Saturday, 12 September 2009

EU to Give Billions to Fight Climate Change

BRUSSELS -- The European Union could award up to €15 billion ($21.8 billion) a year by 2020 to finance the fight against climate change in developing countries, setting out a blueprint for negotiations on a global deal to fight climate change later this year.
"This initiative aims to maximize the chances of concluding an ambitious global climate change agreement" at a Copenhagen global meeting in December, the European Commcommission said in a statement.
Developing countries are likely to need €100 billion a year by 2020 to limit their greenhouse-gas emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change, the commission said. If an ambitious agreement is reached in December, the EU could contribute between €2 billion and €15 billion a year by 2020, it added.
The EU wants to lead negotiations at the Copenhagen summit to reach an international agreement to fight climate change and keep global warming under two degrees Celsius. The deal would be the successor of the Kyoto protocol, negotiated more than a decade ago.
The commission's statement Thursday is crucial for Copenhagen because it will form the basis of the EU position at the talks, after it is analyzed by the 27 member countries and the European Parliament.
Financing for developing countries is a crucial element of the negotiation, because developed countries expect the more economically advanced developing ones to contribute to the fight against climate change, while the developing countries want to see a clear position from richer nations on financing their efforts.
A crucial part of the debate will be about the role that emerging countries such as China, India or Brazil will be called to play in tackling climate change, as their economies grow and they begin to increase their proportion of greenhouse gas emissions.
Write to Alessandro Torello at

Rich nations will have to forget about growth to stop climate change

Economic expansion cannot be achieved forever if greenhouse gases are to be curbed, warns the leading economist and author of the UK's government's report on climate change
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, Friday 11 September 2009 18.04 BST

Lord Stern wrote the government's review on the economic costs of climate change in 2006
Rich nations will need to reconsider making growth the goal of their societies, according to the leading economist who wrote the government's report on climate change.
Lord Stern said that although robust expansion could be achieved until 2030 while avoiding dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions, rich nations may then have to consider reining in growth.
"Will other restraints kick in? Probably, they will," said the former World Bank chief economist and author of the 2006 Stern review on the economic costs of climate change. "At some point we would have to think about whether we want future growth. We don't have to do that now." The priority, he told the Guardian, was to break the link between carbon emissions and economic output.
In a speech at People's University in Beijing, Stern said the world's challenge was to reduce total carbon emissions from just under 50 gigatonnes now to 35 by 2030 and 20 by 2050. By that time, he said, the average for each of the predicted 9 billion people in the world would be two tonnes. If done equitably, this would require a cut by the US of more than 90% – each American now uses 25 tonnes of carbon a year.
To meet Stern's goals, the world's big economies, including China, would have to halve carbon emissions relative to GDP in each of the next two decades.
Stern said there was a good chance of agreement at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December on a framework to set a total carbon target for 2050 and a series of steps towards reaching that goal. "We probably won't do all the work in Copenhagen, but I think we can at least get the framework of a deal," he said.
He praised recent moves by Japan and the US to set more ambitious carbon reduction targets and Gordon Brown's proposal that rich nations set aside $100bn (£60bn) a year from 2020 to help developing nations deal with climate change. However, he said twice this figure would probably be necessary to help those countries mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to more frequent extreme weather, rising sea levels and other consequences.
"The world has moved strongly in a good direction but … it is not moving fast enough," Stern said. A former lecturer at People's University, he said China's role would be crucial. The country is on course to meet its latest five-year target to improve energy efficiency by 20%. Stern said he expected Beijing to set even stronger goals in the next plan from 2011.
Though China's national per capita emissions are far lower than the US and Europe, Stern said 13 Chinese provinces had higher per capita carbon emissions than France. Six of them are higher than Britain's.
"China is so big that unless China does that, this is not going to work," said Stern, referring to efforts to curb greenhouse gases from human activity, especially carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. "This is never going to work unless developing countries are involved," he said.
Stern, now a professor at the London School of Economics, said Beijing should shift the economy away from heavy industry, manufacturing for exports and other high-emission activities. Instead, he said it should focus more on domestic consumption, service industries and low-carbon technology.
Stern added that the global situation is now worse than he set out in the Stern review in 2006. The pace of climate change has outstripped predictions, prompting the economist to revise his estimate of the amount of money governments should spend on countermeasures from 1% to 2% of GDP.
"Emissions were higher than forecast. Also the ability of the planet, particularly the ocean, to absorb carbon was less than we assumed. The effects of climate change were also coming faster ... so I argued more should be done," he said. "But even at 2% of GDP, it would still be way way below the cost of inaction."

Will Rupert Murdoch's Fox News go for kill on climate change?

Rupert Murdoch went green just over two years ago. Will his media empire do the same, asks Geoffrey Lean.

By Geoffrey LeanPublished: 7:15PM BST 11 Sep 2009
As Barack Obama struggles to rescue his medical insurance package, blown off course by well-organised public meetings, industrial interests are preparing to derail his attempts to get to grips with global warming.
Already "astroturfing" – creating fake grassroots movements to influence public opinion – has been detected. A leaked memo revealed that the Energy Citizens protest group was started by the oil industry, while a congressional inquiry found that letters to senators and Congressmen attacking climate legislation, ostensibly from ordinary people, were in fact backed by energy groups.
Will Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, at the heart of stirring up opposition to the health care plans, do the same over climate change? I ask because just over two years ago, the great man, a former global-warming sceptic, went green. In his first global webcast, he told employees that "climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats" and that the world "cannot afford the risk of inaction". He wanted his media empire to "change the way the public thinks abut these issues" and "to inspire people to change their behaviour". James Murdoch, his son and heir apparent, is one of Britain's most influential greens.
Yet this week, Fox News claimed the scalp of one of Mr Obama's most prominent environmental advisers, green jobs tsar Van Jones, who resigned after repeated attacks by its controversial host Glenn Beck for long ago questioning the accepted truth about 9/11. It probably had nothing to do with climate change – but we'll soon see.
Digging the dirt in Downing Street
You may think of many things when the name Gordon Brown comes up, but I’ll bet organic gardening isn’t among them. Yet environmentalists visiting Downing Street on Wednesday were taken round the prime ministerial patch, and proudly shown its pesticide-free flowers and vegetables.
Actually, it’s Sarah, who is enthusiastic about growing things without chemicals, and she impressed the greens with her knowledge. Peter Melchett, a top honcho at the Soil Association, who cross-questioned the gardeners, reports: “It is a real, organic garden.” Sons John and Fraser helped to plant it all out in tubs and raised beds and the whole family is said to be enjoying the results.
The inspiration was provided by Michelle Obama, when she visited Downing Street in April. The First Lady grows more than 50 kinds of vegetables in a 1,000 sq ft organic patch she created at the White House, digging some of the dirt herself, and is backing a local farmers’ market. She got into it on the advice of her children’s doctor, after worrying that the presidential campaign was affecting the family’s health.
You can see the attraction of not wanting to add to the toxins that tend to seep into both buildings – the names Karl Rove and Damian McBride spring to mind – but where will it stop? Can we hope to see Silvio Berlusconi’s floozies picking up trowels? And what about France, where Nicolas Sarkozy is bidding to be the continent’s greenest leader by introducing a carbon tax? Call me curmudgeonly, but I don’t see Carla Bruni manhandling manure.

Wind power 'could cut China's emissions by 30%

China's energy needs are expected to double by 2030, but a study in the journal Science says the country could produce 30% less CO2 if it uses wind power to meet them, Friday 11 September 2009 12.14 BST
China could cut its CO2 emissions by 30% in the next two decades if it uses wind power to meet its growing energy demands, a US study said today.
It is estimated China will need to increase its capacity by 800 gigawatts by 2030 to meet demand – roughly double its current capacity.
The study, in the journal Science, proposed a way for wind power to make up most of that increase and, if it did, said China's emissions of carbon dioxide could be 30% lower.
Using meteorological data to assess the potential for wind power in China – the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide – the researchers also say wind could theoretically supply all of the country's energy, though it only laid out the figures for meeting half its needs.
"The world is struggling with the question of how do you make the switch from carbon-rich fuels to something carbon-free," lead author Michael McElroy, a professor of environmental studies at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said. "The real question for the globe is: what alternatives does China have?"
Coal currently supplies 80% of China's electricity, and hundreds of coal-fired power plants are built every year to keep pace with demand, but Beijing is also investing heavily in renewable energy.
It plans to build seven large wind-power bases over the next decade, and already ranks fourth in the world in terms of installed capacity, at 12.2 gigawatts – about equal to the energy produced by two dozen average-sized coal-fired plants.
It trails only the US, Germany and Spain in installed capacity, but not all of those turbines are hooked up to the electricity grid. In fact, just 0.4% of China's electricity is supplied by wind – or around 3 gigawatts.
Justin Wu, a wind analyst at New Energy Finance, a London-based industry-research firm, said the gap between installed capacity and wind-generated power is more than just a footnote. Connecting the wind farms to national electric grids is very difficult and expensive, he said, because the on-and-off blowing stresses the grids. He said the study does not take into account that in order to overcome this difficulty, power grids would need costly upgrades.
"It's not possible to have 100% of a country's energy demand coming from wind using current technologies, because it requires quite a bit of advancement in smart grid technology to accommodate the unstable effect of wind," he said. "Without real advancements in grid technology or power storage, you will not be able to do that."
The innovation is only likely to be undertaken by power companies if they're offered big incentives to offset the costs – incentives that are so far lacking.
Still, analysts note that China has shown a commitment to renewable energy and may be able to overcome the problems; it is now the fastest-growing market for such energy. The US-based First Solar Inc said this week it had received initial approval from China to build what may become the largest solar field in the world, in Inner Mongolia.
The researchers behind the Science study proposed that the country could produce 640 gigawatts from wind farms, assuming they ran at 30% average capacity – a measure of how much output can reasonably be expected from a wind turbine. Average capacity takes into account that wind is fickle, and calculates more or less how much of the time you can expect a turbine to be working at full capacity.
Thirty percent is at the high end of estimates for most wind projects. In China, most tend to average about 23-24% capacity. At current prices, the study said the plan would require an investment of about $900bn (£539bn).
"The present analysis suggests that wind resources in China could accommodate this target. This will require, however, a commitment by the Chinese government to an aggressive low-carbon energy future," said the study, which was carried out with Tsinghua University in Beijing and supported with a grant by the US's National Science Foundation.
While the study also put forth the notion that wind could eventually meet all of China's needs, Julian L Wong, an analyst at the Washington-based thinktank Center for American Progress, cautioned against relying too heavily on it, saying wind is not a substitute for sources like coal, natural gas or nuclear power.
A shortage of wind could be devastating for industry, Wong said. While electricity from wind can be stored when too much is produced and used when winds die down, he said it is unrealistic to expect storage technology would have advanced enough in the coming decades to allow China to be entirely powered by wind.

'Industrialise' countryside with wind farms or face blackouts by 2016 – Government energy adviser

Large swathes of the British countryside will have to be "industrialised" to generate enough alternative energy to prevent blackouts by 2016, according to a key Government adviser.

By John BinghamPublished: 2:23PM BST 11 Sep 2009

David MacKay: 'industrialise' countryside or face blackouts
Prof David MacKay, the newly appointed chief scientific adviser at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), warned that the UK is on course to begin running out of power within seven years because new energy sources are not being built fast enough.
The Cambridge University scientist blamed public opposition to new wind farms and nuclear power stations for the looming crisis which he said could force Britain to rely on buying in electricity from abroad.

His admission throws fresh doubt on the Government's assertion that renewable energy sources will be able to make up the difference as old coal fired power stations are closed for environmental reasons and the number of nuclear plants also dwindles.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this month that up to 16 million homes could experience power cuts by the middle of the next decade, raising the prospect of rolling blackouts.
A European directive has set a deadline of 2015 for older coal-fired power stations to close, and all but one of Britain's nuclear power plants will have shut by the early 2020s.
Government targets which aim to see 40 per cent of Britain’s energy needs met by wind, solar and other green sources by 2020 have been dismissed as hopelessly over optimistic by commentators.
Power companies have already indicated that they would consider building new gas-fired plants to meet the shortage despite the need to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Prof MacKay, author of the book “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air”, said that it was a choice between an “enormous” building programme and turning large areas of land over to wind and solar facilities or growing crops for biofuel.
“If we want to have a plan that mainly relies on renewables, then we need to be imagining industrialising really large tranches of the countryside,” he said.
“Or, if we don't want to industrialise our countryside, other people's countryside – places with lots of sunshine and places that can do a good job of growing energy crops more productively than us.
“If we don't want to industrialise the whole countryside, then we have a big building project to build the alternative to renewables, which is nuclear and so-called clean coal, which is as yet an unproven technology.”
Greg Clark, the Conservative shadow Energy Secretary, said: “Ministers' response to this reality has been utterly complacent – even as power cuts loom, they attempt to deny the problem instead of acting to resolve it.”
Lord Hunt, the energy minister, said: "We've hired David Mackay as our chief scientific adviser because of his insight and ability to explain really clearly and with scientific rigour the challenges we face as individuals, communities and as a country when it comes to moving to low carbon energy.
"We are totally focused on these challenges and on energy security and as a result of Government action 10 gigawatts worth of new energy projects are being built now - enough to power 10.5 million homes - with another 10.5gw more having received planning permission."
Nick Rau of Friends of the Earth, said: "Too many local authorities are turning down renewable energy developments that this country needs.
"New government planning guidance is desperately required to ensure the creation of allow carbon economy."

O2 is not the only cause of climate change

CAs the UN climate summit in Copenhagen approaches, we must remember that 50% of climate change is caused by gases and pollutants other than CO2
Achim Steiner, Friday 11 September 2009 11.17 BST
Twenty years ago, governments adopted the Montreal protocol, a treaty to protect the Earth's ozone layer from emissions of destructive chemicals. Few could have foreseen how far-reaching that decision would prove to be.
The protocol explicitly aimed at phasing out substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – found in products such as refrigerators, foams and hairsprays – in order to repair the thin, gassy shield that filters out the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. By 2010, close to 100 ozone-depleting substances, including CFCs, will have been phased out globally.
Without the decisions taken 20 years ago, atmospheric levels of ozone-depleting substances would have increased tenfold by 2050. This could have led to up to 20m additional cases of skin cancer and 130m more cases of eye cataracts, not to speak of damage to human immune systems, wildlife and agriculture.
But this is only part of the story that we celebrate on the international day for the preservation of the ozone layer (16 September). Over the past two years, it has been established that the Montreal protocol has also spared humanity a significant level of climate change, because the gases it prohibits also contribute to global warming.
Indeed, a study in 2007 calculated the climate mitigation benefits of the ozone treaty as totalling the equivalent of 135bn tonnes of C02 since 1990, or a delay in global warming of seven-12 years.
So the lessons learned from the Montreal protocol may have wider significance. Scientists now estimate that somewhere close to 50% of climate change is being caused by gases and pollutants other than C02, including nitrogen compounds, low-level ozone formed by pollution, and black carbon. Of course, a degree of scientific uncertainty remains about some of these pollutants' precise contribution to warming. But they certainly play a significant role.
Meanwhile, many of these gases need to be curbed because of their wider environmental impact on public health, agriculture and the planet's ecosystems, including forests.
Consider black carbon. A component of the soot emissions from diesel engines and the inefficient burning of biomass cooking stoves, it is linked to 1.6m-1.8 million premature deaths annually as a result of indoor exposure and 800,000 from outdoor exposure. Black carbon, which absorbs heat from the sun, also accounts for anywhere from 10% to 45% of the contribution to global warming, and is linked to accelerated losses of glaciers in Asia, because the soot deposits darken ice and make it more vulnerable to melting.
One study estimates 26% of black carbon emissions come from stoves for heating and cooking, with more than 40% of this amount from wood burning, roughly 20% from coal, 19% from crop residues and 10% from dung.
Some companies have developed stoves that use passive air flows, better insulation and 60% less wood to reduce black carbon emissions by around 70%. Mass introduction of such stoves could deliver multiple green-economy benefits.
While CO2 can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, other pollutants, including black carbon and ozone, remain for relatively short periods – days, weeks, months or years – so that reducing or ending emissions promises almost immediate climate benefits.
The international community's overarching concern must be to seal a serious and significant deal at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December to curtail CO2 emissions and assist vulnerable countries to adapt. If the world also is to deploy all available means to combat climate change, emissions of all the substances that contribute to it must be scientifically evaluated and urgently addressed.
• Achim Steiner is UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UN Environment Program.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2009

Aboriginal fire management cuts CO2 in Australia

Dean Yibarbuk, from Our World, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Friday 11 September 2009 14.21 BST
Fire has been used by Bininj (Aboriginal) people for managing habitats and food resources across northern Australian over millennia. The secret of fire in our traditional knowledge is that it is a thing that brings the land alive again. So we don't necessarily see fire as bad and destructive — it can be a good thing.
Unfortunately, today fire is not being well looked after in many places in Northern Australia. However, it continues to be managed well around the outstations where people live all the time, such as at Kabulwarnamyo, where I live. To go forward, we need to encourage our children in the ways of the past. Fire must be managed and people must be living on their country (tribal land) to manage that fire.
As a Bininj man from Nangark of the Gurrguni clan, I hold much knowledge regarding my people's traditional use of fire and have a great responsibility to ensure that this knowledge is passed down to younger generations, and more importantly, that this knowledge is still used and practised into the future to keep our country alive and healthy.
Bininj perspective on climate changeBininj people have experienced very dramatic climate changes that have been happening since long before Balanda (white people) settled in our country. In our beliefs, our ancestors have been here from the beginning, when the earth was still soft and when some animals were like people before they became the animals we know today.
Our old people used to tell us dreamtime stories that happened a long time ago; stories about animals, birds and reptiles, and how they've gone through those processes of change.
When our ancestors saw changes happening, they started to adapt to the changes by looking out for solutions of how to live and survive. They were hunters and gatherers that looked for food and good places to live and enjoy a new kind of life in changed circumstance. When walking about, they would cover the whole area as part of their role as land managers — looking after our country according to our traditional land management practices.
Our people have lived through periods of great change. Knowledge of what they've experienced through those changes has been passed down from one generation to another.
The Great DroughtOne story that is still talked about by our old people concerns a great drought. Balanda have their bible story about a great flood, but we have a story about a great drought.
When springs and rivers dried up, the first people, or Nayiyunki, were desperately walking around looking for water when they came across a paper bark tree that had a hump like a camel's, with drinkable water in it.
So they used their stone axes to crack the humped side of the paper bark tree and out came the water to save their lives. We call the hump and the water that comes from it Djidjindok. Nayiyunki lived on that drinking water from the tree for long periods until water came back in springs and creeks.
We don't know exactly when this happened, but we do know that Balanda (white) scientists are able to tell us that this part of Australia went through very dry periods between about 35,000 and 18,000 years ago.
Sea level riseAnother story our people talk about is how Northern Australia was attached to Papua New Guinea. It was one big land and the Nayiyunki (first people) walked around managing the whole landscape, looking for better hunting places or lakes stocked full of fish.
There are stories from Maningrida, now on the edge of the Arafura Sea that separates us from Papua New Guinea. Just off from Maningrida township is Entrance Island. It lies about 3 kms from the nearest land, at Ndjudda Point.
Our people remember when the Island was connected to the mainland. In the middle, was a big billabong — a big wetland area full of fish and geese, water chestnuts and water lilies, and other game for hunting. It was a very well known wetland place for our past generations and today people still talk about this lost wetland. When the sea level rose, all that wetland went under the seawater.
At Goulburn Island, the people there still have more stories about these times — stories about islands where people used to live that are there no longer.
Human made climate changeSo we have been experiencing climate changes for long-long periods up until today's generations. But the climate changes previously experienced were brought on by nature. They were not climate changes brought on by people, like in the situation we face today.
Nayiyunki, our first people, watched the way nature worked. They looked at how things changed at the yearly scale and named six seasonal movements for the calender — Bangerreng, Yekke, Wurrkeng, Gurrung, Gunumeleng and Gujewek.
These are the six calendar cycles of movement for our hunting and gathering purposes. People knew when the seasons changed by seeing the signs and signals in nature that marked those changes. We see changes in winds and clouds and rain; we read the changing seasons through the flowering of plants and grasses; we read the movement of birds and other animals.
These seasonal calendars have been built up over thousands of years, but now our old people and even middle-aged people like me are seeing that the seasons start to look wrong. We see that things are not really happening when they should be.
Our old people are confused. They don't know what's happening. These are the signals that tell us when we should be burning grass or when we can find the food we want. Scientists tell us the monsoon stopped for more than 10,000 years a long time ago. What would our world be like if we didn't have the monsoon to give a regular annual cycle for growing, drying and burning grasses. What would tropical Australia be like if it had years of drought, like down south? It's a scary thought.
People move around to observe signs of what things are there and what things aren't there. If things aren't there then people know that something is going wrong somewhere.
When changes happened before, the Nayiyunki knew the country very well through their observations. They would talk to spiritual beings and ask for their help and to show them in their dream, so that they could be ready for unexpected events.
Nayiyunki were able to deal very well with the changes in their time because these were changes made by mother nature. These were natural climatic changes that happened from the first generation. But the changes we are looking at today are not natural changes — they are caused by human behaviour. People, not nature, are responsible.
Our challenge, our contributionOur present generation, we hear media news about global warming. Changes are happening and everybody around the world is running around madly trying to figure out a way to tackle the problems.
Though for us, the Bininj people, climate change is not new topic, since we have the stories about the changes that happened many-many years ago before our generation, we are very worried about what is affecting us today. Like sometimes we see that the wet season comes in at the wrong time.
In recent years we have experienced strong cyclones — Cyclone Monica set a new mark for violent storms and we had unexpected floods hitting our communities. Sometime we hear our old people saying these things are happening because our sacred objects are not happy with us because of disturbances to the sacred land. Dynamite and mining, big machines and roads, these are all things that worry our people.
Within Northern Australia our country has changed in a big way ever since I was born. These are the most visible symptoms that I see:
(1) the human population has tripled since I was child;
(2) our people have been losing our language and culture;
(3) feral weeds and animals are entering our community;
(4) establishment of towns and settlement;
(5) mining happening in our country; and
(6) changing weather, and more.
Feral animals and weeds are changing our natural environment. Large animals like buffaloes are damaging our landscape and weeds are already within our communities and our home-lands.
Traditional fire management has changed in a big way. Traditional practices, like travelling on foot, are not happening these days like they used to. People have changed in many ways because of the contemporary forces from outside.
We all, Balanda and Bininj, have to look at what we can do to fix the damage that is being done to the climate by greenhouse gases and so on.
Out there at Kabulwarnamyo, we are tackling climate change by bringing back and strengthening our traditional burning, the tools that we have used for thousands of years for managing our landscape.
By bringing back our way of land management and making it strong for the future, we are doing our bit to help the world deal with climate change.
• Dean Yibarbuk is Secretary of Warddeken Land Management Limited

Plan for energy co-ops to cut fuel bills by 20%

Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
The Guardian, Saturday 12 September 2009
Gas and electricity bills will be cut by up to 20% under a scheme that will also cut carbon emissions by encouraging an increase in environmentally friendly technology.
Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, will today back the scheme, which is designed to answer climate change sceptics who say tackling global warming will mean higher energy prices.
Under the plan, to be launched in Edinburgh by the Co-operative party at its annual conference today, local residents will join schools, community organisations and businesses to form consumer energy co-ops. These would negotiate with wholesale energy groups to supply gas and electricity at between 10 and 20% less than the normal domestic price.
A modest step towards reducing emissions would occur at this first stage because the co-ops would install smart meters in members' homes.
A bigger step in cutting emissions would occur later when co-ops install environmentally friendly technology, including combined heat and power systems (CHP), heat pumps or biomass boilers. CHP is the process by which heat generated at power stations while creating energy supplies is captured and used to heat the homes of local people.
The co-op plan is closely modelled on a scheme in the coal-producing Belgian province of Limburg, where residents joined forces after fuel prices rose after liberalisation of the Belgian energy market in 2003. In all, 15,000 families each save an average of €250 (£218) a year in the scheme run by the ACW charity.
The Co-operative party is interested in the Limburg scheme because Belgium's energy market is similar to Britain's. The party says a series of pilot schemes in the UK have been successful. One of these involved the Reddish Vale Technology College in Stockport, the Co-operative movement's first trust school.
The consumer co-ops would fund their projects by raising capital from schemes such as the Emissions Reduction Target (Cert), which are designed to help environmentally friendly projects. They would also use their status as mutual societies to raise capital from the community, in the way building societies raised funds in the 1980s to compete with high street banks.
Michael Stephenson, the general secretary of the Co-operative party, said: "There is a false choice that we have to kill: that is you can't be green without it costing. People want to be environmentally sensitive, but they see it as punitive. The virtue of this scheme is that it says you can be environmentally sensitive, but save money. The key to reconciling those two objectives is you take a co-operative approach."
Miliband will say today: "Communities should be able to work together to generate clean energy in their own area. We're bringing in guaranteed feed-in rates so local wind or hydro power gets a cashback. We want communities to be able to work together to show their area can lead the way on climate change."

White House action puts on hold dozens of mountaintop mining projects

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Friday 11 September 2009 19.45 BST
The Obama administration took its strongest action to date against highly destructive mining practice today, putting a hold on dozens of mountaintop removal projects in the Appalachian region.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it was ordering a review of 79 permits in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky to mine for coal by blowing the tops of mountains to assess the impact on water quality.
Mountaintop removal involves dynamiting the tops of mountains - leaving mounds of debris in neighbour rivers and waterways - razing forests and cutting off hundreds of feet of rock to reach narrow seams of coal.
The EPA said it had continuing concerns about toxic debris from the mine sites, and the loss of hundreds of miles of streams, which were choked off by the rubble.
"The administration pledged earlier this year to improve review of mining projects that risked harming water quality. Release of this preliminary list is the first step in a process to assure that the environmental concerns raised by the 79 permit applications are addressed and that permits issued are protective of water quality and affected ecosystems," the EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, said in a statement.
The decision was welcomed by some environmental organisations as a key break by the Obama administration with the policies set by George Bush.
Appalachian Voices, a local activist coalition, said in a statement:
"By recommending these permits not be approved, the EPA and the Army Corps has demonstrated their intention to fulfill a promise to provide science-based oversight which will limit the devastating environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining."
But environmental organisations are still pressing the Obama administration for an outright ban on mountaintop removal, which environmentalists say is the most destructive method of extracting coal.
Bush-era regulations had made it far easier for mining companies to win approval for mountaintop removal and to avoid regulatory control. The EPA, in Bush's eight-year term, did not oppose a single permit for mountaintop removal.
Jackson, in a recent interview, admitted the agency had grown "toothless".
The Obama administration signalled last June that it would take a tougher approach to enforcement. Earlier this week, the agency said it would halt West Virginia's biggest mining project, spread over 2,300 acres, because of concerns over dumping debris.The agency now has two weeks to issue its final decision on the pending permits. Projects that do meet EPA environmental standards will move ahead.

A triumph for man, a disaster for mankind

Two ships are finishing the first commercial navigation of the fabled North-east Passage. It is an epic moment – but also a vivid sign of climate change in the Arctic
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Saturday, 12 September 2009

No commercial vessel has ever successfully travelled the North-east Passage, a fabled Arctic Sea route that links the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific far more directly than the usual southerly cargo route.

It has been one of the elusive goals of seafaring nations almost since the beginnings of waterborne trade, but for nearly 500 years the idea has been dismissed as an impossible dream. Now, as a result of global warming, the dream is about to come true.
Within days, a journey that represents both a huge commercial boon and a dark milestone on the route to environmental catastrophe is expected to be completed for the first time. No commercial vessel has ever successfully travelled the North-east Passage, a fabled Arctic Sea route that links the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific far more directly than the usual southerly cargo route. Explorers throughout history have tried, and failed; some have died in the attempt.
But early next week the German-owned vessels, Beluga Fraternity and Beluga Foresight, are scheduled to dock in the Dutch port of Rotterdam. It is the culmination of a two-month voyage from South Korea across the perilous waters of the Arctic, where an unprecedented ice-melt has at last made the previously impassable course a viable possibility.
The new route could transform Russia's economic fortunes. Throughout history, the country's search for a warm-water port that would provide sea routes open year-round has dominated the geopolitics of the region. But the economic advantages are balanced by the disastrous environmental news that the transit represents.
"This is further proof that climate change is happening now," said Melanie Duchin, Arctic Expedition leader on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, who added that the development put greater pressure on world leaders to agree a major emissions cut at their Copenhagen meeting in December. "This is not a cause for celebration but cause for immediate action," she said.
The 12,000-tonne vessels' summer journey through the Northeast Passage was carried out with 3,500 tonnes of construction materials and parts for a Siberian power station on board. Once completed, the voyage will have shortened the traditional commercial sea route from the Far East to Europe – via the Suez Canal – by more than 4,000 nautical miles.
Russian maritime officials are now hoping that the feat will result in an "Arctic Rush" with the northern sea route becoming a viable summer competitor to the Suez and Panama canals. They have offered to cut ice-breaker fees in the North-east Passage to encourage major shipping companies to start using it.
Nils Stolberg, the President of the Bremen-based Beluga group which organised the commercial voyage insisted yesterday that ships' transit was not an experiment but the first step towards opening the North-east Passage to shipping world wide. He said his company already had new contracts to ship goods along the route from Asia to Siberia next summer.
"We are all very proud and delighted to be the first Western shipping company to have successfully transited the legendary North-east Passage and delivered a sensitive cargo safely through this extraordinarily demanding sea area," he said. He also estimated that the path had saved $92,000 (£55,000) worth of fuel for each ship.
Despite global warming, the Northeast Passage is still seriously hampered by hundred-mile long swathes of shifting pack ice that extend southwards from the North Pole even in summer. The islands off the north coast of Siberia also contain glaciers which cast icebergs into the warming waters of the passage with increasing frequency.
In 1983 a Russian ship was crushed by pack ice it encountered in the passage in the middle of summer. However, the Russian Transport Ministry which operates a fleet of six nuclear powered-ice-breakers to assist Russian and other coastal commercial ships, says that in recent summers the route has rarely been completely impassable. "The ice conditions were far more severe 20 years ago," a spokesman said.
The voyage of the two Beluga vessels was certainly no picnic. Although not thoroughbred ice-breakers themselves, both ships were designed to cope with ice-strewn waters and were accompanied by at least one Russian nuclear ice-breaker during the whole of the trip. The two ships encountered snow, fog, ice floes, and treacherous icebergs which showed only about one meter of their huge underwater volume on the sea's surface.
The most challenging stretch of the voyage came at its northernmost point, the Vilkizi Strait on the tip of Siberia. Half of the sea's surface was covered with pack ice and the captains of both vessels had to call Russian ice pilots on board to shepherd them through. Vlarey Durov, captain of the Beluga Foresight spoke of the stress he experienced from having to keep a constant lookout for ice and the time spent waiting for the seas to clear. But he insisted: "It is an economically and ecologically beneficial shortcut between Europe and Asia... On such voyages the advantage of fewer miles can outweigh the delays in waiting for clear water."
Finding a North-east Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific was the goal of mariners and governments in 16th-century Europe because the route would have shortened the voyage to the newly discovered spice islands of the East Indies by some 2,000 miles – the equivalent of a year's sailing.
However, most expeditions ended in disaster. The first attempt by the British navigator Richard Chancellor took place in 1553 but was brought to an abrupt halt in the winter of the same year when his ships became trapped in the ice. Chancellor abandoned ship and marched across the ice to Moscow where he was entertained at the court of Ivan the Terrible.
His fellow explorer Sir Hugh Willoughby stayed with his crew aboard ship and was discovered frozen to death two years later.
Another attempt in 1597 by the Dutch explorer William Barents ended with his ship being trapped and crushed in the ice. Barents and his crew were forced to spend the winter in a makeshift driftwood hut living on polar bear meat. Barents, after whom the polar Barents sea is named, did not survive either.
If the current voyage ends successfully, such maritime disasters may become a thing of the past. But a separate environmental disaster may be only beginning to unfold.