Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Crown Estate clears way for ten wind farms

The Times
February 17, 2009
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Wind farms generating enough electricity to supply three million homes could be established off the Scottish coast after The Crown Estate approved key preliminary bids from a clutch of power companies.
If built, ten wind parks featuring hundreds of turbines could generate as much as 6,000 megawatts of electricity, a step towards the Government's ambition to provide 15 per cent of the UK's energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Four of the proposed wind farms - Beatrice, Bell Rock, Islay and Kintyre - were awarded to consortiums including Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). They alone could have a combined capacity of up to 2,700 MWs. The proposed Kintyre wind farm would have up to 126 turbines covering about 70 sq km; another off Islay would have 138 turbines covering 93 sq km.
E.ON, ScottishPower, RWE npower and Mainstream Renewable Power were among other companies also awarded rights to start development of the schemes.

The exclusivity agreements made with The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed out to 12 nautical miles from the coastline of the UK, allow developers to begin initial survey and consultation processes. The Crown Estate is expected to award lease agreements for the sites next year.
However, experts have questioned whether the wind farms will ever be built without fresh government incentives to make them more viable. Industry analysts say that the cost of building offshore wind farms stands at about £3million per megawatt of installed capacity, suggesting that the price of building 6,000MWs could top £18billion.
Conventional power-generating equipment costs a fraction of this. Gas-fired power stations, for example, cost about £500,000 per megawatt - or one sixth in terms of the electricity generated.
This month, the Government granted approval for a gas-fired power station in Pembroke, West Wales, that will generate 2,000 MWs of electricity at a cost of only £1billion.
Wind farms are also unpredictable in terms of the amounts of power that they can produce, while the cost of attaching remote farms to the National Grid incurs additional costs.
Chris Stubbs, a director at WSP Energy, the consultancy, doubted that the projects would be built without government action to improve the economics of offshore wind power generation.
“It's great that people are interested in offshore wind, but the truth is that there is every chance these projects will be put on hold unless the Government is willing to intervene,” Mr Stubbs said.
Britain generates about three gigawatts of energy from wind farms, enough to power more than 1.5million homes. The Government estimates that the UK will need to boost this to 28 GWs to hit its 2020 target.
“The award of ten exclusivity agreements is excellent news for the companies involved, The Crown Estate and for Scotland,” Rob Hastings, marine estate director for The Crown Estate, said.
Peter Raftery, general manager of UK offshore development for Airtricity, SSE's renewable energy unit, said: “We believe that Scottish territorial waters represent an outstanding renewable resource and I look forward to the development of the sites.”
Leases that enable the developers to go ahead with construction work will be granted by The Crown Estate only once the developer has obtained statutory consents and permissions from the Scottish Government, which at present is conducting a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for offshore wind within Scottish territorial waters. The SEA is expected to be completed around the end of this year.

Scots wind farm winners named

By Fiona Harvey and Andrew Bolger
Published: February 17 2009 00:27

Nine companies and consortia were chosen on Monday to develop the first major offshore wind farms at 10 sites off the coast of Scotland, in a boost for ministers’ plans to develop offshore turbines.
The proposed wind farms would be capable of generating a total of about 6 gigawatts of power. The biggest project is for a 1.5 gigawatt array of turbines off the coast of Argyll by ScottishPower Renewables, now owned by Iberdrola, the Spanish energy group.

Another major winner was Airtricity, the renewable subsidiary of Scottish & Southern Energy, which was granted agreement to develop wind farms in the Moray Firth’s Beatrice Field, and off Bell Rock, Islay and Kintyre, with a combined capacity of up to 2,700 MW.
The Crown Estate, which is responsible for the seabed around the UK’s coastline, said it would take about a year for an environmental impact assessment to be completed around the Scottish coast, which must happen before the development of the sites can take place.
Sites around the English and Welsh coasts are being dealt with separately, in a bidding process that will see bidders come forward in early March.
The government published a study a few weeks ago which found that there were suitable sites around the UK likely to be capable of generating about 25GW of offshore wind power, which is in line with the government’s targets. The UK must generate 14 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, in order to meet European Union targets, and ministers have put offshore wind at the centre of this ambitious £100bn investment plan, despite the fact that the UK has only about 0.5GW of offshore wind at present.
Offshore wind holds more allure than other renewables for ministers because of the difficulty of overcoming local objections to onshore wind farms, and because other renewables – such as tidal and wave power – are at an earlier stage of development.
However, serious doubts have been thrown on the economic viability of offshore wind power by a series of recent developments.
Paul Golby, chief executive of Eon UK, told the FT recently that the economics of the world’s biggest proposed offshore wind farm, the London Array, were “on a knife edge” because of spiralling costs and inadequate incentives. Shell, originally a partner in the project, pulled out of the wind farm last year, citing high costs, and BP also shelved its plans for offshore wind in the UK. Centrica is reconsidering its offshore plans.
Offshore wind is about twice as expensive per megawatt of electricity as its onshore counterpart. The costs are driven by the difficulty of siting turbines in deep water, the more robust generation equipment needed and the greater wear and tear and need for maintenance. There is even a dire shortage of the barges needed to tow out and install the turbines.
But under government plans that will come into force in April, offshore wind will qualify for only 1.5 times the subsidy given to onshore wind.
Offshore generators fear this will not be enough to swing the economics in favour of the offshore turbines, even if the costs ease as the recession bites and demand for turbines falls off, as there are some signs of happening.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

The tropics on fire: scientist's grim vision of global warming

Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian, Monday 16 February 2009

Tropical forests may dry out and become vulnerable to devastating wildfires as global warming accelerates over the coming decades, a senior scientist has warned.
Soaring greenhouse gas emissions, driven by a surge in coal use in countries such as China and India, are threatening temperature rises that will turn damp and humid forests into parched tinderboxes, said Dr Chris Field, co-chair of the UN's Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Higher temperatures could see wildfires raging through the tropics and a large scale melting of the Arctic tundra, releasing billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere that will accelerate warming even further, he said.
Field, director of global ecology at the Carnegie Institute, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago at the weekend that the IPCC's last report on climate change in 2007 had substantially underestimated the severity of global warming over the rest of the century.
The report concluded that the Earth's temperature is likely to rise between 1.1C and 6.4C by 2100, depending on future global carbon emissions. "We now have data showing that from 2000 to 2007, greenhouse gas emissions increased far more rapidly than we expected, primarily because developing countries, like China and India, saw a huge upsurge in electric power generation, almost all of it based on coal," Field said. The next report, which Field will oversee, is due in 2014 and will now include future scenarios where global warming is far more serious than previous reports have suggested, he said.
Field said that if the tropics became dry enough for fires to break out, tropical forests would pass a "tipping point" from absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to releasing it.
"Tropical forests are essentially inflammable. You couldn't get a fire to burn there if you tried. But if they dry out just a little, the result can be very large and destructive wildfires. It is increasingly clear that as you produce a warmer world, lots of forested areas that had been acting as carbon sinks could be converted to carbon sources," he said. The result could lead to runaway warming.
Field's warning was echoed by French scientists, who said the IPCC's estimate that sea levels would rise around 40cm by 2100 was likely to be a best case scenario.
Former US vice-president Al Gore, who spoke at the meeting on Friday night, called for a globally coordinated stimulus to tackle climate change. "We've now reached the stage where continuing on our present course will threaten the entirety of human civilisation," he said.

A cold winter doesn't mean climate change isn't happening

January and early February may have seemed very cold in the UK, but global land and ocean temperatures were higher than any year in the 20th century, writes Chris Goodall from Carbon Commentary, part of the Guardian Environment Network
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 February 2009 11.59 GMT

No climate data is without its critics. We do not have the equipment to measure the temperature in every square kilometre of the world's surface so we cannot be sure that global 'averages' are correct. Disputes about the reliability of climate data will continue. But the US Government's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is one of the world's most authoritative sources of global data.
Its temperature figures for January have just been reported (13 February). The month was unusually cold in the UK and in parts of the US. Some commentators, whose imagination fails to recognise that temperatures in central London or Washington DC are not typical of all parts of the world's surface, had hypothesised that the 2008/2009 winter was particularly cold. Counter-evidence, such as the record-breaking highs in the state of Victoria in Australia was ignored.
The NCDC figures suggest that January was actually the 7th warmest on record. Let's explore for a second what this means. (Please consult the NCDC chart below.) January 2009 continued a run of several decades in which January temperatures were always higher than the long-run average. Although January seemed very cold in the UK, for the world the land and ocean temperature was higher than any year in the entire twentieth century, although some years in the 1940s came close.
The plain fact is that UK commentators have simply lost touch with what winters used to be like. The climate change deniers base their refreshed scepticism on a few weeks of recently unprecedented snow and ice in the UK. They do not either look at records in the rest of the world, or consult historical data on UK temperatures.
These high global temperatures occurred during La Niña Pacific conditions. In an year of full El Niño when Pacific ocean temperatures are higher, we could expect an even warmer climate.
• This article was shared by our content partner Carbon Commentary, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Global warming nearing ‘critical threshold’

By Clive Cookson in Chicago
Published: February 16 2009 02:34

The world is warming far more quickly than scientists forecast just two years ago when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its last reports, according to a series of assessments presented over the weekend.
Chris Field of Stanford University, a senior member of the IPCC, told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that the unexpectedly rapid increase in the burning of fossil fuels, especially coal, since 2000 would have dire consequences because of “feedback loops” in the global ­climate.
“We are looking now at a future climate that’s beyond anything we’ve considered seriously in climate model simulations,” Prof Field said.
The IPCC’s fourth assessment in 2007 concluded that the average global temperature would increase by between 1.1°C and 6.4°C by 2100, depending how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere over the coming decades. Prof Field said that seriously underestimated the potential severity of global warming, based on the new evidence.
Prof Field warned that there were early signs of melting in the Arctic tundra and increased fires in tropical forests – over and above deliberate deforestation – that could add billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
“There is a real risk that human-caused climate change will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide from forest and tundra ecosystems, which have been storing a lot of carbon for thousands of years,” Prof Field said.
“We don’t want to cross a critical threshold where this massive release of carbon starts to run on autopilot.”
Al Gore, the former US vice-president turned climate change campaigner, responded with a passionate plea to an audience of 1,600 scientists, urging them to become more politically active in the fight against global warming.
“Scientists can no longer in good conscience accept this division between the work you do and the civilisation in which you live. This is a historic struggle.”
Mr Gore focused particularly on the accelerating loss of Arctic ice and the global increase in coal burning.
However there was optimism at the AAAS meeting – based on the professed determination of the new US administration to promote effective action, both in its domestic energy policies and in taking a lead in international climate change negotiations.
James McCarthy, a climate change expert at Harvard University and this year’s AAAS president, said: “The scientific talent President [Barack] Obama has recruited is of extraordinary calibre. He could not have found anyone better to look after energy and the environment.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Licence to tap rich coal seams under Fife

Published Date: 17 February 2009

THORNTON New Energy was yesterday awarded the UK's first underground coal "gasification" licence by the Coal Authority.
Under the scheme, coal buried beneath Fife will be burned and the resulting gases harnessed for use in power stations, industrial heating or for making hydrogen or "ultra clean" diesel.Thornton New Energy – part of BCG Energy – will use directional drilling techniques from the offshore industry to access the unmined coal buried under Fife and the Firth of Forth.Thornton New Energy said the gas could be processed to remove carbon dioxide.Councillor Tony Martin, chairman of Fife Council's environment, enterprise and transportation committee, said: "We are working with the company to assist the development of its innovative project, which, hopefully, will lead to a long-term source of energy generation from a traditional fuel source."It is hoped the project will create sustainable job opportunities and consequent local economic benefit."

Honda sees brisk demand for cheap hybrid Insight

The Associated Press
Published: February 16, 2009

TOKYO: Honda Motor Co. said Monday that demand for the Insight, the cheapest hybrid vehicle on market, is soaring in Japan with orders topping its monthly target of 5,000 in just over a week.
The Insight gas-electric hybrid, which starts only at 1.89 million yen ($21,000), hit showrooms across Japan on Feb. 6. The launch of the cheapest hybrid vehicle came amid a devastating slump in the global auto market.
But Japan's No. 2 automaker said demand for the Insight has been so brisk that the company has received more than 5,000 orders, easily beating its monthly target.
"This is so much better than expected. The Insight is priced below 2 million yen, and is energy efficient. We believe consumers like these aspects," said Honda spokeswoman Natsuno Asanuma.
Even before the launch, Honda had received about 5,000 orders for the Insight, Asanuma said. The Insight goes on sale in April in the U.S., and in March for Europe.

Honda's Insight is cheaper than Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius, the most popular hybrid, which sells for $22,000 in the U.S. and 2.3 million yen in Japan.
Hybrids tend to be more expensive than regular cars because they come packed with both a gasoline engine and an electric motor. Switching between the systems, depending on speed, boosts mileage.
Toyota sold 285,700 Prius cars worldwide last year, and will introduce a remodeled Prius starting in May. The new Prius is bigger and has a more powerful engine than the current one, and likely to be more expensive.

Food scraps and farm waste to be chewed up to create energy

The Times
February 17, 2009
Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

Plans to build more than 1,000 anaerobic digesters to turn unwanted food and farm waste into energy and fertiliser will be unveiled today.
Anaerobic digesters break down organic waste naturally into a solid that can be used as fertiliser and a gas that can be burnt to generate heat and electricity.
Jane Kennedy, the Environment Minister, will declare anaerobic digesters the solution to organic waste. She will also launch a task group with instructions to identify how many should be installed by other sectors, such as the water industry, to make anaerobic digestion “a major source of renewable energy”.
Other countries, notably Germany, have made widespread use of anaerobic digesters, and ministers are anxious to increase the number in Britain to reduce pressure on landfill sites and to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Farms produce 90 million tonnes of waste, including manure and slurry, while a further 12 to 20 million tonnes of wasted food and food scraps go into landfill after being thrown away by households, businesses, restaurants and hotels.

Ms Kennedy hopes that an agreement with the National Farmers’ Union and other representatives of the agriculture sector will lead to the use of 1,000 anaerobic digesters by 2020. At present there are estimated to be about 20. The digesters are expected to make many farms self-sufficient in electricity. Any excess could be passed on to the national grid.
The water industry, which has to deal with 1.73 million tonnes of sewage sludge annually, is also likely to find a use for digesters. Similarly, ministers will expect businesses and local authorities to increase the quantity of food waste that goes into them. Ms Kennedy will point out that if all the organic waste in Britain were recycled in this way, enough energy would be generated to provide two million homes with heat and electricity.

Samsung pitches Blue Earth phone into green race

The Times
February 17, 2009
Alexi Mostrous

They are solar-powered, made from recycled plastic water bottles and capable of measuring your carbon footprint - and when the annual Mobile World Congress began in Barcelona yesterday, environmentally friendly mobile phones led the agenda.
With demand for the latest handsets set to slump by 10 per cent this year, mobile phone makers attending the conference were looking for new ways to drive their profits through the recession.
Samsung unveiled its Blue Earth phone, the first solar-powered model in history. Designed to look like a “flat and shiny pebble”, it allows users to flaunt their environmental credentials as effectively as a Greenpeace T-shirt. The “eco walk” function, for instance, can count how many steps you have taken and the amount of carbon dioxide you have saved by not travelling by car.
Samsung claims that the phone's solar panel can deliver enough power to enable users to make a call anytime, anywhere. Blue Earth, which will be available this year for a price that has yet to be disclosed, is made from recycled plastic water bottles.

Other manufacturers are displaying green products. ZTE, a Chinese vendor, will announce today a collaboration with Digicel, the mobile operator, and Intivation, a Dutch start-up company, to offer a solar-powered handset specifically to developing countries.
The phone, which will be priced at about £15, is being marketed to consumers who lack reliable access to electricity. Donald Fitzmaurice, the chairman of Intivation, which developed the solar panels, said: “There are 1.6billion people in the world who can't get electricity. You empower them by giving them a phone as well as letting the operators increase their market.” The phone will go on sale in June in the Caribbean and in the South Pacific.
Campaigners have voiced concerns for years about the environmental impact of mobile phones. More than three billion people use mobile phones and, with many replacing them every year, there is a huge amount of waste.

Farmers should increase food production during recession, says NFU

Farmers should concentrate on producing more food for Britain in order to combat the recession, according to the president of the National Farmers' Union.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 4:10PM GMT 16 Feb 2009

The minister said the Government is committed to helping agriculture produce as much as possible but not at the expense of the environment

In recent years Government policy has encouraged farmers to concentrate on protecting the environment after years of intensive land use.
But with food prices rising and the threat of climate change, farmers are calling on the UK to return to the Second World War ideal of focusing more on food production once again.
Speaking at the NFU Conference in Birmingham, President Peter Kendall said a boost in agriculture would not only help the rural economy but ensure consumers a source of affordable, healthy food.
"From the Second World War for more than 30 years the emphasis was on production," he said.
"Then, a combination of rising environmental awareness, worldwide surpluses and some costly animal health crises turned the focus away from production. The emphasis was on diversification and the environment with too little regard for production.
"The tide has now turned to a third phase. We are in a new era where we must produce more and at the same time impact on the environment less. That is the new agenda for farming – producing more and impacting less.
"This is particularly important when you place farming in the current economic context."
Mr Kendall proposed a number of measures to boost agriculture such as more funding for science, including research into Genetic Modification (GM).
Farmers reacted angrily to Government plans to allow land to go fallow under plans to re-introduce set aside.
Mr Kendall insisted that producing more does not need to impact on the environment.
The Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs is proposing around five per cent of land is left fallow to allow wildlife like farmland birds to recover after years of decline.
But Mr Kendall said the move would discourage farmers from using the land left over for existing schemes to protect wildlife or to farm in a sustainable way.
"[It] flies in the face of the desire to produce as much food as possible - and is also likely to have serious unintended consequences for the environment," he said.
Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, was also criticised for refusing to allow a cull of badgers to stop the animals spreading bovine tuberculosis.
The minister said the Government is committed to helping agriculture produce as much as possible but not at the expense of the environment.
"The best way for us to safeguard our food security in the 21st century will be through strong, productive and sustainable British agriculture trading freely with other nations," he said.
"I want British agriculture to produce as much as possible. No ifs. No buts.
"The only requirements are that consumers want what's produced and that the way it is produced sustains our environment and safeguards our landscape."

Supermarkets fail to shine in packaging study to find the greenest of them all

The Times
February 17, 2009
Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor

It prides itself on being one of Britain’s greenest supermarkets, but when it comes to packaging, Waitrose scores surprisingly badly.
A study by the Local Government Association found that Waitrose had the heaviest packaging per shopping basket, although Lidl, the German-owned budget retailer, had the worst record on recyclable materials.
The report said that while the total weight of supermarket food packaging had reduced in the past two years, almost 40 per cent still cannot be easily recycled.
An analysis of the typical shopping basket at eight supermarkets by the British Market Research Bureau found that Sainsbury’s had the highest proportion of packaging that could easily be recycled (66 per cent) while Lidl had the lowest (58 per cent). Waitrose had the heaviest packaging (803g) and Tesco the lightest (646g).

The analysis makes it difficult to tease out the worst overall offender on packaging, but Waitrose had the third-lowest percentage of recyclable packaging (62 per cent), behind Asda (60 per cent) and Lidl.
The contents of the typical shopping basket included fruit and vegetables, minced beef, chicken breasts, lamb chops, salmon, Stilton, eggs, pizza, crisps, cookies and staples such as sugar, tea, jam, bread and sunflower spread.
The LGA said that excessive packaging was undermining householders’ efforts to recycle more. It called on supermarkets to contribute to the cost of processing waste.
Landfill now costs councils £32 for every tonne of rubbish they throw away, which will rise to £48 a tonne by 2010. At the current rate of landfill, this will mean councils paying an extra £360 million in landfill taxes over the next two years, the LGA said. Councils will spend an estimated £1.8 billion on landfill tax between 2008 and 2011, it said.
Margaret Eaton, the chairman of the LGA, said that families were fed up with having to carry so much packaging home from the supermarket. “At a time when we’re in recession and shoppers are feeling the pinch, we have to move on from a world that tolerates clingfilmed coconuts and shrink-wrapped tins of baked beans,” Mrs Eaton said. “If we had less unnecessary packaging, it would cut costs and lead to lower prices at the tills.
When packaging is sent to landfill, it’s expensive for taxpayers and damaging for the environment. If retailers create unnecessary rubbish, they should help taxpayers by paying for it to be recycled.”
Waitrose said yesterday that it had cut the weight of its product packaging by a third since 2001, and insisted that some of the LGA report was misleading. The supermarket said that the report “fails to use accurate comparisons: a 500g tomato punnet at Waitrose is compared with a 250g punnet at most other stores.
“Around 20 per cent of our fish and meat sales are over the counter but this study chose to only compare the prepacked option, which produces a higher but misleading figure.”
Waitrose also complained that the report had failed to highlight the store’s greener efforts. When the study was carried out, milk was purchased in a plastic bottle, but all Waitrose stores now offered milk in an eco-pouch that used 75 per cent less plastic than an equivalent bottle, it said. Waitrose own-label Easter eggs were also sold in packaging that was both recycled and recyclable, the supermarket said.
The report acknowledged that there had been a big improvement in labelling of supermarket products generally since previous reports, with many items showing details about whether packing is widely recyclable, recyclable in some areas where facilities exist, or not recyclable. However, it said: “There is still a long way to go for some retailers to provide sufficient information for consumers about recycling and there is scope for improvement among all retailers in the amount of packaging made from recycled materials.”

Green growth is essential to any stimulus

By Ban Ki-moon and Al Gore
Published: February 16 2009 19:40

Economic stimulus is the order of the day. This is as it must be, as governments around the world struggle to jump-start the global economy. But even as leaders address the immediate need to stimulate the economy, so too must they act jointly to ensure that the new de facto economic model being developed is sustainable for the planet and our future on it.
What we need is both stimulus and long-term investments that accomplish two objectives simultaneously with one global economic policy response – a policy that addresses our urgent and immediate economic and social needs and that launches a new green global economy. In short, we need to make “growing green” our mantra
First, a synchronised global recession requires a synchronised global res­ponse. We need stimulus and intense co-ordination of economic policy among all main economies. We must avoid the beggar-thy-neighbour policies that contributed to the Great Depression. Co-ordination is also vital for reducing financial volatility, runs on currencies and rampant inflation as well as for instilling consumer and investor confidence. In Washington last November, G20 leaders expressed their determination “to enhance co-operation and work together to restore global growth and achieve needed reforms in the world’s financial systems”. This needs to happen urgently.
Stimulus is intended to jump-start the economy, but if properly conceived and executed it can also launch us on a new, low-carbon path to green growth. Some $2,250bn (€1,750bn, £1,569bn) of stimulus has already been announced by 34 nations. This stimulus, along with new initiatives by other countries, must help catapult the world economy into the 21st century, not perpetuate the dying industries and bad habits of yesteryear. Indeed, continuing to pour trillions of dollars into carbon-based infrastructure and fossil-fuel subsidies would be like investing in subprime real estate all over again.
Eliminating the $300bn in annual global fossil fuel subsidies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 6 per cent and would add to global gross domestic product. Developing re­newable energy will help where we need it most. Already, developing economies account for 40 per cent of existing global renewable resources as well as 70 per cent of solar water heating capacity.
Leaders everywhere, notably in the US and China, are realising that green is not an option but a necessity for recharging their economies and creating jobs. Globally, with 2.3m people employed in the renewable energy sector, there are already more jobs there than directly in the oil and gas industries. In the US, there are now more jobs in the wind industry than in the entire coal industry. President Barack Obama’s and China’s stimulus packages are a critical step in the right direction and their green components must be followed through urgently.
We urge all governments to expand green stimulus elements, including energy efficiency, renewables, mass transit, new smart electricity grids and reforestation, and to co-ordinate their efforts for rapid results.
Second, we need “pro-poor” policies now. In much of the developing world, governments do not have the option to borrow or print money to cushion the devastating economic blows. Therefore, governments in industrialised countries must reach beyond their borders and invest immediately in those cost-effective programmes that boost the productivity of the poorest. Last year, food riots and unrest swept more than 30 countries. Ominously, this was even before September’s financial implosion, which sparked the global recession that has driven a further 100m people deeper into poverty. We must act now to prevent further suffering and potential widespread political instability.
This means increasing overseas development assistance this year. It means strengthening social safety nets. It means investing in agriculture in developing countries by getting seeds, tools, sustainable agricultural practices and credit to smallholder farmers so they can produce more food and get it to local and regional markets.
Pro-poor policy also means inc­reasing investments in better land use, water conservation and drought-resistant crops to help farmers adapt to a changing climate, which – if not add­ressed – could usher in chronic hunger and malnutrition across large swaths of the developing world.
Third, we need a robust climate deal in Copenhagen in December. Not next year. This year. The climate negotiations must be dramatically accelerated and given attention at the highest levels, starting today. A successful deal in Copenhagen offers the most potent global stimulus package possible. With a new climate framework in hand, business and governments will finally have the carbon price signal businesses have been clamouring for, one that can unleash a wave of innovation and investment in clean energy. Copenhagen will provide the green light for green growth.This is the basis for a truly sustainable economic recovery that will benefit us and our children’s children for decades to come.
For millions of people from Detroit to Delhi these are the worst of times. Families have lost jobs, homes, healthcare and even the prospect of their next meal. With so much at stake, governments must be strategic in their choices. We must not let the urgent undermine the essential. Investing in the green economy is not an optional expense. It is a smart investment for a more equitable, prosperous future.
Ban Ki-moon is UN secretary-general. Al Gore is former US vice-president
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Clinton suggests Tarp go green

By Matthew Garrahan in Los Angeles
Published: February 16 2009 23:50

Bill Clinton has waded into the debate about the allocation of funds from the troubled asset relief programme, saying banks should be directed to loan money to businesses embarking on environmentally sustainable projects.
Speaking at the opening of a Burbank, California, aircraft hangar designed to meet strict sustainable building standards, the former US president said such a move would create more jobs and speed the transition to a green economy.

“We need to create a user-friendly ‘just say yes’ system,” he said.
Developers hoping to build environmentally friendly buildings have been hamstrung by the credit freeze, he said. He proposed that money from the second tranche of Tarp be used for loans for green building projects.
“Before the banking crisis you could get banks to loan money [for green construction projects],” Mr Clinton said. “What if you set some of the [Tarp] money aside for a small business guarantee programme?”
He added that such projects would create more jobs – 6,000 per $1m invested – than other kinds of loans. “You can get 10 times as many jobs for the same dollars – and they are 100 per cent safe so the banks will get their sea legs again.”
The hangar in Burbank was built to conserve energy and will generate much of the electricity it uses from solar panels. It was built by Shangri-La Industries, a development company founded by Steve Bing, a long-time supporter of Mr Clinton and a big Democratic party donor.
Mr Clinton added that the $30bn earmarked for green job creation in the economic stimulus package passed by Congress was a landmark moment. “We have never had a job programme where the heart and soul of it was a commitment to clean energy,” he said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Yet Another 'Footprint' to Worry About: Water

Taking a Cue From Carbon Tracking, Companies and Conservationists Tally Hidden Sources of Consumption

It takes roughly 20 gallons of water to make a pint of beer, as much as 132 gallons of water to make a 2-liter bottle of soda, and about 500 gallons, including water used to grow, dye and process the cotton, to make a pair of Levi's stonewashed jeans.
Though much of that water is replenished through natural cycles, a handful of companies have started tracking such "water footprints" as a growing threat of fresh-water shortages looms. Some are measuring not just the water used to make beverages and cool factories, but also the gallons used to grow ingredients such as cotton, sugar, wheat, tea and tomatoes. The drive, modeled partly on carbon footprinting, a widely used measurement of carbon-dioxide emissions, comes as groundwater reserves are being depleted and polluted at unsustainable rates in many regions. Climate change has caused glaciers to shrink, eroding vital sources of fresh water. And growing global demand for food and energy is placing even more pressure on diminishing supplies.

See how a variety of common products stack up when it comes to water use.
Two-thirds of the world's population is projected to face water scarcity by 2025, according to the United Nations. In the U.S., water managers in 36 states anticipate shortages by 2013, a General Accounting Office report shows. Last year, Georgia lawmakers tried, unsuccessfully, to move the state's border north so that Georgia could claim part of the Tennessee River.
Lately, water footprinting has gained currency among corporations seeking to protect their agricultural supply chains and factory operations from future water scarcity. Next week, representatives from about 100 companies, including Nike Inc., PepsiCo Inc., Levi Strauss & Co. and Starbucks Corp., will gather in Miami for a summit on calculating and shrinking corporate water footprints. In December, a coalition of scientists, companies and development agencies launched the Water Footprint Network, an international nonprofit that helps corporations and governments measure and manage their water footprints.
The water-footprint concept was coined in 2002 by Arjen Hoekstra, a professor of water management at University of Twente in the Netherlands. Using data from the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization, Mr. Hoekstra and other researchers gauged the water content that went into the making of various products and applied those statistics to people's consumption patterns to get a rough water footprint for average individuals and nations as a whole.
A new wave of research on "virtual," or embedded, water has given companies and governments new tools to track not just the water that they consume directly, but also the gallons that are embedded in everything from dishwashing detergent and Argentine beef to Spanish oranges and cotton grown in Pakistan. A cup of coffee takes roughly 35 gallons. A cotton T-shirt typically takes some 700 gallons of water to produce. A typical hamburger takes 630 gallons of water to produce -- more than three times the amount the average American uses every day for drinking, bathing, washing dishes and flushing toilets. The bulk is used to grow grain for cattle feed.
A large water footprint isn't necessarily bad if the product is made in an area where water is plentiful and well managed. Almost all of the water that goes into crops and food production is returned to the water cycle, either as evaporated water or in the form of polluted runoff. But it is temporarily unavailable for other uses, and may not be restored to the same aquifer, lake or river if it comes back as rainfall in another region. That poses problems for water-scarce areas.

Water shortages have plagued Georgia, including a 2007 drought that lowered the Lake Allatoona reservoir. The state tried unsuccessfully to move its border north to claim part of the Tennessee River.

Some experts doubt the accuracy and usefulness of water footprints, which vary depending on where and how products are made. Oranges grown in Brazil might have a higher water footprint than oranges from Spain, but the Brazilian orange might be a better choice because of the country's rainy climate. "It's a hard thing to calculate," says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, an Oakland, Calif., environmental group. "Beef grown in the Eastern U.S. has different water use than beef grown in Illinois."
Tallying the water footprints of manufactured goods can be tenuous since there are no clear standards for what a water footprint should measure. Some companies measure just water used in factory operations; others count the gallons used to grow ingredients in their supply chains, and still others take stock of water that consumers use to wash clothes or dishes with their products. Coca-Cola Co.'s bottling factories use a little over a gallon of water to make a 2-liter bottle of soda. But that figure surges to as high as 132 gallons of water per 2-liter bottle of soda if you add the water used to grow ingredients such as sugar cane, according to an estimate provided to the company by the World Wildlife Fund. A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said the water-footprint figure is preliminary and may change as the methodology improves.
"When you try to reduce a complex subject into a single number, the methodology is so inconsistent and unreliable that it's fraught with the possibility of manipulation and misinformation," says Wayne Balta, vice president of corporate environmental affairs and product safety for International Business Machines Corp.
For many food and beverage companies, calculating water use isn't just an attempt at an eco-friendly makeover. It's a matter of self-interest. A Coca-Cola bottling plant was shuttered in south India in 2004 after residents claimed the company was depleting and polluting local water supplies. SABMiller PLC -- whose brands include Miller Lite, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell -- invested in water-purification technology for its factory in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where the overuse of groundwater by various industries has caused fresh aquifers to grow increasingly salty. The city's drinking water supply is sufficient for only a third of its three million residents, water aid groups say.
SABMiller's executives started to worry about the company's water footprint in August 2007. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development had just released its online "global water tool," which allows companies to enter the GPS coordinates of their factory sites in order to identify hot spots where water scarcity overlaps with factory operations or agricultural supply chains. The results were alarming: About 30 of the company's sites, including factories in South Africa, India and Peru, were shown to be vulnerable to future water shortages, says Andy Wales, SABMiller's director of sustainable development.
The company decided to tackle its water footprint in South Africa -- a water-scarce country where more than five million people lack access to safe drinking water -- with hopes of replicating the project elsewhere. South Africa breweries produce 17% of SABMiller's beer. The company hired the environmental consultancy URS Corp. to trace how much water was used in everything from growing hops to rinsing bottles before recycling them, and brought on the World Wildlife Fund as an independent adviser.
The study, completed in October, showed that 95% of the company's water footprint goes toward growing agricultural ingredients. The water used to grow barley, maize and hops, as well as what is used in factories, added up to about 155 liters of water, or 41 gallons, per liter of beer.
The findings led SABMiller to focus on water-scarce regions, including Gouritz -- a coastal area where SABMiller's suppliers grow hops, barley and other ingredients and where water supplies are diminishing. SABMiller is examining more-efficient irrigation technology for its sugar and barley farms there.
Conservationists are divided over whether water footprinting will translate into meaningful conservation efforts. "Footprinting has its place, but it's not a panacea," says Nick Hepworth, director of Water Witness International, a nonprofit advocacy organization. Companies may feel better by calculating their water footprints, says Mr. Hepworth, "but at the end of the day there's still a need for an objective audit."
Despite the challenges involved, water footprinting is poised to grow. Unilever PLC, which owns 400 food and household brands, estimates that it saved about $26 million by reducing water waste in its factories from 2001 to 2007. Recently, the company has started reducing water used to grow ingredients for its Lipton Tea and Ragu tomato sauce by using drip irrigation to grow black tea in Tanzania and tomatoes in California. Such efforts stand to have a significant impact: Unilever buys 7% of the world's tomatoes, and 12% of the world's commercial black tea.
Water-management experts have started to build models for "water offset" projects so that beverage companies and other heavy water users can soften their impact by funding water sanitation and conservation projects. PepsiCo recently piloted a program to help rice farmers cultivating 4,000 acres in India switch from flood irrigation to direct seeding, a planting method that requires less water and makes crops more resilient to drought.
"Three billion more people are going to be on this planet [by 2050]," says Stuart Orr, manager of the Freshwater Footprint Project for the World Wildlife Fund. "Somehow, we're going to have to use the same amount of water we use today."
Write to Alexandra Alter at alexandra.alter@wsj.com