Monday, 21 September 2009

Climate Change to Take Center Stage at U.N. Talks

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama promised strong action on climate change from his first day in office, but he is heading into a series of meetings with other world leaders this month under growing pressure to deliver on his rhetoric.
More than 100 world leaders, including Mr. Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, are scheduled to meet Tuesday at the 64th United Nations General Assembly to talk about fighting climate change, in a prelude to the Pittsburgh Group of 20 meetings starting Thursday.
Also on the Agenda, Missiles and the Middle East
The United Nations General Assembly comes at a pivotal time for big issues on its agenda, including climate-change rules and Mideast negotiations. It is also notable for a number of potentially awkward encounters among leaders embroiled in their own controversies.
President Barack Obama hosts lunch for sub-Saharan African leaders, focusing on how the U.S. can work with Africa on job creation, boosting trade and mobilizing agriculture.
Mr. Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas amid stalled progress on Mideast peace talks.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Mr. Obama meet, amid disagreements on trade issues and over possible new sanctions on Iran.
Wednesday Sept. 23

Turmoil surrounds Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Wednesday.
President Obama addresses assembly for the first time, crossing paths with the next speaker, Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi. The U.S. recently excoriated Libya over its jubilant reception for the released Lockerbie bomber. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, under fire after Scotland's decision to release the bomber, is also scheduled to speak.
Among the heavy roster of leaders speaking at the assembly are Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who faces controversy at home over allegations about his private life, and Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a June coup. Also on the list is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as unrest over his recent election continues.
Mr. Obama meets with new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, whose election marked a sea change in the country's political leadership.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Mr. Obama meet, close on the heels of the U.S. decision to scrap plans for long-range missile interceptors in Europe.
The Obamas host an evening reception for world leaders at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
Thursday Sept. 24

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, above, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are to attend a meeting of the "quartet" of Mideast mediators on Thursday.
Mr. Obama leads a Security Council meeting on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. A U.S. council resolution makes no overt mention of North Korea or Iran. Among those at the table: the U.K.'s Mr. Brown and Libya's Col. Gadhafi.
Two-day conference begins on a comprehensive ban of nuclear testing, aimed at making progress on a treaty already adopted by the U.N. General Assembly and ready for signature since 1996.
U.N. Secretary–General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the European Union's foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov—representing the 'quartet' of international mediators on the Middle East—meet.
Second annual Friends of Pakistan summit, hosted by Mr. Obama, Mr. Brown and Pakistan's While the talk will be about the environment, the substance will be about money. Poor nations say that if rich nations want them to stop burning coal or cutting down forests, they should be willing to pay.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made global warming a focus, and he is worried that the meeting won't move the ball forward toward a new global climate-change treaty in Copenhagen this December to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
"We want world leaders to show they understand the gravity of climate risks, as well as the benefits of acting now," Mr. Ban said. "We want them to publicly commit to sealing a deal in Copenhagen."
While he said Tuesday's closed-door meeting was "not a negotiation forum," Mr. Ban said he expected the leaders to "to give their negotiating teams marching orders to accelerate progress toward an...ambitious global climate agreement."
China has proposed that developed nations contribute 1% of gross domestic product to subsidize efforts by poorer nations to cut carbon-dioxide emissions. That translates to more than $140 billion for the U.S. alone. U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern says the Chinese proposal is "untethered from reality."
Separately, China is trying to establish a voluntary market to encourage companies and individuals to reduce emissions. China Beijing Environment Exchange is scheduled to launch the country's first voluntary carbon standard in New York on Wednesday.
Mr. Obama's administration has begun to act on its own to cut emissions. Last week, the administration rolled out details of its strategy to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from cars. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said the proposal paves the way for regulating emissions from other sources, such as power plants.
But a broad proposal to limit U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions is bogged down in the Senate, with Republicans solidly opposed and Democrats divided. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), said earlier this month that the Senate might delay a vote on climate legislation until next year. A spokesman for Mr. Reid later clarified that the measure could still come to the floor by year end.
Mr. Reid's wavering added to the frustration among countries that had hoped for major progress toward a new global climate deal at the Copenhagen summit.
"Is the U.S. Senate really expecting all the other countries to make a serious effort on climate change at the Copenhagen Conference in the absence of a clear commitment from the United States?" John Bruton, the European Union's ambassador to the U.S., said in a written statement last Thursday. "Asking an international Conference to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position."
Republicans say whatever deal the Obama administration cuts in Copenhagen will likely be dead on arrival in Washington. The gaps between developed and developing nations' demands, they say, are too wide to be bridged.
Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the top Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, predicts "a repeat of Kyoto -- namely an environmentally ineffective agreement that cannot be ratified" by the Senate.
Not everyone is gloomy about the prospects for a deal in Copenhagen. Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's climate and energy minister, says she sees hope in the fact that Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, recently pledged that his country will seek to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020 -- a much bigger cut than the 8% goal set by former Prime Minister Taro Aso.
Still, big differences remain between the U.S. and Europe on fundamental issues, including how quickly rich countries should have to cut their emissions over the next decade or so. While the European Union has pledged to cut its emissions by at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 -- and to increase that reduction to 30% if other major emitters do the same -- the most aggressive proposal in Congress to curb U.S. emissions calls for a 4% reduction beneath 1990 levels by 2020.—Joe Lauria and Carolyn Cui contributed to this article.

Barack Obama to renew US climate change commitment at UN summit

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, Sunday 20 September 2009 23.28 BST
Barack Obama will renew his commitment to green America's economy and join international action on global warming in a speech to the United Nations climate change summit on Tuesday.
The appearance is a chance to offer much needed assurances to nearly 100 world leaders that the president can deliver on his promise for early action on climate change – now that the issue has taken second place to health care in the Senate.
The delay has added to uncertainty that the Senate will move forward on a bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before the crucial climate change summit at Copenhagen in December.
The house of representatives narrowly passed a climate change bill last June that would cut emissions by about 6% below 1990 levels, and the Obama administration has used its powers to cut car emissions and encourage the creation of green jobs.
But negotiators fear the low target and the delay on moving the bill forward give the emerging big polluters – India and China – a convenient excuse to avoid firm commitments on reducing their own emissions.
Do not expect any bold action from Obama on Tuesday – either on a target for cutting US emissions or the other big issue in the way of a Copenhagen deal: climate finance. Poor countries are frustrated that the US and other industrialised states have not been clear on aid to help the developing world cope with rising sea levels and extreme temperatures of climate change – the other big issue in the way of a Copenhagen deal.
Coming out too strong – especially in an international forum – could provoke a backlash that would make it even harder for Obama to carry out his green agenda.

Obama goes into this massive week besieged by the agitprop machine

More than ever, domestic politics impact on foreign policy. The fate of the Middle East may rest on US healthcare reforms

Michael Tomasky, Sunday 20 September 2009 21.00 BST

From the frontlines of my bewildering country, where a good third of the people seem to believe that global warming is a socialist plot cooked up to ensure America's future enslavement to someone or another, there is actually some good news to report. With the arrival this week of the United Nations summit on climate change, I can tell you that we're already doing a little better than you might suspect.
We've seen, according to a guest essay in yesterday's Washington Post, a dramatic 9% reduction in carbon emissions in just the last two years. Congress passed pretty strong new auto emissions standards in 2007, and just last week the Obama administration moved to toughen them further. Coal plants are closing. Wind farms are popping up. Solar cell installations – driven by federal, state and local tax incentives for homeowners and commercial real-estate developers – are up 40% in just a year. There are even signs that Americans are wrapping their heads around the idea of buying smaller cars.
So there is good news. We're not all flat-earthers.
But I will be straight with you. The United States is unlikely to be the nation that blazes the trail toward a bold new future in Copenhagen at the world gathering in December. And Barack Obama, though he may well deliver a stirring speech to the general assembly on Tuesday , is unlikely, at least at this point in his tenure, to be the leader who sets the example for the rest of the world to meet on new emission standards. The reason can be summed up in two words: domestic politics.
I'll explain exactly why, but first it's worth remarking that this is a comparatively new dynamic in the US. It used to be that there was a kind of a wall between domestic and foreign policy. A president's domestic policy difficulties had an impact on his foreign policy initiatives only in rare cases. Ronald Reagan's domestic policies were always hotly contended, and – it's little remembered now – he was fairly unpopular in 1982 and 1983, when the economy was in recession. He was under 50% in March 1983, when he delivered his famous "evil empire" speech about the Soviet Union. He used that speech, as presidents often have, to regain some momentum and trust.
Obama may be able to do the same this week and next at the UN summit and the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, but things are different now from what they were in Reagan's time. Obama faces a highly ideological rightwing media and pressure-group apparatus that is out to ensure he fails at everything he tries to do.
Yes, Reagan faced opposition, often quite tough, as all presidents have. But there were no 24/7 agitprop machines in those days like there are now, no virtually bottomless supply of corporate millions pouring into non-profit advocacy groups. This is different. Politics never stops.
Look at the healthcare debate. There is, to be sure, genuine and legitimate anxiety among many Americans about how reform will affect them. Their concerns are strictly about healthcare. But the professionally co-ordinated opposition to Obama's reform efforts is not merely about healthcare reform. It's about stripping away his legitimacy in more general terms and trying to persuade independent voters to take a jaundiced view of everything he does.
"Whitewater is about healthcare," rightwing radio host Rush Limbaugh famously said in April 1994, when the Clinton reform efforts were being judged by Congress. What he meant was that pumping the real-estate "scandal" (on which no one ever proved the Clintons did a thing wrong) was the way to keep alive questions about the Clintons' honesty, openness and trustworthiness. We can't quantify the impact the Whitewater matter had on the reform's failure that year, but the clouds that hung over the Clintons were certainly a factor.
Today's version of Limbaugh's statement might be: "Kenya is about healthcare." That is, the whisper campaign (wait, did I say whisper? Is there such a thing as a screeching campaign?) that Obama isn't really a citizen of the US is about a broader effort to tarnish him as a legitimate leader and make voters feel he isn't one of them. And let's face it. Obama being not only America's first black president, but also a northern, urban, cosmopolitan intellectual does give his opponents some material to work with.
That's our current situation in the US. Nothing is beyond the bounds of fierce ideological politics. And with regard to the specific issue of climate change, there is a legitimate substantive issue as well, which is that it's not only a foreign policy matter. It's a domestic issue too, and dealing with it in any honest way will in fact cost money, whether in the form of taxes or rate hikes. A lot of us are willing to pay them to deal with the problem. But a lot of others aren't.
The original goal was for Obama to sign the "cap and trade" legislation – it passed the House of Representatives but awaits action in the Senate – just before Copenhagen so that he or his designated plenipotentiary could show up there waving it triumphantly. Not going to happen. In fact, it's doubtful at this point that the Senate will ever pass it. If you've been reading this newspaper or any other about the Senate's role in the healthcare fracas, I trust you do not need me to explain why.
So, dramatic US action on climate change is one of those things that is just going to have to wait awhile. Healthcare is taking up all the oxygen right now. Assuming, as still seems likely, that it passes, the odds that the White House will get legislators – who'll already be skittish about how changes to the healthcare system might impact on their re-election chances – to swallow another big pill like that are slim indeed.
In the meantime, the foreign policy realm doesn't exactly present itself as a garden of potential triumphs. Afghanistan is a necessary mess, but a mess all the same. The Middle East proceeds in its normal, dismal fashion. Obama will meet with Binyamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas tomorrow as well, but US envoy George Mitchell has had no luck in recent weeks trying to persuade Netanyahu to compromise on the settlements.
This bring us to another important point about the agitprop machine. One of the points is to drive Obama's numbers down. That happened over the summer. Just lately, he's been rebounding a bit, up to the mid-50s in two polls last week. But 55% isn't 69%, which is where he once was. Netanyahu and Abbas – and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – can read polls too, and you better believe they do. In the current American climate, the weaker a president is at home, the weaker he becomes on the world stage. Thus a healthcare defeat would have dreadful consequences for the possibility of Middle East peace, an arrangement with the Iranians and various other important priorities.
We're in inch-by-inch political trench warfare in the US, folks. There's an old American aphorism that politics stops at the water's edge, meaning that the squabbles we have over domestic politics should not extend into foreign policy. A conservative senator from the 1940s said it, in fact. He wouldn't find a receptive audience among his descendants today.

Following Mexico's green steps

Mexico's bold approach to climate change is a lesson for Latin American, and the UK can benefit from being closely involved

Chris Bryant, Sunday 20 September 2009 12.00 BST
It has been raining here in Mexico. It's that time of year. But over the last few years, the droughts have been getting worse. And a couple of weeks ago, floods swept through Mexico City. It seems like a contradiction, but often the droughts harden the land so that it can't absorb the heavy rains when they come. And that's when the floods take everything in their wake. The thousands who suffered in the UK from flooding two years ago – including my constituents in the Rhondda – know this only too well.
It's not the only kind of flooding Latin America has to worry about. There are 66 cities in Latin America and the Caribbean that will be flooded if sea levels rise, as predicted, due to climate change. And in the sierras, the problem is compounded with millions depending for clean water and hydroelectric power on glaciers that are melting away.
That is why I'm in Mexico: to see how they are tackling the problem of dangerous climate change and the leadership Mexico is providing across the region.
Like the UK, Mexico recognises the serious threat climate change poses to people's lives. They know that unchecked global warming would seriously damage the progress they have made on poverty, crime and economic development – and that it would prevent tomorrow's generation from reaching their potential.
Mexico has already taken steps to reduce its carbon use. One example I've seen is the introduction of low-emission buses as part of a zero-emissions transport corridor in Mexico City. It's a proposal that the UK has supported and is keen to see work in a city that has traditionally suffered from pollution.
The Mexican government has also proposed the setting up of a Green Fund under the UN. Its aim is to create a finance infrastructure that would provide significant flows of finance to developing countries – enabling them to combat the effects of climate change and continue their economic development.
I believe it's quite right that developed nations support less developed ones to tackle dangerous climate change. This can't be about rich countries telling less-developed countries that they cannot progress. The poorest people stand to lose most if we do not tackle harmful emissions. But we must also recognise the real economic opportunity within the reach of every country, rich or poor, to develop clean, green new technologies and ways of doing business.
The shift that Mexico is making towards a more sustainable economic model is likely to be replicated around the world in the coming years. This presents huge business opportunities for the UK as we emerge from recession.
Britain is known for its cutting-edge scientists, engineers and blue-sky thinkers. Now more than ever, such skills are in demand the world over. UK businesses with vision and ingenuity can be the ones offering low carbon technologies for an increasing number of green collar workers.
But new technology can only be a part of the solution. It would be folly to rely solely on finding a scientific magic wand to make global warming disappear. Dangerous climate change is a global problem that requires a global political solution – which means we must get the right deal in Copenhagen this December.
Countries like Mexico, prepared to take bold steps to cut emissions, are vital if we are to get the deal we all need. Mexico doesn't share the West's historic responsibility for global warming, but knows they share a responsibility to tackle it. This is an approach that we hope others will follow.
In just 80 days' time, the world's leaders will gather in Copenhagen. The deal they reach will be, in effect, a letter to the next generation. Will it be one full of excuses for failing to act, or one that says: "This is what we did to protect your future"?
Earlier this year, leaders like Presidents Calderón of Mexico and Lula of Brazil worked closely to ensure a worldwide package of economic reform and fiscal stimulus which, under Gordon Brown's leadership, steered the global economy away from depression. The same leadership from Latin America is needed in the next two months over climate change.

Environmentalist who wants to unite India's greens to meet UK counterparts

Anisha Ahmed, Sunday 20 September 2009 23.49 BST
A prominent Indian environmentalist will meet leaders of the UK Green party today in his attempt to set up India's first dedicated environmental party.
In a country that tends to put development and growth needs ahead of environmental considerations, Subhas Dutta is known for championing a succession of green causes including saving a renowned green space in Kolkata and forcing the authorities to ban 60,000 old cars from the streets of the West Bengal city.
He will discuss party organisation, issues and finances as well as the dos and don'ts of green politics.
"Green activism in India is localised and scattered in the form of pressure groups in different parts of the country," Dutta told the Guardian. "There is no united green movement."
In a country where almost a third of the billion-strong population live below the poverty line, environmental issues can be a tough sell. Recycling and other household measures to combat climate change are largely anathema. The Indian government has been sceptical about western nations' exhortations on climate change.
But Dutta said that a nascent environmental awareness is emerging.
"People are more environmentally conscious now and eager to fight climate change," he said. "The marriage of my activism and the time-tested policies of the Greens will yield a political party tailored to address the environmental and social needs of a progressive India." He plans to mount a grassroots campaign in rural India to persuade ordinary people of the commercial sense of green choices. Redressing social injustice will also be a significant part of the party's agenda.
Green party MEP Jean Lambert said: "Linking social and environmental concerns makes the latter more accessible. Mr Dutta's proposition is an interesting and positive initiative.
"India needs to keep in mind climate change, especially in the run-up to the Copenhagen convention on the Kyoto protocol. After all, resource efficiency is good business practice."
Dutta, a chartered accountant, spurred the change of venue of Kolkata's celebrated annual book fair to save the patch of green that served as the city's lungs. Another petition saw the banning of old, polluting vehicles to reduce the high levels of air pollution in the city.
Dutta plans to reach out to Indian heavyweights such as former chief election commissioner and politician TN Seshan, the former chief justice Kuldeep Singh, and environmental activists like MC Mehta.
After six months of preparation, he plans to convene a committee of 20-25 members.
Asked if he would contest elections, he said that no office-bearer should stand for elections as it would work against the progress of the party.
A self-described "protester by practice", Dutta said: "Resistance is always viewed negatively. What I want to do is to initiate a positive politics of change. I can't comment on the success or otherwise of the Green party in India, but this is a start."

Gordon Brown urges world leaders to attend Copenhagen climate change talks

• Extra effort needed to end climate talks deadlock• Negotiations are so slow 'deal is in grave danger'
Patrick Wintour, political editor, Sunday 20 September 2009 22.31 BST
Gordon Brown is to urge his fellow world leaders to agree to go personally to the vital UN climate change talks in Copenhagen in December in an attempt to break what is rapidly becoming a dangerous deadlock.
Brown will make his proposals when he joins world leaders in New York and Pittsburgh next week to discuss climate change talks and the world economy.
The UN Copenhagen talks are due to be attended only by environment ministers, but Brown believes the issues are so momentous, so complex and so likely to determine the shape of national economies that the meeting will require the attendance of world leaders in the final set of negotiations in mid-December.
Green groups and his own climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, have been pressing Brown to take the lead and say he is willing to attend the talks.
Writing in Newsweek tomorrow, Brown warns: "The negotiations are proceeding so slowly that a deal is in grave danger." He ups the ante by becoming the first head of government to say he will go to Copenhagen to try to agree a framework on climate change for the post-2012 era when the Kyoto protocol expires.
He writes: "Securing an agreement in Copenhagen will require world leaders to bridge our remaining differences and seize these opportunities. But I believe it can be done. And if it is necessary to clinch the deal, I will personally go to Copenhagen to achieve it."
It is understood he has already been in touch with some world leaders to urge them to make similar pledges.
Brown argues the negotiations are not simply about environmental regulations, saying that "the UN talks are not just about safeguarding the environment, but also about stimulating economic demand and investment".
A No 10 source said tonight: "The talks are not yet deadlocked, but they are not going fast enough. These talks cannot be just left to the official negotiators, and given the consequences of what will be decided for energy prices and economies, they cannot be left only to environment ministers.
"In some countries they simply do not have the authority to make a deal. It is going to need big figures with the authority to direct the talks. None of this can be settled at three in the morning barter."
Rolling negotiations are already underway in the run-up to Copenhagen, including a special session at the UN tomorrow. The developing countries are still demanding the developed countries commit themselves to a large interim carbon emission cuts of 40% by 2020 on 1990 levels, something neither the EU or the Americans have been willing to agree. The new Japanese government has pledged to cut emissions by 25% by 2020.
The developed countries are in turn seeking commitments that countries such as China and India will say what they will do in the medium term to cut their emissions. By 2020, two-thirds of emissions will come from countries now considered developing nations, such as China and India. China counters that it is not a big emitter in per capita terms.
No 10 is hoping that President Hu Jintao of China will make an important statement at the UN on Tuesday in New York at a meeting convened by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.
Developing countries are also demanding more green technology cash than the $100bn (£62bn) a year by 2020 from public and private sources that has so far been proposed by the EU on Brown's initiative. Few industrialised countries have said how much they are willing to contribute to this fund. The developed countries are also demanding to know how the money will be spent. There are also issues of how the post-2012 framework is going to be governed.
Ruth Davis, the RSPB's head of climate change, said: "The prime minister's personal attendance at the Copenhagen summit is extremely welcome news, and shows the necessary commitment world leaders need to display if we are to tackle the greatest threat faced by mankind and the environment."

Such drastic climate therapy could make things worse

Better, perhaps, to let the earth look after itself than try to regulate its system through mirrors, clouds and artificial trees
James Lovelock, Sunday 20 September 2009 22.00 BST

The idea of serious scientists and engineers gathering to discuss schemes for controlling the world's climate would a mere 10 years ago have seemed bizarre, or something from science fiction. But now, well into the 21st century, we are slowly and reluctantly starting to realise that global heating is real. We may have cool, wet summers in the UK, but we are fortunate compared with the Inuit, who see their habitat melting, and Australians and Africans who suffer intensifying heat and drought. We should not be surprised that public policy is edging ever nearer to geoengineering, the therapy our scientists are considering for a fevered planet.
Our senior scientific society, the Royal Society, met at the start of the month to launch the report "Geoengineering the Climate" and to hear from its representative scientists. The meeting was hosted by the president, Lord Rees, and the chairman was Professor John Shepherd, who chaired the study group. The goal, as Prof Shepherd explained in the Guardian in April, was to investigate theories of "intervening directly to engineer the climate system, so as to moderate the rise of temperature" and to "separate the real science from the science fiction".
Geoengineering is about deliberately changing the air, oceans or land surface of the world to offset global heating with the hope of restoring the cooler world we enjoyed in the last century. We are now fairly sure that the Earth has grown hotter by about one degree Celsius as a consequence of our own action in taking away as farmland the forests and other ecosystems that previously acted to keep the Earth cool. We also have increased by 6% the flow of CO2 into the air by burning coal, oil and natural gas. If we started global heating, can we reverse it by engineering?
The first scientist to consider geoengineering seriously was the Russian geophysicist Mikhail Budyko. In the 1970s he proposed that we could offset global heating by spreading in the stratosphere a fine dispersion of particles that reflected sunlight back to space; he based the idea on the observation that volcanic eruptions that did this were followed by global-scale cooling. He suggested that we could mimic the effects of a volcanic eruption by putting an aerosol into the stratosphere. His idea was confirmed by the detailed observations and analysis of the effect of Mount Pinatubo's eruption in 1991. It injected 20m tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere and this soon oxidised to form the white reflecting particles that offset global heating for three years. It is within our capacity to put this much sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere.
There are other ways of reflecting sunlight: large mirrors or diffusers of sunlight put in orbit around the sun. One of the more promising and controllable reflection methods was put forward by John Latham and Stephen Salter, who proposed spraying very fine droplets of sea water from the ocean surface to make the natural surface clouds, called marine stratus, whiter.
As well as cooling by reflecting sunlight away we could cool by removing the carbon dioxide or methane from the air. Klaus Lackner has proposed making artificial trees to do this; others, following the lead of Johannes Lehmann, would sooner see vegetation capture CO2 and then, after harvest, turn the plant waste into charcoal and bury it.
Geoengineering implies that we have an ailing planet that needs a cure. But our ignorance of the Earth system is great; we know little more than an early 19th-century physician knew about the body. Geoengineering is like trying to cure pneumonia by immersing the patient in a bath of icy water; the fever would be cured but not the disease.
Many of us feel a sense of unease about using geoengineering to escape global heating. Most of the planetary therapies have side effects, potentially as severe as the disease itself. We know that the cooling by Pinatubo was accompanied by droughts; cooling alone does nothing to prevent the ocean growing ever more acid as the carbon dioxide dissolves in the water.
Before long, global heating could reach a level that makes geoengineering an enticing option. Indeed, cautiously applied it may help by buying us time either to adapt to climate change or to develop a practical scientific cure. We have, as yet, no comprehensive Earth system science; in such ignorance I cannot help feeling that attempts by us to regulate the Earth's climate and chemistry would condemn humanity to a Kafkaesque fate from which there may be no escape. Better, perhaps, to learn from the wiser physicians of the early 19th century; they knew no cure for common diseases but also knew that by letting nature take its course, the patient often recovered. Perhaps we, too, had better use our energies to adapt and leave recovery to Gaia; after all, she has survived more than three billion years and has kept life going all that time.

No: Alternatives Are Simply Too Expensive

The U.S. and Western Europe can point to a remarkable achievement over the past 40 years: significant reductions in air pollution with only a modest effect on our economic growth and prosperity. So, why can't we expect to do the same with greenhouse-gas emissions?
The Journal Report
See the complete Environment report.
Greenhouse gas isn't a traditional air-pollution problem. It is an energy-use problem, and that makes a world of difference. Traditional air pollution is an unwanted byproduct. Reducing it does not require any constraint on fossil-fuel use. Indeed, over the past few decades, we've doubled consumption of some fossil fuels while making huge cuts in pollution.
Carbon dioxide, however, is the result of complete fuel combustion. Apart from still-unproven technologies, there's no way to remove it from the process. The only way to reduce emissions is to burn less fuel, which means less energy output.
So, to meet the target the climate campaigners have set, the U.S., Europe and Japan will have to replace virtually their entire fossil-fuel energy infrastructure. For the U.S., the 80% target means reducing fossil-fuel greenhouse-gas emissions to a level the nation last experienced in 1910. On a per-capita basis, we'd have to go back to the level of about 1875.
Julian Puckett
Steven Hayward
It is not even clear the goal of replacing fossil fuels can be accomplished at any cost, a point the International Energy Agency raised in its most recent annual energy forecast: "Even leaving aside any debate about the political feasibility of the 450 Policy Scenario, it is uncertain whether the scale of the transformation envisaged is even technically achievable, as the scenario assumes broad deployment of technologies that have not yet been proven. The technology shift, if achievable, would certainly be unprecedented in scale and speed of deployment."
The basic problem is that current and proposed alternatives—solar, wind, biofuels, hydrogen, more nukes—are much more expensive than fossil fuels. Credible estimates for implementing low or noncarbon energy in the U.S. over the next generation start in the low trillions of dollars. Reasonable people will argue how much this will pinch economic growth, but no one can doubt that the sign will be negative.
The Master Resource
Why? Energy is not like other goods that can be substituted or done without. It has rightly been called the master resource, because it is fundamental to everything else in the economy. There are no examples of a nation that grew wealthy on expensive energy.
True, we have a track record of success in this area. Over the past few decades, the U.S. has become more carbon-efficient while boosting its economic growth. But, for all our efforts, emissions keep going up. Hitting the 80% target by 2050 would mean roughly tripling our efficiency improvements and sustaining them for years to come—surely an impossible feat.
Maybe there will be some energy-technology breakthroughs, but even if so the cost to the economy will still be very large. Power plants, refineries and transmission grids are long-lasting assets, so a rapid switch to new technology will mean retiring assets before their useful life is over and diverting trillions in capital from other sectors. It is the equivalent of replacing your car, all of your household appliances, and your roof to boot, before they are worn out. This will obviously affect other consumption significantly.
Some climate campaigners argue for making gradual changes, using methods like trading licenses to produce carbon. But those plans are based on extremely rosy predictions about how much we can achieve and how much they'll cost. The optimistic price estimates in the Waxman-Markey bill, for instance, assume we'll set up an international system to trade offsets. This free market, the thinking goes, will help keep energy costs relatively steady and protect U.S. consumers from much hardship.
But the obstacles to getting an international system in place are huge—if not insurmountable. Already, Australia, New Zealand and Russia are showing signs of backing out of the existing emissions-cutting framework. The diplomatic house of cards can't withstand further gusts of national self-interest.
Then there's problem of developing nations. If the world is going to hit the 80% target, nations like China and India need to be held to big emissions cuts. Why? Even if the U.S. and other industrialized nations somehow achieved the 80% reduction target, it would have virtually no climate benefit because of soaring emissions from developing nations. As the International Energy Agency concluded, the major nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development "alone cannot put the world onto the path to 450-ppm trajectory, even if they were to reduce their emissions to zero" (emphasis added).
A Slim Chance
And the chances of getting emerging economies on board with an ambitious emissions plan are slim to none. Yes, world-wide treaties have been hammered out in the past to curb pollution. But, once again, things are different where energy is concerned. Developing nations need to bring huge new amounts of energy online over the next 40 years; is there any realistic chance they will adopt expensive energy on a scale that even rich nations can't afford?
Proponents suggest that we give developing nations lower goals to start with, to help them catch up to the rest of the world. But some of the biggest developing nations—and biggest greenhouse-gas emitters—have indicated they won't accept any kind of cap. For one, India has been pretty straightforward for a long time: They'll think about emissions limits when they are as wealthy as the industrialized world is today. How many times do India and China have to say "no" to emissions limits before we believe them?
Finally, the idea that we must act now to avoid bigger costs down the road just doesn't hold water. Simply put, the world of tomorrow will be considerably richer than today—and much better able to absorb the costs of climate change. Yale University's William Nordhaus, one of the top climate economists, thinks it is sound to allow about half or more of the prospective damage from climate change to simply occur—since the world 40 or 60 years from now will be in a much better situation to handle the economic effects.
--Mr. Hayward is F.K. Weyerhaeuser fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the author of the annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators. He can be reached at

Yes: The Transition Can Be Gradual—and Affordable

The world is facing a potential catastrophe from greenhouse-gas emissions. But nations don't have to wreck their economies to avert the crisis.
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Critics argue that the legislation passed earlier this year by the U.S. House of Representatives—to cut U.S. emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2050—will mean big, disruptive changes to our infrastructure and untold economic damage. But they make a couple of basic errors. For one thing, they seem to think we'd have to replace the entire infrastructure quickly, paying trillions of dollars to shift to cleaner power. They also seem to assume that we have to choose between much more expensive energy and no energy at all.
The move to greener power doesn't have to be completed immediately, and it doesn't have to be painful. The right transition plan will increase consumers' bills gradually and modestly, and allow companies to make gradual, well-timed moves.
How would this work? One way is via a combination of national and multinational cap-and-trade systems. Companies around the world would be issued rights by their governments to produce carbon, which they could buy and sell on an open market. If they wanted to produce more carbon, they could buy another company's rights. If they produced less carbon than they needed, they could sell their extra rights. What's more, companies could earn more rights by creating appropriate "offsets" that mitigated their carbon use, such as planting forests. Nations could add carbon taxes to the mix.
Julian Puckett
Robert Stavins
The effect would be to send price signals through the market—making use of less carbon-intensive fuels more cost-competitive, providing incentives for energy efficiency and stimulating climate-friendly technological change, such as methods of capturing and storing carbon.
More Efficient
True, in the short term changing the energy mix will come at some cost, but this will hardly stop economic growth. As economies have grown and matured, they have become more adept at squeezing more economic activity out of each unit of energy they generate and consume. Consider this: From 1990 to 2007, while world emissions rose 38%, world economic growth soared 75%—emissions per unit of economic activity fell by more than 20%.
Critics argue we can't possibly increase efficiency enough to hit the 80% goal. In a very limited sense, that's true. Efficiency improvements alone, like the ones that propelled us forward in the past, won't get us where we need to go by 2050. But this plan doesn't rely solely on boosting efficiency. It brings together a host of other changes, such as moving toward greener power sources. What's more, making gradual changes means we don't have to scrap still-productive power plants, but rather begin to move new investment in the right direction.
As for how much this will cost, the best economic analyses—including studies from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office and the U.S. Energy Information Administration—say such a policy in the U.S. would cost considerably less than 1% of gross domestic product per year in the long term, or up to $175 per household in 2020. (That's the cost of one postage stamp per household per day.)
In the end, we would be delaying 2050's expected economic output by no more than a few months. And bear in mind that previous environmental actions, such as attacking smog-forming air pollution and cutting acid rain, have consistently turned out to be much cheaper than predicted.
Critics are wary of raising energy prices, arguing that no nations have grown wealthy with expensive power. But historically, it is the scarcity and cost of energy that have prompted technological changes as well as the use of new forms of power. What's more, critics challenge the price estimates the experts have set out. They say that the predictions depend on extensive—and unrealistic—cooperation among nations. In particular, they say, developing nations won't sign onto plans for curbing emissions, for fear of losing their economic momentum.
Indeed, we do need a sensible international arrangement in place to achieve low costs, and the economic pain will be much greater if we don't set up an international carbon market. But it can be done. Many nations have already initiated such emissions-control policies. And the world can be brought together in a meaningful, long-term arrangement that is scientifically sound, economically rational and politically pragmatic.

Road to Cooperation
For instance, the U.S. and China have been involved in intense talks about climate policy. If the two nations come together in a bilateral agreement—a real possibility—they would have much more leverage to persuade other major nations to join. From there, developing nations could be brought on board by giving them targets that reduce emissions without stifling growth. Advanced nations might agree to more-severe emissions cuts and allow developing nations to make gradual cuts in the early decades as they rise toward the world's average per-capita emissions. With the right incentives, developing countries can and will move onto less carbon-intensive growth paths.
The longer we put off serious action, the more aggressive our future efforts will need to be, as greenhouse gases and carbon-spewing capital assets continue to accumulate. Plants built today will determine emissions for a generation. In the steel sector—where plant lifetimes typically exceed 25 years—more than half of all plants in the world are now less than 10 years old. The picture is similar in the cement industry, as well as more broadly throughout the economy. For every year of delay before moving to a sustainable emissions path, the global cost of taking necessary actions increases by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Reducing Costs
Critics argue that we can afford to wait because the world of tomorrow will be wealthier and better able to absorb the costs. But acting sooner, such as by adopting the emission caps proposed in the U.S. House legislation, will lower the ultimate costs of achieving the target, because there will be more time allowed for gradual transition—which is what keeps costs down. Perhaps most important, the costs of failing to take action—the damages of climate change—would be substantially greater.
Getting serious about climate change won't be free, and it won't be easy. But if state-of-the-science predictions about the consequences of continued inaction are correct, the time has come for meaningful and sensible action.
--Dr. Stavins is the Albert Pratt professor of business and government at the Harvard Kennedy School, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a university fellow of Resources for the Future. He can be reached at

Hate Calculus? Try Counting Cow Carbon

Companies Are Measuring the Environmental Impact of Their Products, but the Math is Fraught With Complexity and Imprecision
Shoppers soon will be able to buy everything from meat to moccasins based on a number that purports to tell them the products' environmental impact.
Manufacturers and retailers across the globe are working to measure their products' carbon footprints for a variety of reasons, and all of the efforts have one thing in common: The results have the appearance of precision.
See a breakdown of the carbon footprint for a gallon of U.S. milk
But all the decimal points in the world can't hide the fact that measuring carbon footprints is inexact. It is clouded by varying methodologies and definitions -- not to mention guesses.
"There are no clear rules for the time being," says Klaus Radunsky, who co-chairs a group within the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization that is producing a guideline for measuring products' environmental impacts. "It depends very much on how you do the calculations."
Few products demonstrate the messiness of this effort more than a simple carton of milk. Several studies in various countries have already sought to tally the impact of milk from its production on a farm to the disposal of its carton. In between, the studies try to measure such intricacies as the energy used to make the fertilizer to grow feed for the cows, to fuel trucks delivering the milk, and to power refrigerators cooling it in kitchens.
It isn't surprising that each of these studies sizes milk's footprint differently, in large part because each varies in the way it counts one or more of those factors.
Milk is among the first products that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is trying to measure as part of a broad effort by the retailer to assess the environmental impact of the products its sells. It intends to begin labeling certain products with a "sustainability" score -- a single number that would take into account not only carbon emissions, but also water use and waste production. That is doubly complicated because it involves weighing the relative importance of different kinds of environmental impact. Which is worse: that a tomato uses lots of water or lots of pesticide?
Wal-Mart is working with academics and environmentalists to decide both how to tally that score and how to display it. It might be a number from 1 to 10, and it might be a color in a range of hues, says Matt Kistler, the retailer's senior vice president of sustainability. The challenge is to come up with something that is understandable and accurate. "Can we get there overnight? No, because a lot of the information doesn't exist yet," he says. "But I think we can get there."
See how the New York City Department of Education is making simple changes to make big cuts in its energy use and carbon footprint.
Among the reasons driving the measurement efforts by manufacturers and retailers are concern for the planet, marketing, to reduce emissions and, in some cases, to avoid being caught flat-footed by any coming climate-change regulation.
Tesco PLC, the big U.K. retailer, began last month labeling milk sold under its store brand. Its studies concluded that a pint of whole milk generates an amount of greenhouse gas equivalent to about two pounds of carbon dioxide. Tesco prints the metric equivalent of that number, 900 grams, on its whole-milk labels.
Another study by the U.S. dairy industry came up with a preliminary footprint that is about 15% lower, when expressed in terms of a comparably sized container of milk.
What may account for some of the difference is another set of dizzying variables in the carbon calculation. Some farms have more energy-efficient machinery. Some cows eat less corn, which typically is grown with petroleum-based fertilizers. And some kinds of feed cause cows to burp more methane, a potent source of carbon. That bovine belching is widely agreed to be the biggest source of carbon emissions in milk production.
But some parts of the equation are subjective. Cows produce multiple sellable goods: milk while they are alive, and, once they are slaughtered, products including beef, leather and bones. So how much of the emissions from the dairy farm should be blamed on the milk, and how much on the making of the steak and shoes?
Tesco attempts to resolve that question by splitting the emissions according to the relative economic value of the milk versus the cow's carcass. If, say, a dairy farm got 90% of its revenue from selling milk and 10% from selling the cow, then 90% of its emissions would be ascribed to the milk and 10% to the other products.
That is the route recommended as most practical by the Carbon Trust, a London-based company established by the British government to help curb carbon emissions in the U.K. The methodology is part of a broader set of carbon-measuring guidelines published last year by the Carbon Trust, the U.K. government and a standard-setting organization called the British Standards Institute.
Euan Murray, who oversees carbon-footprint studies at the Carbon Trust, which Tesco hired to conduct its milk study, says allocating emissions based on economic value makes intuitive sense to most people. But, he adds, "there's no absolutely right way of doing it."
The U.S. dairy industry is updating its own study, and the new version uses a more-complicated calculation preferred by the International Organization for Standardization. It seeks essentially to look inside the cow, separating the portion of the animal's biological functions that go to producing milk from the portion that go to producing the cow itself. Those functions include the cow's eating, burping, flatulence and waste.
"It becomes extremely difficult to do," says Greg Thoma, a chemical-engineering professor at the University of Arkansas. He is one of a team of professors at the university contracted by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, a dairy-industry group, to produce the carbon-footprint study.
The Arkansas researchers see their method as more accurate than the approach used in the U.K. A footprint based on milk's economic value, Mr. Thoma notes, could rise or fall just because the market price of milk changes.
The Carbon Trust recommends updating footprint studies if conditions change significantly. The Trust's Mr. Murray says it makes sense for products that contribute more to a farm's economic activity to be tagged with more of the carbon responsibility.
The U.S. method is open to plenty of uncertainties, too. It requires knowing, for instance, what mix of feed a cow ate on the dairy farm, because each kind of feed -- corn, say, or almond hulls -- brings with it a different carbon footprint. It also requires knowing the weight of each cow when it left the farm to be slaughtered. In reality, researchers don't know those figures for every cow. "So I have to make a guess," Mr. Thoma says. "It's not going to be exact."

Write to Jeffrey Ball at

Farm wins £500,000 to turn pig muck into power

A farm has secured a grant worth more than £500,000 to harness the power of pig muck by turning it into electricity.

By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political EditorPublished: 5:11PM BST 20 Sep 2009
The company in East Lothian was handed the money to convert slurry and vegetable waste into energy.
The Ruchlaw Produce Company in Dunbar, which employs 45 people, is the first farm in south east Scotland to use the technology.

The waste is fed into an “anaerobic digester” to create methane and carbon dioxide, which are then be pumped into a biogas plant to generate electricity and hot water for heating.
The digester, which will be formally unveiled by Scottish ministers this week, should be able to produce 832MW of electricity and 629MWH of heat.
It is hoped about 2,000 tons of vegetable waste will be gathered by local councils and producers to be converted into green energy, reducing landfill waste.
Any extra waste generated from the new plant will be converted into fertiliser and excess fuel will be sold to the National Grid.
The company, set on 137 hectares, has 3,200 breeding sows which produce 70,000 pigs a year. The £560,000 grant was secured from Rural Priorities, part of the Scotland Rural Development Programme.

Aquamarine makes a splash raising £10 million for wave energy device

Published Date: 21 September 2009
By Scott Reid
AQUAMARINE Power, the Edinburgh-based renewables company, has raised £10 million as it embarks on a two-year test programme for its wave energy converter.
The funding has been described as "just the start of the journey", with a further £40m needed to take the Oyster device to full commercialisation.Work is under way to connect a full-scale demonstrator system to sub-sea pipelines which will deliver high-pressure water to an onshore turbine.The firm aims to have the first commercial wave farm up and running within five years. An array of 20 devices could provide green energy for a town of 9,000 homes.Aquamarine chief executive Martin McAdam said there was "considerable investor appetite" for renewable energy companies. He told The Scotsman: "Our goal is to raise sufficient equity to get to the point where we have a commercial product offering in the marketplace."We want to raise a total of £50m, and the first £10m takes us a significant step along that way, but it is just the start of the journey for us."Raising substantial funds in these exceptionally difficult market conditions is an incredible achievement."McAdam, who spent eight years working in the wind industry, founded renewable energy provider Airtricity's US operations, which were sold to German utility giant E.ON for $1.2 billion (£740m) in 2007.Aquamarine, whose Oyster device consists of a hinged flap connected to the seabed at about ten metres, already has an agreement in place with Airtricity – part of Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) – to develop up to 1,000 megawatts of marine energy by 2020.It is estimated that as much as 21.5 gigawatts of wave and tidal energy could be generated from Scottish waters – enough to meet about half of the nation's energy demands.McAdam added: "The key for us is to have a product in the next three years that is attractive for utility companies or independent power producers from the perspective of adding additional renewable energy to their generation portfolio."The first-round funding has brought in "a number of high net-worth individuals" as well as Scottish Enterprise as an equity investor.Aquamarine's shareholder base also includes Edinburgh-based Sigma Capital and SSE, which is the single largest investor with a stake of about 44 per cent.The wave energy group, which was founded in 2005, is also eyeing grant funding to help achieve its goals.McAdam admitted the firm faced "very significant prototype costs", but argued that wave energy was a "vast untapped resource" with better reliability than solar or wind power.He said: "At this early stage, we would not be that cost effective. However, the goal in three years' time – through lower engineering and fabrication costs – is to be competitive with offshore wind."

Wind-powered stations to reach profitability by 2017

Wind-powered stations are likely to be profitable in the UK by 2017, according to the chief executive of Siemens Renewable Energy.

By Rowena MasonPublished: 5:55PM BST 20 Sep 2009
The energy source is currently heavily subsidised by the Government as it rushes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and produce 20pc of all power from renewables by 2020 in line with European climate change targets.
However, Rene Umlauft, chief executive of the Siemens division, believes that the rising price of gas and other fossil fuels will make wind farms commercially viable within eight years.

Wind power is already operating without subsidies in New Zealand, where the weather conditions make windmills more efficient than in other parts of the world.
The wind is also strong enough in Mexico and Brazil to make wind power near profitable in these countries over the next year.
Mr Umlauft's forecast comes as Siemens, the German wind-turbine maker, and Dong Energy, the Danish wind-farm owner, opened the world's largest offshore wind farm off the coast of Denmark last Thursday.
The Horns Rev 2 farm, which has 91 turbines and can generate 209 megawatts of electricity, will increase Denmark's wind power to more than 20pc of the country's total energy consumption.
But this will be vastly overshadowed when the London Array wind farm is built in the Thames Estuary off the coast of Kent with 341 turbines.
The project, funded by Dong, E.ON and Masdar, an Abu Dhabi company, could be ready to generate power for the London 2012 Olympics if it is given final approval on schedule later this year.
Siemens is also considering whether to open a new factory manufacturing turbines in the UK following the closure of a plant by Vestas, the Danish turbine maker, on the Isle of Wight earlier this year.
It has shortlisted locations in Germany, Britain and Denmark, as these countries have the largest order books for offshore wind farms in Europe.

Battery backup keeps Chinese mobile telephone companies in power

Carbon trading is back in focus, much to the delight of the many carbon-related companies on Aim.

By Josephine MouldsPublished: 5:35PM BST 20 Sep 2009
In between the fiery debates about health care, the US Senate is discussing a carbon emissions trading scheme, which would limit the amount of carbon that companies can emit.
Under such a scheme, if companies choose to exceed those limits, they must buy carbon offsets, known as Certified Emission Reduction certificates (CERs), which trade like a commodity on specialised exchanges.

Last year the price of a certificate to offset a tonne of carbon was around €25 (£22). It then plunged to a low of €8 and has gradually climbed back up again to €15.
Neil Eckert, chief executive of Climate Exchange, a trading exchange for environmental financial products, points out that this roughly follows the trajectory of the oil price, which reached a high of $150 (£92) a barrel only to fall to $40, climbing up to trade around $70 in recent weeks.
The two commodities are driven by the same factors. As companies use less oil, they emit less carbon, and so require fewer carbon offsets.
But carbon, unlike oil, is a very new and immature market. The introduction of an emissions trading scheme in the US would signify a major leap forward in its development.
The US is one of the few industrialised nations that did not sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement to reduce emissions that has spawned emissions trading schemes across the world. The largest is currently in Europe but that would be dwarfed by a US scheme.
Mike Wilkins, head of carbon markets at Standard & Poor's, says it is 50/50 whether the Senate will pass the bill: "We are in the middle of an economic downturn. The appetite among large industry players and lobby groups to incur more costs and cut emissions is pretty low, but there is a very strong political will to bring the US in line with the rest of the world."
This is all happening as environmental companies gear up for the global climate change conference in Copenhagen this December.
These conferences happen every year but Copenhagen is particularly significant. It is seen as the last chance to renew the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The goal is to get rich nations to sign up to deeper emissions cuts than the 20pc agreed under Kyoto, while offering greater assistance to developing countries to help them curb greenhouse gas pollution.
The way they can currently do this is by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which sees companies in developed countries pay for carbon reduction programmes in developing countries in exchange for the carbon offsets. That framework expires with Kyoto, meaning there is considerable uncertainty regarding the future of the carbon markets beyond 2012.

The G20: Bankers and the global economy

Andrew Clark in New York, Sunday 20 September 2009 23.37 BST
The UN roadshow moves to Pittsburgh on Thursday and Friday, where Obama will face delicate negotiations over the global economy, bankers' pay and climate change.
Top of the agenda will be the global economic slowdown. Obama has described the meeting as an opportunity for a "check-up" on countries' initiatives to counter the recession. Along with Gordon Brown, he is keen for progress on a blueprint for international regulation of the financial markets.
But the US faces a confrontation with other European Union countries over calls to restrict multimillion-pound bonuses in the financial industry. Some European leaders want a cap on bankers' pay, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has threatened to walk out of the summit unless the US moves on the issue. The White House, deeply reluctant to alienate Wall Street, favours far more modest measures to discourage pay deals viewed as encouraging excessive risk-taking.
Emphasising his environmental credentials, Obama has been tipped to use his position as the G20 host to call on member countries to end all subsidies for electricity generated by fossil fuels.
Anti-war, environmental and anti-poverty groups plan to demonstrate in Pittsburgh, with one group marching from a working-class suburb in a "people's uprising". Some 4,000 police reinforcements have been drafted. The city was chosen as the venue to showcase its strength in shifting from heavy manufacturing to production of hi-tech and green goods.