Thursday, 29 January 2009

Fishing rules body OK's Gulf offshore fish farming

The Associated Press
Published: January 29, 2009

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

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

The Times
January 29, 2009

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

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

Japan faces up to the prospect of ‘peak fish’

By David Pilling
Published: January 28 2009 19:18

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

Europe seeks global carbon trading market

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

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

Ocean iron plan approved as researchers show algae absorb CO2

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

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

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

The Times
January 29, 2009

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

Recycling 'could be adding to global warming'

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

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

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

Gore urges action on stimulus plan's environmental provisions

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

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

Stern calls for ‘green’ global stimulus

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

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

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

Pumping iron into the ocean could help slow climate change

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

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

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

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

The Times
January 29, 2009
Frank Pope, Oceans Correspondent

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

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

EU calls on America to create transatlantic carbon trading scheme

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

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

EU spending spree brings carbon capture closer to reality

Europe-wide plan proposes €1.25bn for carbon capture at coal-fired power plants; €1.75bn earmarked for better international energy links
David Gow in Brussels, Wednesday 28 January 2009 17.00 GMT

The European commission today proposed earmarking €1.25bn to kickstart carbon capture and storage (CCS) at 11 coal-fired plants across Europe, including four in Britain.
The four British power stations – the controversial Kingsnorth plant in Kent, Longannet in Fife, Tilbury in Essex and Hatfield in Yorkshire – would share €250m under the two-year scheme.
CCS involves capturing CO2 at power stations and burying it in disused oil/gas fields or other undersea rock formations. It is seen by Gordon Brown and other EU leaders as vital to ensure Europe's energy security, while reducing emissions, in the wake of the recent Russian-Ukraine gas crisis and the emergence of "peak oil". Europe will get most of its gas from Russia by 2050 on current trends.
The €1.25bn for CCS is part of an EC proposal to use €5bn of unspent money in the EU budget on immediate investment in energy and rural development, including broadband infrastructure this year and next.
The overall package is designed to help reboot the EU economy in the deepening recession and EC officials hope it will be adopted at the bloc's March summit. Jose Manuel Barroso, EC president, called it "smart" investment – "a short-term stimulus targeted on long-term goals".
The four British coal-fired plants can generate 6.3GW of UK power, while a quarter of Britain's overall 78GW is under threat of closure under other EU plans to improve air quality. The government has warned these could lead to black-outs from 2015.
Wednesday's package would also earmark €1.75bn to improve gas and electricity interconnections between EU countries, including €100m for electricity links between Ireland and Wales, and €500m for offshore wind projects, including €40m for an 0.25GW wind farm near Aberdeen.
It also includes €150m set aside to develop an offshore wind grid in the North Sea to link Britain, Holland, Germany, Ireland and Denmark – a project backed by campaigners such as Greenpeace as well as governments.
The package would also provide €250m in loan guarantees, backed by the European Investment Bank, for the stalled Nabucco gas pipeline between the Caspian region and Europe.
The pipeline, a 3,300-km route from Anatolia in Turkey to Austria, has been dismissed as unrealistic and is said to face its "moment of truth" over the next few weeks because of lack of funding – and guaranteed gas supplies from Azerbaijan.
EC officials said today the aim was to create a "risk-sharing facility" with the EIB to raise loans for the project on better (cheaper) terms rather than providing direct subsidies.
Russia, which is building the rival South Stream pipeline, opposes Nabucco; the US has been a fervent supporter to reduce EU dependence on Gazprom gas.
Stuart Haszeldine, a CCS expert at the University of Edinburgh, said: "This is totally exceptional and unique, a major move on the part of Europe. It shows they're extremely serious about developing CCS and it's what the developers have been pressing for."
But Claude Turmes, the Green party's energy spokesman in the European Parliament, denounced the overall energy package as "inadequate and unbalanced" and "a handout to outdated energy sources and the companies that profit from them." He contrasted the "bloated" €3bn for coal and gas development and the "meagre" €500m for renewable wind energy.
"This represents a golden handshake from Barroso for technologies that should be on their way out instead of a much-needed commitment to clean energy and energy saving," he said.

Europe tells poor nations to curb emissions

By Joshua Chaffin in Brussels and Fiona Harvey in London
Published: January 28 2009 22:38

The European Union made its opening gambit in negotiations for a global framework on climate change on Wednesday with proposals that developing nations curb the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions.
Rich countries, including those in the EU as well as the US, are adamant that poor countries must take on such obligations if negotiations this year on a successor to the Kyoto protocol – the main provisions of which expire in 2012 – are to be successful.

The proposal, tabled by the European Commission, said developing countries should curb emissions by 15-30 per cent of their projected growth by 2020.
The proposed target would not require developing countries actually to cut their emissions, but would oblige them to make efforts to increase energy efficiency.
Yvo de Boer, the United Nations official charged with bringing this year’s talks to a successful conclusion in Copenhagen in December, warned that developing countries were ready to fight a hard battle.
“I don’t think developing countries will accept binding targets,” he said. A “very robust financing mechanism” would need to be agreed to ensure the finance flows to the developing world.
The Commission said developed countries should take on the lion’s share of cuts. It estimated that meeting the targets would require €175bn ($231bn, £164bn) in additional investment by 2020 for new technology, energy efficiency projects and other measures, with roughly €100bn of that destined for the developing world. It also predicted that up to €54bn would be required annually by 2030 to help poorer countries cope with even modest warming.
Development groups believe rich countries should contribute far more. Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International’s EU office, said: “Unless developing countries see hard cash on the table, there is a real danger they will simply walk away.”
●Lord Stern, the British economist who advises the Commission, said governments should “green” their economic stimulus. He told the FT that the fiscal injection this year needed to be $2,000bn (€1,515bn, £1,420bn), 4 per cent of global GDP, with at least $400bn spent on green technologies.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Whisky power gets green light

Published Date: 29 January 2009
By Jenny Haworth

A WHISKY distillery is to use its waste products to produce green energy.
A £65 million bioenergy plant is being built at Diageo Scotland's Cameronbridge Distillery in Fife. First Minister Alex Salmond visited the site yesterday to mark the start of building works.The new facility will generate renewable energy from spent wash – a mixture of wheat, malted barley, yeast and water produced during distillation. The spent wash is separated into liquid, which is converted into biogas, and solids, which are used as a biomass fuel source.The green energy will replace 95 per cent of the plant's fossil fuel use. The plant is being built by Diageo in partnership with energy management company Dalkia. It is expected to create up to 20 long-term jobs, and 100 construction jobs over the next three years.The reduction in annual emissions is estimated to be 56,000 tonnes, or the equivalent of taking 44,000 cars off the road.Mr Salmond said: "No other non-utility company in the UK is believed to have embarked on a renewable project of this scale."This investment signals Diageo's commitment to Scotland's environment and the Scottish economy."

Scotland's seas chart potential new wealth

Published Date: 29 January 2009
By John Ross

THE huge economic potential of marine renewables in the north of Scotland is to be set out in a masterplan that will also highlight environmental challenges facing developers.
The Scottish Government has commissioned a Marine Spatial Plan for the Pentland Firth and waters around Orkney, which Alex Salmond, the First Minister, said was to be the epicentre of Scotland's future in green energy.The aim is to devise a planning tool to help reach balanced decisions when determining future development plans against environmental needs and existing users of the sea like shipping and fishing.The plan will form part of the government's Marine Bill, which is due out in the spring and intends to ensure sustainable seas around Scotland.Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet secretary for the environment, said: "Scotland is set to be at the forefront of the global development of clean, green energy technologies. Renewables can drive long-term economic recovery so it is appropriate that the Pentland Firth – often referred to as the 'jewel in the crown' of our marine energy potential – is properly mapped to maximise the full, sustainable economic benefit."The Pentland Firth is considered to be one of the best tidal energy hotspots in the world. Last September, Mr Salmond said it could eventually produce the equivalent power of 20 conventional stations.The Crown Estate is also opening up the firth seabed for applications for commercial-scale marine energy development. It is estimated that more than 700MW of energy could be generated by 2020, although Mr Salmond said there was potential for 20 to 30 times that amount. An Australian company, Atlantis Resources, has revealed plans for 500 undersea turbines in the firth. Atlantis is part of an alliance formed to push forward a plan to use tidal energy to power a computer data centre in Caithness.ScottishPower also confirmed that it expected to lodge plans for large tidal stream projects in the Pentland Firth, as well as Islay and off the north Antrim coast in Northern Ireland. Rob Gibson, an SNP Highlands and Islands MSP, said the spatial plan was a huge step forward."Marine spatial planning and the Marine Bill means that it should be perfectly possible to allow development while protecting the environment and current practices such as fishing and shipping around the north coast and Orkney," he said.Environmental challenges include working around designated conservation sites for seabirds, seals, otters and basking sharks. The North Caithness cliffs Special Protection Area and the Pentland Firth islands SPA protect breeding colonies of seabirds. Dolphins, porpoises and whales that use the firth are protected as European Protected Species. Otters, found on the Caithness coastline and in South Ronaldsay, are also an EPS, while the firth has colonies of grey and common seals.Meanwhile, Dr David Ingram, a leading wave power specialist, said Scotland could generate the equivalent of two nuclear power stations' worth of electricity from waves and it could be exploited "without too much difficulty".

Energy from waste 'could provide a fifth of the UK's electricity needs'

Using rubbish as a source of energy instead of recycling it has the potential to supply a fifth of the nation's electricity by 2020, according to experts.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 10:56PM GMT 28 Jan 2009

Energy from waste technology burns food and other waste products in a combustion plant or produces biofuels from composting or chemical processes. It is very popular in other countries in Europe, but there are only about 50 plants in the UK at the moment.
However, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers believe the technology could provide a fifth of the nation's electricity.
A report from the institution said it was absolutely crucial for waste to be used for energy if Britain was to meet its target of getting 15 per cent of all energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The call came as a leading supermarket announced plans to recycle all food waste into energy by the end of this summer.
Sainsbury's will turn approximately 17,000 tonnes of waste each year into biofuel and renewable energy that will generate 8,500 mega watt hours of electricity – enough to power a small village of 12,000 houses for a year.
Philip Simpson, director of waste disposal company PDM, said most supermarkets will be following suit by the end of the year.
"Food waste has traditionally been viewed as difficult to recycle; however, this is not the case. By using a combination of innovative technologies, along with proven systems such as biomass combustion and anaerobic digestion, we are able to not only to divert food waste from landfill but also use it to create energy – a valuable contribution to the UK's energy strategy," he said.

Scepticism grows over the viability of green projects

The Times
January 29, 2009
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Lord Turner of Ecchinswell is to investigate the collapse of funding for renewable energy projects in Britain after the recent exit of a string of companies, including BP and Shell.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and of the Government’s Committee on Climate Change, said that the study was a response to mounting scepticism over the Government’s plans for a huge expansion of wind and tidal power.
He said he was concerned that a number of key projects had been thrown into jeopardy, including London Array, a £3 billion scheme to build the world’s largest offshore wind park in the Thames Estuary. “We have to make sure that the present climate does not set back our plans,” he said.
Doubts have surfaced over the Government’s commitment to cut UK greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34 per cent by 2020 as falling oil prices and the global credit crisis have triggered a funding crisis. Last week E.ON, the German utility group, and Masdar, a fund controlled by Abu Dhabi, said that they were reconsidering the viability of the London Array.

Shell pulled out of the scheme last year, citing spiralling costs, while BP also said it was abandoning the UK’s renewable energy sector, blaming a lack of incentives. Gordon Brown has put the creation of thousands of “green-collar” jobs at the centre of his plans for an economic recovery.
Lord Turner said that his findings would be published in September, alongside details of the Government’s progress so far on meeting newly established annual carbon budgets. The comments came after James Rogers, the chairman of Duke Energy, one of America’s largest utility companies, said that the credit crunch was forcing power companies to develop new funding models to make the investments necessary to tackle climate change, a key focus in Davos.
Mr Rogers said that a revolution in the way in which America produces and uses energy had the potential to lead the world out of recession, but energy companies would need to tap into new sources of nonbank funding, including sovereign wealth funds and rich investors from the Middle East and Asia.
Duke, which plans to invest $25 billion (£17.5billion) over the next five years in wind, solar and nuclear power stations, is seeking to bypass banks altogether by establishing an in-house team to build long-term direct relationships with potential investors in Asia, and China, including national banks, wealthy individuals and pooled funds.
Mr Rogers said: “I don’t think it is going to go back to business as usual. The crisis has really motivated a rethink about how we raise finance. In some ways this is a return to the pre1980s’ model of investment where it will be about a set of long-term relationships.”

Energy groups must find new sources of funding

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor, in Davos

A revolution in the way the US produces and uses energy has the potential to lead the world out of recession, but energy companies will need to tap into new sources of non-bank funding, the head of one of America’s largest power groups said today.
James Rogers, chairman and chief executive of Duke Energy, said that there was building momentum in the US for a concerted push to slash carbon emissions by building low-carbon sources of electricity and investing in energy efficiency.
However, he said that the collapse of the global credit markets was forcing companies such as Duke, which plans to invest $25 billion (£17.5 billion) over the next five years in new wind, solar and nuclear power stations as well as energy efficiency equipment, to look beyond traditional sources of funding and the use of banks as financial intermediaries.
“I don’t think it is going to go back to business as usual,” he told The Times on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“The crisis has really motivated a rethink about how we raise finance.”
He said that Duke was planning to establish an in-house team that would seek to build long-term direct relationships with investors, including sovereign wealth funds in Asia, Chinese national banks, wealthy individuals or pooled funds.
“Capital is our lifeblood, so this is a pro-active approach,” he said. “It’s about going to where the money is.
"In some ways this is a return to the pre-1980s model of business investment, where it will be about a set of long-term relationships.”
Mr Rogers said that the total investment programme required to overhaul America’s energy infrastructure would cost “trillions of dollars” and would create huge numbers of jobs that would help to stimulate the US and global economy.
“Even though the capital markets are in uncharted waters, addressing climate change will give us the focus to pull out of this recession,” he said.

Green ambitions are built on legacy of plentiful coal

By Andrew Bounds
Published: January 29 2009 02:00

King Coal, which once powered Yorkshire's industrialisation, may have been dethroned but he is not yet dead. While hundreds of mines have closed since the end of the 1985 strike the region still has a handful of working deep mines in private hands.
The legacy of plentiful coal is a chain of giant power stations, including Drax, the UK's biggest coal-fired plant, and heavy industry such as steel and chemical production. Yorkshire produces 18 per cent of the UK's electricity but consumes just 7 per cent of it.
That means Yorkshire's 5.2m people produce 90m tonnes of carbon annually, around double the UK average and almost a sixth of the total 587m tonne output.
Cutting that is as much an opportunity as a challenge, says Tom Riordan, chief executive of Yorkshire Forward. "We were part of creating the problem so we want to be part of creating the solution," he says.
The former environment department official says the region is well placed to capitalise on the development of carbon capture and storage. Not yet available on a commercial scale, it allows greenhouse gases to be siphoned off from fossil fuels and piped to an area where they can be trapped, to prevent them heating up the atmosphere.
"We have the big producers and, very close by, the [possibility of] storage in former gasfields in the North Sea," he says.
The rising price of coal has led Hargreaves, the Durham-based minerals and logistics company, to prolong the life of its Maltby mine near Sheffield. It also imports coal to Immingham docks. The UK consumes 60m tonnes a year, two-thirds of it from overseas.
Tom Allchurch, chief executive of Doncaster-based miner ATH Resources, says coal will always be needed because it is a secure and dependable supply. By pioneering efficient "tip-washing", it has recovered and sold millions of tonnes of the mineral coal discarded on to waste tips during mining. It extracts the coal while collecting toxic chemicals such as sulphur to be burned and restoring the site to grassland within five years.
Renewable energy will also be vital. BP and DuPont have already announced a £200m biofuel plant in Hull, which would use crops brought into the port.
UK Coal, which inherited many former mines from the defunct state-run British Coal, is planning to put wind turbines on them.
It has signed a deal with Peel Energy to develop 14 wind farms that could host 54 turbines generating up to 133 MW of power.
Even that would not put miners out of business, says Mr Allchurch. "When the wind doesn't blow you need coal to back it up."
At Drax, up to £80m is being invested in the new biomass processing and co-firing facility. This, together with existing capability, will make it the largest co-firing plant in the world. It is looking to use straw from Lincolnshire, and is also proposing to build purely bio-powered generators on Humberside.
Leeds University has teamed up with the London School of Economics to establish a £5m centre for studying the effects of climate change on the economy, launched earlier this week and chaired by Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the report on the subject.
The region has already established a dummy carbon trading project ahead of the UK establishing a nationwide scheme in 2010.
Business such as Asda, the supermarket chain, Saint-Gobain, the glassmaker and Northern Foods have joined the system, which will operate on a regional basis across the private and public sector.
"Yorkshire's economy is very reliant on fossil fuels," says Richard Hall, programme director of Carbon Action Yorkshire, which runs the system. "We know carbon reductions could have a big impact on us. We want to minimise the risk and maximise the opportunity."
While 34 councils trade within a government-backed scheme, and heavy emitters such as power plants trade on a pan-European basis under European Union rules, there is no comprehensive scheme. Mr Hall says the dummy project will give Yorkshire businesses, hospitals and other public services an advantage when real trading begins. "This is practise carbon trading to gain skills. It is monopoly money. No real money will change hands yet."
One issue that needs to be settled before the mandatory national scheme begins is how to calculate an institution's carbon footprint. "We do not have a standard methodology. The government needs to provide a framework," says Mr Hall, adding that there were around 20 methods used.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

America takes steps towards clean energy

By Jeff Immelt and Jonathan Lash
Published: January 28 2009 18:59

In 2005, the two of us joined together on a quest for what we called “the courage to develop clean energy” in America. More than three years later, we have seen courage demonstrated in abundance – by scientists, entrepreneurs, elected officials, businesses and citizens. Clean technology has rapidly matured to the point where we see a stronger and more secure domestic energy future taking shape.
Now a big question remains: will the US step towards this future? At the centre of an economic storm, is America willing to make the massive clean energy investments and tough policies needed to catapult the nation again to the vanguard of innovation, competitiveness, security and true energy freedom? In today’s difficult economy, it would be easy to say no. Halting investment in clean energy technology would placate climate change curmudgeons – but it would also allow other nations to lead the next technology revolution that will shift the global balance of energy and security for decades to come. It would be short-sighted, too, because bold investments in clean energy have transformed drawing-board dreams into great businesses that align naturally with, and inform, great policy.
President Barack Obama has outlined a bold energy vision in his framework for a stimulus package – a vision we endorse – and congressional leaders have vowed to pass legislation quickly to boost the economy. In any such proposal, however, we believe three fundamental criteria must be included.
First, declare America open for business and invest quickly. Thousands of projects to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and to construct wind turbines and solar power stations have been halted by frozen credit markets and unpredictable energy prices. The stimulus is crucial in restarting the engine of innovation. Immediate investment using the inherent strength of the government’s balance sheet can create jobs right away, getting work boots and equipment on dozens of important infrastructure projects that are ready to go. To accomplish this, refundable tax credits and renewable portfolio standards with near-term goals are essential.
Second, invest fairly. While we need to move swiftly to lubricate the wheels of the US economy, any stimulus must ensure that all Americans benefit. Investments in energy efficiency can immediately put people to work on transit projects, improving existing buildings and increasing the use of waste heat in industrial processes and facilities. Efficiency programmes, especially for residential buildings, will also lower working families’ energy bills and allow them, and small businesses, to keep more money in their pockets. These projects should be deployed with urgency and to those areas hit hardest by the economic crisis.
Third, invest to ensure future value. It is easy to create the low-skill, low-paying jobs that vanish again on a whim. The hard work comes in investing in people and technology to create long-lasting, well-paid jobs that will expand America’s competitive capacity for decades. In time, these jobs will form the green-labour backbone of a stronger workforce that turns wind and sunlight into abundant supplies of clean energy, drives electric cars out of laboratories and on to highways, and builds out the next-generation smart energy grid.
These investments will take hold only when Washington takes bold policy steps to wean the country from its overreliance on imported energy. The marketplace must have a strong, long-term price signal for clean technology in the form of a carbon market. As founding members of the US Climate Action Partnership – a coalition of more than 30 large corporations and environmental organisations – we call on Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation as soon as possible. Whether such legislation stands alongside a stimulus package or comes shortly after, it will be a crucial factor driving America’s shift to a low-carbon-technology economy. Incentives such as a federal renewable portfolio standard will also be critical to ensure growing industries including wind and solar power generation reach maturity and at competitive cost.
The US has proved that it has the will, the capabilities and the courage to invest in innovation – even in difficult times. If you do not believe green jobs exist, visit cities such as Erie, Pennsylvania, or Greenville, South Carolina, where thousands of General Electric engineers run multibillion-dollar businesses that export advanced, clean technology products around the world. We ask that new leaders join us in working to create thousands of similar, high-technology, high-paying jobs, enable greater domestic innovation and help make the tough investments that will form a more secure, better tomorrow for all Americans. It will not be easy – but fighting for freedom, of any kind, never has been.
Jeff Immelt is chairman and chief executive of General Electric. Jonathan Lash is president, World Resources Institute
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009