Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Poor nations will struggle with World Bank’s climate change plans

Carl Mortished, World Business Editor: Analysis
You might think that we could do without another big report on climate change but this one from the World Bank is overdue and badly needed. Sadly, it does not have a hope in hell of doing what it says on the title page — Changing the Climate for Development. The World Bank has been trying to eradicate poverty and raise living standards in poor countries since 1946, with meagre success.
Now the good bankers have been given an extra ball to juggle — how to improve the lot of the world’s poorer countries, those where 1.6 billionpeople live on $1 a day, without burning a lot more fossil fuels.
The Bank provides trite answers uttered by others many times before: the need for more public spending on technology, a big commitment by developed countries to curb emissions. More interesting is where the bankers stumble in their effort to grapple with the horrible problem of our age.
The report states blandly that climate change policy “is not a simple choice between a high-growth, high-carbon world and a low-growth, low-carbon world”. Unfortunately, for most of the world’s population that is precisely the choice. Poor countries have limited or no options. Expensive fuel and food mean riots, so the solution is blindingly obvious — growth. Even among the more developed states, China and India, for example, resistance to our attempt to impose a curb on their carbon emissions has been ferocious.
Without infrastructure, without good roads, good government, reliable power and food distribution, poor countries collapse at the first wave and breath of wind. That was brought home in last year’s hurricane season when catastrophic floods devastated impoverished Haiti but the same storms left neighbouring and wealthier Dominican Republic less affected.
Oil and gas infrastructure, power stations, these were the World Bank’s bread and butter, although nuclear power was vetoed back in the 1970s when America’s writ dominated the institutions even more than it does today. The World Bank wants to be greener and it boasts of its investment in renewables. But what we need to know is whether a poor country, such as Bangladesh, can afford to dabble in greenery. Or does it need to build, build, build.

Climate change: Senate Democrats may delay legislation

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Wednesday 16 September 2009 01.59 BST

Democratic leaders in the Senate said last night they may wait until next year to take up climate change legislation, jeopardising the prospect of reaching a deal to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of global warming.
The delay would prevent Barack Obama from delivering on his promise of demonstrating firm US commitment on climate change action in advance of negotiations at Copenhagen next December.
The setback arrives at a critical moment in the home stretch of the negotiations, with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, telling the Guardian that world leaders needed to show stronger leadership if they want to reach a deal at Copenhagen.
In a briefing with reporters, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said Democrats wanted to push ahead on healthcare reform this year before taking up climate change.
"We are going to have a busy, busy time the rest of this year," Reid said. "And, of course, nothing terminates at the end of this year. We still have next year to complete things if we have to."
Such a delay means that America would be unable to send the strong signal it is ready to act to cut its greenhouse gas emissions that has been demanded by other big polluters such as China and India. That in turn would imperil the prospects of coming to a deal at Copenhagen to halt warming in time to avert dangerous rising of temperatures and sea levels, and severe droughts.
Reports of Reid's comments caused instant dismay among environmental organisations which have organised an unprecedented effort to build support in the Senate and among the American public for climate change legislation.
"It's really distressing news," said Jennifer Haverkamp, who follows international climate negotiations for the Environmental Defence Fund. "What this does is it gives a lot of other countries the excuse they may have been looking for to hide behind the US inaction."
With time running out before the meeting in Copenhagen that is designed to seal an international climate change deal, Ban had been looking to the summit of nearly 100 world leaders at the UN next Tuesday to break through the distrust between rich and poor countries.
"We are deeply concerned that the negotiation is not making much headway. It is absolutely and crucially important for the leaders to demonstrate their political will, leadership, and to give clear political guidelines to the negotiators," Ban told the Guardian. "They should be responsible for the future of this entire humanity."
But Reid's statements now look set to dominate the summit, and intensify the focus on whether the US will be prepared to make the cuts in carbon emissions needed to tackle climate change, and persuade India, China and other countries to follow its example.
Climate negotiators, while praising the Obama administration for its support for climate change action, have said repeatedly the US needs to follow up on such promises with concrete measures to reduce carbon emissions.
The House of Representatives narrowly passed a climate change bill last June, but it will not become law until passed by the Senate, and signed by Obama.
Diplomats say that without signs of movement in the Senate it will be even more difficult to restart the bogged down climate negotiations.
Todd Stern, the state department envoy, acknowledged as much last week, telling Congress: "Nothing the United States can do is more important for the international negotiation process than passing robust, comprehensive clean energy legislation as soon as possible."
There is also widespread concern a delay to next year would make it even more difficult for the Senate to take up difficult legislation, such as climate change, before congressional elections in November.

US planning to weaken Copenhagen climate deal, Europe warns

Exclusive: Key differences between the US and Europe could undermine a new worldwide treaty on global warming to replace Kyoto, sources say
David Adam, environment correspondent, Tuesday 15 September 2009 17.54 BST

Ban Ki-moon speaks at the Bali climate change conference in 2007. The UN secretary general told the Guardian on Monday that negotiations ahead of Copenhagen had stalled and need to 'get moving'. Photograph: Adek Berry/AFP
Europe has clashed with the US Obama administration over climate change in a potentially damaging split that comes ahead of crucial political negotiations on a new global deal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The Guardian understands that key differences have emerged between the US and Europe over the structure of a new worldwide treaty on global warming. Sources on the European side say the US approach could undermine the new treaty and weaken the world's ability to cut carbon emissions.
The treaty will be negotiated in December at a UN meeting in Copenhagen and is widely billed as the last chance to save the planet from a temperature rise of 2C or higher, which the EU considers dangerous.
"If we end up with a weaker framework with less stringent compliance, then that is not so good for the chances of hitting 2C," a source close to the EU negotiating team said.
News of the split comes amid mounting concern that the Copenhagen talks will not make the necessary progress.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN general secretary, told the Guardian last night that negotiations had stalled and need to "get moving".
Ahead of an unprecedented UN climate change summit of almost 100 heads of government in New York next week, Moon said the leaders held in their hands "the future of this entire humanity".
He said: "We are deeply concerned that the negotiation is not making much headway [and] it is absolutely and crucially important for the leaders to demonstrate their political will and leadership."
The dispute between the US and Europe is over the way national carbon reduction targets would be counted. Europe has been pushing to retain structures and systems set up under the Kyoto protocol, the existing global treaty on climate change. US negotiators have told European counterparts that the Obama administration intends to sweep away almost all of the Kyoto architecture and replace it with a system of its own design.
The issue is highly sensitive and European officials are reluctant to be seen to openly criticise the Obama administration, which they acknowledge has engaged with climate change in a way that President Bush refused to. But they fear the US move could sink efforts to agree a robust new treaty in Copenhagen.
The US distanced itself from Kyoto under President Bush because it made no demands on China, and the treaty remains political poison in Washington. European negotiators knew the US would be reluctant to embrace Kyoto, but they hoped they would be able to use it as a foundation for a new agreement.
If Kyoto is scrapped, it could take several years to negotiate a replacement framework, the source added, a delay that could strike a terminal blow at efforts to prevent dangerous climate change. "In Europe we want to build on Kyoto, but the US proposal would in effect kill it off. If we have to start from scratch then it all takes time. It could be 2015 or 2016 before something is in place, who knows."
According to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), world emissions need to peak by 2015 to give any chance of avoiding a 2C rise.
Europe is unlikely to stand up to the US, the source added. "I am not sure that the EU actually has the guts for a showdown and that may be exactly the problem." The US plan is likely to anger many in the developing world, who are keen to retain Kyoto because of the obligations it makes on rich countries.
Under Kyoto, greenhouse gas reductions are subject to an international system that regulates the calculation of emissions, the purchase of carbon credits and contribution of sectors such as forestry. The US is pushing instead for each country to set its own rules and to decide unilaterally how to meet its target.
The US is yet to offer full details on how its scheme might work, though a draft "implementing agreement" submitted to the UN by the Obama team in May contained a key clause that emissions reductions would be subject to "conformity with domestic law".
Legal experts say the phrase is designed to protect the US from being forced to implement international action it does not agree with. Farhana Yamin, an environmental lawyer with the Institute of Development Studies, who worked on Kyoto, said: "It seems a bit backwards. The danger is that the domestic tail starts to wag the international dog."
The move reflects a "prehistoric" level of debate on climate change in the wider US, according to another high-ranking European official, and anxiety in the Obama administration about its ability to get a new global treaty ratified in the US Senate, where it would require a two-thirds majority vote. The US has not ratified a major international environment treaty since 1992 and President Clinton never submitted the Kyoto protocol for approval, after a unaminous Senate vote indicated it would be rejected on economic grounds.
The US proposal for unilateral rule-setting "is all about getting something through the Senate," the source said. "But I don't have the feeling that the US has thought through what it means for the Copenhagen agreement."
The move could open loopholes for countries to meet targets without genuine carbon cuts, they said. Europe is not concerned that the US would exploit such loopholes, but it fears that other countries might.
The US State Department, which handles climate change, would not comment.
Stuart Eizenstat, who negotiated Kyoto for the US, said: "There has been a sea change in US attitudes [on climate] and the new president is deeply committed on this issue. But the EU needs to understand the limitations in the US. The reality is that is it impossible for my successor to negotiate something in Copenhagen beyond that which Congress will give the administration in domestic cap-and-trade legislation."
Nigel Purvis, who also worked on the US Kyoto team, said: "It's not welcome news in Europe but the Kyoto architecture shouldn't have any presumed status. Many decisions were taken when the United States was not at the negotiating table. Importing the Kyoto architecture into a new agreement would leave it vulnerable to charges of repackaging."
He denied the US move would weaken the agreement. "It is important for the US to negotiate an agreement it can join, because another agreement that did not involve the United States would set back efforts to protect the climate. Is it weaker to have a system that applies to more countries? I would argue not."

Frustrated UN chief Ban Ki-moon says world leaders must act on climate

• Hopes pinned on high-level summit next week• Cash for developing nations 'a moral responsibility'
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Tuesday 15 September 2009 19.53 BST
The UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, frustrated at the glacial pace of crucial climate change negotiations, is looking to the summit he will host next week to "get world leaders moving" towards a deal that could avert catastrophic global warming.
With time running out before a December meeting in Copenhagen that is designed to seal an international climate change deal, the UN secretary general acknowledged he was looking to the summit of nearly 100 world leaders at the United Nations next Tuesday to break through the distrust between rich and poor countries.
"We are deeply concerned that the negotiation is not making much headway. It is absolutely and crucially important for the leaders to demonstrate their political will, leadership, and to give clear political guidelines to the negotiators. They should be responsible for the future of this entire humanity," Ban told the Guardian.
Ban, newly returned from a trip to the Arctic, sees action on climate change as his personal legacy as UN chief. He said he hoped the unprecedented size of the climate meeting, the high level of representation and an unconventional format would transform the talks.
"Have you ever seen any such international conference at the level of so many leaders coming at one time and one place? In any summit meeting you have not seen such a highly political, highly motivated meeting. That is where we have to find some political strength."
However, he admitted that even if the international community did reach a deal at Copenhagen, it might not live up to what scientists say is needed to prevent the worst consequences of global warming. "Science has already made its recommendations," he said. "Science provides the facts. Then politicians take their choice."
The UN summit is at the centre of a high-level push – along with a meeting on Thursday of climate change negotiators in Washington and next week's G20 in Pittsburgh – aimed at unblocking arguably the most contentious issue of the negotiations: financing from the developed world to help poorer countries adopt green technologies and protect their people from the consequences of global warming.
Ban said the funding was a "moral responsibility" for industrialised nations. But countries have balked at the figures set by some developing world leaders.
Amid that stand-off, UN officials, diplomats and Democratic party leaders are saying that the gathering might well be the last chance before Copenhagen to reach an agreement on financing.
However, John Kerry, who chairs the US Senate foreign relations committee and has the tricky task of guiding domestic US climate laws through the Senate, said he was frustrated that the G20 would not be spending more time on climate change.
At the UN summit, Ban is counting on round-table discussions, jointly chaired by leaders of eight rich and eight poor countries, to help break through resentments over how far the rich countries will go to cut their own carbon emissions (which have done the most to cause climate change) and to help poor countries, which stand to lose the most from rising temperatures and sea levels.
There are growing fears that African countries could walk out of the Copenhagen talks. But UN officials said they hoped to get leaders to give up fixed positions that have slowed down the negotiations.
Ban is hoping to give industrialised countries another push with plans for Yukio Hatoyama, Japan's prime minister, to confirm a promise to cut carbon emissions by 25% by 2020, a significant advance on his predecessor's offer. UN officials are also hoping for a collective commitment on protecting forests from countries such as Brazil and Papua New Guinea .
Ban acknowledged that the US, while moving ahead on climate change under Barack Obama, still had far to go in dealing with its own carbon emissions.

The debate must focus on the human cost

Between 150 and 200 million people could be displaced by rising sea levels by 2050
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
The doctors are right about the scale of the health catastrophe that will result from a failure to deal with climate change. So far, the public debate on climate has focused mainly on the science and the economics. We have been made very aware of what dealing with climate change might do to business, and nothing like aware enough about what failing to deal with it will do to people.
The recent publication of The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis by the Global Humanitarian Forum has brought this issue into much clearer focus. It found that climate change already causes some 300,000 deaths a year and seriously affects 325 million people. It concluded that four billion people were vulnerable to climate change and half a billion at extreme risk. The number of people permanently displaced by rising sea levels, floods and droughts could reach 150 to 200 million by 2050.
The most dramatic effects of climate change on health are those that result directly from extreme weather events. The Forum's report estimated that by 2030 the health of some 660 million people might be seriously affected by natural disasters. This is almost twice the number of people expected to suffer from diabetes by then.
As the doctors point out, other health impacts will arise from changes in the distribution or frequency of occurrence of disease carriers. A third set of climate impacts affecting health arise from the infrastructure disruptions generated by a changing climate. Extreme weather events not only do direct harm to people, they also destroy or prevent access to hospitals and clinics.
The displacement and conflict resulting from loss of food or clean water cause not only physical harm, but also much mental distress – as yet a much overlooked aspect of the health effects of climate change.
The doctors are also right to emphasise the importance of the politics. Tackling climate change successfully is well within the envelope of our engineering and economic competence. Politics is the art of the possible. The art of political leadership is to expand the realm of the possible.
If the grim prospect outlined by the doctors is to be avoided, what is needed between now and Copenhagen is much more than politics as usual. The political leaders assembling in New York and Pittsburgh in the next two weeks must now launch a political surge on climate change.
Tom Burke is a founding director of E3G and a visiting professor at Imperial and University Colleges, London

Climate change will damage your health

World's doctors unite in challenge to politicians over 'biggest health threat of this century'
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Human society faces a global health catastrophe if climate change is not effectively tackled at the UN conference in Copenhagen in December, leading doctors from around the world warn today.
Calling on medical practitioners everywhere to put pressure on politicians in advance of the meeting, the doctors say that the world's poorest people will be hit first by the health effects of global warming, but add that "no one will be spared".
Their stark challenge to governments follows a report in May which said climate change would represent "the biggest global health threat of the 21st century".
Malaria, dengue fever and other tropical diseases would increase, the study predicted, spelling out how rising temperatures will cause health crises in half a dozen areas: there will be increased problems with food supplies, clean water and sanitation, especially in developing countries. Meanwhile, the migration of peoples will combine with extreme weather events such as hurricanes and severe floods to make for disastrous conditions in human settlements.
The doctors make their appeal as momentum begins to build for the UN conference, which will be held in the Danish capital from 7-18 December, and which will see the world community attempt to draw up a comprehensive new climate treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto protocol. Its crucial objective will be drastic worldwide cuts in the emissions of industrial gases such as carbon dioxide which are causing the atmosphere to warm.
On Tuesday, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon is convening a climate change summit of world leaders in New York, including Gordon Brown and President Obama, to try to give some impetus to the tortuous pre-conference negotiating process – the draft text of 200 pages already contains 2,000 "square brackets": that is, points where the 190 countries taking part disagree.
The doctors' challenge to politicians to sort this out comes in a letter published simultaneously in Britain's two principal health journals, the British Medical Journal and The Lancet.
In the letter, Professor Ian Gilmore, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, joins 17 other national doctors' leaders from the US to Australia in saying: "There is a real danger that politicians [at Copenhagen] will be indecisive, especially in such turbulent economic times as these. Should their response be weak, the results for international health could be catastrophic."
They go on: "Doctors are still seen as respected and independent, largely trusted by their patients and the societies in which they practise ... As leaders of physicians across many countries, we call on doctors to demand that their politicians listen to the clear facts that have been identified in relation to climate change and act now to implement strategies that will benefit the health of communities worldwide."
The letter follows the report on the health effects of global warming which was launched jointly last May by The Lancet and University College London (UCL), and which squarely labelled climate change as the 21st century's biggest global health threat.
That report's lead author, Professor Anthony Costello, director of UCL's Institute for Global Health, said at the time: "The big message of this report is that climate change is a health issue affecting billions of people, not just an environmental issue about polar bears and deforestation. The impacts will be felt not just in the UK, but all around the world – and not just in some distant future but in our lifetimes and those of our children."
Today's letter is accompanied by an editorial written by two of Britain's most senior figures in the area of health and development: Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of the UCL International Institute for Society and Health, and Lord Jay of Ewelme, who as Sir Michael Jay was head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and is now chair of Merlin, (Medical Emergency Relief, International), the UK charity which provides healthcare and medical relief for vulnerable people caught up in natural disasters, conflicts and major disease outbreaks.
The two men write: "A successful outcome at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December is vital for our future as a species, and for our civilisation." And they echo the writers of the letter in asserting: "Failure to agree radical reductions in emissions would spell a global health catastrophe."
They point out that there is now wide consensus that global temperatures are rising and that human actions are responsible; that there is a need to cut carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change; and that the economic argument that taking action now rather than later will be cheaper has also been widely accepted since the Stern report in 2006. Furthermore, they say, the election of President Obama has shifted policy in the US from seeking to block an agreement to seeking to find one.
They go on: "So the chances of success should be good but the politics are tough. The most vocal arguments are about equity: the rich world caused the problem so why should the poor world pay to put it right? Can the rich world do enough through its own actions and through its financial and technological support for the poor to persuade the poor to join in a global agreement?"

White House Unveils Plan to Curb Auto Emissions

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration rolled out details of its strategy to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency saying the proposal paves the way for regulating emissions from sources such as power plants.
General Motors Chief Executive Frederick 'Fritz' Henderson, center, was among those on hand when President Barack Obama announced new car fuel-efficiency standards at the White House in May.

The proposal requires that new-vehicle fleets average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. The requirements could raise new-vehicle prices by as little as $476 per vehicle in 2012 to as much as $1,091 per vehicle in 2016, according to a Transportation Department analysis. The administration said the new standards would help Americans save an estimated $3,000 over the lifetime of a 2016 model-year car through better gas mileage.
The Obama administration is set to usher in tougher fuel economy standards. WSJ's Steve Power says after years of resisting the changes, U.S. auto makers are getting on board with the move.
Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in an interview that "we must consider the implications of the Clean Air Act and how it might apply to other sources." She said it was "certainly a possibility" that the agency could propose emissions regulations covering other sources within the next year.
Business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, strongly oppose using the Clean Air Act to limit carbon-dioxide emissions from businesses, and have warned that such an expansion of the EPA's regulatory power would be costly and eliminate jobs.
Earlier this year, the agency declared greenhouse-gas emissions a threat to human health and welfare, the legal trigger for regulating them under the federal Clean Air Act. The agency's declaration was a response to a 2007 ruling by a divided Supreme Court that held that the act authorizes the agency to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from autos if it determines they cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.
Many legal experts say the Clean Air Act doesn't give the EPA much leeway to pick which sources to regulate. The Obama administration has said it would prefer to tackle climate change through legislation that requires companies to pay for the right to emit greenhouse gases. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the Senate might delay voting on such legislation until next year, though his spokesman said no decision had been made.
The auto industry earlier this year agreed to support the administration's proposal to boost new-vehicle fuel efficiency and set greenhouse-gas-emissions rules. In return, the industry will be allowed to abide by one, nationwide standard rather than a patchwork of state rules, which it fears could be more onerous.
A bipartisan proposal introduced in the Senate last month would create a "feebate" system, in which consumers who buy vehicles that get good mileage would be given a subsidy, funded through a fee levied on less fuel-efficient vehicles.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declined to say Tuesday whether the administration would favor a feebate system or other policies targeting consumers.
The proposal was accompanied by an analysis, prepared by the Transportation Department, that said the proposed standards could result in additional traffic fatalities by encouraging auto makers to reduce the weight of their vehicles in ways that compromise safety.
Still, Ms. Jackson said in the interview that "everything we know indicates that it [additional traffic fatalities] is very unlikely," adding that the DOT is required by law to examine such worst-case scenarios.
Write to Stephen Power at and Josh Mitchell at

World Bank spends billions on coal-fired power stations despite own warnings

The World Bank is spending billions of pounds subsidising new coal-fired power stations in developing countries despite claiming that burning fossil fuels exposes the poor to catastrophic climate change. The bank, which has a goal of reducing poverty and is funded by Britain and other developed countries, calls on all nations in a report today to “act differently on climate change”.
It says that the world must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, but it is funding several giant coal-burning plants that will each emit millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide a year for the next 40 to 50 years.
Britain is contributing £400million to a World Bank fund that claims to support “clean technology” but is financing coal power plants.
The bank’s World Development Report says: “Developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change — a crisis that is not of their making and for which they are the least prepared. Increasing access to energy and other services using high-carbon technologies will produce more greenhouse gases, hence more climate change.”
The report says that between 75 and 80 per cent of the damage caused by climate change through drought, floods and rising sea levels will happen in developing countries. It calls on richer nations, including Britain, to increase the amount that they spend on helping developing countries to adapt to climate change.
The bank also wants global spending on research and development on sustainable sources of energy to be increased from the present $70billion (£40billion) a year to $700billion.
The report says that unless the world acts now to cut carbon dioxide emissions it faces a 5C (9F) rise in global temperatures by the end of the century. “Such a drastic temperature shift would cause the possible dieback of the Amazon rainforest, complete loss of glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas, and rapid ocean acidification leading to death of coral reefs,” it says.
“The speed and magnitude of change could wipe out more than 50 per cent of species. Sea levels could rise by one metre this century, threatening 60 million people. Agricultural productivity would likely decline throughout the world and over three million additional people could die from malnutrition each year.”
The 260-page report advises against “locking the world into high-carbon infrastructure” but makes no mention of the bank’s plans to subsidise coal power plants in India, South Africa, Botswana and other developing countries.
Last year the bank and its partner, the Asian Development Bank, approved $850million in loans to finance a coal-fired plant in Gujarat, western India.
The Environmental Defence Fund, a US lobby group, said that the plant, the first of nine planned in India, would be one of the biggest new sources of greenhouse gases on Earth, emitting 26.7million tonnes of CO2 a year for the next 50 years.
The bank is also contributing $5billion towards South Africa’s power generation expansion plan, which includes six coal plants.
Marianne Fay, the bank’s chief economist for sustainable development, said that coal was the cheapest and most secure way to deliver electricity to the 1.6billion people without it. She said: “There are a lot of poor countries which have coal reserves and for them it’s the only option. The [bank’s] policy is to continue funding coal to the extent that there is no alternative and to push for the most efficient coal plants possible. Frankly, it would be immoral at this stage to say, ‘We want to have clean hands, therefore we are not going to touch coal’.”
Tim Jones, policy officer of the World Development Movement, which campaigns to reduce poverty, said: “The World Bank is acting in the interests of Western countries and companies and not in the long-term interests of the world’s poor.
“It is an absolute disgrace that money meant for clean technologies will actually be used for building new coal power stations. Every pound of green aid that will be spent on funding coal power through the World Bank is money that should be spent on supporting renewable energy in developing countries.”
The bank said that it had lent $5billion for fossil fuel projects in the past three years and $11billion for “low-carbon” alternatives.
A spokesman for the Department for International Development in Whitehall said: “We have informed the World Bank that we will be scrutinising future coal-fired power plant proposals to ensure that they have explored all other options (including accessing the additional finance needed for cleaner alternatives), and we would expect any future coal plants to reach the highest international standards.”

Boost bus use to cut carbon emissions, groups urge government

Public transport groups say 1 billion car journeys could be taken off roads with more bus-friendly initiatives
Dan Milmo, Tuesday 15 September 2009 19.35 BST
Public transport groups have urged the government to take 1 billion car journeys off British roads by imposing targets for more bus and coach use, creating more lanes and building more park-and-ride sites outside towns and cities.
Bus industry executives said a much-mooted high-speed rail line was a distant prospect and claimed that coach and bus travel could achieve significant emissions reductions over a shorter period of time. The Greener Journeys campaign, launched today, said that if one of of 25 journeys were made by bus or coach rather than car it could save 2m tonnes of carbon dioxide within three and cut 1 billion car trips over the same period.
"[High-speed rail] is 20 years off and there are huge sums of money associated with it. We can take 1bn car journeys off the road in the space of three years. With some pretty low-level initiatives we think that we can achieve some big strides forward," said Professor David Begg, former chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport.
The bus industry's public service credentials were tarnished last month after the Office of Fair Trading warned that millions of bus passengers were being overcharged. Brian Souter, chief executive of Stagecoach group, said he "totally refuted" the OFT's initial findings. "I believe that we deliver very good value for money across the country," he said.
Bus and coach trips account for around 6% of passenger journeys in the UK, compared with 84% for motor vehicles and 7% for trains. Tackling transport emissions will be a key factor in achieving the government's carbon dioxide reduction target of 80% by 2050. Transport accounts for around a quarter of British domestic emissions, with buses accounting for less than 4% of all carbon dioxide generated by travel.
Executives from Britain's five largest public transport groups – Arriva, National Express, Go-Ahead, Stagecoach and FirstGroup – said small changes, such as more investment by local authorities in bus lanes, could make bus and coach travel more attractive, with only two out of 10 drivers describing themselves as "die-hard" motorists.
"Bus lanes reduce bus journey times and are not expensive to implement," said Martin Dean, managing director of bus development at Go-Ahead. He said local authorities could set targets for the proportion of journeys made by bus, depending on the amount of bus services and quality of facilities offered by a town, city or local area.

UK cars rank behind other European countries on efforts to reduce emissions

CO2 emissions from cars in Portugal, Italy and Spain all below Britain's average, according to survey
Adam Vaughan, Tuesday 15 September 2009 14.54 BST
The UK is lagging behind other European countries on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars, campaigners warned this week.
Britain ranks 16th out of 25 EU member states in a league table of average CO2 emissions from cars, with emissions higher than those in Portugal, Italy and Spain. The survey by campaigners Transport and Environment, which shows Denmark and France are cutting average CO2 levels faster than the UK, comes as several new low-carbon cars were launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show today.
The findings reveal the best-performing car makers have made cuts of up to five times those by the worst manufacturers. BMW and Mazda were two of the fastest-improving firms for CO2 emissions from cars sold in Europe in 2008, with BMW the only company to achieve double-digit (10.2%) cuts in average emissions on 2007 levels. Campaigners said the reason it was now 9th out of 14 car makers on average CO2 levels was because it had introduced efficiency features to all its range, rather than limited to specific models, as Toyota has done with cars such as the hybrid Prius.
PSA Peugeot-Citroen came bottom of the table for improvement, largely because it has made significant progress on efficiency in previous years and is already ranked second best on average emissions behind Fiat.
Major automotive manufacturers are being forced by EU legislation to improve the efficiency of their vehicles — by 2015, all new cars in the EU will be required, on average across European fleets, to emit less than 130g/km CO2. The European Environment Agency estimates cars are responsible for 14% of the EU's CO2 emissions.
Jos Dings, director of transport and environment, said: "The new EU law is already having an impact. If the overall drop in average CO2 emissions was purely related to the financial crisis, fuel prices or changing consumer behaviour, we would have expected to see every company reducing much more equally. But what is actually happening is that carmakers are seeing how far they have to cut and changing their fleets accordingly."
Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth's senior transport campaigner, called on the UK government to tax less efficient cars. "These new figures show that some carmakers who were dragging their feet towards cutting emissions have raised their game. But the UK is well down the EU league table of emissions from new cars. The government must do more to encourage drivers to buy smarter cars that use less fuel by increasing the tax on gas guzzlers," Bosworth said.
As part of the push to a new generation of lower and zero emission cars, several new electric and hybrid cars were unveiled by European car-makers at the Frankfurt Motor Show today. BMW's new hybrid X6 has been criticised over its green claims because it emits 231 grams of CO2 per kilometre - far higher than many conventional cars. VW presented a three-seater electric concept car, called the E-Up, capable of 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds, a top speed of 84mph and a range of "over 80 miles" in between charges - more than the UK's G-Wiz L-Ion but less than Norway's TH!NK City. Other new concept cars on show included Renault's electric saloon, the Fluence Zero, a hybrid RCZ by Peugeot and Audi's e-Tron, a high-performance electric sports car.

Toyota promises cleaner, cheaper 'plug-in' Prius hybrid

Frankfurt motor show 2009: price, battery-life and 'range anxiety' all fuel uncertainty in the electric car sector, Tuesday 15 September 2009 16.57 BST
Toyota today promised to slash carbon emissions from its new Prius hybrid model by more than a third, laying down the gauntlet to its rivals to make a greener – and more affordable – car.Speaking at the Frankfurt motor show, executives from the Japanese car maker also dismissed new "pure electric" models being developed by European competitors Peugeot and Renault/ Nissan as too expensive and impractical.
This year's motor show – the largest industry event in the world – has been dominated by the electric car as executives are forced by environmental pressures to find an alternative to the traditional combustion engine model.
Toyota is launching a new "plug-in" version for its hugely successful hybrid Prius model, which combines a combustion engine with an electric motor to reduce its emissions. The plug-in version – due to be trialled in the UK next year – will reduce emissions from the Prius's current 89g of carbon dioxide per kilometre to 60g or less. This version allows owners to charge up the car's battery at home and to run the car on electric battery alone for short distances.
Like its Japanese rival Honda, Toyota is sceptical about the appeal of "pure electric vehicles (EVs)", which are powered solely by electric batteries. These are potentially much more expensive than hybrid models and have a shorter range.
Graham Smith, senior vice president for Toyota Motor Europe, said: "We see a fairly challenging road ahead for the electric vehicle. Up to now, motorists have had only one task all their lives – find a station and fill up with gas. For EVs, people have to get their heads round charging their car for several hours a night – do they even have a plug outside their house?"
Peugeot is developing its own hybrid model but admits it faces a big challenge in taking on Toyota, which dominates the market. Chief executive Philippe Varin argues that all the technologies being developed, including EVs, have their own risks. "There are a lot of uncertainties. We don't want to put all our eggs in one basket. It depends on a lot of things – how the battery technology develops, how consumers react, and price."
Opel/Vauxhall has seized on what it believes to be a gap in the market. It believes motorists have "range anxiety" about electric cars, fearing that the juice will run out and leave them stranded on a dark country lane. Its Ampera is charged in the normal way but has a petrol engine that kicks in when its maximum range of 40 miles on its electric battery is exceeded.

Frankfurt Motor Show: General Motors Ampera review

We drive General Motors' Ampera - and asks whether it is key to Vauxhall's future.

By Andrew EnglishPublished: 6:11PM BST 15 Sep 2009
The world's eyes were on General Motors' new plug-in hybrid this week, at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
But nowhere does the Ampera hold more promise than in Britain, where Vauxhall's threatened Ellesmere Port plant has the flexibility to build this Astra-based car.

The UK Government still hopes to entice GM to build the extended-range battery car there and GM hopes to capitalise on the wave of popularity for such hybrid vehicles by building about 220,000 a year.
Last year the UK Government was offered a deal by GM Europe head, Carl Peter Forster, that Ellesmere Port would get the Ampera in return for UK government support at a European level.
The Magna deal announced last week - a plan that sees the German government-funded buyout of some 65 per cent of loss-making Opel and its profitable British arm, Vauxhall, by Canadian car parts specialist Magna and the Russian bank, Sberbank - means all bets are off, but business secretary Lord Mandelson is still hoping to salvage UK jobs and hybrid production out of the deal.
First Drive
The stylish Ampera - a four-door hybrid hatchback that goes on sale next year in the US as the Chevrolet Volt and in the UK as Ampera in 2012 - is far more evolution than revolution. But it is a crucially important car as we found when we drove a test mule on GM's proving ground in Frankfurt, Germany,
While a hybrid driveline combines electricity, the plug-in hybrid Ampera takes the idea further, using mains-generated electricity to charge the lithium-ion battery, with a standard UK 240-volt mains supply promising a full recharge in about three hours.
When that charge is exhausted, the 74bhp, 1.4-litre petrol engine starts and runs a generator, providing a total range of 311 miles. For most users the engine should never be needed as the 40-mile electric-only range covers 95 per cent of average European daily driving needs. The engine never fully recharges the battery as the aim is to use mains electricity.
Mounted in a Chevrolet Cruze on our mule, the driveline activates silently. With maximum torque at zero revs, the Ampera scorches away from a standstill, eerily silent.
Top speed is limited to 100mph with 0-60mph acceleration in 9sec, but the 111kW (148bhp) electric motor provides sizzling kick-down performance. This prototype weighs about 1.6 tons and you can feel that weight in corners, although with the battery's mass low down, the car feels stable.
When battery power is down to a quarter full, the engine provides current to drive the car and maintain battery charge at around 25 per cent.
In electric mode only it emits about 40g/km of CO2 and has running costs about one-fifth of an equivalent Vauxhall Astra. GM is still debating the price, uncertain whether to sell or lease the battery pack. With battery included, the Ampera would cost over £35,000 against around £20,000 for an equivalent Astra.
Ampera changes the way we think about car travel, presenting the flexibility and range of a fossil-fuel powered car with most of the environmental, driving and silent-running advantages of a battery electric. It could save huge amounts of fuel and provide a catalyst to huge changes in the type of cars we drive. If that isn't a revolution, it will have to do.

VW unveils 180 mile-per-gallon, two-seater L1 hybrid at Frankfurt Motor Show

Volkswagen has unveiled its answer to the recession at The Frankfurt Motor Show, the L1 - a 180 mile-per-gallon, tandem two-seater hybrid car.

By Andrew English, Motoring CorrespondentPublished: 12:18PM BST 15 Sep 2009
Andrew English, the Telegraph Motoring Correspondent, tries out VW's L1, an 180 mile-per-gallon, two-seater hybrid car, at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
The L1 concept is shorter than a VW Fox and lower than a Lamborghini. When it goes into production in 2013, it will be the most aerodynamic car in the world and, at just 840lb, the lightest.
It is built of the most exotic materials, with slippery carbon-fibre coachwork, a fighter aircraft’s cockpit canopy and rear-view television cameras instead of wing mirrors.

Its tiny, 800cc engine is one half of a VW 1.6-litre TDI turbodiesel unit, which delivers maximum power of 29 brake horsepower together with a 14 horse power electric motor to provide extra oomph for overtaking.
Free road tax
The L1 is capable of 99mph and 0-62mph acceleration in just 14.3sec and emits carbon dioxide at the parsimonious rate of just 39g/km, meaning free road tax in the UK.
In fact if the average British motorist swapped his 35mpg hatchback for an L1, he would reduce his annual fuel bill from about £1,430 to about £277.
No prices have been mentioned, but the sheer knowhow involved in the L1 as well as the exotic materials used in its construction means this new generation of super car might save money at the pumps but is unlikely to be very cheap to buy.
Green power
The Frankfurt motor show has opened into the worst sales slump the industry has seen for decades. Europe’s car markets were over 14pc down in the first six months of this year and mass-market car makers are having their sales artificially buoyed up by scrappage schemes.
However, despite ecology, frugality and the environment receiving more than lip service, with lots of hybrids and tiny electric prototypes, it was the big, heavy and fast cars that captured the headlines.
So Volkswagen’s hybrid L1 concept marks a refreshing change from the normal.
Piëch's vision
The L1 is a result of an extensive Volkswagen research project which commenced in 1998.
It looked into ways of saving production costs in exotic materials such as carbon fibre, as well as combining tiny petrol engines and electric motors to give huge fuel consumption.
The original concept was ordered by Volkswagen supervisory board head Dr Ferdinand Piëch in 2002.
In 2002 on the eve of his retiring from the role of VW Group chairman, Dr Piëch drove it from his office in Wolfsburg to the VW shareholders' meeting in Hamburg, recording 317·4mpg at an average speed of 43·5mph.
"We will never build a one-litre car," he said as he stepped out of the cockpit, "but it could give us the knowledge to build a two-litre car."
That research concept was retired to the company's museum in Wolfsburg, but in the R&D department work continued.

Obama administration rolls out plan to require fuel efficiency from automakers

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Tuesday 15 September 2009 21.59 BST
The Obama administration, under pressure to show concrete action in the final stretch of climate change negotiations, rolled out its plans today to require automakers to produce cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars.
In an appearance at the White House, the transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Lisa Jackson, introduced new fuel efficiency standards that would raise the average gas mileage for new cars and trucks to an average 35.5mpg by 2016.
The measures, which were first announced last May, come barely 48 hours before the first of a series of high-level events in Washington, the United Nations and Pittsburgh which will focus on climate change, and which will test Barack Obama's ability to deliver on his promises to get America to act to reduce carbon emissions.
Obama won praise from world leaders for his promises to undo George Bush's environmental record, but there is growing scepticism abroad that Democrats will be able to overcome opposition in Congress and pass legislation that would put America on a path to cutting its carbon emissions.
Jackson told reporters the new standards would save 1.8bn barrels of oil, and were the equivalent of taking 42m cars off the road. According to government estimates, the new standards would cost up to $1,300 a car by 2016 - but those costs would pay for themselves through better gas mileage.
Obama, in a visit to a General Motors plant in Ohio, said the measures, which were first announced last May, were long overdue. "This action will give our auto companies some long overdue clairty, stability and predictability."
Environmental organisations also praised the move - noting that it was the first time the EPA had used its powers under the clean air act to try to reduce global warming. The Union of Concerned Scientists called it the biggest improvement on fuel economy and exhaust standards in 30 years - although it gave far lower estimates for fuel economies than the Obama administration.
"You have to go back to the days of disco to see a fuel economy improvement like this," said Jim Kliesch, a senior engineer in the organisation's Clean Vehicles Program. "These proposed standards will be the biggest increase in fuel economy in more than 30 years. That's good news for the environment, consumers' wallets and our nation's energy security."
However, the UCS and other groups expressed concerns at measures that could provide a loophole to car makers for meeting the new requirements. Foreign automakers who sell a limited number of cars in the US will also not be held to the standard.
The new regulations will be finalised in late March.
Today's announcement was widely seen as an effort by the Obama administration to show that it is working hard to reduce America's carbon emissions despite signs that climate change legislation could be stalling in the Senate.
Democratic leaders in the Senate have delayed taking up the climate change bill so they can focus on healthcare. That has fuelled concerns in Washington and abroad that a climate change bill could falter.
Such concerns have grown as the administration comes into the spotlight ahead of a UN climate change summit next week. The summit will be attended by nearly 100 world leaders, and America - as a major polluter - is expecting pressure from the small and developing countries that will suffer the most severe consequences of climate change to show it is taking concrete action.
With that in mind, the Obama administration has carefully coordinated a number of measures to showcase its commitment to action - even in the absence of legislation.
The EPA followed by today's roll-out by announcing that it would more rigorously monitor toxic discharges from coal plants into the water supply. The announcement comes a day after three environmental organisations threatened to sue the EPA for failing to regulate the discharge of toxic metals such as lead, selenium, cadmium and mercury from the coal plants.
The EPA said the new rules, which have been pending since 1982, would be ready by 2012.
Also today, the State Department announced that the administration had signed on to a North American initiative to phase out production of another greenhouse gas, hydroflurocarbon or HFC, which is used in refrigerators and air conditioning. HFC, unlike other coolants, does not damage the ozone layer but it does contribute to climate change.

Germany to create national hydrogen fuel network by 2015

Germany speeds up the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology with countrywide hydrogen fuelling network.
Inhabitat, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Tuesday 15 September 2009 13.36 BST

Nissan hydrogen fuel cell vehicle: such cars would be able to easily refuel in Germany if a plan for a nationwide hydrogen network by 2015 becomes reality.
When it comes to the future of automotive technology, electric cars get the lion's share of the attention. But hydrogen-powered vehicles are slowly gaining traction, first with an announcement last week that auto companies are spending billions on fuel cell vehicles, and now with news that Germany is planning to launch a countrywide hydrogen fueling network by 2015.
A total of eight companies (Daimler, EnBW, Linde, OMV, Shell, Total, Vattenfall and the NOW GmbH National Organisation Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology) are working to bring the fueling network to fruition. In its first phase, scheduled for 2009-2011, the companies involved will lobby for public support and begin fuel station installations. The second phase will see the mass rollout of hydrogen-powered cars along with an accompanying fuel network.
Germany isn't the only country trying to speed up the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology. Canada is working on a hydrogen highway to link Vancouver and Whistler in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics, while Denmark is planning a hydrogen network to connect Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany.

Renewables winning the energy race

The Guardian, Wednesday 16 September 2009
If I am travelling down an "irrational" road to renewables, as Richard Phillips implies (Letters, 11 September), then I am not alone. Last year, solar PV generation capacity grew by 70% around the world, wind power by 29% and solar hot water increased by 15%. By 2008, renewables represented more than 50% of total added generation capacity in both the US and Europe, ie more new renewables capacity was installed than new capacity for gas, coal, oil, and nuclear combined; with no emissions, no wastes and no security issues to worry about – and no worries about fuel running out, or increasing in price.
It's true the energy available from some renewable sources, like wind, varies over time, but we already have to have backup capacity for other plants (including for nuclear plants), which is also used to deal with the daily energy demand peaks. With variable renewables on the grid, these backup plants have to be used a bit more often, adding a small extra cost and, if they are fossil-fuelled, reducing the amount of emissions saved very slightly. But hydro can also be used as backup, and increasingly, so can other types of non-variable renewable source, including biomass and geothermal energy.
If we to have a large amount of nuclear on the grid and the planned large wind-power input, then during low-energy demand periods – particularly at night in summer – we will have more electricity than needed, and one or other will have to give way. Since the output from nuclear plants cannot be varied easily and regularly without economic and operational penalties, we would have to curtail the wind output. How rational is that?
Professor David Elliott
The Open University

Against the grain on Norman Borlaug

The feted agronomist may have saved a billion from starvation, but critics say he planted the seed for future environmental woes
Leo Hickman, Tuesday 15 September 2009 12.00 BST

Accolades don't come much more gushing than those expressed this week following the death of Norman Borlaug, the agronomist whose lifelong work developing high-yield crops played a major role in heralding the so-called "green revolution" and who has often been credited as the "man who saved a billion lives".
Throughout his life he was feted with awards and honours across the world: the Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, India's Padma Vibhushan, to name just a few.
But despite the passionate humanitarian zeal that drove much of his work, he certainly had his critics. The criticism was not so much aimed at the man himself, but for the biotech legacy he played such a major role in creating. After all, this was the man who arguably did more than any other to nurture the era of monocrops, GM foods and the intensive use of petrochemical pesticides and fertilisers. He may well have saved a billion people from imminent starvation, but by doing so, say his critics, he also inadvertently helped to plant the seed for future environmental woes.
Has there ever been a person in human history whose legacy has pivoted so precariously on the fulcrum between good and bad? We will only know the complete answer in the decades to come once the full implications of the world being so reliant on what are now called "conventional" farming methods have been borne out in the context of overpopulation, peak oil, climate change, water depletion and all the other issues now so inextricably linked to modern farming.
Borlaug was not naive on these issues, though. In his Nobel acceptance speech, he recognised that "we are dealing with two opposing forces, the scientific power of food production and the biologic power of human reproduction":
There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort. Fighting alone, they may win temporary skirmishes, but united they can win a decisive and lasting victory to provide food and other amenities of a progressive civilization for the benefit of all mankind.Borlaug said this in 1970 when the global human population stood at 3.7 billion. Today, it is fast approaching seven billion. Modern farming has won the "battle" with population control convincingly.
Borlaug also dismissed the sometimes barbed attack of the environmentalists by arguing that his high-yield crops helped protect rainforests because they allowed farmers to continue exploiting existing farmland, therefore avoiding the need to stray into neighbouring forests with their chainsaws and firesticks.
As he grew older, though, he became an increasingly fervent supporter of GM technology, arguing that without it the booming human population would face widespread famine.
It was another subject for which he often came into combat with some environmentalists. But he saved much of his disdain for the organic farming movement. This is what he told Reason magazine in 2000 when asked what he thought of organic farming:
Don't tell the world that we can feed the present population without chemical fertiliser. That's when this misinformation [about the merits of organic farming] becomes destructive.
Borlaug's vision and subsequent success was underpinned by the widespread availability of cheap oil. His solution for feeding the world was one that could only have ever been dreamed up in that post-war era when the energy source was obvious and unquestioned. But times have changed: with Borlaug's passing we are reminded how impatiently we await a successor to dream up the answer to our battle between rising population levels and sustainable food production.