Monday, 20 July 2009

India Rejects U.S. Proposal of Carbon Limits

Clinton Expresses Hope for Common Ground on Climate Change Despite Disagreement on Capping Greenhouse Gases
NEW DELHI -- India dismissed suggestions that it accept binding limits on carbon emissions, with a top official Sunday delivering a strong rebuke to overtures from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the two countries to work together to combat climate change.
Indian Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, in white, greets Hillary Clinton as she arrives at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi on Sunday. During her first visit to India as Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton is focusing on climate change—where India rejected suggestions of emissions limits—as well as nuclear power, defense deals and counterterrorism.

The rejection of the U.S. proposal was made in the middle of Mrs. Clinton's first visit to India as secretary of state and came just as the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is gearing up to push for a new global pact on climate change.
"There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told Mrs. Clinton and her delegation.
"And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours," he said, according to a written account of Mr. Ramesh's remarks to Mrs. Clinton in their meeting. Mr. Ramesh handed out copies of the account to reporters at a news conference afterward with Mrs. Clinton standing nearby.
India, like China, has long refused to accept emissions caps, arguing they could limit its economic growth and that the West, which has pumped a century's worth of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, didn't have to contend with such rules when it was industrializing.
India's statement is consistent with its longstanding position on the issue, and it isn't likely to affect the more-nuanced diplomatic discussions quietly afoot. Increasingly, developed nations seeking global cooperation are accepting that the idea of hard emission caps for developing nations is a political nonstarter.
Instead, diplomatic thinking is shifting toward a system of carrots rather than sticks that would lead developing nations to see curbing emissions as in their economic interests. Much of the discussion centers on how to transfer affordable, low-carbon technology from the developed world to the developing countries where emissions are rising fastest.
The idea, which is fraught with practical difficulties, is expected to be on the agenda when diplomats meet in December in Copenhagen to work toward a new international agreement to fight climate change.
During the first two days of her India visit, Mrs. Clinton tried to address Indian sensitivities, acknowledging the West's contribution to climate change and saying the U.S. would never try to impose conditions that could limit India's growth.
Instead, she said the two countries should together come up with a plan to fight climate change. She said Sunday that she still believes the two countries can find common ground on climate change. She called Mr. Ramesh's comments a "fair argument" and chalked them up to being "part of a negotiation."
Mrs. Clinton also pointed out that India's absolute level of carbon emissions -- as opposed to the per capita level, which remain relatively low because of the country's vast population -- are "going up and dramatically."
Issues on the visit's agenda include counterterrorism, nuclear power and defense deals valued in the billions of dollars.
On Saturday, Mrs. Clinton expressed optimism in Mumbai that the two countries would seal a pact allowing the U.S. to make sure American weapons sold to India were being used as intended. The pact is needed to allow U.S. firms to bid for an Indian contract to buy 126 fighter jets. The sale is expected to top $10 billion, making it one of the largest arms deals in the world and a potential windfall for Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.
U.S. officials said they hope Indian officials will on Monday announce two sites where American companies will have exclusive rights to build nuclear-power plants. The plants would be the first two projects allowed under an agreement sealed last year that ended a 34-year U.S. moratorium on nuclear trade with India.
Mrs. Clinton chose a highly symbolic backdrop for the opening of her three-day trip, staying Saturday at Mumbai's iconic Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, one of the hotels attacked during November's gun-and-grenade terrorist rampage in the city, which left more than 170 people dead.—Jeffrey Ball contributed to this article.
Write to Matthew Rosenberg at

Carbon emissions trading system 'seriously flawed'

• Report by campaign group Sandbag critical of scheme• Hot air carbon credits preventing actual emissions cuts
Damian Carrington
The Guardian, Monday 20 July 2009
The system of trading carbon emissions at the heart of the ambitious low-carbon plan announced by the government last week is seriously flawed and close to becoming irrelevant, according to researchers behind a new analysis.
So-called "hot air" carbon credits – those which do not result in any actual emissions cuts – could be so numerous that companies covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme would not have to make any cuts to their own emissions until 2015, says the report from climate campaign group, Sandbag. The hot air permits result from the over-allocation of emissions allowances and from those going unused as the recession cuts economic activity.
The ETS covers 50% of the UK and EU's carbon emissions, mainly in the energy, cement, steel, glass and manufacturing sectors. Companies in these sectors are allocated allowances for the carbon they emit, with the total number shrinking over time, theoretically forcing companies to buy additional permits to pollute if they do not cut their emissions.
A large proportion of the UK's promised cut of 34% by 2020 will come via British companies in the ETS. Globally, the carbon trading market was worth €92bn (£79bn) in 2008, trading 5bn tonnes.
However, the large number of carbon permits that have been allocated and a fall in emissions due to the recession, have made the trading system less effective.
"With too many rights to pollute in circulation, the scheme is in danger of being rendered irrelevant," said Sandbag founder, Bryony Worthington. "At a time when other countries are looking to set up their own trading schemes and the world is set to debate a global deal on how to tackle climate change, [this] flagship policy urgently needs rescuing – starting with much tougher caps."
She called for an immediate tightening of the cap on permits to 30% of industry's emissions by 2020, compared to the existing 21%, and a commitment to 40% if a strong global deal results from a UN climate change summit in Copenhagen in December. Making the 30% cut would cost virtually the same as was originally envisaged for the 21% cut, she said, and be much closer to the cuts scientists say must be made to avoid dangerous climate change.
Ed Miliband, energy and climate secretary said: "The UK has been successful in arguing for big improvements to the EU ETS and making sure it's far more effective in tackling climate change. As part of a global climate deal we want Europe to up its targets and that will mean a greater contribution from the EU ETS."
But MP Tim Yeo, chair of the environment audit committee, said: "These findings confirm what many have begun to suspect. Although emissions trading remains conceptually valid, in practice the EU ETS has not succeeded in driving investment in low-carbon technology."
The ETS price for a tonne of CO2 at the close of the market on Friday was €14. To make it economical for generators to switch from coal to less-polluting gas for electricity production requires a price of around €25, while carbon capture and storage technology needs a price of €40-€50 a tonne to be worth investing in.
But Guy Turner, director of analysts New Carbon Finance, said the current relatively low carbon price simply meant the emissions cuts required by the existing ETS cap were being made less expensively than expected. "There is some surplus in the system. But the set targets are being achieved – albeit by a mechanism not predicted: the recession."
He believes emissions will begin to rise once again from 2010 as economic growth returns, and that a year or two after that demand for permits will outstrip supply. "The 21% target will look tight by 2020."
Sandbag's calculation of the potential hot air permits are undisputed and highlight the gap between what is politically possible – loose caps – and what science demands – tight caps – say experts.
The Sandbag analysis comes on the same day as a report by the prime minister's special representative on carbon trading, Mark Lazarowicz MP, published at a government conference on the subject. Lazarowicz's report is expected to argue that carbon trading is a crucial part of the world's response to climate change, and that schemes around the world should be integrated in future.
The potential hot air credits identified by Sandbag include 400m tonnes which industry will not need in the current 2008-12 ETS trading period. These could be sold as windfall profits, raising £5bn at current prices, or banked for the next period, depressing the future price. A further 300m ETS permits exist in a reserve, which supplies them to newly formed businesses. Lastly, companies have the option to offset their emissions by buying credits from outside the EU, usually from hydroelectric or other schemes in China and India. On current trends 900m of these could be available up to 2012, and bankable for use up to 2020.
The non-EU credits come mainly from the UN's clean development mechanism, which is widely acknowledged to be flawed. It includes many projects that would have happened without CDM funding, meaning the carbon reductions are not true cuts. Campaigners also argue it allows rich nations a "get out of jail free card", when they should be making cuts in their own countries.
"Concern remains about the extent to which British companies can purchase credits overseas instead of cutting emissions at home," said Yeo. Sandbag estimates the British companies could spend up to £1.7bn overseas on credits by 2012.
Carbon trading will also be at the heart of the global climate change treaty negotiated in Copenhagen to succeed the Kyoto protocol.
The world's top climate change expert, Rajendra Pachauri, told the Guardian that he shared concerns that the ETS was not being effective in tackling global warming. As the most mature trading system, it is seen as a model for newer markets around the world, which will need to be integrated for a truly effective global system of cutting emissions.
But Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said a strong Copenhagen agreement could lead to a substantial shift in the carbon market, lifting the price: "It may change the whole dynamic. That is my feeling, though I may be wrong."

Nissan to make electric cars in Britain

Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, will reveal plans to create a 'low-carbon economic area' in the north-east including a research and development centre for motor industry suppliers
Terry Macalister, Sunday 19 July 2009 16.16 BST

The government is hoping to boost its chances of turning Britain into the "green car capital of Europe" by announcing tomorrow that the North East of England – home to the Nissan automotive company – has been chosen as the UK's second Low Carbon Economic Area.
Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, will outline the decision at the Nissan UK headquarters in Washington, County Durham, and say he wants the area to specialise in zero-carbon electric vehicles.
Ministers have been desperately trying to convince the Japanese company that it should base a new European green car manufacturing operation in Washington rather than at a rival facility in Spain. Nissan is expected to announce today new investment in its UK facilities, but refused to comment on speculation that it would produce electric cars in Britain.
Mandelson will try to further his case tomorrow morning by also unveiling plans for a special research and development centre for zero carbon vehicles which will coordinate work from five universities in the area. In addition, a technology park will be created to develop a supply chain for green vehicles.
Last week the government announced a Low Carbon Industrial Strategy and designated the South West of England as – a centre of marine and tidal energy schemes – that would become Britain's first Low Carbon Economic Area.
The government said it expected to create 1.2m green jobs by 2020. Its green cars strategy was given a boost on Friday when Toyota, the world's biggest car maker (by sales), said it was going to produce hybrid models in Europe for the first time from its Burnaston plant in Derbyshire.
Mandelson's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has been trying to woo Nissan to make a similar move by dangling expectations of a £380m loan from the European Investment Bank.
A decision by Nissan to go green in Washington would secure the positions of 4,500 workers and a network of up to 20,000 suppliers who have been under pressure because of the credit crunch and a global downturn in car sales.
Mandelson visited the factory in April when he praised broad-based plans by the Japanese to construct a range of electric cars around its Nissan Nuvu prototype without saying where production would take place.
Mandelson told the local Echo newspaper recently: "Ever since I went to Nissan in Sunderland earlier this year I have been working very closely, very hard to make sure that they decide in Britain's favour to place their investment in our country and in the North East."
The Low Carbon Transport strategy, released by the government last week as part of the Energy White Paper, also underlined the commitment to being at the forefront of electric car schemes. "We are committed to making the UK a world leader in research, development demonstration and commercialisation of ultra-low carbon vehicle technology," it said.
Nissan has said it wants to produce a pure electric car by next year for fleet customers in Japan and the US. The vehicle would be powered by lithium batteries developed under a joint venture with NEC Corporation.
The company believes it can spearhead the mass marketing of zero-emission electric cars by 2012 and the UK government will help sales by offering a £5,000 grant to consumers to buy green cars.
Ministers are already operating a "cash for bangers" scrappage scheme whereby consumers are eligible for grants if they trade in old cars and buy new ones, to kickstart an ailing market which has led to Nissan and other carmakers laying off staff or putting them on short-time working.
Last week Jaguar added to the gloom by announcing plans to stop production of its X-type saloon car with the loss of 300 jobs at the Halewood plant on Merseyside. Jaguar's owner, Tata Motors, has said that it would scrap plans to build electric cars in Britain if it does not receive a £10m loan from the government's car package soon. Lord Mandelson yesterday warned the carmaker to accept a revised proposal to guarantee short-term funding or risk losing it.
The North East of England has been keen to position itself as a centre for green industry with a giant prototype wind turbine being created at Blyth and a cluster of companies in the area offering biofuels. There is also talk of installing charging points for electric vehicles at shopping centres and filling stations across the region.
The 1.2 million employees by the end of the next decade working in the low-carbon economy would not only build cars, but put up wind farms and trade carbon emission certificates from offices in the City of London. The government is banking on renewable power technologies – particularly wind – to provide 30% of all the country's electricity by the end of the next decade.
Ministers also count nuclear as a low-carbon technology and expect to see a raft of new atomic plants 'constructed in the UK.

India and Climate Change

Yes, the U.S. emits more per capita. But it's also been more responsible about population growth.
As the world community gears up for another round of climate-change talks -- and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Delhi on Sunday for meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh -- a central issue will be how to bring developing countries into a climate-change pact.
Developing countries such as India do not want to pledge to reduce their emissions until industrial countries have first demonstrated not just pledges but actual emissions cuts. Industrial countries, for their part, generally recognize that they should act first. But they want some assurance that their reductions won't be meaningless in the face of rapidly rising emissions in China and India.
India's Mr. Singh has become the spokesperson for "equity" in emissions reductions. Mr. Singh has acknowledged that climate change is a problem and has said that India will do its part. Like all developing country leaders, however, he points to the fact that industrial countries have contributed a century's worth of emissions to the global atmosphere while developing countries have only started to use, in his phrase, their "share of the global atmosphere." He has pledged that India will never exceed the per capita emissions of industrialized nations. He also said that India will only consider signing on to a climate pact when a common global per capita emissions target has been established.
When it comes to saving the planet, there are strong reasons to consider per capita emissions as part of a burden sharing formula. However, we should be cautious about making this the magic bullet that resolves the dispute between industrial and developing countries. Indeed, the Indians themselves should be cautious. It undermines a core part of their argument.
At some level, Mr. Singh is right. India has not contributed historically to the problem. U.S. per capita emissions are probably 12 times those of India's. If the U.S. meets the ambitious goal of cutting emissions 83% by 2050 -- as stipulated in the recent energy bill passed by the House of Representatives -- U.S per capita emissions would drop from 20 tons to three or four tons per person annually.
That per capita standard would still be double India's current level of two tons per person. Because emissions linger in the atmosphere for 50 years, scientists tell us that all countries must cut their emissions over the next four decades to protect the planet. So if the U.S., the EU, and Japan slash emissions, but China, India and other developing countries continue to emit greenhouse gases unabated, by 2050 the overall global emissions might decrease, but not by enough.
But that's not the only reason to be concerned about the per capita standard.
First, a per capita emissions standard does not consider population growth. It only looks at the quantity of greenhouse gases each person emits. That standard accepts, in essence, that unmitigated population growth is fine. This undermines a careful consensus developed over a decade ago, with India's support, at the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development. After a century of inaction, the world community agreed that population growth needed to be managed. Even under that mandate, China and India together may add almost a billion more people to the world's population by 2050.
Second, countries like India are using a double standard when they talk about history. In essence, developing nations are arguing that the U.S., the EU and Japan need to act first on climate change. They need to make up for their history of using fossil fuels, even though these nations did not know at the time that they were threatening the climate.
Yet there is also a population-growth history that can't be ignored. During at least the last half of the 20th century, population growth exploded in developing nations. From 1950 to 2000, world population grew 2.5 billion to six billion -- an increase of about 140%. Over that period, India went from 350 million people to over a billion -- up 182%, outpacing even China's increase. By comparison, the U.S. grew from 157 million to 287 million -- a rate of increase that is well below the world average.
If developed nations are held responsible for emissions that they historically contributed, oblivious to their impact on climate change, why shouldn't developing nations take responsibility for producing generations of people who will generate emissions into the future? Put another way, it is unclear whether we should use the population figures of 1950, 2000 or 2050 in judging per capita contributions to climate change.
Fighting climate change is a complex and dynamic undertaking. As with most metrics, the per capita standard is too simple. It doesn't fully acknowledge the emissions of previous and future generations. When Mrs. Clinton meets with Mr. Singh, she should make it clear that a static per capita metric alone cannot solve the problem of climate change.
Mr. Antholis, who served on the National Security Council during the Kyoto negotiations, is managing director of the Brookings Institution.

UK to spend £100m on supporting GM crops for world's poor

White paper shows government plans major rise in investment in research, as report calls for moratorium and questions approach
John Vidal, environment editor, Sunday 19 July 2009 19.51 BST
Britain is planning to quietly spend up to £100m on support for genetically modified crops for the world's poor despite not having allowed any of the controversial foods to be grown commercially at home.
A new white paper shows the government is committed to dramatically increasing spending on high-tech agriculture in the next five years, much of which will be on GM crop research. Biofortified crops, containing added vitamins, will receive £80m of development money, £60m will go on researching drought-resistant maize for Africa and a further £24m will be spent on pest resistance. In addition, support for an international network of GM crop research stations, in collaboration with GM companies, will be doubled. A further tranche of UK aid will go to a research initiative backed by the GM crop firm Syngenta, which is developing a strain of rice modified to increase vitamin A.
The white paper avoids the terms "genetically modified". But scientists and development experts are clear that much of the money will be spent on GM. The government has in the past revealed its strong support of high-tech food for Africa as a way to reduce poverty and also gain acceptance for GM foods in Britain.
Last year the then science minister, Ian Pearson, said: "If GM can demonstrably provide benefits for sub-Saharan Africa … the public will want to support [it]."
However, the decision to increase aid spending on GM food for developing countries rather than to direct money to help farmers increase yields by conventional methods has dismayed environmentalists. In a paper to be published tomorrow, GM Freeze, set up by Friends of the Earth and others, calls for a moratorium on GM, arguing that Britain's investment is sending African farming "down a blind alley".