Saturday, 22 August 2009

Is the car scrappage scheme helping the environment?

Despite the pollution caused by manufacturing new cars, carbon emissions are a quarter lower than in the vehicles they replace
Car scrappage in the UK looks like it's achieving its goal. For the first time in 15 months, new car registrations rose rather than fell, with a modest increase of 2.4% in July. You can almost hear the industry's relief as it comes up for air after more than a year of plummeting sales, job losses and frozen production lines.
But what about claims that the scheme is also having some environmental benefits? Can it really be the case that swapping your much-loved — and possibly well-maintained — jalopy for a shiny new motor actually reduces emissions? In an attempt to answer that question, let's crunch the numbers on scrappage.
Looking at the first 77,000 applications, the average tailpipe CO2 figure for scrapped cars is around 179g/km, compared to a much lower 134g/km emissions average for new cars bought through the scheme. That's a reduction of 45g/km (25%), more than you would expect going on average car data alone: the average new car's CO2 emissions has fallen by just 18% over the last 13 years, the typical age of a scrapped car.
Two factors seem to be driving this reduction. The first is the switch to diesel cars, which have lower CO2 emissions. In 1999, diesel accounted for only 17% of the UK market; that figure now stands at around 44%. The second factor is that, following the fuel hikes of 2008 and the ensuing recession, UK car buyers were already looking for smaller, more fuel-efficient models — the super-mini segment (cars such as the Smart ForTwo) accounts for 37.5% of all registrations. The scrappage scheme helped to continue these trends at a time when UK car sales had dried up. .
Data from the US suggests that its 'Cash-for-Clunkers' scheme is achieving even bigger tailpipe CO2 cuts — new cars bought through the US scrappage scheme are "on average 63% less polluting".
But what about all the carbon emissions generated by making a new car? Surely this outweighs any tailpipe benefits? Well, on average, car vehicle manufacture accounts for 10%-15% of lifetime emissions, so it's not a show-stopper as far as the scrappage scheme is concerned. In any case, manufacturing emissions have fallen (by around 3-5gCO2/km over the life of the car since 1999).
One killer blow often aimed at car scrappage is that, while it may offer some environmental benefit, the 'cost per tonne of CO2 saved' is way off the scale and the money would be better spent elsewhere to reduce emissions. The World Resources Institute (WRI) suggests the US scheme is costing about $500 for each tonne of carbon eliminated.
There are two points to say on cost: first, the scheme is not primarily a carbon reduction measure, its original aim was to save jobs. Second, as sales of new cars pick up, the Treasury is set to get back most of its £150 million investment through increased VAT revenues. In other words, by the end of the scheme, it won't have cost the government or the taxpayer a bean.
• Ben Lane is the managing editor of WhatGreenCar

China's spiralling consumption is fuelling waste and pollution

China's government and the domestic market are calling for greater spending. Economic growth may be maintained, writes Huo Weiya, but US-style living may mean we need another two Earths. From ChinaDialogue, part of the Guardian Environment Network
To maintain an 8% economic-growth target through the current global financial crisis, the Chinese government has launched an investment stimulus package worth four trillion yuan (US$585 billion) and eased bank-lending restrictions. But another important measure is the increasing of individual consumption.
In 2008, the Chinese government launched "village appliance" schemes nationwide, with subsidies used to increase sales of televisions, refrigerators, washing machines and mobile phones in rural areas. Another two billion yuan (nearly US$300 million) was invested in 2009 in a "new-for-old" policy that will see individuals and businesses sell old appliances back to the state and receive a 10% subsidy on new purchases. Besides this, the automobile market is benefiting from subsidies and tax breaks, and many cities have handed out shopping vouchers to local people.
The export-oriented economy has been hard-hit by the economic turmoil, increasing the government's determination to make the domestic market the engine of growth. "Increase domestic demand, maintain growth" is seen as the secret to guiding the economy through hard times. But there are dangers hidden in this strategy, and there will be considerable environmental consequences if a long-term approach is not taken.
First, there is the issue of reusing resources. In China, it is not just rubbish that gets buried in landfill; many materials that could be reused also end up there. And once products have been used, they are treated as rubbish and thrown away. Any recycling that takes place is often the result of scrap collectors sifting through rubbish for the more valuable items; the rest goes to scrap or compost.
Increasing amounts of rubbish mean that many cities – including Beijing – are at risk of being surrounded by landfill sites and are turning to power-generating incinerator plants. This is controversial, with environmental bodies saying China should be sorting and recycling its rubbish. But China does not have a system for sorting rubbish.
When explaining the "new-for-old" policy, a National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) spokesperson said that it would see five million appliances replaced, while 90 million of the types of appliances mentioned above would be discarded annually. But the pervasive presence of scrap collectors throughout China's cities demonstrates that standardised collection and disassembly companies are not yet common. The sector is dominated by small, informal traders, and the environmental consequences of this already have already been covered in our earlier article "Low-carbon living begins at work".
The authorities released guidance alongside the "village appliances" and "new-for-old" policies, but with the recycling sector just getting started, it is unclear if the measures will be effective and if they will reach out into the rural areas.
In February, the State Council issued Regulations on Recovery Processing of Waste Electrical and Electronic Products, setting out the direction for the sector. But this only comes into effect in 2011. Until then, those small scrap merchants will be the main channel for recycling. They will purchase discarded appliances and then sell them on to companies unable to process them properly or to small, unregistered workshops.
The inadequate processing of waste doesn't just create pollution; it's also the cause of significant waste. According to the same State Council spokesperson, the new-for-old policy would see 2.3 million tonnes of resources collected for reuse. But without systems in place, much of that will be treated as garbage.
Another risk is the inflation of consumer expectations. A special feature on a well-known Chinese website,, recently described white-collar workers as the killers of the environment. The white-collar lifestyle involves high levels of consumption, and consumption is the natural enemy of the environment. In a poll on the website, the vast majority of those surveyed said that it is everyone's duty to protect the environment.
But despite these views, what actually happens is different. From July 1, hotels in the city of Changsha were no longer supplying items such as disposable toothbrushes and single-use tubes of toothpaste for free; they will be charged for. A survey on found 77% of respondents opposed the move, complaining of inconvenience.
These two surveys demonstrate the clash between ideas of consumption and environmental protection. Environmental awareness was non-existent three decades ago. Today, the environment is often the focus of public debate. But the Chinese seem to be becoming ever more like the Americans they so often point fingers at – happy to protect the environment, as long as they don't need to change their lifestyles.
The "3R" principles of waste-management strategy are "reduce" (to minimise energy and resource use), "reuse" (to use an item more than once), and "recycle" (to process used items into new products). Reduction and recycling have been put into political and economic practice, but reuse -- the concept at the heart of the circular economy – has been given the cold shoulder. Most consumers seem to have left environmental matters to environmental groups. As long as they can afford to, they'll consume as much as possible that is new.
China is placing more emphasis on its domestic market, with a range of methods applied to increase consumption and boost the economy, thereby making consumption seem ever more natural. With both the government and the market calling for greater spending, will China's potential consumption be realised?
The Chinese did not use to be heavy consumers, either because they did not have the funds or the lack of a welfare system meant they saved their money for a rainy day. But 30 years of economic growth have given us ample material desires – a lifestyle of keeping up with the rich, keeping up with the Americans, has taken root. As soon as we are able to consume, we do so – no less than the citizens of developed nations do. Economic growth may be maintained, but as the environmentalists warn, we may need another two Earths to meet the new US-style consumption of the Chinese nation.
• Huo Weiya is operations and development manager for chinadialogue in Beijing and former editor-in-chief of Environmental Culture Newsletter.
• This article was shared by our content partner ChinaDialogue, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Deadly seaweed chokes Solent waterways

Farm runoffs and sewage outflows boost growth and puts birds and marine life at risk
Alok Jha, Friday 21 August 2009 17.03 BST
Blooms of seaweed choking the waterways of the Solent have been caused by large amounts of untreated sewage and farm fertilisers dumped into the sea, according to the Environment Agency.
Extra nutrients in the pollutants combined with sunny weather has enabled the seaweed to grow out of control around Worthing in West Sussex, Ventnor in the Isle of Wight and at Langstone harbour. The growth has cut off access to food for local birds, fish and crustaceans and depleted oxygen in the water.
Large stretches of the mudflats and saltmarshes around the Solent are designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty. They are home to more than 7,500 migratory brent geese and tens of thousands of other local birds that visit the area throughout the year to feed on the plants and marine invertebrates such as crustaceans and molluscs.
But the biodiversity in the area's waterways and harbours is under threat from sewage and agriculture. "[Seaweed] growth is promoted by excess nutrients, mainly nitrogen, nitrates and ammonia," said Dave Lowthion, marine team leader at the Environment Agency. "We know that the two key sources to this are nitrogen in sewage discharges and nitrates runoff from agriculture into rivers and harbours."
This can lead to thick mats of seaweed growing between April and November each year which prevent migratory birds from getting at their invertebrate prey in the sediment. As the seaweed decomposes, it depletes the surrounding oxygen supply and produces hydrogen sulphide. This gas can be toxic to marine life and, in larger amounts, to people.
Parts of the UK under threat from algae blooms caused by agriculture and sewage pollution, according to the Environment Agency, include Cardiff Bay, Lougher estuary, Seal Sands Tees estuary, Chichester harbour, Hamble estuary, Pagham harbour and Portsmouth harbour. Lowthion said that more than 70% of the UK's rivers are designated as nitrate-vulnerable zones. "In the Solent that's virtually every stream on the mainland and the Isle of Wight," he said.
Seaweed build-up has also affected the northern coast of France, with excess blooms covering beaches all over Brittany. Release of hydrogen sulphide on the beaches there allegedly caused the recent death of a horse, which became overwhelmed by fumes on a beach in Saint Michel de Greve. Mounds of rotting seaweed have appeared at more than 80 locations on the coast this summer. They have a dry crust that can trap large concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, which builds up until the mound is disturbed.
Recent warm weather is also to blame for the death of thousands of fish along the coast of Cornwall. Around St Austell Bay and Tregantle beach at Antony, near Torpoint, the Food Standards Agency closed down shellfisheries this week as blooms of microscopic red algae appeared off the shore and dead fish washed up on the beaches. The so-called "red tide" produces toxins that are lethal to fish and shellfish and the sudden growth in the algae depletes oxygen in the water, with knock-on effects for marine life. The algae can cause skin irritation and harm pets — local authories have warned people to avoid going into the water wherever any red algae might be present.
"When it's eaten by shellfish, the toxin can persist in the flesh and can poison people if they eat the shellfish. They can be big blooms, half the size of the English Channel, but not very often do they go right up to the shore," said Lowthion.
He added that though the red tide blooms could be large, they would disperse quickly as the water temperatures drop in the run-up to winter.

Heaven and Earth by Ian Plimer

A new book by a prominent Australian scientist claims that global warming is nothing to worry about — but perhaps he should get his facts right first
Bob Ward
The failure last week of the Australian Senate to pass new legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions follows hard on the heels of another potential obstacle presented by the country to international progress on climate change, namely the publication of an angry and bitter new book on the subject by one of its most prominent scientists.
Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth disputes almost every big finding from climate research of the past 20 years, complaining that it “lacks scientific discipline”. Instead, he argues, we should be listening to geologists such as him, who are uniquely placed to reassure us that global warming is natural and nothing to worry about, and that measures to tackle greenhouse gas emissions pose far more threat to our wellbeing and prosperity.
It is easy to see why this book has attracted attention, particularly from right-wing commentators who have long believed that man-made climate change is a conspiracy theory. But this book is so full of errors that readers who believe its content could be seriously misled about the causes and consequences of climate change.
In the opening chapter, Professor Plimer, who is based at the school of civil, environmental and mining engineering at the University of Adelaide, describes his work as “a scientific book about climate change”. With more than 500 pages filled with facts, figures, footnotes, scholarly references and graphs, it looks like a learned tome. But it is nothing like as robust and rigorous an examination of the scientific evidence on climate change as it would seem.
The first chapter contains a number of blunders and some highly contentious statements. In the second paragraph, he claims that “depopulation, social disruption, extinctions, disease and catastrophic droughts take place in cold times and life blossoms and economies boom in warm times”. On this extraordinary logic we should, presumably, be doing all we can to promote global warming.
The most insidious feature of the book is the way in which it deals with some of the scientific evidence in it. The very first diagram purports to show “five computer predictions of climate made in 2000”. In fact, it shows only three lines that are supposed to be predictions of “temperature increase” between 2000 and 2025, and two lines show, respectively, surface thermometer and satellite measurements between 1990 and 2008.
The diagram indicates that the thermometer readings are taken from a database of global annual temperature measurements compiled by the UK Met Office and the University of East Anglia. However, none of the values on the graph matches the official data. As a result, it shows computer models predicting ever-rising temperatures after 2000, departing from the temperature record, which plunges after 2005. Hence 2008 wrongly appears as much colder than any previous year back to 1993, when in fact it was warmer than 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2000. Yet the caption states: “This diagram shows that the hypothesis that human emissions of CO2 create global warming is invalid.”
A few pages on, Professor Plimer makes the curious statement that “the year of 2008 was an exceptionally cold year”, with a footnote reference to an online US newspaper article that doesn’t appear to exist. Yet 2008 was the tenth-warmest year since records began in 1850, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.
Possibly the funniest howler in the book also occurs in the first chapter. It is a graph that is supposed to show the global temperature record since 1880, with a marked and highly exaggerated phase of cooling between 1940 and 1975. Again, no source is cited for this figure, and it cannot easily be found in any textbook or scientific paper. However, one eagle-eyed blogger pointed out soon after the book was published in Australia that the graph was identical to one in The Great Global Warming Swindle, broadcast on Channel 4 on March 8, 2007.
The makers of the programme, which was subsequently ruled by the broadcast regulator Ofcom to be biased and inaccurate, conceded after its first showing that the graph had been extended by taking an original figure showing temperature up to the mid-1980s and stretching it to make it look as though it went up to the time of the research. They also acknowledged that the original figure was obtained not from an acknowledged scientific paper but from a pamphlet posted on a US website set up in 1999 to collect signatures on a petition against the Kyoto Protocol.
The book is littered with mistakes. Professor Plimer appears to believe that geologists have been ignored by all those assessing evidence on climate change. But even those chapters that deal with past climates, which are supposedly the author’s strongest areas of knowledge, contain mistakes. For instance, he suggests that “by AD300, the global climate was far warmer than at present”, with temperatures between two and six degrees Celsius higher than today. A supporting footnote references a book published in 1977.
Unfortunately for Professor Plimer, the study of ancient climates has progressed in the past 30 years and the latest research suggests that the last time global average temperatures were more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for a sustained period was three million years ago. Maybe he should have read the chapter on palaeoclimatology in the last assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.
Possibly the most confusing part of the book is the section on volcanoes, in which the author discusses at length the huge volumes of carbon dioxide and other gases that have been released into the air during eruptions over the Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history. The reader may gain the mistaken impression that volcanoes are responsible for the rise of more than 30 per cent in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide that has occurred since pre-industrial times. In fact, they have produced a negligible volume of CO2 compared with human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, over the past 100 years. However, volcanoes have periodically produced large amounts of sulphate aerosols, which have reflected the Sun’s rays and temporarily cooled the Earth during the past century, as was seen after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.
In other chapters, on issues ranging from sea-level rise to solar activity, Professor Plimer uses geology as an excuse to conclude the opposite of mainstream climate science. It is hard to work out how and why he managed to produce such a controversial and flawed account. One could assume, charitably, that he simply overextended himself and strayed beyond his own technical knowledge and competence into areas, such as atmospheric physics, that he may have been unable to grasp properly. But he has a solid academic reputation, with awards for his research and membership of a number of learned bodies.
Perhaps his forays into public debate provide a better guide to his motives. The book’s preface describes Professor Plimer as “Australia’s best-known geologist”, primarily because of the publication of his book Telling Lies for God and other efforts to tackle hardline creationists.
His apparent distaste for spirituality and faith is evident in the final chapter of Heaven and Earth (published in the UK by Quartet), in which he rails against just about everybody who accepts the overwhelming evidence that greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change today. He calls on environmentalists to “recognise the religious aspects of their stance”, and cautions that they are “no different from creationists who claim that their stance is scientific when their very foundations are religious, dogmatic and fraudulent”. Yet the strength of feeling emanating from the pages of this book suggests the author’s frustration rather than of a cool, dispassionate analysis.
Although it is unclear whether his book influenced any of the Australian senators who voted last week to defeat new climate change legislation, Professor Plimer intervened in the debate with an article that argued against “this legislative time-bomb that will destroy productive industries in rural and industrial Australia”.
I do hope readers will not be taken in by Professor Plimer’s error-strewn polemic.
Bob Ward is policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science

Greenpeace's sea ice 'mistake' delights climate change sceptics

Who would think that the omission of the word "sea" in one sentence of a Greenpeace online news story would kick off such an almighty ruckus?
Who would think that the omission of the word "sea" in one sentence of a Greenpeace news story would kick off such an almighty ruckus? Anyone who follows the climate change debate, that's who.
The climate change sceptics - and the blogs on which they mass - have been cock-a-hoop with unbridled joy in the past few days with the belief that they have snared the Big One. During a BBC Hardtalk interview with Stephen Sackur, the executive director of Greenpeace, Gerd Leipold, admitted that a July news story which said that "we are looking at ice-free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030" was a "mistake".
Leipold then went on to say: "As a pressure group, we have to emotionalise issues and we're not ashamed of emotionalising issues."
This is the offending text of the original Greenpeace news story (Sackur mistakenly refers to it as a "press release"), written to highlight the work of the crew of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise which was, at the time, in Greenland:
Ice free ArcticBad news is coming from other sources as well. A recent NASA study has shown that the ice cap is not only getting smaller, it's getting thinner and younger. Sea ice has dramatically thinned between 2004 and 2008. Old ice (over 2 years old) takes longer to melt, and is also much harder to replace. As permanent ice decreases, we are looking at ice-free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030. They say you can't be too thin or too young, but this unfortunately doesn't apply to the Arctic sea ice. Polar bears are the first to suffer from it, but many other species could be affected as well.
Yes, it certainly should have been phrased more carefully and accurately, but it should be obvious to most readers that the story is referring to sea-ice free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030, as opposed to the whole ice cap melting by this date, as Sackur kept on pressing in his questioning.
But a mistake it was, and it has given Greenpeace's critics enough rope to let them believe they can hang their arch-nemesis.
Yesterday, Greenpeace issued a spirited defence of Leipold's response to Sackur's questioning:
Sackur claimed that we were predicting that all the ice in the Arctic - including the massive Greenland ice sheet, which is on land, would be gone by 2030. That's NOT what we said. When we talk about "ice-free summers" in the Arctic, we're using the term the same way that NASA and climate scientists the world over use the term: to describe an Arctic free of sea-ice. And Sackur, or his researcher, would have known that if they read the entire article, including the next sentence: "They say you can't be too thin or too young, but this unfortunately doesn't apply to the Arctic sea ice."…As a climate scientist himself, (Dr.) Gerd Leipold rightly knows that no scenario currently predicts the collapse of the entire land-based ice sheet as early as 2030, nor have we ever made that claim. Now, it's fair to say we could have been more precise. We could have inserted three letters into the offending sentence: S-E-A, to make it crystal clear to the casual reader. But the term "ice-free" to refer to an absence of ice on the ocean came straight from the NASA report we were citing, and is the common description you'll find in scientific publications as well as among journalists. If you Google "ice free summers" and "arctic" you get about 230,000 hits. Oh, and gosh, look what the first article is: a story from the BBC itself talking about the retreat of SEA ice, but what's the headline? "Arctic summers ice-free by 2013"Is the BBC scaremongering and suggesting the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet? Or are they reporting the facts?Now HardTalk is all about difficult questions. We have no problem with difficult questions or a fair fight. Because in a fair fight, our arguments generally win. Gerd handled the rest of the interview with his customary flare. But this wasn't a fair fight. This was Gerd being asked to defend a distortion of what our web story said. Bottom line: there's nothing to repudiate -- just something to clarify. The climate skeptics are trying to turn this into a victory, undercut our reputation for accuracy, and further their 'flat earth' position of climate denial.
I am broadly sympathetic with Greenpeace on this one, but it has learned a hard lesson about the need to be super accurate when entering the climate change cage fight. Perhaps the greater "crime" was Leipold's admission that "we're not ashamed of emotionalising issues". The avalanche of evidence that now underpins climate change predictions should stir any right-minded person to take them seriously. Admitting that you don't mind emotionalising issues immediately gives ammunition to your critics that they will then use to say you are prone to exaggerating the facts.
Some senior climatologists have rightly come out and urged their colleagues, as well as the media and environmentalists, not to use exaggeration as a tool to win over the doubters. In February, Dr Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said:
Overplaying natural variations in the weather as climate change is just as much a distortion of the science as underplaying them to claim that climate change has stopped or is not happening. Both undermine the basic facts that the implications of climate change are profound and will be severe if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut drastically and swiftly over the coming decades.
Professor Mike Hulme, formerly a director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, has repeatedly called for over-emotive terms such as "catastrophic" and "terrifying" to be avoided. "Campaigners, media and some scientists seem to be appealing to fear in order to generate a sense of urgency," he said in 2007. "If they want to engage the public in responding to climate change, this is unreliable at best and counterproductive at worst."
This is all sensible advice, especially given there's simply no need to exaggerate. The facts are scary enough, without having to resort to artificially magnifying them. Greenpeace will be bruised by this furore, but it should also see it as an instructive exercise in how best to engage with its critics.

Lord Adonis: We can cut greenhouse gas emissions without travelling less

Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, faced accusations of undermining the Government’s position on “green” taxes after saying it isn't necessary to tax people out of their cars and planes.

By Peter Foster in Beijing and James KirkupPublished: 7:00AM BST 21 Aug 2009
So-called environmental taxation is supposed to change people’s behaviour and make them consume less. But critics say ministers are using the environment as a cover for revenue-raising measures.
The Government raises billions of pounds every year from taxes levied on carbon-emitting activities including driving and flying, and is planning sharp rises in Air Passenger Duty. Ministers justify those taxes by saying they help cut emissions.

However Lord Adonis yesterday insisted “a hair-shirt approach” to climate change will not work. Forcing people to travel less will only turn voters against environmental policies, he said.
Speaking on a visit to Beijing, Lord Adonis, who took up his post in June, said emissions can be cut without forcing people to make personal sacrifices in their lifestyle.
“We’ll never sell a low-carbon future to the public if it depends on a deprivation model. I’m convinced that there’s no necessary trade-off between a low carbon future and more or less transport,” he said.
Instead, the minister suggested that low-carbon transport such as electric cars and a new generation of airliners could cut emissions without curbing travel.
“If you can radically cut emissions as a result of new transport technology it is not necessary to face people with an ‘either-or’ choice between a low carbon future and big cuts in travel.”
Brian Wilson, former Labour transport minister who now leads Flying Matters, a lobby group, said Lord Adonis had exposed the Government’s use of “green” taxes as a means of raising revenue.
Mr Wilson said: “Andrew Adonis’s comments are very sensible but they are at odds with other aspects of Government policy including the large rises in Air Passenger Duty under the cover of carbon reduction.”
Changes announced in the Budget this year mean that taxes on long-haul flights are set to rise by as much as 112 per cent next year. Tax on a flight to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia or Australasia will rise from £40 to £85.
APD is “a stealth tax with wings,” Mr Wilson said.
In a report that is disputed by the Treasury, the TaxPayers’ Alliance last year calculated that the Government made a net £24.2 billion gain from “green” taxes, and said that net revenues significantly exceed the economic costs of environmental damage.
Matthew Sinclair, Research Director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is great to hear a minister acknowledging that the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions isn’t to stop ordinary Britons travelling. Unfortunately, while the Transport Secretary may have accepted that people need to get around, the Treasury are still charging a fortune in excessive green taxes, hitting everyone from motorists just trying to get to work to families enjoying a well-earned holiday.”
Lord Adonis was criticised by green groups.
Lily Kember, of Plane Stupid, an anti-flying group, said: “The idea that climate change won’t require any personal sacrifices is somewhat undermined by the fact that 300,000 people a year are already making the ultimate sacrifice so we can jet off to New York to buy shoes. Lord Adonis knows very well that there's no 'greener technology' on the horizon to justify a business as usual approach to aviation.”

Formula Zero (carbon): Motor racing without the emissions

The thrill of motor racing without the emissions? It's not just hot air, Michael McCarthy discovers
Saturday, 22 August 2009
It felt like a sudden glimpse of the future. Environmentally-friendly motor racing came to Britain with the first outing of a championship series with a difference – Formula Zero.
At a track in Surrey, teams from Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain competed in souped-up machines of an entirely new sort: they were all emissions-free.
While Formula One brings thrills, tension, high-speed cornering and nail-biting competitiveness, Formula Zero bids to do all that without the biggest drawback of every motor vehicle – the carbon dioxide coming out of the tailpipe and helping to cause climate change.
Its cars run on electric motors powered by hydrogen fuel cells, and all that comes out of their exhausts is water vapour.
It is the vision of two Dutchmen, Godert van Hardenbroek and Eelco Rietveld, who may well be the Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley of the future, although at the moment they are starting small: rather than putting out 200mph monsters they are using go-karts which reach about 45mph on a track that would comfortably fit inside half a football field (but is difficult to master because of its tight corners).
However, they are single-mindedly ambitious, and hope to be racing full-sized cars by 2011 and, perhaps, eventually to replace Formula One itself as automotive technology becomes less and less dependent on the petrol engine. They own the Formula Zero brand.
"Carbon-free motor racing is just as entertaining, I have no doubt about it," Mr van Hardenbroek, a 40-year-old former designer from Utrecht, said yesterday at Britain's first Formula Zero meeting at Mytchett in Surrey. "My ambition is to become the dominant force in all of motor racing and eventually replace Formula One, although how quickly that happens depends on the market [for carbon-free cars]."
It may sound a bit over the top until you start to think about how quickly electric vehicle development is now moving, with high-performance sports cars such as the Tesla Roadster (0 – 60 in 3.9 seconds) already in production – then it doesn't seem nearly so much of a fantasy. Mr van Hardenbroek said nobody knew if electric machines could eventually match fully the high speeds and endurance of present Formula One supercars, but he thought it was possible.
Besides the lack of end-of-pipe pollution, another striking difference with Formula Zero is that the cars' engines are virtually silent, their only sound being the noise of the tyres on the track – the screaming whine which is one of Formula One's trademarks is missing completely. Mr van Hardenbroek said: "Sure, some people may miss the sound of screaming engines, but a new generation will be completely thrilled with the sound our cars make. I would compare it to pop music. There's always a generation which rejects the sounds of their parents."
He and Mr Rietveld had the idea for Formula Zero a decade ago when they attended a conference on sustainable entrepreneurship and saw a delegate buy a Maserati. "It didn't seem very sustainable, but then Eelco and I said to each other, 'This is the future we want to live in. We want to have a nice car and drive fast, but do it in a more intelligent way that is compatible with nature and the ecosystem.'"
He went on: "We want to change something in the way we live – we have to change because of climate change – but also have fun. It's not just being Calvinistic and righteous and trying to make other people feel bad. It's about doing something which is worthwhile and fun at the same time. It's really about making a symbol of the change which is required."
The four teams competing this week in knock-out time trials were all based around élite technological universities, mainly consisting of engineering students and more senior advisers. Britain's team was from Imperial College, London; the Belgian team was from the University of Leuven, the Dutch from the University of Delft and the Spanish from the University of Zaragoza. In the sprint race, the Belgian team came first, the Spanish second, the Dutch third and the British team fourth.
F1's attempts to clean up its image
*Formula One itself, and the FIA, the governing body in charge of motor racing, are both waking up to the fact that in a world increasingly preoccupied with climate change, their sport can be seen as the very epitome of gas-guzzling.
They are aware that, notwithstanding the to-hell-with-global-warming attitude of certain motoring commentators, they have a growing image problem. Recently, the FIA set up an Environmentally Sustainable Motor Sport Commission to explore the possibility of a greener version of screaming round a circuit, and two months ago it held its first policy meeting, attended by major motor manufacturers from Ferrari to Ford.
The commission is now drawing up a series of environmental policies, which, according to the commission's president, Peter Wright, "will not only reduce the environmental impact of motor sport, but also help it act as a catalyst for environmental changes in the wider motoring sector." They are understood to be focusing on energy efficiency and changes such as the use of biofuels – in the US, the IndyCar series is already running on ethanol, a fuel produced from crops.

Smart electricity grids crucial to meeting carbon targets

Published Date: 22 August 2009
By Trevor Hatton
THE UK has gone well beyond other countries with its greenhouse gas targets, having committed to a carbon emissions reduction of 34 per cent against 1990 levels by 2020.
In June, the Scottish Parliament voted for a 42 per cent cut, but our post-Kyoto experience shows the world has been long on targets and short on action.The UK's task is complicated by the power crunch that will strike in the middle of the next decade, when a third of existing electricity generation capacity will have become obsolete. New nuclear plants, renewables and carbon capture and storage will not fill that gap in time, leaving us dependent on gas.If the supply of low-carbon energy is a challenge, we must focus more on demand. Here, smart grids will be crucial, helping us to tap into distributed sources of renewable energy and allowing us to change consumption habits with adjustable tariffs. By redistributing excess power from local generation or electric vehicles, they will also help minimise energy waste. It was good to see ITI Energy announce a £3 million investment in smart grid research last month. And Ofgem's announcement of up to four smart grid cities is welcome, particularly given it has set aside £500m to support the initiative. There is no reason why one of these cities could not be Scottish. But if we are to make smart grid infrastructure a reality, we must face an inconvenient truth: aside from subsidised pilots there is no financial case for a utility to build a smart distribution grid in the UK. The most critical step we can take is to radically revise UK utility and energy regulations – designed to encourage utilities to cut unit costs and prices in a competitive market. They discourage R&D, innovation or long-term outlays in smart grids by preventing investors from making a reasonable return. The second step is for city authorities to take a leadership role. Cities can pull together consumers and businesses associated with energy, transport and other services to form a coherent plan. And the business case for smart grids can be transformed if utilities collaborate with city authorities. At my firm, Accenture, we calculate that a smart grid will cost about £290 per household for a large British city. Over 15 years, the private sector would face a deficit of £71 per household if was to invest alone. By collaborating with city authorities, that becomes a net benefit of £93, transforming their incentive to invest. The UK would do well to look abroad for inspiration. Amsterdam aims to reduce emissions to 40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2025. It has launched a range of low carbon pilots that build on smart grids – from electric canal barges to residential smart meters and plans for a virtual power plant that will connect hundreds of rooftop solar panels and wind turbines. The local distribution utility plans charging stations for 10,000 plug-in electric vehicles. By co-ordinating players, the city and its agencies have improved the financial appeal of the investment. Scotland must recognise the opportunity that smart infrastructure presents in helping to meet emissions targets.• Trevor Hatton is managing director of Accenture Scotland