Friday, 19 June 2009

Climate Talks Ease Concern in Farm Belt


WASHINGTON -- House Democrats are on the verge of a deal with rebelling Farm Belt legislators on a climate-change bill, a move that could pave the way for a full House vote on legislation as soon as next week.
Dozens of Democrats -- mostly from Midwest agricultural states -- are concerned that the bill, which aims to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, could disproportionately raise energy prices for residents and businesses in their states.
Lawmakers and industry officials close to the negotiations said the two sides could reach an agreement within days, under which rural utilities could receive a small share of free emission credits -- less than 1% of the total that would be handed out. The credits allow the holder to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gases.
"We're very optimistic about progress" in negotiations, said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). "We should know in the next couple of days if we'll be able to introduce the bill next week."
If a deal is reached, prospects for passage in the House are stronger than in the Senate, where many lawmakers still have reservations about the climate-change proposal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said he planned to take up a version of the House bill later this year.
Under the deal, distribution of the credits to the electric industry would be based largely on retail sales, not emissions. Since many rural states rely on coal-fired power and have fewer customers than coastal states, their electric bills could rise disproportionately. The additional credits would help them offset the costs of cutting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
The deal also could appease Farm Belt lawmakers by giving the U.S. Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency greater involvement in oversight of the market for "offsets," credits for projects that cut greenhouse gases. Many of the projects would likely come from the agriculture sector, such as planting trees that absorb carbon dioxide.
Write to Ian Talley at

Benn warns on climate challenge

By Clive Cookson, Science Editor
Published: June 18 2009 23:00

Britain faces a century of sweltering summers, with more extremes of both flooding and drought, according to the latest assessment of the impact of global warming on the UK climate. Sea level is likely to rise by 36cm by 2080 – with an outside chance of a 1-metre rise.
“The real message of these projections is that we have got to respond, we’ve got to act,” Hilary Benn, environment secretary, said on Thursday. “Climate change is the greatest challenge that we face as a world.”

The study, carried out by the Meteorological Office, is a much more elaborate and detailed reworking of the UK Climate Impact Projections originally published in 2002. It uses the latest scientific models to produce what the Met Office calls “the most comprehensive set of probabilistic climate projections at the regional scale compiled anywhere in the world”.
The conclusions are broadly consistent with those reached seven years ago, though the projected temperature changes are more alarming and the rainfall changes less so. While southern England is likely to have 20 per cent less summer rainfall in the 2080s than today, the risk of a severe decline leading to desert-like conditions is less than previously estimated.
But average summer temperatures are projected to rise by 1.6ºC during the 2020s and about 4ºC in the 2080s. The build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that has already taken place through human activities means that summers will be at least 2ºC hotter in the 2040s, whatever international agreements are reached to cut future emissions.
“We now know that some further climate change over the next two to three decades is already unavoidable,” said John Beddington, the government chief scientist. “But what the projections also show is that strong mitigation action now can start to make a real difference by 2050 and lead to very different climate outcomes by the 2080s.”
In a business-as-usual high-emissions scenario, peak summer temperatures in the south-east could be 12ºC above today’s, with summer highs in London regularly exceeding 40ºC. That is 2ºC above the record UK temperature, recorded in Gravesend during the heatwave of August 2003.
Winter rainfall is projected to rise by 10-20 per cent over most of the country by the 2080s. And the number of intense rainstorms will increase throughout the year, leading to a greater risk of flooding.
The report drew strong support from all sides of the political spectrum and from environmental campaigners. “This extremely valuable report is an important wake-up call on the need for urgent action to slash emissions,” said Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

A healthy natural environment is our safety net for climate change

Conservation is now about adaptation – and we must allow natural processes to function if we are to survive, writes Helen Phillips

Helen Phillips, Thursday 18 June 2009 14.25 BST

Today is a significant one for our thinking about climate change, with the latest government projections now suggesting that average summer temperatures will increase by up to 6C, with peaks in London over 40C..
Even under the old scenarios we were looking at a life-changing alteration in our climate and we have already had a taste of some of the potential impacts – the heatwave of 2003, for example, resulted in the death of over 2,000 people in the UK. By the 2040s, that could be just another normal summer. And floods such as those we saw in 2007 – and which cost an estimated £3bn – will be far more commonplace.
These changes will also have an enormous impact on our wildlife and the habitats they rely on. Some of our green and pleasant land could become a dry and dusty one within decades, and some of our native species will face a major struggle for survival.
In the face of these challenges , the imperative of conservation is no longer – if it ever was – about preservation: it's about adaptation and enabling the environment to function naturally. In the process, we may need to accept that some of our wildlife – especially species at the edge of their range – will leave us.
A few animals, like the capercaillie, mountain ringlet or mountain hare, are facing extinction if climate change takes hold in the way that is predicted. But the majority of our wildlife will adapt to the climate if we enable it to do so – by improving natural habitats or managing our landscapes so that they species can migrate in step with the climate. And at the same time we have already seen new species from overseas colonising these shores in increasing numbers – little egrets are now well established, turtles are more commonly sighted off our coastline and butterflies are moving in from Europe.
To some, a healthy natural environment may seem an unaffordable luxury when society is faced with major climatic threats to homes and livelihoods. Many will argue that we need to invest more heavily in technology, to build bigger defences and to put the environment on the backburner – and in some instances, we may have no choice if we are to defend some highly vulnerable communities. But as the default solution, that cannot be the way forward. If we do not work with nature to a much greater degree than in recent decades, we are doomed to failure in the battle against climate change.
To cope with climate change we have to allow natural processes within the environment to function and we need to resist the interference that has characterised so much of our approach over the last century. Collectively we have to ensure that the critical services that a healthy environment delivers are able to operate unimpeded.
For example, peatbogs are the most important store of carbon in the UK – storing more than all the forests of Germany and France combined. Saltmarsh protects hundreds of miles of the British coastline at no cost. The free flood control and storm buffering benefits provided by coastal habitats like saltmarsh and sand dunes have been estimated at over £1bn per year.
Together, land and the oceans absorb around half of all human-produced greenhouse gas emissions. Urban green spaces help cool surrounding built up areas by up to 4C and protecting upland rivers can increase the supply of fresh drinking water – vital given the likely decrease in rainfall. Conserving a healthy natural environment is therefore not only morally correct, it is cost-effective action preparing our nation for the impacts of global warming.
Viewed in this light we are remarkably ill-prepared for the challenges ahead. During the last half century we have, as a society, put in place some spectacularly high hurdles in the way of our ability to respond to environmental change.
Much of our coastline is "defended" by concrete structures that have no capacity to adapt to rising sea levels and in some cases make erosion worse; we have overgrazed and damaged many of our peatlands that play such a critical role in absorbing and storing greenhouse gases; we have exploited our farmland so that soils are damaged and fertility decreased. We have overfished our seas so that fish stocks may simply find the changing climate too much to bear, and crash permanently. On the land, development, pollution and intensive agriculture have forced species to retreat to isolated and fragmented habitats that leave no room for them to move when climate change starts to hit.
Protecting and working with nature makes economic sense, and can be done now. Continuing to rely on as yet undeveloped technologies as our safety net for climate change would be nothing short of a disaster.
• Helen Phillips is the chief executive of Natural England

Malaria, freak storms and great white sharks: what may lie ahead for the UK

Scientists today produced a detailed map of how climate change is expected to affect every part of the UK over the next century. David Adam looks at what the findings will mean for various aspects of life in the UK

David Adam, Thursday 18 June 2009 17.38 BST

Public health
The Department of Health predicts about 1,000 more heat-related deaths each year by the 2020s, mainly among sick and elderly people, rising to 2,800 by the 2080s. Warmer weather could help stomach bugs to thrive, and could see an extra 14,000 cases of food poisoning by the 2080s. But warmer winters are expected to save many people from cold-related deaths, with numbers down 14,000 by the 2020s and 29,000 by the 2080s. Malaria could appear in Britain by mid-century if mosquitoes flourish, but is unlikely to pose a major threat. But increased exposure to ultra-violet light beneath cloudless skies could cause 2,000 extra cases of cataracts each year and 30,000 more cases of skin cancer by the 2050s.
Current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are below the optimum for photosynthesis, so rising carbon emissions could boost growth and yields in the short-term. Longer growing seasons could help too, but drier summers could hit grass production and, without irrigation, some parts of the country could become too dry for many crops. By the 2050s, yields of winter wheat could rise by a quarter, though these gains might be threatened by pests and weeds that could flourish in the new climate. Oilseed rape may struggle, but the range of sunflowers and maize could spread northwards to take its place. By the 2080s, English wine growers could harvest French grape varieties on the slopes of the Lake District.
The range of many plants and animals will shift northwards with the changing weather, but some may be unable to make the journey unaided. Beech trees that find it too warm on the south coast within a few decades might need humans to plant saplings further north, and butterflies squeezed north towards cooler climes could find their route blocked by a shortage of suitable habitat in the midlands. The situation in the sea is simpler, and more octopus and squid could appear in the English Channel and southern waters, as cold water species such as cod head away. Great white sharks could be regular visitors to the coast by the 2080s, where they could find more bathers enjoying the Mediterranean climate.
British holidays could boom, but increased visitor numbers could spell problems for footpaths in already overrun and eroded National Parks such as the Lake District. So could heavier winter rainfall. Cafe culture in cities such as Manchester could blossom, but would people be willing to brave the summer heat? By the 2080s, officials may be forced to rejig the school year, with July and August simply too hot for traditional summer holidays. Climate refugees from increasingly arid and drought-struck southern Europe could head towards UK shores.
Sea level and flooding
Ice caps and glaciers do not need to melt for sea level to rise – warmer temperatures are enough because the sea water expands. By the 2020s, this thermal expansion could raise global sea level by 6cm. But the increase around the UK will not be even because the bedrock beneath is gradually tilting, with the south-east sinking. By the 2080s, sea level could be 70cm higher at the southern end of the UK and 50cm up along the northern coast. An estimated 2 million people will be at risk of flooding and there will be a 17-fold increase in flood risk along the east coast. London could face a £25bn clean up bill after a freak storm surge overwhelms the Thames barrier.

We have the climate predictions but do we have the political will to adapt?

Rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns and increases in temperature all demand urgent measures

David King, Thursday 18 June 2009 19.04 BST

The climate predictions for the UK, published today by Defra, underline the extraordinary nature of the challenge to our communities.
Rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns and increases in temperature, varying from locality to locality, all demand the implementation of adaptation measures to manage the increasing risk to our coastlines, cities, towns and villages, and the infrastructure serving them.
We are fortunate in having the best climate modelling capacity in the world here in the UK. Now the question is whether or not the British public and their councillors, planners, civil servants and politicians have the appetite to provide sufficient funding to devise and implement long-range schemes of adaptation across the 23 river basins, 16 administrative regions and eight coastal regions covered by the report.
Until the past 10 years, risk management against extreme events such as storms at sea, flash floods and hot dry summers, was framed in terms of the frequency of these events.
The Thames Barrier, for example, was designed to withstand a 1-in-2,000 year event, thus preventing London from flooding through surges up or down the river except in the most extreme cases.
But with a changing climate, this language has to be altered. What was a 1-in-2,000 year event in 1982, when the barrier first became operational, will now be a 1-in-1,000 year event later this century. The barrier will need to be retro-fitted to face our changing climate challenges.
Our changing climate has a built in inertia of about 30 years. The increase in greenhouse gases brought about largely by our use of fossil fuels and by deforestation over the past 50 years will continue to cause global warming over the coming decades, even if we were to terminate all emissions now.
But decisions to cut back on emissions now – globally, not just in the UK – will have a dramatic effect on impacts in the period beyond 2040. Here is the political challenge: to reduce the impacts for future generations we must de-fossilise our economies now. Have we, as a global civilisation, developed the capability and the appetite for joint action on a scale never previously achieved for the benefit not of ourselves but for future generations?
In 2005, on behalf of the UK government, I signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government to enable members of our foresight flood and coastal defence team to work with Chinese engineers, scientists and economists on the flood risk to Shanghai and the Yangse basin area of China. The outcome, I believe, was a startling realisation for the Chinese that Shanghai, the jewel in the crown of China's economic miracle, was itself at risk of unmanageable levels of flooding before the end of the century, under a business-as-usual scenario for carbon emissions.
I believe that this may well have been a major factor in the clear change in the Chinese leadership's approach to the need for global action on emissions. Today, China is possibly the most progressive country in the world on taking action on climate change, including significant use of stimulus funds to green its development. The Chinese negotiating position for Copenhagen climate talks in December is now very critical of the laggards among the developed nations, particularly Japan and Canada.
This report is therefore very welcome as a further step towards managing risks for the UK from the global warming impacts that are already in the pipeline. But this is one step in the process. We need to have a full-scale review and refinancing of our adaptation procedures. And on the international scale, we will have to redouble our efforts if there is to be any useful outcome from the Copenhagen negotiations. In the face of the global economic downturn and, specifically, the further major downturn in the Japanese economy and the emerging dependence of the Canadian economy on extracting oil from tar sands, do we have the global political appetite for action on the scale required?
• Professor Sir David King is director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford. He was chief scientific advisor to the UK government from 2000 to 2007.

Greening the apocalypse

Climate change should be countered by working with nature rather than relying on untried technology

Helen Phillips, Thursday 18 June 2009 22.30 BST

Today is a significant one for our thinking about climate change, with the latest government ­projections now suggesting that average summer temperatures will ­increase by as much as 6C, with peaks in London over 40C.
Even under the old scenarios we were looking at a radical alteration in our ­climate, and we have already had a taste of the potential effects – the heat wave of 2003, for instance, resulted in the death of more than 2,000 people in Britain. By the 2040s, that could be a normal summer. And floods like those in 2007, which cost about £3bn, will be far more commonplace.
These changes will also have an enormous impact on our wildlife. Parts of our green and pleasant land could become dry and dusty within decades, and some of our native species will face a major struggle for survival.
In the face of these challenges the imperative of conservation is no longer preservation: it's about adaptation and enabling the environment to function naturally. In the process we may have to accept that some of our wildlife, especially species at the edge of their range, will leave us.
A few animals, like the capercaillie, mountain ringlet or mountain hare, are facing extinction if climate change takes hold in the way that is predicted. But most wildlife will adapt to the climate if we help it – by improving habitats or managing landscapes so species can migrate in step with the climate. And we have already seen new species from overseas colonising the UK – little egrets are now established, turtles are more commonly sighted off our coastline and butterflies are moving in from Europe.
To some, a healthy natural environment may seem a luxury when society is faced with major threats. Many will argue that we need to invest more heavily in defences and to put the environment on the back burner – and we may have no choice but to protect vulnerable communities. But as the default solution that cannot be the way forward. If we do not work with nature to a much greater degree we are doomed to failure in the fight against climate change.
To cope with climate change we have to allow natural processes within the environment to function and resist the interference of the last 50 years. For instance, peat bogs are the most important store of carbon in the UK, storing more than all the forests of Germany and France combined; and saltmarsh protects hundreds of miles of the coastline at no cost. The buffering benefits provided by coastal habitats like saltmarsh and sand dunes have been estimated at more than £1bn a year.
Together, land and the oceans absorb around half of all greenhouse gas emissions. Urban green spaces help cool built-up areas by up to 4C and better protected upland rivers can increase the supply of fresh drinking water. Conserving a healthy natural environment is therefore not only morally correct, it is also cost-effective action preparing our nation for the effects of global warming.
Viewed in this light we are ill-prepared for the challenges ahead. We have put in place some spectacularly high hurdles in the way of our ability to respond to environmental change.
Our coastline is "defended" by concrete barriers that cannot adapt to rising sea levels and may make erosion worse. We have overgrazed many peatlands, and overexploited farmland. We have overfished seas so that fish stocks may crash. On the land, development, pollution and agriculture have forced species to retreat to isolated habitats with no room to move when climate change hits.
Protecting and working with nature makes economic sense and can be done now. Continuing to rely on undeveloped technologies as a safety net for climate change would be a disaster.

From cider makers to flood fighters - how the UK climate projections will be used

The UK climate impacts report is aimed at organisations whose investment decisions will be affected by global warming

David Adam, Thursday 18 June 2009 12.43 BST

The Environment Agency had a sneak preview of the new projections, and has used them to prepare a new strategy on flood risk investment, to be unveiled tomorrow. It looks up to 2035, which irons out some of the subtleties in the new analysis, as the likely change in climate is more or less fixed for the next few decades. Tony Grayling, head of climate change and sustainable development at the agency, said the results are similar to previous estimates, so the agency's existing plans for flood defences are still reliable. "We'll see if we need to adjust anything but we think they're reasonably sound. We want our adaptation planning to be flexible and to accommodate a range of possible scenarios."
The cider makers
The National Association of Cider Makers is already aware of the impact a changing climate could have on its industry. A report published last year with the help of the UK Climate Impacts Programme at Oxford University looked at the likely effects over the next 30 years, in particular the expected lifetime of new orchards. "It's very difficult to look that far ahead, but the climate project showed us the boundaries we must be aware of, to look for the Exocet coming over the horizon," said Nick Bradstock, an adviser to the committee. "It is a leap of faith to plant an orchard and growers need to be clear they will get a return."
Cider apples like to grow in a narrow range of temperatures, and need winter frost. Growers may have to follow the suitable weather north, Bradstock said. Others are looking how to breed more robust apple varieties, and make trees more resistant to increased winter storms. Little has changed so far. The industry is "a bit of a supertanker" and will take time to change direction, he said.
While cider makers face an uncertain future, cider sellers have a smile on their faces. Cider consumption "noticeably increases during warmer, sunnier weather," the report noted. "It could only take people to have an extra half pint of cider a month to develop the market massively," Bradstock said.
The water company
Anglian Water is already preparing for a 60% drop in rainfall in the summer, and a 30% increase in winter, based on previous predictions. Better information will lead to better decisions on infrastructure such as new reservoirs, says Andy Brown, climate change and environmental performance manager with the company. "The increased resolution and probabilities will help to give us more focus. The decisions won't be based purely on climate change projections, but they are a factor."
The breakdown into smaller regions will help too. "Rainfall can be very localised so it will help us make plans to deal with events."
The local government
Buildings such as schools are expensive and long-lasting. And they need to be built with future climate in mind, says Paul Bettison, chair of the environment board at the Local Government Association. "We need to start encouraging people to plan for the future. Schools in other countries more used to blistering hot summers are built with large amounts of shade. Our teachers chase people out of shady classrooms to enjoy the sunshine."
Better projections of climate in the 2050s and even the 2080s can help local authorities to force developers to adapt their designs, he says. And while existing regulations only insist on a minimum temperature inside buildings such as schools, that is likely to change to include maximum temperature too. "When the original act was written in the 1960s nobody had heard of climate change," he said. "Simply building in dirty great air conditioning units is not the answer."

Tougher action needed to cut greenhouse gases

By Emily Beament, Press Association
Thursday, 18 June 2009

Environmentalists called today for tougher action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of the publication of new predictions of how climate change will affect the UK in coming decades.
The UK Climate Projections 09 study will outline changes to temperatures, rainfall and sea level in different parts of the country that could occur up to the end of the century.
The research, delayed from last year, looks in detail at what might happen under different levels of emissions, analysing different regions of the country, including river basins and the country's seas.
The scientific research, led by the Met Office Hadley Centre, breaks the country down into 25km squares and makes predictions for what is likely to happen to the climate over a series of 30-year timescales.
It builds on a study from 2002 which concluded the UK will get warmer, with hotter drier summers and milder, wetter winters, and sea levels will continue to rise.
Ahead of the publication of the study, Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said: "This valuable new research will highlight the damaging impact that climate change will have around the UK and show the need for urgent action to cut emissions.
"The UK Government must take tougher action on climate change - and show real leadership by example ahead of crucial climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December."
He also called on local authorities to take action to cut energy waste and boost renewable power and green transport options.
Alongside the Projections study the Government is publishing a "five-point plan" on the action it is taking to cope with the impacts of climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The strategy includes immediate measures to protect people from climate change, such as the heat wave plan ministers have drawn up with the National Health Service, and long term plans for coping with rising temperatures.
It sets out the need for a new global deal on cutting emissions to be agreed in Copenhagen in December, and says the Government will shortly outline the steps it will take to meet its commitments to move the UK to a low carbon economy.
The five-point plan also pledges to support individuals, communities and businesses to do their bit in coping with the impacts of climate change and reducing their emissions.

Michael McCarthy: What's so depressing is the inevitability of all this

Friday, 19 June 2009

You might think you've heard it all before, and in a sense you have. There are not huge disparities between the core predictions of how climate change will affect the UK, released by the Government yesterday, and the earlier set of forecasts produced seven years ago. The central estimates of temperature rise by the 2080s, for example, are in the same ballpark.

But there are three important differences. Firstly, the new figures make a much stronger attempt at qualifying one of the key aspects of any predictions, which is uncertainty. For all the forecasts, there are now not only central figures, representing the best guess at what will actually happen, but also upper and lower estimates, which represent extremes with a 10 per cent chance of occurring. This enables risk to be mathematically quantified and is an essential component of future planning to cope with what global warming may bring.
Secondly, for the first time there are regional predictions in quite enormous detail, which will now enable the councillors and officials of Loamshire County Council, and even of Loamchester City Council, to get a feel for exactly what is coming their way in terms of hot, wet and dry – in other words, heatwaves, flooding, water shortages and all the other impacts which climate change is going to bring, and which they have to take into account.
But perhaps the most striking (not to say depressing) aspect of these figures is their new emphasis on inevitability. The temperature rises which are forecast for the 2080s might be avoided if the world makes a titanic effort at cutting carbon emissions, beginning in Copenhagen in December, but, even if we do, the Government now admits that by the 2040s a rise of more than two degrees in average summer temperatures is going to happen anyway.
For years the whole of British and European Union climate policy has been based on halting any temperature rise at the two degrees line. Does this not mean that the official objective is now unattainable? Asked about this yesterday the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, said: "Let's be frank. It's going to be tough."
Well, what else can he say?

Bluenext signs Chinese carbon credit deal

By Kathrin Hille in Beijing
Published: June 18 2009 07:58

Bluenext, Europe’s largest carbon credit exchange, is planning to set up a joint venture with China Beijing Environmental Exchange, in a sign that foreign players are positioning themselves for a fight over running secondary carbon trading in China once Beijing allows the launch of such a market.

“We are aiming at launching a joint venture, which would also direct us to other countries, not only to China,” Serge Harry, Bluenext chief executive, told the Financial Times.
“With CBEEX to launch a market in China in the near future, we have to start somewhere,” said Philippe Chauvancy, sales director. “We have the network and the resources to be involved in the launch of the market in China.”
Bluenext, jointly owned by NYSE Euronext and Caisse des Dépôts, the French state-owned bank, and CBEEX set the cornerstone for an international trading platform for Chinese carbon emission credits on Thursday with an agreement to offer information on Chinese emission-reducing projects to potential foreign investors on Bluenext’s website.
The two exchanges also planned to launch a number of products that are still under regulatory review in China, Mr Harry said. He declined to provide details.
In Europe, Bluenext’s products (apart from carbon spot trading) include carbon futures and spreads, which allow investors to arbitrage. The exchange has also announced indices and exchange-traded funds.
The agreement comes ahead of a Copenhagen meeting in December which is due to decide on a successor to the Kyoto protocol, whose main provisions expire in 2012.
Mr Chauvancy said recent climate change talks between Washington and Beijing had brought hopes that the Copenhagen meeting could kickstart secondary carbon markets involving the US and China, the two largest CO2 emitters, on a large scale.
The Chicago Climate Exchange, owned by Climate Exchange, has teamed up with China National Petroleum Corp, to set up the Tianjin Climate Exchange.
Mr Harry said other foreign carbon exchanges were also in talks for China partnerships.
“Developing carbon trading has been our policy for 10 years now, but we haven’t come along far enough in completing a clear regulatory framework,” said Li Junfeng, deputy director at the Energy Research Centre of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s main economic policy planner. “So now you can take the first step and go forward.”
Under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), developing countries can create certified emission reductions from renewable energy projects or other projects that have been certified to reduce carbon emissions.
“China is the world’s largest supplier of such reductions with about 100m tons a year, accounting for 66 per cent of all contracted CDM supply,” said Wei Zhihong, deputy director of the Global Climate Change Institute at Qinghua University. “This has the potential to grow to 1bn tons a year by 2020.”
Because the country does not need to reduce its emissions under the Kyoto protocol, all these reductions can be sold to foreign users who need carbon credits.
However, China’s supply has been piling up quickly as the country lacks channels for marketing and trading the credits, and Chinese utilities mainly sell emission reduction rights through brokers to foreign investors – a slow, comparatively inefficient and untransparent process.
Since January 2008, more than 1,700 certified emission-reducing projects have accumulated in the pipeline.
“Only 6 per cent of those 66 per cent China contributes to the global supply are actually completed,” said Alex Chang, vice-president at Energy Systems International, a carbon credit broker.
“If [China is] going to seriously commit to bringing emissions down, they need this kind of infrastructure instead,” said Daniel Dudek, chief economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, referring to the partnership between Bluenext and CBEEX.
CBEEX is one of several environmental exchanges in China. But since it was set up by the Beijing municipal government last August, it has mostly collected projects that qualify for CDM such as a hydropower station under construction in the north-western province of Gansu – which is expected to generate reductions of 70,000 tons of CO2 from 2010 – or the modernisation of a coal-fired municipal heating system, which will generate another 40,000 tons.
The exchange’s role would eventually have to be to package emission rights into different products, Mr Wei said.
Datang, China’s leading power generation enterprise, had Rmb80m ($11.7m) in revenues from the sale of CDMs.
“We are handling all this ourselves now, but we want the exchanges to do it for us,” said Tang Renhu, head of the CDM department at a Datang affiliate.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Miliband pushes subsidy for clean coal plants

By Ed Crooks, Energy Editor
Published: June 18 2009 02:51

“Clean coal” power stations will be paid a guaranteed price for the carbon dioxide that they store, funded by a levy on electricity users, under plans the government set out on Wednesday.
That levy, expected to rise to 2 per cent of electricity bills – about £8 ($13) per year – by 2020, was described by one industry executive as “instituting a carbon tax”.
In a consultation paper on Wednesday, the department of energy and climate change confirmed its plan to support up to four pilot coal-fired plants that can capture and store their carbon dioxide emissions.
It also published a study suggesting that clean coal technology could support 30,000-60,000 jobs in Britain by 2030, serving domestic and international markets.
Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, said it was “important to get on with it and move forward as quickly as possible on carbon capture and storage.”
He argued that pressing ahead with clean coal would secure energy supplies while cutting greenhouse gas emissions, create a “big industrial opportunity”, and show other countries, such as China, how their emissions could be cut.
The government wants the financial support in place next year, and the first plant running by 2014.
To encourage companies to invest in untried and uncommercial clean coal plants, Mr Miliband has promised a subsidy on top of the support provided by the European Union’s emissions trading scheme.
The price of emissions in the scheme has been volatile and industry has argued that it does not provide enough certainty to invest in expensive technology. The government’s favoured solution is to guarantee a price for all emissions that are prevented by the pilot clean coal plants.
The proposals were welcomed by the industry, which had been growing impatient over the lack of clarity in the government’s stance on coal.
However, The Association of Electricity Producers, the industry group, highlighted the risk that old coal-fired plants could be forced to shut down.
New coal-fired power stations will be given consent only if they include carbon capture on at least 300 megawatts of their output, and will be forced to fit carbon capture within five years of the technology being proven, which the government expects to be in 2020.
The consultation paper suggested that old coal plants could also be forced to retro-fit with carbon capture equipment.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Obama administration criticised over failure to disclose coal dump locations

Administration turns down senator's request to make public the list of 44 dumps, which contain arsenic and metals

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Thursday 18 June 2009 17.22 BST

A rift has opened between the Obama administration and some of its closest allies - Democratic leaders and environmental organisations - over its refusal to publicly disclose the location of 44 coal ash dumps that have been officially designated as a "high hazard" to local populations.
The administration turned down a request from a powerful Democratic senator to make public the list of 44 dumps, which contain a toxic soup of arsenic and heavy metals from coal-fired electricity plants, citing terrorism fears.
The refusal has put the Obama administration at odds with some of its strongest supporters over an emerging area of environmental concern in America.
Last Christmas, a retaining wall burst on a coal ash pond in Tennessee disgorging a billion gallons of waste and putting pressure on the authorities to bring in safety controls over the management of some 600 similar waste pools dotted across the country.
Some 44 of the most dangerous coal ash dumps are known to be located in populated areas in 26 separate locations. The high hazard designation means that a breach, like the one in Tennessee, could cause death and significant property damage if the sludge spills into surrounding neigbourhoods. But that is all the adminstration will disclose.
"Right now we have a blanket gag order," Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who heads the Senate environment and public works committee told a press conference last week.
"We are losing what we cherish in America: the citizens' right to know."
Boxer, who has seen the list of sites, said she was only allowed to share the information with fellow senators - not their staff and not local authorities in the affected areas.
"There is a huge muzzle on me and my staff," she said. "They're putting ridiculous restrictions on me."
The local newspaper in Tennessee also ridiculed the decision.
"These waste sites may be environmental and health hazards. But they are unlikely terror targets," said the Knox group of newspapers. "As the muckety-mucks in Washington know, the real danger of disclosure is from angry Americans. If citizens realise they are downstream from fragile mountains of gunk, they will demand action and accountability."
Environmental groups see the gag order on the coal ash sites as a betrayal of Obama's promise, during his speech to staff on his first day in the White House in January, of a new era of openness in government.
"For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city," Obama said in the speech. "That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known."
The Environmental Protection Agency under Lisa Jackson has also put emphasis on its moves for greater openness and a greater role for science at the agency - in sharp contrast to the policies under George Bush when government scientific reports were doctored to remove references to global warming.
Lisa Evans, an attorney at Earth Justice which has long campaigned about the potential dangers of the dumps, said environmental organisations were perplexed by the secrecy. "Is this consistent with the way we treat other hazardous sites in this country?" she said. "One Google click will give you the locations of all the nuclear power plants in the US."
Other environmentalists said the Obama administration's failure to disclose the location of the sites was an issue of social justice.
"We know that there are no coal ash sites in Manhattan. So where are these sites?" said Virginia Cramer of the Sierra Club. "They are generally in low income and minority communities, so we are concerned about those communities knowing what types of danger are surrounding them."
An EPA official said the agency was consulting with the US department of homeland security and the army corps of engineers to review the decision.
However, the official said that when it came to revealing the location of the dumps, its hands were tied because of security concerns. Since the 9/11 attacks, the authorities have methodically scrubbed websites listing dams and other structures that could present targets for terrorist attacks. The national inventory of dams now no longer ranks the hazard rating of its structures - although they will list location.
The Obama administration appears to have maintained the policy.
In a letter earlier this month, the army corps of engineers told the EPA to keep the sites secret. "Uncontrolled or unrestricted release [of the information] may pose a security risk to projects or communities by increasing its attractiveness as a potential target," Steven Stockton, the army corps director of civil works wrote.
"It was our attention to release the list, but we certainly feel obligated to take into account any recommendations from our agencies as they release to terrorist attacks," said an EPA official.
"It was very strong language cautioning us from releasing this list."

CO2 warning: 3.6tn tonnes and counting

Adam Vaughan, Thursday 18 June 2009 19.51 BST

New Yorkers leaving Penn station and the tenor Andrea Bocelli's concert at Madison Square Garden stadium were confronted with an unusual advert yesterday – a huge sign showing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
Updated in real time, using projections from monthly measurements of CO2 and other greenhouse gases by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Carbon Counter is designed to get everyone to reduce their emissions.
Kevin Parker, the global head of Deutsche Bank's asset management division, which put up the 21-metre sign, said: "Carbon in the atmosphere has reached an 800,000-year high. We can't see greenhouse gases, so it is easy to forget that they are accumulating rapidly."
Yesterday the counter, which uses 40,960 low-energy LEDs and carbon-offsets its electricity usage, gave a figure of 3.64tn tonnes.
At current rates, the counter's figures are expected to rise by 2bn tonnes a month. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stands at about 387 parts per million (ppm), up by more than a third on pre-industrial revolution levels of about 280ppm.
Ronald Prinn, professor of atmospheric science at MIT, explained the data behind the sign: "The number on the counter is based on global measurements. It shows the total estimated tonnage of greenhouse gases expressed as their equivalent amounts of carbon dioxide, with seasonal and other natural cyclical variations removed to more clearly reveal the underlying long-term trends driven by human and other activity."
The carbon counter will be updated online at

E.ON chief Paul Golby strives to generate debate about green goals

Energy says Britain needs a policy roadmap if it is to achieve carbon emissions targets

David Teather
The Guardian, Friday 19 June 2009

If you are anxious about the prospect of a new generation of nuclear power stations, then Paul Golby, who runs the British operations of the energy firm E.ON, has an offer that he hopes will calm your nerves: come and take a look for yourself.
E.ON has plans for two nuclear plants that Golby expects to be up and running towards the end of the next decade, part of a massive programme of investment to replace the nation's ageing generators. The German power firm promulgates the need for a mix of energy sources and is also behind the London Array wind farm planned for the Thames estuary and a controversial coal-fired plant at Kingsnorth in Kent, the first new coal station in Britain for more than 20 years.
But if Kingsnorth has become a lightning rod for environmentalists, nuclear remains for many the most chilling option. E.ON, in partnership with another German company, RWE, is building nuclear plants at Wylfa in Anglesey and at Oldbury in Gloucestershire.
In Sweden, where the company operates the only nuclear waste storage facility, E.ON turned public opinion around by being as open as possible, Golby says, and that included guided tours - an idea it would import to Britain. "If someone rings up and says can I please see the nuclear waste, the answer is yes," Golby says.
How close can you get? "Well, I was on the same tour that other people are given and I certainly have stood above storage tanks with a few metres of water between me and the spent fuel rods. That's fairly close." Suddenly, that makes me more nervous. "Firstly," he says, "the plants are secure. We have airport-like screening processes so somebody can't wander in there with weapons or anything of that nature. And nuclear material, nuclear waste, actually is quite stable."
He says safety and technology have also improved significantly. "It is fair to say that the nuclear industry in the UK hasn't covered itself in glory and we need to just be far more transparent and open and when minor or major things go wrong, we ought to stand up and report it and be prepared to talk about it. Some people are worried about nuclear but the other side of the coin is irreversible climate change."
When Golby took the job of chief executive at East Midlands Electricity, back in the very different climate of 1998, he was warned by a friend that the job would be one of the most boring in the world. Nothing, he said, ever happened in the energy sector. Several takeovers later - E.ON bought Powergen, Powergen bought East Midlands - and Golby finds himself quite literally at the coalface of some the most pressing issues of our generation: as well as climate change, the very real threat that a lack of investment might cause the lights to go out over the next decade as one-third of the UK's existing power plants close.
The industry needs to invest £100bn to replace the capacity. E.ON, Golby says, is investing £1bn a year. "The scale of the build programme is unprecedented. If there was a silver-lining to the recession, it may have bought us a bit more time because energy consumption has reduced, so that has given us breathing space. But I think it would be criminal if we wasted that time and put off decisions because we felt we were under less pressure."
Like the industry at large, he also faces the ire of consumers over rising utility bills. One thing he knows for certain, he says, is that a long-term increase in energy bills is "inevitable" as finite resources run out and demand continues to rise.
Golby was raised in Hinckley, Leicestershire; his mother sewed knickers and his father worked in a factory, and there remains a matter-of-fact quality about him. His parents pushed their three sons (he has an identical twin) into education - they all trained as engineers and all became chief executives. The other two are now retired.
Kingsnorth has turned Golby into something of a bete noire for climate change campaigners. The site in Kent, where E.ON has an existing station due for closure, has come under siege from protesters vehemently opposed to any new coal plants being built. Golby argues that the replacement generator could be the last chance to save the planet, by demonstrating that still-untested technology to capture and store the carbon emissions from burning coal is achievable. Plans for Kingsnorth have been put in abeyance until the results are known of a government competition to decide which companies will be funded to deploy the technology, and are likely to be delayed for at least a decade if it fails to win.
Golby says that on many issues, he finds himself on the same side as the environmentalists but suggests that on coal "they are a little naive". China, he notes, is building two coal-fired power plants the size of Kingsnorth each week.
"If there were just one climate change issue you were tackling, it would be carbon capture and storage [CCS], on the simple basis that China and India are sitting on 200 years' worth of coal and they are going to burn it. And whatever you, I, Greenpeace or anybody else says to them, or Copenhagen [December's UN climate change summit] says to them, they are going to continue burning coal, because that is their indigenous fuel and that is the only way they can get their population to a decent standard of living. What we have got to do is de-couple coal from carbon.
"If we can cut the link from them growing their economy and improving the life of their people from destroying the planet at the same time, that's something we ought to be really interested in," he says. "Globally, we have to get it to work. It really is game over if we don't."
Golby has welcomed the government support for CCS, put out for consultation this week, although his arguments for Kingsnorth can seem a little revisionist. Plans were originally submitted in 2006 for an unabated coal plant, the justification then being made on the basis of energy security. "Since we started on the journey we have clearly seen the need for CCS become far more important and I guess I might argue that when we started, we were maybe one step behind public opinion. I now think we are one step ahead."
Almost a third of the company's current investment is going into renewables. E.ON has focused on wind and biomass and is planning to begin work on the £2.2bn London Array in 2011. The wind farm will be built 12 miles off the Kent and Essex coasts, the first phase featuring 175 turbines, each the height of the Big Ben clock tower. Nevertheless, Golby reckons it will be "incredibly difficult" to hit the target of generating 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Golby describes the government's overarching energy policy as too "event-driven" and lacking a real strategic vision. There is, he says, the need for a form of "Marshall Plan" to reach the 2050 target to reduce emissions by 80%."There is a need to take our energy policy from what I describe as a series of sticking plasters, to a more holistic view with a roadmap of how to get to 2050. Merely setting targets and hoping they are going to be achieved isn't a very clever way to set policy."
Matters are often more complex than they first appear, he adds. "I was struck by some analysis I saw by Dieter Helm [professor of energy policy at Oxford] a little while ago, where he was pointing out that of course our politicians are congratulating themselves that we are doing so well against our Kyoto targets, but in reality if you measure our carbon from a consumption point of view rather than a production point of view, actually our emissions have increased by 20% rather than decreased. All that we've done is exported a lot of our production to the developing world. We just have to keep reminding ourselves of that. There is a big picture."
The CV: Paul Golby
Born 26 February 1951
Education Hinckley grammar, Leicestershire. Aston University - BSc in mechanical engineering, PhD in mechanical engineering
1972-86 BTR/Dunlop
1986-90 Early's of Witney
1990-92 Grovewood Securities
1992-98 Clayhithe
1998-2001 Managing director of networks, East Midlands Electricity, later full managing director
2001-02 Director, UK operations, Powergen
2002- Chief executive, E.ON UK
Family Married with three children

Streetcar launches UK's first plug-in Prius hire scheme

Car club firm Streetcar is to offer the Amberjac plug-in hybrid Prius from £5.95 an hour in London. From, part of the Guardian Environment Network

From, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Thursday 18 June 2009 12.37 BST

Car club firm Streetcar has this week launched the UK's first electric car hire scheme, offering Londoners the chance to hire a plug-in hybrid version of Toyota's popular Prius.
The modified version of the hybrid car is provided by UK firm Amberjac Projects and features a new lithium ion phosphate battery that can be charged from the mains, allowing the car to travel up to 30 miles without using the conventional engine.
According to reports from the Evening Standard, the Amberjac Prius will be available for Streetcar members to hire from £5.95 an hour.
Speaking to, Streetcar's co-founder Brett Akker said the company's 58,000 car club members would be the first people in Europe to be able to hire a car with plug-in hybrid technology.
He added that if the trial, which is backed by Camden Council and Transport for London, proves popular the company will aim to roll out more plug-in hybrids across the capital.
"Plug-in hybrids have a lot of potential for car clubs," he said. "The Amberjac has a 30 mile range using the battery, which covers around two thirds of our members' journeys, but it can then also be used for any longer journeys. "
The news follows the launch last week of a new initiative that will see some of the capital's largest fleet operators work with City Hall to accelerate the rollout of electric commercial vehicles.
The group, which includes delivery firms DHL, TNT and UPS, as well as supermarkets M&S and Sainsbury's, pledged to increase their electric vehicle fleets and work with the mayor's office on plans to roll out 25,000 charging points across the city by 2015.
"Not only do electric vehicles save a large sum off fuel bills, helping businesses to remain lean in tough economic times, they are also great for London's environment," said Mayor Boris Johnson. "We are now going to work hand in hand with fleet owners to accelerate the take-up of electric vehicles, which are available to buy right now."