Monday, 26 October 2009

Gordon Brown’s climate change finance package hangs in balance

David Charter and Philip Webster
Gordon Brown’s plan for Europe to lead the world in tackling climate change stands on the brink of failure as a row about its cost threatens to overshadow the European Council.
The Prime Minister was the first to call for a $100 billion (£60 billion) fund to help emerging nations to meet the terms of the replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, to be finalised at a United Nations summit in December.
As part of this, he wants the EU to pledge €10 billion (£9 billion) a year to the fund, but two groups of member states are fighting to block the plan at the council on Thursday and Friday.
Britain, already facing a public spending squeeze, has offered to find €1 billion a year to help to fund the scheme from 2020.

Poland leads nine eastern countries that say they cannot afford to help other nations when they have so much to do to cut emissions in their own coal-based economies. They want the scheme to be voluntary, at least in its early years. Germany, meanwhile, leads others, including France and Italy, that feel it is wrong to put a price on the plan before Copenhagen.
Mr Brown has backing from the Netherlands and Denmark, the hosts of the Copenhagen climate change summit, for his view that there should be “no agreement without money”.
Britain will argue that if the EU starts to make its global commitment to climate change voluntary, it will be hard to get other countries to sign up to a mandatory global agreement.
EU leaders are expected to spend much of the summit settling their positions for Copenhagen after Alistair Darling’s failure last week to persuade finance ministers to agree funding. Speaking to The Times after that meeting, the Chancellor said: “It was a pity but the matter will come back to the European Council. We have to return to it because it is imperative we reach agreement in December.”
John Gormley, the Irish Environment Minister, speaking to the Europolitics website after the same meeting, added: “This is coming down to an issue about redistribution of wealth. In some ways it is inevitable that you will get tension between the newer member states and the old guard.”
After Mr Brown called for the fund, the Treasury said that about one third of the $100 billion could come from industrialised countries, including the EU, US and Japan, with half coming from the global carbon trading market plus and levies to cut aviation and maritime emissions. The remainder could be found by the richest developing countries, such as China.
The climate funding package is seen by green pressure groups as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to success in Copenhagen. “We do not think there will be a deal without the right funding package,” said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International.

Green taxes 'under threat from Treasury', claims Greenpeace

• Influential thinktank the Green Fiscal Commission calls for fuel duties to be tripled over next 10 years• New report, The Case for Green Fiscal Reform, has backing of Lord Turner and cross-party support
Terry Macalister, Sunday 25 October 2009 20.16 GMT
Greenpeace and other development agencies have written to the prime minister calling on him to exercise authority over the Treasury and stop it blocking vital climate change initiatives.
The call comes ahead of a report to be published tomorrow by the Green Fiscal Commission (GFC), which will call for a dramatic £150bn shake-up in the country's fiscal system – including a £3,300 tax on new cars and a tripling of fuel duties over the next decade, to be balanced by a cut in income tax and national insurance.
The non-governmental organisations claim that Alistair Darling's department is preventing a green tax being slapped on the aviation and shipping industries that would fund mitigation schemes in poorer countries, despite Gordon Brown's support.
And they fear that calls in the GFC report for a package of new green taxes on businesses and households at a time of economic difficulty will also be stopped by Whitehall mandarins.
"The Treasury has been a block on progressive action historically and the same is true today," said John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace. "We have written a joint letter to the prime minister because it is disgraceful that the Treasury theocracy is blocking a tax on bunker fuel [shipping or aviation fuel] that he himself supports.
"We fear the same could happen here [to the GFC report]. Yet green taxes are one of the critical planks in tackling climate change as far as we are concerned, although a key thing is to ensure that we safeguard social justice," he added.
The Labour government came into power promising a shift to a policy of the "polluter pays" but Greenpeace believes it began to retreat from that position, notably after the fuel protests in August 2000 caused oil refineries to be blockaded and widespread disruption.
The Case for Green Fiscal Reform, to be launched tomorrow by Lord Turner, head of the committee on climate change and chairman of the Financial Services Authority, seeks a rise in the proportion of environmental-based taxes in the overall tax take from 7% to 15%. When Labour came to power, environmental-based taxation accounted for 9% of the tax take.
A £300 tax would be placed on new cars, increasing annually until it reaches £3,300 by 2020, while a fuel "escalator" would be introduced to increase petrol duties by 10% per annum. The report has cross-party support.
Paul Ekins, professor of energy and environment policy at University College London and author of the GFC report, said the total impact of the package would be almost exactly neutral to the economy as a whole. It would create 500,000 jobs and reward consumers who shy away from heavy CO2 consumption, but knock car and oil companies, and those who make money out of a high-carbon economy.
"Media reporting of these kinds of initiatives tends to concentrate on the losers but [the proposal from the GFC] is good news and puts money in the pocket of those who are not polluters," said Ekins.
The shadow climate change secretary, Greg Barker, said that the Conservatives would consider the report's recommendations seriously.
The transport lobby went on the attack today, with the Freight Transport Association (FTA) saying the government was already using too much stick and very little carrot with road users.
"Our members use road, rail and sea where they can but the infrastructure is not there at the moment to make [low-carbon alternatives] more viable. We met the Treasury the other week and it admitted the fuel duty was not an environmental tax but a revenue raiser," said Jo Tanner, a spokeswoman for the FTA.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said it could not pass comment before seeing the report but was alarmed at the idea of levies on new cars at a time when the industry is in recession.

The real climate change catastrophe

In a startling new book, Christopher Booker reveals how a handful of scientists, who have pushed flawed theories on global warming for decades, now threaten to take us back to the Dark Ages

By Christopher Booker Published: 7:00AM GMT 25 Oct 2009
Next Thursday marks the first anniversary of one of the most remarkable events ever to take place in the House of Commons. For six hours MPs debated what was far and away the most expensive piece of legislation ever put before Parliament.
The Climate Change Bill laid down that, by 2050, the British people must cut their emissions of carbon dioxide by well over 80 per cent. Short of some unimaginable technological revolution, such a target could not possibly be achieved without shutting down almost the whole of our industrialised economy, changing our way of life out of recognition.

Even the Government had to concede that the expense of doing this – which it now admits will cost us £18 billion a year for the next 40 years – would be twice the value of its supposed benefits. Yet, astonishingly, although dozens of MPs queued up to speak in favour of the Bill, only two dared to question the need for it. It passed by 463 votes to just three.
One who voted against it was Peter Lilley who, just before the vote was taken, drew the Speaker’s attention to the fact that, outside the Palace of Westminster, snow was falling, the first October snow recorded in London for 74 years. As I observed at the time: “Who says that God hasn’t got a sense of humour?”
By any measure, the supposed menace of global warming – and the political response to it – has become one of the overwhelmingly urgent issues of our time. If one accepts the thesis that the planet faces a threat unprecedented in history, the implications are mind-boggling. But equally mind-boggling now are the implications of the price we are being asked to pay by our politicians to meet that threat. More than ever, it is a matter of the highest priority that we should know whether or not the assumptions on which the politicians base their proposals are founded on properly sound science.
This is why I have been regularly reporting on the issue in my column in The Sunday Telegraph, and this week I publish a book called The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is the obsession with climate change turning out to be the most costly scientific delusion in history?.
There are already many books on this subject, but mine is rather different from the rest in that, for the first time, it tries to tell the whole tangled story of how the debate over the threat of climate change has evolved over the past 30 years, interweaving the science with the politicians’ response to it.
It is a story that has unfolded in three stages. The first began back in the Seventies when a number of scientists noticed that the world’s temperatures had been falling for 30 years, leading them to warn that we might be heading for a new ice age. Then, in the mid-Seventies, temperatures started to rise again, and by the mid-Eighties, a still fairly small number of scientists – including some of those who had been predicting a new ice age – began to warn that we were now facing the opposite problem: a world dangerously heating up, thanks to our pumping out CO₂ and all those greenhouse gases inseparable from modern civilisation.
In 1988, a handful of the scientists who passionately believed in this theory won authorisation from the UN to set up the body known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This was the year when the scare over global warming really exploded into the headlines, thanks above all to the carefully staged testimony given to a US Senate Committee by Dr James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), also already an advocate for the theory that CO₂ was causing potentially catastrophic warming.
The disaster-movie scenario that rising levels of CO₂ could lead to droughts, hurricanes, heatwaves and, above all, that melting of the polar ice caps, which would flood half the world’s major cities, struck a rich chord. The media loved it. The environmentalists loved it. More and more politicians, led by Al Gore in the United States, jumped on the bandwagon. But easily their most influential allies were the scientists running the new IPCC, led by a Swedish meteorologist Bert Bolin and Dr John Houghton, head of the UK Met Office.
The IPCC, through its series of weighty reports, was now to become the central player in the whole story. But rarely has the true nature of any international body been more widely misrepresented. It is commonly believed that the IPCC consists of “1,500 of the world’s top climate scientists”, charged with weighing all the scientific evidence for and against “human-induced climate change” in order to arrive at a “consensus”.
In fact, the IPCC was never intended to be anything of the kind. The vast majority of its contributors have never been climate scientists. Many are not scientists at all. And from the start, the purpose of the IPCC was not to test the theory, but to provide the most plausible case for promoting it. This was why the computer models it relied on as its chief source of evidence were all programmed to show that, as CO₂ levels continued to rise, so temperatures must inevitably follow.
One of the more startling features of the IPCC is just how few scientists have been centrally involved in guiding its findings. They have mainly been British and American, led for a long time by Dr Houghton (knighted in 1991) as chairman of its scientific working group, who in 1990 founded the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for research into climate change. The centre has continued to play a central role in selecting the IPCC’s contributors to this day, and along with the Climate Research Unit run by Professor Philip Jones at the University of East Anglia, controls HadCrut, one of the four official sources of global temperature data (another of the four, GIStemp, is run by the equally committed Dr Hansen and his British-born right-hand man, Dr Gavin Schmidt).
With remarkable speed, from the time of its first report in 1990, the IPCC and its computer models won over many of the world’s politicians, led by those of the European Union. In 1992, the UN staged its extraordinary Earth Summit in Rio, attended by 108 prime ministers and heads of state, which agreed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; and this led in 1997 to the famous Kyoto Protocol, committing the world’s governments to specific targets for reducing CO₂.
Up to this point, the now officially accepted global-warming theory seemed only too plausible. Both CO₂ levels and world temperatures had continued to rise, exactly as the IPCC’s computer models predicted. We thus entered the second stage of the story, lasting from 1998 to 2006, when the theory seemed to be carrying everything before it.
The politicians, most notably in the EU, were now beginning to adopt every kind of measure to combat the supposed global-warming menace, from building tens of thousands of wind turbines to creating elaborate schemes for buying and selling the right to emit CO₂, the gas every plant in the world needs for life.
But however persuasive the case seemed to be, there were just beginning to be rather serious doubts about the methods being used to promote it. More and more questions were being asked about the IPCC’s unbalanced approach to evidence – most notably in its promotion of the so-called “hockey stick” graph, produced in time for its 2001 report by a hitherto obscure US scientist Dr Michael Mann, purporting to show how global temperatures had suddenly been shooting up to levels quite unprecedented in history.
One of the hockey stick’s biggest fans was Al Gore, who in 2006 made it the centrepiece of his Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth. But it then turned out that almost every single scientific claim in Gore’s film was either wildly exaggerated or wrong. The statistical methods used to create the hockey-stick graph were so devastatingly exposed by two Canadian statisticians, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick (as was confirmed in 2006 by two expert panels commissioned by the US Congress) that the graph has become one of the most comprehensively discredited artefacts in the history of science.
The supporters of the hockey stick, highly influential in the IPCC, hit back. Proudly calling themselves “the Hockey Team”, their membership again reflects how small has been the number of closely linked scientists centrally driving the warming scare. They include Philip Jones, in charge of the HadCrut official temperature graph, and Gavin Schmidt, Hansen’s right-hand man at GISS –which itself came under fire for “adjusting” its temperature data to exaggerate the warming trend.
Then, in 2007, the story suddenly entered its third stage. In a way that had been wholly unpredicted by those IPCC computer models, global temperatures started to drop. Although CO2 levels continued to rise, after 25 years when temperatures had risen, the world’s climate was visibly starting to cool again.
More and more eminent scientists have been coming out of the woodwork to suggest that the IPCC, with its computer models, had got it all wrong. It isn’t CO₂ that has been driving the climate, the changes are natural, driven by the activity of the sun and changes in the currents of the world’s oceans.
The ice caps haven’t been melting as the alarmists and the models predicted they should. The Antarctic, containing nearly 90 per cent of all the ice in the world, has actually been cooling over the past 30 years, not warming. The polar bears are not drowning – there are four times more of them now than there were 40 years ago. In recent decades, the number of hurricanes and droughts have gone markedly down, not up.
As the world has already been through two of its coldest winters for decades, with all the signs that we may now be entering a third, the scientific case for CO₂ threatening the world with warming has been crumbling away on an astonishing scale.
Yet it is at just this point that the world’s politicians, led by Britain, the EU and now President Obama, are poised to impose on us far and away the most costly set of measures that any group of politicians has ever proposed in the history of the world – measures so destructive that even if only half of them were implemented, they would take us back to the dark ages.
We have “less than 50 days” to save the planet, declared Gordon Brown last week, in yet another desperate bid to save the successor to the Kyoto treaty, which is due to be agreed in Copenhagen in six weeks’ time. But no one has put the reality of the situation more succinctly than Prof Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technolgy, one of the most distinguished climatologists in the world, who has done as much as anyone in the past 20 years to expose the emptiness of the IPCC’s claim that its reports represent a “consensus” of the views of “the world’s top climate scientists”.
In words quoted on the cover of my new book, Prof Lindzen wrote: “Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century’s developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly exaggerated computer predictions combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a rollback of the industrial age.”
Such is the truly extraordinary position in which we find ourselves.
Thanks to misreading the significance of a brief period of rising temperatures at the end of the 20th century, the Western world (but not India or China) is now contemplating measures that add up to the most expensive economic suicide note ever written.
How long will it be before sanity and sound science break in on what begins to look like one of the most bizarre collective delusions ever to grip the human race?
'The Real Global Warming Disaster’ by Christopher Booker (Continuum, £16.99) is available from Telegraph Books for £14.99 plus £1.25 postage and packing. To order, call 0844 871 1516 or go to

Algae may be secret weapon in climate change war

Relax News
Monday, 26 October 2009
Driven by fluctuations in oil prices, and seduced by the prospect of easing climate change, experts are ramping up efforts to squeeze fuel out of a promising new organism: pond scum.
As it turns out, algae -- slimy, fast-growing and full of fat -- is gaining ground as a potential renewable energy source.
Experts say it is intriguing for its ability to gobble up carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, while living happily in places that aren't needed for food crops.

Algae likes mosquito-infested swamps, for example, filthy pools, and even waste water. And while no one has found a way to mass produce cheap fuel from algae yet, the race is on.
University labs and start-up companies across the country are getting involved. Over the summer, the first mega-corporation joined in, when ExxonMobil said it would sink 600 million dollars into algae research in a partnership with a California biotechnology company.
If the research pans out, scientists say they will eventually find a cost-effective way to convert lipids from algae ponds into fuel, then pump it into cars, trucks and jets.
"I think it's very realistic. I don't think it's going to take 20 years. It's going to take a few years," said chemical engineer George Philippidis, director of applied research at Florida International University in Miami.
One of the factors fueling enthusiasm is algae's big appetite for carbon dioxide -- a by-product of burning fossil fuels.
"We could hook up to the exhaust of polluting industries," Philippidis said. "We could capture it and feed it to algae and prevent that CO2 from contributing to further climate change."
California company Sapphire Energy has already fueled a cross-country road trip with algae-tinged gasoline.
The trip, meant to raise awareness, prompted the headline, "Coast to Coast on Slime". Another California company is looking at fattening fish on algae and then processing the fish for oil.
-- Mother Nature has figured it out --
"Where algae is very nice is, it's prolific. It's everywhere... and you don't have to do much. Mother Nature has kind of figured it out," said Roy Swiger, a molecular geneticist and director of the Florida division of the non-profit Midwest Research Institute.
MRI began studying algae as an energy source three years ago. Swiger warned that algal fuels are not ready for prime time yet. Even though algae grows like gangbusters, it currently costs up to 100 dollars to make a gallon of algal fuel-- hardly a savings.
The rub is bringing cost down, and production up. To do this, scientists must find cheap ways to dry algae and extract the lipids, where energy is stored.
Swiger noted that it would not make sense to spend five dollars of electricity to run a centrifuge to dry out algae, that in turn would only produce one dollar of fuel.
If research goes well, Swiger thinks it will take five years to bring down production costs to 40 dollars per gallon.
But taking even a tiny chunk out of the energy market -- ethanol has eked out a 4.0 percent share, for example -- can shift the energy mix.
"Four percent is not a lot, and yet everywhere you look there's a pump," Swiger said. "So four percent of a gigantic number is a lot."
Some start-ups are more optimistic. Paul Woods, chief executive of Florida-based Algenol Biofuels, says his company will beat others to market.
He has patented a technology for "sweating" ethanol from algae, without drying it first.
"We see ourselves as a very cheap way to supplement (energy supply)," said Woods, "and the more cheap ethanol we have, the more we're winning in efforts to have independence from foreign fuel."
Woods announced a partnership with Dow Chemical in July to build a demonstration plant, and expects to launch commercial production by 2011.
Experts don't see algal fuel replacing fossil fuels completely, and some have become leery of hype.
The idea of harnessing algae for fuel has been around for decades, they say. Still, no one has been able to make it financially feasible.
"Any fantastic claims will eventually discredit the field if given much credence," said algae expert John Benemann.
Instead, he sees algae as a good source for animal feeds, chemicals and fertilizer.
Back at FIU, Philippidis agreed "there is no silver bullet" to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
But he saw promise on the horizon, especially as larger companies become involved in algae research. "We are still at an early stage... but as we scale up (production) I think costs will come down very, very quickly," he said.
And if that works, he added, "there is a small Greek island I would like to buy."

Greener, Cheaper

Companies can get there from here, and use a lot less energy than they do now
In the growing effort to confront global warming, many companies profess their determination to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions. But most draw the line where some of the biggest gains could be made: shipping.
The reluctance is, in some ways, understandable. Companies need smooth-running supply chains, which often leave little room for flexibility in transportation. Growth of overseas manufacturing, meanwhile, coupled with demand for fast deliveries, has led to increasing reliance on the kinds of shipping that create the most carbon emissions: jets and trucks.
But transportation-related emissions can be cut without hurting a company's efficiency. In fact, done intelligently, the changes can make supply chains—and their companies—more efficient and profitable.
What follows is a four-stage process for cutting shipping emissions in a way that helps both the environment and the company.
Laying Foundations
The process begins by setting goals, developing metrics and getting assistance from third-party experts.
Activities at this stage are mostly about raising awareness in the company and deciding where to focus attention—on using less energy, fitting more boxes onto each pallet, improving fleet fuel efficiency, requiring carriers to operate more efficiently, or all of the above. Several Fortune 500 companies, including DuPont Co., have begun to report such goals in social-responsibility and sustainability progress reports.
How progress will be measured and reported is important. Don't just record how many gallons of fuel were conserved; show how much money was saved. This will help build support throughout the company. And when setting goals, get the input and support of managers directly involved: This leads to better cooperation and more realistic goals.
Consultants, government and non-government organizations help find ways to save on energy and emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay program helps companies identify products and services that reduce fleet emissions.
Internal Practices
Before asking supply-chain partners to change their ways, a company has to change its own.
Train employees to shut off lights and computers, and encourage them to carpool or take public transportation to work. Buy energy-saving equipment that cuts costs and enhances employee commitment. Johnson & Johnson, FedEx Corp. and others have invested in hybrid or biofuel company cars and other vehicles.
Some companies also have installed—and are using—video-conferencing equipment to reduce business travel.
The savings in energy costs that start to result at this stage will help pay for these and bigger technology investments that follow.
Supply Chain
Once a company has its own house in order, it can start talking to suppliers and customers about making cuts together in shipping emissions.
Adjustments usually need to be negotiated at both ends, whether the company plans to change the shipping method, say, from road to rail, or redraw its delivery routes. By working with its customers to schedule preferred delivery times, Dell Inc., for one, says it increased its first-attempt deliveries 80%.
New technology like route-planning software, automatic shutoffs on idling engines, and more fuel-efficient trucks come into play at this stage, too. Office Depot Inc. says that routing software it purchased helped the company consolidate deliveries and reduce local shipments by as much as 50%.
Strategic Partners
The ultimate goal is for companies and their supply-chain partners to form networks that plan shipping strategies together in ways that minimize emissions. Basing supply and manufacturing facilities nearby, for starters.
Companies that operate at this level—and none that we know of do—must agree on a firm commitment to energy conservation, and employ shipping managers who are experts in both logistics and environmental sustainability.
These are goals good for the planet and the bottom line. They cut shipping costs by increasing efficiency, and they reduce a company's vulnerability to rising fuel prices.— Dr. Golicic is an assistant professor of management at Colorado State University's College of Business in Fort Collins, Co. Ms. Boerstler is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business in Eugene, Ore. Dr. Ellram is the Rees distinguished professor of distribution at Miami University's Farmer School of Business in Oxford, Ohio. They can be reached at .

Poland to sign CO2 deal with Spain, Ireland

Reuters, Monday October 26 2009
TOKYO, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Poland will soon sign a deal to sell a total 40 million euros ($60 million) of surplus greenhouse gas emission rights to Spain and Ireland, the first such government-to-government deal under the Kyoto Protocol, its environment minister said.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, signatory nations that are comfortably below their emissions targets can sell their surpluses in the form of credits, called Assigned Amount Units (AAUs), to governments and companies that are short of their goals.
Poland, the European Union's biggest ex-communist state, is able to sell about 500 million tonnes in CO2 equivalent of AAUs over the 2008-2012 period of Kyoto's first phase and is looking to sell them in Japan, said Environment Minister Maciej Nowicki, who was visiting Tokyo for an investment seminar.
"Just in two weeks I will sign the first contract with Spain and with Ireland through EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development)," Nowicki told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
The EBRD has set up a Multilateral Carbon Credit Fund to help governments seeking to trade such surplus credits via market schemes under the Kyoto Protocol.
"Spain and Ireland this year in budgets together have 40 million euros for this purpose," he said, referring to the value to be spent on Poland's AAUs by the two governments. Nowicki declined to disclose the amount of AAUs or other details. ($1=.6665 Euro) (Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

Outcry over Crown's rent rise for wind farms

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

Plans by the Crown Estate to treble its revenues from offshore wind parks have angered energy companies, who say that the move could jeopardise the viability of important new projects and undermine government hopes to boost renewable energy in Britain.
The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed out to 12 nautical miles, is already set for a £500 million windfall from offshore wind power production by charging rent based on each unit of electricity produced.
A negotiated fee of about £1 per megawatt hour of electricity generated has been increased to £3 in talks over nine new giant offshore schemes, casting doubt over whether some of them will be commercial, according to the energy companies.
“The economics of offshore wind are difficult enough as it is,” an insider at one company said, “but the scale of these new charges can make the difference between new projects being built or not built . . . It’s creating a lot of difficulty in terms of making the numbers stand up.”

He estimated that if the Government meets its goal of building 33 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2020, the Crown Estate stands to earn £262 million a year from offshore wind generation. Already, it is set to make about £25 million a year from existing wind projects where the leases have been awarded.
The Crown Estate, which holds property owned by the Queen, pays surplus revenues to the Treasury. Rob Hastings, director of its marine estate, confirmed that it was seeking higher charges for its latest leases — in line with inflation — and said: “Our rental charges are not material to the economics of these projects . . . The rental is practically notional.”
The Crown Estate, one of the largest property owners in Britain, with a portfolio worth £6 billion, is expected to award the leases to nine companies and consortiums by the end of the year. To meet UK targets of cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared with 1990, the Government has launched a programme to expand its offshore wind farms, already the world’s biggest, at about one gigawatt. To achieve this, about £100 billion of investment will be required by 2020, the Crown Estate reported this month. The total gener-ating capacity of all Britain’s power stations and wind farms stands at about 75 gigawatts.
The latest “Round 3” offshore projects are divided into nine zones and the first turbine is expected to be in the water by 2014. ScottishPower, Mainstream Renewable Power, Vattenfall, RWE and Scottish & Southern Energy are among those bidding.

MPs demand inquiry into great energy 'swindle'

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Monday, 26 October 2009
An investigation into claims the "big six" energy suppliers are swindling millions of customers through manipulation of household fuel bills will be demanded by politicians today.
Amid growing anger over energy prices, 51 MPs have signed a Commons motion calling for a competition inquiry into whether British Gas, EDF and other suppliers are unfairly failing to pass on steep falls in wholesale costs.
The shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Liberal Democrat energy spokesman, Simon Hughes, have signed the motion, to be tabled by the Labour backbencher John Grogan.
It calls for an investigation by the Competition Commission into the pricing behaviour of the "big six" suppliers, which could lead to price caps being imposed on the £27bn-a-year household energy business. Hundreds more MPs could back the move because, in addition to being official Tory and Liberal Democrat policy, fuel bills are above average in Labour's heartlands in the north of England and Scotland.
Anger is growing over energy prices because the "big six" – British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern – have cut bills by only 4 per cent this year to £1,140, despite wholesale costs, which make up 60 per cent of the bill, halving in the past year. Minnows such as First:Utility and OVO Energy have recently introduced bills as low as £921, £440 cheaper than Scottish Power's tariff of £1,361.
The "Great Energy Rip-Off" campaign, launched by The Independent two weeks ago, is calling for price reductions of 10 per cent, the extent of overcharging estimated by Britain's biggest energy analyst, McKinnon & Clarke.
Ofgem last year cleared the "big six" of collusion to fix prices, but Mr Grogan, who believes his early-day motion will attract significant support, suggested the problem lay not in an outright cartel but in their dominance.
As well as supplying 99 per cent of households, the "big six" own a network of power stations, making them strong examples of "vertically-integrated" businesses.
Mr Grogan, MP for Selby, said: "I do not think that the 'big six' energy companies meet together and fix prices, but their sheer dominance in the market and the vertical integration of power generation and retail distribution have led to a disconnect between wholesale and retail prices."
For the Tories, Mr Clark complained the relationship between wholesale prices and the bills families received was opaque. "Even the Government's own watchdog, Consumer Focus, has said that every household is paying £96 a year too much. The Government should cut through the confusion and end it once and for all by a swift, forensic reference to the Competition Commission."
The "big six" suppliers say they cannot lower prices because they are locked into expensive, long-term contracts agreed when prices spiked last year and have been hit by rising environmental costs and bad debt. In September, they rebuffed Ofgem's demand for them to outline a timetable for cuts in prices to the UK's 26 million electricity and 22 million gas customers.
Some experts believe that they will try to hold off announcing cuts until January, to ensure families pay high rates during peak demand in the winter.

Barack Obama: Renewable energies will drive the renewal of American pride

Monday, 26 October 2009
The Pentagon has declared our dependence on fossil fuels a security threat. Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are travelling the country as part of Operation Free, campaigning to end our dependence on oil. Leaders in the business community are standing with leaders in the environmental community to protect the economy and the planet we leave for our children. The House of Representatives has already passed historic legislation.
So we are seeing a convergence. The naysayers, the folks who would pretend that this is not an issue – they are being marginalised. But it is important to understand that the closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight and the more we'll hear from those whose interest or ideology run counter to the much-needed action that we're engaged in. There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy – when it's the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs. There are going to be those making cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary.

So we're going to have to work on those folks. But there is also another myth that we have to dispel, and this one is far more dangerous because we're all somewhat complicit in it. It's far more dangerous than any attack made by those who wish to stand in the way of progress – and that's the idea that there is nothing or little that we can do. It's pessimism. It's the pessimistic notion that our politics are too broken and our people too unwilling to make hard choices for us to actually deal with this energy issue that we're facing.
Implicit in this argument is the sense that somehow we've lost something important – that fighting American spirit; that willingness to tackle hard challenges; that determination to see those challenges to the end; that we can solve problems; that we can act collectively; that somehow that is something of the past. I reject that argument. This is the nation that pushed westward and looked skyward. We have always sought out new frontiers. And this generation is no different.
Taken from the US President's speech to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) last Friday

Marine reserves offer best chance of healthy and productive seas

Frank Pope, Ocean Correspondent

In the long term, conservationists and the fishing industry want the same thing: healthy, productive seas. The question is, are marine reserves the best way of rediscovering them?
All around the world fish stocks are in bad shape and Europe is one of the worst. Records show us just how good the fishing could be, if only we could back off long enough to let populations grow.
Fishing is not like farming, where a closed system can be pumped with fertilisers for big yields. The fish that trawlers chase are wild and rely on the integrity of their ecosystem to survive.
The traditional methods of controlling fishing using quotas, temporary closures of spawning grounds and restrictions on net sizes can help to control how much fish is taken from the sea, but they don’t bring back the vital complexity of life on the seabed.

Evidence from highly protected marine reserves recently implemented in other countries is starting to come in and show impressive results. A third of the waters off St Lucia in South Africa were protected in 1995, and in just three years the biomass of fish within the reserve tripled.
Critics argue that science does not know enough about our seas to position the reserves — and they’re right. But with an ocean facing pollution, coastal development, warming waters and overfishing, waiting for complete knowledge would result in there being little left to protect.

Investigation: How farm fishing boom in Chile threatens eco disaster

Separated by an ocean, a continent and more than 7,000 miles, Chile seems an awfully long way to go to find sushi for millions of Britons.

By Robert MendickPublished: 9:30AM GMT 25 Oct 2009
The packaging gives no clue to the origins of the “salmon trout”.
Nor does it make clear the disastrous consequences of intensive fish farming along Chile’s once pristine coastline where, according to eco-activists, many farms are plagued by disease and pollution.

There is, of course, no suggestion that the fish served by Waitrose or Pret a Manger, two of Britain’s most environmentally friendly food suppliers, comes from a farm that has prompted concern.
The rise of Chile’s fish industry began about a decade ago when international corporations realised there was money to be made in the blue water off a short stretch of coast around Puerto Montt, 600 miles south of the capital Santiago.
The explosion in global demand for salmon and trout led to a rapid expansion of the open net fish farming industry, in which fish are kept in pens in the sea.
By the middle of this decade, Chile had become the world’s second largest producer of salmon and trout – after Norway – with a business worth more than £1.2 billion a year.
With labour and energy costs a fraction of those in Norway, Scotland and Canada – average workers in the Chilean fish farming industry earn less than £5,000 a year – Chile’s Pacific coast was making big corporations huge profits. However, environmentalists complained that regulation was not robust enough.
What followed was disaster. In July 2007, Marine Harvest, a Norwegian company that supplies one in four of the world’s salmon, reported its first case on the South American continent of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA), a virus deadly to the fish.
For months, according to insiders, the rest of the industry ignored the threat.
But the lack of robust regulation and the way the farms were packed together with no space for buffer zones allowed the disease to spread.
At one stage, said Jorgen Christiansen, a spokesman for Marine Harvest, about 400,000 tons of salmon – tens of millions of fish – were being harvested in a 75-mile stretch of coast around Puerto Montt. That compared with about 800,000 tons of farmed salmon along 1,900 miles of Norwegian coast.
The conditions have also promoted the spread of bacterial diseases, according to environmental campaigners. One study showed that Chilean salmon contained 5,000 times more antibiotics than Norwegian salmon – an indicator, they say, of how drugs were used to try to keep the fish disease-free. Within a year, ISA – which does not affect the “salmon trout” imported to Britain – had taken its toll, wiping out huge numbers of salmon.
Almost overnight the industry had been brought to its knees with thousands of workers laid off, fish farms lying empty and local waters polluted. This year the industry will export about 150,000 tons of salmon, a huge drop on its peak years.
“These intensive farms are a recipe for eco-disaster,” said Don Staniford, a campaigner for Pure Salmon, who has made a film to be premiered next month about the fish farming industry and its effects on Chile.
“The inherent problem in farming salmon and sea trout in open net pens is that waste is discharged into the sea, it spreads diseases and parasites that impact on local fish stocks. The fish can also escape, causing a huge imbalance with local fish.”
The west London company which imports the Chilean salmon trout told The Sunday Telegraph that it regularly inspected the farm, which has signed up to global regulatory rules.
The fish come from a farm further south than Puerto Montt, in Chonchi, owned by Salmones Antarctica, a once-local company bought out by a Japanese business.
“There are problems with the salmon in Chile but we are importing salmon trout. It’s a completely different species,” said Derek Lewis, spokesman for importer Taiko Foods. “We know there are problems down there [in Chile] but it isn’t our farm and it isn’t our species.”

Rainforest treaty 'fatally flawed'

Climate summit loophole lets palm oil producers cull vital wilderness
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Monday, 26 October 2009
A vital safeguard to protect the world's rainforests from being cut down has been dropped from a global deforestation treaty due to be signed at the climate summit in Copenhagen in December.
Under proposals due to be ratified at the summit, countries which cut down rainforests and convert them to plantations of trees such as oil palms would still be able to classify the result as forest and could receive millions of dollars meant for preserving them. An earlier version of the text ruled out such a conversion but has been deleted, and the EU delegation – headed by Britain – has blocked its reinsertion.
Environmentalists say plantations are in no way a substitute for the lost natural forest in terms of wildlife, water production or, crucially, as a store of the carbon dioxide which is emitted into the atmosphere when forests are destroyed and intensifies climate change.
Now they are calling on Britain to take a lead in restoring the anti-plantations safeguard at the final negotiating session in a week's time, saying that otherwise the agreement – which seeks to halve global deforestation rates by 2020 – will be fatally flawed.
"It is a priority for the safeguard to be reinserted, or otherwise we will have a situation where countries are paid for converting their natural forests into palm plantations," said Emily Brickell, the climate and forests officer for the Worldwide Find for Nature (WWF-UK).
"If this is not changed, the agreement will be part of the problem, not part of the solution, because it will allow things to carry on as they are now and we will continue to see the loss of natural rainforest," added Simon Counsell, the executive director of the Rainforest Foundation.
The key piece of text which was lost said that parties to the treaty "shall protect biological diversity, including safeguards against the conversion of natural forests to forest plantations".
It was deleted in closed negotiations but some observers think it was done at the instigation of African rainforest countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, while other states including Indonesia and Malaysia are believed to have supported it. Both are heavily involved in the oil palm industry, which is a major driver of deforestation because palm oil is used to make biofuels.
A move to reinsert the clause was blocked at the last talks in Bangkok by British officials, who feared that the gains of the week's negotiations (the text was reduced from 19 pages to nine) would be lost if the text were reopened. Green campaigners accept that this was a matter of procedure but think it will have been a disastrously bad call if officials do not move swiftly to replace the lost text at the final negotiations in Barcelona, beginning a week today.
"The EU has to make sure the wording goes back in," said Charlie Kronik, of Greenpeace. "It's absolutely essential, otherwise it leaves open the possibility of removing intact, high-value forests and replacing them with oil palms as party of the treaty."
The Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The UK is pushing hard for the strongest possible deal to stop deforestation and that includes wanting specific language in the UN text on the protection of natural forests."
The proposed forest pact, which could be one of the most positive outcomes of the Copenhagen summit, addresses the fact that deforestation, mostly in Central and South America, Africa and Asia, now produces nearly 20 per cent of annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions – more than from all the world's transport. Many policymakers consider that the key goal of limiting global warming to no more than C above the pre-industrial level will be unattainable unless the problem of deforestation emissions is tackled. The issue, which has become known in official jargon as Redd (reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries), now has a section to itself in the proposed Copenhagen accord.
Nearly 200 countries will meet in December to try to frame a new treaty that would put the world on a path towards cutting CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. Scientists say this is the very minimum that can be done to keep temperature rises below C, which is regarded as the threshold of climate change that presents a real threat to humans society. Last week, British government scientists said a potentially disastrous rise of 4C by 2060 was on the cards if emissions continued to rise at their present rate.
The Copenhagen accord, if signed, will replace the 1997 Kyoto protocol. A deal will depend on developing nations such as China and India cutting pollution because their growing economies will be responsible for 90 per cent of CO2 emissions growth in the future.

Illegal logging responsible for loss of 10 million hectares in Indonesia

By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent
Monday, 26 October 2009

Lush tropical rainforest once covered almost all of Indonesia's 17,000 islands between the Indian and Pacific oceans. And just half a century ago, 80 per cent remained. But since then, rampant logging and burning has destroyed nearly half that cover, and made the country the world's third largest emitter of greenhouses gases after the US and China.
Indonesia still has one-tenth of the world's remaining rainforests, a treasure trove of rare plant and animal species, including critically endangered tigers, elephants and orang-utans. However, it is destroying its forests faster than any other country, according to the Guinness Book of Records, with an average two million hectares disappearing every year, double the annual loss in the 1980s.
It is that frenzied rate of deforestation that has propelled Indonesia, home to 237 million people, into its top-three spot in the global league table of climate change villains. According to a government report released last month, the destruction of forests and carbon-rich peatlands accounts for 80 per cent of the 2.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted in the country annually.
The situation is partly a legacy of the 32-year rule of the dictator Suharto, during which Indonesia's forests were regarded purely as a source of revenue to be exploited for economic gain. Suharto, who stepped down in 1998, handed out logging concessions covering more than half the total forest area, many of them to his relatives and political allies.
Although the current Indonesian government, under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is committed to reducing deforestation and CO2 emissions, not much has changed on the ground. Poor land management is compounded by lawlessness and corruption, and illegal logging is widespread. According to one official estimate, the latter is responsible for the loss of 10 million hectares of forest.
Legal logging, too, is conducted at unsustainable levels, thanks to soaring demand from a rapidly expanding pulp and paper industry, in a country struggling with high levels of poverty.
The recent government report forecast that carbon emissions, which have risen from 1.6 billion tons in 1990, will increase to 3.6 billion by 2030, a leap of 57 per cent from today's level. The main reason is logging and clearing of forests for agriculture and industrial plantations, including oil palms. The government granted permission last year for two million hectares of peatland to be cleared for oil palms.
The rapid spread of oil palm plantations, particularly on Sumatra and Borneo islands, is threatening the orang-utan's forest habitat and hastening its extinction, according to conservationists.
Clearing land releases into the atmosphere the carbon stored in trees and below ground, either during burning or when the timber decomposes. Forest fires – regarded as a cheap and easy way of clearing forest – are deliberately lit by farmers as well as timber and oil palm plantation owners, and occur regularly on Sumatra and Borneo during the dry season.
Indonesia supports the UN's Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) initiative, welcoming the idea of being paid to conserve its forests. However, some observers question whether the carbon credits it would receive will be priced high enough to make the scheme worthwhile.
At present, Indonesia accounts for 8 per cent of global carbon emissions, although the archipelago represents barely 1 per cent of the world's landmass. It still has the third largest tracts of tropical rainforest, after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite losing one-quarter of its forest cover between 1990 and 2005.