Thursday, 27 August 2009

Blackheath revealed as Climate Camp location

Thousands of green activists were sent on wild goose chase across London by cryptic text messages from the camp's organisers
James Randerson, Wednesday 26 August 2009 14.40 BST
Thousands of green activists are descending on Blackheath in south-east London for this summer's Climate Camp after being sent on a wild goose chase around London by cryptic text messages sent out by the camp's organisers.
Environmental protesters at seven "swoop" locations dotted around central London had been directed to wait for text messages at noon revealing the secret location. At 12.30 at least three groups received messages to move but their final destination was not initially confirmed.
Rumours spread on Twitter and blogs that the end point for the swoop might be City airport or Hackney Marshes but it became increasingly obvious that the final location would be to the east of the city. Some people have started to arrive at Blackheath but none of the groups had made it by 2.30pm.
At 12.30 the brown/white group were told: "Head north over London bridge and take a tour of the city! Please stay together and keep it slow," while the group of cyclists at Waterloo were told to head for London Bridge. A third group at St James's Square were told to head to Trafalgar Square.
Organisers of the camp were reluctant to reveal the location until the first day because they feared that police might stop the event from going ahead. The Metropolitan police have promised not to use heavy-handed tactics but have criticised Climate Camp for not cooperating with them over the location.
Senior officers have held five meetings with protesters to prepare for the event, which has been promoted on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, saying they intend to use "community-style" policing to avoid a repetition of their controversial handling of protests during the G20 summit.
The Met has activated its own Twitter account, CO11MetPolice, to spread information on its operation. Climate Camp reacted by releasing a video condemning police tactics. The voiceover said: "Judging from past experience the best thing the police could do to ensure the health and safety of Climate Camp in 2009 would be to stay as far away from it as possible."
The seven "swoop" locations where activists have gathered have been chosen because of their significance to climate change or deaths linked to police action. One group gathered at Stockwell tube station, the site of the shooting by police of Jean Charles de Menezes. Another group gathered in Threadneedle Street, near the spot where the newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson collapsed and died after being struck by a police officer during the G20 demonstrations in April.
Today police said that everyone attending the protest would be photographed for their records. In a national opinion poll commissioned by the charity Christian Aid this week, 33% of people said that recording protesters was a breach of their privacy, while 18% said they had been put off going to environmental protests by police tactics.
The camp is planned to run until 2 September and organisers say that attendees will meet to discuss climate change, learn how to live more sustainably and undergo training for direct action. There are also rumours that 20 targets in London have been discussed for potential direct action.

Fake trees, algae tubes and white roofs among UK engineers' climate solutions

Report from Institute of Mechanical Engineers calls for £10m to develop geo-engineering ideas that would be 'an integral part' of the solution to global warming
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
The Guardian, Thursday 27 August 2009
Artificial trees and tubes of algae on the sides of buildings could absorb most of the UK's annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to a report from engineers that will be circulated at party conferences in the autumn.
In research examining the role that geo-engineering could play in tackling climate change, a 12-month study by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IME) also found that painting city roofs white could also prove to be a simple but effective way to curb excessive global warming.
Geo-engineering is a set of technologies that could prevent or slow global warming - it includes everything from sending mirrors into space to reflect away sunlight to dumping iron into the oceans to encourage the growth of algae, thereby removing atmospheric CO2. For their study, the IME searched for ideas that were most practical and could have impacts on CO2 or global energy use levels as soon as possible.
Setting out their recommendations in a report published today, the IME called on the British government to put up £10m aimed at turning the three most promising ideas into reality. They advocate this being part of a £100m global fund for geo-engineering research.
"Geo-engineering is no silver bullet, it just buys us time," said Tim Fox of the IME, who led the study. "We're not proposing that geo-engineering should be a substitute for mitigation [but] should be implemented alongside mitigation and adaptation."
Top of their list of practical solutions that would be low-carbon to build and require only existing technologies were artificial trees. These units, invented by Columbia University scientist Klaus Lackner, would be the size of a standard shipping container and could remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere. "100,000 trees would take up an area of around 600 hectares, which is less than 10% of the surface area of the Firth of Forth, and that would be able to absorb the CO2 emissions of the UK's non-power sector annually," said Fox.
Currently the UK produces 556 megatonnes of CO2 per year and the 100,000 trees could absorb around 60% of that amount. The engineers calculated that forests of artificial trees powered by renewable energy and located near depleted oil or gas fields, where the trapped CO2 could be buried, would be thousands of times more efficient than planting trees over the same area.
Making each artificial tree would require energy and materials but this would only account for 5% of the CO2 that the device could capture in its lifetime. On a global scale, between 5-10m artificial trees could absorb the CO2 emitted from all sources other than power stations.
Another geo-engineering solution highlighted by the engineers was attaching tubes filled with algae to the sides of buildings. "Algae is a naturally-occurring eco-friendly biomass that tends to have a high level of CO2 use in photosynthesis," said Tom Bowman of IME. The algae that grows can be collected and turned into charcoal, which can be buried so that the CO2 it has captured is locked away from the atmosphere.
Painting roofs white was recommended by the engineers to counteract the urban heat island effect, where major cities can be up to 4C hotter than their suburbs. This means more use of air conditioning or other cooling methods and it also speeds up the formation of smog. The IME said that reflective roofs can reduce the energy use of a building by up to 60%.
Fox said that global carbon emissions had continued to rise despite two decades of attempts at mitigation, so geo-engineering should not be regarded by policymakers as a plan B, but an integral part of the solution to global warming. "£10m would get us significantly far forward in terms of sorting out the wheat from the chaff in this debate," he said. "The government can then look at piloting them and testing them in the field and then making decisions about their deployment."

Carbon capture: a flimsy plaster or the answer to climate change?

By Rowena Mason Energy Last updated: August 26th, 2009

Of course, wind, solar and hydro aren’t the answer to the climate change problem, the chief executive of an energy company breezily threw at me this week.
It’s carbon capture and storage. There is no way the world will tackle climate change without it.”
This technology has always seemed to me a little bit like a teenager tidying his bedroom by stuffing the lads mags and dirty clothes and mouldy plates under the bed.

How carbon capture would work. Credit:Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage
It just doesn’t seem to fit with the wholesome-clean-green fantasy to burn coal to create energy, then pump the carbon through pipelines into disused gas fields deep under the ground. But if it uses less space than rubbish landfills and is safer than nuclear waste, then why should there be a problem?
The technology isn’t proven yet. In fact, if the current design was enlarged to fit a coal-fired power station, it would need to be the size of Wembley stadium. But we went from computers filling up rooms to fitting neatly in our pockets in just a few decades.
It will also be costly – as most other green solutions are at the moment. Shell, E.ON, RWE npower and Scottish Power are among the big names piling into the Government’s current competition for subsidies to make pilot projects commercially viable.
But as the price of carbon emissions permits slowly starts to rise, the idea is that clean energy projects are likely to make increasing economic sense. Most compelling of all, it’s unlikely that developing countries like China and India are going to be weaned off their dependence on coal any time soon.
You can argue that it’s just a flimsy green sticking plaster for a gaping environmental wound, but I’m increasingly hearing very senior and expert voices starting to trumpet carbon capture as the way – even a temporary one – to mitigate emissions in the medium-term while we wait for science to invent a cure.

Pachauri's call for 350ppm is breakthrough moment for climate movement

UN's top climate scientist says he supports goal of keeping atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below 350ppm.
Bill McKibben, Wednesday 26 August 2009 11.48 BST
Amazing news just arrived at headquarters.
Rajendra Pachauri is the U.N.'s top climate scientist. He leads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which every five years produces the authoritative assessment of climate science. Its last report, in 2007, helped set the target of 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a target that many environmental groups and national governments have adopted as their goal for Copenhagen.
As many of you know, that number is out of date. When Jim Hansen and other scientists looked at phenomena like the Arctic ice melt of the last two summers, they produced new data demonstrating that 350 ppm is the bottom line. But it's been hard to get that news out to the powers that be. So today it comes as enormous and welcome news that Pachauri, from his New Delhi office, said that 350 was the number.
"As chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, I cannot take a position because we do not make recommendations," said Rajendra Pachauri when asked if he supported calls to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below 350 ppm. "But as a human being I am fully supportive of that goal. What is happening, and what is likely to happen, convinces me that the world must be really ambitious and very determined at moving toward a 350 target," he told Agence France-Presse in an interview.
Many national governments (and even some environmental groups) have stuck to a 450 ppm target—it seems politically "realistic." But Pachauri has taken away that gray area, and laid down the real bottom line. Physics and chemistry say 350, and that's that.
Pachauri cited the decision of the small island nations and less developed countries to endorse the 350 target. "I think this is a good development," he said. "Now people—including some scientists—see the seriousness of the impacts of climate change, and the fact that things are going to get substantially worse than what we had anticipated."
This news makes it much easier for all of us to push hard leading up to the 24 Oct "Day of Action" and the December Copenhagen climate talks. It's clear now that science is powerfully on the side of 350. Now we need the political world to follow suit.
• Bill McKibben, a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, is the author of a dozen books, most recently The Bill McKibben Reader. He serves on Grist's board of directors and is cofounder of

Rich countries must be prepared to make deeper cuts in emissions: Prescott

Former deputy prime minister launches climate change campaign and calls for equalisation of emissions per capita
Press Association, Wednesday 26 August 2009 11.09 BST
Developed countries will have to take the lead in fighting climate change by carrying a greater share of the burden of reducing emissions, John Prescott will say today.
Securing a deal at Copenhagen later this year "will be 10 times more difficult than Kyoto", said Prescott, the Council of Europe's "rapporteur" on climate change, and a Kyoto protocol negotiator.
The former deputy prime minister will say at the launch in east London of a new climate change campaign called "New Earth Deal":
"Securing a deal at Copenhagen will be 10 times more difficult than Kyoto.
"We believe that any deal negotiated must consider the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
"That means that social justice and the reduction of poverty must be at the very heart of any agreement. It also means equalising greenhouse gas emissions per head in each country.
"The climate change we're experiencing across the world has been caused by the richer developed countries. They must now recognise the central principle that the polluter pays.
"But since climate change affects all nations whatever their size, wealth or population, a consensus is absolutely necessary for a binding and sustainable agreement.
"Failure is not an option at Copenhagen and that's why our Europe-wide campaign will be galvanising public opinion to lobby governments to make that deal."
The campaign will include a Road to Copenhagen Climate Change Conference to be held at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in September.
It will be attended by politicians and environmentalists from more than 60 countries, and will be opened by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Rajendra Pachauri and feature a contribution from former US vice president Al Gore.
There will also be a social networking website where people can learn about the issues, follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook, do their own climate change deal and have it automatically sent to their Council of Europe politician and the environment minister for their own countries.
The campaign will also feature a tour of schools and educational establishments where Prescott and other members of the Council of Europe assembly will deliver a presentation on climate change and listen to young people's concerns.
On Sunday, Prescott risked the wrath of green campaigners by warning a "plan B" may be necessary if agreement is not reached between the main parties. "A lot of people fear that if you moved away from those [2020 and 2050] targets you would get the NGOs screaming and shouting, 'you have sold out', but I had to ignore them to get the deal at Kyoto'," he said.

John Prescott attacks wind turbine 'nimbys'

John Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, has launched a savage attack on wind turbines 'nimbys' - people who say "not in my backyard."

Published: 7:26PM BST 26 Aug 2009

He criticised people who opposed wind turbines being set up near their homes and planning committees who uphold their objections.
Launching a new environmental campaign ahead of this year's Copenhagen conference on climate change, he criticised a number of recent decisions to refuse permission for new projects to generate renewable energy.
"We have to counteract the nimbys who say they want change, but not in their backyard," he said
Mr Prescott said opposition forces were gathering against an international climate change agreement being reached in Copenhagen.
Mr Prescott was speaking as more than a thousand environmental activists set up a climate change camp in south east London.
The site, at Blackheath, overlooks the financial centre at Canary Wharf and was chosen because of its historical significance as the place where Watt Tyler, leader of the peasant's revolt was killed while protesting against high taxes.
Organisers said this year's venue symbolised the financial and corporate centres of power, and was within the floodplains of the River Thames, which they warned was at risk of bursting its banks as climate change escalated.
Blackheath has since been the meeting point for a series of battles, revolts and demonstrations, and more recently was the venue for an anti-poll tax concert in 1988, headlined by the music group Squeeze.
There were mixed reactions among people living nearby tonight when they learned that up to 3,000 environmental protesters will be their neighbours for the next week.
The grassy site is overlooked by more than 50 homes which usually enjoy a view of open heath land.

Watermelon juice is the latest source of renewable energy

Forget chip fat, sugar cane or rapeseed oil – the latest source of biofuel could be watermelons.

By Richard Alleyne, Science CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM BST 26 Aug 2009

Scientists have discovered that the fruit is a great source of sugar that can be readily distilled into alcohol to power cars and farm machinery.
And because retailers rejects 360,000 tons of “substandard” fruit annually in America alone they could be used as an economical way to make fuel.
The waste from US growers could produce nearly two million gallons (nine million litres) of biofuel per year.
In the study, researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture set out to determine the biofuel potential of juice from ‘cull’ watermelons – those not sold due to cosmetic imperfections, and currently ploughed back into the field.
About a fifth of each annual watermelon crop is left in the field because of surface blemishes or because they are misshapen.
Dr Wayne Fish, who led the team, found that 50 per cent of the fruit was fermentable into ethanol which could provide valuable fuel.
“We’ve shown that the juice of these melons is a source of readily fermentable sugars, representing a heretofore untapped feedstock for ethanol biofuel production,” he said.
The study, published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, discovered that watermelons could produce around 20 gallons of fuel per acre from fruit that otherwise would go to waste.
Production of biofuels has been targeted by western governments as a way to bolster renewable energy targets.
The European Union has a target for 2010 that 5.75 per cent of transport fuels should come from biological sources, but the target is unlikely to be met.
The British government’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation requires five per cent of the fuel sold at the pump by 2010 to be biofuel.

Terra Firma buys US wind energy business for $350m

Guy Hands' private-equity firm Terra Firma has bought Everpower Wind Holdings in a deal worth $350m (£216m).

By Amanda AndrewsPublished: 8:49PM BST 26 Aug 2009
In a statement, the companies said the deal would help US wind energy business Everpower finance its development pipeline. Terra Firma is paying $200m now and has committed another $150m to the business over the next few years.
"We see significant investment potential in the fast-growing US renewable energy market and Everpower has both a strong management team and an attractive portfolio of projects," said Mr Hands, Terra Firma's chairman.
Everpower owns a recently completed project capable of producing 62 megawatts and has a near-term development pipeline set to provide 800 megawatts. President Barack Obama has made energy reform a priority since being elected, providing incentives for wind power development.
Sources said that Terra Firma had strong credentials in renewable energy and is well positioned to look at opportunities in the sector.
The private equity firm bought the business from renewable energy fund Good Energies and the Everpower management team, both of which are re-investing alongside Terra Firma.
Morgan Stanley and Climate Change Capital advised on the deal.
The acquisition is only the second by Terra Firma since its £4bn purchase of music business EMI in 2007.
The music group accounted for the vast majority of Terra Firma's €1.37bn writedowns this year, and Terra Firma was forced to inject extra capital into EMI twice in six months.
The other deal was the private equity firm's purchase of Consolidated Pastoral Company, Australia's second-largest beef producer, in March 2009 from gaming industry boss James Packer.

Environmental Approval Given for Gorgon Project

CANBERRA, Australia -- The Australian government Wednesday granted conditional environmental approval for the proposed Gorgon liquefied natural gas project off the country's northwest coast, clearing the last major regulatory hurdle for what could be one of the biggest gas operations globally.
The Gorgon field has potential reserves of more than 40 trillion cubic feet of gas and an estimated economic life of at least 40 years from startup.

The Australian federal government had already cleared an earlier version of Gorgon in 2007, but its developers -- including Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC. -- later expanded the proposed A$50 billion (US$42 billion) project, requiring a new set of approvals. The Western Australian state government endorsed the bigger scheme in August.
In granting his approval, Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett imposed an additional 28 conditions, which the companies are expected to meet. Among other things, Chevron is expected to prepare plans for the protection, management and monitoring of protected animals at the project site, including the spectacled hare-wallaby, burrowing bettong and golden bandicoot. Also, Chevron must contribute A$62.5 million to a flatback turtle conservation program.
"It is acceptable for the expansion to go ahead subject to the conditions," Mr. Garrett told reporters.
Environmental approval is the last major regulatory barrier the project has to overcome, with a few other less contentious items, including a federal production license, expected to be readily granted in coming months. Now, the companies must make their own final investment decision before proceeding, a decision that Chevron said should come before the end of this year.
Chevron is Gorgon's operator and a 50% stakeholder. Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell each have a 25% stake.
First discovered in the early 1980s, Gorgon has faced a number of challenges over the years, including spiraling construction costs and opposition from environmental activists that slowed its development in recent years. It is also an exceptionally complex project, with a large plant designed to capture carbon dioxide released in the production process and then bury it underground to reduce the project's environmental impact. Major portions of the project will be built on a remote site called Barrow Island, about 200 kilometers off Australia's northwest coast, that activists regard as particularly environmentally sensitive.
But in recent months the project has appeared to regain momentum. The joint venture partners have signed a number of offtake agreements with buyers in key markets, including Japan, China and India. In the latest deal earlier this month, Exxon agreed to supply 2.25 million metric tons of LNG annually over 20 years to PetroChina Co., the listed unit of China National Petroleum Corp.
Meanwhile, the federal government and West Australia state government earlier this month agreed to assume joint responsibility for any future claims arising from any problems with the project's plan to capture and store greenhouse-gas emissions underground.
Environmentalists continue to oppose the project, which they say will cause irreparable damage to Barrow Island.
Mr. Garrett's decision "was a very big disappointment," says Paul Gamblin, a program leader for WWF in Australia. Australian Sen. Rachel Siewert, a member of the country's Greens party, said "there is no way that the environment of Barrow Island can be protected from this development...[and] it is inevitable that the island will be degraded."
The managing director of Chevron's Australian unit, Roy Krzywosinski, said that the project has been sited to avoid areas of particular conservation significance and that the development will have minimal environmental impact when compared with the previously approved smaller version. If completed, it will be Australia's largest single resources project and is expected to deliver significant economic benefits, including as many as 10,000 jobs, he said.
Among other major gas operations in the area, the North West Shelf venture -- whose participants include Chevron and BHP Billiton -- recently completed a A$2.6 billion expansion that boosted its annual production capacity to 16.3 million tons a year.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd. is due to ship the first LNG in early 2011 from its 90%-owned Pluto venture, which is in the same area. Woodside Chief Executive Don Voelte said Tuesday Woodside wants to expand Pluto by "four or five times the size of the initial project."—Patrick Barta contributed to this article.
Write to Ray Brindal at

Persil clean winner in eco-index of 100 brands

Published Date: 27 August 2009
A NEW "eco-index" listing the best and worst products will help green consumers make better choices, said its creator.
The new Green Index Report puts Persil laundry products top of the list for environmentally-friendly products, with Haribo sweets at the bottom.Nottingham-based consultants EnvirUP assessed Britain's 100 top brands, then ranked them on their green credentials, such as use of packaging, sustainability and impact on the environment. They then scored each product out of a possible 590 points on a scale of A to G grade.They found 85 per cent achieved a D grade or below, and the greenest only achieved a C. None made it to A or B grades.Persil laundry products topped the list, with 385 points – a grade C.It was followed by PG Tips tea, Finish dishwasher tablets, Volvic water and Kellogg's Special K breakfast cereal.EnvirUP founder Assim Ishaque said: "This will help the consumer get their head around what companies are doing."