Sunday, 20 September 2009

UN plans 'shock therapy' for world leaders on environment

Pared-down summit will force heads of rich states to listen to those of third world in hope of kickstarting radical action
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
The Observer, Sunday 20 September 2009
The United Nations is planning a form of diplomatic shock therapy for world leaders this week in the hope of injecting badly needed urgency into negotiations for a climate change treaty that, it is now widely acknowledged, are dangerously adrift.
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon and negotiators say that unless they can convert world leaders into committed advocates of radical action, it will be very hard to reach a credible and enforceable agreement to avoid the most devastating consequences of climate change.
As the digital counter ticking off the hours to the Copenhagen summit – which had been supposed to seal the deal on climate change – hit 77 days today, progress at the UN summit in New York is seen as vital. Nearly 100 heads of state and government are to attend the summit, for which a pared-down format has been devised.
"We need these leaders to go outside their usual comfort zones," said one diplomat. "Our sense is that leaders have got a little too cosy and comfortable. They really have to hear from countries that are vulnerable and suffering."
Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel peace prize with Al Gore, agreed. Commenting on the leaders attending the G20 summit in Pittsburgh next week, he said: "We need to remind these people about impacts of climate change – the fact that they are inequitable and fall very heavily on some of the poorest people in the world. We are likely to see a large number of failed states if we don't act in time."
The heads of state attending the UN summit are to be stripped of their entourages. Each will be allowed just one aide, generally their country's environment minister, in the sessions.
Instead of set-piece speeches, leaders will be paired off to chair discussion groups. Britain will be with Guyana, Tuvalu with the Netherlands, and Mongolia with the European commission.
The leaders will also lunch with environmental activists and chief executives of corporations who have been pressing their governments for action. At dinner, the leaders of the biggest polluting countries will dine with the leaders of Bangladesh, Kiribati and Costa Rica – which are among the primary victims of climate change.
By the end of the day, the rationale goes, the leaders will be imbued with a new sense of purpose. Leaders of rich countries will have been galvanised to take on the big emissions cuts – 25-40% over the next decade, 80% by 2050 – needed to keep temperatures from rising more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, the temperature set by science to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change.
The leaders will also, it is hoped, have some understanding of the threat to poorer countries. And, at the very least, they will have more of a common purpose in tackling the problem. "We need to gather together. We don't want to blame or point fingers at each other," said Yaqoub al-Sanada, counsellor at the Kuwaiti mission to the UN. Kuwait – one of the biggest producers of oil – will co-chair a discussion session with Finland.
The UN is hoping for help from Barack Obama. The US president will speak at the session, and there is anticipation he will deliver a strong signal that America is committed to action. There is growing anxiety for those kinds of reassurances, especially as opposition to Obama's green agenda grows in Congress. "The first question I get any time I meet with anybody is, 'Where's the legislation? How's it going?'," Todd Stern, the State Department's climate change envoy, said. There are also reports that China's president, Hu Jintao, in his first appearance at the UN, will announce new commitments to curb pollution – the kind of signal that will be crucial to boost negotiations in the days leading up to Copenhagen.
"We can get a successful outcome from Copenhagen. It is achievable, but at the moment it's in the balance," said John Ashton, Britain's climate change envoy. "We need to close the gaps."
Those gaps grew over the summer. There is what Ashton called the "ambition gap" – the failure of leaders of the big polluting countries to sign on to the deep emissions cuts needed. Then there is the "finance gap" – the failure of industrialised states to come up with a package on how to compensate poor countries that will suffer the most devastating consequences.
Britain came forward last June with an estimate of £61bn a year by 2020. Negotiators are frustrated that major industrialised states have not set clear figures on how much they are willing to commit, or how they will provide the funding.
Some climate change experts and negotiators have already begun planning a fallback position should the December Copenhagen summit fail to produce a strong enough agreement.
In Washington, Obama administration officials now talk openly about negotiating beyond Copenhagen. "Let's not make that one particular time the be-all and end-all, and say that if it doesn't happen we are doomed," Steven Chu, the energy secretary, told reporters.
Thinktanks are already starting to work on what is being called "Plan B" – scenarios for how the world could come up with an action plan before it is too late. But some are not holding their breath.
"It seems to me that Copenhagen is not the end of this," said Tim Wirth, the president of the UN Foundation, and the man who, in the 1980s, helped to write the first cap-and-trade plan for acid rain. He added: "We are going to have Copenhagens for the rest of our lives."

We saved the economy; now for the world

There is a fault line between the developed and developing worlds over attitudes to carbon emissions
The Observer, Sunday 20 September 2009

THE UNITED Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen in December is sometimes described as a last chance to avert catastrophe on a global scale; and that is on the less extreme end of the debate.
While it can be unhelpful to cast green issues always in terms of impending apocalypse, it is important to state how much rides on the success of the summit, especially since, as the Observer reports today, the prospects of a deal are receding.
The Copenhagen conference is supposed to negotiate a replacement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the landmark deal that first bound nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Its provisions start expiring in 2012.
There is scientific consensus that Kyoto's successor should cut carbon emissions to the point that average temperatures do not rise by more than two degrees Celsius. Any more than that would risk ecological changes of devastating proportions. In practical terms, that means binding targets so that the rate of emissions stops growing immediately and starts falling by 2015. By 2050, say UN scientists, they should be cut by 80%.
There are various obstacles in the negotiations, but the main one is a global fault line between developed and developing worlds. Countries with massive industrial potential still unfulfilled – mainly China and India – will not take moral instruction in eco-austerity from countries that have already industrialised and left a legacy of carbon in the atmosphere as a result.
The industrialised countries, meanwhile, are reluctant to bind themselves to targets that do not also restrain countries they see as competitors.
The theoretical framework for a compromise is broadly in place: the developed world must accept its responsibility for old pollution and make amends by subsidising low-carbon energy in the developing world. In exchange for redistribution of green technology from rich to poor, the developing world would accept significant emissions targets.
Turning that framework into a treaty will be hard. But global leaders have shown in their response to the financial crisis that fear of catastrophe can galvanise co-ordinated and collective action. They ought to fear climate catastrophe and they are running out of time to act.

On the road to Copenhagen

Eco-campaigners offer their own solutions to climate change ahead of the UN summit in New York this week – a meeting that holds the key to striking a new 'Kyoto' treaty in Denmark in December. Jonathan Owen and Jenny Armstrong report
Sunday, 20 September 2009
The UN summit in New York this week could hold the key to striking a new 'Kyoto' treaty
Franny Armstrong, Producer of 'The Age of Stupid'
Cut our emissions by 10 per cent in 2010
"To maximise our chances of preventing runaway climate change, we must quickly and massively cut global emissions. By signing up to the 10:10 campaign, you will commit yourself, your school, your hospital, your church, your business, your whatever, to cut 10 per cent of your emissions next year. As well as being achievable for the vast majority of the population, 10 per cent in one year is the kind of cut the science tells us we need."
Professor John Beddington, Government's Chief Scientific Adviser
Cut emissions to keep temperature rise to 2c above pre-industrial levels
"Global warming is happening and presents unprecedented risks to the planet. The science is clear that to avoid the worst effects. and to keep the risks of catastrophic climate change to an acceptable level, we must keep global temperature rise to C above pre-industrial levels. We must act urgently to make deep cuts in emissions. It's up to the politicians to deliver the deal that the evidence so clearly shows we need."
Sian Berry, Green candidate for London Mayor, 2008
Invest in railways, buses and home insulation as part of a green new deal
"We need to show that a fair agreement won't mean sacrificing jobs by building a genuine Green New Deal: strategic investment in the low-carbon infrastructure we'll need to reach our targets. This doesn't just mean hi-tech kit. The most impressive savings can be made much closer to home. Measures like new local rail lines, running more buses and – most effective and best value – cutting waste by insulating homes and replacing old boilers with more efficient models."
Dr Zhengrong Shi, Solar-cell scientist and businessman
Persuade China and the United States to lead the world
"The most important step toward an effective solution to climate change is for China and the US to commit to specific and meaningful reductions in carbon emissions. The mechanism for doing this is far less important than setting targets and applying severe penalties for not meeting them. With the US and China in the lead, the rest of the world will quickly follow; without them, we will continue to pontificate while the world's climate continues to deteriorate."
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Richmond, Surrey
Act on the solutions we have, such as micro-generation of energy
"We need tough targets for emissions reductions, mechanisms for helping poorer countries adapt, and a formula for putting real value on forests so they are worth more standing than destroyed. We don't need to pin our hopes on technologies that don't yet exist. Almost everything that needs doing is already being done somewhere."
Daryl Hannah, Actress and dedicated eco-campaigner
Abandon nuclear power in favour of renewable, clean energy
"We need to focus on truly renewable, regenerative, clean energy – that is not nuclear power, folks! Since more energy hits the Earth from the Sun in one hour than all other forms of energy man uses in an entire year, we should be putting our financial and mental resources toward developing community-based solar and solar-thermal projects. We could also employ micro-hydro and vertical-wind turbines. Our highest goal should be energy and resource conservation."
Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Head of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change
We need a zero-carbon electricity supply by 2025
"Decarbonising the electricity supply is the number one [priority] throughout the world. We've got to move by 2025 or so to an almost zero-carbon electricity supply, probably first in the developed world, but then in the developing world. We have to be incredibly miserly with the energy we use and we have to think of producing energy with as near zero-carbon emissions to the atmosphere as we can."
Professor Sir John Houghton, Founder, the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research
Foot the annual $150bn-plus bill for helping developing countries tackle climate change
"Rich countries must commit to reducing their emissions by at least 25 to 40 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020. They must develop low-carbon economies at home and provide much needed finance for poor countries to adapt to climate change and to help them develop in a sustainable, low-carbon way. Developing countries need at least $150bn a year for adaptation and emissions cuts. It is essential that this money is found."
Rhian Kelly, Head of Climate Change, CBI
Make a 50 per cent global cut in emissions by 2050 to stimulate low-carbon markets
"Provide business certainty by setting long-term emissions reduction targets for 2050 of a 50 per cent global reduction. There should also be medium-term targets for 2020. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently said that if you get an ambitious deal at Copenhagen it will create global markets for low-carbon goods and environment services of £4.5trn by 2015. We need to build a global price of carbon. We need to establish a global carbon market."
Fazlun Khalid, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences
Reduce personal energy use by 10 per cent
"While those ahead in the race are able to create more money to stay ahead, those behind engage in an almost impossible game of catch-up. The victim of this game is planet Earth and climate change is the result. We are all as much part of the solution as we are of the problem. If each of us can reduce our energy consumption by 10 per cent we would make a significant contribution to reducing the negative effects of climate change."
Sir David King, Former chief scientific adviser to the British Government
Avoid rushing to do a deal on carbon trading
"What we need is a robust process that doesn't have unintended consequences. My fear is that a developed world carbon trading scheme has this big consequence of carbon leakage. I would much rather we didn't reach an agreement at Copenhagen in December because I'm afraid that any agreement that's on the cards is totally inadequate,. I would be much happier to see an agreement reached by December next year.
Christine Loh, International adviser to the G8+5 Climate Change Dialogue
Follow the scientific evidence when coming up with policies to tackle climate change
"Humans are bargaining with each other, but ignoring the planet. What humans can do to reduce emissions is one thing, but if planetary boundaries are breached we are all imperiled. The planet needs to be represented – this is the job of science, and it is against the latest scientific evidence that the world needs to look at proposals, such as G8's to aim to cut emissions in half from 1990 levels by 2050."
James Lovelock, Inventor of the Gaia theory
Spend half our effort against climate change to prepare for the worst
"The Earth is in a pretty poor state, and likely to go on changing whatever we do and if that's true the most important job for governments to do is to prepare adaptation. Our own government should be making sure that protection against disastrous flooding, say, of London, is in place in time. The sensible thing to do is prepare for the worst, to spend half your effort doing that, just in case, as an insurance."
Wangari Maathai, Nobel prize-winning Kenyan sustainable development activist
Help developing countries go to low-carbon economies
"It should be a serious commitment that is translated into action at a national level. That means allocating resources to effect the agreements. In many countries they don't have the technology or the capital to make that low carbon economy happen, so they will need help from developed countries that are partly responsible for the problem. I hope this will be seen not so much as charity but as a justice issue."
Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive director, Scientists for Global Responsibility
Slash the $1.5trn a year on military budgets – spend it on fighting climate change
"Energy use is the biggest source of carbon emissions, and we need a revolution in the sector to cut emissions enough to prevent dangerous climate change. With the world's governments spending a massive $1.5trn a year on military activities, a good way of releasing the money and skills would be by slashing these budgets. Given that climate change, if unchecked, will undermine global security, this makes sense from both an environmental and a security perspective."
Jonathon Porritt, Former chair of Sustainable Development Commission
Create a climate-change fund for developing countries
"Agree a new fund to help developing countries, to be designed and managed by the poor world as well as the rich world a significant percentage needs to be reserved for a new deal on deforestation. If countries like Brazil and Indonesia are able to confirm their willingness to do a deal this would represent a massive breakthrough. All OECD countries must acknowledge responsibility for today's climate crisis, and confirm their commitment to dramatic reductions in emissions by 2020."
Professor Stephen Schneider, Nobel prizewinning climatologist at Stanford University
Don't rely on 'cap and trade' – invest in green technology and energy efficiency too
"Cap and trade is only part of a comprehensive climate protection strategy. Other elements include performance standards – energy efficiency – investment incentives for green technology, and adaptation assistance for those having difficulty in coping with climate impacts. With the whole world watching at Copenhagen it will be hard for individual countries to try to block international progress in protecting the planetary commons unnoticed."
Dr Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
Go organic globally and abandon factory farming
"Most methane and CO2 production comes from an industrialised, globalised agriculture system. The single biggest step that could be taken to reduce emissions – while improving our food systems, protecting farmers' livelihoods, and creating climate resilience – is to go organic on a global scale. That would mean the huge subsidies the government spends on chemical fertilisers wouldn't have to be spent, instead they could support the farmers to make the transition."
Julia Stephenson, Green activist and columnist
Make it cheaper for people to 'do the right thing'
"I would like the Copenhagen Summit to set out financial incentives to encourage us to live a thriftier – ie greener – lifestyle. The carrot works better than the stick, so governments should emphasise that going green means saving money, and implement a raft of incentives to help, like pay as you throw make rail travel cheaper. At the moment it is left to individuals to do the right thing. Currently, doing the right thing is expensive, and often inconvenient."
Ianukula Kaiabi Suia, President of ATIX, an indigenous organisation in Mato Grosso, Brazil
Include indigenous people in the Copenhagen negotiations and go back to nature
"When rulers of countries talk of international agreements to end man's devastating effect on nature they should look at us and see what hasn't been destroyed, and appreciate that in spite of all the enormous scientific progress the knowledge of traditional peoples represents the best way for man to co-exist with nature. The indigenous peoples want to be included when drafting agreements, because it is from the forests and the waters of their protected territories that the world sees hope."

No green shoots for poor countries

As the West's economies start to recover, next week's G20 summit must remember its promises to the neediest
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Almost six months after they met in London amid headlines warning of another Great Depression, G20 leaders could be forgiven a sense of quiet satisfaction. In contrast to the frenzied atmosphere at the ExCel Centre in Docklands in April, next week's summit in Pittsburgh will be held amid growing evidence of "green shoots" and cautious optimism that the worst of the recession is over.
Gordon Brown and other G20 leaders deserve credit for their April agreement to pump money into the global economy. But while the outlook is brighter for the rich and emerging economies that make up the G20, the same cannot be said of large swathes of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Poor countries hit by falling trade, investment and remittances show little or no sign of recovery. Crucially, their governments cannot borrow to stimulate their economies in the way Brown, Barack Obama and other G20 leaders have done. Oxfam analysis shows that government budgets in Sub-Saharan Africa will be $70bn (£43bn) worse off this year as a result of the crisis. That's $70bn less to spend on schools, medicines and helping their economies back to health.
Tragically, it is the people who need help most who are in danger of being left behind by the nascent global recovery – "left in the burning house", to borrow the colourful phrase of Robert Zoellick, the president of the World Bank. People in poor countries who lose their incomes have none of the safety nets that we fall back on when times are hard. There is no unemployment benefit; free health care is an exception rather than a rule; and support to help the unemployed back to work is non-existent. To make matters worse, the economic crisis arrived at a time when poor countries were already struggling to cope with a sharp increase in food prices and the droughts, floods and food shortages linked to climate change. The combined impact of these triple crises can be devastating. Put simply, the cost of living in these countries has increased just when fewer people are able to afford it. Progress towards reducing poverty is not only under threat; it could go into reverse.
According to the World Bank, 50 million more people will be pushed into extreme poverty during 2009. The UN warns that the number struggling to survive on less than 76p a day could top 100 million. The number of hungry people will rise to more than 1 billion this year – that's twice the population of the EU. Oxfam estimates that by 2015, 375 million people every year will be affected by climate-related disasters. These statistics should be enough to shake even the most complacent of G20 leaders. But with low-income countries only guests at the G20 and the media focusing largely on domestic recovery and bankers' bonuses, Oxfam is concerned that the needs of poor people will be relegated to the sidelines.
Poor countries need decisive action. The G20 has delivered less than half of the £30bn it promised for poor countries at the London summit, according to a report just published by the European Network on Debt and Development. At the same time, the G8, with the UK a notable exception, has failed to deliver on its aid promises. President Obama made a commitment in July that G20 finance ministers would come up with a funding package to help poor countries cope with climate change. Yet when the ministers met in London earlier this month, the subject
merited only a single line in the communiqué. While reports suggest that the US is the stumbling block to a deal on emissions reductions, the insistence of Germany and others that climate change money can be taken from aid also undermines help for developing countries. Poor people should not be protected from floods at the expense of schooling for their children or medicines for the sick. But despite the political wrangling, the G20 has a real opportunity to show the world it is serious about helping poor countries through these crises.
The G8 made an important start by promising $20bn to promote food security in developing countries. Although some of the money was recycled, it marked a welcome recognition of the importance of investing in agriculture in poor countries.
Given the continuing job losses and the threat of public-service cuts in the UK and other G20 countries it is perhaps not the easiest time to be asking taxpayers for more money to help the poor. But that does not mean there is nothing that can be done. Outrage among voters in rich countries has helped push the G20 to crack down on tax havens and recover lost revenue. But this has been based on bilateral deals that do not benefit poor countries. The G20 has now promised to examine a multilateral agreement that could help developing countries collect an extra $160bn from firms that use havens to evade taxes.
Momentum is also building for a currency transaction tax (popularly known as the Tobin tax), which has won the recent backing of Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Adair Turner, the head of the UK Financial Services Authority. A levy of just 0.005 per cent on every currency transaction could raise between $30-50bn a year for development. When you think that the total annual amount spent on aid is $120bn, it is clear that this could make a massive difference to poor people. At a time of anger against the banks, this could also be a rare example of a popular tax. Unfortunately the understandable push to cap bankers' bonuses is in danger of obscuring the needs of the poor. Surely if anyone is deserving of a bonus it is those in Bolivia, Bangladesh and Burundi who are suffering as a result of greed on Wall Street and in the City of London. To stand a chance of success, this proposal needs Anglo-Saxon backing. It is a chance for Brown to show that during tough times he is prepared to put the needs of the many above the interests of the few.
On climate, rich countries need to grasp the nettle. Poor countries need $50bn to protect themselves from extreme events and long-term changes in the weather linked to climate change. And they need a further $100bn to control their own emissions. Brown has spoken out about the need for finance while other world leaders have kept silent. Delivering on President Obama's promise would be in rich countries' interests. As Lord Stern clearly showed, failure to tackle climate change will devastate not just poor countries but the whole global economy. An estimated 20 per cent of global economic output could be wiped out forever, making this year's recession look like merely a bad day at the office. Poor countries that are already suffering the effects of climate change they did not cause cannot be expected to sign up to a deal that does not address their needs.
We are running out of time to strike a deal that will keep global warming below the C increase that would trigger catastrophic climate change. The G20 leaders can act to unblock negotiations in time to strike a deal in Copenhagen in December. Having avoided one potential rerun of the Great Depression, the G20 needs to act smartly to avert another.
Phil Bloomer is campaigns and policy director of Oxfam

Companies’ heads in the sand over cuts in emissions

Tricia Holly Davis
SOME of the world’s largest companies are failing to plan for the longer-term impact of climate change, according to an influential report that will be published tomorrow.
The sixth annual survey of the world’s top 500 companies by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) will show that only a fraction have a blueprint to cut their level of greenhouse gas emissions beyond the next two years.
The CDP is a non-profit firm backed by institutional investors. The survey asks companies to reveal their emission levels, how they plan to reduce their emissions, and the potential business risks and opportunities related to climate change.
The CDP then scores companies based on the breadth and sophistication of their responses, such as whether companies measure supply-chain and business travel emissions in addition to direct operational emissions.
This year, for the first time, the CDP will include a performance index that measures how companies are putting their stated environmental plans into action. The findings of the report suggest a correlation between disclosure and performance.
This year, 82% of the global 500 responded to the survey. Of these, only 169 firms reported any kind of emissions reduction target and only a third of those outlined plans to cut emissions beyond 2012.
The report will suggest that businesses seem to be keeping their heads down and getting by with minimum effort. Of the firms with plans to cut their emissions, many have targets of less than 2.5% a year. Climate-change experts say businesses should be aiming for a minimum 4% annual reduction to put them in line with national targets to remove 80% of emissions from the atmosphere by 2050.
Companies’ reluctance to plan beyond 2012 is in line with the expiry of the 1997 Kyoto treaty on climate change, which capped the emissions of the industrialised nations.
“Companies are concerned about being adversely affected by new policies so they are waiting to see what governments do before they make any long-term plans and investments,” said Alan McGill of Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accountancy group that co-wrote the new report.
Sak Nayagam of Accenture, the consultancy and technology services company, said: “The findings demonstrate that most businesses still don’t see how being green translates to their bottom line.”
The CDP survey is entirely voluntary, but is the most comprehensive source on what companies are doing to tackle climate change.
Today companies are not required to disclose their environmental impact, but this is likely to change. Under the Climate Change Act, the government has until October 1 to publish guidelines on how companies should report on their greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses believe that eventually the government will make it compulsory for companies to issue an environmental report in the same way that they must disclose their financial figures.
“This is the only way to ensure that businesses’ climate-change targets are in line with national policy,” said Neil Harris of Cisco. His company gave carbon reporting responsibility to its finance team earlier this year in anticipation of the government’s action.
Though the findings of the report may be disappointing, they are well-timed. The United Nations climate-change meeting begins this week in New York. Officials will discuss what industries are likely to be affected by new emission reduction targets and how to stabilise the price of carbon so that it discourages pollution and entices investment in green products and services.
A syndicate of 500 companies brought together by the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change will issue a call for action to coincide with the UN event. Later this week G20 leaders meeting in Pittsburgh will discuss how governments could pay for the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Decisions made at these meetings will be taken to the UN climate-change convention in Copenhagen in December, which is expected to produce a successor to the Kyoto agreement.

Chinese start carbon-trading scheme

From The Sunday Times
Tricia Holly Davis
China will throw down the gauntlet to western economies and businesses on climate change when it unveils its own emissions-trading scheme this week.
The unexpected move will, for the first time, place limits on the amount of greenhouse gases Chinese industries are allowed to emit.
A delegation from the China Beijing Environmental Exchange, a government-backed platform for trading environmental equity, will outline the details in New York this week at a UN conference on climate change.
China’s entry into the carbon-trading market holds significant implications for businesses and the environment.
The People’s Republic is the world’s largest polluter, accounting for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to the increasing energy demands resulting from industrialisation, China could be responsible for a third of emissions by 2030.
As a result, it dominates the supply side of the global carbon-trading market. Carbon credits are earned from the creation of environmental projects, generally in developing countries.
If China installs a scheme to cap the emissions of its industries, it would create huge demand for new environmental projects, significantly increasing the value of the market.

Japan eyes mandatory cap-and-trade in 2011/12-Nikkei

Reuters, Sunday September 20 2009
TOKYO, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Japan's new government wants to introduce a compulsory cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions as early as the year to March 2012, the Nikkei business daily said on Sunday.
The scheme would be a key part of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's goal to cut such emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, the paper reported on its website without citing sources.
A government panel on the environment is likely to discuss the plan at a meeting later on Sunday, the paper said.
Under the scheme, the government would issue emissions quotas to companies. Firms emitting less than their quotas would be able to sell the surplus, the Nikkei said.
Hatoyama's Democratic Party has said the 25 percent emissions target -- tougher than the last administration's -- is needed for Japan to play a bigger negotiating role at U.N.-backed climate talks in Copenhagen in December, so that emerging nations such as China and India join a new climate pact that goes beyond 2012.
But the new government's emissions target faces resistance from industry as Japan emerges from its deepest postwar recession.
Emissions in Japan, the world's fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, rose 2.3 percent to a record in the year to March 2008, putting the country 16 percent above its Kyoto Protocol target. (Editing by Dean Yates)

Warren Buffett in UK wind bid

Danny Fortson and Ben Marlow
AMERICAN investor Warren Buffett is considering making a £1 billion bet on Britain’s green energy revolution.
The government wants to make Britain the world’s largest offshore wind energy generator, but the plans require hundreds of miles of undersea cables to bring the electricity ashore to the national grid.
The network is expected to cost more than £12 billion and regulator Ofgem has launched an auction for the rights to build and maintain it.
Under the first phase, investors have been invited to bid on the connections for nine offshore farms that are built or planned, including the London Array off the Kent coast.
Mid-American Energy, owned by Buffett, is among those through to the qualification stage and is expected to bid on a 20-year deal to build and maintain the networks.
Others include National Grid, Scottish and Southern Energy, RWE, Norway’s Statkraft, Dong of Denmark, and infrastructure investors Macquarie, Transmission Capital and IFM.
The auction is expected to raise £1.15 billion. Information memoranda will be sent out the week after next by RBC Capital Markets, which is running the auction. Two larger auctions covering future networks will be launched after next summer’s sales.

Gordon Brown bids to secure Siemens wind turbine plant

Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson want Siemens involvement to boost Britain's green revolution after Vestas fiasco
Terry Macalister
The Observer, Sunday 20 September 2009
Gordon Brown is wooing the boss of Europe's largest engineering group in a desperate attempt to secure a major new wind turbine plant and reinvigorate the UK's stuttering "green" energy strategy.
The prime minister will meet Peter Löscher, chief executive of Siemens, in the next two weeks to reassure him that Britain can offer an attractive financial package and genuine market growth.
Last week, the UK government gave Siemens £1.1m to help it develop a new offshore wind power "converter" alongside a £4.5m grant to smaller rival, Clipper Wind Power, which is researching new prototype blades for the North Sea.
But a greater commitment from Siemens is a much larger prize because the company is the world leader in offshore turbine manufacture. Siemens is one of a number of companies, including GE and Mitsubishi, to have been linked with a possible new British wind factory.
Brown and Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, want to bring in a big name in the wake of losing the Vestas plant on the Isle of Wight, a public relations disaster that undermined UK claims to be leading the clean energy revolution.
Siemens confirmed the Löscher meeting, while the head of its wind division made clear that Britain would need to meet various conditions before it was chosen over alternative locations.
René Umlauft, chief executive of Siemens Offshore Wind, said one of the most important aspects was seeing what came out of the Round 3 deep water licensing, which is expected to be announced shortly.
He denied any factory was dependent on Siemens being awarded a licence, for which its financial arm has applied, but it needed to know there would be plenty of new customers.
"We are looking at two locations [for factories] in the UK, one in Denmark and one in Germany. Great Britain has the advantage of Round 3, which could result in a huge market," he explained.
The two factory sites in Britain, include one in the north east – ringfenced as a "low carbon economic area", while a second plant is thought to be in East Anglia.
Umlauf says he has at least 12 months to make up his mind, but insiders said they expected to see a decision much earlier if the company got what it wanted out of government.

Green dream rises from the ‘dustbin of Leeds’

Ben Marlow
THE eight-storey block of flats in Beeston, West Yorkshire, had become a virtual no-go area because of the drunks and muggers that lurked round the run-down estate.
After nearly 10 years lying derelict and boarded up, the tower block known by locals as the “dustbin of Leeds”, is about to get a new lease of life under plans to make it into one of the country’s biggest green housing projects.
Shaftesbury House is being transformed into one of the country’s first zero-carbon residential schemes with nearly 200 apartments that will produce more energy than they use.
It has been renamed the Greenhouse, and Citu, a local developer, with backing from Co-operative Bank and Leeds city council, is creating one of the most environmentally friendly UK housing projects, as well as one of the most high-tech and affordable. It is due for completion next year.
“There is a misconception that to be green you can’t embrace technology or you have to sacrifice your standard of living, but we want to prove this is wrong. With our development you will still be able to do the things you enjoy doing,” said Chris Thompson of Citu.
Residents will be able to turn on their television and see their energy consumption translated into carbon emissions plus the cost in pounds, something that has not been implemented before.
“The average person has no idea what his energy consumption is,” said Thompson.
Citu claims each apartment in the £27m part-restoration, part new-build scheme, a 10-minute walk from Leeds city centre, will save one tonne of carbon each year and 25,000 litres of water compared with the typical British home — equivalent to a total saving of 169 tonnes of carbon and 3.8m litres of water a year — making it about 60% more efficient than the average new-build.
A range of energy-saving measures has been employed, including wind turbines and solar panels, and a heat transfer system that regulates the temperature naturally.
There are also plans to build a nearby 320ft wind turbine that would be one of the biggest structures in Leeds.
Thompson and Leeds council hope the project will help to regenerate the area. Citu chose Beeston because it had excellent local facilities such as a school, sports centre, shops and community centre.
“At first local people were sceptical but they are on board now they understand what we are trying to,” he said.
Services such as an electric car club, a bike-by-the-hour service and allotments are all aimed at promoting a sense of community, as is the strict policy of no buy-to-let landlord owners.
“We are not allowing buy-to-let landlords because it makes the tenants more transient — it is much harder to create sustainable living if people are constantly coming and going,” said Thompson.
He hopes the scheme will become a model for green housing at a time when the government is pressing for more eco-friendly housing.
The Code for Sustainable Homes provides a rating on a scale of 1 to 6, and under government plans all homes should be at least a 3 by 2010 and a 6 by 2016. Today there are fewer than 150 units in the UK with a 4 rating.
The Greenhouse will more than double that number.

Plan now for storms in 2020

Andrew Sniderman and Jonathan Leake
The Met Office, under fire for its “barbecue summer” predictions, is setting up an early-warning system for businesses and governments on long-term changes in temperature, rainfall and storm frequency.
It already produces a range of short-term forecasts aimed at the week ahead, plus seasonal ones that predict the weather over the next few months. For the much longer term, its Hadley Centre for Climate Change in Exeter produces predictions over several decades.
The new service is designed to help businesses make decisions on infrastructure and other investments on time scales of one to ten years, and could also influence insurance rates, the location of power lines and housing design.
Matt Huddleston, principal consultant for climate change at the Met Office, said: “Lots of companies are letting long-term changes in the weather hit their bottom line. We will make forecasts relevant to most businesses’ strategic plans.”
He expects the insurance and finance industries to become big clients. Their fortunes are linked to the number and intensity of floods in Britain, winter storms on the Continent and tropical storms in America. In 2005, Lloyd’s insurers in London lost £2.9 billion in claims from the three largest storms in the Atlantic.
The Met Office hopes the purchase of new supercomputers that can generate improved climate models will put it back at the forefront of global weather and climate forecasting. It also points out that the summer of 2009 was indeed warmer than average but, annoyingly, it was also much wetter.
Vicky Pope, head of climate-change advice at the Met Office, said the global service would deal with “probabilities, not certainties”. She said: “The new service will never be able to predict the date and time of a tropical storm long in advance, but it would say whether such events were more likely.” She said the service would also be available in developing countries without advanced meteorological tools at their disposal.
Rowan Douglas at Willis Re, a re-insurance broker, said that if it proved accurate, the Met Office’s climate service could transform the insurance industry’s ability to allow for increases in weather-related claims.

Greenhouse effects: Bakfietsen

Tony Juniper

During a visit to Amsterdam a few years ago, I spotted the locals trundling around on exciting-looking bikes that had a huge wooden cargo bay on the front. Some people had their shopping in the cargo part, while others had a couple of children sitting on a bench in there. The bike is called a bakfiets. I had to get one.
I was on the verge of making a special trip to the Netherlands to track one down when I discovered that a local company was importing them — so I got one from there instead. There are now dealers scattered across the country (for details, visit
Ours is bright yellow, and is a wonderful way to cut out some car use while taking exercise. They are ideal for the school run, with straps provided to keep small children in position. Bakfietsen are also great for shopping and, when full, remain remarkably stable. With a seven-speed hub, built-in lights and a really comfortable Dutch-style riding position, they are easy to use, even when loaded. The long wheelbase takes a bit of getting used to, though. The longer version is 2.55 metres; a shorter one comes in at 30cm less.
Lots of families in Amsterdam lock theirs to railings outside the house, but given the high rates of bike theft in many areas, it’s best to have a secure place to keep it. The exposed metal on a bakfiets is stainless steel, so it doesn’t rust. Ours has spent a couple of years living in our back garden and shows no ill effects.
There are various accessories you can get, including a transparent cover to go over the children on wet days.
If you want to increase your range and save your legs, you can get it fitted with an electric motor. A charged battery can take the machine about 20 miles.
Bakfietsen are not cheap, however, and with the pound so weak against the euro, things have got worse — a new one now sells for just over £1,500. If the bike lasts 10 years, though — and it should manage a lot more than that — then the economics look a little more attractive. There are inexpensive Chinese copies on the market, but they are generally regarded as of inferior quality compared with the original Dutch design.
Tony Juniper is an environmental campaigner and former director of Friends of the Earth;