Friday, 30 January 2009

Carbon trading may be the new sub-prime, says energy boss

• System 'risks being diverted from purpose'• Weakness of government regulation highlighted
Terry Macalister
The Guardian, Friday 30 January 2009

The row over the working of the European Union's emissions trading scheme intensified last night when EDF Energy warned that speculators risked turning carbon into a new category of sub-prime investment.
Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of the UK arm of the French-owned gas and electricity group, said politicians and regulators needed to revisit the way the ETS was working and whether it was bringing the results they wanted. "We like certainty about a carbon price," he said. "[But] the carbon price has to become simple and not become a new type of sub-prime tool which will be diverted from what is its initial purpose: to encourage real investment in real low-carbon technology."
Green campaigners have long been critical of the way the emissions trading scheme was set up, but it is unusual for a leading industry figure to cast doubt on it, as power companies lobbied hard for a market mechanism to deal with global warming.
"We are at the tipping point where we ... should wonder if we have in place the right balance between government policy, regulator responsibility and the market mechanism which will deliver the carbon price," said de Rivaz.
De Rivaz's comments came as Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, emphasised that a predictable global carbon price was important because it would make "vast numbers of alternative energy sources competitive". He told the World Economic Forum in Davos that certainty over carbon emissions would help "solve the world's energy problems".
Their comments came days after the Guardian revealed that steelmakers and hedge funds were cashing in ETS carbon credits obtained for free, causing the price of carbon to plunge. The price of carbon has slumped from €30 a tonne to below €12, leading to a tail-off in clean-technology offset projects in the developing world.
The EU's emissions trading scheme was set up as a market solution to cut greenhouse gas pollution from industry. Polluters were issued with permits that can be traded between companies and countries as a way of encouraging an overall reduction in carbon output. However, companies are now cashing them in. Up to €1bn-worth of permits are said to have been sold off in recent months as companies see an opportunity to bring in funds at a time when their carbon output is expected to fall due to lower production.
De Rivaz said an over-reliance on markets without tougher safeguards was responsible for the financial turmoil that has sent banks into administration or forced sale. He believed there had been a "lost sense of values" and he was anxious that this should not extend into the energy sector, but was not prepared yet to call for a carbon tax to replace the ETS.
Point Carbon, an information provider and consultancy, claims the sell-offs are only one of a number of factors influencing carbon prices and argues it is "rational" for them to be selling off credits.
"Recession in Europe is bringing a slowdown in manufacturing, meaning less production and less emissions," said Henrik Hasselknippe, global head of carbon at Point Carbon. "Companies are doing exactly the rational thing in these circumstances, which is to sell if they are long on credits. If they are emitting less then they do not need the credits so much and the price of carbon will fall."
However, Bryony Worthington, an expert on climate change and founder of, said: "What should have been a way to kick-start investment in much needed low-carbon, efficient technologies is now a cash redistribution exercise." A study commissioned by the WWF environmental organisation from Point Carbon, published in March last year, estimated that "windfall profits" of between €23bn and €71bn (£20.9bn-£64.4bn) would be made under the ETS between 2008 and 2012, on the basis that the price of carbon would be between €21 and €32. Up to €15bn could be made by British companies that were given credits they did not need.

Wind-farm plans set for 40m boost from Europe

Published Date: 30 January 2009

CONTROVERSIAL proposals for a giant offshore wind farm received a major boost yesterday following the revelation that the European Commission is considering investing 40 million in the project.
The Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) and the Swedish utility company Vattenfall have formed a joint venture company to build a £100 million offshore wind farm, stretching three miles along the coast from the Bridge of Don to Blackdog. There will be 23 wind turbines at sea, each up to 490ft high.The Aberdeen offshore wind farm was yesterday listed as a "European test centre", with a recommendation that the project should received 40 million in funding, as part of a proposed 5 billion energy spending package being championed by José Manuel Barroso, the commission president.Jeremy Creswell, the chairman of AREG, said: "This is great news for Aberdeen and Scotland. Being considered for European funding on this scale for an energy project is a fabulous opportunity for this region. "Coupled with the potential for this project to become a European test centre, benefiting local businesses and attracting new players into the region, this funding announcement puts Aberdeen in pole position as a UK renewable energy hub."

Energy: Foreigners battle for nuclear power stake

By Amy Kazmin in New Delhi
Published: January 30 2009 00:10

For decades, India’s nuclear establishment worked in almost total isolation, the result of US-led international sanctions intended to punish the country for refusing to relinquish its nuclear weapons programme.
Barred from obtaining nuclear fuel or technology from abroad, the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India, working with private firms, installed a mere 4,000 megawatts of nuclear power capacity, with another 2,600MW under construction.
But when New Delhi was finally accepted last year as a de facto member of the global nuclear club – as part of a deal with the US – India became an accepted partner for the international civil nuclear trade.
Since then, western energy companies have been beating a path to New Delhi. Yet even as they tout their wares, New Delhi is still grappling with sensitive questions of how much foreign involvement to permit.
After decades of self-reliance – and little outside scrutiny of its operations, India’s powerful nuclear establishment is ambivalent about foreign involvement – and apparently determined to ensure the state is not upstaged. “If you have been under sanctions for 30 years, you have a certain mindset, saying ‘Okay, we’ll do this on our own’,” Arundhati Ghose, former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, says.
Chronically short of power, and heavily dependent on imported oil, India wants to massively expand its nuclear power output to improve its long-term energy security and meet surging demand. India’s national energy plan calls for 30,000MW of nuclear power by 2020, 63,000MW by 2030 and 250,000MW by 2050.
Western companies see opportunities. In January, executives from 30 US companies, including GE, Westinghouse, Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox, and Shaw Power, visited India for discussions with government officials and the NPCI on meeting India’s power needs. The US delegation was followed swiftly by top British nuclear energy experts, led by Peter Mandelson, the UK’s minister for business.
Yet profiting from India’s thirst for power looks set to be an arduous process, especially for private US firms. “The hype on the deal that it is going to open up tens of billions of dollars of business to the US was just that – hype,” says Brahma Chellany, director of the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research.
India’s Atomic Energy Act now restricts ownership and operation of nuclear power plants to government-owned companies – and any amendment that opens the sector to even limited foreign ownership is likely to trigger heated parliamentary battles.
US firms are also unwilling to conduct any nuclear commerce with India until New Delhi adopts internationally binding legislation to limit private liability in case of a nuclear accident, potentially another highly contentious political issue.
“India has been very accustomed to doing these through its state-owned companies or dealing with foreign state-owned companies,” says Ted Jones, a director of the US-India Business Council. “To induce the participation of private companies, they need to ... create an enabling framework.”
The NPCI is working with Russia’s state-owned AtomStroy Export to build two new 1,000MW reactors – projects that predate the sanctions – and the Russian agency is to help build another two reactors at the site. The NPCI also has an agreement to acquire technology from France’s state-controlled company Areva.
But while the NPCI wants foreign collaboration to help it rapidly expand energy production, India’s nuclear research establishment – obsessed with ideas of achieving technological supremacy – appears anxious.
Last year, Anil Kakodkar, the Atomic Energy Commission chairman, publicly cautioned that foreign co-operation should not erode India’s technological capacity, and warned of potential intellectual property disputes, with foreign companies claiming Indian technology as their own.
“The motto of self-reliance is not just a slogan,” he says. “It is an important element of our technological march and our ambition to lead the world,” he says. “We must conduct business in a manner that does not constrain us from getting into a top position, otherwise we simply become the so-called fabricators or service providers – fabricating something for x’s orders, y’s orders, or z’s orders.”
India’s Congress-led government has yet to unveil publicly a proposed legal framework for nuclear commerce. But local newspapers say a current draft would limit foreign companies to selling technology, supplies and services and prohibit foreign equity stakes in any nuclear power plant.
That would be a significant brake on India’s development, given the state’s limited resources for such expensive projects. “It won’t be possible for the government of India to find the resources on its own, which means international finance will be required – and a lot of that is going to be equity,” says V. Raghuraman, a Confederation of Indian Industry adviser. “We’ll have to really see what comes out and how it gets legislated. There are many questions that have to be answered.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Plans to rent out swathes of Scotland's forests win MSPs' vote

Published Date: 30 January 2009
By David Maddox
Political Correspondent

SCOTTISH Government moves to rent out large sections of Scotland's forests were narrowly approved last night.
A motion by Labour calling for the consultation into the future of Forestry Commission land to be abandoned was in effect defeated by one vote when MSPs backed a government amendment by 62 to 61.The controversial proposals would see large tracts of land from Scotland's largest landowner, the Forestry Commission Scotland, rented out on 75-year leases.The measures would appear in the Climate Change Bill later this year after a consultation process.Opposition MSPs have accused SNP ministers of trying to sell off the family silver, but the Scottish Government has argued it is the best way to pay for increased forestation in Scotland.The SNP won the day, with the backing of the Conservatives, because several Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs were missing.Ahead of the debate, wildlife groups hit out at the plans which could see a quarter of Scotland's forests leased to private firms.David Grundy, vice-chairman of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, warned that handing over woodlands to the commercial sector could be dangerous."We firmly believe that the wildlife living within our national forests will be safer under the expert stewardship of the Forestry Commission Scotland as opposed to a large commercial company which will naturally put economic considerations first," he said.The message was picked up later in the debate by Labour, who pointed out that the proposal, when put forward by the merchant bank Rothschilds, had even been rejected by former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher as "a privatisation too far".Sarah Boyack, Labour's environment spokeswoman, called for a rethink of the plans at Holyrood yesterday."They are deeply damaging to jobs, not just in the future but now," she said. "The SNP government must do the right thing: dump these unpopular, ill-thought out, damaging proposals and let us focus on the way forward."But the SNP accused its opponents of needless scaremongering, although Mike Russell, the environment minister, conceded more might need to be done to provide assurances on jobs.He pointed out that 1,000 Forestry Commission jobs were lost under Labour in Scotland and he insisted that the proposal was an "imaginative way" of paying for extra forestation."There will be no loss of jobs," he said. "I know it is an unusual concept for Labour to think of trust and ministers in the same sentence. But the reality is there will be no loss of jobs, there will be no loss of biodiversity, there will be no loss of access, there will be no difficulties of the type talked about."He added: "The reality is there are no downsides for Scotland and none for those who work in forestry."However, even though the SNP won the day, its principle supporters yesterday, the Conservatives, said they were less than convinced by the proposal. John Scott, the party's environment spokesman, said they were voting to continue the consultation.The campaign against the plans has been led by the Liberal Democrats, who are collecting signatures on a petition opposing the leases.Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume hit back at claims his party had been scaremongering."This government's proposal to auction off one of Scotland's most prized natural assets for a one-off, bargain-basement sum under the guise that the money could be used for climate change measures, does not add up," he said."It is naive at best, and reckless at worst."BACKGROUNDTHE proposal to lease out Forestry Commission land is to be considered in the Scottish Climate Change Bill to come before MSPs this year.The bill's main purpose is to look at ways of reducing carbon emissions 80 per cent by 2050, with an interim target of 50 per cent by 2030. The Scottish Government agreed to annual targets, but will not set a level for this until 2020.The bill was brought forward two years early as part of an agreement with the Greens.

Ministers ask EU for more time to cut pollution in 'no clean city' Glasgow

Published Date: 30 January 2009
By Jenny Haworth
Environment Correspondent

SCOTLAND'S largest city is so polluted that the government is planning to beg the EU to be allowed more time to meet air-quality standards.
There are so many dust particles in the air above Glasgow that it is not meeting pollution targets that should have been reached three years ago.The European Commission announced yesterday it was starting legal action against the government, after eight areas of the UK, including Glasgow, failed to meet the targets for dust particles, known as PM10.They are mainly caused by traffic and the pollution has been linked with heart and lung problems. The targets should have been met by 2005, and they were set in 1996.WWF Scotland hit out at the failure and said Glasgow would be a disgrace when it hosts the Commonwealth Games if it does not clean up its act.Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at the environment charity , said: "Glasgow will be hosting a major international event with thousands of visitors – surely we want to be able to promote Glasgow as a clean and healthy city rather than one with an air pollution problem?"He added: "It is shocking that we still have areas of poor air quality here in Scotland."We have known for a decade what these limits were. We have failed to take action."Scotland's biggest city has been breaching the target levels for years and the government's approach is to seek approval for it to continue to do this. "It's ducking the action necessary to address this."Target levels of the dust particle are being met across 99 per cent of the UK, but not by eight areas, including Glasgow, Swansea, Southampton, Brighton and the West Midlands. The UK is one of ten EU countries that have failed to keep concentrations of the particles below set levels.The European Commission has sent a first warning letter to the UK, which now has two months to respond before further action may be taken.If the UK continues to fail to comply, it could face a fine.The UK and Scottish Governments are consulting on a plan to ask the EU for a time extension, to give the country until 2011 to meet the targets.Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment, said: "Air pollution has serious impacts on health and compliance with the standards must be our utmost priority."While the new directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe allows time extensions for compliance if certain conditions are met, these must not delay measures to reduce emissions."A Scottish Government spokesman said: "EU limits have been met across most of Scotland."The only monitoring station where they have been exceeded is in central Glasgow, around Hope Street."Road traffic is by some margin the main source of this pollution and much of the reasons for non-compliance at this specific site are down to its characteristics – a narrow street and high buildings."He added: "Most other European member states have found it difficult to meet limit values across all of their territory and will therefore need to apply to the commission for time extensions similar to the UK's."A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said it was working on a new action plan."The plan sets out a number of proposed actions, ranging from the introduction of low emission zones within the city to tree planting, which have been identified to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter," he said.BACKGROUNDTHE consquences of inhaling particles of pollution known as particulates include asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular issues and premature death.It is estimated the problem causes between 22,000 and 52,000 deaths per year in the United States and 200,000 deaths a year in Europe.The small particles settle in people's bronchi and lungs, causing damage and disease.Particulate pollution's effects were first demonstrated in the early 1970s. The main cause is traffic, but industrial processes also create large amounts of the particles known as PM10.The smaller the particles, and the longer they have been in the atmosphere, the more serious the health problems they can cause.The problem is normally most acute in large cities.Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, vegetation and even sea spray.

Europe to prosecute Britain for breaking air pollution laws

Environment commissioner begins proceedings for failure to reduce particulate pollution from traffic and industry
John Vidal, environment editor, Thursday 29 January 2009 15.23 GMT

Europe is prosecuting Britain for consistently breaking air pollution laws and endangering people's health in urban areas.
Legal proceedings against the government were started today by the EU environment commissioner, Stavros Dimas, and could result in unlimited daily fines.
Britain had been given nearly 10 years by Europe to reduce its levels of the minute, sooty "particulate matter" known as PM10s, which are mainly emitted by industry and traffic.
But EU documents seen by the Guardian earlier this month showed that Britain had been breaking the regulations, now part of UK law, for three years. More than 20 cities and conurbations were found to have dangerous levels of particulate matter between 2005-7.
In a statement, the commission said we have "started infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom for failing to comply with the EU's air quality standard for dangerous airborne particles known as PM10. These particles can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death."
The decision to take Britain to the court of justice will embarrass the government because it has had since 1999 to come up with a plan to reduce PM10 levels, but has failed to do so. All other major EU countries have submitted plans and successfully negotiated a time extension.
This week the government launched a consultation on the issue, but this was widely seen in Europe as a delaying tactic. The UK has two months to respond to the EU's letter before further action may be taken.
Dimas showed his exasperation with Britain. "Air pollution has serious impacts on health and compliance with the standards must be our utmost priority. It is essential that where time extensions are not applicable the standards are fully respected."
Air pollution near many roads in British cities averages well over twice the UN's World Health Organisation maximum recommended level. If Britain is to reduce PM10 levels it will have to substantially reduce traffic congestion, which could mean unpopular congestion charging and low emission zones.
A spokesman at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "The UK, along with other member states, intends to apply for a time extension to meet PM10 air quality limits. Twenty-four out of 27 member states also reported breaches of the limits in 2007. We expect to apply for this extension following a public consultation that began on Tuesday 27 January."
But Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green party and MEP for the South East, said the move by the commission was a "damning indictment of Labour's aspirations to position itself as having any credibility on the environment at all". And she said it sent a clear signal to ministers who were going ahead with plans to expand Heathrow airport despite concerns that more planes will push pollution levels up even further.
"Legal action is long overdue," added Simon Birkett, director of Clean Air for London. "This should be a real wake up call to Britain to take air pollution seriously."
In a coincidence, the government also released data on air quality for 2008, showing that particulate pollution varied from year to year, and while there was a long-term decline, the fall was not fast enough to meet the new limits.
A Defra report said that "in urban areas, air pollution in 2008 was recorded as moderate or higher on 27 days on average per site, compared with 24 days in 2007, and 59 days in 1993".

Is there a technological solution to the problem of global warming?

By Steve ConnorThursday, 29 January 2009

Why are we asking this now?

For two reasons. A German research ship, the Polarstern, is steaming towards a region off the coast of Argentina in the South Atlantic, where it intends to release six tonnes of iron sulphate over an area of 115 square miles. The aim is to study the impact of this "iron fertilisation" on the blooms of plankton that absorb carbon dioxide from the sea and, ultimately, the atmosphere. Some scientists believe this could offer a way of boosting a natural carbon "sink", where carbon is stored or sequestered for a long time. The second reason is a study published yesterday in the journal Nature which backs up this idea of a geo-engineered solution to global warming with hard, scientific observations.
What are these latest observations?
A team at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton studied two areas of the Southern Ocean around the Crozet Islands and Plateau, about 1,400 miles south-east of South Africa. One region is rich in iron, because of the run-off from the volcanic islands, whereas the other is deficient in iron. The researchers found that the iron-rich region also has between two and three times as much carbon sequestered in seafloor sediments and the deep ocean beneath the plankton blooms that form at the sea surface each summer. These sediments have built up over thousands of years since the last ice age. The scientists point out that this supports the idea that iron-rich seas result in greater amounts of carbon being sequestered in deep layers, because atmospheric carbon dioxide is drawn into the sea by the vast blooms of plankton at the surface.
How will fertilisation help fight global warming?
The increase in average global temperatures over the past century or two is now widely accepted as being linked with the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. About half of the man-made carbon dioxide released since the Industrial Revolution has been absorbed by the natural carbon "sink" of the ocean. Scientists believe one way of augmenting this natural sink is to boost concentrations of iron, which is known to be the limiting factor that inhibits the absorption of carbon dioxide by plankton. Fertilising the sea with iron, the limiting mineral in seawater, is known to stimulate phytoplankton blooms. Phytoplankton, the microscopic plants at the base of the marine food chain, convert sunlight into chemical energy using the raw material of carbon dioxide dissolved in seawater. The more they grow, the more carbon they use and the more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere ends up being dissolved at the sea surface.
How will we know if it works?
The key to the success of iron fertilisation is showing that much of the carbon trapped in the cells of dead plankton ends up falling to deeper layers of the ocean and on to the seafloor, where it will be trapped for a least 100 years – and so be taken out of the more immediate carbon cycle. Some studies have suggested that, although iron fertilisation can cause blooms to form, they are quickly eaten up by other marine organisms and digested in a way that releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The latest study, however, implies that, in the natural situation, iron-rich water does indeed lead to long-term sequestration of carbon. This is why iron fertilisation is being seen as a possible technical fix to the problem of global warming.
Are there any other fixes?
Several, but only a few are being taken seriously. For instance, the Nobel prize-winner Paul Crutzen, of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, has suggested it would be possible to inject sulphate particles into the atmosphere to mimic the effects of a volcanic eruption. These particles could act as a reflective surface for incoming sunlight, producing a discernible cooling effect on Earth. For example, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, on the Philippine island of Luzon, in 1991 released vast amounts of sulphate particles into the global atmosphere, with the result that the Earth cooled by about 0.5C for the year or two following the eruption. Mr Crutzen suggested that, in extremis, it could be possible to mimic this effect by releasing artificial sulphate particles, a process that which could easily be reversed if necessary. But some have questioned possible side-effects, such as acid rain.
Are there any other viable ideas?
Other scientists have suggested doing something similar by creating low clouds over the ocean by spraying water droplets into the air from ships. The formation of these clouds would have a cooling effect and the process could be quickly turned off if necessary. Another theory is to stimulate the mixing of the ocean with long, floating, vertical pipes that take surface water down to deeper levels using wave energy. This would result in carbon dioxide dissolved in surface layers being taken down to deeper layers and deposited there for long periods. James Lovelock, the author of the Gaia hypothesis, is known to favour this idea. One of the more extreme suggestions for the geo-engineering of the climate is to put mirrors in space to deflect incoming sunlight – a technical fix too far for most scientists who are investigating this area of research. Apart from the expense and the practical implications of parking such a complicated set of mirrors is space, people will want to know who would have control such an important technical structure?
Is anyone taking these ideas seriously?
It is fair to say that most experts would, until recently, have discounted such suggestions to counter global warming. However, there is growing concern that international attempts to curb rising levels of carbon dioxide could fail. Since the signing of the Kyoto agreement a decade ago, carbon dioxide concentrations have risen faster than even the worst-case scenarios that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested. Some scientists are now saying we should have a back-up, or "plan B".
Is there a consensus about a 'plan B'?
A survey of climate experts carried out by The Independent at the end of last year found that many now believe that a "plan B" is necessary if global temperatures continue to rise. Just over half – 54 per cent – of the 80 international specialists who responded to our survey said the situation was now so dire that we must consider the artificial manipulation of the global climate to counter the effects of man-made emissions of greenhouse gases.
So where can we go from here?
The Royal Society has set up a working committee to study the feasibility of geo-engineering and its report is due to be published this summer. A number of research projects, such as the one being conducted aboard the Polarstern, are under way and their results will be published in the scientific literature. The opponents argue that the Earth's climate system is far too complex to be interfered with in this way, but others argue that we may end up having no alternative if carbon dioxide concentrations continue to rise, along with global temperatures. There may come a point when we have no alternative but to try geo-engineering.
Should we fight climate change with iron dust and solar screens?
* Carbon dioxide levels are rising so fast we may have no alternative if we are to maintain a habitable world
* Natural carbon sinks that absorb carbon dioxide are weakening, so we need to may need to boost them
* We are already engaged in a massive climate experiment by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere
* The risks of uncontrolled side-effects are too great
* Geo-engineering is a dangerous distraction from the goal of curbing man-made greenhouse gas emissions
* We caused one environmental disaster with global warming and we have no right to risk causing another with geo-engineering

Climate change forces moths to higher ground

Four decades ago researchers visited Borneo to examine moth populations. Today, they have found the animals now live 67m higher as temperatures have risen
Juliette Jowit, Thursday 29 January 2009 12.44 GMT

Global warming is forcing tropical species uphill to escape the rising temperatures at a rate of more than a metre a year, a new study from the mountains of Borneo suggests.
More than four decades after a group of undergraduate students visited the south-east Asian island in 1965, a team of British scientists returned to the same sites on Mount Kinabalu to repeat their survey of moths.
The group of six, including a member of the original trip, found that on average the insects had raised the altitude of their range by 67m.
Although the trip had only been repeated once so far, they did everything possible to repeat the original survey, travelling at the same time of year in July and August, using photographs to identify exact sites for moth traps, and even carrying out the work at the same phases of the moon. The researchers used light to attract moths which were then trapped by nets or in empty "egg boxes" designed so they could not crawl out.
The results are also supported by other studies of tropical species in Madagascar, Monte Verde and Cost Rica, and temperate species in North America and Europe, said Chris Thomas, professor of biology at the University of York.
"While this is the first example with insects, there are a few other tropical examples that are starting to emerge," said Thomas. "If you look across all those studies they are all showing the same response, and it's extremely difficult to think of any other possible explanation that was causing all of those."
I-Ching Chen, the PhD student who led the research, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, said: "Our new study is good in that it increases the evidence available, but it is potentially bad for biodiversity."
While some species might survive by migrating up mountains to similar temperatures, others could find there is too little space, or even run out of habitat on the barren rocky peaks, warns the study.
"The fact that over however many tens of thousands or millions of years they have failed to expand their distribution away from those areas makes it vanishingly likely [that] in the next 50-100 years they'll suddenly be able to up sticks and find a cooler part of the world they can expand in rapidly," said Thomas.
In a paper in Nature in 2004, Thomas and 13 other experts analysed the habitats of 1,100 species in five continents and estimated on average one quarter were at risk of extinction.
The tropics make up only 12% of the landmass of Earth, but contain an estimated 60% of all species. Last year a paper in the PLoS ONE journal, published by the Public Library of Science in the US, warned the risk of extinction in the tropics was "escalating". The authors, Jana Vamosi and Steven Vamosi, of the University of Calgary in Canada, later estimated that 20-45% of tropical species were at risk of extinction.

European commission proposals start gun to find Kyoto successor

Race is on to negotiate global climate change deal – but will Europe's ideas cross the finish line at Copenhagen?
Bryony Worthington, Thursday 29 January 2009 11.49 GMT

The European commission's proposals add some significant new ideas and have fired the starting gun in the race to negotiate a global climate change deal to succeed the Kyoto protocol.
As well as being comprehensive and largely sensible, the ideas in the document include how to pay for the reduction of emissions and deal with climate change, an issue that will result in very hard bargaining at Copenhagen in December.
Also raised are: reform of the often-criticised Clean Development Mechanism; a phase out of rich nation's offsetting of emissions; inclusion of the aviation and shipping industries in any future deal.
The emissions targets it sets out are nothing new — a 30% cut by 2020 for rich countries compared with 1990 levels, 15-30% off "business as usual" trajectories for rapidly developing countries, with the long-term aim of delivering a global reduction of 50% by mid-century. But detail has been added about how these targets should be shared by countries and what mechanisms will need to be in place to deliver them. The recommendation that global emissions need to peak and decline before 2020 is an important additional element — one which might be helped by the current recession but which nevertheless requires significant action in the short term to prevent emissions rising again in tandem with economic recovery.
A key new idea is that global financing for the necessary mitigation and adaptation measures could be raised according to the "polluter pays principle", ie countries' contributions are pegged to their emissions levels. It is further suggested that this could take the form of an auction of permits rather than handing them out for free as is currently the case under Kyoto.
This is a sensible suggestion though not without its complexities, and could, over time, evolve to solve the eternal conundrum of how to allocate fairly who can emit what: let the market decide. Of course this could mean that under a global cap only China will be able to afford to raise the cash necessary to grow emissions and the US would be forced to cut down on its excessive energy consumption — an interesting turn around that is much more reflective of current economic circumstances than the current imbalanced system under Kyoto of partial caps and free handouts.
Another significant element of the proposals is the acknowledgment that the Clean Development Mechanism is in need of major reform. This is the instrument under Kyoto that allows wealthy countries to offset their emissions reductions obligations through investment in green projects in the developing world.
The suggestion is that the complicated and often abused system should be largely replaced by the extension of the carbon market in the form of cap and trade and/or sectoral crediting. One of the motivations behind this idea is to correct the distortion that currently occurs where global steel companies can raise cash for carbon reductions in one half of the world, via the CDM, but face carbon penalties in the other, from cap and trade schemes, distorting competition in what is increasingly a homogenous industry.
Perhaps the most interesting proposal, however, is that rich countries should no longer be able to simply pay for emissions reductions, and that over time "offsetting" should be phased out all together.
This is a welcome admission that at the moment, both the international Kyoto market and the EU ETS are doing little to stimulate investment in clean technology in the developed world and that more needs to be done at home to demonstrate a commitment to taking action and to commercialise technologies and solutions.
The recommendation that aviation and shipping be included in the future deal is also welcome and is a clear shot across the bows of the international organisations charged with reaching agreement for climate mitigation measures in these sectors: the International Maritime Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization, both of whom have made lamentably slow progress. Hopefully this will provide the stimulus that is needed to reach a global agreement in these sectors that will internalise the cost of their emissions.
Although the EU is in no real position to lecture the world about how to build successful global carbon markets, especially given the current low prices in the EU ETS, the document is a step in the right direction and it will be interesting to see how countries react to it once there has been sufficient time to assess the detailed implications.
As the home of the industrial revolution and therefore the largest contributors of global emissions, the EU must show leadership — and it will almost certainly need to give more ground to persuade others to share their vision — even the proposed 30% target is too low. But it has at least put together a defensible position and issued it early enough for discussion to take place. Let's hope the plan works.
Bryony Worthington is the founder of

World Economic Forum wants $10tn to save the world

Larry Elliott, economics editor, Thursday 29 January 2009 16.42 GMT

More than $10 trillion must be invested in clean technology between now and 2030 to spare the Earth from an unsustainable increase in global temperature, the World Economic Forum warned today.
A report from the body that organises the Davos meeting of political and business leaders said at least $515bn should be spent annually on measures to limit carbon emissions.
Although the worsening financial and economic crisis has pushed climate change down the Davos agenda this year, the WEF study stressed that countries needed to vastly increase spending on safeguarding the environment.
Green investment has increased more than fourfold, from $30bn to $140bn, between 2004 and 2008, but would still need to triple to meet the target set by the WEF and the co-authors of the report, New Energy Finance. Outlays of $500bn a year would be needed to prevent a rise of more than 2C in global temperatures by 2030.
The study identified eight emerging, large-scale clean energy sectors that were seen as playing a crucial role in the transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy strategy over the next two decades. These were: onshore wind, offshore wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal electricity generation, municipal solar waste-to-energy, sugar-based ethanol, cellulosic and next-generation biofuels, and geothermal power.
Max von Bismarck and Anuradha Gurung from the World Economic Forum, and Chris Greenwood and Michael Liebreich from New Energy Finance, said "enormous investment in energy infrastructure is required to address the twin threats of energy insecurity and climate change. In light of the global financial crisis, it is crucial that every dollar is made to 'multi-task' to create a sustainable low-carbon economy."
At a time when the global economy has been struggling, the report said business had an opportunity to make healthy profits from the fight against climate change. An index of the world's 90 leading clean energy companies had a five-year compounded annualised return of almost 10%, unmatched by the world's major stock indices.
Earlier a group of climate change experts including Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the UK government's report on the economics of climate change, warned against complacency in the UN climate talks, due to conclude in December in Copen­hagen to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. They said the economic and climate change agendas should be yoked together in 2009 to ensure that spending had long-term benefits for the environment.

Green investment must triple to save planet

Times Online
January 29, 2009
Jenny Booth

Clean energy investment needs to more than triple to $515 billion a year to stop planet-warming emissions reaching levels deemed unsustainable by scientists, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said in a report today.
The hefty investments required in renewable energy sectors such as solar and wind energy need to be made between now and 2030, says the report, which was co-written by New Energy Finance, a research group.
“Clean energy opportunities have the potential to generate significant economic returns,” the WEF said in a statement accompanying the report.
Clean energy investments were $155 billion last year, up from $30 billion in 2004 but still far below the $515 billion the report’s authors say is needed to combat climate change.

Eight sectors are expected to contribute to the shift toward green energy, the report said. They include onshore wind, offshore wind, photovoltaic solar power, solar thermal energy, municipal solar waste-to-energy, sugar-based ethanol, cellulosic and other second-generation biofuels and geothermal power.
Meanwhile, climate change officials, including Yvo de Boer of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, today urged heads of state attending the annual WEF meeting in Davos to use a portion of fiscal stimulus packages to invest in clean energy.
The also warned against complacency in UN climate talks.
Governments from around the world will meet in Copenhagen later this year to try to reach a deal to replace the Kyoto protocol, which sets targets for cutting carbon emissions.