Tuesday, 6 October 2009

EU to Propose Carbon Tax on Energy Products

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission will propose raising a minimum tax on energy products such as gasoline based on their carbon-dioxide emissions, as part of a broader plan to reform energy taxation in the 27-nation bloc, a draft document obtained by Dow Jones Newswires showed Monday.
The commission, the European Union's executive arm, wants a minimum tax on energy products to be partly based on how much CO2 these products emit, rather than only on their energy content, the draft said.
Details could change during consultation but the draft calls for a minimum tax ranging between one European cent (1.46 U.S. cents) and three cents a kilogram of CO2 and should be applied starting in 2013.
This system is designed to complement the EU's flagship program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Emissions Trading System, which caps the amount of CO2 produced by EU industry and creates a market for them.
"Taxation related to CO2 emissions can be a cost-effective means for member states to achieve the reductions of greenhouse gases necessary" to meet EU's targets to cut these emissions by 20% by 2020 compared with 1990, the draft read.
The idea of a tax on carbon emissions has already been raised in a number of countries including France, China and Japan as one way to limit CO2 emissions.
Any formal proposal for a new tax system isn't likely to come before the end of the year and will need to be backed by all 27 EU countries -- no easy task as the U.K. has already expressed doubts about a pan-European carbon tax. The taxed products could include kerosene, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas.
Write to Alessandro Torello at alessandro.torello@dowjones.com

Locals Try Sinking Plan to Store CO2 Underground

Germany's Coal-Burning Plants Are Aiming to Cut Emissions by Burying Them -- and That Isn't Going Over Well in Some Towns
Brandenburg, Germany
Ulf Stumpe is scared of carbon dioxide -- but not the stuff blamed for global warming. What worries him is the CO2 a local energy firm wants to inject into the earth thousands of feet under his village.
Mr. Stumpe is fighting plans by Vattenfall AB, the Swedish energy giant, to store millions of tons of the greenhouse gas in saline aquifers under the rolling fields of eastern Germany as part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions.
Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is seen by many governments and energy companies as a key weapon in the battle against climate change. They say it would allow mankind to continue burning coal while reducing emissions believed to be contributing to global warming.
'No CO2 in Our Land'
But as with other new technologies like wind power, local opposition can sometimes thwart global solutions. Germany is in the vanguard of CCS, but grass-roots protests are threatening to derail efforts to deploy the technology -- not just in Mr. Stumpe's Brandenburg home but across the country.
Mr. Stumpe, a 28-year-old veterinarian, is "not a violent man," he says. "But there are people here who will do whatever it takes to stop this."
If local backlashes don't slow adoption, high costs might. CCS has never been tested on a commercial scale in a power plant, and experts at the International Energy Agency say installing the technology will require €1 billion ($1.46 billion) per project -- a sum that some environmentalists say would cost more than other forms of renewable energy.
"Today CCS is not economic," says Dr. John Barry, who leads Royal Dutch Shell PLC's carbon-capture effort. "We're at a high-cost phase where we need outside support to bridge the commercial gap." The hope is that as countries cap their emissions, the price of carbon will gradually rise to make CCS economically viable, he says, while technology costs fall.
That, however, may be a long way off. Vattenfall acknowledges that at the current carbon price, the electricity produced in a CCS plant will be a third more expensive than from a normal station.
CCS involves separating out the CO2 produced by power plants, oil refineries and cement factories and pumping it under pressure into porous rock thousands of feet under the Earth's surface where, the thinking goes, it will stay safely trapped. The basic building blocks have existed for decades. Oil companies have long been injecting CO2 into the ground to improve recovery ratios. Experiments with carbon capture and storage are underway elsewhere. Last Thursday, Ohio-based American Electric Power Corp. began pumping CO2 deep underground beside its Mountaineer coal-fired power plant in New Haven, W. Va.
The logic behind deploying CCS more widely is simple. Global energy demand is expected to be 45% higher in 2030 than it is now, according to the IEA. And with developing countries opening two new coal-fired power stations every week, much of the extra demand will be met by fossil fuels, despite the strong growth in nuclear power and renewable energy.
The European Union is now backing a rollout of carbon-capture technology. It wants to build between 10 and 12 CCS demonstration projects by 2015, and is offering about $1.5 billion from its economic-stimulus package and 300 million carbon credits from its emissions-trading system -- currently valued at about $8.8 billion. The Obama administration has also set aside $2.4 billion for CCS projects.
Vattenfall has an incentive to be in the vanguard of clean coal. As regulation pushes up the price of carbon, the company's coal-fired power stations in Germany will become much more costly to run. Last year, it opened Europe's first CCS pilot plant at the power station Schwarze Pumpe. It is now planning a much bigger demonstration plant in Jänschwalde, near Berlin. Vattenfall plans to pipe the CO2 sequestered there about 95 miles northward and deposit it deep below two small towns in the Brandenburg region, Neutrebbin and Beeskow.
But Vattenfall can't bury the CO2 it sequesters at Schwarze Pumpe because authorities have so far failed to provide the necessary permits. So the gas is either sold for industrial cleaning or just vented into the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, when Vattenfall in April unveiled its plan to store carbon in the Neutrebbin area, it triggered a storm of protest. Campaigners like Mr. Stumpe point to the sudden discharge of CO2 from Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986 that suffocated more than 1,700 people. But that gas was naturally occurring and, thus far, there have been no known releases of stored CO2.
Still, "people are worried about leaks," says Thomas Lautsch, Vattenfall Europe AG's head of CO2 storage. "They worry their kids will be suffocated, their cows will die, their property values will slump."
To reassure them, Dr. Lautsch, a mining engineer, organized around six town-hall meetings to explain Vattenfall's plans. Germany has more than 40 natural-gas storage sites, many of them under residential areas, he said. If people could accept natural gas on their doorsteps, why not the less-dangerous CO2?
Besides, he told villagers, the saline aquifers here were perfect for CO2 storage. They contain brine that is unfit for human consumption and are capped by solid layers of rock that are impermeable to liquids and gas.
Many scientists back his arguments. They point to the experience of the Norwegian oil company StatoilHydro ASA, which for the last decade has been stripping CO2 out of the natural gas it produces at its Sleipner field in the North Sea and burying it deep underground. None of it has leaked.
"Sleipner is a success story, and there's no reason why it shouldn't work in other places," says Mike Stephenson, head of science at the British Geological Survey. "The science we've done so far shows geological storage is a safe proposition." He added that CCS will typically use formations where oil and gas had been trapped for millions of years.
But in Neutrebbin, Dr. Lautsch's attempts at reassurance met with resistance. Soon, locals were putting up posters in their windows with the words: "We are not guinea pigs!" A group of farmers said they won't let Vattenfall onto their property to conduct tests.
The veterinarian Mr. Stumpe was one of the most active opponents, organizing meetings and getting petitions signed. He says he is worried by the absence of data to show how greenhouse gases will behave decades or centuries after they have been buried.
Vattenfall isn't alone in encountering resistance. RWE AG, one of Germany's largest power producers, is facing opposition to its plans to pump carbon from a new power plant in the Ruhr industrial area to the north German region of Schleswig-Holstein. Vattenfall also had to postpone plans to deposit CO2 in northern Denmark after local farmers blocked access to their land. Its plans for Neutrebbin and Beeskow are also in limbo: The Brandenburg authorities have so far refused to allow the company to explore the area.
Germany's government is also cooling on CCS. It passed a draft law creating a legal framework for carbon capture in April, but then shelved it until after national elections last month, as the anti-carbon campaigns intensified.
Dr. Lautsch says he understands that gaining public acceptance will be an uphill struggle. "It will take a year of dialogue for people to accept what we do," he says.
Write to Guy Chazan at guy.chazan@wsj.com

Redd in Africa: 'how we can earn money from air by harvesting carbon'

Kenyan ranch shows how UN scheme could protect forests that absorb CO2 and earn billions of dollars for their owners
John Vidal in the Rukinga ranch
guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 October 2009 17.00 BST

Rukinga ranch which could benefit from the UN's Redd scheme. Photograph: wildlifeworks.com
Rukinga ranch in southern Kenya prides itself on the immense herds of elephants, giraffe, lions and and wild dogs that have made a home among its 80,000 acres of acacia trees in the decade since cattle were banned. But the wildlife sanctuary's guards who risk their lives to defend the animals from poachers now face an even greater danger.
Rukinga is on the frontline of global deforestation: every month, dozens of large gangs of commercial charcoal-makers are caught cutting down trees and building crude fire pits to make cooking fuel for the port city of Mombasa 100 miles away. No one knows exactly how many thousands of tonnes of trees are lost a year, but at estimated present rates the reserve could be like much of the land between it and the coast – semi-desert, treeless and barren of animals – within 20 years.
This could change this week if countries agree to back a revolutionary UN plan to preserve the world's forests by allowing owners to trade the carbon stored in endangered forests on condition the trees are not felled. The plan aims to slash the 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions that come from deforestation and is one of the few aspects of a global deal to fight climate change that looks on track to be settled, with key talks taking place this week in Bangkok.
If the ranch's owners can show that Rukinga's trees and shrubs are under threat, and independent scientists can calculate the amount of carbon in its forest, the ranch could qualify as an international Redd (Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries) project, attracting millions of dollars of carbon credits.
The carbon saved would be traded on the growing voluntary carbon market and after 2012 when the next round of the Kyoto treaty becomes affective, Rukinga could qualify as an official Kenyan government Redd scheme, attracting public money from Britain and other rich countries seeking to offset emissions they have legally committed to cut.
British conservationist Rob Dodwell and California-based dotcom millionaire Mike Korchinsky, the ranch's two main shareholders, say they have spent $400,000 (£251,000) over six months measuring Rukinga's trees and getting their Redd application validated. Despite the deep concerns of many observers about how open to fraud Redd projects are, the pair are determined to show it can be done properly.
The carbon stored has been provisionally estimated at around 160 tonnes an acre, which at the present world price of carbon could earn Rukinga nearly $2m a year — a big return for land bought only 10 years ago for around $10 an acre. Dodwell and the 50 local community shareholders of Rukinga will continue to earn money from eco-tourism and cattle, but hope to earn a lot more from farming carbon.
"We calculate that one third of the money [earned] from carbon will go to protect the forest. One third will be cash, like dividends for shareholders, and one sixth will go to the carbon broker. The rest is profit. About $600,000 would go back into the environment every year to protect the trees. It would secure the jobs of the 150 people who already work on Rukinga and it could lead to 100 more jobs. We would need to employ tree patrols, administrators and others. The local shareholders who own 10% of the ranch would earn a lot of money. The wildlife would benefit from the habitat protection and it would cut climate change emissions," says Dodwell.
The local communities were at first bemused, but are now delighted: "When the idea was proposed, we thought 'how can you earn money from air?'. We asked how you could harvest carbon? We wondered if you needed containers," says Alphonse Mwaidoma, chair of nearby Kasigau ranch. "Now, everyone realises it will change everything. Since 1971 we have never had any benefits from the ranch. We get very small dividends, enough to buy just a few bags of sugar or paraffin. Some of the [new] money would go as dividends; some we would put to long term development of the community and scholarships."
Dodwell and Korchinsky, who are also planning to get a 1.8m acre tract of virgin Cameroonian forest classified as a Redd project, potentially earning themselves and 10,000 forest pygmies who live there nearly $10m a year, say they want local people and wildlife to benefit. But they accept that the Redd system is wide open to be abused by organised crime and corrupt governments and businesses.
"There's a great worldwide scramble going on to find land that would qualify for Redd schemes. But there are no guidelines on how to find out how many tonnes of carbon there are," says Dodwell.
"Redd has the potential to be fantastic for commuities but also to go horribly wrong. Logging companies may turn into carbon companies. In most countries in Africa you can do what you like, log out the trees, put in roads, do anything. There is little or no monitoring. The rewards could be 99% for me and 0.5% for the communities," he said.
There are signs that many nascent Redd projects are already leading to social conflict, possible fraud and worsening land disputes. In July, the director of climate change in Papua New Guinea was suspended following allegations that unofficial carbon credits worth $100m had been issued from 39 potential Redd projects by an Australian-based carbon company. Landowners claimed they had been forced to sign over the rights to their forests by "carbon cowboys". The scandal is embarrassing because Papua New Guinea, which has a history of rampant, illegal logging, is leading world efforts to have Redd schemes backed at the UN climate change talks which culminate in Copenhagen in December.
Elsewhere, Redd projects are widely expected to reward political and commercial elites with billions of dollars of public money, with little or nothing reaching the communities who will be expected to protect the forests. In Indonesia, where 40 million people depend on forests, potential Redd projects are in limbo because much of Indonesia's forests have never been surveyed, and land ownership is fiercely disputed.
Local communities are supposed to earn a share of Redd credit sales to pay for better health, education and alternative livelihoods but out of 144 Redd projects analysed by the International Institute for Environment and Development, only one included a proposal to make community-managed forests or indigenous peoples' rights a binding part of Redd.
"The momentum is to get carbon reductions guaranteed above all else. But the overturning of power needed to make Redd work in some countries is almost inconceivable," said James Mayer, head of the natural resources group at IIED.
The Redd rush has been fuelled by conservation groups eager to save emissions but often naive about human rights and development work. US Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, WWF US, Environmental Defense Fund, Woods Hole Research Center, CIFOR, as well as US energy companies, hotel groups, hedge funds, banks and many private buinesses have signed deals with forest owners and are setting up their own Redd schemes.
Hans Brattskar, director of Norway's Forest and Climate Programme whose country is funding the UN-Redd programme, said he envisaged some difficulties could be overcome by sophisticated hi-tech surveillance mixed with on-the-spot monitoring by indigenous peoples. "We know that Redd will needs new laws, land reform and new institutions. But if countries do not perform they will not be paid. This is payment for services. The consequences if we fail are enormous."

Global brands refuse to endorse 'slaughter of the Amazon'

Meat companies sign a moratorium on cattle products linked to rainforest destruction
David Adam
guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 October 2009 16.48 BST

David Adam
Four of the biggest companies involved in Brazilian cattle farming have joined forces to stop the purchase of cattle from newly deforested areas of the Amazon.
Meat companies Marfrig, Bertin, JBS-Friboi and Minerva yesterday signed a formal moratorium in which they pledge better protection for the rainforest.
The move follows a three-year Greenpeace investigation, reported extensively in the Guardian in June, which exposed the link between forest destruction and the expansion of cattle ranching in the Amazon. The investigation prompted calls for action from key international companies, including food group Princes and footwear manufacturers Clarkes, Adidas, Nike, and Timberland, which threatened to cancel contracts unless their beef and leather products were guaranteed free from raw materials linked to Amazon destruction.
John Sauven, head of Greenpeace, said: "Today's announcement is a significant victory in the fight to protect the Amazon. Cattle ranching is the single biggest cause of deforestation globally, and the fact that these multibillion dollar companies have committed to cleaning up their supply chains will lead to real change in the Amazon."
He added: "British companies have helped make this happen by getting tough with their suppliers, but this is not the end of the story. We now need to make sure that this agreement is properly enforced and extended to the entire cattle industry in Brazil."
Blairo Maggi, governor of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, which has the highest rate of deforestation in the Amazon and the largest cattle herd in Brazil, attended the signing in São Paulo. Maggi has announced the state will support efforts to protect the Amazon and will provide high-resolution satellite images to monitor the area.
Clearing tropical forests for agriculture is estimated to produce 17% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions – more than the global transport system.
The Greenpeace investigation compiled government records, company documents and trade data from Brazil, China, Europe, Vietnam and the US to piece together the global movement of meat, leather and cosmetics ingredients made from Brazilian cattle.

Obama's Chinese honeymoon

The new administration's relations with Beijing have been better than feared. But the first cracks are emerging
Shi Yinhong
guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 October 2009 10.00 BST

China's relations with President Obama's administration have been, until very recently, excellent. Beijing had worried during Obama's presidential campaign that a Democratic win might signal a protectionist stance towards China and overconcern with perceived human rights issues, but these fears had not proven grounded.
Yes, there were tensions, most prominently about the US naval surveillance activity within China's special economic zone in the South China Sea. Yes, there were also a few ongoing major disagreements that Beijing and Washington still urgently needed to thrash out, on matters such as climate change.
But what had been impressive, even extraordinary, was that the handful of public frictions never reached crisis point, and were all dealt with within a climate of rather friendly negotiation. Bilateral relations had been in a generally good state during President Bush's last years in office, but during the first months of a new administration in Washington there has almost always been a downturn in the attitude toward China, so the cordial start was unexpected and highly welcome.
It is this happy context that makes the US president's decision on 11 September to slap high tariffs on cheap imported Chinese tyres so surprising and enraging to Beijing. Many Chinese see it as humiliating that Obama took this drastic action immediately after Wu Banguo, head of China's National Congress, had declared his visit to Washington to be a great success – especially given that the president himself had not raised the prospect of Sino-US trade disputes since taking office.
Beijing's anger was expressed instantly and in the strongest terms by the ministry of commerce, the main national government agency dealing with foreign trade. It condemned the tyre tariff decision as a "grave protectionist action" and an "extremely bad precedent", warned that "abusing trade relief measures will damage China-US trade relations" and made a clear threat of trade retaliation. This kind of language is rarely used by Beijing so it carries real force.
However, at the same time, the ministry's reaction shows a sophisticated streak of restraint. In its statement the ministry mentions that the US government was "forced by domestic political pressure" to raise its "unreasonable demands", a phrase that partially exonerates the US policymakers. The threatened retaliation involving American chicken parts and motor parts, in the words of the Christian Science Monitor, "seems designed to minimise the impact of any retaliatory measures it might take", because chicken parts accounted for a little over 1% of overall US poultry exports to China last year and in the first half of 2009 fell sixfold from even this insignificant level, while China reduced import tariffs on auto parts a little over two weeks ago, which, as the Christian Science Monitor says, "would appear to limit its ability to impose serious new sanctions on such goods".
The honeymoon may be ending, but the Chinese government still puts a high value on relations with the United States and President Obama. The relationship can weather this storm. President Obama visits Beijing in November and both parties will try to prevent this dispute spilling over into something much more serious. The Chinese government's strong reaction (limited thus far mainly to harsh words) to Obama's tyre tariff decision seems fuelled by its sensitivity to business and public opinion. The former fears US protectionist measures, while the latter (at least a large part of it) has long been much more critical toward the US in its relations with China than the Chinese government. "We must take a forceful posture in dealing with the US, even withdrawing from the WTO," one Chinese internet user wrote on a bulletin board on 16 September about the tyre tariff affair, using much more moderate language than many others. "Totally boycott US goods! Sell all US treasury bonds!" another wrote on the same day.
We should not take the Chinese government's attitude toward the United States and the Obama administration for granted. It has not forgotten what most commentators in east Asia said during the presidential campaign about Obama and the Democratic party's protectionist inclinations. It knows that as the US emerges from financial crisis and reduces its financial dependence upon China, substantial trade disputes might raise their head again. The probability of Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama sooner or later, the possible new programme of arms sales to Taiwan, and the marginalisation of China in the North Korea problem all have the potential to make things worse. Normal relations between Beijing and Washington could soon be resumed, the honeymoon well and truly over.

Secrecy prevails at Bangkok climate talks

The EU and rich nations are making themselves inaccessible to the press in Bangkok and the developing countries are furious
You might think the armies of civil servants negotiating the future of Mother Earth would be keen to tell people how the talks are going. No. Here in sweaty Bangkok and the chilly air-conditioned UN centre, it's cool to be secretive. We the people – that is the press, the NGOs, even business - are not allowed to see or hear any of the negotiating sessions. And our EU leaders plan just one short session with the world's media on Friday afternoon when the talks here finish.
Seeing as the EU stands accused by the developing world of jeopardising the whole shebang by siding with the United States to sabotage the Kyoto protocol, perhaps secrecy is their only option.
Even the big NGOs like to be close to power and to be secret. Earlier today, the US called an impromptu open meeting to discuss the talks so far, but the Guardian, along with other press here was thrown out. "On what basis does the US refuse to tell the world what it is deciding?" we asked. The US representatives looked embarrassed and shrugged. But when the NGOs were asked if they wanted the media to be allowed to stay, they too declined. So much for civil society, which gets ever cosier with its masters.
So Guardianistas, here is the official state of play with just a few weeks to go until the final round of talks which begin in Copenhagen on 7 December. So far, the UN has said rich countries need to cut their emissions by 25-40% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) to stay within the 2C rise which the scientists say is the upper limit of what Earth can take. But the UNFCCC secretariat (the people running the climate talks) reckons that the combined cut from pledges made by rich countries so far adds up to just 16-23% - and that's excluding any cuts made by the US.
The Alliance of Small Island States (made up of the countries who stand to be drowned in a few years and which have as their motto: "1.5 to stay alive") say that if the US joins in with its expected target of about 4-10%, that would give an aggregate global cut of just 11-18% in emissions. If so, that means that we, the rich, intend to cut our emissions by a measly 6% more than what we pledged - but failed to reach in 2002. And with carbon offsets - which we can pass on to poor countries - that means we need do next to nothing at all at home. Indeed, we could probably increase emissions and carry on building coal power plants. No wonder the EU and rich countries are hiding from the press and the developing countries are furious!
Quote of the conference so far comes from ambassador Yu Qingtai, China's special representative on climate talks. When asked to do a stock-taking exercise to see how far the talks had come, he said succinctly: "Unfortunately there is hardly any stock to take."
Tragically, one Filipino delegate has had a very personal reminder of the effects of climate change. Her house was wiped out last week in the floods that hit the capital Manila, the worst in the country's history.

China: US is sabotaging Copenhagen climate treaty by 'changing Kyoto rules'

The US and other rich countries are "sabotaging" the Kyoto protocol, the only international treaty in force that fights global warming, by rejecting their historical responsibilities, China and 130 other developing nations have said in coordinated statements.

Published: 5:46PM BST 05 Oct 2009
"We now hear statements and actions that will lead to a termination of the Kyoto protocol and everything that it represents," Yu Qingtai, China's ambassador for climate change, said during a news conference at UN climate talks in Bangkok on Monday.
The accusation came as 180 nations were trying to lay the framework for a global climate deal in Copenhagen in December that would take over when the current provisions of the Kyoto Protocol run out in 2012.
"It's just like the final five minutes into a game in which one side is putting forward a set of new rules ... and expects the other side to agree.
"That is not a fair way of conducting negotiations," Mr Yu said.
The world's nations promised nearly two years ago to hammer out a new global agreement by the end of 2009 to slash the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that drive global warming.
Emerging giants such as China and other developing countries say the new agreement should strengthen Kyoto, under which 37 highly industrialised nations took on hard commitments for cutting carbon dioxide pollution between 2008 and 2012.
The United States signed the treaty in 1992 but never ratified it, and thus was exempt from its provisions.
In Bangkok, several nations - notably the US, Australia and Japan - have floated proposals calling for an approach in which each country would make its own national commitments.
These would be measurable and verifiable, but outside any kind of internationally enforceable compliance regime.
Rich nations have suggested that poorer countries, which had no Kyoto obligations, could make efforts to curb carbon dioxide output in keeping with their level of development under such a scheme.
Instead, China called for beefing up Kyoto, which could exist along with whatever other measures might be adopted at the climate conference in Copenhagen.
The angry statements come after Carol Browner, Barack Obama's energy adviser, admitted that the US senate would probably not vote on its global warming bill before the talks in Copenhagen, seriously limiting the US president's ability to commit to new plans at the summit.

Renewables projects win £100m Euro-cash

Published Date: 06 October 2009
By Jenny Fyall
TWO major green energy projects in Scotland, including the east coast's first offshore wind farm, are to be given more than £100 million of European funding.
In a show of support for Scotland's renewables industry, the European Commission will grant 40m (£37m) to a planned wind farm off the Aberdeen coast.A further 75m (£67m) will go towards a transmission hub off the north coast of Scotland, which would pave the way for the mass development of renewables in the Pentland Firth and on Shetland.The funding, to be officially announced later this month, will go some way to lift Scotland's disappointment that the European Commission has decided not to provide funding towards ScottishPower's carbon capture and storage system at Longannet Power Station in Fife, as reported in The Scotsman yesterday. Swedish utility firm Vattenfall and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group are behind the plans for the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm.They originally hoped to install 23 giant turbines up to three miles out to sea, but announced earlier this year that the scheme would be scaled down because of concerns about helicopter safety and the impact on the marine environment. Scottish & Southern Energy is also due to benefit from the European Economic Recovery Plan funding. The company hopes to build a transmission hub attached to a cable linking Shetland and mainland Scotland. This would pave the way for a mass expansion in marine renewables – wave, tidal and offshore wind generation – in and around the Pentland Firth.Neither of the projects to share in the EU funding yet has planning permission.Dr Richard Dixon, director of the environmentalist group WWF Scotland, said both projects were "very important"."This is a vote of confidence from Europe in Scotland's huge renewable potential so that's a very positive sign," he said.The funding recommendations will be considered by member states before being formally announced, but The Scotsman understands they are very unlikely to change. A spokeswoman for Scottish & Southern Energy said: "If it's the case that we are getting the funding then it's very welcome because it's a good news story for renewable energy being connected off the north-east coast, including the Pentland Firth." A spokeswoman for the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm added that she was "optimistic". A Scottish Government spokesman said he hoped it would be possible to "bring in £100m of investment in Scotland".He added: "Nonetheless we are disappointed in the possible decision on Longannet but it remains a strong contender in the UK CCS competition, and we hope that this will be recognised."Liberal Democrat MEP for Scotland George Lyon said: "This is good news. Scotland has the potential to be Europe's renewables powerhouse, and this money will help unlock that potential."

UN's forest protection scheme at risk from organised crime, experts warn

International police, politicians and conservationists warn that the UN's programme to cut carbon emissions by paying poor countries to preserve their forests is 'open to wide abuse'
John Vidal, environment editor
guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 October 2009 17.00 BST
A revolutionary UN scheme to cut carbon emissions by paying poorer countries to preserve their forests is a recipe for corruption and will be hijacked by organised crime without safeguards, a Guardian investigation has found.
The UN, the World Bank, the UK and individuals including Prince Charles have strongly backed UN plans to expand the global carbon market to allow countries to trade the carbon stored in forests.
If, as expected, this is agreed at crucial UN climate change talks taking place in Bangkok this week and concluding in Copenhagen in December, up to $30bn a year could be transferred from rich countries to the owners of endangered forests.
But experts on all sides of the debate, from international police to politicians to conservationists, have warned this week that the scheme, called Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (Redd), may be impossible to monitor and may already be leading to fraud. The UN itself accepts there are "high risks".
Interpol, the world's leading policing agency, said this week that the chances were very high that criminal gangs would seek to take advantage of Redd schemes, which will be largely be based in corruption-prone African and Asian countries.
"Alarm bells are ringing. It is simply too big to monitor. The potential for criminality is vast and has not been taken into account by the people who set it up," said Peter Younger, Interpol environment crimes specialist and author of a new report for the World Bank on illegal forestry.
"Organised crime syndicates are eyeing the nascent forest carbon market. I will report to the bank that Redd schemes are open to wide abuse," he said.
The significance of the felling of forests across great swaths of the world cannot be overstated - it is are responsible for about 20% of the globe's entire carbon emissions. With governments anxious to find new ways to meet increasingly stringent national emission targets, a scheme which promises to benefit poor countries, cut emissions cheaply and not require any new technology is highly attractive.
But most of the countries rich in forests are also home to some of the world's most corrupt politicians and uncontrolled logging companies, who stand to make billions of dollars if they can get Redd projects approved.
"Fraud could include claiming credits for forests that do not exist or were not protected or by land grabs. It starts with bribery or intimidation of officials, then there's threats and violence against those people. There's forged documents too," said Younger. "Carbon trading transcends borders. I do not see any input from any law enforcement agency in planning Redd."
Hans Brattskar, director of Norway's forest and climate programme, whose country is financially backing the UN Redd programme, said last night: "It will be extremely difficult to make it work. Law enforcement is vital because the corruption issued are very real. But we have to put in safeguards and we have to try. Redd can save up to 20% of all the world's emissions. Without it, I believe it will be impossible to reach the target of stemming climate change and holding global temperatures to 2C," the level judged acceptable by the European Union.
Last month, Papua New Guinea, one of the countries pushing hardest for Redd to be accepted in the UN climate talks, suspended their climate change minister after allegations that $100m of fake carbon credits had been handed to communities to persuade them to sign up to forest protection schemes.
Last night the UN admitted that Redd schemes were dangerously open to abuse. "Where countries are corrupt the potential for Redd corruption is dangerous. [In Papua New Guinea], people have tried to take advantage of the market in an unacceptable way and carbon cowboys are trying to get the benefits. We can expect more of this as Redd develops," said Tiina Vahanen, a senior officer at UN-Redd.
People setting up Redd schemes also fear that they may be discredited by fraudsters aiming to profit from public money. "The potential for Redd rape and pillage is staggering. Logging companies may turn into carbon companies. All they have to do is count, not cut. It's like giving a mass murderer money," said Rob Dodwell, a British conservationist setting up schemes in Kenya and Cameroon.
The UN estimates that 25% of the world's forestry emissions, or nearly 5% of total global carbon emissions, could be saved by 2015 if rich countries invest $15bn to set up Redd schemes.
So far rich countries have put up $52m to establish nine official pilot Redd schemes in Asia, Latin America and Africa. In addition several hundred private schemes are being set up by bankers, conservation groups, and businesses who plan to offer carbon credits on the voluntary market.
But academics and environment groups with long experience working with the logging industry and indigenous communities said that both government and private schemes are being set up with no guarantees to protect communities who depend on the forests. "Decisions are being rushed, communities are not consulted or compensated and the lure of money from cutting emissions is overiding everything," says Rosalind Reeve of forestry watchdog group Global Witness.

Smart meters need live displays to help households save money

Smart meters must come with clear visual guides in order to help households save up to £130 per year, according to Government watchdog the Energy Saving Trust (EST).

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 2:24PM BST 05 Oct 2009

The 'intelligent' electricity and gas readers will be fitted like normal meters in all homes by 2020 as part of efforts to cut household emissions. Smart meters use mobile phone technology to tell electricity companies how much power is being used so it is no longer necessary to take meter readings.
However a study from the EST said the new technology will not help people save money unless they come with visual monitors. The stand-alone devices give an idea of how much energy is being used at any one time, for example it would indicate if a light has been left on.

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The study also found that households would like to see how much money they are spending and how much CO2 is being produced on the movable monitors.
The Government announced the plan to make energy companies install smart meters earlier this year.
As well as helping energy companies to be more efficient by giving a better idea of real time demand, the new meters will also mean an end to estimated bills and having to wait at home for readings.
However the plans do not necessarily require energy companies to provide separate energy monitors when they install the new meters.
Already consumer groups and the Local Government Association have called for the movable visual monitors to be included in the package after research showed that households could save up to £130 per annum on their fuel bill because people are more aware of how much electricity they are using.
Now the Government's own agency to help the country cut energy, the Energy Saving Trust, has added pressure.
Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of the EST, urged the Government to insist smart metres comes with a visual aid.
“The roll out of smart meters offers a unique chance to improve consumer understanding of energy consumption and encourage more energy efficient behaviour, and our research has shown the importance of displays in making consumers more conscious of their day to day energy consumption," he said.
“Furthermore, we believe that in-home displays should have minimum standards in order to ensure they are most effective for consumer use. We urge the Government to stand by its preferred position of requiring smart meters to be accompanied by visual displays.”
The Government is expected to publish its response to a consultation on the roll-out of smart metres later this year.