Monday, 23 March 2009

£522m wind farm on show

Published Date: 23 March 2009

A SERIES of exhibitions will begin today to outline the potential impact of a 150-turbine wind farm in Shetland that could generate millions of pounds for the island economy.
Viking Energy is holding six public meetings, starting at Aith Community Hall, to discuss the £522 million project ahead of the submission of a planning application. Viking is a partnership between a company set up by Shetland Islands Council to represent the interests of islanders in large-scale wind farm developments and SSE Viking, a subsidiary of energy giant Scottish and Southern Energy.It is hoped the development could bring in a windfall of £25-30 million a year for Shetland.

Nissan planning luxury hybrid in 2010

The Associated Press
Published: March 22, 2009

TOKYO: Nissan Motor Co. will offer a luxury gas-electric hybrid for the U.S. and Japanese markets next year, Japan's top business daily reported Sunday, as competition intensifies in the green technology.
Nissan's Tokyo headquarters were closed for the weekend. Automakers are generally tightlipped about specific product plans, but Nissan already has shown prototypes of their hybrid models.
Nissan has fallen behind Japanese rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. in developing its own hybrids but has made no secret of its ambitions to play aggressive catchup.
It now buys hybrid systems from Toyota for the Nissan Altima hybrid but is promising a vehicle packed with Nissan's own hybrid system by 2010.
Nissan is developing a different kind of battery for hybrids from those used by Toyota and Honda. Nissan officials say their battery is better at providing quicker and more power.

The Nikkei, which did not cite sourcing, said Nissan's hybrid system will be offered for the luxury Infiniti M, sold as the Fuga in Japan. Nissan plans to expand hybrid offerings to other luxury models and sports cars, the report said.
Nissan officials have said the nation's third-biggest automaker is working on a bigger hybrid system than Toyota's popular Prius, the global top-seller among hybrids, and will make hybrid sports cars and luxury models.
Among luxury cars, Toyota already offers various Lexus hybrids, while German automakers Daimler AG and BMW AG are planning hybrids.
In recent months, competition among lower-end hybrids has heated up with a major challenge to the Prius' dominance from Honda's hit Insight.
Hybrids deliver better mileage and reduce global warming gas emissions, compared with ordinary cars, because hybrids switch between a gasoline engine and an electric motor to deliver gas-sipping efficiency.

Honda hybrid poses threat to costlier Prius

By Hiroko Tabuchi
Published: March 22, 2009

TOKYO: The road is about to get a little more crowded for the Toyota Prius. Starting Tuesday, Honda Motor will offer American consumers what it bills as ‘‘the world’s first affordable hybrid.’’
Costing just shy of $20,000, the Honda Insight promises to let drivers respond to the two leading crises of the day: the environment and the recession.
If the Insight’s introduction in Japan is any indication, Toyota Motor should be worried. The car went on sale here Feb. 6, and orders have soared, reaching 18,000 in the first three weeks — topping Prius’s sales. In fact, the Insight pushed Prius off the list of the 10 top-selling cars for February.
‘‘I have people asking about hybrids that I never had before,’’ said Tsuguhito Tokita, a Honda dealer in Tokyo. ‘‘With this price, it’s easy to recommend to anyone.’’
If Honda makes inroads in the United States, the world’s largest market for hybrids, it could force Toyota, the market leader, to reduce its prices. The Japanese news media have reported that Toyota, which controls 70 percent of the U.S. hybrid market, will introduce a cheaper hybrid model with a smaller engine in 2011 — in part, reportedly, because of the Insight’s success.

Sales of hybrids have been hit hard by the global economic crisis. After several years of strong growth in Prius sales, Toyota had virtually no increase in 2008 from the previous year, as the overall auto market struggled.
‘‘In the short term, it’s a very difficult sell,’’ said Christopher Richter, a Tokyo-based auto analyst at CLSA. ‘‘We’ve entered into a very deep recession, and consumers aren’t keen on buying new cars. Fuel prices have plunged, with fuel so cheap people don’t care much about it.’’
But so far, the Insight has been a bright spot for Honda in an otherwise dismal year of plunging sales that have led the automaker to make painful cutbacks and give up its prized Formula One racing team.
Toyota plans to reduce the sticker price of the Prius, according to the business daily Nikkei. The automaker has declined to confirm the report.
‘‘But I can tell you we’re not satisfied with the current state,’’ said Paul Nolasco, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Toyota, which has sold one million Prius vehicles since their introduction a decade ago. ‘‘The Insight’s popularity is evidence that the public is recognizing hybrid technology.’’
The market for hybrids could be headed for a huge expansion. The development of cheaper technology, economies of scale and more government subsidies for environmentally friendly vehicles could take what was a niche technology into the mainstream.
A bigger market for hybrids could also ensure that they stay the green vehicle of choice over full electric or hydrogen cars, which remain prohibitively expensive. A report released by J.P. Morgan in October predicted that the global market for hybrids ‘‘will rise exponentially’’ to 9.6 million in 2018 from 500,000 units in 2007, and the current economic slump will not significantly slow that rise, the authors said.
The Insight could bring about a big turnaround for Honda, which tried selling hybrids for a decade without much success. It discontinued a previous Insight model in 2006, believing consumers found hybrids too expensive. But when Toyota saw sales of the Prius rise as oil prices spiked, Honda quickly changed course.
Behind the less expensive Insight is an aggressive cost-cutting effort, as well as technological sacrifices.
Instead of the more complicated hybrid system used in the Prius, the Insight’s main source of power is a lightweight gasoline engine that is assisted by smaller batteries. That greatly reduces manufacturing costs but gives the Insight a highway fuel efficiency of 5.5 liters per 100 kilometers, or 43 miles per gallon — about 4 percent worse than that of the Prius. The Insight also shares parts with other Honda models, which helps the carmaker keep costs to a minimum.
Honda has also struck a chord with an overhaul of the car’s shape. One reason its other hybrids have failed to take off, analysts say, was that they did not come in distinctive shapes.
‘‘A lot of people who drive hybrids want to make the statement, ‘I am driving a hybrid,’’’ Mr. Richter said.
But Honda’s new Insight looks remarkably like — well, Toyota’s triangular Prius, which has become synonymous with hybrid technology. Analysts say that should help sales.
The global economic slowdown could be an advantage for the Insight, at least over the Prius.
‘‘Several years ago, the Prius would have won hands down,’’ Mr. Richter said. ‘‘But when you’ve got a raging recession, you come down to the question: Do you want the fancier car with greater fuel economy or the one that still has pretty good economy, allows you to be seen driving hybrid and is cheaper?’’
‘‘The Insight could steal a lot of Toyota’s thunder,’’ he said.
Whatever the outcome of the new hybrid race, it is certain to reinforce the dominance of Japanese automakers in eco-friendly cars. Unlike their American counterparts, Japanese automakers have long made energy efficiency a priority, teaming up with Japanese electronics conglomerates to develop high-powered batteries.
In 1996, Toyota and Matsushita, now Panasonic, formed a joint venture to produce nickel-metal hydride batteries for hybrid cars. It plans to produce a million batteries a year by 2010. The venture also plans to make more powerful lithium-ion batteries.
Honda, which gets its batteries from Panasonic and Sanyo, has also invested heavily in battery production, setting up a company with a battery maker, GS Yuasa, to produce lithium-ion batteries. That move came partly because Honda was nervous about obtaining batteries from the same company as its rival, Toyota. The greater capacity would also allow Honda to introduce hybrid versions of its other models.
A string of auto companies worldwide, from Ford Motor to start-ups like Tesla Motors, have announced or introduced hybrids, plug-ins or electric cars. Others are hurrying research into fuel cells and other alternatives.
A technological breakthrough could still turn the market on its head, analysts say.
But for now, only Toyota and Honda have invested the money to mass-produce the mainstay batteries at a scale that makes economic sense. Batteries are still expensive to develop and produce, and kinks in the technology remain, as demonstrated by a string of flare-ups involving Sony-made lithium-ion batteries for laptops three years ago.
‘‘Other companies just don’t have a mass-production setup yet,’’ said Kohei Takahashi, a Tokyo-based auto analyst for J.P. Morgan. ‘‘They might be able to come up with hybrids, but they’re too expensive.’’

Scottish Power channels energy into plans for carbon capture plant

The Sunday Times
March 22, 2009

A £1 billion project to store harmful carbon dioxide emissions from Longannet power station is being drawn up
Mark Macaskill

Scotland is poised to become a world leader in “carbon capture” technology by building a plant on the Firth of Forth to store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
Under the plan, millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the coal-fire power station at Longannet, in Fife, would be liquefied and buried deep beneath the sea bed.
The liquid CO2 would travel hundreds of miles along a pipeline before being injected into a field of porous rock under the North Sea. The £1 billion project, which is being drawn up by Scottish Power, would put Scotland at the cutting edge of the new technology.
Ministers in London are keen to kick-start carbon capture on an industrial scale and have offered to bankroll the first plant in Britain that works successfully.
Longannet, which is the country’s second-largest coal-fired power station, is one of three potential carbon capture hubs that have been identified in the UK, the others being in Humberside and Teesside.
However the plants in England, which are being planned by the energy companies E.ON and RWE, would require new coal power stations to be built and would therefore take much longer to become operational. Scottish Power believes its 300 megawatt plant could be up and running by 2014.
Carbon capture is regarded as a lucrative and emerging industry with the potential for British companies to sell the technology around the world. The global market is estimated to be worth £71 billion per year between now and 2030, with CO2 emissions from coal combustion accounting for half of total emissions.
Ignacio Galán, chairman of Scottish Power, said last week he believed Scotland was capable of becoming a world leader in carbon capture and storage.
“We are very committed to this,” said Galan. “We want Scotland to be our sole centre of excellence [for this technology].”

Shoppers need clear labels to put a stop to 'greenwash'

Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
The Guardian, Monday 23 March 2009

Tough standards on labelling should be enforced by the government to clamp down on "greenwash", in which companies exaggerate the environmental credentials of their products, a Commons committee recommends today.
A universal scheme, with independent verification, should be introduced because the "proliferation of labels" was confusing consumers, according to MPs on the Commons environmental audit committee.
The problem of greenwash has been highlighted in recent years after the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) censured a series of high profile companies for making misleading claims about the environmental impact of their products.
A complaint against Shell, which ran a newspaper advert depicting its refinery chimneys emitting flowers, was upheld by the advertising watchdog. Friends of the Earth complained about the advert, which ran with the slogan: "Don't throw anything anyway. There is no away."
MPs on the committee call for a series of changes to improve environmental labelling. These include:
• Enforcing a new labelling scheme by law that would include independent monitoring.
• Giving greater powers to trading standards officers and the ASA to act when companies make "inaccurate and misleading" claims.
• Forcing car dealers to display EU information on vehicle performance.
Colin Challen, the Labour chairman of the environmental information sub-committee, said: "The government has to act to deal with the problem of greenwash. Clear labels are needed to help consumers make informed choices but for consumers to have confidence in them, environmental labels must be backed up by independent monitoring that is fully verified."
The new universal system must be flexible. Challen said: "The environmental choices a consumer makes buying shampoo are different to those they make when buying a car. Whatever we are buying, more needs to be done to make clear the environmental choices we each make whenever we choose one product over another.
"An effective environmental labelling regime will also generate the kind of market signal needed to trigger a transformation in business activities all the way down the supply chain of a particular product. This kind of action is vital if we are going to decarbonise the UK economy."
The ASA annual report last year said claims that products and services were carbon neutral, zero or negative were often open to challenge, as were statements claiming products to be 100% recycled or "wholly sustainable".

Students test clean energy by degrees

By Rebecca Knight
Published: March 23 2009 02:00

Moving clean energy innovations from the lab to the marketplace is one of the biggest challenges in the technology industry. But students at the University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business are getting a crash course on how to achieve it.
A partnership between scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and students of the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative, an organisation founded by Haas students, is working to push new technology into the private sector or into the hands of the right venture capitalist.
"The business students learn about the scientific process and the process of opportunity recognition," says Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean at Haas. "In business it's very important, but it's difficult."
The alliance - "Cleantech to Market" - began late last year as a pilot programme. Five student teams evaluated the commercial viability of nascent technologies under development at the laboratory, such as an innovative use of ionic liquids to pre-treat biomass for conversion to biofuel. The teams included Haas students, as well as graduates in law, public policy, engineering and molecular biology.
Mr Stowsky, a former senior economist for science and technology with the White House Council of Economic Advisers, says the diverse student teams push each other in new directions.
"Everybody is looking at the same [new technology] through different lenses," he says. "The policy students are thinking about policy and social implications, the law students are thinking about intellectual property issues and business students are thinking: can I generate a profit from this? Can I build a company around this? They all learn from each other."
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a national laboratory owned by the Department of Energy, but operated by the University of California. It has 3,500 employees. Each year, it puts out 120 invention disclosures and markets 40 to 50 technologies.
In the past, it has struggled to conduct thorough market research, according to Cheryl Fragiadakis, head of LBNL's technology transfer and intellectual property management department. "We simply don't have the resources to gather in-depth market intelligence for each and every one [of these technologies],"she says.
Last year, LBNL brought in $3.2m in new licences, a figure that typically increases by about 15 per cent a year. Ms Fragiadakis expects this collaboration could accelerate that growth.
"It has increased the engagement of scientists, and has added a lot of energy to some of the inventors who see more opportunities than they did previously," she says.
Catherine Wolfram, a Haas professor and the director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Innovation, who helped start the programme, says they received applications from 80 students wanting to take part.
"There's a growing interest among young people about climate change and energy issues. And there's an understanding that to solve it, requires an innovative approach."
Over 10 weeks, student teams conducted market research. They assessed their invention's revenue potential, looked at profiles of target customers and investigated possible venture or industry partners.
"It's not always about how to commercialise a product, it's about thinking through the challenges of commercialisation - the cost, the competitiveness - and whether the technology ought to be commercialised at all," says Prof Wolfram.
For scientists, business considerations are not usually a priority, admits Prof Wolfram. Most focus on making progress in the lab, rather than pushing their inventions into the market.
"The scientists saw their own limitations and recognised the value of talking with students interested in business and policy. They have to get together in order to make the commercialisation process work." The teams created a technology marketing description to present to business development executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Their work culminated with a presentation to energy experts, from LBNL scientists to venture capitalists and clean tech company representatives.
Adam Lorimer, an MBA student, worked on a team evaluating an advanced biofuels technology developed at the US Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute in California.
Cross-disciplinary teamwork was the key to the partnership's success, he says. "This programme pulls together people with different skill sets and interests to do something meaningful."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

China Uses Green Cars To Bolster Auto Sector


BEIJING -- China announced measures to kick-start domestic automobile demand by encouraging the development of more environmentally friendly cars, the latest move to bolster the Chinese auto industry amid slowing sales growth.
The new package, which is supposed to supplement auto-industry stimulus steps announced in January, is designed to keep overall sales in the world's second-biggest car market growing at an average of 10% annually over the next three years, the government said.

The 10% growth target is considered ambitious by some analysts, but if China succeeds, it would have auto sales of well over 10 million units this year, and could displace the U.S. as the world's biggest auto market by unit sales.
January sales in China exceeded those in the U.S., where demand is shrinking rapidly amid the downturn. Some analysts believe U.S. sales may fall to about 10 million vehicles this year.
The latest measures, which appear to be aimed at restructuring the industry over the long term, include 10 billion yuan, or about $1.5 billion, in research subsidies over the next three years to improve Chinese auto makers' use of safety, alternative-energy and other technologies.
Wolfgang Bernhart, a senior executive at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, said the plans highlight a shift in the country's industrial policy to encourage companies to focus on electric-vehicle technology.
The government wants Chinese auto makers to use the relatively low barrier to entry for electric vehicles to narrow the gap with bigger foreign rivals and guarantee the industry's steady long-term growth, he said.
The Chinese government over the weekend also released details of a similar restructuring and revitalization plan for the steel industry, although most of the contents of that plan had been reported previously.

The new auto-industry plan, announced on the main Web site of China's central government, said China aims to create capacity to produce 500,000 "new energy" vehicles, such as all-electric battery cars and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. The plan aims to increase sales of such new-energy cars to account for about 5% of China's passenger vehicle sales.
Growth in China's auto sales slowed to 6.7% last year, ending a decade-long run of double-digit sales growth. Many observers expect sales this year to grow at about the same pace as last year.
U.S.-based consulting firm CSM Worldwide forecasts China's overall vehicle sales to grow by 6% to 7% to about 10 million vehicles. Achieving 10% growth in overall vehicles sales this year "will not be so easy" given the slowdown in China's export-led economy, said Yale Zhang, a Shanghai-based senior analyst at CSM.
Other recently announced measures to aid the auto industry include a 50% reduction in the sales-tax rate on smaller cars, a cut in retail prices for gasoline and diesel fuel, and plans for five billion yuan in subsidies to encourage rural residents to replace old vehicles. The government also has said repeatedly that it would encourage auto makers to make more financing available for vehicle purchases by consumers.
The weekend announcement also reiterated Beijing's determination to consolidate the country's fledgling auto sector, which has more than 80 auto makers across the country. The government wants a less-splintered industry with fewer auto companies each generating significantly larger sales volumes.
The Chinese central government wants to consolidate the auto industry through mergers and acquisitions into fewer than 10 groups of manufacturers, down from the current 14, according to the announcement. The announcement said the government would "encourage" FAW Group Corp., Dongfeng Motor Corp., SAIC Motor Corp. and Changan Automobile (Group) Co., among others, to "implement mergers and acquisitions" around the country to form large auto groups.
Write to Norihiko Shirouzu at

Carbon trading 'undermined by boom and bust'

Terry Macalister and Ashley Seager
The Guardian, Monday 23 March 2009

A shake-up in the way the "boom and bust" carbon markets are working in Europe is being urged ahead of tomorrow's auction of new emission certificates by the UK government.
The Carbon Trust, which is sponsored by government money, and the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers argue that controls might have to be put in place to prevent the EU's emissions trading scheme (ETS) being discredited by a further collapse in prices, which have already slumped from €30 per tonne to just over €10.
As ministers prepare to raise money by selling off more carbon certificates to polluting companies, Richard Gledhill, PwC's global climate change leader, said that volatility and low carbon prices were undermining the business case for long-term investment in emissions reductions.
He added that a mixture of cap-and-trade schemes such as the ETS plus a carbon tax could be the way forward because "business needs clear, long-term price signals if major shifts in private sector investment are to be made".
PwC points to estimates that the world needs to spend about $500bn a year over the next 20 years on renewable energies and energy efficiency alone, many times the current level, which is in any case dropping back because of the seizing-up of capital markets.

States Vie for Share of Clean-Coal Cash


The federal government is once again dangling billions of dollars for "clean coal" projects, sparking a high-stakes lobbying effort among different states trying to score some of the cash for local projects.
The recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act designates $3.4 billion in federal funding for investment in pioneering clean-coal technology, including power plants that would capture carbon dioxide so only small amounts are released to the atmosphere.
The Texas political establishment launched a campaign this month to press Energy Secretary Steven Chu to consider funding a project proposed by Summit Power Group for a site near Odessa, in western Texas.
Another clean-coal project by Tenaska Inc. at a site east of Sweetwater, Texas, also is a contender. A power-plant proposal in Mattoon, Ill., which was a showcase project under a failed Bush administration clean-coal program called FutureGen, also is trying to secure financing and is backed by the Illinois congressional delegation.
These plants would be among the most costly power projects ever constructed, more expensive even than nuclear-power plants, per unit of productive capacity. Without massive federal funding, it is unlikely that any of them would move forward. The Department of Energy has yet to detail how it would dole out the money.
The funding comes on the heels of the FutureGen effort, which was stalled last year by then Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman when the estimated cost rose to $1.8 billion. Mr. Bodman said he thought the project had little chance of yielding results.
The Energy Department's decision to cancel FutureGen, after many millions of dollars had been spent, was a blow to those who believed the technology would never move forward without strong federal support.
The program was begun in 2003 with the aim of funding a power plant that would convert coal into a combustible gas, then burn it to make electricity. Carbon-dioxide emissions were to be removed from the waste stream and pumped underground for permanent storage, reducing the release of greenhouse gases that are linked to climate change.
There is no indication that the current effort will fare any better or prove any less costly than FutureGen. However, the promise of billions of dollars in funding means these projects have attracted strong political support.
In a letter signed by nearly 100 members of the Texas legislature, Mr. Chu was asked last week to offer federal assistance to the Odessa project. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Texas) is also lobbying for the plant, as are more than two dozen members of the Texas congressional delegation. On Friday, Ms. Hutchison said the project would create badly needed jobs and was "critical for the production of clean domestic energy."
The Odessa project had lost out under the FutureGen program when it was beaten out by the Illinois site. But its backers believe it stands a strong chance under the new program.
At $1.6 billion, the Odessa plant would cost about 10 times as much as a modern gas-fired power plant. Summit Power Chairman Donald Hodel, formerly energy and interior secretary under President Ronald Reagan, said he expects "significant savings from each successive plant that's built." The plant's economics, he said, would be improved by cap-and-trade legislation that would raise the cost of traditional fossil-fuel generation and electricity prices, which are now very low.
"There are a lot of moving pieces," in terms of financing, said Mr. Hodel, "but we have got to find a way to use coal in an acceptable manner."
Write to Rebecca Smith at

Scientists drill deep into Greenland ice for global warming clues from Eemian Period

The Times
March 23, 2009
Carbon dioxide, methane and other chemicals trapped in the ice can provide a detailed picture of the atmosphere and the climate thousands of years ago

Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

Scientists are to dig up ice dating back more than 100,000 years in an attempt to shed light on how global warming will change the world over the next century.
The ice, at the bottom of the Greenland ice sheet, was laid down at a time when temperatures were 3C (5.4F) to 5C warmer than they are today.
With temperatures forecast to rise by up to 7C in the next 100 years, the ice more than 8,000ft (2,400m) below the surface is thought by researchers to hold valuable clues to how much of the ice sheet will melt.
Drilling will start in northern Greenland during the summer in an international project involving researchers from 18 countries to extract ice cores covering the Eemian Period.

The Eemian began 130,000 years ago, ending 15,000 years later, and is the most recent time in the Earth's past when temperatures resembled those that can be expected if greenhouse gas emissions are not brought under control.
Carbon dioxide, methane and other chemicals trapped in the ice can provide a detailed picture of the atmosphere and the climate thousands of years ago.
Fragments of organic matter can offer details about animals and plants alive when the ice formed, while particles of dirt can indicate forest fires, tundra fires and volcanic activity.
Analysis of the ice should provide the first measurement of CO2 levels over Greenland during the Eemian and the most detailed analysis yet achieved of climate indicators from the period.
Lars Berg Larsen, of the University of Copenhagen, which is leading the project, said: “We are looking into this period to find out what happens to the climate if you get 3 to 5 degrees warmer.
“The Eemian is the nearest time we know that matches temperatures we can expect in the next 100 or 200 years. It will tell us much about what might happen.”
Four researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) will be taking part in the operation. They are hopeful of seeing ice not only from the whole Eemian but the years preceding it as well, which could hold clues to what prompted the temperature to start rising, or at least could chart the atmospheric changes that accompanied the rise.
Researchers also hope that the chemical traces hidden in the ice up to 8,340ft below the surface will reveal how the Greenland ice sheet responded to the higher temperatures. This will have implications for sea level rises in the coming century. If the ice sheet melts entirely, seas would be expected to rise by 21ft.
Researchers expect to find that much of the ice persisted even when temperatures were 5C higher than today, offering hope that much of it will remain in a world of manmade climate change.
Robert Mulvaney, of BAS, who has spent 24 years drilling for ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic, said: “Our ideal would be to get not only the whole of the Eemian but the last time that we had a collapse in the Greenland ice sheet.”

Cash shortage hinders climate battle

By Joshua Chaffin in Brussels
Published: March 22 2009 19:57

At the end of their two-day summit in Brussels last week, European leaders pledged to pay a “fair share” to developing nations to help them fight global warming and adapt to its consequences. Yet they failed to deliver the one thing that environmentalists most desired: money.
The omission of a specific contribution, as well as unresolved questions about how the EU would pay for it, has become the latest stumbling block along the path to a global climate deal that world leaders will try to negotiate at Copenhagen in December. “The risk is that with the delay, the negotiations will not make significant pro­gress. The developing nations are only willing to take further steps when there is money on the table,” said Joris den Blanken, a policy analyst at Greenpeace.

The money issue, Mr den Blanken said, had overshadowed other elements of the meeting’s final communiqué that environmentalists should applaud – including a commitment to create a global carbon trading market.
The EU and other wealthy nations committed to providing financing to developing nations at a United Nations summit in Bali in 2007. The money would be used to invest in new technology to reduce emissions, as well as to improve seawalls and other infrastructure to prepare for the effects of a warmer planet.
In a draft paper prepared this year, the European Commission estimated that the EU could contribute some €30bn a year, beginning in 2020.
But that figure was deleted from the final communiqué, and the commission instead concluded that it was incumbent on developing nations to first detail the level of emissions cuts they were prepared to make.
Member states have not yet agreed on the size of their contribution – let alone how to finance it – either through a market-based system or emissions taxes or some combination. Yet most agree that it would be foolish for the EU to reveal its hand first in what is likely to be a complex global negotiation with the US, India, China and Brazil.
“It is important that the United States, Japan and other major contributors signal what will be their position,” said José Manuel Barroso, the Commission president.
Nonetheless, the EU will be on the spot again in June, after heads of state promised that they would discuss the matter in greater detail at their next council meeting.
If they are not able to table an offer then, environmental groups fear the process could drag dangerously close to Copenhagen because of the disruption of the June European elections and then the summer holidays.
Rebecca Harms, the Green party MEP, said the EU was squandering the credibility it had built up after closing a landmark climate deal in December to reduce emissions 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020.
“The Europeans, in my view, have become the new hesitant and shy partner in the international climate negotiations,” Ms Harms said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009