Saturday, 4 July 2009

China Ministry Opposes Carbon-Tariff Policies


BEIJING -- China's central government reiterated its opposition to carbon tariff policies and said they could provoke a trade war, ratcheting up the rhetoric as lawmakers in the U.S. consider legislation to reduce greenhouse gases.
A statement Friday on the Web site of China's Ministry of Commerce cited proposals in some nations to level tariffs on imports from countries that don't limit greenhouse gases. Such policies violate World Trade Organization rules and are "not timely" ahead of global climate change talks later this year, spokesman Yao Jian said in the statement.
"China has consistently advocated that the international community faces climate change together, but some developed countries have advocated using carbon tariffs against imports," Mr. Yao said. "This violates basic WTO rules. It only pretends to protect the environment, but really it protects trade."
The statement didn't mention specific countries. But last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that included such tariffs in order to level the playing field between U.S. industry and foreign competitors. China's export-reliant economy is extremely vulnerable to any moves such as a carbon tax that could raise the costs of its exports.
While acknowledging global warming as a threat, China insists rich developed countries that have produced the bulk of greenhouses should pay for their cleanup, even though China has now surpassed the U.S. as the world's leading greenhouse gas source.
The tariffs have drawn considerable public scrutiny. Last week, President Barack Obama said the House bill represents "an extraordinary first step," but said he had doubts about the tariff provision.
"To put out carbon tariff policies during the economic crisis and ahead of the annual climate change conference this year is not timely," Mr. Yao said. "It doesn't strengthen faith in the international community's cooperation against the crisis."
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is scheduled to meet in Copenhagen in December.—Shai Oster contributed to this article.
Write to Chuin-Wei Yap at

Obama to seek climate deal in Moscow

After success with China, US targets Russia in strategy to reach separate agreements with world's biggest polluters

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Friday 3 July 2009 18.05 BST

Barack Obama will move to seal a deal with Russia for joint action on climate change during his summit in Moscow next week, the Guardian has learned.
Obama arrives in Moscow on Monday at the start of a trip to Russia, Italy and Ghana that will focus heavily on energy and climate change. From Moscow, Obama travels on to Italy for a meeting of the G8 and a gathering of the major polluting countries.
Administration officials are still working out the broad outlines of an agreement that would see the US offer its expertise and technical support to Russian efforts to make its industries more energy efficient. In return Moscow would sign on to international efforts to scale back the emissions that cause global warming at a crucial UN summit in Copenhagen in December.
The overture to Russia — the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after America and China — furthers the strategy adopted by the Obama administration to enter into separate deals for action on climate change with each of the world's biggest polluters.
The administration sees such deals as crucial groundwork ahead of the Copenhagen meeting. They dismiss suggestions that the US is trying to undermine the UN process.
The separate negotiations policy began taking shape in May, as the US climate change envoy, Todd Stern, pursued a deal with China, the world's biggest polluter.
Next on the list is Russa. After that, it could well be Japan or Brazil. "You can definitely say we are looking for other partners," an administration official said.
In the case of China, as well as Russia, US officials have steered clear of trying to press for binding targets for emissions reductions.
Major environmental organisations support the Obama administration approach. David Doniger, the director of climate policy at the Natural Resources Defence Council, argues that Obama and other high-level members of his team have far greater flexibility to try to reach a deal in such bilateral talks than officials working through routine diplomatic channels.
"If you are trying to put together a baseball team you have to sign contracts with 30 players. You don't work them out in one big meeting," he said. "It's very difficult in the multilateral setting. It is just not the place where it is very easy to get countries to make new moves."
It is uncertain whether Obama will make a formal announcement of a new energy pact between the US and Russia. Instead, the president is expected to set out his ideas for a partnership with Russia on climate change and energy in a speech at the end of the summit. "They won't have the full road map for what they are going to do but want to launch a stepped up partnership," said Jake Schmidt, the international climate change director of the NRDC.
Another scenario envisaged is the establishment of a separate US-Russian working group on global warming to be overseen by Todd Stern, the State Department envoy on climate change.
The US and Russia have long-standing co-operation on energy, but the Obama administration would like to ratchet up that involvement.
There have also been recent signs of movement from Russia, which is beginning to engage with climate change far more seriously than before, said Andrew Kuchins of the Russia programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. In April, Moscow unveiled a new doctrine on climate change. "I think there is a much more realistic appraisal about the potential pros and cons of climate change. It is hard for them to ignore what is happening in the Arctic [which is warming rapidly]," said Kuchins.

In recent weeks, the White House, State Department and National Security Council have also been studying a report from the Centre for American Progress, an influential think tank, that called for looking at climate change as an economic issue, and for demonstrating clear benefits to Russia of action. "What is most crucial is engaging them on energy efficiency. We think that it is important to frame climate change as an economic issue and one where Russia stands to benefit by first undergoing significant energy efficiency [improvements]."
Russian industry is very inefficient, using three times more energy per unit of gross domestic product as the European Union and twice as much as the US, Light notes in the paper. He argues there would be great interest in Russia in collaborating with US experts on technologies to improve its use of energy.
The economic potential is huge. A World Bank report last year found that Russia, with reasonable investment, would be able to cut its energy consumption by about 50%or the equivalent of 60 biliion barrels a day of oil over the next three years.

Manchester Report: Plans for renewable energy bonds among 20 climate ideas to save the world

The idea is one of 20 radical solutions to the threat of global warming to be proposed during presentations at a conference in Manchester this weekend

David Adam, environment correspondent, Friday 3 July 2009 15.07 BST

The British public could invest their savings in the UK's renewable energy revolution and reap the financial rewards of helping to save the planet, under ambitious plans to be discussed this weekend.
The Public Interest Research Centre, a thinktank based in Wales, says the government could sell "energy bonds" to pay for the required investment. The scheme would be similar to war bonds, which galvanised financial support in Britain during the second world war.
The idea is one of 20 radical solutions to the threat of global warming to be proposed during presentations this weekend in Manchester. The event, organised by the Guardian and the Manchester International festival, will publish a report on the ideas, which will be distributed ahead of key UN talks on a new climate treaty in Copenhagen in December.
Tim Helweg-Larsen, director of the Public Interest Research Centre, said: "To finance renewable energy on the scale required, Britain is going to need hundreds of billions of pounds. Energy bonds are a way to unlock large amounts of money from individuals and institutional investors."
He added: "Make no mistake, this is an incredibly expensive project, but it also has very good rates of return on investments. We should be creating the opportunity for the people of Britain to invest in their own future and a secure climate."
People and companies would buy the bonds over the internet or at Post Offices, he said, investing anything from £10 to millions. The money raised would be dedicated to investment in offshore wind turbines and other clean energy projects. Fixed returns, backed by the government, could be paid at regular intervals, or after a decade or so when the fund matured. The increase in money paid back would be linked to the likely increase in electricity prices.
The large amounts of public investment raised by such a scheme could provoke awkward questions about how it would be allocated in Britain's liberalised electricity market, where infrastructure such as wind turbines are largely built and operated by power companies. Helweg-Larsen said nationalisation would not be needed. An investment corporation could be set up to spend the money, either by building generation capacity directly, or by subcontracting the work to existing operators. War bonds worked in a similar way he said, with the money from the public used to pay private firms to make weapons and munitions.
Other climate-saving ideas to be discussed at the Manchester event include practical suggestions, such as alternative fuels from algae to hydrogen, as well as ways to convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to methanol. Others will discuss more controversial ideas such as tighter controls on global population and rethinking conventional models of economic growth.
Stephen Salter, an engineer at Edinburgh University, who was responsible for the "Salter's Duck" wave energy device, will present his latest idea: a form of geoengineering that uses ships to seed clouds over the ocean, designed to block sunlight.
The ideas will be judged by a panel of experts led by Lord Tom Bingham, former lord chief justice, and including Dan Reicher, director of climate change and energy at, and author Chris Goodall.