many projects are being held up by funding issues, Cormie claimed there is still investor interest in projects with potential.He explained: "There are still six to eight banks in this market who have capital to invest, and its a very sensible, well-structured project in the right place."While some investment funds were mandated to invest in ethical businesses, Cormie said he would be pitching to banks for the funding on purely financial grounds. He added: "It won't get overt brownie points because it's green, it'll get brownie points because it's well-structured, and they (banks] can make money out of it."A former City investment banker and partner on KPMG's corporate finance team, Cormie was hired by Quayle Munro last autumn to "sort out corporate finance in Scotland".Yesterday he signalled a new focus on Scottish wind power for the Aim-listed bank, claiming good projects could be financially sound in a regulatory system which encouraged renewable energy projects. "For Scotland this is a core market that has, and will, survive."

Stern: 'Kingsnorth should be shelved'

There is no technology yet to make coal-fired station clean, says climate adviser
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Lord Stern said the climate crisis was so urgent that we must reduce carbon dioxide emissions as fast and as soon as we can

Britain's latest coal-fired power station should not be built, according to Lord Stern of Brentford, the economist who led the Government's review into the financial cost of climate change. Lord Stern called on the Government to halt the planning process and said that the new coal-fired power station proposed for Kingsnorth in Kent cannot be justified until the technology is developed to capture and store its huge carbon dioxide emissions.
It is the first time that the author of the landmark 2006 Stern Review has spoken out against coal power.
Coal is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide release per megawatt of electricity generated. Lord Stern said it was important to send out a message to other countries, notably China, that Britain will not contemplate new coal-fired power stations until carbon capture and storage is proved to work.

"We shouldn't go ahead because coal is so polluting and we need very strong examples of how to move forward with our electricity supply in a way that doesn't use coal... without carbon capture and storage," Lord Stern said.
It could take 10 or 15 years to develop the technology, where carbon dioxide emissions are prevented from being released into the atmosphere to exacerbate global warming. "There are other ways we can handle the interim," he said. "The fastest way is to put up a gas-fired power station. That is emitting, but much less so than coal. We've got to build up solar and wind."
Last year, James Hansen, the leading Nasa climate scientist, said: "Kingsnorth is a terrible idea. One power plant with a lifetime of several decades will destroy the efforts of millions of citizens to reduce their emissions."
Lord Stern said the climate crisis was so urgent that we must reduce carbon dioxide emissions as fast and as soon as we can, otherwise the expected increase in global average temperatures could exceed 5C above pre-industrial levels.
"We haven't seen temperatures like that for 30 million years," Lord Stern said. "We've got to understand the magnitude of the risks we face. It will transform where we live. Some places will be deserts, others will be racked by storms. It will involve the likely movement of hundreds of millions, possibly billions of people, and extended conflict."

Living walls and green roofs pave way for biodiversity in new building

Otters could return to urban rivers, bats could roost under bridges, swifts could flock to office blocks and peregrine falcons soar above cathedrals under recommendations from the UK Green Building Council

Felicity Carus
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 March 2009 18.26 BST

What do the Westfield shopping centre, Canary Wharf and a Victorian museum have in common? They are all at the vanguard of a move to encourage biodiversity in buildings that could take on an unprecedented scale if guidelines published today are adopted.
Under recommendations from the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) for developers, planners and policy-makers, Otters could return to urban rivers, bats could roost under bridges, swifts could flock to office blocks and peregrine falcons soar above cathedrals. Existing examples of encouraging biodiversity in buildings include the Westfield shopping centre in west London and its "living wall" planted with wildflowers, Canary Wharf's assortment of biodiversity initiatives, and the south London Horniman Museum's green roof, one of the country's first.
Carol Williams, the chairwoman of the UKGBC task group of biodiversity and construction industry experts, said the government's target for all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 is changing attitudes in the construction industry. "The construction and property sector has been pilloried in the past for its negative impact on green space, wildlife and habitat – but the industry can actually have a positive influence on ecological value. If we don't make provision for wildlife now, then we might not be able to attract it retrospectively quite so easily," she said.
The UKGBC task group - which included Natural England, the Association of Local Government Ecologists, Bovis Lend Lease, the Canary Wharf Group, Grimshaw Architects - recommended 10 ways to encourage and enhance biodiversity in the built environment.
Just some of the design features which would encourage biodiversity in cities are specially made nesting bricks built into cavity walls for birds such as swifts and starlings, or ledges that mimic cliff faces for peregrine falcons which are attracted to tall buildings. Cathedrals, office blocks in Canary Wharf and Battersea power station in south London are all known to have housed breeding birds of prey.
Green corridors will allow other mammals to "commute", said Williams, and careful lighting and roosting boxes under bridges will allow Daubenton's and pipistrelle bats to inhabit areas which are ususally too bright for them.
But according to Dave Wakelin of sustainability consultants Hilson Moran, "green roofs" have the biggest impact on biodiversity in cities, because patches of roofspace that mimic grassland or shale environments can create their own ecosystem. Black redstarts, he says, have been attracted back to Canary Wharf by the shrill carder bee, a ground nesting bee that burrows into the sediments in the shale in the roof garden at 20 Cabot Tower.
In the City of London, CCTV is trained on peregrine falcons nesting in an office block so that staff can watch the progess of a breeding pair, as chicks hatch. Wakelin said this is just one initiative to get office workers more interested in the "priority" species in their city.
"We see buildings as extensions of green space. They are like fingers of greenery spreading out between buildings and act as green stepping stones between bigger areas of green space mean that you haven't got so many barren spaces left in cities."
Paul King, chief executive of the UKGBC, said: "If done well, new developments can actually create habitats in which wild species thrive, and which we can all enjoy. Green roofs, living walls, and good old-fashioned parks and green spaces in our built environment can make us all feel happier and healthier, and give something back to nature."
Environment minister Huw Irranca-Davies welcomed the report. He said: "Our wildlife brings opportunities as well as challenges, and this report demonstrates how the construction industry can show leadership in recognising how protecting and enhancing the UK's wildlife can bring economic as well as environmental benefits."

Renewables desperate to feel breath of funds

By Sheila McNulty in Houston
Published: March 31 2009 02:34

Renewables groups squeezed by the economic crisis are going bankrupt in spite of the billions in new funding for the sector earmarked by the administration of Barack Obama.
It could take several months for the government to establish a regulatory framework to disburse the funds set aside in the administration’s stimulus package to build a “green” economy. In the meantime, some companies already are in an untenable position.

Investment in renewables has been delayed or even terminated as the credit crisis has dried up capital. The slowdown has also resulted in sluggish sales of clean technology while plunging oil and natural gas prices have made such projects less economically viable.
“That has put a lot of pressure on companies operating in the renewable area,’’ said Charles Swanson, the managing partner of Ernst & Young’s Houston office. “They are starting to struggle mightily.’’
Ethanol producers in particular have been under pressure as a result of volatile corn prices.
VeraSun, Greater Ohio Ethanol and Gateway Ethanol were among the first victims, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last October. The trend has continued this year, with Renew Energy and Northeast Bio-fuels filing in January.
The latest victim, Aventine Renewable Energy, told investors on March 16: “We do not expect to have sufficient liquidity to meet anticipated working capital, debt service and other liquidity needs during the current year unless we experience a significant improvement in ethanol margins or obtain other sources of liquidity.’’
The company is seeking additional debt and equity financing, as well as a potential sale of all or part of the business but admits it might not be successful in the current environment.
“If we cannot obtain sufficient liquidity in the very near term, we may need to seek to restructure under Chapter 11,’’ Aventine said.
The Obama administration says renewables were not given enough attention under the previous administration of George W. Bush. It has uncovered a backlog of 200 solar power project applications and 20 wind project applications awaiting action.
Ken Salazar, interior secretary, quickly established a taskforce to spur the development of such projects. “For the last administration, renewable energy simply wasn’t a priority,” he said. “They focused their time and resources almost exclusively on permitting for oil and gas.”
The Obama administration’s stimulus package includes $56bn in grants and tax breaks for US clean energy projects over the next 10 years and a budget calling for $15bn annually for renewable energy programmes. Yet Mr Swanson said: “Few, if any, of the funds have actually been distributed.’’
Once they are, he says, the financial support will enable many distressed companies to survive. “It’s certainly going to be a lifeline to get through the next five years.’’
Yet for renewables to take off long term, they must be able to compete with fossil fuels economically without government assistance. Estimates of the potential contribution to US energy supply of renewables varies from 10 per cent to 20 per cent in 20 years.
Rex Tillerson, chief executive of ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest publicly listed oil and gas company, said this month that the US needed to be realistic about how much renewables could add to the energy mix and within what timeframe. Exxon is not, at present, making any renewable investments, but Mr Tillerson said it had plenty of time. “We just think the timeline is very, very long, so we’re not going to miss anything.”’
Karl Miller, an energy expert and institutional investor with experience in utilities and energy trading, intends to hold off investing in renewables.
“Investors like me will be waiting on the sidelines ­during the short-term boom period and will look to step in and buy assets for pennies on the dollar when the renewable bust comes in a few years,’’ Mr Miller said.
By then, he said, the market would be littered with uneconomical renewable projects. As an investment model, he suggests, one need only look at the ethanol boom and bust of the past three years. “It was a clear demonstration that government handouts simply do not work.’’
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Cleaning It Won't Be Dirt Cheap

The Technology to Scrub Out Carbon Dioxide Is Within Reach, but It Costs Too Much Money and Consumes Too Much Energy

Pleasant Prairie, Wis.
Big industry calls it the future. Al Gore suggests it's a fantasy. Whatever the truth about "clean coal," consumers will be paying for it one way or another.
Coal, more than any other fuel, powers the planet. It is the primary source of electricity in dominant economies from the U.S. to China to Germany. In all those places, coal is cheap and, unlike oil, domestically plentiful. Its use is rising, particularly in developing countries that soon will consume more energy than the industrialized world.

Coal's problem is that it is dirty. When burned, it spews out more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel. Globally, burning coal to make electricity is the biggest single source of man-made CO2 -- bigger than gasoline-powered cars and trucks. Governments world-wide are advocating massive cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions. It is hard to see how those cuts could materialize without clean coal.
Clean coal refers to the idea of harnessing the black rock's energy while safely disposing of the resulting CO2 rather than sending it skyward. In dueling television commercials, the power industry portrays it as a silver bullet nearly ready to be deployed, while environmental groups allied with Mr. Gore imply it's a smokescreen from a fossil-fuel industry under fire.
Right now, clean coal seems both possible and improbable. The basic elements of clean coal are already in use in small corners of industry. But whether it is broadly and quickly adopted around the world will depend less on science than on economics. Cleaning coal is very expensive.
Home to one of the world's most advanced clean-coal tests, the Pleasant Prairie power plant exposes the hyperbole on both sides of the debate. Fired up three decades ago, the plant has run full-bore ever since, adapting time and again to new environmental rules and still churning out some of the cheapest energy in the nation. It burns some 13,000 tons of coal daily to produce 13% of the electricity consumed by all of Wisconsin.
New rooms of machinery have been added to scrub a swirl of pollutants from the plant's exhaust before it is released into the air. Today, half as much space at the plant is devoted to preventing pollution as to producing power. That has slashed the plant's output of chemicals that cause respiratory disease and acid rain. But it has done nothing to trim the plant's emissions of CO2. This coal-fired power plant is cleaner than it once was, but it still isn't "clean." This plant pours out some 8.6 million tons of CO2 annually -- about as much as 1.7 million U.S. cars.
Is clean coal a real solution to Americas energy problems? WSJ's Jeff Ball goes to Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin to examine a clean coal plant.
The first step in making coal more climate-friendly is for a power plant to capture most of its CO2. A handful of plants today capture small amounts of the gas for reasons unrelated to climate change. One in Maryland, for example, sells it for making soft drinks and beer, and for freezing food. One byproduct of power generation is steam, and the federal government offers incentives to plants that make more-efficient use of it. Steam is also used to capture CO2.
A year ago, the Pleasant Prairie plant entered this first phase with an experiment to capture its CO2. The machinery for extracting the gas here is three stories tall. But at the 425-acre plant, it seems tiny. Its pipes pull a bit of exhaust from the power plant and then remove the CO2 in a process that involves mixing the gas with ammonia.
So far, the test is grabbing only about 1% of the greenhouse gas the plant coughs out. The method still consumes too much energy, says Sean Black, a manager at Alstom SA, the French company managing the test. "We're just in the beginning of this process," he says.
The second step -- one not yet attempted here at the Wisconsin plant -- is to take the captured CO2 and dispose of it safely, perhaps by burying it. CO2 has been shot underground for decades in places like Texas, where it is injected into aging oil and gas fields to force the remaining fossil fuel up through wells. Some 30 million tons of CO2 are injected into oil and gas wells annually in the U.S., according to federal statistics. That is tiny -- less than 1% of the roughly six billion tons of CO2 the country annually exhales.
Howard Herzog, a leading clean-coal specialist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a technological optimist and a political realist. He believes scientists can find ways to slash power plants' CO2 output just like they figured out how to slash those plants' output of pollutants that foul air and streams. But it will take a lot of money: MIT recommended in a recent study that the U.S. nearly quadruple its clean-coal spending, to $1 billion a year. And that is just for research.

It also will take patience. An anticoal backlash is gathering steam in the U.S., and Mr. Herzog worries it will block all new coal-fired power plants in the country, which could boost electricity prices. A rational compromise, he believes, would be to allow new coal-fired plants to keep their CO2 emissions at the same level as natural-gas-fired plants through the use of cleaning technology. That would amount to an emissions cut of about 50% below the level of a conventional coal-fired plant, while raising the cost of generation by 50%, Mr. Herzog figures. Consumers probably wouldn't see rate boosts that high, he says, because generating costs are only one factor in determining retail electricity rates.
Still, clean coal has proven too expensive before. Earlier this decade, the federal government launched a multibillion-dollar research program intended to build a carbon-free, coal-fired power plant. Last year, when the cost of that program nearly doubled to $1.8 billion, the government effectively shut it down.
The Pleasant Prairie power plant is a monument to the fickleness of the nation's energy priorities -- and to the stubborness of coal. Designed in the wake of sweeping 1970s federal environmental laws, the power plant was the first built by Wisconsin Energy Corp. to burn coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin rather than from nearby Illinois or Appalachia. One reason is that Western coal is lower than the Eastern variety in sulfur, which forms a pollutant the laws capped.
At the time, Wisconsin Energy intended to build new nuclear plants, too. But Wisconsin effectively banned new nuclear-plant construction in the state. Without an alternative, Wisconsin Energy has run the Pleasant Prairie plant to crank out more power than originally planned. As the federal government has further toughened clean-air standards, the company kept adding pollution-scrubbing equipment to keep the plant alive.
The crackdown on CO2 is just the latest -- and biggest -- regulatory shift prodding more changes to the plant. On a recent frigid morning, in a scene that brought to mind an old whiskey still, one of the shiny pipes for capturing CO2 was shaking and clanging, and steam was pouring out the top. Alstom's Mr. Black said the contraption looked so jury-rigged because engineers had to modify it to resolve problems that cropped up.
That burst of steam could be the industry's last gasp. It also could be a fresh breath from an industry with plenty of life left.
Write to Jeffrey Ball at jeffrey.ball@wsj.com

Monday, 30 March 2009

Proton to build cars for Detroit Electric

By John Reed in London
Published: March 29 2009 23:20

Malaysia’s Proton is to mass-produce electric cars under licence for Detroit Electric, a privately owned start-up that will supply the technology and sell the vehicles in Europe, China and the US.
Detroit Electric will market the cars under its own brand, launching in Europe and Asia from next February and in the US three to six months later, Albert Lam, its chief executive, said.

The company would initially sell its cars in European countries with strong tax incentives for low-emission vehicles, including Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and the UK, Mr Lam said.
In China it would work with an undisclosed local carmaker to distribute the cars.
Detroit Electric will produce vehicles on Proton’s saloon car and hatchback manufacturing platforms, with styling changes made to distinguish them from the Malaysian company’s existing line-up.
The partnership will see Proton use Detroit Electric’s drive systems in its own cars for sale in south-east Asia.
The plug-in cars will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and – unlike some plug-in cars planned by rival manufacturers – will not include a petrol “range extender” to back up their battery power.
The lower-priced of Detroit Electric’s two vehicles will sell in the US at $23,000 to $25,000 and have a driving range of 180km per charge.
The other car will have a driving range of 320km per electric charge and be priced at $29,000 to $33,000.
“We believe in an affordable, practical, everyday electric car,” Mr Lam said. “It’s not a high-end vehicle we are targeting or a short-range city car.”
The new venture aims to sell 40,000 vehicles globally in its first year and 270,000 by 2012.
The cars will hit the market at a time when established carmakers, including Daimler, Renault/Nissan and Mitsubishi are preparing to launch electric vehicles, and electric car start-ups Tesla Motors and Think are battling financial and technological constraints to build viable businesses.
It is unclear how US consumers will warm to a car with “Detroit” in its brand name when General Motors and Chrysler are struggling to avoid bankruptcy.
Detroit Electric – named after a long-defunct US car brand launched in 1907 – was launched last year with $100m from investors headed by Mr Lam, a former chief executive of Lotus Engineering, an arm of the UK carmaker Proton owns.
The company is talking to “two to three major funding sources” about raising another $100m.
Mr Lam touted the benefits of Detroit Electric’s business model, based on building cars in Proton’s existing facilities, which meant it would not need to invest in infrastructure.
However, he acknowledged that the Detroit brand name “had mixed results” when the company invited prospective US dealers to test-drive its cars last year.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Scotland 'ahead of the game' on renewables

Paul Kelbie
The Observer, Sunday 29 March 2009

Plans to make Scotland 50% reliant on renewable energy sources are ahead of schedule, new figures released by the Scottish Parliament today suggest.
Current targets are to meet half the country's electricity demand from renewables by 2020 with an interim target of 31% by 2011.
"The government has determined 26 energy applications since May 2007, including consenting to 20 renewables projects, totalling more than 1.5 gigawatts," said a spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond.
"As a result, we are well ahead of schedule in meeting our renewables energy targets. The consented projects, as well as those already operating, represent some 35% of Scotland's electricity needs.
"We are ahead of our targets on clean, green energy, which is great news for Scotland's economy. And we are making a contribution to tackling global warming, which is great news for the environment."

Fit every home with water meter by 2020, says Environment Agency

Climate change and population growth could lead to serious shortages without universal metering, warns chief executive

David Adam, environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 March 2009 00.05 BST

Every home in London and south-east England should be fitted with a water meter within six years, according to experts at the Environment Agency who say the move is needed to conserve dwindling water supplies.
The agency says water companies and the government must accelerate plans to roll out the meters, and wants one fitted to every home in England and Wales by 2020. Water-stressed areas such as the south-east should have them by 2015, it says.
Paul Leinster, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: "People and businesses need to use less water and wasting water needs to cost a lot more." He said climate change and population growth could lead to serious shortages. "There may not be enough water in England and Wales in the future for people and the environment unless we start planning and acting now. We need a joined-up approach to this problem to prevent it becoming a crisis."
The call for universal metering is included in a report published by the agency today which looks at the water situation over the coming decades. It calls for a review of the structure of the water industry, to allow water companies to better share supplies, and actions to reduce water consumption to help lower UK carbon emissions. Households with meters typically use at least 10% less water, the agency says.
It says water resources are already under pressure in many parts of the country, with some 25 million people living in areas with less available water per person than Spain and Morocco. The average Briton uses 148 litres each day.
Global warming is expected to lead to more frequent heavy downpours and greater risk of flooding, but overall the amount of water in rivers across England and Wales is predicted to drop 10 to 15% by 2050. The water level could decline 80% during the summer.
The agency report says a potential 20 million increase in the population will place "even greater pressure on the country's limited water supplies". By 2020, demand for water could rise by 5%, or 800m litres a day – enough to fill 4.6m bathtubs. It also warns that the impacts of climate change on the viability of growing crops and making goods in other countries could result in some of that activity moving to the UK, further increasing pressure on supplies.
To meet the rising demand the agency wants ministers to look again at how the water industry is regulated and structured. It says the current division along company boundaries makes little sense, and that neighbouring companies should be able to better share water resources. The agency calls for other sectors to follow the food industry in setting targets to reduce water use.
The report highlights the close relationship between water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The transport, heating and treatment of water accounts for more than 6% of Britain's carbon footprint – more than the aviation industry. Water meters in every household would reduce use and save up to 1.6m tonnes of carbon pollution each year, the agency says.
Reduced demand for water would also help the wider environment by protecting wetland habitats and wildlife.
The Environment Agency says water efficient products and regulations for new buildings are needed too. It suggests VAT is removed or reduced on the most efficient appliances such as washing machines, to help steer consumer choice. And it wants better labelling to make clear which devices waste the most water.
The strategy report also calls for more stringent water efficiency standards for fixtures, fittings and appliances, as well as tighter standards for new buildings built in drought-prone regions.

America ‘can’t wave magic wand’ on climate change

The Times
March 30, 2009

Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter, Bonn

Expectations of what can be achieved by the United States in fighting global warming are unrealistic, climate change negotiators from more than 170 countries have been told.
Hopes raised by a new willingness in the White House to take action to control climate change must be balanced by a realisation that there are limits to what the US can do, they were told.
Todd Stern, President Obama’s special envoy on climate change, moved to play down hopes as the US joined UN talks on global warming in Bonn. These are designed to smooth the path to a summit in Copenhagen in December when it is hoped that international agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions can be reached.
“The US is going to be powerfully and fervently engaged in this process,” Mr Stern said shortly before the talks started. “That doesn’t mean that anyone should be thinking that the US can ride in on a white horse and make it work, because it can’t. What we can do is return to the table with energy and commitment, and commitment to science and pragmatism to getting a deal that will be doable. We are all going to have to do this together. We don’t have a magic wand.”

Under President Bush, the US was reluctant to join international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but attitudes in the White House have altered dramatically since the inauguration of Mr Obama.
The Bonn talks are the first session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change since Mr Obama took office, and expectations of US involvement have been high.
Such was the relief at the willingness of the US to act on climate change that its delegation was welcomed with applause by negotiators from other countries.
The clapping became even more enthusiastic when Mr Stern said: “We are glad to be back, we want to make up for lost time, and we are seized with the urgency of the task before us. The science is clear and the threat is real.
The facts are outstripping the worst-case scenarios. The costs of inaction or inadequate actions are unacceptable.”
However, hopes that the US would use the opening of the talks to announce measures to cut its own emissions were dashed. Michael Zammit Cutajar, one of the chief UN negotiators, said that in talks before the session it was intimated that Mr Obama’s Administration needed more time. “My understanding is they need some more time to get up to speed,” he said.
The talks in Bonn continue until April 8 and a second session will be held in June, by which time, he said, it should be clearer how much farther the US will go.
Despite the widespread welcome for the US involvement, there remain concerns that it will refuse to make deep enough cuts in emissions.
President Obama has already promised to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050. While most delegates and scientists agree that the long-term target of 80 per cent matches requirements, they believe that the US needs to do better on the 2020 target if there is to be even a 50-50 chance of limiting temperature rises to 2C (3.6F).

President Barack Obama must carry US opinion

The Times
March 30, 2009
Analysis: Lewis Smith

Playing down expectations of what the United States can do is a reality check after the optimism finally given vent by the end of the Bush Administration.
President Obama is still – just – in his honeymoon period but this masks a longstanding problem that has bedevilled hopes that the US will take a lead in combating climate change.
When President Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol it was thought that a breakthrough had been secured; such hopes were destroyed because he never dared present it to Congress.
For all the recent promises in the US to slash greenhouse gas emissions, there remains a strong rump of scepticism on Capitol Hill and in other parts of the country.

This week’s talks in Bonn are a preliminary to the main event in December when world leaders meet in Copenhagen to try to agree each country’s burden.
If the US team promises too much it will fail, once again, to take domestic opinion with it and the deal will founder.
Todd Stern is acutely aware of the dilemma that he faces. An agreement to take effective action on climate change is unlikely, yet, to garner sufficient support in the US for ratification, but too little action is likely to have catastrophic consequences for the environment and the global economy.
President Obama and his supporters are hopeful of winning enough support to drive through a Copenhagen deal, but they need time to do it. With time so short – it is less than nine months until the Copenhagen meeting – an atmosphere of fevered expectation can only cause delays, confusion and reduce the chances of success.

Report doubts extent of green stimulus

By Jim Pickard
Published: March 30 2009 00:31

The paucity of the government’s recent “green stimulus package” is laid bare on Monday by a report that suggests environmental measures make up only 0.6 per cent of Britain’s £20bn recovery plan.
The analysis will step up the pressure on Gordon Brown amid expectations that the prime minister wants to give next month’s Budget a green tinge.

Last week a Downing Street spokesman said the government was determined to make sure that any economic recovery was based on low-carbon principles. “It is very clear that we need to embed these low-carbon principles in actions that we take,” he said.
But Monday’s report, compiled by the New Economics Foundation on behalf of Greenpeace, suggests that only £100m of the stimulus package is genuinely new money for green measures.
This is equivalent to 0.008 per cent of British gross domestic product – or one hundredth of the 0.8 per cent requested by Lord Stern, the author of a landmark 2006 government-commissioned report on the economics of climate change.
It is also a fraction of the bonus pool of £775m paid to staff at Royal Bank of Scotland this financial year.
Furthermore, its impact would also be counteracted by other measures in the package – such as the building of 520 miles of road lanes.
The analysis is embarrassing for the government as it struggles to switch Britain’s energy production away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Mr Brown said last month that 10 per cent of the British stimulus package was going towards “environmentally important technologies” and potential jobs in green industries; in line with President Barack Obama in the US.
In fact the specific green measures in the pre-Budget report were worth just £535m – about 2.5 per cent of the total – according to the NEF. Of this, the bulk consists of future spending commitments brought forward from the existing comprehensive spending review, such as £300m for new rail carriages.
The only additional spending is £105m for the government’s Warm Front programme, which gives grants to households to improve energy efficiency.
The government argues that its £2.3bn of aid to the car industry will – as well as save jobs – help make car production more “green”.
But the NEF points out that the programme’s criteria require only that car companies have to cut emissions; they do not have to specify a certain amount. “It is not made clear whether this criteria is merely desirable or a necessary condition in the context of the other criteria,” it says.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said the report was proof that “Gordon Brown’s high-flying green rhetoric” had not translated into action.
Experts are divided as to how much of Mr Brown’s stimulus package is genuinely green. HSBC, for example, has estimated that the environmental measures account for a rather larger proportion: 7 per cent of the total.
Even so, the bank’s researchers have pointed out that this is still lower than the equivalent figure elsewhere: 12 per cent in the US, 80 per cent in South Korea and 13 per cent in Germany.
“The environmental content of the UK’s overall economic stimulus package is poor compared to many other countries,” said the NEF.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

U.S. to Host Forum on Climate Change


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. will host a meeting of major economies in April in an effort to lay the diplomatic foundation for an international agreement on climate change and energy later this year.
By convening a meeting of the world's largest greenhouse-gas emitters, President Barack Obama hopes to help create political momentum for an agreement to be signed at the United Nations climate-change negotiations in Copenhagen in December.
Although few international climate-change experts think a final accord will be signed at the Copenhagen talks, many expect that with U.S. leadership, the meeting will be able to forge a document of foundational principles for a post-Kyoto Protocol agreement. That international agreement, adopted in 1997, establishes legally binding commitments for participating nations to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.
The meeting, to be held in Washington on April 27-28, will "advance the exploration of concrete initiatives and joint ventures that increase the supply of clean energy while cutting greenhouse-gas emissions," the White House said in a statement Saturday.
The leaders of 17 major economies, including the U.S., China and the U.K., are expected to discuss emission targets, technology funding, sectoral agreements, deforestation, trade tariffs and other issues that deal with cutting greenhouse gases without severely damping economic growth and creating an unsustainable international program. The preparatory sessions in Washington will culminate in a meeting in Italy in July.
Earlier this month, the president's proposed fiscal 2010 budget outlined emission-reduction targets of 14% below 2005 levels by 2020 and of 83% by 2050. While developing nations such as China are seeking more lenient targets—and there is general agreement among the Obama administration and European Union leaders that such nations should bear a lighter load in earlier years—some EU ministers are calling for much higher cuts for developed nations.
The U.S.'s top climate envoy said earlier this month that the U.S. target is politically realistic, and said such realism needs to be a theme in discussions.
U.S. officials said they think it is unlikely Congress will sign a climate bill into law before Copenhagen. But analysts said the White House is hoping to have something substantial to lay on the table that would give the U.S. negotiating leverage. One option would be to officially classify carbon dioxide as a danger to public health and welfare, which would trigger regulation of emissions across the economy. The Environmental Protection Agency took a step in that direction this month.
Write to Ian Talley at ian.talley@dowjones.com

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Loan guarantees urged for green energy firms

Published Date: 29 March 2009
By Nathalie Thomas

GREEN energy experts are pressing the Scottish Government to set up a loan guarantee scheme for cash-starved renewables companies.
They warn that the major energy companies aside, the sector is struggling for finance and will not be able to fulfil the SNP Government's ambition of leading Scotland out of recession without an urgent lifeline. The green energy sector has repeatedly been named by Alex Salmond's administration as one of the brightest hopes for Scotland's future along with industries such as life sciences.Nathan Goode, head of the renewables team at Grant Thornton, the accountancy firm aimed at small and medium-sized companies, said Scotland had a competitive advantage over the rest of the world in many green technologies, but risked losing that if the financing problem was not solved quickly.He has proposed a scheme offering a combination of loan guarantees and equity targeted specifically at renewables.Goode said the programme, which could be managed by a body similar to the Scottish Futures Trust, would be particularly useful for smaller, local projects which are struggling for financial backing. He said: "The Government is taking a very proactive view of renewable energy and great strides have been made to encourage the big energy companies. "However, while regulation can help to support the massive wind and wave power projects that are now being planned, the Government can also help by investing in the local infrastructure and smaller projects that will be vital to deliver the greater diversity and security of supply that the country needs." Goode added: "Government money has tended to focus on early-stage development or on the revenue support mechanism for operating projects. The key challenge to be addressed at the moment is the bit in the middle – enabling companies to continue to move toward commercial operation and avoid market failure due to lack of financial support."At a conference held by trade body Scottish Renewables earlier this month, Grant Hodges, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, also cautioned that UK investment in green energy was falling far short of fiscal stimulus packages in rival countries such as China."Renewables could help lead Scotland out of recession but they currently won't because of the lack of government investment," he said.

Water meters in all homes by 2030 to ease shortages

Report calls for strict controls as climate change threatens to dry up British rivers

Robin McKie, science editor
The Observer, Sunday 29 March 2009

Many parts of the country face crippling water shortages in the near future unless immediate action is taken to protect precious supplies, according to an Environment Agency (EA) report to be published this week. Measures include compulsory water meters in every home.
The EA warns in the Water Resources Strategy document that many rivers, particularly those in south-east England, could be reduced to a trickle in summer by the middle of the century because of climate change. On average, flows are likely to be cut by 50 to 80%.
As a result, the report urges that a series of key measures be introduced as a matter of urgency:
• A major review of funding of the water industry, so companies are rewarded for reducing, rather than increasing, the amount of water they sell.• The construction of desalination plants at several sites round the country.• Compulsory water meters for every household within the next 20 years.
At the same time, the report warns that carbon dioxide from water and sewage treatments now accounts for 6% of the UK's entire emissions output - more than the nation's aviation industry - and this needs to be cut urgently.
The authors also warn that some wildlife will be put under severe environmental stress and farmers will have far less water available for irrigation as climate change takes its grip. "Everyone will have to play a part in cutting water use," said Trevor Bishop, head of the agency's water resources policy. "It will touch all our lives."
The report's release coincides with news that water bills for Britain's 26 million households are to rise 4.1 %, taking the average to £342, compared with £285 at the start of the decade.
Ultimately, Britain should aim to cut each citizen's average daily use of water from 148 litres, one of the highest figures in Europe, to less than 130 litres, he added. To do that, a series of domestic measures will have to be introduced, including the redesign of houses so that they become fully water-efficient. For example, "grey water" - old bath or washing machine water - could be used to supply toilet flushes, while rainwater will need to be collected so gardens and parklands do not dry up in summer.
"Fresh water is a fragile and vulnerable resource," said Chris Smith, the agency's chairman. "Already there is less water available per person in England and Wales than in Egypt or Spain. If we fail to act now, we could face severe consequences such as water rationing, standpipes in our streets and the loss of wetlands and native wildlife."
The EA report uses the latest data to outline how England and Wales will fare as the world heats up over the next 40 years. "That data shows that the impact of climate change will be much more severe than was conceived only a few years ago," said Bishop. "At the same time there is still enough uncertainty to make it impossible to be absolutely sure about what measures to take."
Meteorologists say climate change will lead to more frequent bouts of heavy downpours and heavy flooding in Britain over the next four decades. However, the overall effect will be to reduce the amount of water available in rivers in England and Wales.
Among the worst affected will be the Lee, Colne, Medway and Stour in south-east England, where population and temperatures are both destined to rise more sharply than in other areas. In addition, many aquifers - underground stores of water - are likely to dry up as average rainfall figures drop.
As a result, the report urges that water meters be installed throughout Britain to minimise waste and that a number of desalination plants are built. Britain's first is under construction at Beckton, east London. It will cost £200m, produce 140m litres of water a day - enough for a million Londoners - and will run on biofuel, including recycled fat and oil from restaurants and homes.
"We will need a number of these, but I don't envisage them being built every 50 miles round the cost," added Bishop. "They will form only a part of our approach to water policy."
Forecasters expect climate change to occur in slow, incremental steps. However, there is no guarantee that a major event will not appear fairly rapidly.
"In Australia, its national drought began as a two-year anomaly, grew to a three-year event and is now in its 10th year," said Bishop. "We have got to be ready in case something like that happens here."

Green pioneers: Ken Yeang

The Sunday Times
March 29, 2009
Architect’s designs reduce power consumption sharply
Andrew Stone

GREEN buildings are all the rage but they are old hat to architect Ken Yeang. As a PhD student at Cambridge he helped to develop a “self-sufficient” house in the 1970s. Today he is turning such ideas into reality.
His latest project, a £300m extension to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, will generate 20% more power than it uses, through innovations such as a ventilation flue that does away with the need to heat or cool the building for much of the year.
Construction began last week and, once completed, the building should offset more than 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year — equivalent to the typical annual carbon footprint of 2,000 people, making it Britain’s greenest hospital building.
Yeang predicts that in the next decade such energy performance will become the norm as large new buildings will generate all their own power.
He credits his study of ecology for his approach to design. “I’m an ecologist first and an architect second,” he said. “Studying ecology changes your perception of life and makes you look again at your place on Earth. It encouraged me to look to ecological systems for inspiration.
“There is no such thing as waste in nature, merely food for other organisms. Waste is very much a human invention, so strive to re-use and recycle everything.”
Yeang and his fellow planners and architects have their work cut out transforming office blocks from energy guzzlers to power misers. The Building Research Establishment recommends that a large building should consume 100 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per square metre, said Yeang. The UK average is 250-300kWh.
One of the worst offenders, a bank building in Canary Wharf, consumes 1,400kWh per square metre. “It’s a totally unsustainable building covered in glass, with poor insulation,” he said.
By contrast Yeang’s designs are shaped round the idea of eco-mimesis, designs that are energy efficient because they mimic natural systems.
They work in harmony with their location, maximising energy efficiency through a building’s design, making the most of its aspect, natural light and ventilation. Green technologies such as ground-source heat pumps augment these design features.
The buildings are not just green in terms of energy use. In many cases they are festooned with plants. Yeang’s 24-storey Fusionopolis building in Singapore, for example, includes a 1.4km coil of vegetation.
Planting a grass roof on a tall building and introducing other plants helps to capture rainwater, provide shade and even reintroduces other plant and animal species to a city. Widespread planting of greenery can cool city temperatures in summer by between 1C and 2C.
The technology is constantly improving, said Yeang. “The next generation of solar panels will mimic photosynthesis, promising much greater efficiency, while micro wind turbines should offer a viable way to generate power from the wind,” he said.
However, will developers suffering in the downturn really heed the call to create greener buildings?
Yeang thinks so. At a cost of perhaps 20% of the original build cost they can make existing buildings sustainable, he said. “It’s true that a lot of this depends on the business models of the developers, but sustainable buildings are increasingly attracting subsidies, tax breaks and more generous planning approval.”
- Ken Yeang is director of the UK-based architectural practice Llewelyn Davies Yeang and director of Malaysia’s TR Hamzah Yeang

Ethics are now coming into fashion

The Sunday Times
March 29, 2009
François-Henri Pinault wants to save the planet - one handbag at a time
John Arlidge in Delhi

François-Henri Pinault has more than a few reasons to be cheerful in spite of the economic slump. He owns the Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen fashion labels, which still bring in a few billion pounds a year. When he opens a bottle of Château Latour he is opening his own wine. He can sell his modern art collection through his auction house - Christie’s in London. And he has just got the girl. He married actress Salma Hayek on Valentine’s Day.
So why was he sitting glumly in a hotel in Delhi last week, warning anyone who would listen about the end of the world? “Nobody today would deny the existence of global warming, the threat to biodiversity,” he said. Dressed in a sober navy suit, dark blue shirt and sensible black lace-ups, he lectured guests at a conference on the future of luxury: “This is not a time for reflection. We must act now to change the future.”
Most fashion folk either ignore global warming - as temperatures rise, Versace is installing air-conditioning under a beach to cool the sand at its new hotel in Dubai - or embrace it as a chance to boost sales of their spring/summer collections. Not Pinault.
The 46-year-old French billionaire is styling himself as an upmarket Al Gore. He believes ethics are the new elegance. He even has his own version of Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. He has financed Home, co-produced with film-maker Luc Besson, which chronicles environmental degradation, using aerial shots of the planet, and will be released in June.
Pinault, whose firm PPR is the second-largest luxury-goods conglomerate in the world with annual revenues of £17 billion, is making a £1 billion bet that green will be the new black. He believes a moral correction will follow the financial correction and, as the economy picks up, consumers will turn away from fast-moving, celebrity-driven flashy fashion towards sustainable luxury.
“Today, people want a return to genuine values, such as sincerity and exemplary standards. We need to be proactive, to get ahead of trend,” he told The Sunday Times.
British designers, notably Stella McCartney, are likely to benefit. He singled her out last week as the new face of responsible luxury. She refuses to use leather or fur and has launched Care, an organic skincare range. “Stella has set the bar,” said Pinault. PPR also owns the London-based Alexander McQueen label, although his extravagant creations and cat-walk shows could scarcely be described as green.
There’s no doubt that Pinault believes in environmental responsibility. He has swapped his beloved Aston Martin for a hybrid Lexus and takes the train rather than flying in Europe. He has championed recycling, green stores, efficient air-conditioning, solar power, fair-trade suppliers, smaller packaging, sea transport over air freight, and has ordered stores to turn off their neon signs after 11pm.
He and Gucci designer Frida Giannini are working on recyclable leather and suede. “We work in an industry where, at the end of a season, some products are destroyed,” he said. “We have to think about this. It’s not normal. Couldn’t we undo the product and make new small products and do it in a socially responsible manner?”
He is after greenbacks too, though. He believes going green will not only lure more customers, but will help PPR to attract the best designers and sales staff. “Young people want more than just financial remuneration. To them, a company is a human venture,” he said.
Pinault wants PPR to enjoy first-mover advantage in responsible luxury and become the face of green fashion in much the same way that Toyota has become the de facto green carmaker, thanks to its early move into hybrid technology with the Prius. “Sustainable development gives us a chance to differentiate ourselves from the others,” he said. “I see sustainable development as a business opportunity.”
It needs to be. Pinault concedes “business is tough” as demand for luxury goods slumps. Sales are flat and there are rumours in London and Paris that he is planning to sell off Christie’s and Château Latour. Pinault said no sales were planned but added: “We don’t have any secure forecast to make about any recovery.”
Going to India, home of fashion sweatshops, in the middle of a global recession to promote a posh green revolution sounds, at best, naive and, at worst, downright insulting – not least from a man who has a collection of some 60 watches and who flew to Delhi on a private jet. Gandhi would probably have gone on hunger strike at the idea.
Pinault acknowledges it’s a tough pitch at a tough time. “Luxury is associated with pleasure, individualism, unreasonable enjoyment . . . thought-lessness and waste, while sustainable development is synonymous with ethics, collectivity and restraint,” he said.
He believes there are shared values, however. “Luxury is based on fine materials, respect for the material, and for the craft itself that results in a rare and beautiful object. Just like luxury, sustainable development is founded in essence on respect for natural resources.” He defended the use of the private jet as “absolutely necessary” in the fast-moving modern business world and said he offsets all flights, private and commercial, with carbon credits. Many environmentalists dismiss carbon offsetting as worthless “green washing”. His love of watches was, he said, irrelevant.
Pinault’s concern for humanity does not stretch to reducing the price of the goods that he sells. “We will not touch the price because if we do it means that we were not delivering the real value for the money we were asking. Big discounts kill brands.”
However, he is prepared to sell fewer, more long-lasting, more sustainable items - a move that could affect the bottom line. “One of the consequences of the downturn is that it forces us to go back to basics, to the essence of luxury. We went too far, all of us, in the luxury world in the past five years. Now, let’s go back to product and do it right.”
Sell fewer but better products? It remains to be seen whether it’s a strategy that will make rivals green with envy - or PPR shareholders green at the gills.

World must put its faith in technology

The Sunday Times
March 29, 2009

Green investor Vinod Khosla believes that merely cutting energy use will achieve little
Dominic Rushe

THE technology guru Vinod Khosla is a billionaire but the walls of his office are grubby. Black, green and red smudges cover one of them as if someone has been playing squash in his office. Within minutes of the green investor’s arrival it becomes obvious who is responsible for the mess as Khosla begins to scribble his vision of the future all over the wall.
A Silicon Valley legend, Khosla made his first fortune as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems. He has since become one of America’s top venture capitalists, first at Kleiner Perkins, which funded Amazon and Google among others, and now at his own Khosla Ventures, one of the biggest investors in green technology.
Khosla’s commitment has put him at the forefront of the green tech revolution. He is an adviser to President Barack Obama and Tony Blair’s Climate Group, which aims to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
Some environmental champions are gloomy about the future, but Khosla is not. He believes we are on the verge of a revolution. With money and talent pouring into green technology like never before, firms offering solutions to the energy crisis are about to break through, he said.

Khosla went to the wall to illustrate his thoughts. First he drew a chart of share prices in the dotcom bubble. It was the classic Matterhorn-shaped peak. Then he drew the growth of internet traffic. It went up and up and up. A similar scenario was likely to play out in green technology as new solutions go mainstream even as some companies fail.
Khosla, who was 52nd in the Sunday Times’ first Green Rich List of eco-barons investing in alternative technology, is a big fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan. This takes its name from the discovery of black swans in the 18th century. Before the Australian birds were found, all swans were assumed to be white. The story, Taleb claims, illustrates the fragility of knowledge and the limits to learning from experience. In reality, he argues, it is the “impact of the highly improbable” that shapes our world. The invention of the wheel, penicillin, Google, The Beatles. Black Swans can be good as well as bad.
But while green technology is hot, much of the debate on climate change is ill thought out, said Khosla. “The environmentalists are wrong. We don’t need to use less energy. We need to find new solutions.” Nor is Khosla a fan of what he sees as “silly” solutions to climate change. His favourite is singer Sheryl Crow’s suggestion that people cut back on loo roll to “only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required”. He also dismissed “green” light bulbs, wind power and electric cars as niche products, too expensive or unreliable to become truly mainstream.
There are “only” four main problems that need solving, according to Khosla — oil, coal, cement and steel. Between them they are responsible for 75% of greenhouse-gas emissions. Those who want to save the planet (and make money doing it) would be better off concentrating on the big picture rather than fiddling at the edges, he said.
For technology to save the planet it must reach what he calls the “Chindia” price — a level at which a new product can compete fairly with existing products and can be adopted without adding extra cost by India and China, two fast-growing countries whose energy needs rival those of America. No matter what the environmental costs, Indians won’t buy a $22,000 Prius hybrid electric car when Tata makes the Nano for $2,000. “Where is the electricity for those cars going to come from? Coal. Do we want coal-powered cars?” said Khosla.
Governments as well as ecologists are just as guilty of backing the wrong solutions, he said. He pointed to Germany’s championing of solar power. “Germany has the same solar profile as Alaska. It’s encouraging the wrong technology,” he said.
Khosla, too, has been accused of backing false solutions. His firm is one of the biggest investors in corn ethanol, a substitute for petrol. The American government backed corn ethanol with heavy subsidies, but using corn as fuel has been partly blamed for soaring food costs in the developing world. His critics are “Luddite jokers”, said Khosla. “Bio-fuels are the single most important tool we have so far for alleviating climate change.” Corn ethanol is far from perfect but it is only a “stepping stone” for future fuels that will be made from non-food crops. without big subsidies.
All these arguments are healthy, said Khosla: “Let the best technology win.” When it does, the speed of change is going to catch many by surprise, he added. “In 1990 when I put my e-mail address on my card, people laughed. The speed of change seems improbable before it happens. The only way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Mey scores Scottish first on carbon label

Published Date: 29 March 2009
By Rosemary Gallagher

A FOOD company backed by Prince Charles, has become the first Scottish consumer goods firm to get official recognition of its commitment to cutting its carbon footprint.
The label will be put on all Mey Selections' goods from May 1. In response to the threat of climate change, Mey has been working with the Carbon Trust, an independent company set up by the UK Government, since February last year to quantify and reduce footprint for its key products.The Carbon Trust said businesses benefit through better supplier relationships and greater trust among consumers. John Strak, managing director of Mey Selections, said: "Not only are we the first Scottish-based consumer goods company to achieve the certification, we are one of the first food and drink companies to become involved with the initiative."He added that the firm was committed to using sustainable standards of farming, fishing and food production, so looking for ways to reduce its impact on the environment was a natural next step. Strak said the carbon reduction label footprinting process provided it with the structure to measure energy use and carbon emissions."Surprisingly, we found that transport and logistics seemed to be areas of relatively low carbon emissions for us," he said. "However, we were impressed by the potential revealed to cut down on our carbon footprint, including investigating better monitoring, heat recovery and renewable energy systems that would make major savings in electricity in our factory."The Carbon Trust said there had been a significant growth in interest from consumers in the carbon impact of the products they bought. Its label gives customers confidence that they are buying products from companies committed to limiting climate change. The carbon footprint of a product or service is the total carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted during its life, from production to final disposal. Prince Charles, the president of the Castle of Mey Trust, launched the North Highland Initiative in 2005 to promote economic development in the area. Mey Selections is the brand name of North Highlands Products, a company formed by Caithness farmers to source quality farm and food products.

What we need to get the low-carbon revolution going

The Sunday Times
March 29, 2009
Lord Browne

There is one question I am asked a lot these days: why is a low-carbon revolution not happening?
The answer is certainly not lack of intent. A remarkable political consensus now exists in support of moving to a low-carbon economy. Ambitious targets are in place. The chorus of people saying the same thing in conferences around the world is deafening.
Nor do we lack a blueprint for what needs to happen. The answer is fourfold:
- Take energy out of global GDP by revolutionising energy efficiency;
- Take carbon out of energy by deploying renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage;
- Preserve carbon sinks through improved forest and land management;
- Help vulnerable people to adapt to climate change.
There are no real technology barriers. A good deal of innovation is still needed. But the challenge of putting up hundreds of wind turbines in the North Sea, or of reconfiguring the grid, is hardly insurmountable compared with the engineering feats of the past 50 years, not least in the offshore oil and gas industry.
Business willingness is also not the problem. Businesses will invest anywhere they can see an attractive balance between risk and return. My career has taught me never to underestimate the market’s ability to innovate if the right incentives are there.
What’s missing is political leadership as governments shift focus from goal-setting to delivery.
If I were to add a few climate-change recommendations to the advice being offered to the G20 summit, I would make four points.
Make climate-change efforts mainstream
This is in large part a matter of political framing. Environmental protection is too often treated as an option or a luxury, rather than as something that is essential for society to flourish. Environmental protection must be accorded its place at the heart of society.
Practically speaking, that means all levels of government — local, national and international — and all government departments must be involved in the solution.
President Barack Obama understands this. His administration is leading the mainstreaming of low-carbon energy and energy efficiency. Last month’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained a substantial green-energy component, with more low-carbon legislation likely to follow.
Other countries should follow suit. Targeting just 10% to 20% of the several trillion dollars expected to be spent on fiscal-stimulus packages around the world to low-carbon infrastructure would be a triple win. It would help to create jobs and diversify economic activity away from property and financial services, as well as enhance national security and protect the environment.
Don’t be thrown off course by interest-group politics
It is clear from every analysis I have read that cost is not the biggest obstacle. But there will be winners and losers, leading to difficult political decisions.
Consumers will need to pay more for energy over time. Measures to address fuel poverty will be critical. However, consumers will pay significantly less in aggregate than the increase in fuel and electricity prices borne recently as a result of the spike in fossil-fuel prices.
Get government intervention right
The market remains the most effective delivery unit available to society. But the market needs a framework of incentives and regulations laid down with a firm hand by the state.
This is justified on economic grounds because energy security, climate-change mitigation and accelerated innovation will go unrecognised until they are “priced in” by governments.
Yet poorly designed policy is worse than no policy at all. Low-carbon energy investments are highly capital intensive, so it is essential that government frameworks possess long-term certainty and clarity. A blunt instrument that possesses these qualities — like a feed-in-tariff — is far preferable to an over-finessed policy that does not.
Focus more effort on engaging developing countries
Developing countries are the single biggest source of emissions growth. And these countries contain by far the most opportunities to reduce emissions between now and 2020: two-thirds of the global potential, deliverable with half the capital spending.
Yet it is unfair to expect these countries to shoulder the same amount of effort as developed countries from the start. Developing countries must do what they can, focusing on areas, such as energy efficiency, that align with other policy goals.
In parallel, enhanced carbon-finance mechanisms linking developed and developing countries will be needed, coupled with direct funding to build administrative and human capital, encourage the transfer of low-carbon technologies and pay for adaptation efforts.
A recent analysis suggests that flows of climate-change-related finance to the developing world will, in time, need to be about $100 billion a year — roughly the same amount as was spent globally last year on overseas development assistance.
Getting these funds to flow will be impossible without better international institutions. This in turn will require a great deal of diplomatic leadership. Building institutions able to balance the need for a global approach with the imperative of sharing efforts equitably is the greatest leadership challenge of all.
The constant stream of analysis and the resulting policy prescriptions is, in my view, becoming wasted effort. The time for talking is over. It’s time to get things done. And that requires, above all else, bold, far-sighted and outward-looking leadership.
- Lord Browne of Madingley is president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and chairman of The Climate Group’s International Leadership Council