Saturday, 16 May 2009

Panel Adds Free Permits To CO2 Bill


WASHINGTON -- The latest version of the House Democratic leadership's climate bill would give away for free up to 85% of the pollution permits created to launch a proposed system to cap greenhouse-gas emissions, according to details released Friday.
The permits are part of the multibillion-dollar price paid by California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to win support from moderates in his own party for the sweeping bill.

The measure would force businesses to acquire permits to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Those permits, which could be sold, would have value because the overall quantity of industrial greenhouse-gas emissions would be capped.
The compromise would allow certain industries to avoid paying for greenhouse-gas permits over the next two decades. President Barack Obama and Mr. Waxman had originally pushed for all the emission permits to be auctioned, which would have generated $624 billion over 10 years, according to the administration's budget plan. That money was intended to fund Mr. Obama's middle-class tax cuts and research on clean-energy technology.
Some environmental groups said Friday they were concerned that the level of free credits would weaken industry incentives to cut emissions and reduce benefits to consumers to cushion energy and product-cost increases.
The oil industry, meanwhile, was concerned that only a fraction of the free allocations would go to the transportation sector, which accounts for about a third of total U.S. emissions.
In a statement Friday, the American Petroleum Institute said: "Those who drive, fly or take the bus or train to work will shoulder a disproportionate burden and this must be rectified."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration is reviewing the legislation, but that the current proposal "represents a big step forward in dealing with dangerous greenhouse gasses and creating a sustained market for clean-energy jobs."
According to a document posted on the committee's Web site, 35% of the credits will be allocated to the power industry. Energy-intensive industries, such as the cement, glass and paper manufacturing sectors, will get 15% of the free permits. An additional 9% would go to the natural-gas sector, 2% to oil refiners and 1.5% to users of heating oil. Most of those emission allocations will phase out between 2026 and 2030.
The auto industry would get 3% of the free credits up to 2017, for investments in clean-vehicle technology. The remaining free allocations, about 10%, would be divided among the carbon-capture and storage industry, clean-energy research and development, deforestation-prevention projects, and help for other countries to adapt to climate changes.
Daniel Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said the allocations would smooth the clean-energy transition. Even with the free credits, Mr. Weiss said, the proposal's greenhouse-gas cuts "would be comparable to taking 500 million cars off the road -- half of all cars world-wide in 2020.
Write to Ian Talley at

Bill Seeks Curbs on Derivatives


WASHINGTON -- Representative Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) said Friday he has introduced a sweeping new bill in Congress that would empower the federal commodities regulator to oversee all over-the-counter and carbon derivatives, rein in excessive energy speculation and ban the trading of naked credit-default swaps.
The bill, which is a beefed-up version of one that was introduced twice in recent years, comes just a few days after the Obama administration unveiled a detailed plan to bring over-the-counter derivatives, such as energy and credit-default swaps, under the tent of federal regulation.

It also comes about a week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Rep. Stupak is a member, prepares to put the final touches on a climate bill. That bill would allow for the development of a massive new carbon-derivatives market by creating a system that would cap greenhouse-gas emissions and create a market for companies to buy and sell the right to pollute.
Currently, that bill gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the right to oversee a carbon cash market, but it doesn't explicitly give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission the authority to regulate a future carbon-derivatives market.
Rep. Stupak's bill in part serves to clarify the CFTC's jurisdiction over carbon trading and it would prohibit the creation of an over-the-counter carbon-trading market -- a move that would be highly controversial among big banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., who say over-the-counter carbon transactions would be vital.
Rep. Stupak indicated Friday he might be deterred from voting on the climate bill next week if it doesn't include regulatory framework for the carbon market like the one outlined in his bill.
"It will be very difficult for me to vote for a piece of legislation if it does not have strong framework," said Rep. Stupak, who chairs the Energy Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. "I want to see a climate bill, but I also want to see strong regulatory framework in place," he said.
The bill also goes much further than the regulatory framework outlined by the Obama administration this week.
The Obama plan, for instance, doesn't seek to ban any types of contracts.
Rep. Stupak's bill would ban trading of so-called naked credit-default swaps, which are insurance-like contracts in which traders don't have any underlying interest in the bonds.
Such transactions, Rep. Stupak said, create a "morale hazard" by "incentivizing economic loss."
The bill also would put aggregate speculative position limits for energy speculators across all markets -- a move in response to the drastic spike in energy prices that occurred last year.
Write to Sarah N. Lynch at

EU industry emissions falls 3% in 2008

By Fiona Harvey and Joshua Chaffin
Published: May 15 2009 23:09

Greenhouse gas emissions fell last year by 3 per cent among the European Union’s most energy-intensive businesses.
The fall in the industrial and power sectors covered by the emissions trading scheme was claimed by the European Commission as a victory for environmental policies, though carbon traders were quick to note that the recession also played a big part.

”The reduction was partly due to businesses taking measures to cut their emissions in response to the strong carbon price that prevailed until the economic downturn started,” said Stavros Dimas, environment commissioner.
Carbon prices stand at about €15 ($20, £13), having recovered strongly since they hit a low of €8 in February, in response to the recession and a rash of companies selling off their allocation of permits to raise short-term cash.
However, even at their current higher level, prices are unlikely to provide a strong enough spur to encourage companies to invest in new equipment to cut greenhouse gases.
The 3 per cent reduction in 2008, compared with the previous year, will contribute to a 6.5 per cent reduction the Commission wants to achieve between 2008 and 2012, to meet the EU’s targets under the Kyoto protocol.
In a veiled reference to the White House’s efforts to pass a cap-and-trade system, Mr Dimas said: “This should encourage other countries in their efforts to set up comparable domestic cap-and-trade systems, which we would like to see linked up with the EU ETS to create a stronger international carbon market.”
Many companies also took advantage of a rule change which meant they could buy in carbon credits from abroad. Credits issued by the United Nations under the Kyoto protocol trade at a discount to EU permits, so representing a cheap way for companies to comply with the emissions regulations.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Be part of the green solution (and the Manchester Report)

The Guardian has teamed up with the Manchester International Festival to find the best climate solutions, and we want your submissions

Duncan Clark, Friday 15 May 2009 11.25 BST

The climate change debate often seems to focus more on the problems than on the solutions. It's not hard to understand why: almost every week brings another scientific report predicting impacts sooner and more devastating than we were previously expecting.
With so many gloomy headlines, it would be easy to believe that irreversible runaway climate change is now inevitable. But that's not true – at least, not yet. The world is packed full of ingenious people with ideas for tackling global warming, either through emissions cuts, the removal of CO2 from the air or even the reflection of sunlight into space.
The problem for policymakers, investors and others attempting to pave the way for a low-carbon future is knowing which of these many solutions to get behind. Should we, as some scientists have suggested, spend our environment budgets on painting the world's roofs white or filling the Sahara with solar panels? Or might it be better to focus on reducing demand? If so, is that better done with, say, energy monitors in homes or the encouragement of bottom-up campaigns to give green makeovers to towns and districts? Or do we need to do all the above?
In order to work out which climate solutions are likely to be the most effective, and to showcase new ones that haven't yet made the headlines, the Guardian has teamed up with the Manchester International Festival (MIF) and high-profile thinkers in an ambitious project called the Manchester Report.
The first stage is to invite anyone with a plan for tackling climate change to let us know about it. Whether you're an an inventor, a geo-engineer, a policy-maker or a member of the public with a great idea to encourage greener lifestyles, we want to hear from you. Simply complete and return the short form available on the festival's site.
A dozen of the most promising applicants will be invited to present their idea to a high-calibre panel of experts in front of a live audience at Manchester Town Hall on the weekend of 4 and 5 July. The panel, chaired by Lord Bingham, previously the UK's chief justice, and featuring leading lights from the worlds of science, business and policy, will rate the various ideas in terms of their feasibility, impact and commercial potential. .
The results of this landmark event will form the basis of a report – the Manchester Report – to be published two weeks later at the end of the festival. The report will not only be made available online but also sent to policy-makers, to help them decide which low-carbon solutions to support in the run up to this year's crucial climate summit in Copenhagen.

Repair bill hits Clipper Windpower

By John O’Doherty
Published: May 15 2009 09:05

Losses at Clipper Windpower have widened in spite of a jump in sales as the maker of wind turbines was hit by defective turbine components and a recent slowdown in demand.
Pre-tax losses for the full year to December grew 63 per cent to $313m (£206m) on revenues that were 30 times as high as the previous year’s. Sales jumped from $24m to $734m.
Loss per share rose 43 per cent to $2.56. Clipper sold 238 turbines in 2008 compared with nine in 2007.
The losses were the result of a $300m programme of repairs on defective drive trains and rotary blades after defects were discovered in some Liberty-class turbines.
The company has completed half the “remediation” work on the defective turbines that are already installed. The rest of the work will be finished by the third quarter.
As a result of the global recession, a number of its customers have deferred deliveries.
Clipper still expects to deliver between 300 and 325 turbines this year.
At the start of the year the company slashed headcount by 90, a reduction of 11 per cent of its total employees and 30 per cent of its turbine production workforce.
“Our customers need financing in order to buy our turbines and finance their wind farm projects. So, as a result of the crash in the debt markets, our customers were not able to finance their purchases in turbines from us,” said Doug Pertz, chief executive.
“None of our customers has cancelled orders – they’ve just pushed them out.”
However, the company is looking forward to a boost in renewable investments from the US stimulus package.
“We think the stimulus package and the whole policy that the Obama administration has with both renewables and climate change will be extremely positive for the wind industry, for renewables and for Clipper,” Mr Pertz said.
“But while the policy is out there, and the laws have been passed, the implementation of it – the rules and the money – is not there yet.”
He was optimistic that policy measures to encourage capital markets to lend to the wind power sector would start to take effect “some time in the middle of this year”.
Shares in Aim-listed Clipper Windpower closed up 3p, or 2.4 per cent, at 129p.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Colombia clears Endesa permit for El Quimbo plant

Reuters, Friday May 15 2009

BOGOTA, May 15 (Reuters) - Colombia on Friday awarded a local affiliate of Spain's Endesa with the environmental permit for the construction of the El Quimbo hydroelectric plant with a $700 million investment.
The Environmental Ministry said Endesa must replant more than 20,000 hectares of forest land, establish a program to protect water supplies and compensate residents affected by the construction work as part of its permit.
"It is a strict license, one that considers not only the environmental impact of the development, but also social and economic impact that the project will generate," Environmental Minister Carlos Costa said in a statement.
El Quimbo, scheduled to begin operating around 2015, will be the first hydroelectric plant built by the private sector in Colombia. Endesa is owned by Italy's Enel and the project will meet growing local demand and energy export needs. (Reporting by Javier Mozzo in Bogota; editing by Carol Bishopric)

A green deal for Africa

Violence, disease and drought can be averted, if the voice of the poor gets a hearing at the Copenhagen climate change summit

Kofi Annan and Nicholas Stern, Friday 15 May 2009 23.00 BST

The evidence is clear: Africa is experiencing the powerful impact of climate change. Weather patterns are changing, resulting in more droughts and floods, and higher air and water temperatures. Glaciers on the famous Rwenzori mountains, long fabled as the Mountains of the Moon, have shrunk by half since the late 1980s – symbolic of more profound changes taking place.
The effects on people, particularly the poor, are severe. Farmers, pastoralists, fishing communities and town dwellers are vulnerable to changes in water availability and agricultural productivity. As yields drop, people need other sources of income to meet their basic needs. A warmer climate increases the risk of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Even if the temperature rise can be kept within the 2C band, an additional 40-60 million Africans are likely to be exposed. Economic necessity and competition for resources are already resulting in mass movement of people within countries and across borders, heightened social tension and, in many cases, violence.
The economic implications are enormous. Receipts from agricultural activities, which account for over half the jobs and GDP in many African countries, may decline sharply. And just as national ­revenues are strained, demand for ­public expenditure will increase.
African ministers of finance are meeting in Rwanda next week to craft a response to climate change. They are central to finding a solution, for climate change cannot be treated as a sectoral issue. It is fundamental to the success of economic growth and achievement of the millennium development goals.
The news is not all bad. Climate change opens up opportunities to generate revenue and diversify economies. Projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can help rich countries meet carbon offset obligations and generate revenue for entrepreneurs and governments. The clean development mechanism, for example, allows industrialised countries to invest in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries, as an alternative to more expensive emissions reductions in their own countries.
Other schemes offer African countries the chance to benefit from global payments for preservation of forests, which in turn capture carbon and preserve soil, water and life. Indeed, long-term climate change strategies offer a chance for African countries to leapfrog towards efficient renewable technologies.
Effective policies and creative market measures are needed to mobilise investment in renewable power sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. A resource-efficient green-economy future will require financial support and technology transfer from more advanced economies. This would only be fair. After all, Africa accounts for a mere 2.3% of fossil fuel consumption, though it has 13.8% of the world's population.
But recognition that Africa is least responsible yet most vulnerable is not enough. African governments need to decide how they will adapt their economies and protect their people, and set out what they expect the international community to do to support them.
First, they need to take the lead in crafting development strategies that adapt to climate change as well as invest in infrastructure and clean energy. Shovel-ready projects that bring ­affordable and environmentally sustainable energy to African communities need to be fast-tracked and ­implemented right away.
Second, international organisations, including the African Development Bank, regional economic commissions, UN and Bretton Woods institutions, need the funds, leadership and technical competence to support governments in responding to climate change.
And third, a new global climate deal must address the needs of the least developed countries, most of which are in Africa. It must include binding commitments to ensure access to financial resources and technological knowhow, and reform instruments like the clean development mechanism to ensure they work for Africa. At present, they do not.
The importance of the climate change summit in Copenhagen in December must not be underestimated. The best way for the voice of poor countries to be heard is by promoting a clear position on key issues, including the steps that they and their partners will take to ensure financing of adaptation and appropriate mitigation actions using new and additional sources of swiftly accessible funds – including from carbon markets – and to ensure existing international aid commitments are met.
Africa is not homogeneous. Countries' needs vary. But a strong common position for least developed countries, championed by Africa's heads of state, and anchored with G77 and Chinese partners, must be the cornerstone of a diplomatic and political campaign to secure a fair deal in Copenhagen.

Google Ocean shows effects of climate change

By Melinda Chickering, Associated Press
Friday, 15 May 2009

The same satellite technology that allows more than 500 million users to view everything from the Grand Canyon to a neighbour's backyard is now helping them glide through the depths of the ocean, track a whale or compare reviews of their favourite dive locations.
The developers of Google Ocean - built using visual satellite images, sonar waves bounced off ships and data pooled from scientists and individuals - say it could also help highlight the effects of climate change on the seas.
But three months after its launch, the site has high-resolution images of less than 5 per cent of the sea, much of it from around the United States and Japan where research facilities are collaborating closely with Google.

The site has time-delay photos that show the melting polar ice caps, Google's chief technology advocate, Michael Jones said Friday on the final day of the World Ocean Conference in Indonesia.
Jones said the company is still recruiting teams to collect content that will improve nascent efforts to map the underwater world. He urged governments, scientists and divers to upload reviews, photos and even video footage.
"Those kinds of visualizations help people — not just a fellow scientist but everyday people — develop a certainty about the importance of changes that could affect their lifestyle or their ability to live at all," he said.
Next to nothing has been uploaded on, for instance, Southeast Asia's coral reefs, the largest and most biologically diverse in the world, which experts warned this week could be wiped out by the end of the century as water temperatures rise.
"If we help people see (the ocean) by helping scientists to show it, then people can at least have a dialogue about it," Jones said.

Scots help to establish a green future by pooling resources

Published Date: 16 May 2009
By Charles Henderson

BUYING the odd bottle of whisky could be all the economic support most "Scottish" North Americans will ever give their ancestral homeland. Similarly, most Scots may never exchange their pounds for dollars for a US trip.
But there is a growing group of Scots and people of Scottish ancestry who are helping shape the global green economy and low-carbon industries. Scots and Americans are fast realising that closer partnerships will drive stronger economic growth and provide secure energy.Two and a half centuries ago, thousands of Scottish families packed into creaking boats to sail across the Atlantic. They took with them the new Enlightenment learnings of medicine, science and economics to help establish the New World.Today, another new world order is being established. The need to tackle climate change is driving a transformation in the ways we generate energy, the lifeblood of modern societies and economies.This year of homecoming coincides with the run-up to December's pivotal Copenhagen summit on climate change. Agreement is being sought on the architecture for global carbon reductions that will shape the roles that countries and regions play as knowledge centres, green-tech manufacturers, renewable electricity exporters and carbon traders.California is shaping up as one of the hubs. At stake is a rush for the green gold of low-carbon technologies, bigger than that of the dotcom era and, this time around, sustainable. Many of Barack Obama's policy advisers are prominent Californians. This hasn't happened by accident – high-level diplomacy and lobbying helped pave the way.Scots have played their part. Doreen Reid, from Glasgow, moved to San Francisco in 2000. On behalf of the Climate Group, an advocacy organisation, she helped encourage the signing of the AB32 Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. "Winning hearts and minds with a show of support was really important," she explains, recalling one high-level meeting. "To help convince Governor Schwarzenegger we had Sergey Brin of Google, Richard Branson of the Virgin Group and Lord Browne, then chairman of BP, in the room. The eventual outcome was positive, passing the policy into law."Scotland's, and the UK's, influence have been due in part to their advanced climate legislation, giving them the upper hand for negotiation. This includes the climate bills of both parliaments that set a long-term goal of 80 per cent carbon reduction by 2050, and interim targets on the way. Did being Scottish help the negotiations? Doreen Reid says: "From a business perspective, having a Scottish accent helped. Some people would call just to hear my voice." The US is looking to Scotland for investment and expertise, too. Laura Meadors, whose great-great-great grandparents moved from Scotland to Indiana in 1816, works at the British consulate in San Francisco. She liaises with Scottish Development International, a division of Scottish Enterprise. "Our role is to promote trade of high-value renewable technologies between Scotland and the US," she says.She organised a trade delegation on wave power from the UK to the US. She explains: "With the US west coast having a similar geography to Scotland, UK companies are looking here for marine energy investments."Mrs Meadors is enthusiastic about the potential of this collaboration: "It's early days, and looking promising," she says. "Last year, Pentland Energy, a Californian company, opened an office in Edinburgh. I have 15 active leads, of which we are confident seven to eight will land."Key to attracting these businesses are incentives, on which the UK and US have different approaches. In the UK, power companies are required to generate a proportion of electricity from renewable technologies (the "Renewable Obligation"). For each eligible megawatt hour of renewable energy generated, a tradable certificate called a "renewables obligation certificate" (ROC) is issued by Ofgem. Some fledgling technologies, such as wave power, are awarded "double-ROCs", twice the market incentive of established power such as on-shore wind. Scotland is considering "quintuple-ROCs" to attract projects to its shores."In April 2010, a feed-in tariff, guaranteeing a payment for renewable electricity to the grid, will draw further US interest to the UK. In the US, the recent stimulus package has helped kickstart some technologies. However, with all money due to be spent in 18 months, this is a short-term response. Longer-term incentives include the production tax credit extension, encouraging renewable electricity generation by two cents per kWh, and a loan guarantee policy for large-scale technology projects. These variances in approach are creating interesting dynamics between the two fledgling green economies. Andy MacRitchie has worked at a high level in renewable energy on both sides of the pond. He moved from Scotland to California in 1998 to merge Scottish Power and PacifiCorp, and introduced, in 2003, costing into PacifiCorp's decision making process. He is now a partner in Aequitas private equity firm, based in Oregon, which invests in smaller US renewable energy markets such as biomass and wind. He explains the differences between Scotland and the US: "Scotland and the UK are transferring knowledge and know-how to the US. This will change in the next couple of years. The US is unlikely to lead on policy – there are too many vested interests. But there is a huge entrepreneurial and technology driven culture. With private investment, green tech will be the next big thing."Of the opportunities for Scotland, he says: "Wave power is still up for grabs. There is no leading technology in this sector, yet, although Oregon is picking up."The recession may be a force for positive change in the job market: "An unprecedented number of people are going to renewable-tech job fairs," says Mrs Meadors. "They ask how to get a green job. They see it as a sustainable sector. There is tremendous excitement."One message for Scotland is that it must look outward and form close alliances. Andy MacRitchie says: "Scotland must invest in wide networks and partnerships. It must invest in intellectual capital."If Scotland continues to invest in low-carbon technology, we could see a 21st-century green homecoming.