Thursday, 24 September 2009

Global warming

Published: September 24 2009 09:34

A Martian visiting this week’s United Nations conference on global warming might conclude that there is no other issue with so much international consensus and momentum. There must be hope for humanity yet. But the inconvenient truth is that the odds of a binding treaty when leaders reconvene in 10 weeks in Copenhagen are slim indeed.
The bogeyman of Kyoto, George W. Bush, may have been replaced by a passionate, internationalist Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, but the US delegation is unlikely to have a specific pledge when it arrives in Denmark. Healthcare and financial system reform are centre-stage, while a climate bill passed by the House languishes. Even that plan, for a 17 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, falls short of EU and Japanese pledges.
The Senate ratifies treaties and its main objection to Kyoto was the exemption granted to developing nations, which is why President Hu Jintao’s bold language at this week’s summit inspired hope. China has since claimed the top spot in carbon emissions and its participation, with perhaps a slight nod to its lower per capita output, is critical. The same is true for smaller developing nations who, as a group, have requested an unrealistic $400bn in compensation from rich countries for binding limits.
With any other issue, the answer might be to aim for more modest goals or a limited agreement between the largest players. But the prospect of economic free riders poaching jobs and factories from signatories, and the fact that even a 70 per cent cut in emissions would merely stabilise atmospheric CO2 by the end of the century, make a grand deal necessary. Barring big, specific pledges by the US and China, their leaders’ oratory this week has been just more hot air.

Risks Surround Renault's Pricey Electric Dream

If you are going to bet, bet big.
Renault is investing $4 billion in its electric-car program, the auto industry's largest single bet on completely replacing the internal-combustion engine. But, even allowing for the key role of government subsidies and regulation, the economics are anything but compelling.
Electric cars are an expensive way to reduce emissions. Batteries cost more than $15,000 a car, though that is forecast to fall to $5,250 a car by 2020. Add heavy investment for battery-charging infrastructure, and the cost per kilogram of CO2 reduction for an all-electric car is two to four times what it is for advanced internal-combustion engines and hybrid variants, according to Boston Consulting Group.
Electric cars emit nothing. But with emissions displaced to the grid, much depends on the generation mix among nuclear, gas, coal and renewables. Renault reckons electric cars in Europe would emit the equivalent of 60 grams of CO2 per kilometer compared with current auto emissions around 150 g/km.
The EU has set a ceiling of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometer for 65% of Europe's car fleet by 2012. But for small cars, new models are nearly there, even before the arrival of new-generation traditional engines and gas-and-diesel hybrids.
Renault is confident that, despite their limited range, its quiet, clean cars will sell millions. But its forecast of 10% penetration of the French car market by 2020 is premised on a government subsidy of €5,000 ($7,400) per electric car, battery prices falling below $15,000, consumer willingness to lease batteries for €100 a month and the appearance of a recharging infrastructure. In the absence of sky-high oil prices, it may yet prove a costly gamble.
Write to Matthew Curtin at

Chinese electric car maker upbeat despite gloomy sales

Bobbie Johnson, technology correspondent, Wednesday 23 September 2009 08.49 BST
It has drawn the attention of billionaire investor Warren Buffett and been named as a potential saviour of the world's car industry. But Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer BYD is facing a struggle to live up to expectations, after it emerged that the company has sold fewer than 100 of its landmark plug-in cars in the past nine months.
The news of the low sales figures deals a serious blow to the company, which launched the F3DM model to much fanfare last December. At the time it was heralded as the world's first mass-produced plug-in hybrid car, a saloon with a battery that can see it travel up to 80 miles before the petrol engine kicks in.
But despite positive press and public targets ranging between 3,000 and 4,000 cars for 2009, reports suggest that the company has shifted just a fraction of the £13,000 vehicles it had planned to sell.
In an interview with Reuters at the Frankfurt Motor Show, one senior executive said that the company remained optimistic.
"The Chinese government supports 10 cities to each have 1,000 electric vehicles for public transportation," said Henry Li, general manager of the company's exports. "With this we already have a quite high demand for electric vehicles... but there is a lot of competition, so it is hard to say how many we can actually get."
However, the news places even more pressure on BYD's forthcoming E6 model - still under development at the company's headquarters in Shenzen and due to go on sale later this year.
BYD - the name stands for Build Your Dreams - started out as a manufacturer of rechargeable batteries before moving into the electric car business in 2003. The prospects for growth in the electric vehicle market and support from the government has helped propel the company forward, including a significant investment of $230m from US billionaire Warren Buffet.
The company has been bullish about its plans, suggesting that China's need to ditch polluting petrol vehicles in favour of clean transport will help the market for electric vehicles grow rapidly.
Earlier this year executives said they planned to sell 700,000 cars in 2010 - almost all of them inside China - and have longer term projections that will see BYD eclipse the world's largest car manufacturer, Toyota, in just a few years. The company has plans to launch in the US by the end of next year, and in Europe by 2011.
Scott Laprise, an industry analyst with investment brokers CLSA, told the Associated Press that such high expectations were a part of BYD's strategy to woo customers.
"It's all about advertising and brand building," he said. "That's going to be massive publicity. Don't sell anyone cars. Just let the world know you are the world leaders and then see what happens."

Widgets for greener living

Google and Hewlett-Packard are providing widgets to help computer users monitor energy consumption
Kevin Anderson, Wednesday 23 September 2009 21.00 BST
With a heightened awareness of the environment and an increased urgency to address climate change, people are looking to all areas of their lives to reduce their carbon footprint.
Computers and the internet have come under fire from green groups for their contributions to carbon emissions. Environmental groups have even criticised Google for the carbon cost of every internet search made via the search engine. But to put this in context, estimates from the London-based Climate Group found in its Smart 2020 report that computers account for about 2% of total global emissions. By 2020, with more people owning computers, mobile phones and other gadgets, that percentage will rise to about 6%, according to the same report.
The good news is that in the past decade, computers have not only become smaller, faster and cheaper, but also much more energy-efficient. The cost of electricity and the demand for longer battery life for laptops and portable devices have been driving companies to increase the energy efficiency of electronics.
You can do a lot these days to build not only a very fast but also very efficient computer. You can choose energy efficient chips, energy efficient hard drives and power supplies with the 80 Plus efficiency rating.
Google and Hewlett-Packard are now getting involved by providing widgets to help you monitor the energy consumption of your computer and change your habits to cut your computing carbon footprint. Google employees have created a software "gadget" that will enable and optimise your computer's energy management settings. (You'll need to have Google Desktop installed to use it.)
Hewlett-Packard has launched its Power to Change scheme with a downloadable Adobe Air widget that reminds you to turn off your computer if you aren't using it. The site says that more than 23,000 people have joined the campaign.
These may be small steps, but the energy monitors help you understand your contributions to cut your carbon footprint.

From Kyoto to Copenhagen

Beating climate change needs a global deal with social justice at its heart. And it needs us to act locally – and defeat the nimbys
John Prescott, Wednesday 23 September 2009 19.20 BST

As one-day summits go, the UN climate change meeting in New York packed a punch, with China really beginning to step up its game.
As the EU's negotiator at Kyoto, I know only too well how difficult it can be to get an emissions agreement among 47 countries, let alone the 180-plus that will need to give their consent at Copenhagen.
That's why I spelt out in a Guardian interview with Patrick Wintour last month that talks would probably collapse unless we had a plan B – a deal that has social justice at its very heart, by equalising emissions per head in each country in order to secure the consensus of all nations.
Great play is made of China overtaking the US as the world's greatest emitter of greenhouse gases. But if you strip it to emissions per head, as I argued, each American is responsible for more than 20 tonnes of CO2 per year, compared to China with just 5 tonnes per capita, India at 2 and North African countries less than one.
We always talk of the importance of the G20 and the G8. But for this deal, it all hinges on the G2 – China and the US. The US has to accept that China must have its growth, while China must realise that US will find it hard to meet tough CO2 2020 targets. But these two countries are responsible for almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions.
From my talks in recent weeks with Obama's climate change team and the Chinese, in my role as the Council of Europe's rapporteur on climate change, I've seen how seriously committed both sides are to finding agreement. The focus must be on carbon reductions whether it's by China's energy intensity targets now being implemented or the present CO2 emission goals. Both count as reductions.
The UK is still playing a leading role internationally on climate change, as we did at Kyoto. But public opinion does have to catch up and implement our renewable target. We can't lead the world when two thirds of our planning applications for windfarms are turned down. In fact, British nimbys are becoming world leaders in this field – saying they want renewables, but not near their homes.
This week, I've been going round the country delivering our New Earth Deal school presentation for the Council of Europe on climate change and the negotiation process. Today, I switched on to the local news in Birmingham to see villagers protesting against Scottish Power building a windfarm near the Vale of Evesham. Fittingly, I've been playing excerpts from the film The Age of Stupid, featuring the windfarm developer Piers Guy's struggle to get nine turbines built in Bedford against nimby opposition. Weeks later, Bedford experienced its worst ever flooding!
As at Kyoto, a Copenhagen deal will probably be settled at the 11th hour. The trick then is to implement it. That's why the 10:10 campaign to get people to cut 10% of their carbon footprint in 2010 is so important.
But we've got to start fighting back against nimbys who are determined to keep the "chocolate box image" at the expense of our national and global environmental interests. As we discovered in Bedford, it doesn't matter how pretty the view is – it looks a whole lot worse underwater.

China and India are leading the way. Yes, I'm optimistic

This week's summit on climate change offered cause for confidence. But all nations now need to redouble their efforts
Nicholas Stern, Wednesday 23 September 2009 21.30 BST

This week's summit on climate change at the United Nations in New York has given a strong boost to the negotiations over a major international treaty, but there remain a number of major obstacles that must be overcome before the crucial meeting in Copenhagen in December.
China, India and Japan, along with the private sector, all made positive and significant contributions at the summit.
Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, made specific commitments on curbing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions as China continues its extraordinary economic growth. While the president promised a reduction by a "notable margin" rather than a specific figure, there is no doubt that the cut will be significant. And the environment ministers of both China and India made important and constructive proposals for how their countries will reverse deforestation.
This was the kind of leadership I had hoped to see at the summit – organised by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general – with developing and emerging countries showing that they can tackle climate change while continuing their efforts to reduce poverty. But we still have a long way to go before we can be sure that a strong agreement is in place for Copenhagen.
In the next couple of years, annual emissions of greenhouse gases are likely to reach a level of 50 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. If we are to have a reasonable chance of avoiding a rise in global average temperature by more than 2C, annual emissions have to be cut to no more than 20 gigatonnes by 2050.
That means that the 9 billion people who will be living on the planet in 2050 must be producing, on average, no more than about two tonnes of greenhouse gases per year each.
At the moment, the rich industrialised countries of the European Union average about 10-12 tonnes per head of population, while the figure for the United States is almost 24 tonnes. China, by contrast, emits about 6 tonnes per head at present. Thus rich industrialised countries in particular must substantially reduce their emissions.
The developed countries must now demonstrate that they have the political will to reach a strong agreement in Copenhagen. In New York, Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, outlined how his country will reduce its emissions by 25% by 2020, compared with 1990. This was a positive example that few others matched.
President Obama has already committed to a cut of 80% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared with 1990. But the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House of Representatives sets an interim target for 2020 that is not considered ambitious enough by many other countries. And it is not clear when, or even if, the Senate will pass a comparable act to reduce emissions.
It is these interim targets that should now be addressed by all countries during the coming weeks. If we are to reach the goal of reducing emissions to 20 gigatonnes by 2050, we must be at about 35 gigatonnes by the halfway point of 2030.
That means global emissions have to peak within the next five years and be steadily falling by 2020. And while the commitments by the largest emitters already on the table for 2020 offer significant cuts relative to today's emissions, they collectively fall 4 or 5 gigatonnes short of what is necessary if we are to be on a realistic trajectory to reach the 2030 and 2050 targets.
Developing countries should also sharply reduce their emissions – but they must be supported, financially and through technology sharing with the rich industrialised countries. Without commitments to such support, the negotiations ahead will prove very difficult.
Although the political leaders must devise and implement the right policies to guide national and global emissions trajectories, it is the private sector that will be the main engine in the transition to a low-carbon global economy.
In that respect it was very encouraging that 181 investors, collectively responsible for the management of more than $13 trillion in assets globally, launched a statement in New York last week to support a global agreement on climate change. The Leadership Forum for business leaders, which ran alongside the summit, also highlighted a tremendous variety of innovative ideas from within the private sector for the low-carbon transition.
So there are some reasons to be more optimistic about the prospects for securing a strong agreement in Copenhagen, following the New York summit. But the obstacles that remain are very big and will require an even stronger effort to overcome, starting at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh and continuing during the coming round of treaty negotiations in Bangkok next week.
There must be real vision, leadership and creativity, as well as a mutual understanding of the difficulties of making and implementing domestic policies. But if we can muster the effort, we can, as a world, forge a path towards a more prosperous and sustainable future – for us, our children, and generations to follow.

Climate change is killing our people

UN leaders should know: climate change is destroying my village in Uganda – flooding our homes and ruining our crops
Constance Okollet, Wednesday 23 September 2009 08.30 BST
There are no seasons any more in eastern Uganda. Before, we had two harvests every year, but now there's no pattern. Floods like we've never seen came and swept up everything. It rained and rained until all the land was soaked and our houses were submerged in the water. This forced us to move to higher ground, where we sought refuge. By the time we came back home, all the houses had collapsed, our granaries were destroyed and food was washed away. The remaining crops were rotten, and our food was no more.
As the ground in the village remained flooded, there were a lot of mosquitoes around, and five of my family members became ill with malaria. Because there was no clean water to drink, some people got cholera and diarrhoea. Many of the people in my village died. Children didn't go to school since they were too weakened by disease and their parents had no money for school fees.
Our farms were ruined, so we didn't have food until the government came to help us. This was so humiliating for us, because we had never depended on aid to survive.
This year, when we managed to get seeds to plant for our own food, we were struck by a drought like we had never seen before. It was so hot, all of the crops dried up and the wells where we used to collect water also became dry. There was no water in the boreholes, and so the cycle of hunger and thirst returned, but this time caused by the excessive heat.
We didn't understand why this had happened. We wondered what we had done to make God so angry. But we now know it's climate change. The cycle continues, and it hasn't gotten much better, as we have had more droughts and more floods. It's very hard for us to grow food, and some mornings, I go to my field only to find that someone has stolen the potatoes. Although it makes me angry, I know that if my neighbours didn't steal the potatoes, they wouldn't have anything to eat.
When I heard that leaders of the world were meeting at the UN in New York to talk about fighting climate change, I wished that there was a way I could tell them what my community has gone through. I wanted to make them understand that we are getting poorer and poorer because of climate change, and we are dying. I wanted to be there to tell them our story.
With Oxfam's help, I am have joined a number of women like me from different corners of the world in New York to speak my mind.
I ask the leaders of the rich countries to take action to reduce their carbon emissions so that we can look forward to rains to plant our crops without having to face floods that wash them away. And I ask them to help my community fight the climate change that destroys our houses, increases diseases and stops our children from attending schools. That's all I am asking for on behalf of my fellow villagers.

Gordon Brown warns next six months will test the world

On Africa, climate, nuclear arms, recession and terrorism, prime minister tells UN it stands 'at a point of no return'
Patrick Wintour, Wednesday 23 September 2009 20.25 BST
Gordon Brown today warned that the world is entering a critical six-month period that is likely to test the resolve of global leaders even more than the banking crisis of the past year did.
Speaking to the UN general assembly in New York, he said that if world leaders showed the moral courage to meet the challenges, they would "have for the first time in human history created a truly global society".
He said: "The great lesson of the last year is that only bold and global action prevented a recession becoming a depression. We have delivered a co-ordinated fiscal and monetary response that the International Labour Organisation estimates has saved 7- to 11 million jobs."
Brown was speaking much later than expected owing to the vast overrun in speeches by other world leaders, notably those of Colonel Gaddafi of Libya and the US president, Barack Obama.
Setting out his foreign policy agenda in the run-up to next year's general election, Obama defined the five new great challenges for the next six months as famine in Africa, nuclear proliferation, climate change, ending the recession and terrorism. On all five issues, he said the world was "at a point of no return".
The lesson of the banking crisis was that "global challenges can only be mastered through global solutions".
In his starkest language yet about the risks of failure at the UN conference on climate change in December in Copenhagen, he describes the talks as "the next great test of our global co-operation".
"If we miss this opportunity to protect our planet, we cannot hope for a second chance some time in the future. There will be no restrospective global agreement to undo the damage we have caused. This is the moment now to limit and reverse climate change we are inflicting on future generations."
He added: "If the poorest and most vulnerable are going to be able to adapt, if the emerging economies are going to embark on low-carbon development paths, if the forest nations are going to slow and stop deforestation, then the richer countries must contribute financially."
He also warned Iran and North Korea that "the world will be even tougher on proliferation, and be ready to consider further sanctions".
He insisted a new non-nuclear pact would require non-nuclear states to prove they were not developing nuclear weapons, changing the whole onus of proof in the international inspection regime.
He also confirmed that, as part of the review conference next May, he would offer to reduce the number of planned replacement Trident nuclear submarines from four to three. But in comments outside the assembly speech, he denied the reduction in the number of submarines would lead to a fall in the number of weapons.
On the economy, he argued the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh would have to consider carefully when to reduce the impact of stimulus measures, but he insisted: "We must not turn off the life support for our economy prematurely."
He hailed an agreement announced yesterday that should bring free healthcare to 10 million Africans and Asians, and claimed that the beginnings of universal free health care in Africa were emerging in countries such as Burundi, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Liberia and Ghana.

Sarkozy's big idea to save the world from global warming: another conference

Hu and Obama may have stolen the headlines but Nicolas Sarkozy tried to steal the limelight with a moment of rhetoric
Hu Jintao and Barack Obama got the main headlines from the UN climate change summit, but spare a moment for Nicolas Sarkozy. Even on a day of high rhetoric, nobody quite matched Sarkozy's intensity in chastising world leaders for failure to deal with the potential catastrophe that lies ahead.
"We are on the road to failure," he said. "Time is not on our side."
So what's his big idea to stop global warming, or in Sarkozy's own words, "transcend the role playing, the empty speeches, the petty diplomatic games" that have deadlocked negotiations?
Another summit, in November, just before the Copenhagen negotiations of the major developed countries that between them produce 80% of the world's emissions. And the creation of a new international organisation to deal with climate change. That will stop the speechifiers in their tracks. And the creation of a new international environmental organisation — which presumably would get rid of the bureaucratic infighting. Sarkozy such a new world body was needed to monitor any agreement that would come out of Copenhagen."
From the diplomats huddled within the shrine to modernist architecture that is the UN, there was little immediate enthusiasm for Sarkozy's big idea. But nobody was willing to publicly reject the notion either. Denmark's Lars Løkke Rasmussen, said simply: "We haven't discussed the Sarkozy proposal in detail." But it is now widely conceded that world leaders will need to apply themselves directly if there is going to be a meaningful agreement at Copenhagen. The question is whether they will want to do it Sarkozy's way.

EU Court Overturns Some Emission Caps

BRUSSELS -- A European court overturned a European Commission decision to impose stricter limits on carbon emissions from Poland and Estonia from 2008 to 2012, sending the price of carbon credits lower.
Under the European Union's market for allowances to emit carbon dioxide -- called the Emissions Trading System -- EU governments must set national limits on the amount of CO2 industries can emit in the five years from 2008 to 2012. These caps must then be approved by the commission, the EU's executive branch.
The commission said in 2007 that the emission levels set by Poland and Estonia were too high, and sought to reduce them by 26.7% and 47.8%, respectively. However, the Court of First Instance said Wednesday that "by imposing ... a ceiling on emission allowances to be allocated, the commission exceeded its powers."
Barbara Helfferich, the commission's spokeswoman on environmental issues, said "We are extremely disappointed by the judgment. We are studying it carefully, with a view to a possible appeal of the decision," adding that it was still too early to assess what impact the ruling will have on the Emissions Trading System.
Analysts and carbon-market participants, meanwhile, expressed concerns about the potential implications of the ruling.
"This is a landslide judgment which fundamentally alters the way the supply side of the [Emissions Trading System] is administered," said Emmanuel Fages, an analyst at Société Générale. "It opens large uncertainty."
For the trading period of 2008 to 2012, the commission has approved the emissions levels of only four national plans -- those from Denmark, France, Slovenia and the U.K. -- and has sought reductions from the other 23 EU governments.
"It could very well be that in the near future, similar decisions will follow," said Wim Vandenberghe, an energy and environment lawyer at DLA Piper in Brussels. Six other countries -- Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Latvia -- have appealed cuts to emissions levels demanded by the commission.
Carbon-market participants said they were worried that extra allowances will enter the market, putting downward pressure on prices. On the European Climate Exchange, Europe's main platform for trading carbon credits, December carbon futures closed down 2.6% after having dropped as much as 4.7% earlier in the day.
"The market seems to expect an additional issuing of these allowances," said Nele Glienke, an analyst at UniCredit Markets & Investment Banking in Munich.
The Emissions Trading System is the EU's main instrument for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and thus contributing to the fight against climate change. The bloc wants to lead negotiations on a new climate pact to replace the 1997 Kyoto accord when world leaders meet in December in Copenhagen.
The trading system, launched in 2005 and covering about 11,500 installations, ranging from power plants to steel and paper makers, is set to be expanded in 2013. Companies that stay below the limits can sell carbon permits to participants that have overshot their quotas. In theory, the stricter these limits are, the higher the price of carbon credits.
The commission now has two months to appeal Wednesday's ruling at a higher court.—Frank Huetten contributed to this article.
Write to Alessandro Torello at

Shipping bodies back cap and trade scheme to cut emissions

Proposal from five countries would cut emissions from the shipping industry, which accounts for nearly 3% of the world's man-made greenhouse gases
John Vidal, environment editor, Wednesday 23 September 2009 17.41 BST
The global shipping industry should be treated as a separate country and given its own cap and trade scheme to cut carbon emissions - which amount to nearly 3% of the world's man-made greenhouse gases - industry bodies from five countries said today.
The proposal, which could cost the global industry up to €6bn a year at the present carbon price, was one of several ideas put forward by the UK Chamber of Shipping and its sister organisations in Australia, Belgium, Norway and Sweden. It is hoped that it will lead to a global agreement to significantly cut carbon emissions from the world's fleet of 100,000 ships at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen later this year.
But the five countries declined to propose specific targets or timetables and admitted it would be hard to gain consensus among other countries.
"We would welcome a challenging target. But we are looking to the UN's International Maritime Organisation or the UNFCCC [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] to set that," said UK Chamber of Shipping president Jesper Kjaedegaard.
This week the international aviation industry pledged to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2050 compared with 2005 levels, and to make the industry's growth carbon-neutral by 2020. However the shipping industry said it could not make more precise commitments at this stage.
"The two cannot be compared. Aviation is smaller and more concentrated. Shipping is much more broadly based. There is not enough data yet," said Kjaedegaard.
"We believe some form of emissions trading system is the way to reduce carbon outputs. But it is vital that any emissions trading regime be implemented without driving goods to other modes of transport, which would increase overall emissions and damage commercial shipping."

European carbon trading market takes hit

Carl Mortished, World Business Editor

The Europe-wide carbon trading market suffered a severe blow yesterday when a European court issued a ruling that will weaken carbon prices and undermine efforts by the European Commission to curb carbon emissions further.
In a landmark decision, the European Court of First Instance ruled in favour of an appeal by Poland and Estonia for the right to be more generous in granting carbon emission allowances. In its surprise annulment of a Commission decision to cut the carbon quotas of the two countries, the court said: “The Commission exceeded its powers.”
The decision is expected to weaken prices in Europe’s troubled carbon market and undermine efforts by the Commission to impose a stricter regime on carbon polluters.
The court said that the Commission had no right to impose a lower cap on the emissions of Estonia and Poland when it rejected the national allocation plans (NAPs) submitted by the two countries.

Under Europe’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), each state submits a plan setting out how many carbon allowances (EUAs) it will issue to industry each year.
The court’s ruling astounded carbon traders in Europe yesterday and the price of EUAs traded on the ETS fell 60 cents a tonne before recovering to €13.40 a tonne.
Carbon traders said that there was a risk of a further 50 million tonnes in EUAs coming on to the market as the two countries exploited the court’s ruling against the Commission’s authority.
“It means two things — possibly more allowances in the market and more uncertainty,” Emmanuel Fages, a carbon analyst with Société Générale, the investment bank, said. “It’s another blow because people will say the market doesn’t work.”
The ETS was set up to create a market incentive for businesses to reduce CO2 emissions by enabling companies to sell surplus carbon allowances for cash in the market. In its first phase, governments gave away too many allowances, depressing the price of EUAs and reducing incentives. In an effort to boost the ETS in its second phase, the Commission sought to rein in the volume of EUAs distributed by governments.
The ruling is a victory for Central and Eastern European states that fought against the Commission’s attempts to cut carbon emission quotas. Poland argued that its dependence on a Soviet-era coal and power industry deserved special treatment when it submitted its NAP to the Commission for approval. The Commission rejected the NAPs of several states, including Poland and Estonia, and ordered those two countries to reduce the number of EUAs by 27 per cent and 48 per cent, respectively.
However, the European Union’s court said that the Commission’s power of review was “very restricted”. The Commission could reject an NAP only if it failed to conform with criteria set out in the EU directive concerning greenhouse gas emissions. By imposing a different quota ceiling, the Commission was “encroaching on the exclusive competence which the directive confers on the member states”, the court said.
The Commission said that it was “extremely disappointed” and hinted that it would appeal against the ruling.
Other EU states that suffered cuts in their NAPs in the second phase may now challenge the Commission. The Polish and Estonian cases were supported by Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia. The ruling will raise further questions about the effectiveness of market-based carbon trading systems in bringing about reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama to press G20 leaders to cut fossil fuel subsidies that benefit big business

US president to propose elimination of tax breaks and cheap loans as 'downpayment to end global warming'
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Wednesday 23 September 2009 18.27 BST
Barack Obama will press leaders at the G20 summit tomorrow to end the billions of dollars of subsidies that encourage the use of fossil fuels around the world and help drive climate change.
Obama, who will host the summit in Pittsburgh, will propose a gradual elimination of the tax breaks, cheap loans and other measures extended to oil, gas, coal and electricity producers. The White House said elimination of the subsidies would be a "significant downpayment" to ending global warming.
Studies from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) have estimated that carbon saving of ending subsidies would be 10% by 2020.
But an end to the subsidies would bring world leaders into conflict with powerful fossil fuel lobbies as well as developing nations where the subsidies make fuel affordable. Over the past six years, oil and coal producers in the US received more than double the subsidy of renewable energy companies.
The world's biggest polluters — America, India, China, Brazil and Russia — all offer significant subsidies, totalling many billions of dollars every year which encourage the use of fossil fuel. OECD and IEA studies also found that last year, countries who subsidised fossil fuel increased their consumption by 1barrels of oil and in countries without subsidies, consumption fell by 1.5m barrels.
Another OECD report last week noted that removing the subsidies would free up cash for programmes that could help the poor. "Removing environmentally harmful subsidies would be an important first step," the OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría said. "It would also improve economic efficiency. For instance, the budgetary savings could be used to reduce other distorting taxes or to alleviate poverty in a more targeted and efficient way."
Obama has already faced multimillon dollar lobbying campaigns against his proposals to force cuts in US greenhouse gas emissions.
The US government has consistently offered more tax breaks and other incentives to the oil and gas industry — rather than producers of renewable energy — undermining efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the last six years, oil and coal producers got $72bn in tax breaks compared with $29bn for renewable energy, said a report from the Environmental Law Institute.
Developing nations also spent heavily on fuel subsidies — and they are seen as crucial to keep prices low for the poor. Twenty of the largest non-OECD countries together spent $400m on subsidies last year.
Mike Froman, the national security adviser for international economic affairs, said: "We are working with the rest in the G20 to see if we can forge an agreement that would make significant contributions in direction [of removing subsidies]."
He emphasised that the US administration was not opposed to targeted fuel subsidies for the poor, but was seeking to phase out the blanket programmes that also benefit big business and the wealthy. He also said that the administration would maintain subsidies for cleaner technology, like carbon capture storage from coal plants.
"The G20 is not trying to do anything that would keep people in the dark but instead trying to encourage countries to move off blanket subsidies which are regressive," he said.
But he noted that developing countries spent more than 1% of GDP on fossil fuel subsidies last year. "So eliminating fossil fuel subsidies will promote more efficient investment climate, increase real income by as much as two percent in some developing countries and at the same time lead to better allocation of resources."

Electric vans are a viable cleantech alternative

Now able to compete on range and price, electric vans are a cleantech alternative to diesel
Marc Zakian, Wednesday 23 September 2009 20.30 BST
I am cruising the outskirts of London in a vehicle that could turn white van drivers green. Green with envy, as a tank of diesel costs £100 compared with our £5 fill-up; and environmentally green because the van I am steering is electric.
The curved-nosed box-van can carry up to two tonnes (think Transit, but longer and taller). It is made by Modec, a Midlands-based company set up in 2004 by the former chairman of Manganese Bronze – makers of the iconic London taxi. After a £30m development, the Modec was launched in 2007.
Driving the Modec is a contradictory experience. Perched in its cabin, you command the road, and yet the ride is extraordinarily quiet; with none of the shake and rattle or the whiff of diesel of a traditional van – only the squeaks from the chassis and the beehive hum of the electric motor let you know you are driving. With no noise pollution or tailpipe emissions, the electric van should be the bright green future for commercial transport. But if the Zev (Zero Emission Vehicle) is to replace Britain's 3m diesel vans it will have to satisfy two demands: the distance it can travel on one charge, and its price.
Electric courier
"Range is an issue for our customers," explains George Smith, brand manager for Harris Van Centre who, after years of selling conventional trucks and vans, is convinced electric is the future. "But not as big an issue as you might think. When we first spoke to UPS about using electric vans on their courier routes in London, they looked at their mileage and worked out that the average distance travelled in the capital was 14 miles per day." Most commercial electric vehicles can cover about 100 miles on one six-hour charge.
So for door-to-door urban deliveries an electric Zev is a workable cleantech alternative. Tesco approached Modec in an initiative to reduce the company's global footprint, adding 15 Modec Zevs to its fleet. The courier company TNT has gone further, spending £7m on 100 seven-tonne electric vans from Smiths, Britain's largest and oldest electric vehicle maker. And by sourcing 20% of its electricity from renewables, TNT answers the charge that electric vehicles simply shift pollution from the road to the power station.
But while large companies can afford to invest in electric transport, the up-front cost is challenging for smaller businesses. At around £40,000, a Transit-size electric van is twice the price of a similar size diesel. And you will need a three-phase charging point to plug them into.
It is once the Zevs are on the road that savings are made. "We spend £25 a week charging an electric van, compared with £200 on a diesel equivalent," says Nick Murray, TNT's communications manager. "After three years an electric van works out cheaper than diesel."
As well as costing less in fuel, electric vans don't need an MOT, are zero-rated for road tax and have no oil or filters to change. And with only four moving parts in the engine – compared with more than 1,000 on an internal combustion engine – electric vehicles are cheaper to maintain and suffer fewer breakdowns.
The strongest financial incentive, however, is an emissions-based congestion charge. "If the government really wants people to stop using polluting vans," says Roger Atkins, Modec's sales director, "they just need to look at how the London congestion charge is an impetus for change. The exemption for electric vehicles represents an annual £2,000 incentive for Zevs."
So for short-haul delivery the electric van offers a cleantech solution. But what about the UK's 500,000 lorries? Last year, heavy goods vehicles covered 18bn miles on British roads, with a loaded articulated lorry averaging 6 to 8 miles a gallon. The rising cost of fuel has seen truck drivers blocking the roads in protest and consumers paying more for transport costs.
Long-haul solution
Although electric HGVs are starting to make an appearance – last May the port in Los Angeles started using electric trucks to move sea containers – they are short-range vehicles. Electric vans recharge on the move, generating power when the vehicle brakes and returning that power to the battery. So the stop/start rhythms of a delivery van are well-suited to electric power. Long-distance trucks drive for hours without stopping, way beyond the current 100- to 150-mile battery range.
One potential solution is already incorporated into the Modec van. The battery is exchangeable. This future-proofs the vehicle, so that as technology improves, vehicles can be retrofitted with the latest batteries. Currently this swap takes about 15 minutes. But if the exchange were speeded up, it would pave the way for a relay of "battery stations" around the country, with electric vans or trucks swapping spent batteries for charged ones, giving them an infinite range. This potential is being exploited by Project Better Place, who with Renault and Nissan are planning an electric car battery station network which they plan to deploy by 2011.
But Dan Jenkins, from Smiths Electric Vehicles, believes the eventual solution will be improved battery technology. "Lithium ion battery technology is only at the beginning of its performance curve," he stresses. "In the next few years we will see the range being extended to 200 miles and beyond. And in the long term, batteries using ultra-capacitors should mean you can fast-charge in minutes."
In the meantime, for the newly greened white van driver the Zev is good news. Goodbye to the bone-battering rattle of the diesel engine, and hello to the gearless, silent, stress-free world of the electric van.

Bidders chosen for £1bn offshore links tender

By Sarah Arnott
Thursday, 24 September 2009

Thirteen companies are in the running to buy £1.15bn-worth of electricity transmission links to nine offshore windfarms as part of a £15bn plan to improve competition in the UK's green energy infrastructure.
The new regime from regulator Ofgem comes against the backdrop of the Government's target for another 33 gigawatts of offshore wind – or around 50 per cent of the current installed capacity – be built by 2020.
By separating the design, construction and operation of the cables linking to onshore sub-stations from construction of the farms themselves, Ofgem hopes to bring down costs.
The first phase covers nine wind farms including Barrow and Robin Rigg, which are already operating, and several more already in the process of being built. Bidders in the selection process include ABN Amro Infrastructure Capital Management, Balfour Beatty, Macquarie and National Grid.
The winning bidders will be announced in the spring, before a second round of contracts is put up for sale next summer. These first two tranches of tenders will cover infrastructure already either up and running or in the process of being built. After that, the regime will apply to all new construction programmes.

Seeing through Hu's hazy policy

Activists expect progress despite the president's vague pledge on emissions
Is Chinese President Hu Jintao's promise to make a "significant cut" in carbon-dioxide emissions by 2020 just a lot of hot air?
While disappointed that China's leader didn't pledge a hard number in his speech before the United Nations on Tuesday, climate activists still think there's some fire beneath the smoke. And in China, where local bureaucrats and executives at state-owned companies and banks are keenly sensitive to political shifts, the smoke will send an important signal that low-carbon projects will get priority for bank loans and regulatory approval.
"This is a step in the right direction and seriously challenges industrialized countries, especially the U.S., to take on their fair share of reducing emissions and protecting the world from climate catastrophe," said Greenpeace China's climate expert Yang Ailun.
Mr. Hu said China will try to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide that is used for each dollar of economic output. In other words, it's a relative measure that doesn't limit total emissions. If China's economy keeps growing fast, it will pump out more greenhouse gases, just at a slower rate than without the measure. Since China has already surpassed the U.S. as the world's biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, climate activists applaud any measures to slow down, even if a total cap is their ultimate goal.
Already, there are signs that China is serious. A day after Mr. Hu's speech, the government's tax authorities published a detailed blueprint on how to roll out a carbon tax by 2012. That is the year when the global climate treaty to be negotiated in December in Copenhagen will take effect, succeeding the current one. China faces mounting cries from Europe and the U.S. for greenhouse-gas duties on imports from countries that don't have a carbon cap to level the playing field.
A domestic carbon tax could head off those duties that would raise the price of China's exports, an essential part of the nation's economy. The proposed tax would exempt households and there's no guarantee a tax on commercial use of fossil-fuel emissions will ultimately take effect. Similar resource taxes have undergone drawn-out debate before they were finally rolled out.—Shai Oster, with contributions from Jing Yang

China's largest cloud seeding assault aims to stop rain on the national parade

Cloud-seeding aircraft to intercept rainclouds that threaten to cast shadow over communist party's 60th celebrations in Beijing
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, Wednesday 23 September 2009 17.41 BST
China's air force is gearing up for its biggest ever assault on the clouds to ensure blue skies above Beijing for the 60th anniversary of communist party rule, local media reported today.
Eighteen cloud-seeding aircraft and 48 fog-dispersal vehicles are on stand-by to intercept rainclouds that threaten to cast a shadow over the festivities, which will include the biggest display of military power in at least 10 years.
The weather modification could exceed the huge cloudbusting operation for the opening ceremony of the Olympic games last year, when more than 1,100 rain-dispersal rockets were fired into the sky.
"It is the first time in Chinese history that artificial weather modification on such a large scale has been attempted," said Cui Lianqing, an air force meteorologist, speaking to the Global Times newspaper.
Meteorologists will coordinate the mission using satellite data. The Beijing Weather Modification Office will supplement the air force's campaign with rockets and planes that load the clouds with silver iodide or liquid nitrogen — dry ice — to induce precipitation above reservoirs and rivers.
China has the world's most extensive rain creation infrastructure, employing about 50,000 people nationwide. Their job is usually to alleviate droughts in the arid north of the country. For national day they would have to encourage rain to fall from clouds before they reached Beijing.
The National Day events mark the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October, 1949. The communist party wants to use the occasion to showcase its achievements since Mao Zedong took power.
The centre of the city will be closed off for a huge parade, musical performance and show of military power. Clear skies are needed for the
firework display and fly past by air force jets.
Smog is another concern. Although air pollution has eased since the Olympics, when more than 100 factories were relocated and restrictions were imposed on cars, the Beijing authorities are taking no chances.
Environment officials have said they will inspect construction sites, regulate coal-burning facilities and impose extra restrictions on vehicles with high levels of exhaust fumes.
Inner Mongolia, Henan, Hebei and other neighbouring regions that host large-scale industrial parks have agreed to cooperate in reducing emissions ahead of the anniversary.
Fearing a major pollution incident might dampen the festive mood, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has mounted a week-long inspection of areas where accidents often happen or where dangerous chemicals are produced. Water supplies are being checked more stringently than usual.
Some of the security measures have frustrated many Beijingers. During rehearsals in recent weeks, residents along the route of the parade were instructed not to go on to their balconies or take pictures of tanks and other vehicles.
The authorities have banned the sale of knives in supermarkets and declared a no-fly zone for kites and racing pigeons. Whether non-compliant birds will suffer the same fate as wandering clouds has not been revealed.
Ten years after taking power, Mao Zedong declared a war on nature, including a disastrous campaign to eradicate sparrows, and a commitment to induce rain. "Manmade rain is very important. I hope the meteorological experts do their utmost to make it work," he said.
Today, however, the military admits there is a limit to their ability to control nature. "There are still a lot of uncertainties with the
weather," Cui told the Global Times. Past records suggest there is a 30% chance of rain on October 1, it said.