Saturday, 31 October 2009

Merkel: no chance of Kyoto-style agreement at Copenhagen

David Charter and Sam Coates in Brussels

Angela Merkel tried to give the world a wake up call to the glacial progress being made towards a climate deal in Copenhagen yesterday by writing off the chances of achieving a succesor to the Kyoto treaty this year.
Alarmed by the impasse gripping pre-Copenhagen talks, the German Chancellor warned fellow EU leaders that only a broad political framework was now possible from the negotiations due in the Danish capital in December. She said that the chances of a comprehensive treaty had disappeared.
"It is realistic to say that in Copenhagen we will not be able to conclude a treaty but it is important to lay down a political framework which will be the basis of the treaty," she said at the end of the two-day EU summit in Brussels.
"Copenhagen was supposed to be a post-Kyoto regime. Now we are talking about a political framework and negotiations will drag out longer until we get a treaty."

Her stark warning carries extra weight because she led German negotiations on the original Kyoto protocol which created the first international targets for cutting harmful emissions.
Mrs Merkel, who is deeply committed to achieving a comprehensive global treaty to succeed Kyoto, will tell President Obama about her fears that the US is doing too little to secure a treaty when she travels to Washington this week.
She also held a private meeting with Gordon Brown yesterday in Brussels at which she told him that much more needed to be done to kickstart the faltering Copenhagen process.
EU leaders decided today to call for a global fund of €100 billion a year to pay developing countries to combat climate change but failed to agree on how much money it was prepared to put into it.
Proposals for the EU to pledge €10 billion a year of public money towards the fund were rejected by former Iron Curtain countries which wanted to know exactly what they were being asked to pay before signing up.
Campaigners welcomed the idea of a global fund but warned that unless the EU gave more of a lead by offering hard cash incentives, it could be impossible to persuade the US and others to join in and reach agreement at climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.
In setting their negotiating position for Copenhagen, EU leaders agreed that €22 to €50 billion a year should come from developed countries to help the poorer nations to go green. Most of the rest would come form carbon trading schemes, they said.
The final deal failed to meet Mr Brown's ambitions because the Prime Minister had pushed for the EU to name its contribution and called for the range of public funding to be set at €30 to €40 billion a year by 2020, arguing that €22 billion would be too low.
Mr Brown today described the compromise over the EU climate change deal as a "prelude" to successful global talks in Copenhagen. Unlike Mrs Merkel, he remains upbeat about the chances of success in Copenhagen.
"People realise that we are only a few days away from the negotiations in Copenhagen. We were aware that if we did not come together to make progress, the possibility of a deal [in Copenhagen] would be a lot less likely. We can now look forward to a successful outcome."
The EU is also proposing that the international community find €5 to €7 billion of fast-track funding for the 2010-12 period for the developing world before any Copenhagen agreement comes into force. Again, the EU part of that was not made clear.
"The EU failed to use this opportunity to put its money where its mouth is" said Joris den Blanken, EU climate policy director for Greenpeace.
"But all is not lost: today 27 of the world's richest nations have backed global funding to tackle climate change in developing countries.
"The Copenhagen train is still running, but the world desperately needs some climate leadership to stop the wheels from jumping off the track. Regardless of whether climate legislation is passed in the US ahead of Copenhagen, president Obama should step up and break the deadlock in negotiations."

EU puts €100bn-a-year price on tackling climate change

Leaders agree cost will amount to €100bn a year by 2020, but fail to agree on short-term aid for developing world
Ian Traynor in Brussels, Friday 30 October 2009 17.38 GMT
European leaders agreed for the first time today that the price tag for tackling global warming would amount to €100bn (£89bn) a year by 2020, up to half of which would need to come from taxpayers' money in the developed world.
But mired in wrangling over how to split the European share of the bill among 27 countries and how much Europe collectively should spend, they failed to agree on urgent short-term funding for combating climate change in the developing world.
Five weeks ahead of the Copenhagen conference on a new international treaty on global warming, an EU summit spent two days immersed in number-crunching rows over the costs and who should bear them.
Difficult decisions were shelved because of an east-west dispute pitting the poorer member states against the wealthy western countries, and because leading EU states such as Germany, France and Italy were reluctant to make specific commitments on funding for the developing world before hammering out an agreement with the US, Japan and other rich states.
"Europe is leading the way, making these bold proposals," said Gordon Brown. "The major decision to come out of this is we're leading the way on the climate change negotiations."
The agreements fell well short of what had been sought by the Swedish presidency of the EU, the Danish government hosting the Copenhagen conference, the UK and the European commission.
In the short-term, the leaders agreed that up to €7bn a year was needed from January for three years for "fast-track" funding in the developing world. The EU said only that it would seek to persuade others to share that bill and that Europe would pay its "fair share".
Some of the east Europeans, led by Poland, which balked at being asked to pay up, are refusing to contribute and Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister, admitted that European contributions to the fund would be "voluntary", meaning they may not be made at all.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was said to have fought strongly to avoid firm funding pledges. She goes to Washington next week, as do other EU leaders, for what could be crucial negotiations with the Obama administration on how to come up with a global fund for the poor countries. The issue of financing climate change measures in the developing world is a possible deal-breaker at Copenhagen.
The Germans were highly critical of the east European reluctance to share the bill, arguing that it was difficult to ask some of the world's emerging economies to contribute when Europe's poorer countries were saying no.
"EU leaders speak loud and clear on the global challenges of climate change, but remain tongue-tied when it comes to meeting their own responsibilities," said Rebecca Harms, leader of the Greens in the European parliament. "EU governments have now acknowledged the need for an annual €100bn towards climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, but have once again failed to put a clear figure on the EU's contribution."
While the Swedes, Danes and others argued that Europe had to take the lead on climate change and send a strong signal for Copenhagen, the Germans are more skeptical, noting that there are limits to leadership and calling for the other rich countries to step up to the plate.
It is not yet clear on what basis the contributions will be made. The west Europeans want to combine the "polluter pays" principle with ability to pay, meaning that a donor country's GDP and level of greenhouse gas emissions will determine how much it puts in.
Of the €100bn euros ballpark figure, the Europeans said €22bn-€50bn should be public sector money in annual transfers to the developing world by 2020.
Although the Europeans refused to specify the European share, Merkel said it should be around one-third; the same amount should be supplied by the US, and Germany would foot around 20% of the European bill.
The 22-50 cost range is wide and vague enough for lots of wiggle room. Britain says €50bn is "unaffordable" and €22bn is not enough. It sought a narrower range of €30bn-€40bn.
Rather than detailing specific European pledges, the leaders agreed only to contribute a "fair share" to the global fund and stressed that the offer was "conditional" on agreement with the other main donors.

East-west tussle erupts over bill for combating climate change

Ian Traynor in Brussels
The Guardian, Friday 30 October 2009
European leaders were locked in an east-west tussle over how to foot the bill for combating climate change, a key issue seen as a test of European credibility on global warming in the run-up to the Copenhagen conference in December.
Poland and other more recent and poorer EU members threatened to block agreement on a financial package for funding global warming action in the developing world, a central plank of the international pact needed if the Copenhagen talks are to succeed. At the end of yesterday's talks, no deal had been agreed on funding for tackling climate change in developing countries. Talks are to continue today.
Chairing last night's Brussels summit, Fredrik Reinfeldt, the prime minister of Sweden, said Europe's claim to lead the world on global warming was at stake. But the Poles, Hungarians, and Lithuanians fiercely criticised the outline deal tabled by the Swedes.
The Swedes and the European commission, as well as Britain, called for the EU to agree a package of up to €15bn (£13.4bn) of public money for transfers to developing countries by 2020. They want the bill to be split on the basis of the greenhouse gas emissions and economic prowess of each of the 27 member states.
The Poles and other east Europeans maintain that they cannot afford to pay a fair share of the bill, particularly since some of the east European countries have been hit particularly hard by the financial crisis.
The €15bn is supposed to be the European share of the developed world's bill of up to €50bn of public-sector spending by 2020. The EU also hoped to agree on transitional funding of up to €7bn a year, starting from next year, for the developing world.
The Germans last night objected to pinning down the short-term fund now. But the bigger problem came from east European opposition over how the bill should be split.
"In its current form, the burden sharing is not acceptable," said Gordon Bajnai, the Hungarian prime minister.
Senior officials said the Poles were also refusing to agree to the terms.
The Swedes have offered a compromise which would include "readjustment" mechanisms for the poorer EU member states in the form of rebates, or via other refunds.
"The poorer countries in eastern Europe have been more reluctant. Some of the richer ones have been less forward than us," said a senior UK official.
The poorest EU member states, such as Romania and Bulgaria, are complaining that the European subsidies will go to some developing countries, such as Brazil, which are wealthier than they are.
While Sweden, Denmark, Britain, and the European commission said that the EU had to agree a package now in order to send a strong signal to Copenhagen, put pressure on the US and other countries to agree similar funding, and retain the pioneering role it claims on climate change, Germany was reluctant to commit to figures publicly, arguing that the Europeans should not reveal their hand until the "card game" got under way properly in Copenhagen.
"You cannot simply wait right until the very end of Copenhagen to do this," said the British official. "We need to explain the terms in which we want countries to put their commitments on the table, and now is the time to do it."

EU climate aid: The politicians are the only winners in this deal

The laboured negotiations over the EU's announcement on climate aid is a taste of what's to come in Copenhagen

David Adam, environment correspondent, Friday 30 October 2009 16.33 GMT
Gordon Brown called it a significant breakthrough, yet the green groups label it as disappointing and fatally flawed - welcome to the opening exchanges of the world's attempt to finalise a new global deal on climate change.
Today's announcement in Brussels on climate aid is a necessary step towards a deal, but also a model of what we can expect as countries gear up for crucial political talks on global warming in Copenhagen in December.
Ahead of the Brussels meeting there were gloomy reports of a split and warnings of a likely crisis, quickly followed by a political huddle and talk of the need to compromise. A few hours of discussion later and his colleagues were able to emerge with handshakes and announce almost what everybody had expected all along. Job done.
As revealed in the Guardian on Tuesday, the EU has announced that poor countries need to receive some €100bn a year by 2020 from the world's rich nations to help them cope with the likely impact of global warming. Up to half of this will come from taxpayers with the rest coming from the private sector.
The agreement is a model of political negotiation, in that each national leader gets to go home and report victory to their domestic audiences. Brown, the UK prime minister, gets the credit for forcing through an overall figure, while the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, can point out that Europe has not actually committed itself to provide any specific funds, keeping that card up its sleeve. Meanwhile the heads of the member states most reluctant to put their hands in their pockets, such as Poland, have won concessions on what they are expected to pay upfront.
Against this realpolitik, campaign groups are doing what they do best - pressuring their leaders to do more and to ensure the promised money is not pilfered from existing aid budgets.

European Union: Changing climate in Brussels

The Guardian, Saturday 31 October 2009
Il Presidente Blair, it seems, is not to be. Over dinners on Thursday night Europe's leaders began to look for a less glamorous and less divisive politician to head the European council. Too socialist for the right, too rightwing for the socialists and too tainted with Iraq for everyone, the excitement about Tony Blair was always biggest in Britain, underscoring the point that this country is only ever gripped by European issues when they are given a domestic spin. It happened to the Conservatives, too; their new alliances in the European parliament only catching alight at home when David Miliband led the attack against them.
The murmuring of retreat could be heard in Whitehall yesterday, after a BBC interview with Poland's chief rabbi. In it he described the target of Mr Miliband's ire, the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, as a mainstream leader who was not antisemitic. Tories welcomed that – and the sense that Mr Miliband may have pushed things too hard – but they should not mistake the easing of one line of attack for a general acceptance of their European policy. Too little about it is known – and what is known is too alarming – for anyone to relax at the prospect of a Conservative government dealing with Brussels.
The point is less about extremism than about the party's refusal to co-operate even with European politicians with whom it ought to agree. Fredrik Reinfeldt, for instance, the centre-right Swedish prime minister whose government is in many ways a testing ground for what might become Cameronism, was photographed yesterday cheering the Brussels agreement on climate aid. The agreement promises the developing world a mix of private and public money to cope with the likely impact of global warming. Whether all the promised billions materialise is open to question. But the deal, which Gordon Brown pushed for, raises the European standard ahead of next month's Copenhagen summit. If the EU had done nothing this week, an effective global deal on climate change would have been several steps further away.
Though unsatisfactory in its lack of specifics, yesterday's agreement is exactly the sort of thing modern Conservatives ought to be pleased the EU can do. Instead Tory leaders sound obstructive and, more importantly, are seen by other European leaders as bewilderingly hostile to co-operation and rational institutional change. This intransigence has already had consequences: "London's loss will be Madrid's gain," declared Germany's right-of-centre Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung thinktank recently when it moved its respected director from Britain in a small but intentional snub aimed at a Conservative party which walked away from partnership with the CDU in the European parliament.
The Tories will not be too shaken by that. But they should be. Abroad, a Cameron government will need friends in Europe in the major countries. At home, a Cameron government that wants to make any headway at all on the things its leader says he cares about – education reform, for instance, or poverty – would be mad to spend its energy instead on picking a fight with the rest of Europe. Whether it does so will depend on how Mr Cameron responds to the final ratification of the Lisbon treaty, which now looks imminent. His line until now, "we will not let matters rest", will not serve after that. He is unlikely to promise a referendum on a treaty that will already be in operation. But he may promise a battle over other things – what, until Lisbon, was the EU social chapter, for instance, or the European budget when it comes up for review in 2011. Poor relations with other European right-of-centre leaders will not make such things easy to achieve.
If Mr Cameron is bold, he will face down his party on Europe. It would be a defining moment. It should happen soon. He has a choice: lead his country, or lead the opposition. Europe, once again, is make or break for the Tories.

Emissions trading hits the poor

Scrap this regressive fuel tax and let countries be prosperous and free enough to cope with the effects of climate change

Matthew Sinclair, Friday 30 October 2009 09.00 GMT
When the Grocer magazine accused Ken Clarke of planning to increase the rate of VAT on domestic fuel and power bills in 1997 it was a political scandal.
He was quick to deny their report. But, as our study released this morning shows, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is now effectively doing just what the Grocer accused Clarke of planning. The ETS is now costing British consumers £3bn a year – equivalent to around £117 per family, and a large part of that bill is coming through higher electricity prices. When combined with other climate change policies such as the Renewables Obligation, it now accounts for 14% of the average household electricity bill. Yet, what percentage of the population even knows these policies exist, let alone how much they're paying for them?
The reason why increasing electricity bills has caused such a scandal in the past, and should be taken incredibly seriously now, is that the poor and elderly spend far more as a portion of their income on electricity. The 10% of the population on the lowest incomes spend more than three times as much, as a share of their income, as the richest 10%. Over-75s spend nearly twice as much as under-30s. We need to resist increases in VAT because it hits the poor hardest, but at least VAT is exempted or at least reduced for some items like food and children's clothing. The ETS does precisely the opposite, pushing up prices on the spending priorities of low-income families.
The fact that a large share of the proceeds goes to energy companies as windfall profits rubs salt in that wound. Those profits are going to continue for some years to come as the scheme slowly moves towards auctioning allowances rather than allocating them for free. Even once full auctioning is in place, the ETS will still be a highly regressive tax.
Of course, the reason why we are supposed to accept such a regressive tax is that it will help to cut emissions. Unfortunately, the efficacy of the scheme is undermined by its inability to produce a stable carbon price. The price has collapsed a number of times since the scheme was introduced. As Oliver Tickell wrote for this website, "wild fluctuations create a risk that deters some investors altogether and makes others demand a significant risk premium, putting up the price of capital." EDF Energy has called for a floor on the carbon price to "encourage investment in low-carbon energy like nuclear power". This calls into question the whole point of the scheme.
That volatility isn't going to end any time soon. The basic problem is that the supply of allowances is fixed (the "cap" in "cap and trade") so shifts in demand are entirely reflected in prices. As firms and households find it easier or harder to improve their carbon efficiency, and as the economy grows more or less quickly, the number of allowances allocated by the participating countries will never be quite right and the price will continue to crash up and down.
That volatility doesn't just undermine the efficacy of the ETS. It also makes the burden it imposes on households and businesses that bit harder to bear.
For those reasons alone, the Emissions Trading Scheme should be abolished. Instead, we should focus on making sure that developed and developing countries are prosperous and free enough to cope with whatever climate change throws at them. We should also directly support the development of technologies that can provide us with new options, ideally with the kind of rigorous prizes that have delivered dramatic results in the development of everything from agricultural machinery and private suborbital spaceflight. That will be far more effective and affordable than the current approach.
The ETS has been an expensive failure. Having been implemented through the EU without a real debate here, it lacks democratic legitimacy and it is imposing a significant burden on the poorest families while achieving very little. It should be abolished.

MP Alan Simpson sees red over 'Big Power' anti-green agenda

Labour's energy adviser calls himself a 'leftover hippy' but his politics are fresh – an assault on how the civil service and 'Big Power' try to derail the fight against climate change
The UK is in the grips of a power cartel that actively hinders the fight against global warming by lobbying for its own narrow commercial interests at the cost of local democracy and the future health of the planet. It's an argument that off-gridders and anti-capitalist campaigners will be familiar with. It's not really what you expect to hear from an adviser to the government.
Yet that is the belief of MP Alan Simpson, who occupies a place close to the heart of political power in Britain as energy adviser to the minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband.
Simpson made his eye-opening claims at an event organised this week by UK solar company Solar Century to lobby for an increase in the proposed "feed-in tariff" – the amount paid for electricity sold to the grid by households generating green energy through solar panels or wind turbines.
Next April, the government plans to introduce feed-in tariffs of 5p per unit (kilowatt-hour), plus a subsidy of 36.5p per unit generated off-grid in small solar and wind-powered installations. Simpson argued that these levels provide only a 5%-7% return on investment in solar panels, which is not high enough to kick-start the UK solar energy industry. He called for the feed-in tariff to be set at a minimum of 10p, which would provide closer to a 10% return.
He also said we don't need to look to the Middle East to see the link between energy and politics, because it's here in our own back yards. Calling for a decentralised power generation system in which individual homes and local areas generate much of the UK's power, he said:
Current energy policy in the UK is dominated by the vested interests of "Big Power" [the six utility companies that dominate UK electricity generation]. The national grid is monumentally inefficient as an energy system. It was a half-decent idea for the middle of the last century, but 70%-80% of energy put into the grid disappears before you or I even switch the light on. We need not an energy, but a power revolution that takes control from the centre and literally puts power back into the hands of the people.
The UK generated just 6 megawatt peak (MWp) from solar sources last year, compared to Germany's 1,500 MWp and Spain's 2,511 MWp. The reasons for the UK's poor performance, Simpson declared, relate to civil servants' desire to retain central control, allied with the commercial interests of "Big Power".
He said civil servants have been trying to water down feed-in tariffs designed to boost the deployment of renewable energy in the UK. He accused them of "delaying" and "frustrating" their introduction. The feed-in tariffs will be available for installations of up to 5Mw, but Simpson revealed that initially the big power companies wanted the tariff to be available only for systems that generated less than 50kw.
Cynics say the reason Simpson can be so outspoken is that as a Labour MP he expects to be voted out of power within a few months. However, the record shows that he has consistently criticised government energy policy. He is certainly one of very few British MPs to put his money where his principles are.
Four years ago, he spent £100,000 on a derelict building in Nottingham's Lace Market area, and another £200,000 to make it into an eco-home for him and his wife, the novelist Pascale Quiviger. He refurbished the south-facing roof with solar panels that now provide his home with around 75% of its power. Inside is a micro-combined heat and power (CHP) generator, producing electricity at the same time as it heats the house. The internals walls are made from compressed recycled straw and insulated with recycled cardboard tubes.
Simpson's politics provide a glimpse of the sort of progressive thinking the Labour party could have adopted when it abandoned its traditional socialist approach for Tony Blair's New Labour in the early 1990s. "I'm a leftover hippy from the 60s," he told the assembled people in suits. "Here we have an opportunity to influence huge change." Let's grasp it.
• Alex Benady is acting editor of

Coming clean about going green

Too many companies make spurious eco-friendly claims to sell their products, but there are alternatives
Laura Whateley

Next time you are in Tesco, or flicking through a magazine, try counting the number of products advertised as being eco-friendly, organic or natural. You will soon run out of fingers.
According to TerraChoice, a US marketing company, the amount of goods sold as “green” in the UK, US, Canada and Australia has risen by an average of 79 per cent since 2007. It also found that 98 per cent of products being advertised as green had some environmental failings.
In anticipation of the UN Climate Change Conference in December, Times Money exposes the worst offenders and offers some genuinely green, and often cheaper, alternatives.
Investment groups and banks
Consumers may be tempted to opt for “green” investments but first they should examine where their money is going.
Virgin Money, for example, has launched a climate change Isa, which, it claims, “invests in specially selected business” that have “a lighter environmental footprint”. However, the Isa has been criticised for supporting industries with questionable environmental credentials.
Virgin Money’s marketing literature says that the Isa “includes all industries — so you don’t miss out on lucrative sectors like oil, gas, electricity and transportation”.
Toby Webb, the founder of Ethical Corporation, a business intelligence company, says: “I had expected the fund to be investing in exciting new technology companies set to capitalise on the next green revolution.”
But Virgin’s definition of companies that fight climate change appears to be somewhat elastic, for example: “Companies taking positive action on the corporate responsibility front by promoting environmentally aware behaviour internally, such as encouraging recycling in their workplaces." Mr Webb says: “So an oil company could get into the Virgin Money Climate Change Isa fund by encouraging employees to have a recycling bin in their office.
“Is that really green? No, not at all. And it doesn’t do a lot for the climate either, really.”
HSBC and Nationwide both flaunt their green credentials by offering customers the option to switch to paperless statements. While this is of benefit, it is not a brave environmental campaign: all online banking customers can request to go paperless; some online banks will not even offer you the option of paper statements. It also saves money for the banks, too.
Barclaycard Breathe, meanwhile, says that it will donate 0.5 per cent of customers’ spends to “projects that tackle climate change”.
But the card does not have a particularly competitive rate of interest, which cancels the benefit, according to Darren Cook, of He says: “A better alternative may be to shop around for the best deal on the market and then make a cash donation to your chosen green charity.”
If you want to know that you are receiving more than vacuous green promises from your bank, Mr Cook suggests opening an account with the Co-operative and its online offshoot, Smile, Triodos or Charity Bank. “These banks offer customers transparency about which companies they fund, and promise not to lend to environmentally unfriendly organisations,” he says.
Triodos, for example, uses customers’ deposits to finance wind farms and one of the projects supported by Charity Bank is the installation of a hydro plant.
The Co-operative Bank states that it “will not finance any business whose core activity contributes to global climate change, via the extraction or production of fossil fuels”.
Energy companies
There has been a proliferation of “green” or “eco” energy tariffs on the market lately, but in reality these products do little to fight climate change.
Rob Reid, scientific policy adviser for Which?, believes that consumers are being misled about the true environmental credentials of their energy providers.
He says: “We are concerned about the way energy companies use terms such as ‘green electricity’, which we think is damaging. By law, energy companies must source 9 per cent of energy from renewable resources. Ofgem did a review last year, and found that many energy companies were simply repackaging their tariffs as ‘eco’ because they were following these guidelines.
“Ofgem ruled that energy companies can now only advertise tariffs as ‘green’ if they can prove they do more than they are legally obligated to.
“However, rather than increasing their percentage of renewable energy, companies often just donate to a green charity, or a carbon-offsetting organisation. Energy companies then charge customers a premium for such tariffs.”
Good Energy, for example, is one of the only companies that genuinely uses 100 per cent renewable energy, and Ecotricity invests more per customer in new supplies of renewable energy than any other in the UK.
There are also plenty of ways in which consumers can reduce their energy use without paying an electricity company for the pleasure.
Turning down a thermostat by 1C could cut a consumer’s heating bill by up to 10 per cent.
If only 50 families switched their washing machine temperature from 40C to 30C for a year it would save enough electricity to make a quarter of a million cups of tea, says Which?
Before buying a new electrical item, be it a fridge or a hairdryer, check its efficiency on, a new website that allows consumers to compare brands and models against estimated hourly usage.
For more ideas on how to reduce consumption the Energy Saving Trust offers a free home energy check, which will give you tips on how to save up to £300 a year on household energy bills.
Whatever the ad men tell you, no car is truly green. Mercedes-Benz is the latest company to get into trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading the public about its environmentally friendly credentials. In an advert for a new model it stated that it was “a pleasure, but not a guilty one”.
Neil Wallis, of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, says that consumers should look at how much carbon each car produces. “There are already significant financial benefits to buying a car with lower carbon emissions,” he says, “and they will become much cheaper in the future.”
However, buyers should not assume automatically that a hybrid-electric car emits less carbon than a small petrol engine. A large hybrid car such as the Lexus LS 600h petrol hybrid emits 219g/km of CO2, compared with just 99g/km emitted by the Toyota iQ three-door hatch, with a petrol engine, according to What Green Car.
Motorists can compare the emissions of new cars on the Act On CO2 website at
Buying a new green car is, of course, not the cheapest solution. Mr Wallis says: “You can get significant fuel savings from driving in a more sensible way, which costs you nothing. Tyre pressure is also very important.”
Friends of the Earth estimates that 80 per cent of car tyres are not properly inflated, which can increase fuel consumption by up to 5 per cent.
Reducing the amount you use your car is, ultimately, the greenest option. organises car-sharing schemes and the charity is developing a network of car clubs and sharing schemes across the UK.
Household products
Tempted to pay more for the bottle of bleach decorated with a picture of a rural scene? Don’t bother. According to research by TerraChoice, British household, health and beauty products are some of the worst culprits for false green advertising.
Comfort fabric softener, for example, has been attacked for presenting its product as kind and gentle when in reality fabric softeners can pollute waterways and poison aquatic life.
The report also points out that household products often promote themselves as including “natural materials”, neglecting to make it clear that some natural substances, such as formaldehyde and arsenic, are harmful.
Directgov, the Government’s website, recommends that consumers buy genuinely environmentally friendly products from manufacturers such as Ecover, which offers cleaning products from washing-up liquid to limescale remover and laundry powder.
Ecover products are made using raw materials from vegetable and mineral sources that guarantee maximum biodegradability. Consumers should look for the European Union Ecolabel, which looks like a flower. This stamp is given to products that minimise their impact on the environment.
Ecover will, however, cost you slightly more than other products. A cheap alternative? Simply use less.
Of detergents and cleaning products Directgov says: “Don’t use more than the recommended dose, use the mildest cleaning product needed for the job and the minimum dosage for the hardness of the water in your area.”
Case study: Victorian listed house becomes ‘ecoparadise’
Mike Duff, 30, and his wife, Michelle Wilson, have spent the past year turning their Victorian Grade II listed house in Stratford, East London, into an ecoparadise. As a result, they have added £50,000 to the value of their home. As an urban design and sustainability consultant, Mike works to make cities more environmentally-friendly. He felt that it was time to apply the same logic to his own home.
The couple installed double- glazed, argon-filled windows and an air-source heat pump, which provides all their heating underfloor as well as their hot water. This uses about 25 per cent of the energy consumption of the most efficient combi-boiler. Mike says: “It is three times the cost of a combi-boiler; however, we planned to build this house as if it was our last, so are in it for the long haul. An air-source heat pump also has the added benefit of using a truly renewable fuel, air — and air can’t be taxed.”
Mike and Michelle also have a grey-water recycling system, which purifies the water from their sinks and showers enough to be reused in the garden and for flushing toilets. They grow their own vegetables and herbs, and compost all food waste.
Michelle cannot easily get to work on public transport so they decided to buy a 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid for her commute. Mike says: “This costs us less than the new version of our VW Golf would have cost. So far, we’ve driven 850 miles and filled the tiny 22-litre tank twice.”
Beyond carbon offset
A growing number of “green” insurance products are appearing on the market that promise to offset emissions caused by your driving with donations to carbon-offsetting schemes. The same applies to some “green” mortgages. Norwich and Peterborough Building Society, for example, offers a “carbon neutral mortgage”. For each green mortgage bought, 40 trees will be planted over five years.
However, environmental charities remain sceptical about the benefit of carbon-offsetting. Dan Welch, the co-editor of Ethical Consumer magazine, agrees. He says: “The very basis of carbon-offset is flawed.
If you want to support good organisations that are fighting climate change, there are plenty that offer better ways of doing it than through carbon-offset.”
He recommends policies that offer lower premiums to motorists with greener cars. and More Than both offer cheaper premiums for fuel-efficient, hybrid or electric cars, for example. Naturesave offers discounts on home insurance for houses with green features such as solar panels and water butts.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Q&A: what do we know about climate change and the world's future?

Mark Henderson, Science Editor

Is the world warming?
Yes. Average global temperatures increased by 0.74C (1.33F) in the past century, and by 0.6C in the century before that.
Is there a parallel trend in greenhouse gas levels?
Yes. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million (ppm) in pre-industrial times to 387ppm today. Concentrations of methane have risen from 700 parts per billion (ppb) to 1,745 ppb. Today’s levels of both gases are the highest for at least 650,000 years.
Doesn’t the world’s climate always vary?
Yes. All sorts of factors affect the world’s climate, including changes in the Earth’s orbit, changes in the Sun’s intensity, volcanic eruptions, atmospheric pollution, and natural variations such as El Niño.
How do we know that man-made greenhouse gases, and not natural variation, are responsible for global warming?
Evidence of the past climate shows that rising greenhouse gas levels have been followed by warming. In the past decade, scientists have also established that it is impossible to account for recent observed changes in global temperatures unless human activities have had an impact.
Computer models of the Earth’s climate agree that natural variation can explain only a part of recent warming. Only if anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gases are included do the models replicate what has actually happened. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2007, states that the evidence for global warming is unequivocal, and that human influence is “very likely”.
Has any more evidence emerged since the 2007 report?
Yes. A study published last year found the signature of human- induced global warming in Antarctica, the last continent on which it had not been detected. Other studies have attributed heavier rainfall, including wetter weather in Britain and increased saltiness of the sea, to anthropogenic greenhouse gases.
What has happened to temperatures over the past ten years?
The warmest year on record was 1998, in part due to a very strong El Niño, which has a heating effect. Since then, temperatures have stabilised, though at a very high level. The ten warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997.
Does this mean that global warming has stopped?
No. Natural climate variations mean that there will be periods of temperature stability even when the overall temperature trend points upwards. A study led by Jeff Knight and Peter Stott, of the Met Office, found that such hiatuses occur relatively often during periods of warming, and aren’t inconsistent with the upward trend.
Is it possible to link specific weather events to climate change?
Not usually: there have always been hurricanes, heat waves and hot and cold years, and while many of these may be consistent with global warming, it is generally very difficult to attribute responsibility. Dr Stott’s team has identified the signature of human-induced global warming in the 2003 European heat wave that caused 35,000 deaths.
What will happen to the climate in the future?
The IPCC has set out several scenarios, which predict global temperature increases of between 1.1C and 6.4C by 2100.
Why don’t these scenarios agree?
They depend on many different variables, not least the quantities of greenhouse gases that the world continues to emit. Even if greenhouse gas production were to cease today, the world would still warm by at least 1C, because carbon dioxide that has already been emitted stays in the atmosphere for 50 to 200 years.
Modelling the future climate also carries significant uncertainties, hence the range of possible outcomes.
What is happening to the Arctic sea ice?
It is in long-term decline, and global warming is having an effect. The record low was recorded in 2007, with an extent 39.2 per cent below the average for 1979-2001. It has since recovered, though not to its previous thickness. There is considerable natural variation in ice extent from year to year, but the overall trend is towards shrinkage. Models generally predict that the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer by 2060 to 2080, though some recent estimates have suggested this could happen more quickly.

East-west tussle erupts over bill for combating climate change

Ian Traynor in Brussels
The Guardian, Friday 30 October 2009
European leaders were locked in an east-west tussle over how to foot the bill for combating climate change, a key issue seen as a test of European credibility on global warming in the run-up to the Copenhagen conference in December.
Poland and other more recent and poorer EU members threatened to block agreement on a financial package for funding global warming action in the developing world, a central plank of the international pact needed if the Copenhagen talks are to succeed. At the end of yesterday's talks, no deal had been agreed on funding for tackling climate change in developing countries. Talks are to continue today.
Chairing last night's Brussels summit, Fredrik Reinfeldt, the prime minister of Sweden, said Europe's claim to lead the world on global warming was at stake. But the Poles, Hungarians, and Lithuanians fiercely criticised the outline deal tabled by the Swedes.
The Swedes and the European commission, as well as Britain, called for the EU to agree a package of up to €15bn (£13.4bn) of public money for transfers to developing countries by 2020. They want the bill to be split on the basis of the greenhouse gas emissions and economic prowess of each of the 27 member states.
The Poles and other east Europeans maintain that they cannot afford to pay a fair share of the bill, particularly since some of the east European countries have been hit particularly hard by the financial crisis.
The €15bn is supposed to be the European share of the developed world's bill of up to €50bn of public-sector spending by 2020. The EU also hoped to agree on transitional funding of up to €7bn a year, starting from next year, for the developing world.
The Germans last night objected to pinning down the short-term fund now. But the bigger problem came from east European opposition over how the bill should be split.
"In its current form, the burden sharing is not acceptable," said Gordon Bajnai, the Hungarian prime minister.
Senior officials said the Poles were also refusing to agree to the terms.
The Swedes have offered a compromise which would include "readjustment" mechanisms for the poorer EU member states in the form of rebates, or via other refunds.
"The poorer countries in eastern Europe have been more reluctant. Some of the richer ones have been less forward than us," said a senior UK official.
The poorest EU member states, such as Romania and Bulgaria, are complaining that the European subsidies will go to some developing countries, such as Brazil, which are wealthier than they are.
While Sweden, Denmark, Britain, and the European commission said that the EU had to agree a package now in order to send a strong signal to Copenhagen, put pressure on the US and other countries to agree similar funding, and retain the pioneering role it claims on climate change, Germany was reluctant to commit to figures publicly, arguing that the Europeans should not reveal their hand until the "card game" got under way properly in Copenhagen.
"You cannot simply wait right until the very end of Copenhagen to do this," said the British official. "We need to explain the terms in which we want countries to put their commitments on the table, and now is the time to do it."

Canada sets aside its boreal forest as giant carbon vault

By banning logging, mining and oil drilling in an area twice the size of California, Canada is ensuring its boreal forests continue to soak up carbon
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Thursday 29 October 2009 17.34 GMT
In the far north latitudes, buried within a seemingly endless expanse of evergreen forests, the authorities in Canada are building up one of the world's best natural defences against global warming.
In a series of initiatives, Canadian provincial governments and aboriginal leaders have set aside vast tracts of coniferous woods, wetlands, and peat. The conservation drive bans logging, mining, and oil drilling on some 250m acres – an area more than twice the size of California.
The sheer scale of the forest conservation drive is somewhat of an anomaly for Canada, whose government has been accused of sabotaging the global climate change talks by its development of the Alberta tar sands and its refusal to make deep cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions.
Last week, a former adviser to Barack Obama urged Canada to do more to keep up with America's moves towards a cleaner energy economy.
In the latest addition to the carbon storehouse, the provincial premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer, this month announced a $10m (£5.6m) Canadian fund to protect a 10.8m acre expanse of boreal or evergreen forest. It was one of Doer's last acts as premier; he took over as Canada's ambassador to Washington this month.
The $10m will go towards efforts by indigenous leaders to designate boreal forest lands in eastern Manitoba as a Unesco world heritage site. The Pimachiowin Aki world heritage project, which straddles the Manitoba-Ontario border, extends efforts by Canadian provincial leaders to protect the wide swaths of pristine forests in the north. It also ensures the survival of one of the best natural defences against global warming after the world's oceans, environmentalists say.
A report by the International Boreal Conservation Campaign said the forests, with their rich mix of trees, wetlands, peat and tundra, were a far bigger carbon store than scientists had realised, soaking up 22% of the total carbon stored on the earth's land surface.
"If you look across Canada one of [the boreal forest's] great values to us globally is its carbon storage value," said Steve Kallick, director of the Pew Environment Group's International Boreal Conservation Campaign. "There is so much carbon sequestered in it already that if it escaped it would pose a whole new, very grave threat."
Canada's cold temperatures slow decomposition, allowing the build-up of organic soil and peat. The forest floors beneath its evergreens hold twice as much carbon per acre as tropical forests, such as the Amazon.
It is unclear how long Canada's forests can continue to serve as carbon vaults. "As the climate warms, the place is going to dry up. There will be a problem with insect infestation. There is going to be increased natural carbon release due to fire or wetlands drying up," said Sue Libenson, a spokeswoman for the International Boreal Conservation Campaign.
But she added: "The general premise is that there is still a hell of a lot of carbon in there." Its release would be a climate catastrophe.
Canada's 1.3bn acres of boreal forest store the equivalent of 27 years' worth of current global greenhouse gas emissions, a Greenpeace study found. The destruction of those forests, scientists warn, would be like setting off a massive "carbon bomb" because of the sudden release of emissions.
That threat appears to have concentrated the official mindset in Canada, which otherwise has a poor record on action on climate change. On a per capita basis, the country is one of the worst polluters on the planet, producing about 2% of the world's emissions even though it has just 33m people. It holds one of the worst track records among industrialised states for living up to its commitment under the Kyoto accords. By 2007, greenhouse gas emissions were 34% above the target Canada agreed at Kyoto.
Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, is resisting doing much more, committing to just a 6% cut over 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. "I see Harper's policy as a continuation of the Bush agenda," said David Martin, climate director for Greenpeace Canada.
A key advisor to Obama made a similar point last week, comparing Canada's current climate change policy to the inaction in America under George Bush. "The Canadians would be well served by keeping up with what's going on in the United States with respect to this push towards clean technology," John Podesta, who oversaw Obama's transition team, told a conference in Ottawa.
Environmentalists also fear that Harper intends to exclude the Alberta tar sands – the heavy crude deposits that have fuelled the rise in emissions – from any future greenhouse gas emissions regime.
But the Harper government did relent on forest protection, working with the Sahtu and Deh Cho First Nations to set aside 40m acres in the Northwest Territories.
Canadian provincial leaders have moved even more aggressively in recent years, with Ontario committed to protecting 55m acres, or about half of its forest, and Quebec committed to protecting 150m acres. "Canada is torn between wanting to promote the tar sands and make money off it now, and wanting to live up to its promises under the Kyoto accord. But as far as protecting carbon rich ecosystems, particularly the boreal forest, Canada is a world leader," said Kallick.

Nothing will happen at Copenhagen until the 11th-and-a-half hour

Copenhagen was always going to be a nail-biting experience, but if we abandon Kyoto and try to reinvent the wheel you might end up gnawing your fingers off too.
Graciela Chichilnisky, Thursday 29 October 2009 17.03 GMT

Copenhagen was always going to be a nail-biting experience, but if we abandon Kyoto and try to reinvent the wheel you might end up gnawing your fingers off too
As the world prepares for Copenhagen, China and the US are locked into a titanic confrontation reminiscent of last century's Cold War – all about warming.
Neither wants to reduce carbon emissions first, and each can produce catastrophic risks as they are the two largest emitters. The times are different, the weapons are different, but the situation is the same. The stakes are really high and yet in the recent Bangkok climate change discussions, the US looked set to scrap completely the Kyoto Protocol and negotiate a new treaty. Is this a major set-back or a good move?
The move reflects internal US politics. Kyoto has not been ratified yet by US Congress, and it is a point of national pride that the world should not be making international law without the US. But at the end of the day, the Kyoto Protocol is an American creation and follows US market ideas and the 2009 Energy Bill voted by the House goes in the right direction.
The opposition to Kyoto has geopolitical roots. Some in the US fear that the Protocol is a global redistribution plot towards poor nations. There is some truth in that, as the Protocol transferred over US$23 billion to developing nations for clean technology projects decreasing the equivalent of about 20 per cent of EU emissions. Kyoto can redistribute global wealth. Through its carbon market, the bad guys who are over-emitters, have to pay to the good guys that are under-emitters. This should be considered a great achievement of the Kyoto Protocol. Its carbon market changes economic values by making emitting expensive and cleaning profitable, and helps redistribute global wealth to the nations whose resources are over-utilised. This major change in values is exactly what is needed to resolve global warming and stop our suicidal overuse of the earth's resources.
Has Kyoto worked?
The Kyoto treaty was faulted because greenhouse gas emissions rose under its auspices. But the rising emissions of the last 13 years came mostly from nations that never ratified the Protocol. The Protocol is not at fault for those who refused to obey its limits.
Yet the Kyoto Protocol is only a start and requires improvements. Copenhagen must cut global emissions by 60 - 80 per cent by 2020 to avert the worst risks of global warming. The world emits 33 gigatons of carbon per year. The US emits about 8 gigatons, even though it houses only 5 per cent of the world's population. This has to change. Many nations will agree to substantial cuts by 2050. This sets a good scene on the world's stage – but we need action right now. That is more difficult.Why keep the Kyoto Protocol? We must bound global emissions and decrease carbon in the atmosphere - no matter what. Most people agree on this. But this is the first thing the Protocol does. So if we scrap the Kyoto Protocol we will have to start in the same place and do more of the same - so at the end we would have a Kyoto Protocol by another name. It took 13 years to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol. Why spend precious time reordering the chairs in the Titanic?
The US Energy Bill must still go through Senate and the fear is that at the end it will be very weak. It could impair a deal in Copenhagen... but I think it will be the other way around: Copenhagen will determine what happens in the US Senate. The Senate's main gripe is that China will not limit its emissions. Unless a satisfactory solution is reached between China and the US, no serious climate change regulation, no carbon limits and no carbon trading can emerge in the US.
The ticking clock
My prediction for Copenhagen is that nothing will happen until the 11½ hour. This is because the stakes are so high – involving the use of energy and the economic growth of nations – that no nation wants to move first.At the end, reaching a deal will focus everybody's attention. Copenhagen has a mandate, the same way that Kyoto had the Berlin Mandate to achieve the Protocol – and it worked. The same will happen here. The US promised to participate in this process. The stakes are high because we procrastinated too long. Hundreds of millions of people in the Small Island States – 43 of them - could drown or be displaced – an enormous cost to the political stability of the planet. President Naheen of the Maldives is already purchasing land in India. 50 million climate refugees are expected in 2010, and 200 million by 2012...
A deal will be reached in Copenhagen. The world cannot afford another failure. From my experience of 25 years, I read the smoke signals positively. It will be an agreement in principle – the details worked out over a year or so and a process agreed for this. I have made two simple proposals that involve technical and financial solutions – both win-win solutions for industrial and developing nations – modest extensions of existing law. They can diffuse the China - US impasse that is the major diplomatic confrontation.
We probably also need to suck carbon from the atmosphere now – what I call Negative Carbon. Reducing emissions does not suffice – we need to literally reduce carbon already in the atmosphere to avert climate change risks. Negative carbon technologies can do that. A small extension of the Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism can fund the building of thousands of power plants in developing nations that clean the atmosphere. All this is possible through Kyoto.
If no deal is reached, a new Copenhagen will have to be created, but it will waste yet more valuable time if we are forced to reinvent the wheel.
• This article appeared in the Ecologist, part of the Guardian Environment Network
• Professor Graciela Chichilnisky was the architect of the Carbon Market, and lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change which won the 2007 Nobel Prize.

Britain will not sign up to a weak deal at Copenhagen, says Ed Miliband

Britain will not sign up to a deal on tackling climate change unless other countries, including the US, also agree to cut emissions, warns Ed Miliband.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Published: 6:00AM GMT 29 Oct 2009

More than 190 countries are due to meet in Copenhagen in December to thrash out a new deal on climate change.
At the moment the negotiations are at deadlock over how to stop temperatures rising by more than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F).

There are fears that the world will have to delay an agreement until next year because the US is unable to sign up to targets on cutting emissions, while developing countries like China will refuse to do anything that slows their economic growth.
But speaking at a UK Parliamentary Committee, Mr Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said the UK would not accept a "Plan B".
"I think we should not sign up to a deal that is inadequate. We must push for a substantial, comprehensive deal," he said.
He said the "bottom line" will be making sure carbon emissions peak by 2020 before starting to reduce. This will mean both the US and China, the world's two biggest emitters, will both have to sign up to cut carbon emissions.
He also said the rich world will have to pay poor countries to adopt clean technology like wind or nuclear instead of using fossil fuels to develop, as well as providing money for adaptation.
"In a sense we are saying to developing countries do as we say, not as we did in terms of industrial growth. In that sense I think it is right we push forward on finance," he added.
Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, has suggested the rich world sets aside £60 billion a year and European leaders are due to set out their position today at a meeting in Brussels.
The European Council is the last chance for the European Union to set out their postions before the main negotiations begin in Copenhagen.
Across European capitals, environmental activisits have been putting up tents to represent the number of people who could be made homeless by climate change unless more money is given for adaptation.
They want Europe to increase the amount of money offered by the rich world to at least £90 billion per annum. Most of the money will come from carbon trading but a small amount will have to come from tax payer's money.
Phil Bloomer, Oxfam’s Campaigns and Policy Director, said the EU will have to put money on the table to encourage developing countries to take action on cutting emissions.
"European leaders have so far behaved as if Europe is immune– but climate change has no regard for borders. Unless rich countries invest so that poor communities can protect themselves from the effects of climate change now, millions more people will be permanently displaced from their homes. The cost of failure will be seen in the lives we have failed to protect," he said.
Tom Picken, international climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said public funding must be made available.
"The EU must stop shirking its legal and moral commitments and provide sufficient public money to developing countries so that they can grow cleanly and adapt to the effects of climate change which are already putting millions of lives at risk," he said.
:: The Government's former chief scientific adviser in the Department of International Development has called for more research into how climate change is going to affect Africa.
Prof Sir Gordon Conway said millions could die on the continent if rising temperatures cause more droughts and floods.
He said called for more money to develop drough resistant crops, including genetically modified strains, and flood defences.

EU summit: climate change and presidency top the agenda

Europe's leaders are converging on Brussels to consider candidates for a coveted new post of EU president and grapple with climate change.

Published: 11:21AM GMT 29 Oct 2009

They must decide how much aid to offer developing nations to bring them into a global climate change deal at the Copenhagen summit next month. Meanwhile they will debate who should be the first President of the European Council, a position that will be created on final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
Fredrik Reinfeldt, the prime minister of Sweden who is chairing the two-day summit - has said the EU's credibility is on the line and member nations must agree on an aid figure. The European Commission suggests EU nations offer developing nations up to 15 billion euros ($22 billion) a year, while aid and environmental groups say Europe should be paying 35 billion euros a year by 2020.

Negotiations between EU governments on how to fund such aid collapsed last week as finance ministers disagreed over how to share the costs.
The leaders will also hold a first debate on who should fill the club's newly created post of EU president and other top jobs after Czech objections over the bloc's treaty held them back from clinching a full deal at the two-day meeting. The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, is expected to ratify the treaty next week.
Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy and former British prime minister, has been the subject of heated debate among EU leaders. While his office has repeatedly distanced him from the job, it was reported on Thursday that he could take the position in order to "make a difference" for Europe on the world stage.
Fresh from a celebratory eve-of-summit dinner in Paris hours after Angela Merkel was sworn in for a second term as German chancellor, President Nicolas Sarkozy said the EU's twin drivers were in "almost total" agreement on the key issues.

Thermal images reveal green credentials of party leaders

Political leaders should be leading the way on climate change when it comes to energy efficiency, according to insulation experts.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 5:07PM GMT 29 Oct 2009
The first green audit of party political headquarters and constituency offices revealed all four main political parties are wasting energy.
The building in Brighton where the Green Party is based had the worst rating, emitting 610kg of CO2 a year – almost twice the national average of 344kg - according to the statistics.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's constituency office in Sheffield was the next wasteful at 525kg, closely followed by the office of David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, that produced 108kg every year.
Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, who had his office measured because it was impossible to survey No. 10 Downing Street for security reasons, had the best insulated workplace at only 94kg.
The carbon emissions were calculated by taking a thermal image of the buildings and working out the amount of energy that is wasted through the walls, windows and roof.
Stewart Little, Chief Executive of IRT Surveys, the company that took the pictures, said he wanted to highlight how much energy is wasted from failing to insulate cavity walls or use double glazing.
"Our images show energy efficiency of the buildings those politicians occupy," he said. "It is very much a message of practice what you preach and make sure your office is as energy efficient as possible."
The Green Party pointed out that they only occupy a few offices of the Brighton Eco-Centre, making their carbon footprint comparable or even lower than the other parties. They also said the old fashioned building had since been fitted with double glazing.
Darren Johnson, the Green Party's national spokesperson on trade and industry, said the images highlight the need to make all buildings in the UK more energy efficient.
"This does highlight the problems faced by the majority of British families, businesses and organisations in terms of energy costs as well as CO2 emissions. It's really hard for individual families and businesses, especially in a recession, to find the cash to undertake the energy-saving measures we all need. So we urgently need a nationwide programme of energy-efficiency works on all British homes and business premises, and we need the government to cashflow it," he said.
"Energy-efficiency pays for itself over time, but most of the time individuals can't afford the initial outlay. That's why we need the government to make the initial investment, and get the cash back afterwards from businesses and householders once their fuel bills have been cut."

Brown's opposition to climate change plea

By Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor
Friday, 30 October 2009
Next month's crucial climate change conference in Copenhagen could be jeopardised by European wrangling over the cost of tackling global warming, Gordon Brown warned EU leaders.
He spoke amid fierce resistance among a majority of EU member states to his call for them to commit budgets now to help developing nations cope with climate change.

Opposition to his plea for the EU to give between €7bn (£6.2bn) and €10bn a year to emerging nations from 2020 is being led by Poland with the backing of eight eastern and central European countries. They insist the price is too high, not least because they face considerable expense dealing with emissions from their own smokestack industries.
Germany and France, meanwhile, say they support the intention of Mr Brown's plan, but argue that details of budgets have to be left until the global negotiations start on 8 December in Copenhagen. The arguments appear likely to dominate the formal agenda of the two-day EU summit that began in Brussels yesterday.
Mr Brown, who is being backed in the argument by the Netherlands and Denmark, told a press conference after arriving in Brussels: "The world needs a programme for climate change. Unless we have programmes for financing climate change then we will not get an agreement at Copenhagen.
"We want conclusions to show Europe showing leadership."
Mr Brown said Europe should make clear what it would contribute out of the estimated €100bn a year by 2020 the European Commission says will need to be found globally.
British officials said that the EU's share of that works out at between €30bn to €40bn (£6.2bn to £8.9bn) a year and the UK is ready to pay £1bn a year by 2020.
Mr Brown believes it will be difficult to persuade other countries to contribute towards the global fund unless the EU has taken a lead by stumping up the cash voluntarily.
Even if financing is not agreed, the summit conclusion will set out Europe's long-standing pledge to cut CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, compared with 1990 levels. That is a "unilateral" target the EU will stick to even if the rest of the world cannot agree to match it at Copenhagen.
A tougher EU target of cutting emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 is contingent on everyone else agreeing to do the same.
Europe's leaders will also confirm that emissions from planes and ships are included in the plan, with targets of cutting aviation emissions by 10 per cent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels, and 20 per cent cuts across the maritime sector.
The EU will also challenge the rest of the world to set a long-term target of cutting overall carbon emissions by 80-95 per cent by 2050 compared to 1990.

Methane’s impact on global warming far higher than previously thought

Mark Henderson, Science Editor

The effects of a critical greenhouse gas on global warming have been significantly underestimated, according to research suggesting that emissions controls and climate models may need to be revised
Methane’s impact on global temperatures is about a third higher than generally thought because previous estimates have not accounted for its interaction with airborne particles called aerosols, Nasa scientists found.
When this indirect effect of the potent greenhouse gas is included one tonne of methane has about 33 times as much effect on the climate over 100 years as a tonne of carbon dioxide, rather than 25 times as in standard estimates.
Drew Shindell, of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, who led the study, said that the findings added to the importance of measures to contain methane emissions, as well as those of carbon dioxide, which will be discussed at the Copenhagen climate summit in December.

As methane breaks down much more quickly than carbon dioxide, the impact of cuts on climate would also be faster. “For long-term climate change there’s no way around dealing with CO2 — it’s the biggest thing and it lasts hundreds of years,” Dr Shindell told The Times. “But if we were to have a concerted effort to deal with non-CO2 we could have a very large impact on the near term.
“Substantial reductions in methane, carbon monoxide and black carbon: that’s the way to make a big difference. I think it should be more of a priority [for Copenhagen].”
Dr Shindell’s results, published in the journal Science, also raise the possibility that global warming forecasts may be too optimistic. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2007, predicts that global temperatures will rise by between 1.1C and 6.4C during the 21st century.
The study has further implications for emissions trading schemes, which currently focus only on carbon dioxide. For these to be effective the warming effects of methane need to be pegged to those of carbon dioxide at the right “exchange rate”.
Dr Shindell said: “We undervalue methane. The whole point of having a scale is to relate different gases together, to enlarge the pool of mitigation options. But if you’ve got the wrong value for one, clearly you don’t have maximum efficiency.”
The researchers wrote in Science: “We found that gas-aerosol interactions substantially alter the relative importance of the various emissions. In particular, methane emissions have a larger impact than that used in current carbon-trading schemes or in the Kyoto Protocol.”
The exchange rate between carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is generally calculated according to global warming potential (GWP), which measures the effects of one tonne of a gas on warming over 100 years in comparison to one tonne of carbon dioxide.
Keith Shine, of the University of Reading, one of the originators of the GWP concept, said that Dr Shindell’s work would help to refine this. “It does change the picture quite significantly,” he said. “GWP is an exchange rate between different gases and this does potentially change the rate to make methane more valuable, giving more encouragement to reduce methane emissions.”
He said, however, that emissions controls should continue to focus chiefly on carbon dioxide. “The long-term effects of carbon dioxide are so strong that if you take the eye off the ball you will be storing up problems for the future.”
Methane is acknowledged as the second most important greenhouse gas produced by human activity after carbon dioxide and is responsible for about a fifth of warming effects. Its chief sources are landfill sites, fossil fuel energy and agriculture, particularly rice and livestock farming.
In the study Dr Shindell used computer models to investigate how methane, carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases besides CO2 interacted with aerosols — airborne particles such as sulphate molecules.
Sulphate molecules, produced when sulphur dioxide is oxidised in the atmosphere, have a cooling effect on the climate as they reflect heat but, while their direct effects are included in climate models, their indirect effects in combination with methane and other gases are not.
Methane and carbon monoxide reduce levels of sulphate aerosols, because they use up oxidants such as hydroxyl in the atmosphere. Fewer oxidant molecules are thus available to oxidise sulphur dioxide to produce sulphate.
“What happens is that as you put more methane into the atmosphere, it competes for oxidants such as hydroxyl with sulphur dioxide,” Dr Shindell said. “More methane means less sulphate, which is reflective and thus has a cooling effect. Calculations of GWP including these gas-aerosol linkages thus substantially increase the value for methane.”
Chris Huntingford, of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: “This is an excellent analysis demonstrating that methane emissions have the potential to add more to future warming than hereto realised. This new research complements the well-established result that carbon dioxide emissions have been responsible for a large fraction of the global warming observed since pre-industrial times.
“There is a requirement to distil this more complete understanding of how the many different atmospheric gases interact, both between themselves and with humans. Policy decisions must account for such interactions and links to emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and atmospheric aerosols.”

Exaggerated claims undermine drive to cut emissions, scientists warn

Mark Henderson, Science Editor
Exaggerated and inaccurate claims about the threat from global warming risk undermining efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and contain climate change, senior scientists have told The Times.
Environmental lobbyists, politicians, researchers and journalists who distort climate science to support an agenda erode public understanding and play into the hands of sceptics, according to experts including a former government chief scientist.
Excessive statements about the decline of Arctic sea ice, severe weather events and the probability of extreme warming in the next century detract from the credibility of robust findings about climate change, they said.
Such claims can easily be rebutted by critics of global warming science to cast doubt on the whole field. They also confuse the public about what has been established as fact, and what is conjecture.

The experts all believe that global warming is a real phenomenon with serious consequences, and that action to curb emissions is urgently needed.
They fear, however, that the contribution of natural climate variations towards events such as storms, melting ice and heatwaves is too often overlooked, and that possible scenarios about future warming are misleadingly presented as fact.
“I worry a lot that NGOs [non=governmental organisations] are very much in the habit of doing exactly that,” said Professor Sir David King, director of the Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, and a former government chief scientific adviser.
“When people overstate happenings that aren’t necessarily climate change-related, or set up as almost certainties things that are difficult to establish scientifically, it distracts from the science we do understand. The danger is they can be accused of scaremongering. Also, we can all become described as kind of left-wing greens.”
Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said: “It isn’t helpful to anybody to exaggerate the situation. It’s scary enough as it is.”
She was particularly critical of claims made by scientists and environmental groups two years ago, when observations showed that Arctic sea ice had declined to the lowest extent on record, 39 per cent below the average between 1979 and 2001. This led Mark Serreze, of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, to say that Arctic ice was “in a downward spiral and may have passed the point of no return”.
Dr Pope said that while climate change was a factor, normal variations also played a part, and it was always likely that ice would recover a little in subsequent years, as had happened. It was the long-term downward trend that mattered, rather than the figures for any one year, she added.
“The problem with saying that we’ve reached a tipping point is that when the extent starts to increase again — as it has — the sceptics will come along and say, ‘Well, it’s stopped’,” she said. “This is why it’s important we’re as objective as we can be, and use all the available evidence to make clear what’s actually happening, because neither of those claims is right.”
Myles Allen, head of the Climate Dynamics Group at the University of Oxford, said: “Some claims that were made about the ice anomaly were misleading. A lot of people said this is the beginning of the end of Arctic ice, and of course it recovered the following year and everybody looked a bit silly.” Dr Allen said that predictions of how the world was likely to warm also needed to be framed carefully. While there was little doubt that the Earth would get hotter, there were still many uncertainties about the precise extent and regional impact.
“I think we need to be very careful about purporting to be able to supply very detailed and apparently accurate information about how the climate will be in 50 or 100 years’ time, when what we’re really giving is a possible future climate,” he added.
“We’re not in a position to say how likely it is and what the chances are of it being different. There’s an understandable tendency to want to make climate change real for people and tell them what’s going to happen in their postcode, and that’s very dangerous because it gets beyond the level on which current models can operate.”
Chris Huntingford, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said: “I think the research scientists in general are extremely cautious about making projections for the future, but that caution is vital. We don’t dispute that warming is happening, but it’s important that the NGOs and other people interested in the issue don’t always pick the high scenario and present it as fact.”
Temperature trends of the past two decades have also been widely mis-interpreted to support particular points of view, the scientists said. Rapid warming in the 1990s, culminating in the hottest year on record in 1998, was erroneously used to suggest that climate change was accelerating. Since then, temperatures have stabilised, prompting sceptics to claim that global warming has stopped.
“In 1998, people thought the world was going to end, temperatures were going up so much,” Dr Pope said. “People pick up whatever makes their argument, but this works both ways. It’s the long-term trend that counts, which is continuing and inexorable.”

EU countries fail to agree on fund to help developing nations go green

David Charter in Brussels

The host of the Copenhagen climate change talks made a desperate appeal to European leaders to stop arguing and open their wallets to save the prospects of a deal next month.
Nine Eastern European countries have refused to commit to an international fund to pay developing countries to go green, despite a plea from Lars Lokke Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister. Gordon Brown was one of the few leaders to push an EU plan to pay €10 billion a year into a global fund of €30 to €40 billion from 2020, which he warned was crucial to success in Copenhagen.
But Germany was leading another group of countries, including France, that argued it was bad tactics for the EU to show how much it was prepared to pay this far in advance of the talks.
“Some countries have a position where for strategic reasons they think we should keep the wallet in our pocket for some weeks. I really disagree,” Mr Rasmussen said.

“Copenhagen is a definite deadline and the people of the earth will be very disappointed if we do not reach a comprehensive agreement. There must be money on the table and hopefully we can agree that we are prepared to pay our share.”
Poland led the opposition from Eastern European countries who want to know how much they are in line to pay to countries in Africa and South America before signing up to a general EU commitment.
The former Iron Curtain countries argue that they cannot pay in the next few years while they adapt their own coal-based economies to meet strict EU emissions targets. Gordon Bajnai, the Hungarian Prime Minister, said that sharing costs between all nations was not acceptable for the poorer members. He said: “We want a result this weekend, but not at any price.”
But Mr Brown warned: “Unless we have a plan for funding the action we are taking on climate change we will not get agreement in Copenhagen.”

Chinese-Made Turbines to Fill U.S. Wind Farm

A Chinese wind-turbine company, with financing help from Beijing, has struck a deal to be the exclusive supplier to one of the largest wind-farm developments in the U.S., a sign of how Chinese firms are aggressively capitalizing on America's clean-energy push.
The 36,000-acre development in West Texas would receive $1.5 billion in financing through Export-Import Bank of China. Shenyang Power Group, a five-month-old alliance, would supply the project with 240 of its 2.5-megawatt wind turbines, among the biggest made in the world.

The Obama administration is hoping a shift to renewable energy will inject new life into the U.S. manufacturing base and provide high-paying jobs, making up for losses in other sectors. But while the U.S. has poured money into renewable energy through tax credits and other subsidies, China has positioned itself to reap many of the benefits by ramping up its export machine.
Global manufacturing of wind turbines shifted primarily to Europe from the U.S. after the 1980s, as nations such as Spain created special pricing for renewable power. By 2005, less than a quarter of components going into turbines installed in the U.S. were made domestically.
The extension of a production tax credit stimulated domestic output during the past few years. But Elizabeth Salerno, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, said that in the first three quarters of 2009, there were 33% fewer announcements of U.S. turbine-factory expansions than in the comparable period of 2008.
U.S. officials and domestic suppliers have been concerned that the U.S. wouldn't reap the full benefit of the country's rapid expansion in renewable energy. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.) has voiced concern that the U.S. has outsourced much of its clean-energy manufacturing capacity. As part of the stimulus bill earlier this year, he earmarked a $2.3 billion tax credit for domestic producers of clean-energy equipment.
Another hurdle is that many renewable-energy projects in the U.S. are having trouble securing financing because of tight credit markets and lower prices for power sales. As a result, many privately funded projects have been scaled back or canceled.
The federal government is trying to breathe new life into the industry and last month handed out more than $500 million in grants to a dozen wind and solar-energy projects.
Cappy McGarr, managing partner of U.S. Renewable Energy Group, a private-equity firm that is lead partner on the 600-megawatt development, said the partnership would seek tax credits and support from the federal stimulus package, which should amount to millions of dollars. Mr. McGarr said the project should create 2,800 jobs -- of which 15% would be in the U.S. The rest would flow to China, where Shenyang employs 800 people.
Meanwhile, China is planning on future investments in the U.S. renewable industry as a way of creating a market for Chinese wind and solar equipment manufacturers.
"This is just the beginning," said Lu Jinxiang, chief executive of A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd., which controls Shenyang Power. He said the U.S. "is an ideal target" as it seeks to shift to renewable energy from fossil fuels.
The West Texas project exclusively would use 2.5-megawatt turbines made at Shenyang's turbine-manufacturing facility. The Texas project would soak up more than half of Shenyang's current annual production of 1,125 megawatts of turbine capacity.
The project still must garner the necessary permits, but developers hope to have turbines in service in March 2011.—Ben Casselman contributed to this article.
Write to Rebecca Smith at

Ofgem to confirm £300m of European funding towards offshore wind farms

Ofgem will announce on Friday £300m of European funding for investment in power lines from offshore wind farms, as the regulator tries to encourage the "forgotten infrastructure" behind Britain's green revolution.

By Rowena MasonPublished: 7:37PM GMT 29 Oct 2009

Lord Mogg, the chairman of the regulator, said he hoped money for six projects, which will come from the European Investment Bank, would encourage investors who are not currently involved in electricity transmission.
"The energy industry has been dogged in many European countries by the dominance of incumbent players," Lord Mogg said. "Renewables could change that with the chance for different players to enter the market."

Ofgem has been trying to reduce costs associated with offshore connections by £1bn, insisting that nine new power lines from wind farms to the grid are auctioned off to different operators. It hopes this will foster greater competition over costs, which will be passed on to consumers.
Thirteen companies, from RWE npower and Balfour Beatty to funds connected to Macquarie Bank and ABN Amro have been shortlisted as bidders for links worth £1.15bn, but new funding would speed up the process.
More than £15bn will be needed to connect 33 gigawatts of wind power to the mainland, if Britain manages to build all the turbines to meet its climate change targets. This is on top of the £60bn to £70bn that will be needed to construct the wind farms themselves.
Simon Brooks, vice-president of the European Investment Bank, said it had decided to consider the funding because grid connections needed promoting within the priority area of energy.
"It is often forgotten and rather important that offshore wind generation actually needs connecting to the shore," he said.

Government cost cutting looks set to scupper £23bn Severn Barrage tidal project

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

Plans to build a ten-mile tidal barrage across the River Severn that could generate up to 5 per cent of Britain’s electricity are likely to be shelved under a government cost-cutting drive, The Times has learnt.
The Severn Barrage project, which would cost up to £23 billion to build, is set to be indefinitely postponed early next year when ministers announce whether to commit fresh public funding, according to Westminster insiders.
“They are moving towards a political fudge,” said one. “They will say they are delaying it, but in reality the lifeline on offer will not be worth very much.”
The vast cost and tight constraints on future public spending have led ministers to question the project’s affordability.

Government figures show that the cost of generating electricity from a barrage across the Severn or from a tidal lagoon could be as high as £317 per megawatt hour, compared with £38 for nuclear power and no more than £85 for offshore wind.
The news will be a blow for advocates of the scheme, including the Sustainable Development Commission. They argue that it would help Britain to meet its ambitious EU targets of generating 30 per cent of UK electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
However, under EU rules, to contribute to those targets, the barrage would need to be generating electricity by 2022. Because it would take up to a decade to build, that would mean construction would have to start as early as 2012 — requiring large infusions of public money within the next two or three years.
Matthew Bell, of Frontier Economics, the author of a report on the costs of the Severn project, said: “Given that the Government has only a limited amount of money and some very ambitious renewable energy targets, it wants to make sure it gets the best value it can — and the Severn Barrage is simply more expensive than any other form of renewable generation.”
The Department of Energy and Climate Change, which spent £3 million on the project last year, said that a feasibility study was continuing into the project. External consultants are working on the study, which includes an analysis of five options for how it could be built.
The group is led by Parsons Brinkerhoff, the company that built the New York subway. PricewaterhouseCoopers and DTZ are also involved.
The Conservative Party is understood to view the project as an obvious target for potential cost savings.
Two main technologies have been proposed: a conventional barrage, running between the English and Welsh coasts, and a tidal lagoon. Both would harness the enormous tidal range of the Severn, which, at 14 metres, is the second-highest in the world, to drive electricity-generating turbines.
A conventional barrage would have a capacity of 8,640 megawatts and an estimated output of 17 terawatt hours a year — providing about 5 per cent of present UK electricity demand. But such a link would involve moving 18 million tonnes of seabed to create a level surface and require 13 million tonnes of concrete and aggregates.
In July, the chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith of Finsbury, delivered a blow to the plans, hinting strongly that the agency would oppose proposals for the barrage if environmental concerns are not addressed.

Why growing virgin vegetable oil to burn is crazy

The chief executive of Blue-NG implies he's greener than the Greens – but the argument for his grotesque trade falls flat
What makes more sense, burning virgin vegetable oil in car engines, or burning it in power stations? The answer is neither. In both cases you are snatching food from people's mouths.
But Andrew Mercer, chief executive of Blue-NG, the company which owns the UK's first power station running on vegetable oil, appears to believe that he is doing the world a favour.
In arguing the case for his grotesque trade, Mercer begins by maligning the Green party. He contends that "The Green party toured the country this summer during the European elections campaign in a bus fuelled by UK-sourced rapeseed biodiesel". Because this is a less efficient use of virgin rapeseed oil than burning it in power stations, he is greener than the Greens (or so he says). That someone else has allegedly done something even more damaging is hardly a persuasive justification. But is it true?
I spoke to the Green party this morning, and discovered that Mercer had left out a crucial piece of information. The biodiesel used in its bus was made from waste cooking oil, not virgin oil. As I've been arguing since I first started attacking the practice of feeding cars rather than people, used cooking oil is currently the only sustainable feedstock for biofuel: once it is unfit for human consumption it can only be dumped or burned. It makes sense to burn it in place of fossil fuels. The Green party has now published a response in the comment thread and is requesting a correction.
Burning virgin vegetable oil is an entirely different matter. In doing so, you are directly commissioning farmers to do one of two things: divert cropland which would otherwise have been used to grow food, or break land which would otherwise have been left fallow. In either case you are harming people or the environment.
Mercer says: "There are millions of hectares of land lying idle across the EU". Another way of putting it is that there are millions of hectares currently supporting wildlife and storing carbon. If farmers bring them back into production to fuel power stations like his, there would be dire consequences for wildflowers, butterflies, songbirds and other wildlife. Were it a choice between preserving this wildlife and feeding the hungry, I could understand the need for a pay-off. But the only reason that it's commercially viable to burn virgin vegetable oil in power stations in this country is that the government is perversely offering a massive subsidy. It gives generators two renewable obligation certificates for every megawatt hour of electricity they produce, which is twice as much as you get for onshore wind. I refuse to accept that the EU's wildlife must be sacrificed for what looks like a grant-harvesting operation.
As two papers published last year in Science show (here and here), the carbon released by ploughing idle farmland to grow biofuels takes many years to repay. If we're to have a high chance of preventing climate breakdown, the major cuts must be made today, so this policy makes no sense at all.
When you consider the other greenhouse gases produced by growing crops it looks even dafter. The Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen has estimated that emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas arising from the use of nitrogen fertilisers – wipe out all the carbon savings biofuels produce (pdf), even before you take the changes in land use into account. It's significant that Andrew Mercer talks only about CO2. Even then he doesn't say how he has produced his figures – I strongly suspect that he doesn't take land use change into account. Were he obliged to consider all greenhouse gases from all sources, I suspect he would discover that burning virgin vegetable oil is far more polluting than burning fossil fuel.
Mercer then contends that oilseed rape is roughly the same price as it was 10 years ago. This isn't true either, as you can see from the IMF figures reproduced here. In October 1999, oilseed rape cost $398/tonne. Last month the average price was $857. Prices this year have consistently been about twice those of prices ten years ago. The idea that oilseed rape is just a "break crop" is risible. It is a major international commodity, grown because it makes money.
The notion that you can draw any conclusions about commodity trends from a single year's production in one small country is equally daft. It's as stupid as saying, for example, that a cold snap in the United Kingdom shows that global warming isn't happening. And no one would be dumb enough to do that, would they?
The reality is that whenever there's a global shortfall in rape production, as there was last year, palm oil helps to fill the gap. Compare this graph of palm oil prices to this one of rape oil prices and you'll see that the price trends are almost identical.
So while Mercer boasts that he is not burning palm oil in his power station, whenever his trade helps to cause a shortfall in rapeseed stocks, the result is likely to be an increase in the sales of palm oil. Growing rapeseed to burn is crazy, growing oil palm to fill the gaps is madness on a different scale altogether, in view of the massive impacts on climate, indigenous people and wildlife when the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia are cleared to plant it.
Like Biofuelwatch and other green groups, I will keep putting pressure on the government to drop its perverse subsidies. I'm offering Andrew Mercer a £10 bet that if we succeed, Blue-NG will stop burning virgin vegetable oils. This is what happened in the Netherlands: as soon as the Dutch government stopped paying companies to make electricity from food, the business ground to a halt. Let's bring this obscene, subsidised trade to an end here too.