Friday, 16 January 2009

Bush urges US to stake claim to Arctic territory in last-gasp energy grab

Departing US president grasps at resources beyond Alaska – but scientists warn the move could accelerate global warming
Owen Bowcott, Thursday 15 January 2009 15.58 GMT

The United States has declared its intention to exploit the vast oil and mineral wealth hidden below the Arctic circle by extending its "sovereign rights" over the seabed.
A detailed policy directive – issued a week before George Bush quits the White House – makes explicit the extent of US ambitions in the polar region beyond Alaska.
"The United States is an Arctic nation, with varied and compelling interests in that region," the document – National Security Presidential Directive 66 – states in its introduction, while acknowledging "a growing awareness that the Arctic region is both fragile and rich in resources".
There is a qualified acceptance of "the effects of climate change and increasing human activity in the Arctic region" but the main thrust of the paper concerns how the US can tap potential energy resources.
One of the main obstacles to staking a claim on the Arctic seafloor has been opposition in the Senate to ratification of the United Nations' 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.
The White House implicitly urges senators to overcome residual suspicions of the UN in the interests of national security, environmental protection and business opportunity. The US is one of the few nations not to have signed up to the agreement which allows countries to extend their control of the seabed from 200 miles to up to 350 miles beyond their coastline.
Ratification, it says, would define "with certainty the area of the Arctic seabed and subsoil in which the United States may exercise its sovereign rights over natural resources such as oil, natural gas, methane hydrates, minerals, and living marine species… "
Methane hydrates are solidified gases formed under great pressure and at low temperatures on the seafloor. They have been identified as an extensive energy source in future, although some environmentalists have warned they could trigger runaway global warming.
The directive calls for "all actions necessary to establish the outer limit of the continental shelf appertaining to the United States, in the Arctic and in other regions, to the fullest extent permitted under international law."
The paper sounds a note of scepticism about the extent of global warming. "High levels of uncertainty remain concerning the effects of climate change and increased human activity in the Arctic," it remarks. "An understanding of the probable consequences of global climate variability and change on Arctic ecosystems is essential to guide the effective long-term management of Arctic natural resources and to address socioeconomic impacts of changing patterns in the use of natural resources."
Two years ago a Russian submarine planted a flag on the seabed under the Arctic ice, intensifying the race for offshore Arctic resources. The Russian government has commissioned detailed marine, geological work to determine the external border of the Russian continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. It is due to be completed by 2011.
The US and Canada still have an unresolved boundary in the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, an area thought to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits. The new US policy is binding on future administrations until replaced.
Britain has signalled that it will have lodged five claims on the Atlantic seabed with UN's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf by May this year. Its latest submission, covering the area Hatton/Rockall basin west of Scotland, is due to be handed in to the UN offices in New York shortly.

Could new varieties of wheat and barley save the planet from climate change?

Food scientists claim planet could be cooled by up to 2°C simply by planting crops specially bred to reflect more sunlight
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent, Thursday 15 January 2009 17.00 GMT

Food crops could be used to keep the Earth's temperatures down and slow global warming, say scientists. By growing plants that can reflect more of the sun's radiation back into space, parts of Europe and North America could be cooled by 1°C in the summer, the equivalent of stopping billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over the next century.
Growing agricultural plants such as maize or barley already cools the climate because they reflect more sunlight back into space than natural vegetation. Different varieties of the same plant can vary in how much light they reflect, a property called albedo, so selecting for higher-albedo crops would enhance the cooling effect from agriculture.
Using the same climate models as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Andy Ridgewell led a team of scientists at the University of Bristol to calculate how different varieties of crops would affect global temperatures. "It would be an optimistic scenario that, farming everywhere, people were happy to plant a slightly different variety of crop."
The results, published today in the journal Current Biology, showed that, in the most optimistic scenario with all the world's crops replaced by the most reflective varieties, the world would cool by an average of 0.1C, equivalent to almost a fifth of the warming since the Industrial Revolution.
Over the next century, selecting more reflective crops could have a cooling effect equivalent to preventing 195bn tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
Ridgewell says that farmers should seriously consider selecting crop varieties based on their climate effects, in the same way that specific varieties are fine-tuned to optimise crop yield. "The same crops are grown in the same location – all we're talking about is planting a variety of wheat or maize that you already grow, a variety that has slightly increased reflectivity," he said,
"We're very mindful of the biofuel minefield and particularly the way food supply and poverty in large regions of the world is – you could not displace any food production. We're not even talking about changing from wheat to maize or rice to something else."
To encourage them to grow these reflective crops, farmers could be rewarded with carbon credits. Ridgewell calculated that, with current carbon prices, farmers could earn 23 euros per hectare for the CO2 they prevent from reaching the air.
He added that temperatures could fall even further with careful breeding of crops. "We see no reason why, in the future, 2°C might not be achievable but it might require a lot of selective breeding or genetic modification to get that impact." This means selecting plants that have waxier leaves or leaves arranged to reflect more sunlight.
Keith Allott, head of environment group WWF-UK's climate change programme, said: "Like it or not, we are already committed to significant levels of warming because of the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. Ideas such as this might have some value in helping to reduce some of the local impacts, but need to be evaluated extremely carefully to make sure there are no other adverse impacts on the local or regional environment. But we shouldn't kid ourselves – the only way to make sure that we keep global warming below very dangerous levels is to secure a very rapid reduction in carbon emissions by moving to clean energy and stopping deforestation."
Ridgewell said that, unlike other proposed geo-engineering schemes to cool the planet, such as dumping iron in the oceans or sending mirrors into space to reflect away sunlight, altering the crops grown by farmers was much simpler. "These would require whole new infrastructures at a cost of trillions of dollars," he said. "We came up with [the crops] idea thinking agriculture is already global-scale and coordinated, to some extent. In a way, you could just go with that and subvert the existing infrastructure to come up with a climate benefit."

Coal Industry Digs Itself Out of a Hole in the Capitol

Support From EPA, Energy Nominees Signals Obama Team Headed Toward Center on Matter of Fossil Fuels and Carbon Emissions

WASHINGTON -- Big Coal is on a roll in the nation's capital, winning early rounds this week in what promises to be a long fight over fossil fuels and climate change.

Discuss: Are any of Obama's cabinet picks at risk of becoming a liability for the administration?
Despite a well-funded ad campaign by environmentalists attacking the industry, and a huge coal-ash spill in Tennessee that has led to calls for more regulation, the industry has received positive assurances this week from President-elect Barack Obama's nominees that the new administration is committed to keeping coal a big part of the nation's energy source.
On Wednesday, Mr. Obama's choice to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, described coal to a Senate panel as "a vital resource" for the country. A day earlier, Mr. Obama's nominee to run the Energy Department, physicist Steven Chu, referred to coal as a "great natural resource." Two years ago, he called the expansion of coal-fired power plants his "worst nightmare."
The comments indicated the new administration is trying to steer toward the center in the debate over the costs associated with curbing fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases they produce.
Environmental groups are ratcheting up attacks on the industry. Last month, a group led by former Vice President Al Gore ran a national TV and print ad campaign lampooning the promise of so-called clean-coal technology and suggesting it would be risky for the U.S. to hold off on regulation of carbon-dioxide emissions until such technology becomes commercially available.

Coal-fired power plants account for half of the U.S. electricity supply, and are one of the leading sources of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, said Wednesday he wasn't surprised by the nominees' comments and noted that a 2007 Supreme Court ruling obligated the Obama administration to eventually determine whether greenhouse-gas emissions endanger health or welfare, the legal trigger for regulating them under the federal Clean Air Act.
Addressing the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, Ms. Jackson didn't say Wednesday how quickly her agency would reach that decision, but promised to "immediately revisit" the December 2007 order by current EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to deny California and other states permission to implement their own controls on automobile greenhouse-gas emissions.
Separately, an influential group of corporations and environmental groups is scheduled Thursday to ask that any federal limit on greenhouse-gas emissions not hit coal-burning power producers too hard. The U.S. Climate Action Partnership plans to ask Congress for mandates that would seek to cut U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions 42% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050, according to a copy of the group's recommendations reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.—Jeffrey Ball in Dallas contributed to this article.
Write to Stephen Power at and Siobhan Hughes at

Scottish & Southern Energy wins consent for Dutch wind farm

Published: January 15, 2009

LONDON: Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) said on Thursday the Netherlands had given it the green light to build a wind farm in the North Sea. SSE said the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works & Water Management had approved an application by its renewable energy division Airtricity to build a farm known as West-Rijn, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) off the Dutch coast and about 90 kilometres (56 miles) from Rotterdam.
SSE said West Rijn was the first offshore farm to receive approval in the Netherlands for nearly seven years.
It will have up to 72 wind turbines capable of generating a total of about 260 megawatts of electricity.
The group said it now planned to focus on the final stage of the development process and securing financial help from the Dutch government.
Airtricity's Chief Executive Paul Dowling said the Dutch market was an important new area for SSE's renewable development team. "West Rijn is the first in a number of projects which will give us the opportunity to become the leading offshore wind developer in the Netherlands," he said in a statement.

The Dutch transport and public works ministry said the farm was an important step towards the government's target of setting up farms able to generate 450 megawatts of wind energy in the North Sea during its term. For 2020, the government is targeting 6,000 megawatts of North Sea wind energy.
The 20-year permit for the farm still needs to be confirmed following a public enquiry and the ministry said it expected to award more permits in the coming months.
(Reporting by Philip Waller and Niclas Mika)

Can aviation increase and carbon emissions fall at the same time?

Juliette Jowit explains the arguments for an against the expansion of Heathrow airport
Juliette Jowit, Thursday 15 January 2009 10.04 GMT

The expansion of Heathrow airport has become one of the great environmental battlegrounds of our age in the UK.
On the one side, are environmentalists who claim aviation accounts for up to 13% of UK greenhouse gases and is the fastest growing source of emissions, and millions of residents who live under the flight paths fear a great increase in noise, local air pollution and congestion.
On the other side are supporters who claim the demonisation of flying is exaggerated because aviation makes up only 2% of global greenhouse gas pollution. They also claim that more direct flight paths and technological advances in biofuel engines will curb emissions rises even as the industry grows.
A more emotional argument underlies the statistics. This is between those who feel there is something deeply wasteful and unfair about rich people flying around the world when others face drowning in Bangladesh and mass extinctions are threatened; and those who believe aviation helps fuel the world economy, connects family and friends, and allows people to enjoy well-earned holidays or follow the human instinct to travel.
At one point the row became so vitriolic that Jonathon Porritt, the government's sustainability adviser and no fan of expanding aviation, was provoked into warning against a "new strain of deeply unattractive eco-puritanism about flying".
Separating the two sides is whether it is possible to fly more and meet ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change has calculated that under current plans, aviation would use up the entire UK carbon budget in 2050. The industry is more bullish about technological advances, and says a fixed cap on emissions set by the emissions trading scheme is a financial incentive to develop new technology and find ways to save fuel, or will pay for reductions in other companies if they fail.
Treading a cautious path between these two sides is the plausible scenario that emissions from flying will grow but not as dramatically as the number of flights, and later account for a significant proportion of the residual global carbon budget.
Adair Turner, chairman of the government's climate change committee, said: "It's possible for the world to cut greenhouse gases while still not cutting aviation by anything like as much, even increase aviation emissions." Although he has made it clear he was not supporting Heathrow's expansion.
"Society will have to make that prioritisation," said Porritt. "Aviation and chemical feed stocks will probably remain the two things society will want to reserve our hydrocarbon usage for."
The controversy over Heathrow runs deeper than the emissions figures. By giving the go-ahead to such a controversial climate project, the government would relinquish its authority to persuade the UK public or the world to cut their emissions, say critics.
"We get calls from journalists around the world and the signal we're sending is: Britons already fly more than anybody else in the world and we're going to fly a lot more because we think it's good for the economy," said Ben Stewart, a spokesman for Greenpeace, who also disputes the economic case for expansion. "How else do we say to countries that want to do x, y and z because it's good for their economy 'you can't do that' if we're going to do it."
Most foreign governments are clamouring to build their own airports – along with coal plants and motorways – so might accept this as "realpolitik", said Porritt. But simply by making it such a controversy, critics could make their argument self-fulfilling.
On the expected assent to the runway today, he said: "I guess they [the UK government] are hoping that their reputation will survive because of the fact of the [recent] Climate Change Act and they'll be able to bat away any suggestions about inconsistency, cant [and] blatant hypocrisy," said Porritt.
"From my perspective I just think it's inconceivable you can hold those two things in your mind at the same time: [that] you're really going flat out for rapid decarbonisation and perfectly reconciled to expansion of aviation."

Greenwash: Tesco and its bizarre carbon accountancy

'Carbon intensity' is the new gambit for companies trying to spruce up their green images

Fred Pearce, Thursday 15 January 2009 11.03 GMT

Tesco: emissions up 400,000 tonnes in 2007
How can Tesco increase its carbon dioxide emissions by almost 400,000 tonnes, as it did in 2007, and still claim to be "setting an example" on climate change? Easy. By coming up with a bizarre test to demonstrate its carbon virtue.The latest corporate responsibility report from Britain's biggest retailer admits to an 8.6% increase in its emissions in a single year, but says that it increased its "floor space" by 14%, so actually its carbon intensity "per square foot of net sales area" was down by 4.7%.
How does it get away with such a formulation? This is not, you will notice, carbon emissions per tonne of groceries sold, or even emissions per pound of our money handed over at the till. Just floor space. Why not "per Bangladeshi sweatshop worker" or "per migrant vegetable-picker working in Lincolnshire fields"? It would make about as much sense.
We can be fairly sure the "floor space" measure shows Tesco in a good light – and until the government lays down some proper rules about how to measure and declare corporate carbon emissions, they can do what they like.
Carbon intensity is the new gambit for companies trying to spruce up their green images. They're all doing it. And, sadly, last year the Advertising Standards Authority gave them a green light to carry on.
Most companies don't go for the outlandish "per-square-foot" measurement of Tesco. They largely measure the carbon intensity of their operations as tonnes of CO2 against product produced or cash turnover.
But this is scarcely better. It means you can keep churning out more stuff, or flying people to more places or burning more coal in power stations, while claiming all is well because you are doing it with greater carbon efficiency. And many companies do.
The problem is that the atmosphere doesn't recognise this increased efficiency. All it does is respond to the extra carbon dioxide in the air by raising temperatures.
Christian Aid, which asked me to look into this, has recently been checking company carbon-emissions targets, and found that most go for carbon intensity and ignore actual emissions.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, for instance, both promise big improvements in the fuel efficiency of their airline fleets, measured as (hold your breath) "emissions per revenue tonne kilometre". They will achieve their targets largely by buying new planes that need less fuel. The Boeing 787 uses 30% less fuel than the 767. Good. But, for all Virgin's publicity-grabbing trials with biofuels, neither company makes any promises about cutting actual emissions.
George W Bush started this. Unable to cope with the Kyoto protocol's calls for modest but real reductions in actual emissions, he announced in 2002 that the US would cut the "carbon intensity" of its economy by 18% by 2012. The US will probably achieve this target. But its emissions continue on up.
China recently promised to improve its carbon intensity by 40% by 2020 – far greater than most western corporate promises. But its actual emissions will continue on up.
The trouble is that none of this is much more than business as usual. Virtually all industrial economies are reducing their carbon intensity virtually all the time. Every new generation of technology is more energy-efficient than the last – hence greater carbon efficiency. Any company that did not do this would soon be bankrupt.
But it is not enough. Economies and corporate output have been growing too quickly. We don't need reduced carbon intensity, we need real cuts in emissions. Globally, nationally and corporately. Nothing else will do.
But meanwhile companies are using the carbon-intensity mantra to bamboozle us about what they are doing and what they promise.
Last summer, the UK Advertising Standards Authority, an industry-run watchdog, rejected complaints that electricity company EDF was misleading the public with TV adverts boasting of its plants to reduce the carbon intensity of its operations by 60% by 2020. Complainants said viewers might think it was planning to cut actual emissions by that amount. The ASA said viewers were unlikely to be misled, and said other advertisers would be allowed to make similar claims about carbon intensity.
Not misled? I doubt if many viewers realised that EDF's carbon emissions reached a new record in 2007. Nor that the carbon intensity of its British power stations, far from improving, was the worst for at least six years. I can't help thinking the ASA got this one wrong.

We can have hundreds of extra flights a day and still be green - ministers

Climate worries brushed aside as decision lets BAA push on with £8bn third runway
Dan Milmo, transport correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 16 January 2009

BAA is expected to fast-track a third runway at Heathrow after the government yesterday backed expanding the airport as soon as possible after 2015. The transport secretary, Geoff Hoon, recommended that the airport owner "brought forward" a planning application for the runway after he made the surprise decision not to increase flights on the existing runways.
He said his refusal to allow more arrivals and departures on the existing site in west London made the need for a new runway all the more urgent.
Hoon brushed off concerns about the environmental impact of expanding Britain's largest airport by announcing that a third runway could be finished at the earliest in six years' time.
The £8bn development would add an estimated 350 flights a day at Heathrow, increase annual passenger numbers from 66 million to about 82 million, and put thousands more vehicles on the heavily congested roads surrounding the airport.
But Hoon told the Commons: "Doing nothing will damage our economy and will have no impact whatsoever on climate change."
However, cabinet members who oppose the third runway, led by the environment secretary Hilary Benn and energy secretary Ed Miliband, won some concessions. The government attached three green "sweeteners". The third runway would operate at half capacity when opened, raising the total number of flights from 480,000 a year to 605,000, rather than the 702,000 intended; aircraft using the new runway would meet strict greenhouse gas emissions standards; and carbon dioxide emissions from UK aviation would be limited to 2005 levels by 2050.
"This gives us the toughest climate change regime for aviation anywhere in the world," said Hoon.
He said the Civil Aviation Authority and the Environment Agency would be able to block the opening of the third runway if it threatened to breach noise and air pollution guidelines. Taking the runway to full capacity could not happen before 2020 and had to be approved by the Climate Change Committee, the independent body set up to monitor the government's sustainability record. If the committee believed the aviation industry was not making sufficient progress towards its 2050 carbon dioxide reduction target it would block the increase.
Yesterday's announcement allows BAA to push ahead with a planning application for the 2,200-metre runway, north of the existing site, and a sixth terminal for Heathrow.
However, it is understood the application will not be ready until 2011 at the earliest. A planning inquiry is expected to last two years with runway and terminal construction taking another three.
The government gave the go-ahead to the £8bn project after a consultation to determine whether it would breach guidelines on air and noise pollution and public transport access. It decided the expansion would meet this criteria, which includes EU guidelines on nitrogen oxide. The noise limits stated that the size of area exposed to 57db had to be no more than about 46 sq miles. BAA faces a planning inquiry and an expected judicial review of the decision brought by local councils.
The announcement by Hoon was accompanied by public transport measures that instantly drew criticism from green campaigners, who said they were half-baked, unfunded or already announced.
The plans include a £6bn increase in road capacity (already announced) involving use of the hard-shoulder on parts of the M1 and M6. There would also be a new company called High Speed 2, for the development of a London-to-Birmingham 200mph high-speed rail link scheme via Heathrow. Additionally, Hoon announced more studies on electrifying the Great Western and Midland Mainline rail lines.
Hoon said High Speed 2 would report on progress by the end of the year. But rail industry doubts funding can be found for such a project costing an estimated £5bn alone to run from London to Heathrow.
Environmental groups said the government had made a firm commitment on Heathrow but given lukewarm backing to the public transport concessions.
Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "We have got a clear commitment to expand Heathrow and some vague promises to consider high-speed rail and electrification. It takes us in the wrong direction, which is away from a low-carbon economy."
The transport minister, Lord Adonis, said critics of the high-speed proposal were "completely wrong". He added: "You cannot build a £20bn railway until you have a detailed, credible and environmentally sustainable plan." However, the line could take an estimated 10 years to build and not open until after 2020.
The government also unveiled a £250m scheme for low-carbon vehicles.
The most significant concession by Hoon was the refusal to introduce a scheduling change which would have increased flights from Heathrow's existing runways by more than 100 a day.

Economics, pollution, jobs and noise ... how the arguments stack up

Juliette Jowit
The Guardian, Friday 16 January 2009

Does the government's economic case for Heathrow add up?
The case for Heathrow rests heavily on the conviction of a few powerful groups - led by the prime minister - that expanding the airport will create thousands of construction jobs, encourage more spending by tourists and business, and generate more than 100,000 indirect jobs as a result of the extra economic activity, especially in London. Against that must be set the "costs" of problems created, from living under the jets' roar to the extra bills for carbon pollution permits.
Yesterday the Department for Transport released figures claiming that even if only a proportion of the new slots are used, as suggested in the short term, the net benefit would be £3.3bn over 70 years - about £47m a year. Earlier it had said that if all the new slots were used the net benefit would total £5.5bn - £78m a year.
Concerns have been raised about the claimed benefits: estimates of job creation cannot be proved; others argue that if aviation is not expanded, would-be fliers and workers would offer their cash and time in other sectors.
Critics question the value put on costs. The New Economics Foundation thinktank argues that the government's modellers used a price of carbon that is less than a seventh of the central projection by their own economists, and using that higher figure would "wipe out any economic benefits". Also how much people are willing to pay for things like a good night's sleep is hard to calculate.
Given the relatively small annual benefit even using the government's own figures - £47m is what UK consumers spend every year on fresh herbs, and £78m is one week of John Lewis's sales - serious challenges to the figures could quickly overturn the central economic case.
What does the third runway mean for climate change?
Taking into account all the sweeteners wrapped up into yesterday's announcement, the government has promised that carbon dioxide emissions from aviation in 2050 will be the same as in 2005 - 37.5m tonnes. This would be 30% of the country's total CO2 budget that year, assuming the government's promised 80% cut in total emissions is met by other industries.
It is technically possible, therefore, to expand Heathrow and meet this world-leading target. But there will be questions over whether such a target can and will be met, while the government's Sustainable Development Commission says the amount taken up by aviation would severely restrict future generations' ability to decide what they want to do about emissions from homes, food production and other forms of travel.
Harder to quantify is how other industries, UK voters and overseas countries will react to calls on them to cut their own emissions as Britain expands its aviation infrastructure. Some argue they will accept the UK's hypocrisy as "realpolitik"; others, such as the World Development Movement charity, claim the decision is a "global embarrassment".
What about other pollution problems?
It would be a fair bet that most opponents of the third runway are as worried, if not more so, about local problems, particularly noise and air pollution linked to a range of health issues from breathing difficulties to cancer. The announcement promised that expansion would only go ahead if existing UK noise and EU local pollution limits were met. However, few local opponents will be reassured.
They have long argued that the system for calculating noise "contours" underplays the true extent of the problem (a complaint hard to dismiss by anybody who has spent time under existing flight paths) and they are understandably concerned that a promise that the new takeoff and landing slots will only be used by the quietest planes will not stop noisier aircraft using the old runways. The government also promised new rail links and more funds for low-polluting cars, which are already being relied on heavily to offset the impact of more flights. Both policies will be widely welcomed, but little detail is available.
Fundamentally the case for the third runway rests on promises by ministers: that noise will not be worse and that local pollution will improve. But as the UK has applied for a derogation because it is already over the EU nitrogen dioxide limit, opponents are understandably not confident that the government would not break this or other pledges again in future, and it's hard to imagine a future government brave enough to stop aircraft using the multibillion-pound runway if they broke the rules.
Can the carbon emission of air travel be dramatically reduced as the government claims?
Delivering on many of the promises that make the third runway acceptable depends on making flying less polluting. At the more bullish end, the industry believes that the impact of all the extra flights can be offset by reductions in the pollution emitted per journey. This reduction would be delivered by a mixture of operational changes, from more direct flight paths to design improvements, including sleeker planes, more efficient engines and even low-carbon fuels.
The optimism was fanned by the successful trial of two different commercial jets each using 50% biofuel in one of their engines over the new year. However, sceptics believe many of the claims are exaggerated, or at least will take much longer to implement.
Who is right will depend partly on technology, and partly on incentives: if airlines have to pay enough for the pollution, they will be willing to spend what it takes to develop and then implement new technologies. The current relatively low prices for carbon suggest many improvements will not happen through the market alone. If that's the case, success will rest on whether the government is willing to invest or get tough with the airlines.
Ian Poll, aerospace engineering professor at Cranfield University, said the Heathrow restrictions could provide the impetus for aircraft manufacturers to make their planes cleaner. "Heathrow is such a popular destination operators want to use it. It has stringent regulations ... and [the operators] will demand aircraft that meet the restrictions."
What are the hurdles to the third runway being built?
It is hard to think of an outburst of collective anger as wide-ranging as the response to yesterday's announcement. Perhaps most significant, though, is the Conservative pledge to scrap the runway, something they could do if they win the next election, due by 2010.
In the meantime the wider opposition movement is vowing to do everything it can to fight the plan. Protests, court challenges and planning delays will all be launched.
Yesterday the No Third Runway Action Group insisted: "This is not the end. It is simply the end of the beginning."
Given the outpouring of united, well-funded and articulate anger, it would be a brave person who would bet on the third runway just yet.

Conflict, compromise and the rise of the 'Milibenn' tendency

Allegra Stratton, political correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 16 January 2009

Environmental concessions were wrung out of the prime minister after a five-day battle culminating in a late-night deal in which the climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, demanded a halving of the number of flights BAA wanted to allow on Heathrow's third runway.
Rebel backbenchers yesterday remained opposed to the package, but acknowledged the concessions. Miliband had said he would allow nothing more than the "half a runway" option.
More than 50 MPs are opposed to an expanded Heathrow and the opposition requires only 32 rebels for the government to be defeated should it come to a vote.
Although ministers say they will call a vote, the Liberal Democrats said yesterday that they planned to table a 10-minute rule bill by the end of the month on the government's planning bill, forcing a vote on all airport expansion.
An expected Conservative plan to table the issue as an opposition day debate failed to materialise.
Yesterday, ministerial sources were cautious, aware of possible votes and gloomy about the reception of the plans among climate change campaigners.
Yesterday's deal was reported to have only fallen into place in the last five days.
A source told the Guardian that Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, had achieved concessions on air and noise pollution levels towards the end of last week, but Miliband's concerns were unresolved until overnight on Tuesday. Miliband believed the "unconstrained" expansion of Heathrow rendered impossible the government's promised 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. An aide said: "Ed's position was 'I need the following to support the decision - it can only be half a runway and the other half can only come with constraints.' "
The transport secretary, Geoff Hoon, was said to have made repeated but insufficient concessions. Miliband's meetings with him were described as "frequently bruising, with occasional anger", allegedly due to Hoon's belief that climate change was "a load of tree-hugging hoolah".
Miliband was also tested by the support for an expansion of Heathrow by an old ally, the children's minister, Ed Balls.
Miliband was supported in his position at Tuesday's cabinet by the leader of the House of Lords, Lady Royall; the skills secretary, John Denham; the leader of the Commons, Harriet Harman; and Benn. The international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, and the foreign secretary, David Miliband, were away on foreign visits, but voiced their support. According to one adviser: "When Ed decided he had enough, they all came in behind him."
Miliband is said to have voiced his opposition when he was appointed climate change secretary.
Soon after the delay to the decision was announced by Hoon last Christmas, the Miliband and Benn camps both contacted the Institute for Public Policy Research, over a pamphlet by Simon Retallack, the IPPR's head of climate change, arguing that the third runway should not go ahead unless the government required aircraft using it to meet the aviation industry's own targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions and noise in new aircraft by 50% and nitrogen oxides by 80% by 2020.
Yesterday government whips rang round to find out how MPs intended to vote. Backbenchers opposed to the decision praised the work of Miliband and Benn, and said they might call themselves the the "Milibenn tendency".
Martin Salter, the Labour party's vice-chair for the environment, said: "There aren't enough jumbo jets to drag me into the lobby to vote for the third runway. But you can't doubt that it is radically different from that of 11 November, when he [Hoon] spent time arguing the case of mixed mode and he spoke for 45 minutes before he mentioned climate change."

Cameron: we will build £1bn 'smart grid' to green Britain

Tories unveil low carbon plan as Heathrow decision causes outcry
Patrick Wintour, Nicholas Watt and Dan Milmo
The Guardian, Friday 16 January 2009

David Cameron will set out his vision today for a low carbon Britain built around a £1bn investment in a hi-tech National Grid that would include putting "smart meters" in every home in the UK.
The network would allow energy companies to tell people when it is cheapest to use electricity, cutting bills and making the system more efficient.
The Conservative leader's intervention will attempt to rub salt into Labour's wounds, opened yesterday by the its decision to press ahead with a third runway at Heathrow airport.
The government's move has angered green campaigners who promised legal challenges and disruption.
In an interview with the Guardian, Cameron said "smart grid technology", one of the centrepieces of Barack Obama's planned multibillion dollar infrastructure investment programme, was the equivalent of "the internet for electricity. It is the thing that brings our plans all together, that makes it all possible and will deliver a genuinely low carbon world".
He said his party had already held talks with the National Grid and would be in a position to approve the investment as soon as it came to office. The smart meters would also allow consumers to feed the electricity they generate through solar panels into the grid.
The launch of the Conservative strategy today comes 24-hours after ministers finally approved the expansion of Heathrow, and Cameron reaffirmed the Tories' commitment to scrap the third runway should they come to power.
The Tory leader said: "What business needs to recognise is that the third runway is just not going to happen. There is such a coalition of forces against it. There's such an environmental case against."
He also said he did not believe an incoming Conservative government would need to pay compensation, as BAA would have made little financial outlay on the new runway by the next election.
His comments came after Geoff Hoon, the transport minister, told parliament yesterday that he expected BAA to "bring forward" a planning application for a new runway so that it would be ready to operate as close to 2015 as possible.
The government had previously called for a new runway by 2020. Arguing the case in the Commons, Hoon told MPs Heathrow is "our most important international gateway".
"It connects us with the growth markets of the future - essential for every great trading nation," he said. He tried to sweeten the pill by announcing that the government was putting an initial cap on the number of additional flights from the new runway at 125,000 a year, only half of what BAA had requested.
The expanded Heathrow would therefore handle 605,000 flights a year, up from 480,000 currently. Even with a less than full new runway the number of daily flights over London would rise by about 350 to 1,650.
The new slots would be "green slots" and must be used only by the cleanest planes. As expected he also announced details of his aspiration, a high-speed rail link from the airport.
Lord Smith, the chairman of the Environment Agency, the government's pollution watchdog, criticised the decision. "By giving the go-ahead to Heathrow's third runway, I believe it has made the wrong decision and the Environment Agency is now in the unusual position of being asked to enforce air quality targets in relation to a policy we advised against," he said.
Ministers were also accused of using "fantasy economics" to justify Heathrow's expansion The government's economic argument for expansion centres on a total net financial benefit of £5.5bn to the UK economy. But the New Economics Foundation thinktank said it used an excessively low estimate for the cost of the CO2 emitted by the enlarged airport. Andrew Simms, policy director at the thinktank, said the true climate cost could be up to £20bn - wiping out any economic benefits.
Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, claimed a partial victory because yesterday's deal included a target to limit greenhouse gas emissions from flying - the government announced it intended to ensure total UK aviation emissions were brought beneath 2005 levels by 2050.
Yesterday's decision split the government, with at least six ministers opposing the decision at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Opposition was voiced by Miliband as well as the skills secretary, John Denham, Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, the environment secretary, Hilary Benn and the leader of the Lords, Lady Royall.
In the Commons, John McDonnell, the MP for Hayes and Harlington, covering Heathrow, was suspended for five days by the deputy speaker after he picked up the mace and shouted: "It is a disgrace."
The incident led to a row between broadcasters and parliamentary authorities who last night asked the BBC, ITV and Sky not to broadcast footage of McDonnell's protest. Commons authorities said they were considering whether to take further action against the companies after they continued broadcasting the footage.

U.K. government approves plan for 3rd runway at Heathrow

By Sarah Lyall
Published: January 15, 2009

LONDON: The British government announced Thursday that it had approved a multibillion-pound plan to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport, defying an angry wave of opposition from environmentalists, public officials and communities across West London.
The project still needs planning approval and, depending on how long that took, would most likely be completed between 2015 and 2020.
The transportation secretary, Geoff Hoon, said that without the third runway, Heathrow - already reviled for its frequent delays, dreary terminals and periodically chaotic conditions on the ground - would lose business to airports with more runways in places, including Paris, Madrid and Amsterdam. This would make Britain less competitive at a time of economic trouble, the government says.
By coincidence, a German court cleared the way Thursday for work to begin on a fourth runway at Frankfurt Airport, another European alternative to Heathrow.
"Doing nothing would only give an advantage to its competitors," Hoon told members of Parliament. "Additional capacity at Heathrow is critical for the country's long-term economical prosperity."

Many airlines, businesses and union leaders support the plan, saying the new runway would lead to the creation of thousands of jobs and help the economy by some £7 billion, or about $10 billion, a year. Business travelers regularly say in surveys how much they hate using Heathrow, which is running at 99 percent capacity and where a single delay can throw off schedules for the rest of the day.
A third runway would allow 125,000 more flights to take off and land each year, the government says.
But building the third runway would require the demolition of 700 homes and the razing of an entire village, Sipson. Residents say they do not know where they will go when their houses no longer exist.
People in West London, many of whom already resent living under Heathrow's flight paths, say the project would drastically increase noise pollution, making it even harder to sleep in the early mornings, when flights begin arriving. And environmentalists say the additional air traffic would inevitably lead to a huge increase in air pollution.
The government has promised to ensure that the expanded airport would meet all European noise and carbon-emission regulations. It has also pledged to study the possibility of building new high-speed railway links between Heathrow and London, and Heathrow and the north.
Celebrities, including the actress Emma Thompson, have rallied against the plan, some buying parcels of land that the government will need to build the runway. A range of elected officials, including London's mayor, Boris Johnson, and many members of Parliament from the governing Labour Party, are also opposed, as are legislators representing neighborhoods in West London.
The issue is extremely emotional. Parliament erupted in angry shouting as Hoon announced the government's decision, particularly when it became clear that the matter would not be put to a Parliamentary vote.
One Labour legislator, John McDonnell, was so incensed that he rushed out of his seat, seized the mace - a long 17th-century ornamental club that represents the authority of the monarch and the speaker of Parliament - and furiously set it down on the Labour benches.
"It's a disgrace to the democracy of this country," he shouted.
Manhandling the mace is considered gross misconduct. McDonnell was immediately declared to be in contempt of Parliament and suspended for five days. He had to leave the chamber immediately, and was cut off by the deputy speaker when he tried to apologize for his behavior.
Meanwhile, Johnson pledged to instigate legal proceedings against the government to block the project.
"This is a truly devastating blow for millions of Londoners whose lives are now set to be blighted by massive increases in air pollution and noise," he said in a statement.
"The government has singularly failed to deliver a convincing case for expansion throughout, or adequate solutions for the nightmare problems it would cause."
In any case, the project will have to overcome many more hurdles. It will still have to go through the regular planning process, which means applying to the local government in Hounslow, near the airport, for permission. Officials there are vehemently opposed to the plan, and if they reject it, that will prompt a long public inquiry.
More than 140 members of Parliament, many from the Labour Party, have signed a motion calling on the government to consider alternatives. The Tory opposition, for example, favors building high-speed railroad lines between London and other British cities, since much of the air traffic at Heathrow is made up of domestic flights.
Before he was ejected from Parliament, McDonnell, whose constituency includes the airport, said "the government's announcement is not the end of the battle against the third runway - it is just the beginning."
He added: "Opponents will use every mechanism possible to prevent the runway going ahead, including campaigns in Parliament, in the courts, in the planning process, in the media and, if necessary, in direct action."

Computing's carbon footprint gets bigger

Published: January 15, 2009

LONDON: The global computing industry is starting to rival aviation in its contribution to global warming.
The computing sector has come under increasing scrutiny over energy consumption and the carbon emissions of data centers, in particular, as the debate over emissions widens beyond the traditional targets like coal plants, heavy industry and planes.
The information and communication technology industry makes a contribution to global warming similar to aviation's, and this is growing fast, analysts say.
The computing industry "has been profligate in electrical activity," said Simon Mingay, head analyst at the technology consulting firm Gartner. "No one cared about CO2 over the last 10 years. Suddenly people care about it. The availability of electricity is now a limiting factor."
The computing industry contributes 2 percent of global carbon emissions, similar to the global aviation industry, analysts said.

The computing sector will increase its carbon emissions by 6 percent a year, because of unparalleled demand by consumers for computing hardware, software and services, according to analysts.
That compares with around 3 percent growth in the aviation sector, the International Air Transport Association said in a 2008 report.
Personal computer ownership will quadruple to four billion devices by 2020, with emissions doubling, according to a 2008 report by The Climate Group.
A claim that an Internet search uses half the energy as boiling a kettle of water was false, Google said this week. But media coverage of the debate has shown how the industry is now in the spotlight.
Mingay said the increase in emissions would push the industry to be more efficient.
"It is in the industry's interest to be more efficient," he said. "Information technology has a significant role to play in tapping climate change."
However, the green initiatives by technology companies are still relatively new and do not target relatively inefficient CO2 emitting data centers, said Jos Olivier, a scientist at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.
"A lot of these green plans are aimed at computers and not for the so called data hotels, other IT technologies and big servers," he said using a term used for the centers.
The computing industry in the Netherlands emits around 3 percent of the national CO2 output, he said.
Many other developed countries, members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, may have similar emission figures, Olivier said.
"Since OECD countries account for almost half the global total CO2 emissions, and countries in other regions have much less ICT equipment in households and offices, the percentage of global CO2 emissions at 2 or 3 percent will probably be the right order of magnitude," he said.
The figures used to calculate the industry's carbon emissions vary largely, even within particular segments such as data hotels, Olivier said.
With the developing countries of China and India driving technological uptake and escalating demand for laptops, mobile phones and broadband, the sector's carbon footprint is set to expand dramatically.
The Climate Group estimates broadband users will triple to around 900 million accounts by 2020, with emissions doubling over the entire telecommunications infrastructure.

Emission Impossible?

'Carbon Coach' Dave Hampton Helps Homeowners Fight Global Warming


World-wide concern about global warming is hitting home as more and more people try to make their houses and businesses eco-friendly and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.
courtesy East of England Development Agency
Dave Hampton, a k a the 'Carbon Coach.'
With the European Union estimating that commercial and residential buildings are responsible for 40% of the EU's total CO2 emissions, governments around the continent have turned to homes to help achieve Europe's goals of reducing 60% to 80% of CO2 emissions by 2050.
In the U.K., the government has adopted the Code for Sustainable Homes, which aims at ensuring that all new homes built in the county be "zero-carbon" by 2016. The Code assesses the sustainability of a house on a six-point scale, with six being a "zero-carbon" home, meaning its usage of energy from renewable sources offsets its carbon emissions. The EU has yet to adopt specific regulations for low-carbon housing.
For Dave Hampton, a Cambridge-educated engineer and self-described "carbon coach," the new emphasis on emissions cuts represents a business opportunity. After working on energy efficiency for over 20 years for numerous firms, including British Gas, engineering consultants WS Atkins, Building Research Establishment and ABS Consulting, Mr. Hampton set himself up in business as a consultant who specializes in helping individuals reduce their carbon footprint. "My aim is to show people they can halve their carbon shadow just by making simple changes," he says.
Mr. Hampton started by setting his own example. He has completely refurbished his own house in Marlow, outside London -- making it more eco-friendly by installing solar panels to heat water, insulating all the walls and wooden floors and installing a heat-recovery system that exchanges the air without wasting energy. He even changed to LED light bulbs, which require 2 watts instead of 50.
"After the changes in my house, our total utility bills went down to £80 a month," he said. "Were it not for the alterations, we'd be paying almost three times more," he added.
We spoke to Mr. Hampton about how he advises people to become "carbon healthy."
Q: You left your job at ABS to become "the Carbon Coach." What made you do that?
The discrepancy between my ideas and companies' views. I'd tell CEOs we needed to reduce their company's footprint by 90% in the next 30 to 50 years and they'd say a 10% reduction could be possible, but stabilizing emissions was more realistic. Being a consultant who was helping firms stay still felt very inauthentic, frustrating, even wrong.
Q: Reducing your own emissions is a fundamental part of your business. How well has your family adjusted?
There is always conflict in every family relationship and it's no different in my house. But as my kids grow older, their take on our lifestyle changes. At the moment, my two daughters are extremely supportive. The tension is more evident with my oldest son. Tom is 18 now and he wants to see the world. Last holidays he went on a round-the-world trip, flying to Hawaii and New Zealand. That trip alone added 10 tons to our family's footprint. My wife plays probably the most important role. Whilst she has always been in favor of a "carbon healthy" life, even engaging in a competition to see how many miles per gallon we can achieve on my Mini One diesel and her seven-seater Volkswagen Sharan diesel, she is also the one that keeps my ideas in check.
Q: You no longer fly. Isn't that a bit of a radical measure?
It is radical to ask others not to fly. That's why I can't stop my 18-year-old son. In my case, I think it adds to the authenticity of what I do. Living a carbon-low life is at the heart of being "the carbon coach." When advising others, however, I aim at reducing their carbon shadow in a way that they will no longer be "carbon obese," but I also won't make their life miserable by turning them into "carbon anorexics."
Q: In 2007, you submitted a petition requesting that U.K. cabinet ministers disclose their annual CO2 emissions. Did it have any effect?
The petition gleaned quite a lot of attention. At least 500 influential individuals have signed it. It still hasn't had any practical effects, but that doesn't mean it won't. Just as Prince Charles decided to disclose the carbon footprint of his estate, which is a true sign of leadership even if his emissions totaled 3,425 tons in 2006-2007 and 2,795 in 2007-2008, cabinet ministers may still decide to do so. Next year I'll be spearheading a new project related to that.
Q: How much does it cost to make your house low-carbon?
Although the changes in my house cost me £20,000, I don't expect a regular family to do the same. That spending was my marketing budget. Estimating a price is dependent on how much carbon is cut. Simple measures can make a huge difference and cost very little. Changing 12 tungsten bulbs to fluorescent costs only about £35 and saves £100 and half a ton of CO2 for every 1,000 hours of use. In terms of heating, adjusting the clock programmer and setting the thermostat down a fraction to reduce the load on the boiler can slash £250 off a £1,000 annual gas bill and lower emissions by two tons.
Q: How green do you think people are willing to be in times of credit crunch?
Some say people are not willing to spend to be green. But I prefer to believe that this is actually the best time to reduce your footprint. After all, is there anything better than being environmentally friendly and reducing your bills at the same time?

Fight the Power - using home computers

Alarmed by claims that two Google searches produce as much C02 as boiling a kettle, Leo Hickman finds out how to save energy when using home computers

Leo Hickman
The Guardian, Thursday 15 January 2009

Internet users got their ethernet cables in a twist this week when they learned that just two Google searches could emit as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a kettle boiling enough water for a cup of tea. A Harvard physicist, Alex Wissner-Gross, was reported as saying he had calculated that each search produced 7g of CO2, due to the huge number of energy-hungry servers and data centres used by the internet giant. It might not sound a lot, but when you consider that more than 200m Google searches are made every day it soon adds up. Over a year, it broadly compares to the output of a nation such as Laos.
Many suspected the figure was wildly overcooked and Google itself responded by releasing its own calculations that put the carbon footprint of a search query at 0.2g of CO2. The search firm stated that the energy needed for each search averaged at 0.0003kWh, or 1 kilojoule, which is about the same as the average adult body burns in 10 seconds. The plot thickened when Wissner-Gross claimed he never used the kettle comparison, but he still failed to explain the discrepancy other than to say his research will be published soon. However, the story helped to shine a light on the wider issue of how much energy our computing consumes - and how we might reduce the resulting, ever-growing, emissions.
In 1965, when computers needed reinforced concrete foundations to support their weight, the founder of Intel, Gordon E Moore, famously observed that the processing power of computers was doubling every two years. Moore's Law, as it is known, has remained more or less constant over the last four decades.
This has proved a boon for those wanting, say, ever more complex computer games, or to maintain huge databases, but it has become a headache for those trying to minimise the amount of power used by computers. Compounding the problem, the more processing your computer does, the hotter it gets and the more cooling is required, thereby adding an extra energy burden. The same is true of games consoles. When the PlayStation 2 was released in 2000 it ran on 45W. By 2005, the PlayStation 3 was guzzling 380W.
There is now an urgent search under way by the computer industry to find ways to reduce power consumption and, in particular, to cool processors efficiently. "There is a sudden race to be green," says Preston Gralla, editor of "Manufacturers are looking at the whole life cycle of their hardware to find savings, not just in energy consumption, but in the overall use of resources such as packaging and toxic materials. Unlike, say, the auto industry, this is a sector that historically has responded very quickly to new challenges." Gralla points out that Apple and Dell are "fighting to out-green each other", by reducing packaging, increasing recycling facilities and improving power management on their computers. Microsoft has introduced power management improvements to its new Windows 7 operating system.
An increasingly common practice is to outsource data storage. Rather than keep all your data on a hard drive under your desk or on your lap, many people are using faster broadband speeds to store data on a secure server, sometimes thousands of miles away. This has been common in the corporate sector for years, but now home users are starting to rely on it, too. It allows us to use smaller, far less energy-hungry machines - such as increasingly popular netbooks - to access these stored items using an internet connection.
David Thompson, who runs Tranquil PC, a Manchester-based computer company that manufactures and sells about 25,000 low-energy machines each year, says that, whereas the typical home computer requires 120-150W (printers, screens and Wi-Fi routers all require extra), a Tranquil PC machine needs just 20W and therefore can use its recycled aluminium casing to dissipate heat rather than using a fan.
"The devices we all now have in our homes are far more powerful than is really necessary," he says. "The era of 'bigger, better, faster' computing is now over, I believe."
All this helps to reduce energy use in the home, but it also requires huge data centres to be built and maintained elsewhere. Are we, as Wissner-Gross is trying to illustrate with his Google search statistic, now just outsourcing our energy use and emissions, too? There is certainly genuine concern about the energy implications of relying on data centres - collections of cabinet-mounted servers that often take up an entire dedicated building. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, data centres now account for 3% of the world's electricity use, a figure predicted to double by 2020. Last November, Lord Hunt, minister for sustainable development and energy innovation, called on the computer industry to adopt the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres, which demands increased energy savings, in part, through the use of "natural cooling" and more energy efficient servers.
Google, one of the world's largest users of data centres, announced last year that it had applied for the patent on "floating data centres", which would be tethered off coasts near large cities. The intention is to use wave power to generate the electricity to run the data centres, and to use sea water to help keep them cool. Meanwhile, Iceland - economic woes not withstanding - intends to position itself as one of the world's key data centre hubs by utilising its cold climate and abundant geothermal energy.
We need such solutions fast, though: June 2008 marked the passing of the symbolic "one billion computers in use" landmark, according to market analysts Gartner. With computer use growing at 13% annually, it predicts the 2bn mark to be reached by 2014.
How to minimise your PC footprint
• Reduce the time your computer stands idle before going into standby or sleep mode. The Climate Savers Computing Initiative recommends the following power management settings: monitor/display sleep - after 15 minutes or less; turn off hard drives - 15 minutes or less; system standby/sleep - 30 minutes or less.
• Switch off completely if the machine is not going to be used for an hour or more. Only turn on a printer when you need it. Even on standby, printers can still use 10W.
• If your desktop computer uses a fan for cooling, allow plenty of space and fresh air to reach it to maintain maximum efficiency.
• Sign up to the Clean Energy Project ( and join thousands of people around the world who are utilising spare processing power when their computer is idle to help Harvard University discover organic materials that might create an efficient, low-cost solar cell.
Are you using your computer conscientiously?Find out more on

Anglers unite to become powerful conservation alliance

New organisation aims to represent interests of some of Britain's 2.7m anglers concerned with declining fish stocks and pollution
John Vidal and Graham Mole, Wednesday 14 January 2009 14.22 GMT

Anglers to forge a new environmental alliance
Anglers have united to set up what could become one of the biggest conservation bodies in Europe, with the political muscle to rival the National Trust, the RSPB and Friends of the Earth.
The new Anglers' Trust, formed after six existing smaller fishing groups agreed to disband, hopes to sign up one in five of Britain's 2.7m regular anglers, who are divided roughly equally between sea and inland water enthusiasts.
"Anglers are not the usual woolly liberals you get in the WWF or the National Trust. They range across urban and rural areas and both working and upper class. Together they are very powerful," said Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the new organisation.
"We are very concerned about declining fish stocks, river pollution, and industrial developments. There's no point fishing if there's no fish, so half the work will be campaigning. The environment is massive for anglers, but all the existing organisations were quite small, so we'll be able to represent all anglers much more efficiently and effectively at national and international level."
The trust which includes coarse, game and river anglers is expected to lobby government and corporations to try to reverse the damage caused by over-fishing, as well as control sand and gravel extraction, prosecute polluters and reduce the volume of water taken from rivers. They also plan to campaign to stop farmed fish being allowed to escape into the wild. Anglers have long been regarded as the eyes and ears of the water environment: alerting the authorities about damage to British waters and frequently prosecuting polluters. A separate arm of the trust, known as Fish Legal, will continue the work of the Anglers Conservation Association (ACA) which claims compensation from polluters and which, remarkably, has barely lost a legal case in the last 50 years.
Angling now rivals football as Britan's most popular pastime. The Environment Agency said last week that it had sold a record 1.3m fishing licences last year and this is forecast to rise by 26,000 this year.
A separate survey by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency found the number of sea anglers, who don't need licences, is around 1.4 million. In addition there are believed to be hundreds of thousands of people who only fish occasionally.
Mat Crocker, head of fisheries at the Environment Agency, said: "Angling is one of the most popular participator sports in the world – and is a cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly pastime that everyone can enjoy. It brings huge social and community benefits as well as contributing to the conservation and biodiversity of our waterways.
"Improved river quality over the past decade has helped boost fish stocks for the sport – for example, salmon numbers in England and Wales have increased by 40,000 in the last ten years."

EPA pick vows to put science first

By John M. Broder
Published: January 15, 2009

WASHINGTON: Lisa Jackson, chosen to head the Environmental Protection Agency, said at her confirmation hearing Wednesday morning that her first task would be to restore scientific and legal integrity to an agency battered by charges of political interference and coziness with industry.
But she evaded questions on whether as administrator of the EPA she would immediately grant authority to California and 16 other states to regulate vehicle tailpipe emissions, promising only a speedy review of the issue. Nor did she directly answer questions on whether and how the agency would address regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, an authority granted the EPA by the Supreme Court in 2007.
The Bush administration has declined to act on either matter.
Her promise to be guided by science and the law was an implicit rebuke of the management of the EPA under President George W. Bush, where career officials' recommendations were sometimes ignored in decisions regarding lead in the air, arsenic in water, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
"Science must be the backbone of what EPA does," Jackson said in her opening statement to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "If I am confirmed, I will administer with science as my guide. I understand the laws leave room for policymakers to make policy judgments. But if I am confirmed, political appointees will not compromise the integrity of EPA's technical experts to advance particular regulatory outcomes."

Jackson, 46, holds degrees in chemical engineering from Tulane University and Princeton University. She worked as a career employee at EPA for 15 years and most recently served as head of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection,
Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the committee, said she had waited a long time for new leadership at the environmental agency. "EPA works for the American people and in my view we have seen it hurt the American people these past eight years," she said. The agency, she added, "needs to be awakened from a deep and nightmarish sleep."
Jackson said that President-elect Barack Obama believes that sound stewardship of the environment can co-exist with economic growth. "Done properly," she said, "these goals can and should reinforce each other."
She said that the new administration's environmental priorities would be curbing global warming, reducing air pollution, cleaning up hazardous waste sites, regulating toxic chemicals and protecting water quality.
Republicans on the committee expressed concern that Jackson would try to do too much at EPA Senator John Barrasso, the newly-elected Republican from Wyoming, cautioned Jackson against using the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
"Ranchers and miners in Wyoming know that addressing climate change through the Clean Air Act is a disaster waiting to happen," he said.
That drew a rebuke from Boxer, who said that Barrasso had not read the Clean Air Act or did not accept Supreme Court decision giving the EPA power to regulate carbon dioxide under it.
The ranking Republican on the committee, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, noted that former Vice President Al Gore and many other experts of global warming had suggested that a tax on carbon would be a more effective means of reducing carbon emissions than a cap-and-trade system like the one advocated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Jackson said that it was a legitimate subject for debate, but that she would support Obama's preference for cap-and-trade, under which a limit is set on emissions and polluters must buy or trade permits to meet it.
Inhofe also made Jackson promise to read a speech he delivered on the Senate floor last week, citing a number of scientists and other experts who question the consensus view on global warming.
Inhofe left Jackson, a native of New Orleans, with a warning. "This job is no Mardi Gras," he said. "This job is really tough."
After committee members finished questioning Jackson, they turned to the appointment of Nancy Sutley, 46, currently deputy mayor of Los Angeles for energy and environment, to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Sutley told the committee that she intended to move the nation toward reliance on cleaner forms of energy, to protect public health and to combat global warming. She did not detail how she, Jackson and Carol Browner, the designated White House coordinator for energy and the environment, would divide their responsibilities. Browner's post does not require Senate confirmation.
Senator Boxer said she expected the committee to vote favorably on both nominees on Inauguration Day or shortly thereafter.

Going green can save average family £1,000, says M&S

Families could save as much as £1,000 each year by 'going green' and doing five relatively simply things, according to a leading retailer.

By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Editor Last Updated: 8:28PM GMT 14 Jan 2009

By switching off lights, washing clothes on 30C rather than 40C, using low-energy light bulbs, driving more efficiently and re-heating left-over food, people could save far more money than they first realised, Marks & Spencer said.
It calculates that an average family could save £1,010 this year if adopted its suggestions.
Sir Stuart Rose, the company's executive chairman, said: "There's a bit of an urban myth around that it costs you money to go green. Far from it."
He said he had adopted most of the measures himself, pointing out he had long been a "light obsessive" and went around turning off any superfluous lights. His dishwasher is only set off when it is completely full. "I try and use it as infrequently as possible."
M&S has calculated the savings to mark the second anniversary of its 'Plan A' strategy to improve its green credentials.
At the time it was criticised by some customers by concentrating on the environment at the expense of improving its clothes and shops. Its most controversial decision was to start charging 5p for plastic bags – a move that enraged some loyal customers.
Sir Stuart insisted, however, that Plan A helped it save money – which has been used to cut the price of its clothes.
For families to enjoy the full £1,010 saving they need to undertake five key measures: washing their clothes more efficiently, both on a lower temperature and on a higher spin cycle to cut down the length of the wash; reducing food waste; cutting back on energy usage by turning down their thermostat, signing up to paperless billing and replacing all light bulbs with low-energy ones; donating old clothes to Oxfam and in return receiving M&S shopping vouchers and, finally, driving more efficiently.

A bicycle advocate with the wind now at his back

By Cornelia Dean
Published: January 14, 2009

PORTLAND, Oregon: For years, Earl Blumenauer has been on a mission, and now his work is paying off. He can tell by the way some things are deteriorating around here.
"People are flying through stop signs on bikes," Blumenauer said. "We are seeing in Portland bike congestion. You'll see people biking across the river on a pedestrian bridge. They are just chock-a-block."
Blumenauer, a passionate advocate of cycling as a remedy for everything from climate change to obesity, represents most of Portland in Congress, where he is the founder and proprietor of the 180 (plus or minus)-member Congressional Bicycle Caucus. Long regarded in some quarters as quixotic, the caucus has come into its own as hard times, climate concerns, gyrating gas prices and worries about fitness turn people away from their cars and toward their bikes.
"We have been flogging this bicycle thing for 20 years," said Blumenauer, a Democrat. "All of a sudden it's hot."
But Blumenauer's goals are larger than putting Americans on two wheels. He seeks to create what he calls a more sustainable society, including wiser use of energy, farming that improves the land rather than degrades it, an end to taxpayer subsidies for unwise development — and a transportation infrastructure that looks beyond the car.

For him, the global financial collapse is "perhaps the best opportunity we will ever see" to build environmental sustainability into the nation's infrastructure, with urban streetcar systems, bike and pedestrian paths, more efficient energy transmission and conversion of the federal government's 600,000-vehicle fleet to use alternate fuels.
"These are things that three years ago were unimaginable," he said. "And if they were imaginable, we could not afford them. Well, now when all the experts agree that we will be lucky if we stabilize the economy in a couple of years, when there is great concern about the consequences of the collapse of the domestic auto producers, gee, these are things that are actually reasonable and affordable."
All this might still be pie-in-the-sky were it not for one of Blumenauer's fellow biking enthusiasts, Representative James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, avid cyclist and chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which has jurisdiction over surface transportation.
"He's been wonderful," Oberstar said of his Oregon colleague. And as support for cycling grows, he said, builders, the highway construction lobby and others have stopped regarding biking as a "nuisance" and started thinking about how they can do business.
With an eye on the potential stimulus package, cycling advocates "have compiled a list of $2 billion of projects that can be under construction in 90 days," Oberstar said, adding that prospects are "bright."
In addition, after many attempts, this fall Blumenauer saw Congress approve his proposal to extend the tax breaks offered for employee parking to employers who encourage biking. The measure, which Blumenauer called a matter of "bicycle parity," was part of a bailout bill.
Blumenauer has spent a lot of time on another issue that ordinarily draws little attention: the federally subsidized flood insurance program. The program serves people who own property along coasts and rivers who otherwise would pay enormous premiums for private flood insurance, if they could obtain it at all.
The insurance "subsidized people to live in places where nature repeatedly showed they weren't wanted," he said. They might be better off if they did not live there, he said, but "it's un-American to say, 'Get out.' " Politicians who should confront the problem "are betting Nimto, not in my term of office," he said. They hope that disasters will spare their districts or, if they strike, that the government will come to the rescue, Blumenauer said.
A Portland native, Blumenauer, 60, has spent his adult life in elective office. He graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 1970 (after organizing an unsuccessful 1969 campaign to lower the state's voting age to 18) and worked until 1977 as assistant to the president of Portland State University. In 1972, he won a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives. He moved to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in 1978, and from there, in 1986, he won election to the Portland City Council. Though he lost a mayoral election in 1992, he easily won election to the United States House in 1996 and has not faced serious opposition since.
Blumenauer entered Congress just after Newt Gingrich, the Republican speaker, killed a stopgap spending measure, shutting down much of the government, out of pique over his treatment on Air Force One. "Partisan tensions were very raw," Blumenauer said. The bicycle caucus was "a way to bring people together."
Sherwood Boehlert, a Republican and fellow bicyclist who represented upstate New York in Congress until 2007, agreed. When "partisanship was at an all-time high and tolerance of another point of view was at a longtime low," he wore the bike caucus's plastic bicycle lapel pin. "Bicycling unites people regardless of party affiliation," he said.
In addition to bicycles, Blumenauer is particularly interested in public broadcasting and the plight of pollinators like honeybees. He is a founder of a "livable communities task force" whose goal, he said, is to educate members of Congress and their staffs on the benefits of transportation alternatives, open space, sustainability, vibrant downtowns, affordable housing and transparency in government.
Initially, he said, these interests marked him as "kind of left coast." Not anymore. "They are becoming very mainstream," said Adam Schiff, a Democrat who represents in Congress the area around Pasadena, California, and who, with Blumenauer's bicycle advice, now regularly rides to work from his home in Maryland. "He has been way out in front of the Congress," Schiff said. "Now the rest of us are trying to catch up."
When Blumenauer is in his Portland district, he usually gets around by bike, cycling about 20 miles in a typical day. He has three bikes in Washington and five here, and he cycles in all weather, even in the unusual snow Portland has had recently. "In falling snow you can get some traction," he said.
But the surge of bicycling in Portland has not been free of incident. The Oregonian newspaper and bloggers have reported on "bike rage," drunken biking, hit-and-run bicycle accidents and other problems. Drivers complain about bikers who ignore traffic rules or hog narrow roads, phenomena some irritated motorists attribute to feelings of entitlement or moral superiority.
Blumenauer brushes off this criticism. "They are burning calories, not fossil fuel, they are taking up much less space, they are seeing the world at 10 miles per hour instead of 20 or 30," he said. "And even though there are occasionally cranky or rude cyclists, they are no greater a percentage than cranky or rude motorists."
Plus, he added, "they have really fought for their place on the asphalt."

High speed rail line to sweeten Heathrow runway deal

Brown to defy environmental critics and Conservatives as government formally approves airport expansion
Nicholas Watt and Dan Milmo
The Guardian, Thursday 15 January 2009

Greenpeace say the environmental 'sweeteners' to partner Heathrow's expansion do not go far enough. Photograph: David Levene
A new electrified high speed rail line linking London, Birmingham and Heathrow will form the centrepiece of a major government transport initiative today that will include a third runway at Britain's largest airport.
Gordon Brown will defy environmental critics and the Conservative party when the government formally unveils the package that will herald what ministers are dubbing a "green Heathrow".
The most dramatic element will be the building of a railway hub at Heathrow which will form part of a new 200mph rail line, running parallel to the congested west coast mainline, linking London and Birmingham direct, with a spur to Heathrow from St Pancras station, linking the new line to Britain's current high speed Eurostar line to Paris and Brussels.
The government will declare that it is delivering a new high speed link for the whole of the west coast mainline to the north-west of England even though the new line will stop at Birmingham. This is because most of the congestion occurs around Birmingham, allowing new trains to continue at speed, though not the full 200mph, to Manchester and Liverpool even after they come off the new line.
Greenpeace and the Tories last night pledged to maintain their opposition to Heathrow's third runway, with the environmental group vowing to ensure it would not be built. But Brown believes the announcement will trump the Tories. David Cameron told his party conference last year a Tory government would abandon a third runway and instead build a rail link between London, Birmingham and Leeds.
Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary who will outline the package to MPs today, will spell out a series of measures to create a "green Heathrow". These will include:
• Limiting new landing and takeoff slots on Heathrow's third runway to airlines that meet the strictest emissions standards.
• Assurances that EU rules on air and noise pollution will not be breached by the expansion of Heathrow.
These were the key areas of concern raised by Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, who is now supporting the announcement. The new rail link to the airport, which is designed to reduce the number of passengers arriving by cars, taxis and buses, will be highlighted as a key measure in ensuring that air pollution standards are met.
Greenpeace said the environmental "sweeteners" did not go far enough. John Sauven, its executive director, said last night: "It will shred the last vestiges of Brown's environmental credibility. An expanded Heathrow would become the single biggest emitter of CO2 in Britain. Labour MPs will lose seats over this. We'll fight it every step of the way because the lives of millions of people depend on us all slashing carbon emissions."
The prime minister is determined to press ahead with the expansion of Heathrow because he sees it as the kind of vital infrastructure project Britain should be building in a recession and because he believes it provides a perfect "dividing line" issue with the Tories.
Lord Adonis, the railway minister, has said he is keen on a £4.5bn hub to improve London's links with the north of England and Scotland. Plans for a new rail hub at Heathrow have already been drawn up by Arup, the engineering consultancy. They have proposed building a 12-platform station, linking the airport directly to London, the north west and the south west.

Government's climate change watchdog has one of least energy efficient buildings

The offices of the Government's newly formed panel on climate change are one of the least energy efficient of all Whitehall departments.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 8:20PM GMT 14 Jan 2009

The Committee on Climate Change was set up last year to advise Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, and his cabinet on the best ways to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
But an energy performance certificate proudly displayed in the foyer of the Department of Energy and Climate Change at Number 3, Whitehall Place, where the committee is based, reveals the building has the lowest possible energy score.
Energy performance certificates assess a building's fuel consumption as an operational rating on a sliding scale from A to G. All 18,0000 public buildings in the UK are being audited as part of a Government drive to improve efficiency and are required to display their rating to comply with European Union legislation.
Andrew Warren, director the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE), said the certificate for DECC is shown in the public foyer. Of the 9,000 buildings audited so far one in six received the lowest rating.
He said: "For years, ministers have promised to ensure that all buildings under central government control are within the top quartile of energy performance. At present, qualifying could mean getting as low a rating as a C. Yet the building that houses the Committee on Climate Change has one of the very worst of the G ratings so far recorded.
"As the voice of our collective ecological conscience, it should be in an exemplar building."
The Conservative's shadow environment secretary, Peter Ainsworth MP, added: "It's no good the government telling the public what to do, or wringing its hands about climate change, if it cannot lead by example.
"The brutal truth is that most government departments are failing to live up to the standards they have set themselves."
The Office of Government Commerce, which has responsibility for the energy performance of public buildings, has set up a centre of expertise to help the public sector improve energy efficiency and meet government targets.

Miliband and Mandelson battle for top staff to back rival green agendas

• 'Clash of generations' over pro-industry policy bias • Credit crunch pits jobs against climate change
David Hencke, Westminster correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 14 January 2009

Lord Mandelson and Ed Miliband, two of the biggest beasts in Gordon Brown's cabinet, are locked in a battle over the staffing of their ministries which has led to "blood on the carpet" in Whitehall.
The battle between Miliband, a member of Brown's kitchen cabinet, and Peter Mandelson, the returning outsider who is now one of the most influential voices in the prime minister's inner circle, could have consequences beyond the pressing dispute about the new Department of Energy and Climate Change. One MP has characterised the differences between the two men as a "clash of the generations".
Miliband, who leads the new ministry, is seeking to poach more of Mandelson's senior civil servants to strengthen his department's handling of economic and infrastructure issues to back up his agenda.
Mandelson, the business and enterprise secretary, is refusing to give ground, insisting his department is "over-committed" in handling the impact of the credit crunch on business and jobs.
The Treasury insisted that the ministry, set up last autumn and seen as giving Miliband his big break, should receive no pump-priming cash because of the need for tough public spending controls.
Brown is said to have overruled the Treasury and Cabinet Office to set up the ministry in the first place.
The two men are cooperating on a green jobs package due this month. But there are tensions between the younger Miliband and the older operator Mandelson over the emphasis of the climate change and energy briefs.
Miliband is determined to move away from the pro-industry bias of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) towards a greener agenda. One recent example was his inclusion of shipping and aviation emissions in plans to curb Britain's carbon footprint. This key demand of environmental campaigners, unpopular with airlines, would have been unlikely to have been put forward by the business department.
The new ministry took 480 civil servants from the climate change group at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and 420 from the energy division of DBERR. Miliband wants more senior civil servants from the business department to back up his team.
Officials have failed to resolve the row. Meetings as recently as last Wednesday have broken up without any progress. One Whitehall source described a tense atmosphere between the two departments, with "blood on the carpet", as neither will give way.
A senior source said: "The general view in Whitehall was that there weren't the resources to set up this new ministry in the first place. But this was overriden and now the department is in difficulties in getting enough staff."
Now Miliband and Mandelson will try to resolve the row, although the Treasury will make the final decision. It is likely to be more sympathetic to Mandelson, who can argue that his brief has expanded since the credit crunch began.
This is a dispute one man will lose. Which one it is will say a lot about the cabinet's attitude to the environment, the government's new approach in Whitehall, and which is the biggest beast.
Big beasts
Ed MilibandAge: 39Past resignations: noneClose allies: Gordon Brown, Ed Balls and Yvette CooperChief rival: David Miliband
Peter MandelsonAge: 55Past resignations: twoClose allies: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown (renewed friendship) and Tessa JowellChief rival: Ed Balls

Aborigines to suffer from climate change

The Associated Press
Published: January 14, 2009

CANBERRA, Australia: Aborigines in the harsh Outback will be among the Australians hardest hit by climate change, with higher rates of disease and even spiritual suffering when forced to see their ancestral lands ravaged, according to a medical journal report.
As one of the world's hottest and driest continents, most experts agree Australia is particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming.
The continent's remote Outback region is home to many Aborigines, an impoverished minority of 21 million who on average die 17 years younger than their fellow Australians.
The report in the most recent Medical Journal of Australia urges federal and state governments to act immediately to mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change in the Outback, including higher rates of mosquito-spread dengue fever and communicable diseases such as bacterial diarrhea.
Because of Aborigines' close connection to tribal land, land degradation due to climate change will affect their health as well, the report says.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said in a statement late Wednesday her government recognizes the need to assess the impact of climate change on indigenous communities.
Australian National University indigenous health expert Amanda Barnard said she agrees with many of the conclusions of the report, which was authored by Donna Green, a New South Wales University climate change researcher; Australian National University researcher Ursula King, and indigenous land manager Joe Morrison.
"It's true indigenous people in remote and rural areas — there's just not access to services yet," said Barnard, who did not contribute to the report.
The government last year announced a 200,000 Australian dollar ($132,000) study of how climate change will impact the health, environment, infrastructure, education and employment of northern Aboriginal communities.