Sunday, 31 May 2009

Leaders called to special climate talks

Unprecedented number of summits as world struggles to hammer out agreement before vital meeting in December
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Sunday, 31 May 2009

World leaders are to meet for an unprecedented second summit on climate change this year to try to get agreement on a tough new treaty by December, and may even get together for a third time before the end of the year.
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, is to call the world's heads of government to New York in September to "galvanise political will" about what he describes as "the defining issue of our time". And there are plans for another G20 summit to discuss the issue in the autumn.
These will follow a meeting of 17 key world leaders convened at the initiative of President Barack Obama immediately after the annual G8 summit in July. Observers cannot remember any similar progression of top-level meetings to address any issue over such a short period of time.
The moves come as pressure mounts on the leaders to reach agreement at December's vital negotiations in Copenhagen, billed as the world's last chance to get to grips with global warming before it escalates out of control.
On Friday a think tank headed by the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan reported that climate change was already killing 300,000 people and affecting 300 million. The day before, 20 Nobel Prize winners, meeting in London, warned that it posed as great a threat as nuclear war. And in Copenhagen on Tuesday 500 business chief executives called for "an ambitious and effective treaty" to "help establish a firm foundation for a sustainable economic future".
The summits are part of an extraordinarily intense series of meetings over the next six months that will take negotiators from Bonn to Bangkok and from Barcelona to the Ilulissat in Greenland. The first three are formal discussions on a UN treaty for the Copenhagen talks, while key ministers from 30 countries will go to the small Greenland town next to the Arctic's fastest melting glacier at the end of next month to try to hammer out a "political declaration" to accompany it.
The next round of negotiations opens in Bonn tomorrow, but no one is expecting a breakthrough. Talks in the former West German capital in April made little progress beyond agreeing to draw up negotiating texts.
These will be on the table for the first time tomorrow, but they mainly serve to highlight divisions between countries and show how far there is to go in six short months to meet December's deadline.
One of the main stumbling blocks is how much rich countries will undertake to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases in the short to medium term. There is general agreement that they should be reduced by a drastic 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050, the minimum that scientists say will be needed to avoid dangerous climate change. But setting more immediate targets is proving much harder.
Ten days ago, China flung down the gauntlet by calling on rich countries to cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. The only advanced economy to come near that is the European Union, which has promised unilaterally to reduce them by 20 per cent by then, rising to 30 per cent if other countries follow suit. But at present there is little sign of other industrialised nations taking up the challenge; despite the new priority President Obama is giving to climate change, his plans would amount to a cut of only a few per cent from 1990 levels.
In return, developing countries, including China and India, would agree to slow the growth of their emissions through "measurable, verifiable and reportable" measures. But India has just signalled that it will not open such plans to global scrutiny unless rich countries deliver on a promise to provide funds to help it tackle and adapt to climate change.
That is the second sticking point. Developing countries want to get at least $200bn a year, which works out at about 0.5 per cent of rich nations' economic output and is about the same size as current development aid. It is a relatively small sum, especially in the context of the amounts spent in recent months on bailing out the banks, but developed country government are baulking at it. Last week Australia described the demands as "unimaginable".
In the end, senior negotiators say, success or failure will depend not so much on the climate talks themselves, but on whether the world adopts a Green New Deal as the best way to revive the world's economy.

Red Ken shows greener side in call to speed up climate action

Government is urged to revise its 'unattainable' goals for cutting carbon emissions from property
By Mark Leftly
Sunday, 31 May 2009

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone will urge government and business to speed up action on climate change at an energy summit this week.
Mr Livingstone, who is giving the summit's keynote address on Thursday, said this weekend: "With every prediction that climate change issues will continue, everybody, business and government included, is going to have to move much faster to change the way they operate."
The summit is being run by IMServ, a carbon emissions and energy consultant, and will be held at the Royal Society of Arts in London. Delegates will be warned that British businesses face a £1.4bn bill for carbon credits, which have to be bought to offset emissions, by April 2011.
In a big week for tackling climate change, the British Property Federation will launch a report tomorrow criticising government carbon reduction targets as unattainable. The lobbying group is supported by Land Securities, British Land and Hammerson, the FTSE 100 commercial property giants.
The Government wants an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. Property accounts for about half of all emissions, and the Government has introduced energy performance certificates (EPCs), which assess the carbon efficiency of real estate. It believes that EPCs force property owners to improve their stock.
However, the heavyweight trio, beside the asset managers Hermes and Legal & General, say that the certificates are ineffective, and that most property owners are landlords and so do not have control over the energy use of their tenants. The BPF will argue that European Union law should be introduced to force tenants and landlords to share energy use data and to work together to reduce emissions.
BPF's chief executive, Liz Peace, said: "If a landlord invests in more efficient kit, the tenant can benefit from lower energy bills while the landlord experiences no tangible benefit and faces significant upfront costs.
"The Government should explore how the tax system might be used to actively incentivise improvements by altering the conundrum we have over how the benefits are shared between landlords and tenants."
Peter Clarke of British Land said: "We have found that simple improvements in energy use can be made by sharing data, which often reveals that changes to behaviour can yield big savings on energy and carbon."
In other property news, Ken Dytor, a leading regeneration expert, has set up a company that will work with local authorities to develop housing-led schemes. Land Regeneration Partnerships is in talks with three councils about projects worth up to £50m.
Mr Dytor said: "We're talking to the public sector about getting planning permission for post-credit crunch housing schemes with office and retail elements."

Tesco goes electric

The Sunday Times
May 31, 2009
John Waples

Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket group, is backing electric cars. The food retailer is to start providing charging facilities in its car parks for battery-powered vehicles.
The new initiative, which will start in London, could be rolled out nationally if it proves a success with customers.
It underlines the priority that all retailers are placing on promoting green issues.
Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s chief executive, told The Sunday Times: “As Arnie Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, has said, ‘you have to make it cool to be green’.

“Businesses have to show how the consumer can make a difference.”
Tesco will test the electric-car facility at two stores. The intention is to recharge a battery within two hours, but it is in talks with several companies to see if this can be shortened.
In a speech this week at the London School of Economics, Leahy will say tax and regulation are not the way to make consumers convert to a greener lifestyle.
“The danger is people are so taxed already that every time green is mentioned it is with a new tax that just switches people off the whole subject.”
As part of its drive to cut carbon emissions, Tesco will also announce that it is to build the world’s first zero-carbon store in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire.

Exxon Looks Best Positioned on Emissions


When it comes to Big Oil, forget about who is the greenest. The real question: Who is the lightest?
If the U.S. government finally gets around to slapping a cost on carbon emissions, oil companies will be affected differently. Exxon Mobil looks best positioned. It has a higher exposure than rivals to light, sweet crude.
Not all barrels of oil are the same. There is the gunky, heavy oil coming out of Canada's tar sands. It takes a lot of energy, and a lot more carbon emissions, to get it out of the ground and then refine it into something U.S. drivers can put in their gasoline tanks.
In comparison, it is a walk in the park to pump out light West African crude and refine it. Moreover, from each barrel, light crude produces more relatively low-carbon gasoline and naphtha for chemical manufacturing than heavier crude, which generally produces a greater proportion of carbon-heavy fuels, such as heating oil.
Oil companies don't hand out information on who has the lightest and heaviest crude, but there are ways to figure it out. According to federal government data, the average oil "gravity" was 28.7 for a 12-month period ending in February. Gravity is a measure of crude's density and fluidity. The higher the gravity, the lighter the oil.
Exxon's imports averaged 29.8; BP and Royal Dutch Shell both were lighter than average, but trailed Exxon. The heaviest of the bunch were Chevron at 27.8 and ConocoPhillips at 28.2. These differences might look marginal, but oil production and refining are high-volume businesses, where small distinctions matter.
Then there is refining. The energy efficiency of refineries and internal processes required to turn crude into gasoline, diesel and other products is mostly hidden. Kevin Book, managing director of Clearview Energy Partners, an energy-policy consultancy, said Exxon clearly has the most efficient refineries of the group, with ConocoPhillips at the opposite end of the pack. BP, Shell and Chevron are in the middle.
That means Exxon would have to purchase fewer costly emission allowances, leaving its profit margins looking sweeter than those of rivals.
Write to Russell Gold at

Copenhagen must create more buyers for carbon markets

Demand for emissions-reducing projects is shrinking. Here's my solution to get supply and demand back in balance

Bryony Worthington, Friday 29 May 2009 16.47 BST

As I've been reminded at this week's Carbon Expo in Barcelona, carbon markets need more buyers. I've met a large number of people who are eager to get their climate-busting solution funded by selling permits on the carbon trading market. Some want to build windfarms and other renewables, others wish to prevent forests being cut down, others want to bury charcoal – fertilising soils and trapping carbon – still others want to seed the oceans with micro-nutrients to bring the oceans' ailing biodiversity back to life.
But unless something dramatic happens, even if they succeed in gaining entry to the carbon trading club, the party may just end upon their arrival. Until 2013, the only real demand for emissions-reducing projects comes either from a handful of countries faced with a Kyoto target they have yet to reach, or those power sector companies in Europe who have been given a tight cap under the European trading scheme. Even this limited demand is being rapidly eroded by the effect of the recession, which is reducing demand for energy.
That's why all eyes are on the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December – it has to create a lot of new buyers. But will it? Today's session on The US's role in a post-2012 regime received a large audience, which is not surprising since the US is the new kid on the carbon trading block and holds the key to unlocking the political stalemate generated by Kyoto. But anyone hoping to hear about the US's international ambitions for a strong global deal would have been sorely disappointed.
The elephant in the room, as one passionate environmental campaigner pointed out, was the US climate and energy bill's woefully unambitious target of a 17% cut in greenhouse gases by 2020. Even though the draft of the bill talks boldly about allowing up to 1bn permits to be bought from emission reductions projects from around the world, it's likely US emissions will naturally fall by 1% each year because of the recession and energy efficiency – meaning no one will need to buy those permits.
So here is my suggestion to get supply and demand back in balance. All those people who have worked out how to save emissions, how much money they need, how many tonnes they can save, need to form a powerful lobby group. Its lobbying should simply require that the future world carbon emissions budget is set by subtracting all the savings they know they can sensibly generate, from the current level of global emissions. The people required to buy these reductions must be the existing polluters and the government's only role, once the budget is set, should be to ensure the solutions are making it to market. The US should lead the way by immediately halving the allocation of permits that it is proposing to give to itself.
This may all sound unlikely, but as my friend pointed out in an analogy involving Burnley football club – you have to dare to dream. If Burnley can turn themselves around then so can the carbon market, but it will require hard graft and passion, channelled towards the right goal: a challenging global emissions budget that's surprisingly affordable.
• Bryony Worthington is director of

Carbon capture switch-on 'like the first blurry picture on a television'

Published Date: 30 May 2009
By Jenny Haworth, Environment correspondent

SCOTLAND is leading the way towards a new energy era in which power stations are fitted with groundbreaking technology to capture greenhouse gas emissions, it was claimed yesterday.
The switch-on of a £1 million prototype to capture carbon dioxide emissions from Longannet Power Station in Fife was compared yesterday with the hunt for oil in the North Sea.It was even described as a technological advance equivalent to the first "crackly call on a telephone or blurry picture on a television". Experts say the pilot – the first of its kind in the UK – could pave the way for thousands of fossil fuel power stations worldwide to use technology being tested by ScottishPower at Longannet. The carbon capture kit might also eventually be used on all the UK's fossil fuel power plants, so their could be transported to be stored under the North Sea – a process known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).This would enable power stations to continue producing the huge quantities of electricity, while vastly reducing their impact on the climate, it is argued.ScottishPower chief executive Nick Horler said: "This is the first time CCS technology has been switched on and working at an operational coal-fired power station in the UK, and is a major step forward in delivering the reality of carbon-free fossil fuel electricity generation. It's about taking the concept of CCS out of the lab and making it a full-scale commercial reality." He urged that the opportunity for the UK to lead the way in carbon storage should not be "squandered", as it had been with nuclear power and wind."Proving this technology at scale and, crucially, proving that it can be retrofitted, will mean it could be installed to an estimated 50,000 fossil fuel plants around the world, which would be a huge step towards reaching global reduction targets." It is estimated the carbon capture sector could create 50,000 jobs across the UK. Mr Horler added: "There is the potential to create an industry on the same scale as North Sea oil."Jim Walker, co-founder of independent organisation The Climate Group, compared it to other major technological advances, saying it was "a bit like the first crackly telephone call or blurry television picture".David Hunter, an analyst at energy firm McKinnon & Clarke, said: "This has huge potential for Scotland's economy. We have the infrastructure, the offshore know-how, the technology and the space to store carbon in disused oilfields and beneath the seabed. If the technology can be proven to work, and is economically viable, then Scotland has a global competitive advantage."The 1MW prototype unit switched on yesterday at Longannet, Europe's third-largest coal-fired power station, is a small-scale replica of a full-sized carbon capture plant. However, it only captures before releasing it again – rather than storing it and is tiny compared with the technology needed for the full 2,300MW plant.ScottishPower hopes the test unit will help experts move towards building a 330MW demonstration plant at Longannet, which would incorporate capture of , transportation to the North Sea and storage in disused gas plants or "saline aquifers" – gaps in the rocks in the seabed.The firm is hoping to win a competition for about £1 billion of government funding to go on to develop the 330MW demonstration plant, which could be complete by 2014. ScottishPower is competing for the cash with RWE npower and E.ON, which are planning to build power stations with CCS south of the Border if they win, instead of retrofitting an existing plant.WWF last week published a report suggesting Longannet was the best option in the UK government competition for a carbon capture trial as the others would result in higher emissions. Prime Minister Gordon Brown had planned to be at yesterday's switch-on. He sent a letter apologising for not being able to attend, but said it was a "historic day for the company and for the country".New school of thought for a developing industryA GLOBAL centre of excellence in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is to be established in Scotland.Energy firm Iberdrola, which owns ScottishPower, has chosen to establish the centre in Scotland to help accelerate the deployment of the technology. Nick Horler, chief executive of ScottishPower, said: "Only by making the UK a centre of excellence can we realise the full potential of CCS by training and nurturing a new talent pool with the necessary skills and expertise to take advantage of this emerging industry."The firm announced yesterday that it would be funding a professorship of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh.Duncan McLaren: Tiny step on the road to bringing under control A TRIAL has started of carbon dioxide capture at Longannet power station, Scotland's largest single source of the climate-changing gas.The ScottishPower tests, which started yesterday, are an important step in the quest to slash emissions of climate changing gases to a safe level, and in the development of a technology that will be vital if countries such as India and China are to develop without redoubling their impacts on the world's fragile climate systems.ScottishPower has gone further than BP, whose proposal for a carbon-capture power plant at Peterhead was shelved in 2007 after the UK government announced support for nuclear power, but no clear backing for carbon capture. But the trial will capture the emissions from just one megawatt (MW) of the capacity at Longannet – a 2.4-gigawatt power station. So that's 1MW down, 2,399 to go…The trial is intended to pave the way for a 300MW "commercial scale" installation by 2014 – if the UK government agrees to fund it – which would still leave 2,100MW unabated, to be fitted in the future. Nor can we count on carbon capture creating sustainable Scottish businesses and jobs. The technology at Longannet is supplied by Aker, a Norwegian company. The key ingredient, a chemical that captures the carbon dioxide, is its property.And Scotland's big advantage – good sites under the North Sea to store captured carbon – is far from permanent. A recent study suggested there was capacity for over 200 years of Scotland's emissions, but other European countries will want a share.So carbon capture is a bridging technology to a renewable future – it will not allow us to go on polluting for as long as the coal lasts.If Scotland is to capture a share of the jobs and economic wealth in this technology we need to develop it faster. Ministers should adopt the Californian idea of a standard for new and refurbished power stations, which guarantees that, if they are to burn coal, they will need carbon capture at a commercial scale immediately.• Duncan McLaren is the chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland.

ScottishPower begins clean energy tests at Longannet power station

The Times
May 30, 2009

ScottishPower took a big step forward in the attempt to produce carbon-free energy from coal yesterday when it switched on newly installed machinery at Longannet power station in Fife.
The company is bidding to win a £1 billion government competition to develop the technology needed to fit carbon capture and storage technology to a coal-fired power station — described as the holy grail of alternative energy.
However, it emerged that Norwegian rather than Scottish companies stand to be the big winners if the bid succeeds. At the heart of the process is a technology that is Norwegian-owned and which ScottishPower and other companies will have to pay for if carbon capture becomes big business.
The eventual aim is to capture about 90 per cent of the carbon dioxide that goes up power station chimneys, Scotland’s biggest single emitter of climate-changing gases. This would go a long way towards the target of cutting the country’s harmful emissions by 50 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030.

he Scottish and British governments have claimed that there is potentially a big economic gain if Britain can become a leader in finding a cheap technology to fit to the estimated 50,000 fossil-fuelled power stations around the world.
ScottishPower has formed a consortium with Aker Clean Carbon of Norway, which is developing the capturing technology, and Marathon Oil, which is working on the pipelines and undersea installations needed to transport and store carbon dioxide under the North Sea.
The machinery switched on yesterday, which belongs to Aker, will process less than 0.5 per cent of Longannet’s exhaust gases, equivalent to 1 megawatt (MW) of electricity output. The tests will take 6-7 months to find the most efficient and cheapest way of extracting the carbon dioxide.
Critical to the success of the tests is reducing the amount of energy needed to capture carbon. Current technologies would require between 25-30 per cent of Longannet’s electricity output to be diverted into carbon capture if all of the station’s emissions were to be cleaned up.
Tony Corless, ScottishPower’s technical manager of the capturing equipment, explained that the process involved using nitrogen-hydrogen compounds called amines which stick to carbon dioxide, enabling it to be extracted from other exhaust gases. “The holy grail is to get a low-energy amine,” Mr Corless said, adding that it was hoped to reduce the amount of energy used in carbon capture to about 12 per cent of Longannet’s power output.
This technology, however, will not belong to ScottishPower. It will only license it for use from SOLVit, a Norwegian consortium in which Aker Clean Carbon is the main partner with Sintef, a Norwegian research company, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Steven Marshall, a ScottishPower executive overseeing the carbon project, said that the company hoped to profit by selling the expertise accumulated in making a carbon capture project technically and economically viable.
Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said that it favoured fitting carbon capture and storage technology to existing coal-fired power stations, but raised concern that it could lead to more fossil-fuelled power stations being built at the expense of developing renewable power.

Scottish Power tests carbon capture technology

Energy firm launches a pilot project to extract carbon emissions from a coal-fired power station

Tim Webb, Friday 29 May 2009 16.48 BST

Scottish Power has unveiled what it describes as the UK's first carbon capture and storage kit fitted to an operational coal plant, prompting one rival energy firm to label the claim as "greenwash".
Scottish Power yesterday switched on the portable prototype at its 2,300MW coal plant at Longannet near Fife, which is Europe's third largest coal plant.
For the next seven months, the Spanish-owned company will capture the carbon emissions produced from 1mw of the coal plant to test the chemical process in the hope of rolling the technology out on a larger scale. But the captured emissions will then be released into the atmosphere, rather than stored, a fact the company omitted to mention until questioned by the Guardian.
In the press release issued by the company, its chief executive Nick Horler was quoted as saying: "This is the first time that CCS [carbon capture and storage] technology has been switched on and working at an operational coal-fired power station in the UK, and is a major step forward in delivering the reality of carbon-free fossil fuel electricity generation."
He added: "The test unit uses the exact same technology that we aim to retrofit to the station for a commercial scale CCS project by 2014, and the leap from 1MW to 330MW is now within sight."
Many media reports covering the official opening ceremony later described the technology as storing, not just capturing, the carbon. One executive from a rival energy firm, while acknowledging that Longannet is the first operational coal plant in the UK to capture emissions, said it was "greenwash" to imply they were also being stored. Robin Oakley of ­Greenpeace added: "People will be surprised to learn that Scottish Power is only testing a chemical process rather than doing the hard bit and storing the CO2."

ScottishPower tests carbon capture project

By Andrew Bolger, Scotland Correspondent
Published: May 30 2009 03:00

A test project to extract carbon dioxide emissions from a Scottish power station was launched yesterday - the first time they have been captured from a working coal-fired plant in the UK.
The government plans to back up to four "clean coal" power stations that will capture and store CO 2 , a process seen as essential for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
ScottishPower has in-stalled a small-scale replica of a full carbon capture plant at Longannet in Fife, the UK's second largest power station, which is also close to the depleted North Sea oil and gas fields that scientists believe could make storage reservoirs for CO 2 .
Ignacio Galán, chairman of Iberdrola, the Spanish energy group that owns ScottishPower, said yesterday he believed that the UK could lead the world with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
"There is the potential to create an industry on the same scale as North Sea oil, and we will invest in Scotland and the UK to help realise this potential," he said.
The Holyrood government published a joint industrial and academic study that said all the CO 2 produced by UK coal-fired plants during the next 200 years could be stored under the Scottish area of the North Sea.
Alex Salmond, first min-ister, said: "The potential Scottish capacity is of European significance, comparable with that of offshore Norway, and greater than the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany combined."
The projectwill allow ScottishPower to test the chemistry involved in capturing CO 2 from flue gases.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

This silent suffering

Few doubt the science of climate change – but its impact on the world's poor is largely ignored

Rajendra Pachauri, Friday 29 May 2009 16.00 BST

Science is now unequivocal as to the reality of climate change. However, one facet - its human face - has been dangerously neglected. Until now. Given what the science tells us about global warming, how many ­people around the world will be affected, in what way, and at what cost?
These are the questions that a major new report attempts to answer for the first time. Its findings indicate that hundreds of millions of people are already permanently or temporarily affected, and half a billion are at extreme risk now. Because of climate change, each year hundreds of thousands lose their lives. All these figures are set to increase rapidly in as little as 10-20 years.
This publication, from the Global Humanitarian Forum, of which I am a board member, constitutes the most plausible estimate of the human impacts of climate change today. The scale of devastation is so great that it is hard to believe the truth behind it, or how it is possible that so many people remain ignorant of this crisis.
Four main factors have contributed to the silence. First, while the world has been coming to terms with the ­science of climate change, the problem has moved from being a future threat to a current danger. Climate change is an evolving concern, affecting people now.
Second, 99% of the casualties linked to climate change occur in developing countries. Worst hit are the world's poorest groups. While climate change will increasingly affect wealthy countries, the brunt of the impact is being borne by the poor, whose plight simply receives less attention.
Third, and worse, climate change hides its influence among a wide range of today's key global problems. It impacts heavily on nutrition and diseases such as malaria, and increases poverty. But that impact can be lost among the many contributing factors.
That is why a fourth major challenge is the current inability to separate the impacts of climate change in specific situations. It is impossible to say, for example, how much the severity of any hurricane is due to climate change.
It is time, however, to break the silence. It may not be possible to pin-point specific situations, or to achieve unequivocal global consensus. It took the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 19 years to accomplish a consensus on the science in its 2007 report. But the general changes in the global climate system are clear: the number and intensity of extreme weather events, such as major floods and storms, has increased steadily in the last 30 years. Temperature changes show similar patterns, as do cyclone trajectories and rainfall patterns. From these changes it is possible to make good estimates about their global impacts on people.
That tells us who is worst affected: the poor, who are largely unprepared, and unable to cope with climatic change. Of course, wealthy countries are affected: long-term drought in Australia has caused certain crop yields to plummet. But the poor lack the resources to prevent disasters or adapt to changed conditions. Many already subsist on the mere threshold of survival.
Next week a series of UN talks will take place in Bonn – one of the last stepping stones in the effort to reach international agreement on how the world should tackle climate change, at the Copenhagen summit in December. Any post-Kyoto agreement must take into account the tremendous scale of suffering already being caused today.
There is a great responsibility for major polluters to protect the poorest populations from a problem for which they cannot be held responsible. Their silent suffering must serve as a warning signal of the greater suffering that lies in store for the rest of us if we fail to tackle climate change together.

Manchester: industrial revolution's birthplace poised for green renaissance

Submissions to the Manchester Report, a project to find the solution to climate change, closes today

Terry Wyke, Friday 29 May 2009 13.51 BST

History divides itself into two parts: the world before the industrial revolution and the world after the industrial revolution. The transformation began in Britain in the 18th century, spreading across the world to become the public goal of every nation. The new industrial towns — the Coketowns of Dickens' novels — were at the forefront of this change, none more so than Manchester. Manchester's pivotal role makes it the perfect city to host this year's Manchester report, a new project designed to mitigate the environmental consequences of the industrial revolution.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Manchester was a pretty market town, its population living in a handful of streets. All that was to change. Cotton and coal were the drivers of the transformation, which had many factors behind its transformation into the world's first industrial city.
Lancashire was a producer of coal, Manchester a consumer. The town's demand for coal was the reason for the construction of the world's first modern canal, the Bridgewater Canal. Coal was also the fuel that burned in the fireboxes of the new railway engines. Manchester became the terminus of the line that carried cotton to and from docks at Liverpool. Coal consumption in Manchester was measured in millions of tonnes, and its smoke became, as Lewis Mumford remarked, "the very incense of the new industrialism".
Manchester grew at an astonishing rate, and its booming economy attracted migrants from all over Britain. Districts such as Hulme which had hardly troubled the early census takers — there were only 30 houses in 1774 — boasted a population of more than 50,000 by 1851. Such expansion created a nasty urban environment in which living conditions were appalling. Water supply, sewage disposal, housing, epidemics and the disposal of the dead were high on a long list of problems that swamped the resources of an archaic system of local government.
Air pollution was not the most immediate of problems but the canopy of smoke that belched from industrial and domestic chimneys began to attract attention. Sooty Manchester witnessed the birth of modern environmental concerns thanks to the scientist Robert Angus Smith. Scottish born and educated, Smith arrived in Manchester in the early 1840s and became an expert on atmospheric pollution.
Manchester proved to be an ideal laboratory for his pioneering investigations. He advanced the understanding of the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and the impact of an impure atmosphere upon plant and human life. Measuring the impurities in rain was one of his concerns, and though he may not have coined the term, he was was one of the first to observe acid rain.
Smith lived long enough to see the establishment in Manchester of a Noxious Vapours Abatement Society, a pressure group that raised awareness of the problems of atmospheric pollution in a city in which the buildings appeared to have been carved from blocks of soot. Their search for technical solutions to the smoke, their recognition of the need for cooperation in dealing with problems that crossed administrative boundaries, their brewing of public opinion by means of exhibitions, public lectures and the media, and their struggle to change public behaviour ought to strike a chord with modern environmentalists.
If you attend the Manchester report conference on climate change in July, walk the short distance from Manchester's Albert Square to All Saints, the site of Smith's analytical laboratory. A plaque marks the exact location of where the battle began against the revolution's uglier face.
Terry Wyke teaches social and economic history at Manchester Metropolitan University
Today is the final day to submit your plan for tackling climate change to the Manchester report

Climate change toll is crucial evidence

With the deadly effect of global warming quantified, international law can be invoked and the perpetrators punished

Mark Lynas, Friday 29 May 2009 12.30 BST

It's a tsunami every year. According to a report released today, a third of a million people die annually because of climate change – mostly because of malaria and malnutrition, although weather-related disasters are also taking a rising toll. The number of deaths is equivalent to the lives lost in the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster of 2004.
This report is the first effort to quantify global warming-related deaths since the World Health Organisation estimated in 2003 that 150,000 people die each year due to climate-related factors, mainly disease – but aggravated by shortages of food and clean water.
These numbers are vitally important, because they provide a direct evidence-based link between culpability – those responsible for the emissions driving climate change – and victimhood, those who are suffering the consequences, including losing their lives. And notably, the victims and the perpetrators are very different people in very different parts of the world.
Almost all the deaths counted in these two reports occur in developing countries, where the lack of healthcare and vulnerability to poor harvests leaves people uniquely vulnerable to droughts and spreading disease. The report also highlights the fact that those countries considered least vulnerable to climate change – both geographically and economically – tend to be in the rich world: those who have largely caused the problem.
Despite this overall big picture, it should not be forgotten that the single largest climate disaster struck not in the third world, but in the heart of Europe – the 2003 heatwave during which 35,000 people died, particularly in France and Germany. During one awful night in Paris, on 10 August 2003, 2,000 people – mainly elderly – were carried out of their apartments in body bags. So climate change can and will affect us all eventually.
Attaching real-world numbers to climate impacts is enormously important, because for most people the problem still seems remote and far-off, something for others to worry about at some future time. With the estimated death toll quantified, international law can be invoked, and the perpetrators – whether oil companies, coal-burning power stations or perhaps entire nations – can be punished, or at least forced to pay massive damages.
Coincidentally, 300,000 is also the population of the Maldives – one of the nations most vulnerable to climate change, which will be swamped by the rising oceans unless emissions are dramatically scaled back soon. The Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed announced in March that he would seek to make his country the first carbon-neutral nation in world – achieving the goal within 10 years.
Today at the Hay festival a competition is being held, where a British child will name a new Maldivian coral reef – a living structure which, if global warming is eventually controlled, may one day form the basis of a new island. The offer is characteristic of the generosity of these island people, who say they are less interested in pinning blame than in being part of the solution.
But the numbers are increasingly clear, and responsibilities cannot be evaded for ever. The legal implications are analogous to those faced by the tobacco industry once evidence solidified about the links between smoking and cancer. Shareholders and investors in fossil fuels need to be aware that they now face a liability that will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars – their products are killing people, and it is only a matter of time before the wheels of international justice begin to turn.

President Obama must be brave and impose a gas tax on Americans

US energy secretary Steven Chu’s claim that a gas tax is not politically feasible seems wrong on two fronts.

By Martin HutchinsonLast Updated: 12:07PM BST 29 May 2009

First, Obama has a big Congressional majority and sufficient support. Second, a gas tax would be a better way to fight climate change than new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and a “cap and trade” system.
True, politically, voters are allergic to new taxes. Thus President Barack Obama’s proposed “cap and trade” permits system and tighter emissions standards avoid taxing voters directly by imposing costs on energy companies and automobile manufacturers instead. From a budgetary standpoint, that’s money lost: a gas tax could greatly help deficit reduction. The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill passed by the House Energy Committee last week produces little net revenue as 85pc of emission permits would be free.

The new auto emissions standards should improve gas mileage by about 40% after they take full effect in 2016, potentially reducing current US gasoline consumption from 140bn gallons annually to 100bn.
The long-term price elasticity of gasoline usage is quite high -- the mean of studies in several countries is around 70pc. Based on a conservative 50pc figure, a reduction in gasoline consumption from 140bn gallons to 100bn could be achieved by raising the gas price to $4.78 per gallon from the current $2.44 – still significantly below Europe.
On those estimates, a $2.34 Federal gasoline tax that produced that increase would yield $234bn per annum or $2.56tn over the 10-year Federal budgetary horizon, assuming 2pc inflation.
Higher gasoline taxes spread the burden of change around the economy, instead of imposing it on automobile manufacturers alone. Together with smaller automobiles, produced according to market demands, higher gas taxes would curb driving and pollution, increase public transport usage and spur innovation in urban development.
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Bold targets set for global warming experts pose threat to action

The Times
May 30, 2009
Gary Duncan, Economics Editor

Achieving a workable international deal to tackle climate change successfully is being threatened by overambitious targets set for the world conference on global warming this year, experts said yesterday.
Anxieties over whether a viable and effective agreement to combat global warming can be secured in Copenhagen in December will be fuelled by the concerns voiced yesterday at the annual Munich Economic Summit, supported by The Times.
Carlo Carraro, Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Venice, led warnings that overly demanding goals set by governments worldwide for the Copenhagen gathering could doom to failure any deal struck there.
Professor Carraro said his research suggested that the key target set for Copenhagen — cutting the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 550 parts per million (ppm) by 2100 — could be achieved only if the summit secured a “grand coalition” of Western nations with big emerging market countries, including China and India.

However, he said that China and India were prominent among nations that faced strong economic incentives to spurn an agreement and try to act as “free-riders”, leaving developed countries to shoulder the burden of tackling climate change.
Professor Carraro’s concerns were echoed by other leading participants at the international debate on climate and energy in Munich, organised by the CESIfo think-tank based in the Bavarian capital, and the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt.
Karen Harbert, the chief executive of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the US Chamber of Commerce, said that an American medium-term goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 14 per cent less than 2005 levels would mean cutting these by a “gigaton”.
That, she said, was the equivalent of the United States building 320 new “zero emission” 500 megawatt coal-fired power plants, or 130 new nuclear power stations. It would also imply America cutting the intensity of its carbon emissions to levels equal to those in present-day Bangladesh.
Nevertheless, an official responsible for co-ordinating the Copenhagen Summit said that he remained optimistic over its outcome. Henning Wuester, special adviser to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “I believe there are opportunities in Copenhagen, and the possibility for success — but we are not there yet.”

Global warming causes 300,000 deaths a year, says Kofi Annan thinktank

Climate change is greatest humanitarian challenge facing the world as heatwaves, floods and forest fires become more severe

John Vidal, environment editor, Friday 29 May 2009 11.03 BST

Climate change is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and is affecting 300m people, according to the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming.
It projects that increasingly severe heatwaves, floods, storms and forest fires will be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths a year by 2030, making it the greatest humanitarian challenge the world faces.
Economic losses due to climate change today amount to more than $125bn a year — more than all the present world aid. The report comes from former UN secretary general Kofi Annan's thinktank, the Global Humanitarian Forum. By 2030, the report says, climate change could cost $600bn a year.
Civil unrest may also increase because of weather-related events, the report says: "Four billion people are vulnerable now and 500m are now at extreme risk. Weather-related disasters ... bring hunger, disease, poverty and lost livelihoods. They pose a threat to social and political stability".
If emissions are not brought under control, within 25 years, the report states:
• 310m more people will suffer adverse health consequences related to temperature increases
• 20m more people will fall into poverty
• 75m extra people will be displaced by climate change.
Climate change is expected to have the most severe impact on water supplies . "Shortages in future are likely to threaten food production, reduce sanitation, hinder economic development and damage ecosystems. It causes more violent swings between floods and droughts. Hundreds of millions of people are expected to become water stressed by climate change by the 2030. ".
The study says it is impossible to be certain who will be displaced by 2030, but that tens of millions of people "will be driven from their homelands by weather disasters or gradual environmental degradation. The problem is most severe in Africa, Bangladesh, Egypt, coastal zones and forest areas. ."
The study compares for the first time the number of people affected by climate change in rich and poor countries. Nearly 98% of the people seriously affected, 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters and 90% of the total economic losses are now borne by developing countries. The populations most at risk it says, are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, south Asia and the small island states of the Pacific.
But of the 12 countries considered least at risk, including Britain, all but one are industrially developed. Together they have made nearly $72bn available to adapt themselves to climate change but have pledged only $400m to help poor countries. "This is less than one state in Germany is spending on improving its flood defences," says the report.
The study comes as diplomats from 192 countries prepare to meet in Bonn next week for UN climate change talks aimed at reaching a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in December in Copenhagen. "The world is at a crossroads. We can no longer afford to ignore the human impact of climate change. This is a call to the negotiators to come to the most ambitious agreement ever negotiated or to continue to accept mass starvartion, mass sickness and mass migration on an ever growing scale," said Kofi Annan, who launched the report today in London.
Annan blamed politians for the current impasse in the negotiations and widespread ignorance in many countries. "Weak leadership, as evident today, is alarming. If leaders cannot assume responsibility they will fail humanity. Agreement is in the interests of every human being."
Barabra Stocking, head of Oxfam said: "Adaptation efforts need to be scaled up dramatically.The world's poorest are the hardest hit, but they have done the least to cause it.
Nobel peace prizewinner Wangari Maathai, said: "Climate change is life or death. It is the new global battlefield. It is being presented as if it is the problem of the developed world. But it's the developed world that has precipitated global warming."
Calculations for the report are based on data provided by the World Bank, the World Health organisation, the UN, the Potsdam Insitute For Climate Impact Research, and others, including leading insurance companies and Oxfam. However, the authors accept that the estimates are uncertain and could be higher or lower. The paper was reviewed by 10 of the world's leading experts incluing Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, Jeffrey Sachs, of Columbia University and Margareta Wahlström, assistant UN secretary general for disaster risk reduction.