Sunday, 1 November 2009

Copenhagen is only the start of climate change

The Observer, Sunday 1 November 2009
THERE ARE five weeks left to the opening of the climate-change summit in Copenhagen. Virtually every national leader is expected to gather in the Danish capital in an attempt to hammer out a deal to bring unity to the battle against global warming. All that is required is an agreement to find a method to achieve one simple goal. Emissions of carbon dioxide from the planet's factories, power plants, cars, planes and homes must be made to peak in a few years so that by 2020, a substantial decline in the world's output of greenhouse gases will have begun.
Only then, say scientists, will it be possible to prevent global temperatures from rising by 2 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. This figure, they argue, is the maximum warming that our planet can tolerate. If we go beyond it, we will face global calamity in the form of spreading deserts, increasingly violent storms, destruction of swaths of farmland, flooding and widespread loss of life. It is a grim list, one that should guarantee delegates give maximum concentration to their work in Copenhagen. This is their last chance, if not to save the world, then at least to prevent major losses of life later in the century. Failure should not be an option.
Yet there are now signs that a deal which would tie every nation on Earth to a declared cut in their carbon emissions, and which would do so much to tackle global warming, will not be achieved.
Despite the urgency of negotiators' work and despite the fact they have been meeting regularly for the past two years in order to prepare for this summit, most observers now believe it is unlikely that a strong, ratifiable agreement will be signed on 18 December, the meeting's final day.
A key problem has been the failure of Barack Obama's administration to pass a climate change bill in time for Copenhagen. This has left the US, the world's major carbon emitter, unable to participate meaningfully in discussions. Without an American lead, not much can be achieved, it is argued. Thus the talk is of squandered opportunities instead of expectations of breakthroughs. Agreeing long-term global deals is simply beyond human nature, suggest the sceptics, obsessed as we are with our own local, short-term concerns.
Politicians have known for a long time that this day was approaching and should have realised they would have to sit down to work out a meaningful agreement. However, it would be premature to suggest that everything that has happened over the past two years has been a waste of time and to dismiss, out of hand, the talks that will take place in Copenhagen – no matter how unsatisfactory they turn out to be. Much has happened in the run-up to the summit to indicate there is sufficient goodwill in the political system to tackle the crisis posed by global warming – if not at Copenhagen then in the following months and years.
China, once the most difficult nation to convince about the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, has pledged that it will make "substantial reductions" in its citizens' individual carbon output. Countries such as Indonesia and Norway, as well as the European Union, have promised to make tight, binding cuts. Europe has also proposed to make significant contributions to a £90bn a year fund that would help developing countries cut their carbon emissions while the US has begun a process that should lead it to establish carbon emission legislation.
A few years ago, such progress would have seen improbable. Today, it is a reality. The world may not get a good global warming deal from the Copenhagen summit, but enough has been gained in its preparations to suggest that a binding agreement will eventually be signed. Whether that can be done in time to halt the worst effects of climate change is a different issue.

Forty days to get a climate deal

The Copenhagen summit opens in December. Many see it as the last chance to limit the consequences of global warming – but failure is a real prospect. Here, we examine the complex trade-offs that will have to take place for the summit to succeed
Robin McKie, Suzanne Goldenberg and Jonathan Watts
The Observer, Sunday 1 November 2009

Global warming has brought hard times to Hebei, the dry northern province of China that envelops Beijing. Rising temperatures and unpredictable rain patterns have forced farmers and nomads to flee the land and move to cities. Lakes are drying, crops are withering, deserts are spreading and food production is declining: all reminders to the Chinese government that it cannot afford to ignore the danger of climate change.
Yet there is another side to life in this overheating region. At the former agricultural town of Baoding, a hub of low-carbon technology has been created. Hundreds of workers are constructing giant towers and blades for wind turbines. Tianwei, the company that runs the facility, has increased output from 20 units last year to 150 this year. Next year, they aim to build 500.
In the deserts and grasslands of northern Hebei, Inner Mongolia and Gansu, a new wind turbine is erected almost every hour. Thanks to these great machines, Baoding alone will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 35% by 2020. "Human society is moving from industrial civilisation to eco-civilisation," says its young mayor, Yu Qun.
It is a remarkable vision. On one hand devastating weather is triggering key changes to the landscape; on the other, glittering low-carbon technology is being set up to tackle the problem. The question – not just for China but for the world – is simple: can this technological fix of wind turbines, solar plants and other renewable energy generators be assembled quickly enough to prevent rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide from destroying the farmlands of Hebei, and all those other fertile regions of the globe, and so prevent widespread loss of life by the middle of the century? In short, does humanity have the will – and the time – to halt global warming?
Answers to these questions are now becoming increasingly urgent as politicians enter the final stages of preparations for the Copenhagen climate summit that starts on 7 December. World leaders will then have the chance to hammer out a deal to halt ice caps melting and sea levels from rising catastrophically. Many believe this will be their last chance to save the world.
Only "a clear, politically binding treaty" that puts limits on every nation's carbon output and pledges specific sums of money – to be spent on renewable technology across the globe – will be acceptable as a summit outcome, Britain's chief climate negotiator, Ed Miliband, told the Observer last week. "We have put our cards on the table," said Miliband, the secretary of state for energy and climate change. "We need other nations to do the same."
It is an uncompromising stance. Yet the creation of a binding Copenhagen deal now looks increasingly unlikely as the summit looms. Despite the fact that negotiators have had two years to prepare, they now enter the final phase of talks with a real prospect of failure ahead of them.
"It is realistic to say that in Copenhagen we will not be able to conclude a treaty," Angela Merkel said on Friday at the end of a two-day meeting of EU leaders. The best that can now be hoped for is the establishment of a framework for future negotiations, warned the German chancellor.
This depressing vision flies in the face of Miliband's hopes for the summit. So who is going to be proved right? Will the Copenhagen talks falter, fail and doom the planet? Or will there be sufficient progress to raise hopes that measures can be introduced to limit global warming to a 2C rise by the end of the century? It should be noted that to achieve the latter, each developed nation will have to agree to the introduction of massive limits to its greenhouse gas emissions: by between 20-30% by 2020 and by around 80% by 2050. Only radical changes in the way we power our factories, homes, cars and planes will bring about this goal.
Yet it is clear that there is a will to act to save the world. Constant reminders about the world's warming seas, extreme weather events, eroding glaciers and disappearing wild animals have made politicians aware of the dangers of global warming. The construction of those wind turbines across the barren Hebei landscape shows that even the Chinese, once the most difficult of nations to convince about the need for greenhouse gas reductions, have got the message. The same is true of other nations.
The problem is agreeing a common strategy. How much aid should rich countries pay developing nations to combat climate change? What assurances should the latter give about the way they spend this money? How can the world halt the clearance of forests which play such a crucial role in absorbing carbon dioxide? The developed world wants pledges, the developing nations want cash. Each expects the other to act first. The result has been stalemate.
Nor is there much doubt about the principal cause of this failure to act. It is the fact that the United States has not passed legislation that would limit its own colossal emissions of greenhouse gases. Per capita, the US is one of the greatest emitters of carbon dioxide. The average American is responsible for pumping out almost 25 tonnes of the stuff every year. By contrast, a European produces about 10 tonnes, an Indian 2 tonnes and a Chinese person around 6 tonnes. (China, overall, is the biggest national emitter because its population is so vast.)
The world needs the US to set an example. However, despite pledges by the Obama administration, it has so far not managed to do so. A bill is being discussed by the Senate but will certainly not be passed in time for Copenhagen thanks mainly to fierce opposition from conservative Democrat politicians as well as Republicans. Polls also indicate that ordinary Americans are becoming less engaged with climate change issues while environmentalists warn that the Senate bill is likely to be weakened during committee negotiations.
It is a depressing scenario. If America does not set a lead, the world is unlikely to act effectively. On the other hand, all is not gloom. In the past week or two, signs of a shift in America's attitude have become unmistakable. The prominent Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, has written a column for the New York Times in support of the climate change bill, for example.
Similarly, in Senate hearings, critics of the bill have stopped debating the scientific evidence for global warming and shifted to a debate about the economic costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. "Eleven academies in industrialised countries say climate change is real; humans have caused most of the recent warming," said Lamar Alexander, a Republican senator from Tennessee. "If fire chiefs of the same reputation told me my house was about to burn down, I'd buy some fire insurance. But I'd buy insurance that worked. I wouldn't buy insurance that's so expensive I couldn't pay my mortgage or my hospital bill."
This shift is one of several tangible signs that Barack Obama has helped turn around American thinking on climate change. Last week the White House renewed these concerns when Obama toured a solar facility in Florida and announced some $3.4bn in grants for the development of America's "smart grid".
At the same time, the vice-president, Joe Biden, visited a factory making plug-in cars in Delaware while John Kerry, the former presidential candidate, has been lobbying hard for a change in climate law. For months, he has been hosting a Tuesday breakfast club where he tries to persuade the doubters to support a bill.
Phil Leventis, a state senator from South Carolina who came to Washington last week to campaign for a climate change bill, believes change is taking place. "I'm thinking a light bulb has gone on in the minds of the general public," he said, adding that the spate of high-profile conversions – especially from Republicans – could produce the votes senators need to pass the bill. "Lindsey Graham has given them cover."
Change is coming though it is almost certainly too little and too late to allow America to play a strong leadership role at Copenhagen. Instead the European Union, with Britain in the vanguard, will take the driving seat. At its summit last week, the EU decided to call for the establishment of a £90bn a year fund to help the world's poorest nations develop new energy technologies. It has also promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 and to raise this level to 30% if a global deal is agreed at Copenhagen.
"Europe has put its cards on the table," says Miliband. "Now we want others to do the same. That is China, Russia, India and the US. Everyone needs to come forward with specific proposals. They need to come with ambitious reductions. An agreement without numbers would not be a satisfactory agreement."
The problem is getting the world to agree on those numbers. While Europe may have trumpeted its proposal to up its carbon cuts to 30% provided a global deal is agreed, this is still not enough for developing nations. Virtually all the excess carbon now in the atmosphere has been put there by developed nations, they point out. If the world is overheating it is the west that it is to blame. Hence the demand by the Group of 77 (G77), which represents China, India and the developing nations, that the developed world must cut its emissions by at least 40% by 2020 – a huge decrease in a very short time.
To date, only Norway has agreed to try to meet this challenge. Few other developed nations – and certainly not the US – are likely to take this step. The arithmetic of climate change is going to prove to be a tricky business.
Some signals are more encouraging, however. At the UN climate summit last month, President Hu Jintao of China said he was prepared to set his country's first carbon targets. This will not involve an overall cut, but an "intensity" reduction relative to the growth of the economy, he added.
He was, however, short on specifics and merely pledged that it would be a "notable margin" by 2020. Most analysts suggest that in the absence of rich nations setting ambitious targets for their emissions, China is likely to set a goal of around 20%. This is "not quite enough," as one observed. China says it will also establish national tree planting campaigns and even provide a small amount of support for renewable energy projects for poorer nations. It will also raise its renewable energy target and set a date to start reducing overall emissions.
This is promising, admitted Miliband, but still not enough. He is to travel to Barcelona this weekend to take part in the final interim negotiating meeting before Copenhagen and is to hold special talks with his Chinese counterpart.
"I will be asking the Chinese minister how he plans to build on President Hu's speech and say exactly what they intend to do," he said.
And then there is India. It emits just 5% of the world's carbon compared to China's 23%, but is still preparing to unveil a carbon scheme and a boost in investment for renewable energy. This point is seized on by Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who told the Observer that China and India could make an important contribution by putting their domestic policies into a global plan. "As far as large developing countries are concerned, I hope they come with their national action plans and put them on the table and say this is what we are planning to do. You cannot expect developing nations to reduce emissions. But you can ask them to deviate from business as usual."
Such signs suggest all is not lost and that a global climate deal can be hammered out. The only issue is one of timing for it is certainly not clear it will be possible to resolve, in the next few weeks, the issues of setting up methods for financing the developing world to help it survive global warming, of setting ways to ensure these funds go on renewable energy technology and are not diverted illegally, of fixing specific limits for carbon reductions for every country, and for establishing schemes that would halt the continuing deforestation of the planet.
Yes, it looks gloomy, but there is still hope, argues Miliband. "The most important commodity that we have is momentum," he said. "Things will go down to the last day at Copenhagen, I know. However, if we have to spend Christmas there, then we will."
Emission sources
According to the World Resources Institute, carbon dioxide makes up 77% of all greenhouse gas emissions, with methane (14%) and nitrous oxide (8%) making up the bulk of the remainder. The largest annual emitters of greenhouse gases are as follows:
Electricity and Heat
Worldwide electricity production and heat generation are the cause of 24.6% of total global emissions, with 9.9% of emissions from residential buildings and 5.4% from commercial property. This results in an estimated 10,269 million metric tons (MtCO2) released into the atmosphere each year.
Industrial processes add up to 21% of global emissions, with the chemical industry accounting for 4.8%, followed by cement production at 3.8%, and iron and steel at 3.2%. An estimated total of 8,856 MtCO2 are released by industry each year. (chemicals production at 2,013 MtCO2, cement 1,588 MtCO2, iron and steel 1,319 MtCO2 and aluminium only 324 MtCO2.)
Land use change and forestry (deforestation, harvesting and land management) is contributing 18.3% of greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in 7,619 MtCO2 of emissions annually.
13.5% of emissions. Of this, 9.9% comes from traffic, 1.6% from aviation and 2.3% from rail, ship and other transport. Adding an estimated 5,743 MtCO2 to the atmosphere.
Land cultivation and animal husbandry also accounts for 13.5% of emissions, including 5.1% from livestock and manure, meaning the agriculture sector, including soils management and methane emissions from livestock, creates an estimated 6,205 MtCO2.
Landfill, wastewater management and human sewage accounts for 3.6% of emissions, including 3% from landfill and 1.6% from waste water and other sources, releasing 1,484 MtCO2.
Source: CAIT

Insurers warn of the chill blast of climate change in new report

The cost of insurance will soar across Britain unless urgent measures are taken to halt the rise in global temperatures, industry experts will warn this week.

By Jamie Dunkley, City Reporter (Insurance and Pensions)Published: 10:21PM GMT 31 Oct 2009
The Association of British Insurers, whose members control about 15pc of the FTSE 100, will reveal the findings of its latest report into the subject. This will show that a four degree rise in global temperatures could result in the cost of extreme inland floods – those expected to hit the UK once every 100 years – rising by 30pc to £5.4bn.
The study into the financial impact of rising temperatures across the world claims this could happen by 2060. The association will add that the UK is likely to get windier too, with the cost of a once-in-a- century windstorms rising 14pc to £7.3bn. One in six properties across the UK are at risk from flooding from river, sea and surface water. This equates to about 5.2m properties across the country. In 2007, the insurance industry was left with a £3bn bill after summer floods devastated large parts of the country.

The ABI will give warning at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen in December, that without global agreement on reducing emissions, weather related costs will continue to rise. This would lead to more expensive and harder to obtain insurance protection.
Andrew Torrance, chairman of ClimateWise, an industry lobby group, and chief executive of Allianz Insurance in the UK, added that insurers could also be left with tougher capital requirements.
"The climate models strongly suggest that we are going to see more frequent and more extreme weather events," he said. "This will increase the level of weather related claims paid by insurers generally and bring greater volatility to claims levels. This means that insurers will need to hold more capital."
ClimateWise is also looking to increase pressure on governments attending the climate change conference. The group wants the developed world to agree a 40pc cut in emissions by 2020 and to reach a deal on the size and structure of a financing package to help the developing world tackle climate change.
"The expected increase in flood claims underlines the need to improve flood defences and limit development on flood plains," Mr Torrance added. "This will enable the insurance industry to continue to make insurance available as widely as possible."

Utility companies compete for £100bn wind farm prize

The rights to build wind farms off the coast of Britain up to 50 times the size of the biggest present plants are expected to be handed to consortiums of major utilities, with the prize Norfolk field likely to go to Scottish Power and Vattenfall.

By Rowena Mason, City ReporterPublished: 7:40PM GMT 31 Oct 2009

The awards are due to be made official by the Crown Estate by the end of next month, with the first turbines entering the water by 2014 Photo: Reuters
The 5,000 megawatt Norfolk development will be three times larger than the giant London Array farm under construction in the Thames Estuary – due to be crowned the biggest in Europe when the first of its 341 turbines start working in 2012.
Another utility consortium called Forewind, including RWEnpower Renewables, Scottish & Southern Energy, Statkraft and StatoilHydro, is believed to be the frontrunner for the even bigger 10,000 megawatt Dogger Bank plot in the North Sea.

The awards are due to be made official by the Crown Estate, the body responsible for licensing offshore wind farms, by the end of next month, with the first turbines entering the water by 2014.
It is the third and most ambitious round of licensing, that aims to create a revolution in Britain's offshore wind industry allowing the country to hit its climate change targets. The wind farms will cost billions of pounds to construct, with substantial subsidies from the Government through green taxes.
Other available plots are a 5,000 megawatt zone in the Irish Sea, a 2,500 megawatt area in the Humber Estuary, a 1,000 megawatt near Hastings and a series of smaller fields.
Only a handful of offshore wind projects are currently generating electricity, with capacities of 60 to 200 megawatts each. But Britain's total output must grow to 33,000 to 40,000 megawatts if it is to generate a third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The country will have to spend £100bn on developing offshore wind capacity if it is to hit climate targets.
Spokesmen from RWEnpower Renewables for the Forewind consortium and Scottish Power said they had been "bound by confidentiality agreements" and could not comment.
The Crown Estate declined to comment, but confirmed it would be announcing the winners by the end of the fourth quarter this year.
Centrica, the owner of British Gas and one of the UK's most committed investors in wind farms, last week warned that subsidies would need to continue until 2020 if offshore renewables are to be viable.

Uproar over new planning rules to help build wind farms and nuclear power stations

Radical changes to the planning system to help build wind farms, nuclear power stations and new roads are likely to cause a storm of protest across Britain, Andrew Gilligan reports.

By Andrew GilliganPublished: 9:00PM GMT 31 Oct 2009
The small Welsh village of Brechfa, about ten miles north-east of Carmarthen, has lost its post office and pub – but, if two power companies have their way, it will soon be getting 76 new wind turbines.
Each will rise as high as 145 metres, the height of a 35-storey building, and they will ring the area, making it home to the third-biggest collection of turbines in Britain. There are ten nearby already. Up close, the noise they make is like an idling aircraft.

“They are going to industrialise the countryside,” says Nick Wadham, a local protester against the scheme. Caroline Evans, another resident, says the sound can travel more than six miles.
She had an email from a woman in a nearby village who said she had not slept for three nights after the turbines were installed.
But this battle is not just another local campaign. Brechfa is on the front line of perhaps the most dramatic change to the British planning system in two generations.
Its 43-turbine wind farm, and a 33-turbine scheme at next-door Llanllwni, will be among the first projects decided under radically new arrangements: about to come into force, as yet unnoticed by the general public, but likely to cause a storm of protest across the countryside.
From March, all planning applications for “major national infrastructure” – including larger wind farms, trunk roads, power stations, ports, airport expansion and overhead pylon lines – will be decided not by local councillors, or ministers, but by a new unelected “superquango”, the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).
The organisation will be the sole judge, and one with huge powers. It can grant not just planning permission but also the power to compulsorily seize private property, close roads and footpaths and extinguish Green Belt protection.
Indeed, if a developer is eyeing up your land for some new scheme, the IPC can grant that developer access to it – even allow him to dig “exploratory” holes in it – before planning permission has even been applied for, let alone given.
The IPC aims to decide all applications, however complicated and controversial, in just ten months or less – even new nuclear power stations, of which it expects to do two in its first year.
The presumption, under new Government-set “national policy statements,” will be for development. There will be no rights of appeal to anyone, not even (in most circumstances) the courts. “You will not be able to judicially review our decisions, only our failure to follow our own processes,” says Sir Michael Pitt, the commission’s new chairman, in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph.
The urbane figure of Sir Michael will be the IPC’s public face. Does he realise he could soon be the most unpopular man in Britain? Is he looking forward to the climate campers occupying his reception area? “I think all the commissioners understand what they’re taking on,” he says, smiling.
Sir Michael says that the old way – where controversial schemes were typically considered first by a judge or planning inspector at a public inquiry, with the final decision in the hands of a minister – took far too long, rewarded “timewasting” and worked against the national interest. Many would, for instance, agree that Britain needs new power stations – but the planning process for the nuclear plant at Sizewell B, in Suffolk, famously lasted five years.
The new regime, Pitt insists, will actually give people “better engagement” as well as being quicker. Developers will have to prove they have consulted the community before the IPC even accepts their application.
The process may be brief but it will be open, unlike ministerial decision making. There will still be public hearings – although much shorter ones, with the IPC having the power to block any point they deem “irrelevant” or which has already been made “in any form or by any other person.”
Nor will you be allowed to object to the idea that Britain should have, for instance, more wind farms or bigger airports – only to the particular circumstances of the one proposed.
How often will the IPC actually reject any application? “Those that can get their way through the pre-application [consultation] process are going to be the strongest cases,” says Sir Michael. So not very often, then? “I would not rule out the possibility of us turning down a number of applications.”
Back in Brechfa, the locals are deeply cynical about the IPC’s promise of engagement. “This has been set up to push small people like us out of the way,” says Caroline Evans. “The wind farms have started their consultation exercise – but they’re not consulting us, they’re telling us. It’s dictation, not consultation.”
Victoria Wadham says: “We didn’t choose the IPC. They’re chosen to get the result the Government wants and shift the blame. We can’t sack them. It’s not democratic. Democracy is supposed to work from the bottom up.”
And across the nation as a whole, countryside groups say the Government, and the IPC, are tilting at windmills – or rather wind farms. “The case for the planning system causing inordinate delays has been hugely overstated on the basis of two or three extreme cases,” says Neil Sinden, policy director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Government figures show that the average major project currently takes two years to get through planning. But even with the IPC, the new compulsory pre-application process means it is unlikely to take less than fifteen months – a saving of only nine months.
Others say that the definition of “nationally necessary” projects has been drawn too widely. Some power stations may indeed be needed. But is airport expansion genuinely imperative for Britain’s future? How does that sit with the Government’s declared objective to cut C02?
And, for all Sir Michael’s belief that IPC knows what it’s taking on, its resources do not seem up to the huge scale of its task. The IPC will decide around 45 major projects each year – many both complex and controversial. It will cover the whole of England and Wales. But it will do so with just 110 staff, including all the commissioners themselves, some of them part-time. That is about the same number as work for the planning departments of two or three medium-sized London boroughs.
“They are going to face huge, if not insurmountable, challenges in delivering on their promises,” says Mr Sinden. The fear is that in order to keep within their timescale, the IPC will cut corners and skimp on scrutiny. Sir Michael says that he will increase staffing and call on specialist expertise if necessary.
But perhaps the most telling objection to the new order comes from the Suffolk MP and former environment secretary, John Gummer, whose constituency includes Sizewell C, one of the two new nuclear power projects the IPC will decide upon.
“The inquiry into the previous power station, Sizewell B, did take a long time but by the end my constituents were in favour because they felt their views had been heard,” says Mr Gummer. “But if people feel they’re not being listened to, they will not put up with it. There will be so much anger that it will actually take longer, politicians will have to intervene anyway or Swampy will rule.”
The Government sees Britain’s planning system as a problem, a blockage on development – a view that also informs its separate, if equally controversial, proposals to downgrade the protection of heritage buildings.
But nothing arouses more passion in Middle England than planning, conservation and the countryside. Could ministers have given us the next poll tax?

Ex-banker offers green way for firms to clean up with Delphis Eco

Danny Fortson

Two years ago Mark Jankovich received a multi-million pound job offer from Goldman Sachs. He turned it down and went into toilet cleaning instead.
It’s not a decision most City bankers would make but the former head of family wealth management at Coutts & Co has no regrets about turning his back on his former life. “I called my wife and said, ‘I just can’t do this’. I was hating it. I didn’t believe in it. I wanted to find something more useful to do,” said Jankovich, 40.
First, he set up a private-equity firm to invest in his native Zimbabwe. He spent a year raising money but returned it to investors after Robert Mugabe won the presidential election last June. He then began casting around for environmental business ideas and found Delphis Eco, which makes biodegradable cleaning chemicals, through a Google search. The company had been started a few years earlier in Liverpool by two business partners. Its range, for everything from toilet cleaners and hand sanitisers to industrial disinfectants, uses plant-based ingredients, such as coconut oil, that break down naturally.
The range was the first in Britain to receive the EU’s Eco-label accreditation, given only to products made from sustainable sources that are proven to be as effective as conventional rivals.
When Jankovich learnt of Delphis Eco, however, it was on the brink of collapse. “It was in an absolute tailspin. A lot of time and money had been spent on research and development. They had hocked a lot to keep the dream alive. It was scary to step into a business like that,” he said.
He was convinced that the opportunity was good enough to take a risk. Businesses and organisations are under pressure to go green and switching from hazardous chemicals to ones that are environmentally friendly is an easy way to make a significant difference, especially for big concerns such as supermarkets or rail firms that have many shops, offices and washrooms that need constant cleaning.
Jankovich invested £500,000 to buy out the founders a year ago. Since then he has been spreading the word about environmentally-friendly cleaning. Bunzl uses Delphis products in its green cleaning range. J Sainsbury, Tesco and Marks & Spencer, local councils and the Metropolitan Police have also expressed an interest.
Delphis Eco is still small. It has fewer than 10 staff and relies on two contract plants to make the chemicals. Jankovich is hoping to raise £2m of venture capital to compete with Johnson Diversey and Ecolab, which dominate the market.
“Much of this is about opening the eyes of consumers,” he said. “They simply don’t know or don’t think about the fact that they can get ‘green’ chemicals.”

Shale gas blasts open world energy market

American firms have cracked the technology to tap vast new reserves
Danny Fortson

A stretch of coastline on the Texas-Louisiana border provides a startling glimpse of Europe’s energy future. There, where Lake Sabine empties into the Gulf of Mexico, a giant port was completed last year. Built at a cost of $1.5 billion (£900m), it was meant to be a vital new part of America’s energy infrastructure.
Giant tankers from places such as Qatar and Sakhalin island in Russia’s far east were meant to dock there to inject their cargoes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) straight into the national pipeline network.
The Sabine Pass terminal was meant to take about one ship a day but since it opened for business 18 months ago only 10 ships have come in.
“This big shiny new terminal was one of the ones built as the answer to declining US gas production and increasing demand,” said Steve Johnson president of Waterborne Energy, a Texas energy consultancy. “Now it’s in mothballs.”
It is much the same story at America’s eight other LNG import terminals. They are running at only 10% of capacity.
“We have had so much new production come on stream that all of a sudden the role of these terminals has changed dramatically,” said Johnson. “They are getting the world’s leftovers.”
The reason is shale gas — a new and abundant source of natural gas, trapped in rock formations. Oil companies have known about it for decades but always dismissed it because it was too expensive and difficult to extract. In the past few years new technologies that pump water underground to fracture the rock and free the gas have been perfected. The breakthrough has opened a new frontier for the energy industry and turned long-held assumptions about the world’s dwindling supplies on their head.
Suddenly, America is awash with gas. Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, said it had created a “a revolution in the gas fields of North America”. In a report this summer, the US potential gas committee increased its estimates of American reserves by a third. The Department of Energy now predicts that shale gas could meet half America’s demand within two decades and turn the country into a net exporter.
The gas price has reacted accordingly, crashing by 60% in the past year, severing the long-standing link with the oil price.
The revolution in America has set off activity elsewhere. In August Conoco Phillips signed a deal to explore 1m acres in Poland. Shell has bought licences in Sweden, and Exxon Mobil has large holdings in Germany and Poland. France recently launched a licensing round. Other projects are under way in Argentina, Australia, China and India.
Paul Wheeler, managing director at the Jefferies International investment bank, said: “There is a landgrab going on in Europe. It will change the game if the big oil companies crack the geological code of unconventional gas in Europe. The resulting gas production would make Europe more self sufficient and put the brakes on Russian gas becoming a more potent instrument of political influence.”
Gazprom, the Russian provider of a quarter of Europe’s gas, has been dismissive of shale gas. It has a lot to lose if Europe finds it is sitting on vast reserves. Yet it emerged last month that the company is considering buying an American producer of shale gas, partly to see if it can apply the technology at home.
In Europe it is still early days. Nikos Tsafos of PFC Energy, a consultancy, said: “Unconventional gas has transformed the American market. Europe is at a much earlier stage. There is no doubt there is a big resource base there and everyone is excited about it. But we are not yet seeing the corresponding activity on the ground to make it happen.”
It is not a question of simply transplanting the expertise built up in America to Europe. For one, the geology of mountainous central and eastern Europe is far different to the plains in Texas and Pennsylvania and the Rocky Mountains, where there have been big gas finds.
Also, it took many years and a huge number of companies to finally crack the production problems. “There were 30 or 40 players in America who made some extraordinary technological gains. It’s not clear whether the environment is right for that to occur in Europe,” said Tsafos. “These projects require huge amounts of infrastructure: pipelines, rigs, service companies. It will take some time to build that up.”
Population density is also a factor. Drilling into shale is a large, invasive operation and Europe does not have as much wide open space as North America.
The shale is cracked by rigs that drill down thousands of feet. They are able to turn 90 degrees and continue horizontally to follow gas-rich seams. Once a hole is drilled, explosive charges are inserted and detonated to create a series of openings in pipes laid to keep the well open. A mixture of water and sand is then shot down at high pressure. When it spurts through the openings in the pipes, it shatters the surrounding rock and the gas is released.
The process uses vast quantities of water and American regulators are only now coming to grips with the environmental impact.
The prize, though, is huge. Burning gas produces far lower carbon emissions than oil or coal. For governments struggling to hit pollution targets, that is important. So is security of supply. Countries are scrambling to get new supplies. Companies in Britain have spent billions on new LNG terminals on the Isle of Grain in Kent and at Milford Haven in Wales to make up for the North Sea’s decline. Croatia and Poland are also working on plans to build new port capacity. Construction on the £7 billion Nabucco pipeline from Turkey to Austria — meant to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia — is set to begin next year.
Opinion remains divided over whether the American experience can be repeated. Researchers at Texas A&M University estimate world reserves could increase ninefold. Nick Grealy, an energy consultant who runs the No Hot Air website, said shale gas was a “millionaire ticket that can be shared by everybody”.
Critics say the prospects are far less promising. They argue that shale reserves rapidly peter out once they are accessed and that the variable nature of rock formations makes it difficult to always use the same technology, making it expensive and unpredictable.
Yet for some the debate is over. Charif Souki, the man behind the Sabine Pass terminal, has seen at first hand what shale gas means. He bet the future of the company he leads, Cheniere Energy, on America’s expected need to import gas by ship. Once a stock-market darling, the company has plunged deep into losses and seen 95% of its market value disappear.
At a conference in Europe last month, he offered a warning. He said: “Non-conventional reserves do exist and will be produced, it’s just a question of price.” He couldn’t believe the scepticism about shale gas expressed by energy executives in Europe. “Those are the same speeches I heard in the US,” he said.

Low-carbon ventures ask US Dragon's Den for support

Tricia Holly Davis

Four entrepreneurs will travel to America this month to face a Dragons’ Den-style panel of investors offering up to £13m to develop their lowcarbon technologies.
Each of the hopefuls will get 10 minutes to pitch their idea, from energy-saving solutions to renewable power devices.
The trip has been organised by the Setsquared Partnership, a collaboration of the universities of Bath, Bristol, Southampton and Surrey set up to nurture early-stage technology companies.
“Raising venture capital in Britain has been tough,” said Robert Beat of Bristol-based Silicon Basis, one of the firms going to the event in Boston. “Investors here are mostly saving their capital for existing investments and concentrating on late-stage technology, so the chance to pitch to American investors is well timed.”
Beat hopes to raise £400,000 to build a prototype of his low-energy microchip and another £4m to take the product to market. He said the technology would use a quarter of the power of typical programmable chips while in operation and a tenth of the power in stand-by mode. He estimates the potential global market at £50 billion a year.
David McSherry, founder of Bath-based Cormarent, which is developing a tidal power system, said planning delays and concerns about grid capacity had made British investors wary of backing renewableenergy technology.
McSherry said his deep-sea turbines had few moving parts to reduce the risk of mechanical failure and maximise electricity output. He needs £13m to test a prototype and build a large-scale demonstrator.
Peter Davies of Bath-based Green Running will be pitching for about £2m to move his energy-efficiency technology out of the lab phase. Green Running’s tool monitors equipment, such as air-conditioners, and calculates how much power they use during the day. It can also track gas and water consumption, and temperature and humidity. Davies believes that there are 500,000 potential customers in Britain.
Cascoda, from Southampton, is looking for £5m to develop its low-power wireless devices, which automate and control heating, air-conditioning and lighting systems.
The trip, co-funded by UK Trade & Investment, is the first formal early-stage investment mission for British clean-tech firms. It could help to create jobs and factories, and bolster green exports. Britain’s clean-tech industry is worth about £106 billion, or 3.5% of the global market. Only 10% of green goods and services are exported.
David Connell, a senior research associate at Cambridge University, said firms might be tempted to agree to majority American ownership, or even to relocate to America, to tap into the billions of dollars of start-up funding available from the government there.
Clean-tech industry has overtaken biotech and software as America’s largest sector for venture capital, with about £600m of transactions in the third quarter against Britain’s £75m, said Cleantech, a research group.
Nigel Taunt of Impax, a clean-energy investment firm, blamed British investors’ reluctance on the recession and the fact that many still viewed new technologies as high risk.
Simon Bond of Setsquared urged the government to support small venture investments of between £250,000 and £2.5m. “We are perilously close to losing a generation of start-ups because of the lack of early-stage seed funding,” he said.
Bond said the four entrepreneurs had been selected for the trip because they were at the stage where they were ready for investment. A similar expedition is planned for China.
“Going before the American dragons is scary but also exciting,” said McSherry. “I’ll be practising my pitch a lot.”
Green Idea Solar-powered racing cars hit 60mph
Cars powered by the sun may sound a bit far-fetched but they are surprisingly capable. The World Solar Challenge, a 2,000-mile race north to south across Australia, has been held every two years since 1987 and last week was won by an outsider — a team of students from Japan’s Tokai University. Their car led from the first day and zipped along at up to 60mph. The students struck only one problem, a flat tyre, but were still a day ahead of the rest of the field.

Greenhouse effects: Batteries

Tony Juniper

The average British household uses 21 batteries a year. As a nation, we throw away more than 600m every year — that’s getting on for almost 20,000 tons of them, almost all of which finish up in landfill sites.
Most batteries contain heavy metals, which can leak into the ground when the casing corrodes, polluting the land and groundwater.
Recycling is one way to reduce the environmental impact of battery use. The metals and plastic casing can be recovered and re-used. Computer and other electrical-goods retailers, such as Currys and PC World have battery-collection boxes in most stores.
Our council has battery-recycling collection points at the council office, household-waste recycling centres and Waitrose. Contact your council, or visit to find out about recycling-collection points in your area. A few local authorities organise kerbside collection services.
We can do much better than this. The battery recycling rate in Britain is at 2-3% — compared with more than 50% in Belgium. Better still, however, would be to avoid new batteries altogether.
Batteries are not an efficient way to power devices. The energy used to manufacture one is about 50 times greater than the energy it will provide. You should use mains power instead, wherever possible. Having a dynamo light system fitted to your bicycle can also do away with that frantic scrabble for a useable set of lights.
If you do need to use batteries, rechargeable ones are a greener option. They will save you money because they can be used over and over again. In addition, using rechargeables reduces the number of batteries manufactured. Do not put rechargeable batteries in a smoke alarm, however. The last bit of power can go quickly and without warning.
The USBCell is a battery that charges from a computer USB port, removing the need for a separate charger ( So far it is available only in AA size, but the manufacturer says others are coming. Its nickel–metal hydride (NiMH) composition makes it less toxic than nickel–cadmium batteries. It also has the advantage of lasting for a greater number of recharge cycles.
Tony Juniper is an environmental campaigner and former director of Friends of the Earth;