Monday, 30 November 2009

Copenhagen conference: The countries to watch

America and China are the big hitters, but other nations also punch above their weight

David Adam and James Randerson
The Guardian, Monday 30 November 2009
United States
Influence rating ★★★★★
With China, one of the two big powers that can make or break these talks. But with Obama's energy bill stalled in the Senate, US negotiators don't know what they can offer – like bidding on a house before the bank manager has told them what they can afford.
Friends and foes Good backing from the EU, but perceived with suspicion by much of the developing world.
What they're offering Obama's keeping his cards close to his chest, but a grudging 14-20% cut in carbon emissions (2005 levels) by 2020 looks likely.
What they most want A deal that's neither too expensive nor puts any curbs on economic growth. Call it the Pollyanna approach.
Least likely to say "Heck, we caused most of this mess – this round's on us."
UK officials have long been describing the Kyoto treaty's successor simply as a deal (or lack of one) between China and the US. China overtook America as the biggest emitter in 2006, but has said it might sign a "political deal" at Copenhagen if rich countries make big cuts.
Friends and foes Has made common cause with India and other developing nations in the face of much pressure from those patronising rich countries.
What they're offering A 40- 45% decrease in the "carbon intensity of the economy" – which actually equates to a 40% increase in emissions by 2020.
What they most want A deal that entails big financial support from developed nations to fund clean technologies and adaptation to climate change.
Least likely to say "Look, we're No 1!"
European Union
With a lack of commitments from the "big two", Europe likes to portray itself as the most progressive force at the talks – a position flattered by the collapse of Soviet economies in the 90s.
Friends and foes Has given the US an easy ride in the hope of getting a deal.
What they're offering €100bn per year from rich countries by 2020 to fund climate adaptation, and 95% cuts in its carbon emissions by 2050 (based on 1990 levels) if there's a global deal. But that only means a 10% reduction to 2020. Like a luxury hybrid car, the EU is trying to look greener than it really is.
What they most want A substantial deal that sees major developing countries taking on some of the pain.
Least likely to say "We agree with China, the US hasn't gone far enough."
Influence rating ★★★★
New PM Yukio Hatoyama gave a boost to September's pre-Copenhagen talks by massively upping the cuts in emissions he promises to make if there is a deal. With the EU, Japan now has the best offer of any developed country.
Friends and foes Plenty of mutual back-slapping with the US last month over their shared new clean-tech plans.
What they're offering A 25% cut on their 1990 emission levels by 2020 – much better than the 8% cut unveiled by the previous government in June. Lime-green, if not quite deep green.
What they most want To be seen as a climate leader, steering the rest of the bickering rabble (sorry, eminent gathering) to a substantive deal.
Least likely to say "Listen, no one ever took Kyoto seriously anyway."
With a bank of lucrative carbon credits, emissions way below 1990 levels (due to the collapse of the USSR) and an expanding network of gas pipelines, Russia has used climate and energy to clamber back up the international pecking order. Traditionally, it likes to use these UN meetings to grandstand. More will listen this time.
Friends and foes The two-headed eagle still looks west and east, and sells gas to both of them.
What they're offering A 25% cut on 1990 levels by 2020, if others do the same.
What they most want To be feared and respected again. Warmer winters wouldn't go amiss, though.
Least likely to say "Of course we understand your domestic constraints, Mr Obama. Have some gas on us."
UK Influence rating ★★★
Britain talks the talk on climate change and, believe it or not, Tony Blair is widely admired for his efforts to push the issue on to the international stage. Lord Stern's famous report carries clout, too – but the UK's influence seems sure to wane as foreign players with big plans/wallets muscle in on the party.
Friends and foes Britain negotiates as part of the European bloc, which means regular scraps with France and Germany over targets and finance.
What they're offering At home, a very ambitious 80% cut in emissions by 2050.
What they most want One last, desperate opportunity for Gordon Brown to smile triumphantly at the cameras.
Least likely to say "The sums don't add up and it sets a shocking example, so let's can the new Heathrow runway."
One of the largest emitters in the developing world (mostly from its forestry). And yet hydropower-heavy, biofuelled-up Brazil is ahead of most when it comes to renewable energy. Long-nagged to do more to save its Amazon rainforest, climate change now offers a sizeable extra incentive.
Friends and foes This figurehead of developing nations seems to have patched up differences with other tropical nations about outsiders buying into their forests.
What they're offering Rainforest trees left standing, and a healthy 36-39% reduction on expected 2020 emissions.
What they most want Cash for those trees to be left standing.
Least likely to say "Bioethanol? Don't like the sound of that, guv."
Too often bundled with China in climate discussions, India has a determined mind of its own. Its massive coal stocks offer a huge opportunity to lift millions more out of poverty – but such guilty, ungreen impulses are tempered by knowledge that New Delhi is on the frontline of rising sea levels.
Friends and foes A solid member of the G77 group of developing nations, its reaction to any suggestion that China get special treatment will be interesting.
What they're offering A tough line on rich countries' responsibilities, and support for schemes that allow for voluntary carbon reductions.
What they most want Development, but perhaps not at any (climate) cost.
Most likely to say "Those Himalayan glaciers look fine to us."
In stark contrast to its cuddly international image, Canada is the dirty old man of the climate world – missing its Kyoto emissions reduction target by a country mile (by 2007, it was 34% above its target) and showing no signs of reigning in its profligacy.
Friends and foes Roundly criticised by developing countries for being way off the pace, now there are calls to suspend it from the Commonwealth.
What they're offering A pathetic 3% cut on their 1990 emissions levels by 2020 – an offer mired in thick black tar.
What they most want No curbs on its ability to mine those lucrative tar sands in Alberta for oil (a far more carbon-intensive process than regular extraction).
Least likely to say "Look, when you set a target, you've got to stick to it, OK?"
The easy ride it has so far enjoyed over carbon emissions makes a tricycle with stabilisers look difficult to master. Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions levels in the world, yet its deal at Kyoto allowed it to increase total levels by 8%.
Friends and foes Quick to welcome Obama's emissions pledge last week, and invited to be a "friend of the chair" by hosts Denmark. The creeps.
What they're offering A fence-sitting 5%-25% cuts (that upper-end target comes with lots of strings attached).
What they most want PM Kevin Rudd wants Australia to break with the past and be seen as a climate leader.
Least likely to say "Mate, did you know we chuck out more carbon per person than the US?"
Influence rating ★★★
With its carbon tax, pioneering efforts to protect tropical forests, and some of the most ambitious emissions targets in the world, Norway appears streets ahead of most other countries. However, rich on the vast profits from its offshore gas, it remains a key player in the fossil fuel industry.
Friends and foes An often critical friend of the EU – and a generous friend of most other nations.
What they're offering A whopping 40% cut on their 1990 carbon emission levels by 2020, although much of that will be offset abroad.
What they most want A triumph for Scandinavia that entails more than Denmark just holding a tidy summit.
Most likely to say "Never mind the whaling, feel the carbon targets."
Waiting in the wings to steal the glory if a Copenhagen deal does not materialise, Mexico is due to host the next round of negotiations in 2010. Has made all the right noises about carbon cuts, but could do with some dosh to make it happen.
Friends and foes Remember the Alamo! Mexico called its old foe the US a "stumbling block" in the negotiations last month. Imagine what they called them in private.
What they're offering A very precise 50m tonnes knocked off their annual CO2 emissions by 2012.
What they most want Put it this way: a carbon-constrained US could tip the trade balance of the Americas.
Most likely to say "The Cancún protocol has a nice ring to it, yes?"
South Africa
Ranks a surprisingly high 14th in the world for carbon emissions, thanks to a high reliance on all that coal in its backyard for both electricity and liquid fuels. One of the most carbon-intensive economies in the world, with per capita emissions slightly higher than the UK's (which isn't saying a lot).
Friends and foes A leading light in the African Union that represents 52 countries, most of whom may struggle to get their voices heard in Copenhagen.
What they're offering Not a lot. Despite doing a study of mitigation options, no decisions are planned until 2012.
What they most want Likely to be hit hard by climate change, you'd think a deal would be very welcome.
Least likely to say "Coal is a dirty word – there's got to be a better way."

Talk about punching above your weight. Thanks in no small part to the colourful and PR-savvy president Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives have become a key voice for soon-to-be climate victims around the world. The island nation is the Vince Cable of the talks – no real power but solidly on the moral high ground (if not the literal high ground).
Friends and foes A member of the G77 group of developing nations, and pals with anyone wanting some good PR.
What they're offering To go totally carbon neutral by 2020. A frog with solar panels would look less green.
What do they most want Large cuts by all the developed nations.
Most likely to say "I bet you've never had a cabinet meeting under water."
Saudi Arabia

Perennial pantomime villains at UN climate talks, the Saudis are the world's top oil producers and – perhaps not that surprisingly – no fans of curbs on emissions. Regular protests from their delegation are prone to trigger selective deafness in other negotiators and conference chairs, who gavel through decisions anyway.
Friends and foes Along with other oil-loving Opec countries (not all bosom buddies, mind), they are pushing for compensation for lost oil revenue.
What they're offering Ten million barrels a day of black (but definitely not green) gold.
What they most want The world's climate scientists, a desert and no water.
Most likely to say "That Don Quixote was spot on: never trust a windmill."

Crippled by drought and poverty, Ethiopia is likely to be one of the countries most affected by global warming, having done hardly anything to cause the problem, of course.
Friends and foes Understandably, given the above, the African group of nations has grown more militant over recent years in its discussions about climate change.
What they're offering The problem is, they haven't got anything substantial enough to offer in negotiations to be taken seriously by better-endowed nations…
What they most want …so all they can do is make optimistic demands: $67bn a year in aid for adaptation, and a 40% cut in rich countries' emissions.
Most likely to say "Help!"

Australia And U.S. To Discuss Climate

SYDNEY -- Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will meet President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday to discuss climate-change strategies and the war in Afghanistan -- two thorny issues on which the Australian leader is unlikely to be able to offer much help despite the close relationship between the two men.

Mr. Rudd's plan to cut carbon emissions is stuck in the country's Senate as an unruly opposition fights within itself to decide whether to support the proposal. On Afghanistan, Australia has indicated that it isn't willing to offer more troops.
The White House said the U.S. president will meet Mr. Rudd to "confer on a range of issues including Afghanistan and climate change" in the run-up to a global U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen next month. Both leaders are struggling to put in place programs to reduce carbon emissions at home, complicating any plans to present a united front on the issue.
Mr. Obama said he will pledge in Copenhagen that the U.S. will plan to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050. But a U.S. climate plan, having passed the House of Representatives, is stalled in the Senate.
In Australia, Mr. Rudd reached an agreement last Tuesday with leaders of the main opposition Liberal Party to support an amended carbon reduction proposal that includes billions of dollars in compensation for affected industries.
But the amended proposal has since split the Liberal Party, with party leader Malcolm Turnbull -- a supporter -- under fire from conservatives and now facing a vote on his leadership position set for Tuesday. If he loses and is ousted as party leader, the government's greenhouse-gas emissions plan would likely be derailed.
Australia's ruling center-left Labor government needs extra votes in the Senate, where it lacks a majority, to pass laws. It had hoped that by amending its carbon plan with loan guarantees and other compensation for industry, it would win enough opposition support to push it through.
If the Senate, which rejected an earlier emissions plan in August, votes it down a second time, Mr. Rudd could use the double rejection as a trigger to call an early election. The government plan, if passed, would see Australia introduce in July 2011 a market-based carbon-trading program similar to one operating in Europe since 2005, forcing the biggest local polluters to pay for their greenhouse-gas emissions.
On Afghanistan, Australia says it hasn't received a request for more troops from the U.S. Its prime minister has consistently said he believes Australia's troop contribution of around 1,550 is about right.
Write to Iain McDonald at

Wanted: new merchants of light

Modern problems of climate and ageing will only be solved if we value young talent in science
Martin Rees

Science is an unending quest. It is often overlooked, but it is always — metaphorically and actually — lighting our way. Isaac Newton famously said: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This simple statement captures the essence of scientific endeavour.
Today, the Royal Society launches a year of activities to mark its 350th anniversary. We shall be highlighting how science, technology and engineering can help to meet the challenges of the coming decades, as well as their role in education and culture. We shall mainly be looking forward, but we shall also celebrate our history by widening access to our fascinating archives. A new online resource called Trailblazing will enable people across the world to dip into some of the great scientific achievements of the past 350 years, as chronicled in the society’s journals.
The scientists who published these journals back in the 17th and 18th centuries were, in their motives and attitudes, very like their present-day counterparts. They were breaking new ground. They were not afraid to challenge the status quo and they were often driven by a desire to improve the plight of mankind. But whereas modern scientific literature is generally specialised and technical, the personality of these pioneers shines through more clearly, and their writing is more individual and anecdotal.
Some breakthroughs have become so familiar to us today that we take them for granted: Volta’s first electric battery; Talbot’s early work in photography; and Edward Stone, the vicar who wrote to the Royal Society detailing his experiments using dried, powdered willow bark to cure fevers, which led to the production of aspirin. Are there many houses in the UK that do not contain batteries, photographs or aspirin?
There are those who challenged the orthodoxy of their era: Benjamin Franklin flying his kite in a storm to prove that lightning is electricity rather than a supernatural force; and William Buckland’s fossils, which showed that life had existed on Earth for millions of years — challenging the generally held views of creation at the time.
Other papers describe work that has fundamentally changed the lifespan of modern Man: Boyle’s 1666 paper on an early blood transfusion from one dog to another; Sloane and Birch’s earliest accounts of inoculations for diseases such as smallpox. And, more recently, the work of Howard Florey and his team who, in the 1940s, made the breakthrough that led penicillin to become the mass-produced antibiotic that goes on saving lives today.
Then there are those whose work has raised possibilities that are still opening out before us. Newton’s theory on light and colours continues to provide the basis for theoretical physics. We have only begun to scratch the surface of the possibilities for improving human health that will be facilitated by Crick and Watson’s discovery of the structure of DNA.
Stephen Hawking’s paper on black holes, each hundreds of millions of times more massive than the Sun, asks as many questions as it answers. James Lovelock explored the need for geoengineering our planet to save it from the threat of climate change.
Celebrating the history of science reminds us how crucial its achievements have been in our everyday lives. Science helps to feed and clothe us, keep us warm and healthy, and it helps us to communicate and travel. Often the most important advances are unpredictable outcomes of scientific curiosity, where the discoverers could not conceive how their work would eventually be applied. We have no crystal ball that allows us to predict the detailed course of scientific discovery. However, we can be sure that young people today will live their lives in a world where science — and the way it is applied — will loom ever larger. Issues such as ageing, genetics, health, climate change, biodiversity, communications and the exploration of space will present opportunities and challenges that we must be ready to meet.
We in the UK are second only to the US in terms of scientific output; on some measures, we lead the world. But the research base is a complex and vulnerable ecosystem, and we must not lose our global standing. The Far East is developing fast and President Obama has given America’s already world-leading scientific community a massive boost — in substance and not just in rhetoric. Our success in attracting and retaining mobile talent will be at risk unless we raise our game.
We should celebrate science both for what it has done and what it can do. What could inspire young people more than the challenge of finding treatments and cures for debilitating or deadly diseases, or clean energy for the developed and the developing world? The “ingenious and curious gentlemen” who established the Royal Society in 1660 enjoyed speculation and sought enlightenment — they were, in Francis Bacon’s phrase, “merchants of light”.
Isaac Newton “saw further” because of the scientific enthusiasm that surrounded him. Now, as the Royal Society celebrates its 350th anniversary, it is more important than ever for the UK to value new knowledge — and to apply it optimally, for our country’s sake and that of the world.
Lord Rees of Ludlow is President of the Royal Society

Copenhagen climate conference: Emission impossible

Two of the top thinkers on climate change explain why the the most important political gathering of our time will succeed or fail

Nicholas Stern and George Monbiot
The Guardian, Monday 30 November 2009
Nicholas Stern The two defining challenges of our century are managing climate change and overcoming poverty. And if we fail on one we will fail on the other. So the world faces a stark choice at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen.
Do we collaborate and act to reach a strong political agreement that both decisively cuts the devastating risks posed by climate change, and rapidly opens up the opportunities offered by low-carbon economic growth? Do we in that way set ourselves to overcome poverty and promote prosperity? Or, do we give way to narrow, short-term interests, quarrelling, lack of ambition and delay, thus allowing the risks to the climate to grow to dangerous levels which will derail development in both rich and poor countries?
Given what is at stake, essentially the future peace and prosperity of the planet, world leaders must now recognise that Copenhagen is the most important international gathering of our time. A strong political agreement can and must be reached in Copenhagen. There can be no excuses for failure.
Recent weeks and months have shown country after country raising their ambitions on controlling emissions. It is now clear that if countries move together and they find ways to extend their action we could set the world on a responsible path. We can now see that it is possible to achieve an agreement that is effective, efficient and equitable. It will allow us to avoid the biggest risks of climate change, to overcome poverty worldwide and to usher in an exciting new era of prosperity based on a much more attractive and stronger form of economic growth – sustainable low-carbon growth.
Through innovation and investment in greener and more energy efficient technologies in the next two or three decades, the transition to the low-carbon economy can be the most dynamic period of growth in economic history. And the low-carbon world we can create will also be quieter, cleaner, more energy-secure and more biologically diverse.
For this to happen, there is a fierce urgency for leadership. The developed world in particular must face up to its responsibilities on both development and climate change. It will require radical change and significant resources. I believe we are now seeing strong momentum towards an agreement. Increasingly ambitions are being raised and shared. The developing world, if the rich world plays its part, will accelerate its actions and we can create an international collaboration which can transform the way the world works together.
Three issues hold the key to agreeing an effective and equitable framework in Copenhagen. First, to have a reasonable – around 50% – chance of avoiding an increase in global average temperature of more than 2C above preindustrial levels, we must reduce annual worldwide emissions from the present level of just under 50bn tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent to 44bn tonnes in 2020, much less than 35bn tonnes in 2030 and well below 20bn tonnes by 2050 – or as sometimes expressed, at least 50% below 1990 levels.
Second, the need for national targets both to add up and to be fair means that the European Union, Japan and the US, should achieve emissions reductions of at least 80% by 2050, compared with 1990. Developing countries, including China and India, also need to limit the growth of, and then start to decrease, their emissions, but in ways that are consistent with their ambitions for continued economic growth and the reduction of poverty.
Third, given the relative wealth of rich and poor countries, the rich countries responsibility for the bulk of past emissions, and the urgent need for action, developing countries must receive reliable and substantial support from the rich nations for their climate action plans. This is necessary both for their plans to reduce emissions and also to overcome the additional challenges that climate change will pose for their efforts to tackle poverty.
Developed countries should show the extent of their commitment by providing $50bn per year by 2015, rising to $100bn in 2020, and progressing to around $200bn during the 2020s as effective low-carbon and adaptation programmes are developed and implemented.
Crucially, financial support should be additional, beyond existing official development assistance. While these might sound like large sums, $50bn is around 0.1% of the likely gross domestic product of the rich countries in 2015, and is very small compared to the costs we will face if we do not secure a strong international agreement to tackle climate change. The immediate priorities for spending should be halting deforestation, supporting adaptation in Africa and other vulnerable nations, and supporting technological change throughout the developing world.
We are seeking at Copenhagen an organisational framework with strong political commitment rather than a formal treaty. A formal treaty can follow in 2010 if the political framework is clear. But without such a framework, settled at the highest level, progress on a treaty or similar agreement will be impossible. Now is the time for heads of government to take charge – only they can forge such an agreement.
Let us not allow mistrust, pessimism and lack of ambition to take us stumbling into profound dangers. Instead let us have real vision and leadership in both developing and developed countries which seize the opportunities offered by Copenhagen, for us, our children and future generations.
George Monbiot
"To be truly radical," Raymond Williams wrote, "is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing".
Believe me I'm trying, but at the moment hope is hard to come by.
A legally binding deal cannot now be struck at Copenhagen. The best that can happen is an outline agreement, which is firmed up next year. Even this would depend on the compliance of the US Senate. So far it has been hostile towards anything resembling an effective deal. As I write, Barack Obama still hasn't proposed a number for US emissions cuts. He can't make any firm commitment until the Senate sings, and the Senate won't approve a climate change bill until the spring, if at all. I concentrate on the role of the US not because it is the only obstacle to a strong climate agreement (you should see what Canada has been up to) but because it has so far done more than any other nation to prevent global action from taking place. The Kyoto negotiations in 1997 were comprehensively trashed by a US delegation led by Al Gore.
The EU had proposed a 15% cut against 1990 emissions levels by 2010. The US ensured that this was knocked down to 5.2% by 2012, with enough get-out clauses (emissions trading, joint implementation, the clean development mechanism) to render even that feeble target pretty well meaningless. After wrecking the treaty for everyone else, the Clinton government failed to ratify it, and George Bush later pulled out altogether.
It wasn't Gore's fault: the Senate had already voted 95-0 to torpedo any treaty that failed to impose the same conditions on developing countries as it imposed on rich ones. The senators knew this was impossible for poorer countries to accept – in fact that was the point. The political impediments that made a deal with the US impossible in 1997 have scarcely changed.
Until there is comprehensive campaign finance reform in the United States, almost any progressive measure remains out of reach. The US Senate is one of the most corrupt institutions of any democratic nation: most of the incumbents owe their seats to massive corporate funding; in return they must deliver the political goods to their sponsors. These are hopeless conditions in which to broker an agreement which has to defeat vested interests.
Even if a legally binding treaty were to have been agreed at Copenhagen, getting it ratified and implemented before the Kyoto protocol runs out at the end of 2012 would have been a stretch. If it's delayed until next year or beyond, the timetable becomes extremely tight. If world leaders can't strike a deal this year, despite a massive build-up and intensive diplomatic activity, why should we expect them to be able to do so next year?
I fear that the climate negotiations could go the same way as the Doha round of trade talks. These began in 2001. Eight years later there's still no prospect of resolution. When the initial deadline had been missed and the red carpets were rolled up, governments lost interest and let the process drift. Delegates are already talking of moving the climate talks to Mexico next December after they fail in Copenhagen.
This is what happened at Doha: the negotiations were reconvened at Cancún on the Mexican coast and vanished into thin air thereafter. Is "moving to Mexico" a diplomatic euphemism for abandonment?
And there's a more important deadline which looks ever more likely to be missed. The narrow window in which we could prevent more than 2C of global warming is closing fast. The longer a comprehensive agreement is delayed, the steeper the emissions cuts will have to be if we are to avoid climate breakdown. Beyond a certain point the scale of the cuts becomes politically, economically and technologically infeasible. That point must already be close.
The postponement has an immediate consequence: no one will invest in low-carbon technologies unless they believe there's a secure market. And no one will disinvest from fossil fuels unless they believe that they'll cease to be profitable. If investors think the Kyoto protocol will run out before a new agreement begins, the bottom will fall out of the market for energy conservation and alternative technologies, setting the necessary transition back by years.
So is there any hope that world leaders could regain their sense of urgency? If the prospect of a climate crash doesn't motivate them, can anything? Perhaps there is one straw to cling to. In its new World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency (IEA) maintains that, to meet new demand and replace old equipment and exhausted reserves, the world will have to invest $25.6tn in energy supply infrastructure between now and 2030. The industrialised nations would also need to pay a fortune to the Opec countries to maintain their oil and gas supplies: the IEA predicts that the oil producers' income will rise fivefold in this period, to $30tn. These costs will be much higher if oil supplies peak.
If moving to a low-carbon economy looks implausible, so does maintaining the high-carbon economy. Whichever route is taken, staggering amounts of money need to be spent. As resources become harder to extract and concentrated in fewer countries, it shouldn't be too difficult to persuade world leaders that the money might as well be spent on exploiting ambient energy, which will neither run out nor allow us to be held to ransom.
That is the best I can do. Sorry.

Carbon trading could be worth twice that of oil in next decade

Market could be worth $3tn a year but enthusiasm to place it at heart of Copenhagen is matched by growing criticism of concept
Terry Macalister, Sunday 29 November 2009 21.30 GMT
The carbon market could become double the size of the vast oil market, according to the new breed of City players who trade greenhouse gas emissions through the EU's emissions trading scheme.
The ETS market may see $3tn (£1.8tn) worth of transactions a year in the next decade or two, according to Andrew Ager, head of emissions trading at Bache Commodities in London, with it even being used as a hedge against falling equities or rising inflation. "It is still a relatively new industry with annual trades of around €300bn every year. But this could grow to around $3tn compared to the $1.5tn market there is for oil," says Ager, who used to be a foreign currencies trader.
The speed of that growth will depend on whether the Copenhagen summit gives a go-ahead for a low-carbon economy, but Ager says whatever happens schemes such as the ETS will expand around the globe.
Last week Australia gave its strongest sign yet that it would establish its own trading market, while the US is moving towards a similar scheme in a bid to find market-based ways to accelerate the transition to a lower carbon economy.
Many political leaders, especially in industrialised countries, are enthusiastic: carbon markets hold the promise of cost-efficient emission cuts without the need for taxpayer funding. But their enthusiasm to place carbon markets at the heart of the Copenhagen treaty is matched by growing criticism of the concept, and not just from environmentalists opposed to free market solutions.
Peter Voser, Shell's chief executive, has called on governments to introduce a carbon tax or a minimum price for CO² because – as he told the Guardian – the ETS was failing to deliver sufficient incentives to kickstart expensive technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
John Browne, a former boss of BP and an early ETS promoter, has also expressed reservations about such schemes, saying it was "wrong" to place all your faith in them. Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, warned of the dangers of a "sub-prime" crisis inside the ETS if complex financial instruments were created by market participants.
The key problem seems to be that ETS carbon prices have remained resolutely low, thwarting low-carbon, high-cost investment. Carbon is currently trading at around $13 a tonne but many believe it needs to be $30, if not $50, to deliver a decisive boost for clean technologies such as wind, solar, CCS and nuclear power.
The criticisms of environmentalists such as James Lovelock and Friends of the Earth (FoE) are far more fundamental. The basic charge is that the market has put millions of pounds into the pockets of some without making any real impact on carbon emissions.
They accuse governments of being too lenient in the way they drew up the ETS: a cap that was far too loose, too many free permits, too few industries covered and poor monitoring of offset schemes that shift emissions to the developing world. If the carbon price is to rise in the next ETS phase, starting in 2013, much tighter rules will be needed.
Henrik Hasselknippe, senior analyst at consultancy Point Carbon, argues the problems have been overplayed and the market – while not operating perfectly – has nonetheless come along way from a standing start.
"Carbon prices have fallen due to the recession," said Hasselknippe, adding that he was "convinced" that CDMs – clean development mechanism credits created under the Kyoto protocol – have led to real carbon reductions. However, some reports claim that a third to two-thirds of CDMs do not reduce emissions.
Alexandria Galin, a policy manager for the Carbon Markets and Investors Association, dismisses suggestions that the market had been taken over by speculators, as claimed by FoE. "Financial institutions participate in the market largely on behalf of businesses that do not have the capacity or expertise to do it themselves. Furthermore there are no 'complex' instruments creating 'shadow finance'," she said.
Agers agrees, saying his company largely provides advice or trading on behalf of power companies and others who need to hedge their legitimate carbon risks.
He admitted that he is in many ways like any other City trader with a decent salary, nice flat and sports car to prove it. But working in the carbon field has rubbed off a little on his lifestyle: he claims to have energy-efficient lightbulbs in his home and to offset the petrol he uses driving his car to watch West Ham football team on a Saturday.
The arguments
Carbon market
• Guarantees specific carbon cut by setting overall cap
• Delivers maximum cuts in carbon emissions at minimum cost
• No taxpayer funding
• Volatile or low price of permits deters investment
• Prone to political interference, complex and provides no incentive for individuals to act
Carbon taxes
• Clear, simple, covers everyone
• Relatively low implementation costs
• Hits motoring and flying directly
• Cannot deliver specific emissions cut – depends on consumption levels
• Cannot be avoided by finding loopholes
• Can drive big changes where markets cannot, such as energy efficiency
• Businesses rail against red tape
• Expensive to implement

Banking on a green industrial revolution

Idea of a national investment bank to steer economy towards low carbon future gains ground

Larry Elliott, Monday 30 November 2009
George Osborne is floating the idea of a green investment bank to get new technologies out of the lab and into new wealth-creating businesses. Vince Cable wants a national investment bank for infrastructure, financed with a blend of public and private money.
Both ideas are heartily welcome. Britain needs urgent remedial action to harness a wave of environmental technologies if it is to arrest long-term industrial decline. Billions will have to be spent on expensive capital projects – in the energy and transport sectors in particular – if the transition to a low-carbon economy is to be achieved.
Why, though, has it been left to the opposition parties rather than the Treasury to come up with these eminently sensible suggestions? The short answer is that there is one rule for the City and one rule for everybody else.
Desperately unbalanced
Alistair Darling would vehemently deny it, but there has been institutional capture of the Treasury by the financial sector, exemplified by the decision to ask a City grandee, Sir David Walker, to look at bankers' pay. That's a bit like asking David Beckham to lead a commission into whether footballers are paid too much or picking Jeremy Clarkson to head a top-level study into whether to cut the speed limit.
The dismal reality is as follows: Britain went into this slump with its economy in a desperately unbalanced state. As Richard Jeffrey, economist at Cazenove Capital Management, rightly noted: "One of the very clear early-warning signals that the UK was on an unsustainable growth path prior to the recession was the relentless expansion in the trade deficit."
Over the course of the decade, the gap between what Britain produced and what it consumed grew wider. It was considered a "good" month when the shortfall in manufactured goods dipped below £7bn. The government assured us that this did not matter because the City, the knowledge economy and the creative industries would help us pay our way. Britain was supposedly at the cutting edge of financial innovation and well placed to exploit its comparative advantage in hi-tech manufacturing. Total fantasy, the lot of it.
Somewhat surprisingly, Britain remains the sixth biggest manufacturing nation in the world, despite three severe industrial recessions in the past three decades. The trend is clear: output is lower than it was when Labour came to power in 1997. If things don't change, Britain will be a post-industrial nation.
The crisis was supposed to have led to a rethink, and to an extent it has. Mervyn King, the Bank of England governor, rarely wastes an opportunity to say that the shape of the UK should rely less on consumption and government spending and more on manufacturing, investment and exports. That was precisely what happened in the wake of the recession in the early 1990s, when in five out of the next six years domestic demand grew less quickly than overall economic output. A big fall in the exchange rate boosted exports and the current account improved steadily so Labour inherited a small surplus in 1997.
A similar period of adjustment is needed now and one of the key elements in rebalancing the economy – a weaker pound – is in place. Sterling has depreciated by about 25% since the financial crisis broke. Unfortunately, there is scant evidence of any beneficial effects from this depreciation. The breakdown of the latest set of growth figures – released by the Office for National Statistics last week – showed that net trade actually made a negative contribution of 0.2 percentage points to gross domestic product in the third quarter, because imports grew more strongly than exports. A key factor was the government's cash for clunkers scheme, which appeared to provide far more of a boost to foreign car manufacturers than producers at home. Investment – the other key component in rebalancing – has collapsed at an alarming rate over the last 18 months. Capital spending is down by a quarter, and the pace of decline has been even faster than it was during the industrial Armageddon unleashed by Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s. Household spending has also been hit by the recession, but the impact has been softened by the deep cuts in bank rate, which have boosted personal cash flow and helped compensate for weak growth in earnings. The main effects of the downturn have shown up in plunging investment and savage de-stocking.
So you are the Treasury: how do you respond? Well, clearly, one option is to carry on as before. You assume, with the century-old Whitehall disdain, that manufacturing is the past, not the future, and that the only option is to get the financial sector back to rude health as quickly as possible. You pump £12.5bn into consumption through a cut in VAT, even though you know that a large chunk of the additional demand will leak overseas and that a recovery based on a fresh burst of consumer spending would be the opposite of what is actually needed. You recapitalise the banks with only the flimsiest of strings attached. You pump £200bn of electronic money into the economy through quantitative easing and wonder why asset prices rise but the real economy continues to flounder.
Alternatively, you say enough is enough. The "economy-as-a-hedge-fund" model is dead. The assumption that the economy could grow at an underlying rate of 2.75% a year was based on a financial bubble that put the entire banking system in jeopardy. Given the damage caused to productive capacity by the recession, the trend rate of non-inflationary growth is probably about 2%. Building it up again will take time, investment and imagination.
In this context, a green investment bank, a national infrastructure bank or a national investment bank all seem like ideas whose time has come. The traditional Treasury response – the days of "picking winners" are over – has been blown out of the water by the generosity of the "picking losers" scheme for banks. Nor is it true that demand for investment has been killed off by the recession. My colleague Victor Keegan, who specialises in the technology sector, says there are plenty of companies with good ideas out there.
Closed for business
As ever, though, the problem with the British economy is not a lack of good ideas but a dearth of long-term finance. The banks are closed for business and the venture capital industry demands a short-term pay-off that is inimical to the long-term growth of a business.
It is not difficult to see why the environmental sector has welcomed Osborne's willingness to look at a green investment bank. The Environmental Industries Commission has been lobbying tirelessly for years to get the government to recognise the potential of the move towards a cleaner, low-carbon economy. But it lacks the clout of the City. It hailed Osborne's speech as "revolutionary" and said the green bank would help to bridge the funding gap faced by firms trying to bring innovative products to market.
Whether the green bank would ever be delivered by a future Conservative government remains to be seen. But it is a good idea nonetheless, and Darling should not hesitate in nicking the idea for next week's pre-budget report.
There is no shame in that. The real shame is that the chancellor did not come up with the idea himself.

Copenhagen climate conference: The key players

A huge cast of characters will debate, cajole and eventually decide a deal. John Harris selects his climate heroes – plus one villain

John Harris
The Guardian, Monday 30 November 2009
Mohammed al-Sabban Senior economic adviser, Saudi Arabia
Moustachioed high-up in his country's ministry of petroleum and mineral resources, leader of the Saudi Arabian negotiating team, and a reasonable bet for Copenhagen's most likely villain. "The awkward squad will always include Saudi Arabia," says one Copenhagen insider, though disappointment with America may lead to the US taking most flak. Al-Sabban is seen as a vocal obstructer of any convincing agreement. If a deal goes through, he wants serious compensation from the industrialised west for losses that may run into billions — though his detractors point to Saudi Arabia's vast wealth and wonder why he shouts so loud.
Bernaditas de Castro Muller Lead negotiator, G77 countries plus China
Retired Filipino diplomat, and a genuine diplomatic celebrity, known to her friends as "Ditas" and enemies as "dragon woman". Lives in Geneva with her Swiss economist husband, and heads up a misleadingly named umbrella group of 130 developing countries, more than likely to splinter as the talks progress. Her essential position: that most rich countries have failed to live up to their Kyoto pledges, so trying to rope poorer nations into a legally binding new agreement and thereby threaten their growth is an act of massive post-imperial arrogance. In Copenhagen's first few days — when negotiators will run the show, prior to the mass arrival of ministers from the 12th onwards — she'll be pushing particularly hard for big transfers of cash from rich to poor countries.
Kevin Conrad Special envoy on climate change, Papua New Guinea
The 41-year-old Harvard graduate is probably the most high-profile representative of the 42-strong Alliance of Small Island States. Famous in climate change circles since his irate challenge to the US at the 2007 climate talks in Bali ("If for some reason you're not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us; please, get out of the way"), after which, the key American representative suddenly promised to "go forward and join the consensus" — you can watch what happened on YouTube. Has lately expressed worry about pre-Copenhagen talks "going backwards", and big countries trying to wriggle free of a comprehensive deal. Sure to be one of Copenhagen's loudest voices.
Yvo de Boer Executive secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The 55-year-old Dutchman is based at the UNFCCC's HQ in Bonn. Head of the body responsible for international negotiations on climate change, and self-styled "conscience of the process". At the end of the 2007 summit in Bali that decisively began the journey to Copenhagen, he had a famously emotional moment when he was challenged by Chinese delegate on procedure; "he wasn't just wiping his eyes, he was in floods of tears," said one observer. At an August negotiating round in the city he now calls home, he bemoaned the increasingly baffling negotiating text, claiming that "we seem to be afloat on a sea of brackets" — but tries his best to stay optimistic. Wants a full, legally binding treaty agreed by mid-2010.
Connie Hedegaard Climate and energy minister, Denmark
The 49 year-old will chair the Copenhagen conference. Prior to holding high office, was an anchor on the prophetically titled Danish news show Deadline. Of late, along with the Danish prime minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, has attracted some hostility thanks to her country's role in delaying a legally binding treaty, though at a pre-summit intergovernmental meeting this month she said Denmark would push for a hard cut-off point for post-summit negotiations.
Ed Miliband UK minister for energy and climate change
Younger of the two high-ranking Milibands; will turn 40 six days after the Copenhagen talks end. Bolstered by the fact that the UK has pledged specific figures for both emissions cuts and financing for climate action in poorer countries, and believes both are essential if the summit is to be any kind of success. "If we don't get any numbers at Copenhagen, it's a failure," he recently said. Is also driving for a full treaty to arrive within months of the summit's formal end: "Not at the end of next year. I want it as soon as possible."
Jonathan Pershing Chief US negotiator
Aka the USA's deputy special envoy for climate change. Until he got his latest job, headed up a Washington environmental thinktank. Has a bit of the yin-and-yang about him: according to one player in the pre-Copenhagen talks, he's "an immensely able technocrat, but also passionate". More extrovert than his senior US counterpart Todd Stern (see below), but for all his belief in the US embracing the imperatives of climate change, his return to the state department — where he spent nearly 10 years in the 1990s — has reportedly brought him back in line with the American exceptionalism embodied by Barack Obama's blink-and-you'll-miss-it visit to the talks on December 9.
Jairam Ramesh Minister for environment and forests, India
Stoic and debonair 55-year-old who personifies the divide between the big industrialised powers and plenty of developing nations, chiefly on the question of whether countries such as his should submit to legally binding restrictions on their output of greenhouse gases, on which he says India is "prepared to be alone". "The legally binding nature of commitments should apply to developed countries," he told The Guardian last month. Has recently sounded pessimistic about the prospects for a full post-Copenhagen treaty: "You should not have too many expectations."
Dilma Rousseff Chief minister of the presidential household and cabinet, Brazil
Compared to fellow fast-rising countries India and China, Brazil has injected the pre-Copenhagen process with much more momentum, pledging a cut in greenhouse gas emissions — relative to projected "business as usual" levels — of between 36% and 39% by 2020. Another token of their ecological bona fides has been the involvement in pre-summit talks of this woman, President Lula da Silva's preferred successor – who's likely to be a very visible face at the summit proper. She's 62, half-Bulgarian, twice married and separated, and her history includes militant opposition to the military juntas that governed her country until the mid 1980s; though she has denied it, she's long been associated with a $2.4bn robbery in 1969, from a safe belonging to the corrupt governor of São Paolo.
Buyelwa Sonjica Minister of water and environmental affairs, South Africa
Fifty-year-old minister with a CV that takes in a spell as a student nurse, an off-career as teacher, and a spell in the mid-1970s as a London-based student activist. Crucial to the Copenhagen summit because of her country's leadership role within Africa, and recently heard voicing doubts about whether the meeting can deliver: "It appears that a deal is far from being on the table." Pushing hard for a 40% cut in developed countries' carbon emissions by 2020, and serious financial help for poorer nations. Negotiation veterans says she's somewhat held back by President Jacob Zuma's uncertain position on climate change issues (and South Africa's dependence on coal).
Todd Stern US special envoy for climate change
Barack Obama's 58-year-old point-man in the parts of the pre-Copenhagen negotiations driven by politicians rather than their negotiating underlings. A Chicago native and lawyer by trade, who worked in Bill Clinton's White House between 1993 and 1998, and was the US key negotiator at Kyoto — before being brought back into the front-line by Hillary Clinton, under the auspices of the US state department. At the news conference announcing his appointment, said that "the time for denial, delay and dispute is over," though the USA's moves since have not quite followed through on his rhetoric: their provisional pledge of 17% cut in 2005 levels of carbon emissions by 2020 is no great leap forward, and their position on funding commitments for the developing world remains uncertain.
Jan Thompson Chief negotiator, UK
Career civil servant with 19 years' Whitehall experience, who has been on loan to Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change from the Foreign Office for two years. Looks a little groovier than her responsibilities might suggest: partial to uniformly black, goth-ish attire, and red patent boots. Doesn't say much to the press, but is — obviously — as staunch as Ed Miliband about the need for convincing specifics in whatever arises from Copenhagen: "The deal needs to be done, and the deal has to involve numbers and hard commitments."
Penny Wong Minister for climate change and water, Australia
A 41-year-old member of her country's Labour government, she's described as "relentless", as well as "calm, groomed and virtually unflappable". Australia's fast-changing climate backs up the predictions of the science, and relative to the Bush-esque stance it took under right wing premier John Howard, the country's position has massively shifted — though partly thanks to how much it treasures its coal (it's the world's biggest exporter), it's been slow to pledge specific emissions cuts.
Michael Zammit Cutajar Vice chair of the ad hoc working group on long-term cooperative action under the UNFCCC
One of Yvo de Boer's predecessors as the UNFCCC's executive secretary, a veteran international climate change negotiator, and now Malta's 69-year-old ambassador for international environment affairs, which may not sound like much — but his committee is in charge of the text that negotiators will work on at Copenhagen, and he's likely to chair the summit's final session. He characterises the Copenhagen process as "like the evolutionary process in reverse, with the big bang at the end. The question is how big the bang will be."
Xie Zhenhua Minister and vice-chairman of the national development and reform commission, China
A 60-year-old engineering graduate, Communist party member since 1969, and President Hu Jintao's "special representative on climate change". Superficially talks a reasonable fight: "The global financial crisis has, no doubt, exacerbated the challenge of climate change. Since climate change is a more far-reaching and serious challenge, the world must not waver in its determination and commitment to address it." Pushing for developed countries to reduce their emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and has fronted China's pledge to cut the carbon intensity of its output — ie, the amount of CO2 per unit of GDP — by 40%-45% in the next eight years. Close, in political terms, to his Indian counterpart Jairam Ramesh; China and India signed a joint agreement on climate change in October, in which both rejected legally binding caps on their CO2 output.

European Climate Exchange chief Patrick Birley defends the carbon trading system

People don't trade carbon because they are good people," exclaims Patrick Birley, the chief executive of the ICE European Climate Exchange, with characteristic bluntness.

By Rowena Mason Published: 7:47PM GMT 29 Nov 2009

"Why should it be different as a commodity to the way people trade oil or gas?"
As the man in charge of the world's biggest exchange for companies, banks and hedge funds to trade permits to emit carbon dioxide, Birley is fed up with the environmentalists' charge that dirty capitalists should not profit from the global effort to tackle climate change.

Ahead of the Copenhagen summit next week, campaigners such as Friends of the Earth have argued that the entire system is so flawed it may need to be demolished in favour of a straightforward tax on polluters.
Firstly, they insist, the European system has failed in its fundamental aim to reduce emissions, meaning its only effect is to redistribute wealth among companies and traders. Secondly, the market is a magnet for derivatives that few people understand, brewing up a second sub-prime bubble. Lastly, the opportunities for fraud are vast, given the intangible nature of the product. .
These well-worn concerns are resurfacing as the whole concept of carbon trading stands at a crossroads. This totally invented $126bn (£76bn) market has the potential to flare into a $2 trillion green giant over the next decade, if US President Obama manages to push his carbon trading bill through the Senate early next year.
The Commodities and Futures Trading Commission even believes that within five years, carbon could surpass crude oil as the world's most traded commodity. Mr Birley is the first to admit that the European system "hasn't actually reduced emissions" so far. But having run exchanges throughout his career, he has faith in the ability of the market to deliver in its own good time.
"The goal of the system is reducing emissions: why should it matter how we get there?" he asks.
With weariness, he debunks the idea that policymakers can control who makes money from reducing emissions. The point of a market mechanism is that the market decides.
"Carbon-related products are probably the most profitable part of trading for any of the investment banks right now, because the margins are so good," Mr Birley admits. "Because it's such a specialist area, a little bit of knowledge goes a very long way."
Part of what makes the profits potentially so high are the price swings. Currently carbon is 20pc more volatile than oil, meaning utilities need the banks to help shoulder some of the risk associated with trading and provide liquidity.
But for many – maybe illogically – it still sticks in the throat to know that the vast proprietary trading desk of Citigroup or Vincent Tchenguiz, the property and carbon offset investor, are likely to end up with sizeable financial proceeds from a system that will have added to household bills by the end of the decade.
Underpinning resurging concerns about carbon trading is the world's crisis of faith in capitalism itself. Markets have proved to be more capricious and uncontrollable than anyone imagined possible in the last year. Where does that leave the theory behind an artificial trading system set up to pursue a single, ethical goal? The economic concept is simple, but the practice itself has been fraught with complications. In Europe, since 2005, policymakers distribute permits to emit carbon to utility companies and heavy industrial polluters – at first for free.
Any allowances not used or extras required may be traded on the open market, as each country gradually reduces the amount of available credits and begins to auction them.
On top of that scheme, there is the Clean Development Mechanism, where companies can buy up a certain number of extra credits (known as offsets) from low-carbon projects in developing countries. However, the main problem is that industrial players, from cement-makers to paper companies, proved so effective at lobbying that they were showered with extra permits that they did not need in the early years.
Between 2008 and 2012, the UK power sector will make an additional €1.3bn (£1.18bn) purely from carbon trading, with windfall profits mostly going to the coal sector.
The recession has only exacerbated the glut as industrial emissions fall, pushing down the price of carbon credit to around €13. And instead of keeping their credits for the 2013 deadline when caps tighten in Europe, industry is liquidating its positions.
"You might have expected industrial users to hoard their permits for when fewer are given out for free, but they are selling them off just to keep afloat," says the head of trading for a UK steel maker.
But does it really matter if emissions have been reduced due to the recession or carbon trading as long as the target has been hit?
When industrial activity comes back, defenders of the system argue that carbon price ought to rein in emissions below pre-recession levels.
All this, however, is threatened by the old risk of "carbon leakage", where UK companies may relocate abroad to avoid a higher carbon price – shifting emissions elsewhere as well as damaging the economy.
The carbon trading system is expected to add £40 to household energy bills when the carbon price reaches €35 per tonne – but the cost to businesses could be even more crippling.
With more countries preparing for cap-and-trade schemes over the next decade, worries about global competitiveness ought to diminish. But the practical problem of international standards in auditing emissions remains.
Only this month, the UN banned Croatia from trading carbon after it cheated in the way it reported emissions. Greece has also been disciplined. And earlier this year, Greenpeace exposed phoney carbon offset projects in Bolivia, where 90pc of promised carbon reductions had not been delivered.
Architects of the US cap-and-trade system argue that there is time to iron out practical problems, but the concern remains that after almost half a decade of carbon trading in Europe, incentives still are not reaching those with a genuine commitment to reducing emissions.
While banks and hedge funds have created new businesses from their carbon trading desks, coal producers and heavy industry have banked billions in windfall profits. Meanwhile, utility companies complain that it is still cheaper to build a gas-fired power station than a wind farm or nuclear plant.
Joe Stanislaw, a leading independent energy economist working for Deloitte, argues that the world has no hope of hitting climate change targets without carbon trading.
"A lot of people can criticise Europe but it has led a brave experiment," he says. "The US will need tighter caps and tighter regulation. It will take time, but I believe the world can learn from these mistakes."

Renewable energy 'could provide 6% of UK's needs by 2020'

Friends of the Earth says solar panels and wind turbines could proliferate if government improves the incentive

Ashley Seager, Monday 30 November 2009
Small-scale renewable energy could provide 6% of Britain's electricity needs – equivalent to more than two Sizewell B nuclear stations or the Drax coal-fired plant – by 2020 if the government improves the terms of a new deal for producers due to be launched next April, Friends of the Earth says today.
The environmental campaign group used figures obtained from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and prepared by consultants Poyry and Element Energy to show that introducing a more ambitious scheme than that currently proposed would add only an average £2.37 a year to household electricity bills over the next four years – just £1.20 a year more than the government is already proposing to add to fund the scheme.
The Guardian revealed last week that decisions on the final levels of the "feed-in tariff" (FIT) – which would offer guaranteed, above-market payments for electricity produced from technologies such as solar panels or wind turbines – have been delayed until January by wrangling between DECC, the Treasury and the regulator Ofgem.
Britain lags other countries in introducing FITs which have proved successful in kick-starting renewable energy sectors around Europe.
But the Treasury and Ofgem are worried about the potential cost and have also been lobbied by the nuclear industry which dislikes renewable energy because it sees it as a direct competitor.
FoE and other critics, such as the Renewable Energy Association (REA), worry that the government's proposed return on investment of 5-8% is far too low to stimulate mass take-up of the technologies by the public and businesses.
Indeed, the government is only aiming for 2% of the country's electricity to be generated from small-scale renewables by 2020. FoE says that if the return on investment were raised to 10%, that share would treble to 6% and lower the average cost of the electricity generated.
"Small-scale green energy systems such as solar panels on homes and businesses and community-owned wind turbines could play a crucial role in cutting UK emissions and speeding us towards the development of a low carbon economy," said FoE energy campaigner Dave Timms.
"A tiny addition to UK electricity bills would kick-start a world class scheme that would allow homes, businesses and communities to play their part in tackling climate change, increasing energy security and creating thousands of new green jobs.
"As the world prepares for crucial climate talks in Copenhagen, the government must show that it is taking this issue seriously."
The DECC figures show that a more ambitious FIT offering a 10% return on investment would lead to the generation of 25 terawatt hours of electricity by 2020 and cut UK carbon emissions by 10 million tonnes a year by then. It would also help reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels and increase energy security.
The figures are published as 30 organisations and businesses – including FoE, the REA, the TUC, the British Retail Consortium, the Co-operative Group, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the Federation of Small Businesses, Unison and WWF – have written to MPs urging them to support an Early Day Motion (EDM 276) tabled by Alan Simpson MP calling for a much greater level of ambition for small-scale renewable electricity generation than the government scheme proposes.

Iran approves 10 new nuclear plants

Government orders work to begin on five sites, with locations for a further five to be found, state TV reports

Ian Black, Middle East editor, Sunday 29 November 2009 16.10 GMT

The Iranian government has approved the construction of 10 new uranium enrichment plants, according to state TV, in a further escalation in the diplomatic battle over the country's nuclear capability.
The Iranian nuclear agency has been told by the government to begin work on five new sites, with locations for a further five to be found in the next two months, the report said. The decision was reportedly made during a cabinet meeting headed by the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this evening.
It comes shortly after Iran warned it may cut back already limited co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency after being censured by the UN watchdog for concealing the existence of a nuclear enrichment plant.
MPs in Tehran today called on Ahmadinejad to reconsider his policy towards the IAEA after Friday's resolution insisting that Iran resume negotiations. It was the first time in nearly four years that Tehran had faced censure by all five permanent members of the UN security council – their rare unanimity reflecting deepening international exasperation over the impasse in nuclear talks.
Ali Larijani, the powerful speaker of the majlis (parliament), said: "If you do not abandon the ridiculous carrot-and-stick policy, we will take a new approach towards you."
The parliament also announced it was allocating $20m (£12.1m) to back unnamed "progressive" groups to combat US and British "conspiracies".
The majlis is dominated by hardliners who maintain pressure on the government to remain defiant despite talk of sanctions being imposed within weeks if nuclear negotiations do not make progress. "Because of world powers' behaviour, the government should submit its plan over reducing the level of Iran's co-operation with the agency," MPs said in a statement.
Parliament can oblige the government to decrease co-operation as it did in 2006, after the Vienna-based agency voted to report Iran to the UN security council. Western diplomats believe, however, that Iran will not burn its bridges with the IAEA for fear of alienating other countries who defend it on the grounds of its legal rights and western double standards.
Iran's formal position is that it is seeking nuclear power for electricity generation, as it is entitled to as a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But it has failed to dispel suspicions that it is seeking secretly to build a nuclear bomb. September's revelation of the existence of a second enrichment plant near Qom fuelled those suspicions.
The US has warned that its patience is not unlimited, but doors are being left open in the hope that Iran will somehow re-engage.
Underlining the possibility of diplomatic progress, Turkey was reported to be mediating between Iran and the IAEA over a proposal that would see Iran's uranium processed overseas, according to al-Arabiya TV. Turkish-Iranian relations have warmed up in recent months.
Still, there is pessimism in western capitals about the prospect for a breakthrough because of the way the nuclear issue has become enmeshed in Iran's turbulent domestic politics.
Mehi Karroubi, one of the defeated reformist candidates in June's disputed presidential elections, attacked Ahmadinejad at the weekend for his "adventurist" nuclear policy. Karroubi and Mirhossein Mousavi, who says he beat the hardline incumbent, say they plan to keep on leading protests against the government.
Iran's parliament said that the $20m it had authorised would be disbursed by a committee including representatives of the ministries of intelligence, communications, culture and foreign affairs and the Revolutionary Guards, and would be used to target and resist US and British "conspiracies".
The announcement appears to fit in with a new emphasis on using "soft power" to combat Iran's western enemies, which it has repeatedly accused of seeking to foment a "velvet revolution" and orchestrating post-election protests in which dozens were killed in clashes with security forces and thousands detained. The money is being drawn from Iran's oil stabilisation fund. Recipients were not identified but there was speculation that the funds might be earmarked for groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Islamists of Hamas, which Iran also supports.

Spain turns down the air conditioning to save power

Graham Keeley in Madrid
Spaniards and holidaymakers sweltering in the summer heat might not be too impressed, but desperate times — and a deep recession — call for desperate measures. The Spanish Cabinet agreed yesterday to reduce energy consumption by limiting the use of air conditioning.
Madrid has decided to establish minimum and maximum temperatures for public buildings and thus shops, bars, airports, cinemas, railway stations and airports cannot be cooled below 26C (79F) in summer. During winter, moreover, heaters cannot be turned up above 21C.
The Economic Sustainability Law is designed to reduce Spain’s overreliance on imported energy, but this may not figure highly in the priorities of anyone gasping for breath in August.
It is not the only new direction taken by Spain as it seeks a path to better economic times: under new rules, banks and all publicly listed companies will have to disclose how much they pay their leading executives. Elena Salgado, the Economy Minister, said: “There will be more transparency, particularly in terms of top executives’ pay.” Shareholders should vote on executive pay at banks and listed companies at annual shareholder meetings, she said.

After a decade-long building boom, Spain is mired in its worst recession in decades. Unemployment stands at nearly 18 per cent, double the European Union average, and while the broader eurozone has climbed out of recession, Spain is not projected to do so until at least 2010.
The thrust of the reform is to try to wean Spain off its dependence on bricks and mortar and to introduce a more sustainable model of growth. Thus José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, the Prime Minister, unveiled a ten-year plan to revamp the economy. A cornerstone of the new Bill will be greater investment in renewable energy, something that Mr Zapatero is known to favour over the nuclear power option. During the past five years, Spain’s Socialist Government has invested heavily in solar, wind and hydroelectric power.
Mr Zapatero has hinted that his Government may not renew the licences of old nuclear power stations, a move that has provoked opposition from within the nuclear industry and from the conservative Opposition.

Rigging a Climate 'Consensus'

The climatologists at the center of the leaked email and document scandal have taken the line that it is all much ado about nothing. Yes, the wording of their messages was unfortunate, but they insist this in no way undermines the underlying science. They're ignoring the damage they've done to public confidence in the arbiters of climate science.
"What they've done is search through stolen personal emails—confidential between colleagues who often speak in a language they understand and is often foreign to the outside world," Penn State's Michael Mann told Reuters Wednesday. Mr. Mann added that this has made "something innocent into something nefarious."
Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, from which the emails were lifted, is singing from the same climate hymnal. "My colleagues and I accept that some of the published emails do not read well. I regret any upset or confusion caused as a result. Some were clearly written in the heat of the moment, others use colloquialisms frequently used between close colleagues," he said this week.
We don't doubt that Mr. Jones would have phrased his emails differently if he expected them to end up in the newspaper. He's right that it doesn't look good that his May 2008 email to Mr. Mann regarding the U.N.'s Fourth Assessment Report said "Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?" Mr. Mann says he didn't delete any such emails, but the point is that Mr. Jones wanted them hidden.
The furor over these documents is not about tone, colloquialisms or whether climatologists are nice people. The real issue is what the messages say about the way the much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming was arrived at, and how a single view of warming and its causes is being enforced. The impression left by the correspondence among Messrs. Mann and Jones and others is that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start.
According to this privileged group, only those whose work has been published in select scientific journals, after having gone through the "peer-review" process, can be relied on to critique the science. And sure enough, any challenges from critics outside this clique are dismissed and disparaged.
This September, Mr. Mann told a New York Times reporter in one of the leaked emails that: "Those such as [Stephen] McIntyre who operate almost entirely outside of this system are not to be trusted." Mr. McIntyre is a retired Canadian businessman who checks the findings of climate scientists and often publishes the mistakes he finds on his Web site, He holds the rare distinction of having forced Mr. Mann to publish a correction to one of his more famous papers.
As anonymous reviewers of choice for certain journals, Mr. Mann & Co. had considerable power to enforce the consensus, but it was not absolute, as they discovered in 2003. Mr. Mann noted in a March 2003 email, after the journal "Climate Research" published a paper not to Mr. Mann's liking, that "This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the 'peer-reviewed literature'. Obviously, they found a solution to that—take over a journal!"
Mr. Mann went on to suggest that the journal itself be blackballed: "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board." In other words, keep dissent out of the respected journals. When that fails, redefine what constitutes a respected journal to exclude any that publish inconvenient views.
A more thoughtful response to the emails comes from Mike Hulme, another climate scientist at the University of East Anglia, as reported by a New York Times blogger:
"This event might signal a crack that allows for processes of re-structuring scientific knowledge about climate change. It is possible that some areas of climate science has become sclerotic. It is possible that climate science has become too partisan, too centralized. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organization within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science."
The response from the defenders of Mr. Mann and his circle has been that even if they did disparage doubters and exclude contrary points of view, theirs is still the best climate science. The proof for this is circular. It's the best, we're told, because it's the most-published and most-cited—in that same peer-reviewed literature. The public has every reason to ask why they felt the need to rig the game if their science is as indisputable as they claim.

The Web Discloses Inconvenient Climate Truths

The world cannot trust scientists who abuse their power.
For anyone who doubts the power of the Internet to shine light on darkness, the news of the month is how digital technology helped uncover a secretive group of scientists who suppressed data, froze others out of the debate, and flouted freedom-of-information laws. Their behavior was brought to light when more than 1,000 emails,and some 3,500 additional files were published online, many of which boasted about how they suppressed hard questions about their data.
The emails, released by an apparent whistle-blower who used the name "FOI," were written by scientists at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England. Its scientists are high-profile campaigners for the theory of global warming.
The findings from East Anglia have been at the core of policy reports by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC does not do its own research but compiles information relating to climate change. It has declared the evidence that the globe is warming to be "unequivocal," a claim routinely cited by lawmakers in the U.S. and elsewhere as authoritative.
The IPCC stresses honest science. According to its Web site, its goal is to "assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation."
The panel, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, now faces the inconvenient truth that it relied on scientists who violated scientific process. In one email, the Climate Research Unit's director, Phil Jones, wrote Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, promising to spike studies that cast doubt on the relationship between human activity and global warming. "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report," he said. He pledged to "keep them out somehow—even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"
In another email exhange, Mr. Mann wrote to Mr. Jones: "This was the danger of always criticizing the skeptics for not publishing in the 'peer-reviewed literature.' Obviously, they found a solution to that—take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering 'Climate Research' as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal."
Other emails include one in which Keith Briffa of the Climate Research Unit told Mr. Mann that "I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same," and in which Mr. Jones said he had employed Mr. Mann's "trick" to "hide the decline" in temperatures. A May 2008 email from Mr. Jones with the subject line "IPCC & FOI" asked recipients to "delete any emails you may have had" about data submitted for an IPCC report. The British Freedom of Information Act makes it a crime to delete material subject to an FOI request; such a request had been made earlier that month.
Over the weekend, East Anglia officials disclosed they had disposed years ago of the historic weather data underlying their analysis. This may be one reason they've fought information requests. They say they'll release the data they still have some time next year.
The emails showed how the global-warming group stifled dissent. They controlled the peer-review process, keeping opposing views unpublished, then cited "peer review" as evidence of their "consensus." One of the dissident scientists, Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado, wrote on his blog that the emails show the "collusion to suppress other scientifically supported views of the climate system, and the human role within it, is a systemic problem with the climate assessment process."
These disclosures have led to some soul-searching. "Opaqueness and secrecy are the enemies of science," wrote George Monbriot, a leading British environmentalist. "There is a word for the apparent repeated attempts to prevent disclosure revealed in these emails: unscientific." Demetris Koutsoyiannis, a hydraulic engineer who has written on climate change, wrote that scientists who suppressed others "must have felt that this secrecy was their best weapon: to censor differing opinions, to develop 'trick' procedures, to 'balance' the needs of the IPCC, and even to 'redefine' peer review."
This unseemly business reveals another flaw. Why are scholars who review papers allowed to remain anonymous? Reforming scientists and lawmakers might put the question more concretely: How many of the anonymous reviewers who spiked skeptical scientific papers over the years are the people who wrote these emails detailing how they abused peer review to block contrary evidence?
Science was one of the first disciplines to insist on transparency in order to foster competition in data and ideas. In the case of global warming, transparency is better late than never, as policy makers now have the chance to review the facts. Facing up to high-profile flaws is hard for any profession, but honest scientists will cheer how in our digital era eventually the truth will out, and will accept that no scientific hypothesis can be viewed as sacred or can be proved in secret.

Climate change: Looking south

The Guardian, Monday 30 November 2009
The impact of climate change on the developing world is already so far advanced it can no longer be prevented, only mitigated. It can be seen in the increased frequency of flooding in Bangladesh, or the desertification of sub-Saharan Africa. But it is also being experienced by millions of families and individuals, the smallholder farmers, the people who grow four-fifths of the world's food. From every part of Africa there are reports of erratic rains, lower yields and higher incidence of disease. For some of them, insecurity is not only about a shortage of food and water but about a life-threatening recurrence of insurrection and lawlessness as the poorest people on the planet rob the very slightly less poor to survive.
Unless there is huge collective effort at Copenhagen all these small experiences will snowball. Within a generation, there could be wholesale migrations of peoples whose lands have become unviable or who have been displaced by resource wars; and there will be widespread loss of life through flood, drought and epidemic. This wretched vision of the future is not revelatory. It has been acknowledged for years. Yet the high hopes of a coherent, funded effort that would spread clean technology through the developing world, while supporting subsistence farmers to adapt new methods to improve sustainability, have been bogged down in a mess of broken promises and mistrust, and a miasma of acronyms and initials.
Setting targets for cutting emissions has had most of the headlines in the north, where mitigation seems a less pressing problem. Without the pressure of public scrutiny, it has been easy for governments to avoid working out who is to pay the south. Yet hardly a week passes without a new assessment of the likely cost of avoiding, or at least containing, disaster. The latest, from Christian Aid on Friday, thought that in the very best case Africa alone would lose 1.7% of its GDP – $26bn – a year. The sooner a start is made, the less painful it should be. That is one reason to welcome yesterday's agreement at the Commonwealth summit on climate change. Britain and France launched a fund, expected to reach $10bn a year by 2012, to help poorer nations reduce emissions and deal with the consequences of a changing climate. The challenge is to ensure the money materialises, and that, if it does, it is not wasted.
Over the past eight years so many different funds and programmes have been initiated that even government officials struggle to order them. The UN offers, among others, the Less Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund, while the UK government has contributed most (but only £200m) to the Climate Change Resilience pilot. The World Bank proposes loans, political anathema to many developing countries still recovering from the withdrawal of government from many areas of state activity (such as agriculture) under its instructions, and has battled to get strong representation on the Adaptation Fund set up at Kyoto to disburse income raised by carbon trading from south to north. But the global downturn has illustrated the weaknesses of market-based mechanisms.
Global institutions are right to demand that resources on such a vast scale are distributed fairly. But agreeing an acceptable process is turning into an insurmountable barrier, even if donor countries had provided funds to distribute in the first place. Developing countries now argue for income from a levy on air transport and shipping. A proposal from Norway (pdf) for auctions of emission allowances has the backing of some NGOs. What the past years of confusion suggest is the pressing need for organisational harmonisation, a single body that can raise and distribute resources fairly and transparently. As we report today, the stakes have never been higher: for the north, it means economically sustainable growth; but for the south it is about life and death.

GPs 'should offer climate change advice to patients'

Doctors should give patients advice on climate change, a leading body of medical experts has claimed.

Nick BrittenPublished: 11:53AM GMT 29 Nov 2009
The Climate and Health Council, a collaboration of worldwide health organisations including the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society of Medicine, believes there is a direct link between climate change and better health.
Their controversial plan would see GPs and nurses give out advice to their patients on how to lower their carbon footprint.
The Council believes that climate change “threatens to radically undermine the health of all peoples”.
It believes health professionals are ideally placed to promote change because “we have ethical responsibility… well as the capacity to influence people and our political representatives to take the necessary action”.
The Council has been recently formed to study the health benefits of tackling climate change and promotes a range of ideas from reducing your carbon footprint by driving less and walking more to eating local, less processed food.
It wants to raise 'health' on the agenda of December's UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen.
They believe that offering patients advice on how to lower their carbon footprint can be just as easy and achievable as helping them to stop smoking or eat a healthier diet.
Other proposals include for all developed nations to pay an extra five dollars a barrel on oil and a tax on airline tickets. This would go into a special fund to develop low-carbon alternatives to existing technologies, they say.
Prof Mike Gill, from the University of Surrey, who co-chairs the Climate and Health Council, outlined the plans for the medical journal The Lancet last week.
He said: "Climate change already affects human health, creating problems that will increase if no action is taken.
"Overall, what is good for tackling climate change is good for health. Who better to spell out this message than health professionals? "We have the evidence, a good story to tell that dramatically shifts the lens through which climate change is perceived, and we have public trust."
He said the health service was often “muted” on the subject of climate change and needed to make its voice heard more.
He added: "To maximise our influence, we must be much clearer than we have been to the public, to patients, and to politicians about the risks of doing nothing and the benefits to individual and global health of effective action."
Vivienne Nathanson, British Medical Association director of professional activities said the report “clearly shows that taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can have positive impacts for health."
She said the BMA was disappointed health had not so far figured significantly on the agenda for the Copenhagen summit and called on world leaders to seek solutions that benefit the environment and individuals.
Andy Burnham, the Health minister, in support of the Lancet report said: "Climate change can seem a distant, impersonal threat [however] the associated costs to health are a very real and present danger. Health ministers across the globe must act now to highlight the risk global warning poses to the health of our communities."

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The great climate change science scandal

Leaked emails have revealed the unwillingness of climate change scientists to engage in a proper debate with the sceptics who doubt global warming
Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor
The storm began with just four cryptic words. “A miracle has happened,” announced a contributor to Climate Audit, a website devoted to criticising the science of climate change.
“RC” said nothing more — but included a web link that took anyone who clicked on it to another site, Real Climate.
There, on the morning of November 17, they found a treasure trove: a thousand or so emails sent or received by Professor Phil Jones, director of the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.
Jones is a key player in the science of climate change. His department’s databases on global temperature changes and its measurements have been crucial in building the case for global warming.

What those emails suggested, however, was that Jones and some colleagues may have become so convinced of their case that they crossed the line from objective research into active campaigning.
In one, Jones boasted of using statistical “tricks” to obliterate apparent declines in global temperature. In another he advocated deleting data rather than handing them to climate sceptics. And in a third he proposed organised boycotts of journals that had the temerity to publish papers that undermined the message.
It was a powerful and controversial mix — far too powerful for some. Real Climate is a website designed for scientists who share Jones’s belief in man-made climate change. Within hours the file had been stripped from the site.
Several hours later, however, it reappeared — this time on an obscure Russian server. Soon it had been copied to a host of other servers, first in Saudi Arabia and Turkey and then Europe and America.
What’s more, the anonymous poster was determined not to be stymied again. He or she posted comments on climate-sceptic blogs, detailing a dozen of the best emails and offering web links to the rest. Jones’s statistical tricks were now public property.
Steve McIntyre, a prominent climate sceptic, was amazed. “Words failed me,” he said. Another, Patrick Michaels, declared: “This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud.”
Inevitably, the affair became nicknamed Climategate. For the scientists, campaigners and politicians trying to rouse the world to action on climate change the revelations could hardly have come at a worse time. Next month global leaders will assemble in Copenhagen to seek limits on carbon emissions. The last thing they need is renewed doubts about the validity of the science.
The scandal has also had a huge personal and professional impact on the scientists. “These have been the worst few days of my professional life,” said Jones. He had to call on the police for protection after receiving anonymous phone calls and personal threats.
Why should a few emails sent to and from a single research scientist at a middle-ranking university have so much impact? And most importantly, what does it tell us about the quality of the research underlying the science of climate change?
THE hacking scandal is not an isolated event. Instead it is the latest round of a long-running battle over climate science that goes back to 1990.
That was when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the group of scientists that advises governments worldwide — published its first set of reports warning that the Earth faced deadly danger from climate change. A centrepiece of that report was a set of data showing how the temperature of the northern hemisphere was rising rapidly.
The problem was that the same figures showed that it had all happened before. The so-called medieval warm period of about 1,000 years ago saw Britain covered in vineyards and Viking farmers tending cows in Greenland. For any good scientist this raised a big question: was the recent warming linked to humans burning fossil fuels or was it part of a natural cycle?
The researchers set to work and in 1999 a group led by Professor Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University, came up with new numbers showing that the medieval warm period was not so important after all.
Some bits of the Atlantic may have been warm for a while, but the records suggested that the Pacific had been rather chilly over the same period — so on average there was little change.
Plotted out, Mann’s data turned into the famous “hockey stick” graph. It showed northern hemisphere temperatures as staying flat for hundreds of years and then rising steeply from 1900 until now. The implication was that this rise would continue, with potentially deadly consequences for humanity.
That vision of continents being hit by droughts and floods while the Arctic melts away has turned a scientific debate into a highly emotional and political one. The language used by “warmists” and sceptics alike has become increasingly polarised.
George Monbiot, widely respected as a writer on green issues, has branded doubters “climate deniers”, a phrase uncomfortably close to holocaust denial. Sceptics, particularly in America, have suggested that scientists who believe in climate change are part of a global left-wing conspiracy to divert billions of dollars into green technology.
A more cogent criticism is that there has been a reluctance to acknowledge dissent on the question of climate science. Al Gore, the former US vice-president turned green campaigner, has described the climate debate as “settled”. Yet the science, say critics, has not been tested to the limit. This is why the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia is so significant.
Its researchers have built up records of how temperatures have changed over thousands of years. Perhaps the most important is the land and sea temperature record for the world since the mid-19th century. This is the database that shows the “unequivocal” rise of 0.8C over the last 157 years on which Mann’s hockey stick and much else in climate science depend.
Some critics believe that the unit’s findings need to be treated with more caution, because all the published data have been “corrected” — meaning they have been altered to compensate for possible anomalies in the way they were taken. Such changes are normal; what’s controversial is how they are done. This is compounded by the unwillingness of the unit to release the original raw data.
David Holland, an engineer from Northampton, is one of a number of sceptics who believe the unit has got this process wrong. When he submitted a request for the figures under freedom of information laws he was refused because it was “not in the public interest”.
Others who made similar requests were turned down because they were not academics, among them McIntyre, a Canadian who runs the Climate Audit website.
A genuine academic, Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Canada, also tried. He said: “I was rejected for an entirely different reason. The [unit] told me they had obtained the data under confidentiality agreements and so could not supply them. This was odd because they had already supplied some of them to other academics, but only those who support the idea of climate change.”
IT was against this background that the emails were leaked last week, reinforcing suspicions that scientific objectivity has been sacrificed. There is unease even among researchers who strongly support the idea that humans are changing the climate. Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said: “Over the last decade there has been a very political battle between the climate sceptics and activist scientists.
“It seems to me that the scientists have lost touch with what they were up to. They saw themselves as in a battle with the sceptics rather than advancing scientific knowledge.”
Professor Mike Hulme, a fellow researcher of Jones at the University of East Anglia and author of Why We Disagree About Climate Change, said: “The attitudes revealed in the emails do not look good. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organisation within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science.”
There could, however, be another reason why the unit rejected requests to see its data.
This weekend it emerged that the unit has thrown away much of the data. Tucked away on its website is this statement: “Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites ... We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (ie, quality controlled and homogenised) data.”
If true, it is extraordinary. It means that the data on which a large part of the world’s understanding of climate change is based can never be revisited or checked. Pielke said: “Can this be serious? It is now impossible to create a new temperature index from scratch. [The unit] is basically saying, ‘Trust us’.”
WHERE does this leave the climate debate? While the overwhelming belief of scientists is that the world is getting warmer and that humanity is responsible, sceptical voices are increasing.
Lord Lawson, the Tory former chancellor, announced last week the creation of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank, to “bring reason, integrity and balance to a debate that has become seriously unbalanced, irrationally alarmist, and all too often depressingly intolerant”.
Lawson said: “Climate change is not being properly debated because all the political parties are on the same side, and there is an intolerance towards anybody who wants to debate it. It has turned climate change from being a political issue into a secular religion.”
The public are understandably confused. A recent poll showed that 41% accept as scientific fact that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made, while 32% believe the link is unproven and 15% said the world is not warming.
This weekend many of Jones’s colleagues were standing by him. Tim Lenton, professor of earth system science at UEA, said: “We wouldn’t have anything like the understanding of climate change that we do were it not for the work of Phil Jones and his colleagues. They have spent decades putting together the historical temperature record and it is good work.”
The problem is that, after the past week, both sceptics and the public will require even more convincing of that.