Friday, 10 July 2009

G8: World leaders fail to agree specific target for climate cuts in L'Aquila

Rich and developing countries agree only to 'substantially reduce' global emissions by 2050

Patrick Wintour and Larry Elliott in L'Aquila, Thursday 9 July 2009 13.10 BST

World leaders, including the developing nations, yesterday committed themselves only to "substantially reducing global emissions by 2050", but failed to agree a specific target, according to a draft of the communique due to be issued later today.
The draft states: "We recognise the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed two degrees centigrade."
The draft is due to be issued by the Major Economies Forum under the chairmanship of Barack Obama. The MEF contributes 80% of world emissions.
The lack of a substantive agreement, other than the desire to keep global temperatures down, leaves world leaders facing daunting negotiations to reach agreement at the Copenhagen conference in December, which is due to set the entire climate change framework covering the period from 2012 to 2050.
Developed nations, according to the draft, agree to work in the run-up to the UN Copenhagen conference in December "to identify a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050". In a weak reference to the need for interim targets for 2020 emission cuts, the draft simply states the global goal will be regularly reviewed.
The statement does not commit either developed or developing nations to the worldwide 50% cuts target by 2050 agreed by the G8 on Wednesday. The language agreed jointly on 2C in today's draft is exactly the same as that deployed by the G8 nations on Wednesday.
The draft statement also states that "the financial resources for mitigation and adaptation will need to be scaled up urgently and substantially and should involve mobilising resources to support developing countries".
But no figure is given for the scale of resources required in the communique. Green and aid groups suggest that as much as $150bn per year in additional funds will be required to help developing countries respond to the effect of climate change. A lot of this money would be privately funded green technology transferred to developing nations, or cash raised from the nascent carbon market.
They also derided today's draft statement, with Tearfund warning: "This rolling dialogue points to the opposite direction to urgency and must not continue. We now have to wait until the UN September meetings when the heads of state will gather once again."
The developing countries are refusing to commit themselves to specific target cuts at this stage partly because they do not know what proportion of the burden of cutting emissions will be taken in the interim.
Developing nations such as Mexico want the rich countries to commit themselves to 40% carbon cuts by 2020, against a baseline of 1990 levels, so that developing countries do not have to take responsibility for the industrialisation of the rich.

G8: Brown preparing for climate change talks chaired by Obama

UK aides happy with strong condemnation by G8 of treatment of British diplomats in Iran

Patrick Wintour in L'Aquila, Thursday 9 July 2009 12.41 BST

Gordon Brown was today compressing a round of bilateral talks on Burma, the Doha trade round, Zimbabwe and climate change as he prepared for a major meeting this afternoon chaired by Barack Obama covering all the major carbon emitters.
His aides also expressed pleasure at the strong condemnation issued by the Group of Eight richest nations on Monday night of the treatment of British diplomats in Iran. It has been broadly agreed that there should be no further sanctions against Iran at this stage, although Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, said the issue would need to be revisited in the autumn.
Brown yesterday met the new South African president, Jacob Zuma, and the two agreed that they should continue to support the power-sharing government in Zimbabwe.
The coalition formed by Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, and his former arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who is now the prime minister, is desperate to secure as much as $8bn over the next three years to breathe life into the economy. Zuma and Brown agreed to back the reformists in the government.
Brown also met Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, this morning. The two men agreed that the elections in Burma would not be credible if pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is denied the right to participate. Ban was denied the right to meet the democracy leader by Burma's military leaders last week.
At meetings today, world leaders from the G8 met those from the major developing nations South Africa, India, China, Mexico and Brazil to discuss the stalled world trade talks. The leaders are expected to agree that the world trade talks ought to be completed by the end of next year. But world leaders have made such commitments many times before, to little effect. There is some hope in British circles that the scale of the world recession, and the election of Obama, will help concentrate minds given the scale of the prize available to the world.
The G5 meeting of developing countries ahead of today's meeting called on the world's richest nations to tear down trade barriers they said were a drag on the world economy and to restore credit to the poorest countries.
"We will stress tomorrow the importance of maintaining adequate flow of finance to the developing countries and also of keeping markets open by resisting protectionist pressures," said India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh.
Britain is also privately pleased that Singh was re-elected since he is deeply immersed in the detail of the trade talks.

Senate Democrats push back deadline on Obama climate change agenda

• Barbara Boxer tries to balance regional interests• EPA head likens environment issue to space race

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Thursday 9 July 2009 21.51 BST

Barack Obama hit a snag in his ambitious climate change agenda today when Senate Democrats pushed back their deadline to product a draft bill until September.
Barbara Boxer, the chair of the environment and public works committee who is spearheading the Obama environment agenda, said she had scaled back plans of writing a first draft of a climate change bill before Congress goes on its August recess.
"We will do it as soon as we get back," she told reporters.
She insisted that the delay would not jeopardise chances of getting climate change legislation through Congress this year. But the move comes amid signs of rising opposition to the bill in the Senate from moderate Democrats as well as Republicans.
Boxer would not guarantee that Congress would be able to pass legislation before December, when Obama is due to attend an international summit on climate change at Copenhagen.
"I want to take this as far as we can take it," she said. "The more we can do the better."
The downshifting in the Democrats' agenda comes a day after a meeting of Obama's energy and climate change team at the White House, and marks an acknowledgement by the Administration of the daunting challenge of getting enough votes for the bill in the delicately balanced Senate. Boxer tried and failed a year ago to pass a climate change bill.
Only 48 hours ago, the Obama administration initially had appeared confident it could get a bill through the Senate, and at high speed. The Democratic leadership in the Senate envisaged all committees signing off on a draft by mid-September.
On Tuesday, Obama despatched a quartet of officials to the Senate to drum up support for the move to a clean energy economy.
Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, likened the decades ahead to the space race of the mid-20th century, saying America risked being left behind if it did not jump to develop clean energy technologies.
The high profile start was seen as an attempt to build on a narrow vote for a sprawing climate change bill in the house of representatives late last month.
But as Boxer moved to capitalise on that momentum and try to pass a version of the 1,400-page bill there were growing signs of dissent from fellow Democrats, further jeopardising the chances of getting enough votes to pass the bill.
Democrats from oil and coal producing states demanded that the bill cushion consumers against future rises in electricity costs; those from rural areas called for protections for farmers.
"I hope we can fix cap and trade so it doesn't unfairly punish businesses and families in coal dependent states like Missouri," tweeted Missouri's senator Claire McCaskill.
Meanwhile, other Democrats in leadership positions in the Senate complained they were being put under pressure to rush through complicated legislation on two major topics: energy and healthcare.
Today's delay could buy time for Boxer to try to balancing the powerful constituencies who control the fate of the bill: coastal urban areas vs rural heartland and industrial states, western states which have wind and solar resources vs coal-dependent south-east.
However, Republicans who are almost uniformly opposed to climate change legislation immediately claimed the delay as a sign that Obama's agenda was foundering.

Most Americans don't believe humans responsible for climate change, study finds

In contrast, scientists overwhelmingly believe global warming is caused by human activity

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Thursday 9 July 2009 19.31 BST

Barack Obama's sense of urgency in getting Congress and the international community to act on climate change does not appear to have rubbed off on the average American, a new study published today reveals.
Even as the president pressed the G8 and the world's major polluters to resist cynicism and the pressure of the economic recession to act against global warming, a majority of Americans remain unconvinced that humans are responsible for climate change, or that there is an urgent need to act.
About 49% of Americans believe the Earth is getting warmer because of the burning of fossil fuels and other human activity, the survey by the Pew Research Centre and the American Association for the Advancement of Science said. Some 36% attributed global warming to natural changes in the atmosphere and another 10% said there was no clear evidence that the earth was indeed undergoing climate change.
Scientists in contrast are overwhelmingly persuaded that global warming is caused by humans - some 84% blame human activity. A strong majority - some 70% - also believe it is a very serious problem. Despite that degree of consensus, some 35% of Americans continues to believe - wrongly it turns out - that climate change remains a matter of scientific controversy. Only about 47% of the public views climate change as a very serious problem, a finding that has remained stable over the years, the survey said. In other public opinion polls over the years, climate change has ranked near the bottom of the list of pressing problems.
The Pew poll, like others in the past, also found attitudes towards climate change breaking down according to political allegiance. Some 67% of Republicans either deny the existence of climate change or attribute the phenomenon to natural causes. In contrast, 64% of Democrats believe that the earth is getting warmer because of human activity.

G8 summit: Gordon Brown calls on developing nations to sign up to G8 climate pledge

Gordon Brown has called on developing nations to sign up to a pledge to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius at the G8.

Published: 9:53AM BST 09 Jul 2009

He made the comments as leaders of the world's richest nations prepared to meet major developing powers to seek common ground on global warming and international trade.
"I hope we can agree the 2 degrees Celsius target with all the countries around the table today," said Mr Brown shortly before the talks were due to begin.

President Barack Obama will chair the climate discussions, but hopes of agreeing ambitious goals faded after China and India rejected demands to halve the emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.
The talks come on the second of a three-day Group of Eight summit, with discussions broadened to include the heads of new economic powerhouses in recognition that the world's problems cannot no longer be dealt with by an elite few.
The fragile state of the global economy dominated the first day of the annual G8 summit, with the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia acknowledging that were still significant risks to financial stability.
They also agreed to try to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial levels and pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by between 50 and 80 per cent by 2050.
The 17-member Major Economies Forum (MEF), which groups the G8 plus big developing nations, also looks likely to embrace the two Celsius goal but is balking at further commitments ahead of a decisive UN climate conference in December.
"There is a reasonable chance of achieving consensus in the MEF on the two degree principle but it is not realistic to expect agreement today on emissions targets," said one G8 source.
Progress could be hampered by the absence of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who withdrew from talks to attend to ethnic clashes in China's northwest that have killed 156 people and wounded over a thousand.
Indian negotiators said developing countries first wanted to see rich nation plans to provide financing to help them cope with ever more floods, heatwaves, storms and rising sea levels.
Temperatures have already risen by about 0.7 Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution ushered in widespread burning of fossil fuels, and Italy's prime minister said everyone should share the burden of tackling the problem.
Silvio Berlusconi said: "It would not be productive if European countries, Japan, the United States and Canada accepted cuts that are economically damaging while more than 5 billion people in other countries carried on as before."
Broader economic concerns will also be high on the agenda, with emerging nations complaining that they are suffering heavily from a crisis that was not of their making.
China, India and Brazil have all questioned whether the world should start seeking a new global reserve currency as an alternative to the dollar. They have said they may raise this on Thursday after discussing it among themselves on Wednesday.
Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters developing economies in the so-called "G5" had suggested the use of alternative currencies to settle trade among themselves.
The debate is highly sensitive in financial markets, which are wary of risks to U.S. asset values, and the issue is unlikely to progress very far in L'Aquila.
However, a breakthrough on trade did look within reach.
Diplomats say the G8 and G5 should agree to conclude the stalled Doha round of trade talks in 2010. Launched in 2001 to help poor countries prosper, they have stumbled on proposed tariff and subsidy cuts.
"We commit to reach a rapid, ambitious, balanced and comprehensive conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda," the G8 said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
The G5 issued their own statement, saying they was committed to try to address "any outstanding problems" on trade talks and added the successful conclusion of Doha would provide "a major stimulus to the restoration of confidence in world markets".
But they also called on the world's richest nations to tear down trade barriers and restore credit to the poorest countries.

Why it would be naive to abandon emissions negotiation at Copenhagen

A new report advocates exclusive emphasis on clean technology – but rejecting emissions caps is simplistic and will not work

Jim Watson, Thursday 9 July 2009 13.39 BST

A new breed of climate sceptic is becoming more common. This new breed is not sceptical of the science, but of the policy response. The latest example is a new report by a group of leading academics: How to get climate policy back on course. It questions the approach to climate change action within the United Nations negotiations. Rather than the current approach that emphasises targets for emissions reductions, the report advocates support for low-carbon and energy-efficient technologies (PDF).
The frustration of the report's authors is understandable. The negotiations since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change entered into force in 1994 have been painfully slow. For too long some industrialised economies – particularly the US – were either lukewarm or hostile to the negotiating process. The emissions reductions targets announced for 2020 by leading developed countries such as the US and Japan are not sufficient – this is despite Japan's commitment to exclusively domestic action. Furthermore, long promised finance and technological assistance for developing countries has yet to materialise.
However, we shouldn't take this frustration too far and make an idealised climate change policy the enemy of the good. As the authors of the report emphasise, there is considerable economic, political and psychological capital invested in the current policy approach. This means that the negotiations in Copenhagen are the only game in town. But none of the measures advocated in the report will add up unless they are implemented within an overall limit on emissions. Caps on emissions are required as part of what Anthony Giddens has recently called the "ensuring State". We need to know that the actions of individuals, businesses and communities are sufficient to limit emissions in line with climate science.
Caps on emissions are more effective where they are implemented alongside policies to price carbon emissions. The EU emissions trading scheme does this, and there are provisions in the US climate change bill for a similar scheme. There is huge room for improvement in the EU, for example, by tightening caps and reducing the number of get out clauses for industries with large lobbying budgets. But again this is no excuse to dismiss the whole idea. Pricing carbon is necessary (though not sufficient) to move economies towards a more low-carbon pathway.
The report's authors recognise the value of pricing carbon to some extent. They advocate a "low ring-fenced carbon tax" to fund low-carbon technologies. But a low tax is unlikely to make any real difference. Furthermore, their emphasis on funding for low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency is only a partial solution – and sets up a false dichotomy between emissions caps and support for technology and efficiency. It echoes the view of President Bush who rejected the Kyoto treaty. Having done so, he used his 2007 State of the Union address to offer the alternative view that "the way forward is through technology".
Simply supporting cleaner, low-carbon technologies is not enough and is naive. Experience shows that pushing technologies with funding is just one part of a complex picture. There also needs to be a market for these technologies so that businesses and individuals adopt them. Markets for low-carbon technologies need to be created through a combination of carbon prices and regulations. Without them, a lot of good technology investment will go to waste.
The emphasis on energy efficiency in the report is welcome, but not thought through. Almost all assessments of climate mitigation pathways conclude that energy efficiency should be done first because it saves us money. However, making energy production and use more efficient is not as easy as it seems, and can have unintended consequences. The "rebound effect" happens because the savings are used for other energy-consuming activities. This seldom makes energy efficiency a waste of time, but emissions caps are needed to limit such rebounds.
Caps on emissions are therefore a vital component of a successful deal at Copenhagen. Without this and action on other crucial issues such as finance and technology, leading developing countries will not sign up – and will refuse to make commitments of their own. There are some positive signs. Good progress is being made in bilateral talks between the US and China about the conditions under which China could be brought into a new deal. Gordon Brown's recent proposals on finance and technology have been widely welcomed in the developing world. We should support these initiatives while being critical when progress is too slow or lacks ambition. Rejecting emissions caps in favour of an exclusive emphasis on cleaner technologies is simplistic and will not work.
• Jim Watson is director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex

Obama science adviser insists talks with China will not bypass UN process

Summit in December is the only place to reach formal agreement, says John Holdren

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent, Thursday 9 July 2009 18.11 BST

Bilateral talks between the US and China will not replace the need for a global climate deal at Copenhagen, according Barack Obama's most senior science adviser. John Holdren also said that, though there was much legislative work still to do in Congress, he was confident the US would be in a position to sign up to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of the year and would do it within the United Nations framework.
"There are a lot of conversations going on with China and those are bilateral and multilateral," said the former physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, who now heads the US Office of Science and Technology Policy. "I suspect there's not going to be a formal bilateral deal – both the US and China recognise that the UN process, in its current embodiment in the run-up to Copenhagen, is the place where the formal deals that matter ought to be reached."
Environmentalists have been broadly positive about the Obama administration's approach to dealing with climate change but some have expressed concerns that the US will not have the time to prepare itself to sign a global deal to fight global warming in Copenhagen in December. Others have been concerned that a bilateral deal between the US and China - the world's biggest polluters - would circumvent the UN process in Copenhagen, with the two nations agreeing a mutually acceptable but unambitious deal.
But Holdren played down such suggestions : "My best guess is that we will get a deal in Copenhagen, the Chinese will be a part of it and the bilateral conversations preceding that will have been helpful leading up to Copenhagen. But ultimately it will have to be a multilateral deal."
Holdren, who is in the UK this week to accept his election as a foreign fellow of the Royal Society, insisted the Obama administration had not been distracted from climate change or the importance of a deal at Copenhagen, even in the face of crippling economic problems and proposed health care reforms. He pointed to the passing of the Waxman-Markey bill, which would establish a carbon cap-and-trade system in the US, through the House of Representatives and said that international talks ahead of Copenhagen would further speed up the legislative preparation at home.
Holdren also acknowledged that the Waxman-Markey bill was not perfect. The bill contains only modest CO2 emissions reductions targets – a 17% reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2020 – but he argued that it was more important to get something into law fast rather than haggle over the details for several more years.
"The single most important thing is that we are able to pass legislation that embodies a mandatory economy-wide approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the US," he said. "The goal of President Obama is to get the US on a trajectory that is compatible with a global emissions trajectory that does avoid unmanageable changes in global climate. What that amounts to as a global goal is trying to avoid exceeding global average surface temperature increase of 2C."
The bill is expected to get a rough ride by sceptical senators but Holdren is believes certain elements may actually be improved, such as extra money allocated to research, development and demonstration of clean energy technologies. He pointed out that many of those who voted against the bill in the House did so because they thought it was not bold enough. "If you really want aggressive targets to be met, you really want a large contribution from innovation in energy technologies to reduce emissions [they said]. Those folks said there's not enough in this bill for the research, development and demonstration of clean energy technologies to go with the forward-leaning targets."
If it passes through the Senate, Holdren said the Waxman-Markey legislation would send long term signals to businesses to invest in new technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). "Without CCS it's going to be extremely difficult to meet any reasonably forward-leaning climate change goal. ."
Holdren said CCS was one of a handful of technologies that were essential to meet climate goals — other priorities included better batteries for plug-in hybrids, cheaper solar thermal power systems and improvements in solar photovoltaics.
On the bill's modest reductions targets, he said there would be time to re-visit these in future. This might get easier in future as members of the public began to see the damage from climate change escalate around the world. "And once you have a cap and trade system in place that puts a real price on greenhouse gas emissions, you're going to see a pace of innovation response that's going to make it clear to people that it's easier and less expensive to reduce emissions than they had feared."

G8 summit: Barack Obama says world can close the carbon emissions gap

Patrick Wintour and Larry Elliott, Thursday 9 July 2009 22.27 BST

Barack Obama said today there was still time to overcome cynicism and close the gap with developing powers on climate change, after slow progress towards an agreement on how to cut carbon emissions across the planet.
World leaders are racing to meet a deadline of December when the UN climate talks in Copenhagen are due to conclude a crucial deal designed to set a carbon cutting framework to cover 2012-2050. At a meeting in L'Aquila, the G5 group of emerging economies – Brazil, India, China, Mexico and South Africa – refused to back a specific target for developing countries to cut emissions.
In a small step forward yesterday 17 industrialised and developing countries, which account for about 80% of global emissions, agreed to set an aspiration that world temperatures should not rise by more than 2C on pre-industrial levels. It is the first time India, China and the US have agreed to such a goal.
Obama said: "We have made a good start, but I am the first to admit that progress is not going to be easy … every nation in this planet is at risk, but just as more than one nation is responsible for climate change no one nation can solve it alone.
"Developing nations want to make sure they do not have to sacrifice their aspirations for development and higher living standards, yet with most of the projected growth in emissions coming from these countries their active participation is a prerequisite to a solution.
"Developed countries like mine have a historic responsibility to take the lead with our much larger carbon footprint per capita. I know that in the past the US has sometimes failed to meet its responsibilities so let me make it clear those days are over."
Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said: "Now we have the 2C goal, that can act as a yardstick to drive up ambition, which is what we need to do over the next six months."
But Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, criticised all sides for not being more ambitious. The world had to agree a long-term target, a cut of at least 50% by 2050, he said. "But more importantly, the leaders of industrialised countries should agree on a mid-term target."
On Wednesday the G8 industrialised nations committed to cutting emissions by 80% by 2050, the first time the US, Canada and Russia had agreed to such an ambitious target. But the G8 balked at setting interim targets for 2020, partly because of Obama's belief that he would undermine support in the US Congress for his climate change bill if he went for tough short term targets.
Obama hit another obstacle yesterday when Democratic leaders in the Senate, under criticism from Republicans for trying to rush through sweeping reforms, abandoned plans to produce a first draft of the bill before the summer recess in August.

G8 action without China and India would be pointless

Developing countries will not surrender trump card for a handshake – they want hard cash and firm commitments

David Adam, Thursday 9 July 2009 17.11 BST

With barely five months until make-or-break climate talks in Copenhagen, where the world will attempt to agree a new treaty on climate change, how significant are the G8 announcements?
Headline writers have drooled over the "historic" agreement to limit the global temperature rise to 2C, to cut world emissions 50% by 2050, and for the G8 to reduce its own pollution 80% by that date.
The numbers may sound reassuringly low, large and colossal, respectively, but there is significant political sleight of hand at play here. Does the 50% cut by 2050 sound familiar? The same countries agreed at the 2007 G8 summit to "seriously consider" such a target. By 2008, they had moved to "consider and adopt" it. Come 2009, well, we can consider it well and truly adopted.
Implicit in such a 50% reduction for the world, is a demand that developed countries cut their share by 80%. That is not ambition, that is mathematics. The baseline usually used is 1990, when the carbon pollution from rich countries dwarfed that from their poorer colleagues. To reach the average 50% decline, the bigger polluters need to make bigger cuts. Period. Announcing both as separate targets is like advertising a right sock free with every left sock bought.
Which brings us to the 2C ambition. Europe adopted such a target in 1996, so the UK, France, Germany and Italy are saying nothing new. Of the rest, Japan and Canada are hopelessly over their targets set under the Kyoto protocol, while the collapse of the Soviet Union means that Russia's emissions have dipped so low since 1990 that it can afford to increase them by a third between now and 2020 and still boast of a 10% cut overall.
For the US to agree to the 2C target looks a sizeable step when compared with the recent reign of George Bush, but not if you go back further to 1992, when the US joined other countries in signing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The stated objective of the convention is to avoid "dangerous anthropogenic interference" with the climate. The EU and others put that dangerous threshold at 2C. Nearly two decades later, the US is merely starting to honour its promise.
The problem for the G8 is that the rich countries no longer have the lion's share of emissions, and that any action they take is pointless without the co-operation of developing nations such as China and India. Officials may have been briefing this week that the rich and poor world were poised to unite in a global pledge, but that is more spin.
The accompanying statement from President Obama's Major Economies Forum, which unlike the G8, does include China, India and other developing nations, talks only of "substantially reducing" emissions by 2050.
A commitment to cut emissions, by any amount and by any date, is the developing world's most valuable trump card, and not one that it will surrender for a handshake and a photo opportunity. In exchange it wants hard cash, and a better indication of what the US and others are willing to do by 2020, not by 2050. That will only come across the negotiating table in Copenhagen.

UN chief: G8 must go further on emissions

Ban Ki-moon attacks climate change deal
By Andrew Grice, Political Editor, in L'Aquila
Friday, 10 July 2009

Developing countries agreed last night to limit the rise in global temperatures due to climate change but rejected pleas by rich nations to sign up to a specific target to cut their carbon emissions.
A day after G8 leaders agreed to reduce their emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, nine developing nations, including China, India and Brazil, made clear a long, hard negotiation lies ahead if a new global deal on climate change is to be struck at crucial talks in Copenhagen in December.

At talks with the G8 leaders chaired by the US President, Barack Obama, the nine developing nations endorsed the G8's call for the average rise in global temperatures to be limited to C. But they stopped short of matching the G8's decision by agreeing to halve their emissions by 2050. Instead, they promised to discuss firm emissions reduction targets in the run-up to Copenhagen.
Mr Obama hailed the 17-nation agreement as an "unprecedented commitment" but admitted: "I am the first one to acknowledge that progress on this will not be easy." He added: "We did not expect to solve this problem in one summit, but I believe we have made some important strides forward.... We can either shape our future or we can let events shape it for us."
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, criticised G8 leaders for not going further by setting interim targets for 2020 and to finance efforts by developing nations to embrace low carbon technology. He said: "The leaders of G8 must be aware of their historical responsibility for the future of humanity. There must be bold and ambitious targets so we can seal the deal."
The G5 nations – China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa – yesterday called for developed countries to cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. With 150 days to go to the Copenhagen summit, a crucial meeting will be held by the UN in New York on 22 September.
Gordon Brown struck a more upbeat note. He described yesterday's talks as "a significant moment on the road to Copenhagen", adding: "We have made huge progress."
Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: "This is a very important step forward and shows politics catching up with the science of climate change. This will define the way governments have to deal with climate change not just in the coming months but for future generations."
But green groups expressed disappointment. Tom Picken, international climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "Despite their pledge to limit global warming to C, the [17-nation] Major Economies Forum [MEF] has one arm tied behind its back because rich countries meeting at the G8 failed to show leadership by slashing their own emissions first and fastest."
Phil Radford, Greenpeace USA's executive director, said: "The failure is one of leadership from the G8.When they try to blame China and India for the failure, their excuse will be hollow. It is hard to believe that any of the G8 heads of state had the audacity to look the leaders from the developing world at the MEF in the eyes and talk about joint action to protect the climate."
On its final day today, G8 leaders will approve a $15bn (£9bn) package to tackle hunger in the world's poorest countries as they agree to switch aid programmes from emergency relief to long-term agricultural projects.
Yesterday they set a deadline for a new global trade deal to be completed next year. Trade ministers will meet soon to try to kickstart the long-delayed Doha round. But such deadlines have been set before and not been met.

ExxonMobil is not a climate change denier

We have the same concerns as everyone on energy and greenhouse gas emissions, says Nick Thomas
Nick Thomas
The Guardian, Friday 10 July 2009

You report the views of Bob Ward from the Grantham Research Institute, who attempts to portray us as climate change deniers (ExxonMobil is still funding groups that question global warming, 2 July). We are not. We take climate change seriously and have the same concerns as people everywhere - how to provide the world with the energy it needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that the risks to society and ecosystems from increases in greenhouse gas emissions are significant. We agree that it is prudent to address these risks. We have researched this issue for more than 25 years, and produced more than 40 papers in peer-reviewed literature. Our scientists serve on the IPCC and numerous scientific bodies. But the article ignored these facts.
You stated that last year we "handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds" to lobby groups that "question the reality of global warming". Like many other companies, we seek to promote discussion on issues that are relevant to us and contribute to a wide range of academic and policy organisations. These have a diverse group of supporters and obviously we cannot, nor do we try to, control what they say on any particular issue.
The article made no mention of other organisations we have funded, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the Brookings Institution, Princeton University and the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction.
Ward says: "If the company wants to fund climate change denial then it should be upfront about it." We are not interested in funding such views. Over the past few years we have discontinued contributions to several policy groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from this important discussion about how the world will secure energy for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner. We review our contributions on an annual basis.
Meanwhile, we are addressing the risks of climate change by reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions, helping consumers reduce theirs, supporting research into technology breakthroughs, and participating in policy dialogue. Specifically we have developed emission-reducing technologies such as tyre liners that keep tyres inflated longer, advanced fuel-economy engine oil, and lightweight motor vehicle plastics.
We are working on technologies to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions, such as lithium battery separator film for hybrid electric cars, research into advanced engines, and ways to generate hydrogen on board vehicles. We are investing more than $100m in technology to separate carbon dioxide from natural gas, which could help carbon capture and storage applications.
In addition we are sponsoring breakthrough research to make alternatives like solar and biofuels more available and affordable on a wider scale.
There is no single solution to the challenge of reducing emissions while meeting growing energy needs. We need to produce and use hydrocarbons more efficiently, and improve and develop alternative energy sources.
• Nick Thomas is director of corporate affairs for ExxonMobil International

Wave machine could be key to industrial generation of renewables

Redundant oil platforms could be used as hubs for the transmission of wave-generated power

Charlene Sweeney

A new wave-power machine that could generate up to ten times more energy than existing versions may turn out to be “the missing link between industrial-strength power generation and the renewables industry”, according to experts. Just one device may be capable of producing enough electricity to power an entire town.
The invention, the details of which are a closely guarded secret, could also have the answer to redundant North Sea oil platforms. They could be recycled to act as a collection point for wave energy, before being transmitted to centres of demand onshore.
Ecosse Subsea Systems, the Aberdeen-based company developing the technology, claimed that it had the potential to be the renewable industry's first industrial-strength source of power. The company said that the device could be ready in as little as two years.
Mike Wilson, managing director of Ecosse Subsea Systems, said the offshore deepwater system would be similar to a ship moored in areas of high wave energy, such as the North Sea. The machine, which can be built to scale according to the volume of water, will convert wave energy and send it ashore via fixed links.

Mr Wilson claimed that one unit will be able to produce between two and five megawatts of energy - enough to power a town.
The energy output of the device is equivalent to the world's largest and most powerful wind turbines, and about ten times more than current wave devices, most of which generate about 500 kilowatts.
“Our technology relies on large devices producing a large amount of power,” he said. “This technology is not only totally renewable but is also based on current North Sea expertise so will be robust enough to handle harsh environments.”
Scotland is already a global leader in wave technology, with a handful of devices already installed. Limpet, a shoreline system off the coast of Islay, which uses the principle of an oscillating water column, can generate up to 500 kilowatts of energy, and is the world's first commercial sized wave device connected to the grid. Other models are being tested at the European Marine Energy Centre, in Orkney, including Pelamis, a snake-like 180-metre long series of cylindrical segments connected by hinged joints that must be installed in water at least 50 metres deep. Each Pelamis wave converter is capable of generating up to 750 kilowatts of energy.
Despite the advances being made, Mr Wilson believes that his company's equipment could change the face of marine energy by linking the industry to the dying North Sea oil sector.
It was conceivable, he said, that North Sea platforms coming to the end of their life could act as collection points for wave energy produced by their devices. “Decommissioning equipment costs a lot of money so it makes economic sense for oil companies to defer that and make use of the platform instead,” he said.
Servicing the devices, which are expected to last at least 25 years, could also create jobs.
Ecosse Subsea Systems revealed details of the device after winning a £5,000 grant from the Scottish Funding Council to support further research. Alan Owen, a chartered energy engineer at Robert Gordon University's Centre for Research in Energy and the Environment, has started work on a project that incorporates wave tank testing. “We are doing the maths and the physics necessary to produce the wave tank model,” Dr Owen said. “The next stage is to build a small device and test it in a wave tank, then apply for funding to test a commercially sized device.”
The academic explained that one of the main differences between their device and other models is that it will be able to change size according to the size of the waves. “The way a body responds to a wave depends on the size of a body,” he said. “If you think about it, a big oil tanker is not troubled by a small wave.
“What we are looking at is a device that can change its own dimensions depending on the wave approaching it so it can maximise energy and make it safer by protecting it from storms.”

Businesses that reduce, re-use and recycle

On Day 4 of our series on the low-carbon economy, Peter Stiff and Emily Ford report on five British businesses embracing green ways of working

— J SainsburyZero-waste scheme
As Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain, J Sainsbury has come to know a thing or two about having the right stock in the right place at the right time.
However, it is not always as easy as it sounds. When a spell of bad weather in midsummer washes out everyone’s weekend barbeque plans, the retailer is left with loads of unsold sausages. A few years ago that may have meant a lot of waste, but not any more. By the end of the year more than 500 of the chain’s stores will be connected to its zero-waste-to-landfill network.
Lorries delivering daily fresh food will pick up all food waste and take it to various plants across the country to be converted into a fuel used to generate power by the process of anaerobic digestion. The scheme will be expanded to all Sainsbury’s convenience stores and cover all waste by 2010. Once operational, the scheme will generate up to 30 megawatts of electricity — enough to power a town of 20,000 people — and supply a significant proportion of the retailer’s power needs.

The zero-waste scheme is only one of many programmes the retailer is pioneering, Alison Austin, its environment manager, says. She notes that the group’s green credentials make business sense, fit its customers’ increasingly green agendas and are receiving “enormous support” from staff.
The group is also in the process of greening hundreds of stores. “If you use less, then that’s good for the bottom line,” Mrs Austin says, adding that the group’s green initiatives are commercially minded and watched closely by senior management. She says that packaging is the No 1 concern for customers and also of huge importance to the company. Sainsbury’s has started selling some cereals without boxes to reduce waste and is also looking at reducing the weight of glass bottles.
— Bruichladdich distillery Locally sourced ingredients
Mark Reynier, the director of Bruichladdich, a whisky distiller, is an accidental environmentalist.
Originally a fine-wine merchant in London, his life changed after tasting a rare single malt at a trade fair in 1985.
“It was a religious moment for me,” he says. “I liked it so much I bought the company.” The Bruichladdich distillery, located on the island of Islay, had been closed since 1994.
In 2001 Mr Reynier, above, reopened it with the aim of creating a superior whisky that reconnected the spirit to its original roots . He says: “My dream was to de-industrialise whisky and create the purest spirit in Scotland.”
He inadvertently created one of the greenest. Bruichladdich sources all ingredients locally, growing barley in 23 local fields, half on Islay and half on the mainland, using local spring water and its own bottling plant. About half is organic and plans are that all eventually will be.
Mr Reynier says that he is attempting to bring the concept of terroir used in fine wine, where the produce is easily traceable to its source. “We wanted to know where every grain has come from,” he says. “We have transformed farming on the island.”
The grassroots approach is in sharp contrast to the heavily consolidated whisky industry, in which 60 per cent of the market is dominated by Diageo and Pernod Ricard, which have international supply chains, growing barley in Russia or Australia and shipping in expensive single malt to blend with cheaper varieties in centralised facilities.
On Islay, barley used in Bruichladdich is produced using the same machinery as was used in 1881, when the whisky was first distilled. Transportation is kept to a minimum. The company has reduced its oil consumption by 17 per cent thanks to a new boiler and sends its waste materials to a local charity for recycling.
Bruichladdich is a high-end whisky. retailing from £44 a bottle. This translates into packaging. “Our bottles are beautiful and so people re-use them rather than throwing them away,” Mr Reynier says. Bruichladdich has been nominated for several green awards. “I never set out to be some eco-warrior,” he says.
— LogicaEnvironmentally minded staff
Most companies would regard a load of old, broken computer parts as waste. Not Logica, where one resourceful employee made a wind turbine from such scrap for the group’s staff environmental awards.
Such ingenuity among its staff, who have also come up with more subtle yet effective ways of being more environmentally friendly — such as printing on both sides of paper and switching off computer monitors — have helped the technology group to reduce carbon emissions by 15 per cent in two years.
Contributions have come from reducing road travel, energy use and waste, with the group’s annual green competition getting staff thinking about the environment. The 15 per cent reduction in emissions smashed internal targets of a 12 per cent cut in four years. Tony Rooke, leader of the group’s sustainability practice, now has the goal of halving the company’s carbon footprint.
He says: “It’s a tough target but there are lots of reasons why it is achievable.” Mr Rooke reckons the company has got back ten times what it has put into green initiatives, saving £10 million off energy and travel costs in the past two years alone. Further cost and carbon savings have come from allowing employees to work from home on a regular basis, reducing the number of desks at the company from 1.1 a person to 0.7, allowing the company to close offices and take cars off the road.
One of Logica’s most effective environmental schemes has been to pull in air from the outside to cool its hot data centres in Wales. Mr Rooke says that the implementation of the idea at the facilities, used to house large numbers of computer systems that get hot and need to be cooled, has saved 800 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent to 400 return flights from London to New York, and saved the company tens of thousands of pounds in energy bills. Logica also got a return on its investment on the project within three months.
Mr Rooke says that green initiatives are of increasing importance commercially as customers become more demanding. For instance, for one recent customer, Mr Rooke said that sustainability was almost as important as cost.
— 3663 Recycled biodiesel
Used cooking oil might not be glamorous but it is fast becoming precious for 3663, which delivers food to thousands of businesses, schools and hotels.
About three quarters of its trucks run on a fuel made from its customers’ and suppliers’ recycled waste vegetable oil, reducing carbon emissions by about 10,000 tonnes a year.
Fred Barnes, the chief executive, says: “A few years ago waste cooking oil was chucked away, but now it’s a valuable commodity.” He notes that the company operates more than 1,000 trucks, so it could hardly “duck the issue” of fuel.
Last year the group collected about three million litres of waste vegetable oil that was taken to a plant in Cheshire to be turned into biodiesel. Even though the biodiesel often ends up more expensive than conventional fuel because of variations in the cost of buying the oil and the price of petrol at the pump, Mr Barnes believes that his business and others must adapt.
“It’s not about cheap fuel but about businesses embracing sustainability,” he says. “Why on earth would you not use a form of energy that would otherwise be waste? We have to take a view that it is moral and sustainable for the long term.” The group believes that the scheme takes it out of the food v fuel debate, while also minimising waste.
The company’s biodiesel programme is only one of a number of schemes to become more sustainable, with its truck depots adopting high-efficiency lighting and catching rainwater to be used to wash its vehicle fleet. The group is also introducing greener refrigeration, sourcing its products locally and reducing packaging. Mr Barnes believes that good environmental policies will all eventually turn into big commercial issues, with lower consumption resulting in lower costs.
— JC Atkinson Green coffins and dead wood
Presumably, his customers are too upset to think about the carbon footprint of the coffin they are buying for their deceased loved one, but Julian Atkinson still believes that every business must address its energy use and environmental impact.
“It very important going forward — everything is moving towards low-carbon and everyone has to start looking at this,” the managing director of JC Atkinson, a Tyne and Wear-based coffinmaker, says.
Mr Atkinson believes that the word “waste” will one day fall from use as everything starts being reused.
In line with that thinking he remortgaged his house last year to install a biomass generator that burns more than 20 tonnes of sawdust and wood offcuts to produce heat and the factory’s own electricity. The device, which has resulted in a 40 per cent fall in energy use, can also put electricity back into the grid.
Mr Atkinson reckons that, by not using electricity from fossil fuels, his company is saving 350 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
Some of the company’s staff of 80 have changed shift times to work more when energy is cheaper.
Mr Atkinson’s coffins are also made from more environmentally friendly woods, such as Paulownia, which is harvested in seven years, compared with up to 40 years for oak or mahogany, and has leaves that absorb carbon.

The Responsible Business Awards defy parody

The self-congratulatory masters of greenwash gathered to applaud one other with an audacity that defies belief

Fred Pearce, Thursday 9 July 2009 10.02 BST

The shortlist read like a who's who of Greenwash over the past few months. Toyota, Coca Cola and EDF for starters.
But no, this column has not decided to hand out a set of glittering emerald prizes. Monday night was showtime for the Responsible Business Awards, with Business in the Community (BITC) and its president, Prince Charles handing out the gongs.
We've had a go at BITC here before. Well meaning it may be, but it seems to have tipped over from being a promoter of ethical business practice to an apologist for greenwash. But this week its 850 members were giving prizes to each other at a canapes-and-strawberries bash in the garden at Clarence House.
The prize-giving seems to be financially sustainable, at least, with past winners saying thank you for the free publicity by forking out to pay for the marquees and sponsor the awards. But the chutzpah that lies behind it defies belief.
Take the Bank of America Climate Change Award. That would be the Bank of America that was the world's biggest underwriter of debt – and so probably a tad responsible for the mess the planet is in – until it had to be bailed out by the US taxpayer to the tune of $20bn (£12.4bn) in January.
Who were the finalists for this much-coveted award? They included United Biscuits (consumers of palm oil from Indonesian former rainforests) and the world's largest car-maker, Toyota, so I guess we should be relieved that it went to Marks & Spencer.
Next up was the Asda Environmental Leadership Award. Asda? Environmental leadership? Two years ago it promised to ban products containing unsustainable palm oil from rainforests.
But, as I reported here a few weeks ago, it has not even updated consumers on its progress towards that target, which is an apparent breach of its promises as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. It still hasn't.
The Asda award was won by its retail rival, the Co-op. Which I guess, if words mean anything, recognises that Asda is playing catch-up. But all things are relative. The Co-op itself is more than two years behind with its online reporting at the Roundtable.
Then came the Procter & Gamble Responsible Marketing and Innovation Award. My P&G file is bulging. P&G is the world's largest producer of stuff on supermarket shelves, and a master of greenwash.
My colleague Alison Benjamin had a go here recently at its PR branding of detergents like Fairy Liquid and Ariel as "future friendly".
P&G is also under legal attack from consumer groups in the US for refusing to reveal ingredients in detergents like Tide and Mr Clean.
Also questionable on the "responsible marketing" front are its enthusiastic selling of Pampers disposable nappies in developing countries and deodorants to teenage cheerleaders. And last May animal rights activists were sufficiently angry at its testing of hair products to organise a Global Boycott Procter & Gamble Day.
Who won the coveted P&G award? Here we defy parody. Thames Water won for its "campaign to promote the serving of tap water in London's restaurants, bars and hotels". Now promoting tap water over bottled water is a good and green thing to do. But, forgive me, isn't tap water just about the only thing that Thames Water sells? It would be one of life's great surprises if it were not promoting its one and only product. Does it deserve a prize for this self-sacrifice?
There were some worthy winners. The BITC supply chain award went to Supreme Creations, who employ 2,000 women in south India making cotton and jute "bags for life".
But, as the Guardian reported, the Supreme Creations founder and boss, Dr R Sri Ram, slagged off most of the retailers assembled in Prince Charles' garden for failing to adopt bags for life in the way that rivals in other countries have. It seemed a fitting response to this self-congratulatory exercise in greenwashing.