Thursday, 2 July 2009

ExxonMobil continuing to fund climate sceptic groups, records show

Records show ExxonMobil gave hundreds of thousands of pounds to lobby groups that have published 'misleading and inaccurate information' about climate change

David Adam, environment correspondent, Wednesday 1 July 2009 16.51 BST

The world's largest oil company is continuing to fund lobby groups that question the reality of global warming, despite a public pledge to cut support for such climate change denial, a new analysis shows.
Company records show that ExxonMobil handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds to such lobby groups in 2008. These include the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas, which received $75,000 (£45,500), and the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, which received $50,000.
According to Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, at the London School of Economics, both the NCPA and the Heritage Foundation have published "misleading and inaccurate information about climate change."
On its website, the NCPA says: "NCPA scholars believe that while the causes and consequences of the earth's current warming trend is [sic] still unknown, the cost of actions to substantially reduce CO2 emissions would be quite high and result in economic decline, accelerated environmental destruction, and do little or nothing to prevent global warming regardless of its cause."
The Heritage Foundation published a "web memo" in December that said: "Growing scientific evidence casts doubt on whether global warming constitutes a threat, including the fact that 2008 is about to go into the books as a cooler year than 2007". Scientists, including those at the UK Met Office say that the apparent cooling is down to natural changes and does not alter the long-term warming trend.
In its 2008 corporate citizenship report, published last year, ExxonMobil said it would cut funds to several groups that "divert attention" from the need to find new sources of clean energy.
The NCPA and Heritage Foundation are included among groups funded by ExxonMobil, according to details of its "2008 Worldwide Contributions and Community Investments" published recently.
Ward said: "ExxonMobil has been briefing journalists for three years that they were going to stop funding these groups. The reality is that they are still doing it. If the world's largest oil company wants to fund climate change denial then it should be upfront about it, and not tell people it has stopped."
In 2006, Ward, then at the Royal Society, wrote to ExxonMobil to challenge the company's funding of such lobby groups. The move, revealed in the Guardian, prompted accusations of censorship and debate about whether experts should "police" the distribution of scientific information.
In an article on the Guardian website, Ward writes: "I have now written again to ExxonMobil to point out that these organisations publish misleading information about climate change on their websites, and to seek guidance on how to reconcile this fact with the pledge made by the company. I believe that the company should keep its promise by ending its financial support for lobby groups that mislead the public about climate change."
ExxonMobil said it annually reviews and adjusts its contributions to policy research groups. A spokesman said: "Only ExxonMobil speaks for ExxonMobil and our position on climate change is clear. We have the same concerns as people everywhere, and that is how to provide the world with the energy it needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We take the issue of climate change seriously and the risks warrant action."

Drax protest trial judge relaxes warning on talk of climate change

Lecturer tells jury Drax power station threat is 'deadly and urgent'
Martin Wainwright, Wednesday 1 July 2009 19.03 BST

Climate change protesters accused of hijacking a power station coal train managed to address a jury on political issues today, despite repeated warnings from the judge that the jury was only concerned with whether they had stopped and boarded the train – and not with their reasons for doing so.
Judge Spencer had repeatedly told Leeds University lecturer Paul Chatterton, who is leading the defence of 22 activists, that the court was not concerned with their motives for allegedly ambushing the train on its way to Drax in North Yorkshire, Europe's largest coal-fired power station.
But after almost an hour's adjournment he allowed Chatterton and a second protester, 26-year-old film-maker Alison Stratford, wider scope before finally intervening to cut them short.
Chatterton, who has lectured on geography for 11 years, said that he had acted because of "passion and terror at the implications of coal-burning power stations for global warning".
He told the jury that he did not consider the train hijack to be an illegal act, because United Nations statistics suggested that the amount of carbon produced by Drax was responsible for 180 deaths a year.
He said: "The threat is deadly and it is urgent …" The judge then interrupted him again, saying: "I've let you go on – please remember the legal restraints."
Stratford was allowed to show the jury photographs of houses under water in her home town of Louth, Lincolnshire, which she said had roused her fears about climate change. She choked and had to recover in the witness box as she described how her four-year-old nephew had told her: "Don't worry, we can fix it."
"I was on the train to show him that I had done everything I could," she said. But when she got on to Arctic ice melt and polar bears, the judge again asked: "Could you talk about the train?"
The court heard that the protesters had lined up academic witnesses and a scientist from Nasa to address the jury, but this had been ruled inadmissible. Adjourning for lunch, the judge warned that he would show less patience if defendants insisted on talking about their "genuine and deeply held feelings about climate change" rather than the nuts and bolts of the train hijack.
The defendants, aged between 21 and 43, have pleaded not guilty to obstructing a railway engine contrary to the Malicious Damage Act of 1861. But Chatterton admitted as soon as he began his defence that he had been on the train and had "intended to stay on it as long as possible". Earlier he told the jury that the prosecution case, which began and ended yesterday, had been "incredibly partial" about the incident on 13 June last year.
Addressing the seven women and five men directly across the crowded courtroom at Leeds crown court, he said: "They said what went on there but did not deal with why."
Yesterday, Richard Mansell QC, prosecuting, told the jury that the defendants were "preparing a misuse of the court process to continue the protest action which they started when they boarded that train just over a year ago".
The accused are Theo Bard, 24; Amy Clancy, 24; Brian Farelly, 32; Grainne Gannon, 26; Bryn Hoskins, 24; Jasmin Karalis, 25; Ellen Potts, 33; Bertie Russell, 24; Beth Stratford, 26; Jonathan Stevenson, 27 and Felix Wight, all of London; Melanie Evans, 25; Matthew Fawcette, 34; Robin Gillett, 23; Kristina Jones, 22; Oliver Rodker, 40 and Thomas Spencer, 23, all of Manchester; Paul Chatterton, 36, and Louise Hemmerman, 31, of Leeds; Melanie Evans, 25, of Stockport; Paul Morozzo, 42, of Hebden Bridge; Christopher Ward, 38, of Newport Pagnell; and Elizabeth Whelan, of Glasgow.

Treasury faces legal action over 'dirty' banking investments

Campaign groups say bank bailout breaches government's own policies on reducing carbon emissions by lending money to coal, oil and gas companies

Afua Hirsch, legal affairs correspondent, Wednesday 1 July 2009 11.37 BST

The government is facing legal action after environmental groups accused it of spending billions on "dirty and destructive projects" through the recapitalisation of banks including the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
"RBS has the worst record by far of any UK bank when it comes to financing projects around the world which cause environmental damage [and] particularly bad human rights records," a claim by three campaign groups says.
The claim, the first to challenge the bank bailout on grounds that it breaches the government's own policies on reducing carbon emissions, alleges that since it was recapitalised in October 2008, RBS has contributed to loans worth an estimated £10bn in coal, oil and gas companies.
"The Treasury has displayed a blatant disregard to the government's own commitments to tackling climate change, and its rules for spending public money," said Julian Oram, from anti-world poverty network World Development Movement.
The case comes after the environmental audit committee called on the Treasury in March to consider "imposing some form of environmental criteria on the investment strategies of those banks in which the state had a controlling stake."
Last year a new Climate Change Act came into force, which includes a legal duty to reduce the UK's carbon emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by the year 2050.
The claim also points to the government's "green book", which requires assessments of all new projects to promote the public interests, and the groups say, have made numerous domestic and international statements about its commitment to tackling climate change and human rights abuses linked to corporate activity.
But in April the Treasury stated that "the environmental and human rights records of the individual banks were of no relevance" to the decision to bail out the banks, in a letter to environmental group Platform.
"The refusal by the Treasury to even consider whether an investment could contribute to climate change or result in human rights abuses is clearly unlawful and completely out of line with the government's own guidance, policies and targets on these issues", said Rosa Curling at Leigh Day solicitors who is representing the groups.
"The decisions RBS has taken since recapitalisation have been very harmful," Curling added. "It's the most dark example of how the government's decision not to consider in any way the human rights and environmental issues is having a really negative effect".
Although the case is being brought against the government it is also a further challenge for RBS, which also faced controversy over the pension of its former chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin after he was initially awarded a £16m pound pension despite being widely regarded as having presided over "irresponsible" risk-taking at the bank. The bank, which has described itself as "the oil and gas bank", is estimated to have taken part in £10bn in loans to coal, oil and gas companies since the bailout.
The groups, which will now await a response from the Treasury and permission to proceed with the case at London's high court, said they were not challenging the decision to bail out the banks, an area of policy that the courts have in the past refused to consider.
"We are not suggesting that the banking bailout shouldn't have happened", said Kevin Smith, campaigner at Platform. "We are saying that now that it has happened, the government has a responsibility, especially given its posting in the international political arena as being a 'global leader on climate change' to ensure that the public isn't paying to expand further fossil fuel developments."
The Treasury, which has 21 days to respond to the claim, did not comment.

Repower Gets Wind Turbines Order


MUMBAI -- REpower Systems AG, a unit of Suzlon Energy Ltd., and Valorem S.A. have received orders from five wind farm projects in France.
REpower's French unit, REpower S.A.S., will supply 21 wind turbines each with a 2.05 megawatt capacity between March and June 2010, REpower said in a statement. Valorem will construct the windpower plants.
No financial details were given in the statement.
Write to Sunil Raghu at

250,000 jobs and £70bn revenue - the forecast for a thriving UK renewables sector

Study from the Carbon Trust warns that potential of renewables sector will only be realised if government invests in research and removes regulatory barriers

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent, Thursday 2 July 2009 00.05 BST

The UK could benefit from 250,000 jobs and up to £70bn in revenue from offshore wind and wave technologies by 2050, according to a study by the Carbon Trust. This potential will only be realised, however, if the government gives clear signals to industry, so that investors know where to put their money, rather than leaving new technologies to face the market alone.
The Carbon Trust, a government-backed agency that studies ways to promote low-carbon technologies, carried out economic analyses in six areas of low-carbon industry including offshore wind, wave, solid-state lighting and micro combined heat and power.
The studies, published today, looked at the current status and costs of the technology, how these would develop and what research and development costs there might be in the coming decades.
The studies for offshore wind and wave power showed these technologies could provide at least 15% of the total carbon savings required to meet the UK's 2050 CO2 reduction targets. "The UK's greenhouse gas targets mean that by 2050 We must reduce our emissions to just one-10th of today's levels, per unit of output," said John Beddington, the government's chief scientific adviser.
"This is a formidable challenge, requiring step changes in the rate at which we improve our energy efficiency and in low-carbon innovation.The Carbon Trust's proposals recognise the need for us to be smarter in focusing our investments, including to help businesses seize the economic opportunities of the transition."
According to the new analysis, published just a few weeks ahead of the forthcoming government white paper on energy, the UK could attract 45% of the global offshore wind market by 2020, delivering £65bn of net economic value and 225,000 total jobs by 2050.
This would only happen with an investment of up to £600m into research, the removal of regulatory barriers and incentives to increase the deployment of the turbines. In the UK this means installing around 29GW of wind by 2020 and upwards of 40GW by 2050. A large part of the economic benefit would come from exporting technology developed here.
For wave, the outlook is more modest. Around a quarter of the world's wave technologies are being developed in the UK and the Carbon Trust said Britain should be the "natural owner" of the global market in this area. It could generate revenues worth £2bn per year by 2050 and up to 16,000 direct jobs.
"These technologies are not green 'nice to haves' but are critical to the economic recovery of the UK," said Tom Delay, the chief executive of the Carbon Trust. "To reap the significant rewards from their successful development we must prioritise and comprehensively back the technologies that offer the best chance of securing long-term carbon savings, jobs and revenue for Britain. Rather than following in the footsteps of others, this new analysis shows it is an economic no-brainer to be leading from the front."
In addition to the direct jobs in these in industries, there would be further benefits to the economy. "The UK's also very good at the secondary service industries - things like the financing of wind farms, the legal documents, environmental assessments," said Paul Arwas, a consultant who wrote the new Carbon Trust report. "Those jobs would be in addition - for offshore wind, it would be another 70,000 by 2050."
None of this will happen, though, without government support. Arwas said that when encouraging new industries, authorities tended to swing between two poles - either direct state funding or allowing markets to decide. "Either the governments didn't intervene at all or, if they did they did it by market mechanisms which are totally undifferentiated by technology. There you end up with a situation where, to take a footballing analogy, you've got the under 21s playing the under 12s."
Instead the Carbon Trust has proposed a new, semi-interventionist, model where the government chooses a family of technologies to invest in, for example wave power, and tells developers there will be subsidies or long-term help available to develop the sector as a whole but without backing individual technologies.
John Sauven, Greenpeace's executive director, welcomed the Carbon Trust's proposed approach. "Every country now needs a decarbonisation plan to help solve three of our greatest challenges - climate stability, energy security and economic prosperity. The UK has an enormous untapped supply of clean, green renewable energy and a world class engineering industry well placed to develop it."
Martin Rees, the president of the Royal Society, said the UK had little choice but to develop these new technologies, given the dwindling supplies of fossil fuels: "In the past we have let opportunities to capitalise on our scientific leadership slip through our fingers. The US and others are investing heavily in low carbon technologies; we must not fall behind and waste the scientific expertise that we have in the UK."

British Gas to create 2,600 green jobs

Recruits will be needed to help introduce 'smart meters' to help people see exactly how much energy they are using in their homes

Terry Macalister, Wednesday 1 July 2009 18.03 BST

British Gas today promised to create 2,600 green jobs over the next three years by rolling out "smart meters" and installing wind turbines on peoples' homes.
The move should help ministers meet targets of cutting carbon emissions through lower use of power, especially that generated by gas or other fossil fuels.
About 1,700 of the recruits will be new to the industry, while 900 are expected to be brought in from rival metering organisations in time for a government-backed roll-out programme due to start in 2012. Earlier this year the company unveiled plans to take on an additional 1,500 staff to work in the clean technology sector.
"Today's announcement of 2,600 new jobs by 2012 shows we are creating skilled green jobs in Britain and training the experts who will help customers become more energy efficient in the future," said Phil Bentley, managing director of British Gas.
The new workers, to be trained at the company's growing network of energy academies, will install smart meters and help homeowners understand how the devices could reduce energy use, save money and end the practice of estimated monthly bills. Anecdotal evidence suggests savings of up to 25% can be made.
In May energy secretary Ed Miliband launched a consultation process on smart meters that is planned to run to September. The government would like energy suppliers to be responsible for meters with a new third-party body handling the data, but the companies want to do it all themselves.
Britain plans to replace all existing electricity and gas meters – often clunky objects hidden away in cupboards – with easily viewed devices that show consumers exactly how much energy they are using, and even see the energy demands of individual appliances.
It is hoped that people will change their behaviour to save money. The meters will also help homeowners sell electricity from green technologies such as solar panels or rooftop wind turbines back to the grid, while improving energy demand forecasts and network management.
Smart meters are seen as a first step toward creating "smart grids" where consumers can adjust electricity use to benefit from cheaper energy at times of low demand, including charging electric cars, and reduce consumption at peak times.
The British government estimates that smart meters could deliver net benefits of between £2.5m and £3.6m over the next 20 years.
In April, the government set a 2020 target to cut Britain's greenhouse gas emissions by 34% compared with 1990 levels but the necessary renewable energy growth and efficiency improvements have so far been small.

Luxury-Goods Makers Brandish Green Credentials

To Court Younger Crowd, LVMH Buys Stake in Organic Clothing Maker, PPR Sponsors Film About Environment

The bad economy and a fundamental shift in the market for luxury goods are forcing an industry that reveres names like Chanel and Versace to embrace a different icon: Mother Nature.
Over the past year, many of the world's best-known luxury labels have started to introduce ecofriendly products, snap up brands that tout their social responsibility and weave environmental themes into their advertising and marketing. In May, French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton took a stake in Edun, an organic-clothing company founded by the singer Bono and his wife.
French luxury goods maker PPR put EUR10 million into a high-end documentary about man's impact on the environment, in an effort to show the company's greener side -- and pump up sales.
Other companies have begun to advertise steps they took years ago to promote resource conservation. This summer, the windows of Tiffany & Co.'s retail stores world-wide feature images of coral reefs, publicizing Tiffany's commitment since 2002 not to use coral in its designs.
"We want to change the way we conceive our business, socially and environmentally speaking," said François-Henri Pinault, chief executive of French retail giant PPR SA, which has sponsored a feature-length documentary film highlighting man's abuse of the environment.
The film, which was released in 131 countries last month, was produced by French director Luc Besson but PPR's hand in it is clear: In the film's opening credits the company's brand names -- Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and others -- swirl around and coalesce into the film's title, "Home."
The luxury industry's adoption of a green message reflects the challenges facing some of the world's most glamorous brands. Once able to win customers with the promise of fine design, craftsmanship and service, the luxury business is contending with an aging core clientele and the aftermath of a decade-long expansion that has rendered exclusive brands less so than they used to be.
Those factors have purveyors of high-end fashions scrambling to re-invent their brands, in part by catering to younger shoppers who more often consider their impact on the environment than do traditional luxury-goods buyers.
In a recent survey, the Luxury Institute, a New York research firm, found that younger and more-affluent consumers seek information about corporate social responsibility more actively than their older and less well-off counterparts. "Young consumers believe that caring about the environment is how you create a meaningful life," said Milton Pedraza, the firm's CEO.

Some luxury companies jumped on the green bandwagon earlier than others. In 2004, PPR rival LVMH's Louis Vuitton brand conducted a "carbon inventory," to gauge its impact on greenhouse-gas emissions. Afterward, it cut back on corporate travel and air shipment of goods.
In 2007, PPR created a social and environmental responsibility department that reports directly to Mr. Pinault. PPR now ties part of executives' bonuses to achieving targets in seven areas -- from reducing carbon emissions to promoting diversity, Mr. Pinault said.
Later in 2007, a study by WWF, the wildlife conservation group, singled out the luxury-goods business as out of touch with eco-conscious trends. WWF ranked the top 10 luxury brands on their environmental and social track records; the highest "grade" was a C+, given to L'Oreal SA, Hermès and LVMH. (PPR got a "D.")

"Initially [the companies] were quite defensive," says Anthony Kleanthous, senior policy adviser for WWF and co-author of the study. But now they are pushing environmental and socially responsibility "as a positive driver of brand value," he said.
Laurent Claquin, PPR's senior vice president of corporate social responsibility, said the company's plans to develop a separate social-responsibility division were in the works well before the WWF report came out.
Around the same time, LVMH's Louis Vuitton leather-goods brand launched a "Core Values" ad campaign that has featured tennis player Andre Agassi, rocker Keith Richards and, most recently, astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The ads have emphasized the company's support for the Climate Project, and the celebrities appearing in them have donated at least part of their modeling fees to the nonprofit group, which was founded by Al Gore.
Last month, upscale retailer Barneys New York began promoting a collection of $75 sneakers with uppers and linings made of organic material. The sneakers were designed by organic-clothing brand Loomstate in a partnership with Keds.

This fall, luxury menswear label Ermenegildo Zegna will begin selling an "Ecotech Solar" jacket under its Zegna Sport label, with solar panels on its sleeves that can be used to recharge a battery and heat up the jacket's collar.
Whether the new tack will work remains to be seen. Increasingly, consumers and nonprofit groups are scrutinizing the validity of corporate environmental and social responsibility efforts.
For corporate alliances with nonprofit groups to succeed, companies need to disclose how much money they are donating or risk allegations of "greenwashing" -- or paying lip service to environmental causes to promote their products, says Mike Lawrence, an executive vice president at Cone LLC, a Boston-based marketing agency. "Puffery, unfortunately, is legal in advertising," he adds.
The global recession is adding challenges that defy simple solutions. Global sales of luxury goods are expected to fall 10% this year to €154 billion ($218 billion), the first decline in 15 years, according to Bain & Co. The industry isn't expected to return to 2008 levels, €170 billion, until 2012, says Claudia D'Arpizio, a consultant at Bain's Milan office. In response brands are slowing store expansion, lowering prices and trimming ad spending to cut costs.
Still, the economy may also accelerate the greening of luxury, industry executives say. A February survey by Cone found that 50% of Americans ages 18 to 24 said they have "higher expectations of companies to make and sell environmentally responsible products and services during the economic downturn," compared with 35% of Americans overall.
Write to Rachel Dodes at and Sam Schechner at