Friday, 6 November 2009

Experts say that fears surrounding climate change are overblown

Hannah Devlin

Alarming predictions that climate change will lead to the extinction of hundreds of species may be exaggerated, according to Oxford scientists.
They say that many biodiversity forecasts have not taken into account the complexities of the landscape and frequently underestimate the ability of plants and animals to adapt to changes in their environment.
“The evidence of climate change-driven extinctions have really been overplayed. We’re going to lose five or six species due to climate change, not hundreds,” said Professor Kathy Willis, a long-term ecologist at the University of Oxford and lead author of the article.
Professor Willis warned that alarmist reports were leading to ill-founded biodiversity policies in government and some major conservation groups. She said that climate change has become a “buzz word” that is taking priority while, in practice, changes in human use of land have a greater impact on the survival of species. “I’m certainly not a climate change denier, far from it, but we have to have sound policies for managing our ecosystems,” she said.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature backed the article, saying that climate change is “far from the number-one threat” to the survival of most species. “There are so many other immediate threats that, by the time climate change really kicks in, many species will not exist any more,” said Jean Christophe Vie, deputy head of the IUCN species program, which is responsible for compiling the international Redlist of endangered species.
He listed hunting, overfishing, and destruction of habitat by humans as more critical for the majority of species.
However, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds disagreed, saying that climate change was the single biggest threat to biodiversity on the planet. “There’s an absolutely undeniable affect that’s happening now,” said John Clare, an RSPB spokesman. “There have been huge declines in British sea birds.”
The article, published today in the journal Science, reviews recent research on climate change and biodiversity, arguing that many simulations are not sufficiently detailed to give accurate predictions.
In particular, the landscape is often described at very low resolution, not taking into account finer variations in vegetation and altitude that are vital predictors for biodiversity.
In one analysis of the likelihood of survival of alpine plant species in the Swiss Alps, the landscape was depicted with a 16km by 16km (10 miles by 10 miles) grid scale. This model predicted that all suitable habitats for alpine plants would have disappeared by the end of the century. When the simulation was repeated with a 25m by 25m (82ft by 82ft) scale, the model predicted that areas of suitable habitat would remain for all plant species.
The article suggests that migration to new regions and changes in living patterns of species would take place but that actual extinction would be rare.
Other studies comparing predictions of extinction rates with actual extinction rates have come to similar conclusions. According to a high-profile paper published in the journal Nature in 2004, up to 35 per cent of bird species would be extinct by 2050 due to changes in climate. To be on track to meet this figure, Professor Keith Bennett, head of geography at Queen’s University Belfast, calculated that about 36 species would have to have become extinct each year between 2004 and 2008. In reality, three species of bird became extinct.
He said that many species are far more versatile than some prediction models give them credit for. “If it gets a couple of degrees warmer than they’re comfortable with, they don’t just die, they move,” he said.

Pachauri still sees a chance for success in Copenhagen conference

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Rajendra Pachauri says the global community may have to move ahead without any commitment from the United States.
From Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network
Few people have as much stake in the outcome of the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen as Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Yet despite growing pessimism that a substantive treaty can be forged in Copenhagen, Pachauri believes a flurry of eleventh-hour negotiations may lead to an agreement, although the United States may not initially be a part of it.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Pachauri expressed disappointment that the U.S. has not yet committed itself to firm greenhouse gas reduction targets, saying "one expected a lot more to have happened in the U.S. by now." During the eight years of the Bush administration there was a "complete absence of responsibility" in tackling global warming, Pachauri said, and while the Obama administration is moving swiftly to make up lost ground, climate legislation remains bogged down in Congress.
As a result, Pachauri explained, the world community may move ahead with a treaty without the U.S., creating a "small window of opportunity for the U.S. to take a little more time and come back and make its own commitments." One reason the U.S. Congress may feel compelled to act, Pachauri suggested, is that American business — particularly in the renewable energy sector — may suffer if the U.S. is left out of a global climate treaty.
Speaking with Roger Cohn, editor of Yale Environment 360, Pachauri – who is director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute and the Tata Energy Research Institute in India – laid out the three requirements for success in Copenhagen, and said the world community would be making a "grave mistake" if it fails to act in Copenhagen. Said Pachauri, "I don't think the world can afford the luxury of not arriving at an agreement."
Yale Environment 360: I wanted to start by asking you about the obvious thing that's on everybody's mind, the upcoming conference in Copenhagen in December. It's obviously a key conference and there's been a great deal of pessimism in recent weeks about the chance for really substantive action in Copenhagen on climate change. What do you see as the picture for heading into Copenhagen at this point, and what do you think can realistically be accomplished there?
Rajendra Pachauri: Well, I am cautiously optimistic because undoubtedly, there's very slow progress as far as negotiations are concerned. And that to some extent is to be expected, because different countries and parties are jockeying for position. They are trying to carry out maneuvers by which they protect their own positions and try to get the best of the deal that's expected over there.
But the good news is that all the leaders of the world realize that this is a problem that cannot be ignored much longer. And therefore we have a remarkable opportunity during COP15 [the Conference of the Parties in
If the rest of the world is willing to move toward low-carbon technologies, U.S. business doesn't want to be left behind.
Copenhagen], when hopefully the leadership of the major countries in the world will bring to bear on the negotiators, their negotiators, what needs to be done, what kinds of compromises to make. So I'm expecting that in the remaining few weeks, we will see some hectic activity as a result of which, possibly down to the midnight hour, we might get an agreement. I hope it's a reasonably satisfactory agreement because the last thing that the world needs today is a weak agreement that doesn't really help in mounting an effort at the level that's required globally. So I remain cautiously optimistic, and I'm hoping that things will work out in the end.
e360: But you're cautiously optimistic and you said you're hoping we might get an agreement. That's far different than it looked earlier in the year. Have things made a lot less progress and look a lot bleaker than they did earlier in the year?
Pachauri: Yes, well, to be quite honest, one expected a lot more to have happened in the U.S. by now. But as you know, legislation is bogged down in Congress. We have the Waxman-Markley bill having gone through the House of Representatives, and now we have the Kerry-Boxer bill in the Senate. But it's not quite clear whether that would get passage within this year, and before the Copenhagen meeting. But I think the world will have to find some way by which they're able to make a special provision for the U.S. if we don't get this legislation in place.
e360: A special provision meaning, for instance?
Pachauri: In other words, the U.S. may have to be given some more time to get its act together, and that I think will hopefully put some pressure on Congress and the public in this country. And I hope even business and industry would realize the benefit of being part of the global agreement and being behind it. Because let's face it, if the rest of the world is willing to move ahead towards low-carbon technologies, U.S. business doesn't want to be left behind, because if they are, they'll lose market share all over the world.
e360: Are you suggesting that there could be some kind of agreement reached in Copenhagen of which the U.S. would not be a part, and could that really happen and be substantive?
Pachauri: Well, the U.S. will have to be a part in some form or another. But I'm only speculating, if there isn't complete involvement on the part of the U.S., then the U.S. may be given some additional time to come up with commitments that hopefully will be ratified by the next COP.
e360: So you see a situation where no firm agreements would come out of Copenhagen and there would be plans for a subsequent meeting?
Pachauri: No, I'm expecting that we get an agreement, but the missing party at the table would be the U.S. And there might be a clear provision that the U.S. will come back by so and so date with a clear commitment, which of course all the parties will have to agree to, for meeting the requirements of this agreement, and to ensure that the U.S. will also reduce emissions by 2020 at an acceptable and satisfactory level.
e360: But if there's nothing passed in Congress by that time, how can the U.S. guarantee or commit itself to doing that?
Pachauri: That's entirely true. The U.S. will not be able to make a commitment. I don't know how one might be able to find language in an agreement that allows the U.S. a little bit of time, while the others take on firm commitments by 2020. I think if that happens, my own belief is there'll be so much moral pressure on the U.S., and possibly a great deal of pressure from business and industry, to get things in place, that hopefully something will happen.
e360: Do you think without U.S. involvement or a U.S. commitment in Copenhagen, with the U.S. being one of the world's two largest emitters of carbon, do you think it's realistic to think that other nations will have the incentive to do so?
Pachauri: Well, I agree, the U.S. not being part of the deal, or part of a common deal, is clearly a major handicap, because in Europe and other parts of the world, this is one stumbling block which is preventing an
I think there's a record of complete absence of responsibility on the part of the U.S.
agreement at this point in time. But I believe there's enough resolve in Europe, in Japan, and other parts of the world to move on, that we might actually see an agreement which involves all the other parties, but leaves a small window of opportunity for the U.S. to take a little more time and come back and make its own commitments. So basically, one would be allowing the U.S. to remain outside the deal, but give it time to come back and make its commitments, which of course all the parties will have to agree to.
e360: What is the minimum that you think needs to be accomplished in Copenhagen?
Pachauri: I think there are three things that'll have to be part of an agreement. Firstly, commitment to reduce emissions by the developed countries, through 2020. I think that's essential. And that also accords with what the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has brought out in the Fourth Assessment Report, where we clearly said that if you want to limit temperature increase to 2 to 2.4 degrees Celsius, then 2015 is the year when global emissions will have to peak, and then decline thereafter. Now that clearly implies that you ought to have very clear targets for 2020 at the latest. So I think that's one important element of an agreement.
The second would be some commitment to provide money on the table to help the developing countries, both in adaptation as well as mitigation actions. And the third would be to provide some facilitation for access to technologies that are required in the rest of the world. So I think if these three things are there, then perhaps the majority of the countries that are part of COP will agree to a deal.
e360: But these commitments would need to be more than targets. They would need to be binding?
Pachauri: They'll have to be binding, and there will have to be some provisions for penalties for those who don't comply with the targets, because we've seen that with the Kyoto Protocol [of 1997]. A lot of parties are way behind even the commitments that they accepted [as part of the Kyoto Protocol]. So we really can't allow that to continue in the future, and this agreement will have to be binding in every sense of the term.
e360: You mentioned technology transfer and adaptation in developing countries, and funds for that. That's something that India's Environmental Minister has been pushing hard for. Do you see action on that happening in Copenhagen, and what specific action do you see in those areas of technology transfer and adaptation?
Pachauri: Well, I see two possibilities. You might have some kind of a fund, global technology fund or whatever one wants to call it, that would
I don't think the world can afford the luxury of not arriving at an agreement.
essentially provide money for commercial transfer of technologies of some specific types that may or may not be specified. The other possibility would be to provide low-interest financing for some of these technology deals that would take place, transferring know-how and technological knowledge from the North to the South. So I think these are being discussed, and I frankly don't see too much of a problem in agreement on that.
e360: What kind of price tag do you see involved in the technology transfer and adaptation measures?
Pachauri: Well, you know, some time back, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the UK had come up with this figure of $100 billion a year as being the sort of target that the developed world must have for helping the rest of the world with climate change actions. So to me, that seems like something to begin with. It may not happen immediately, but maybe in the next two or three years, you could have a fund, you could have a total package of support, which reaches something close to $100 billion.
e360: And that's just for technology transfer?
Pachauri: No, this would be...
e360: And adaptation?
Pachauri: This would be everything, yes, including mitigation... How this will be carved up and who's going to implement it is really an issue.
e360: But it's been an issue. Haven't the developed nations agreed to this in the past and not delivered?
Pachauri: That's true, that's entirely true. But I think the pressure now is strong enough and it seems to me that there's a shift in position on the part of the developed countries that might make this a feasible program, at least after COP15.
e360: So you really seem to be saying that the failure of the U.S. to act on this has been the major stumbling block to progress. Do you feel that's true?
Pachauri: Well, I think it's a huge gap. It just presents a major gap in the overall global picture. I don't fault the current administration. They have done their best. They have clearly moved very rapidly in a short period of time, but, you know, you have eight-plus years of backlogs when the U.S. completely denied, firstly the fact that there was any such thing as human-induced climate change, and secondly, they just felt that there was no need for multilateral action. So I think there's a record of complete absence of responsibility on the part of the U.S. And now for this administration to make up that gaping hole is not going to be easy, and it's certainly not proving easy. So the U.S. certainly, for historical reasons, has been completely a missing quantity in this whole initiative.
e360: As there's been growing concern that Copenhagen is not going to accomplish all that had been hoped and thought was necessary, there's been talk already that there's going to need to be some follow-up meetings in 2010, so what had originally thought to be accomplished this year can be accomplished next year. Do you think that's going to be necessary, and do you support that idea?
Pachauri: Well, I think our efforts should be to see that we arrive at a final deal in December. But one expects that there will be a few loose ends. I mean, if you take the case of the U.S., perhaps the U.S. will have to come back with its own plan of action. There might be other loose ends to tie up, but I think the basic structure and the major provisions of the agreement should certainly fall in place by December. And whatever is required in 2010 by way of tidying up any loose ends certainly may require additional meetings, or maybe one additional meeting.
But I don't think the world can afford the luxury of not arriving at an agreement. That to me would be a grave mistake. That's going to sap confidence all around, because after three years of negotiations, if we still can't arrive at an agreement, when the science has been so compelling, the public awareness on the subject has been so widespread, and the leadership of the world has at least expressed its commitment to do something, then despite all these assets, if we're not able to arrive at an agreement, that spells very bad news for the future.
e360: You attracted widespread attention some months ago when you said, as an individual, not as chairman of the IPCC, you supported calls to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations at a level of below 350 parts per million. What led you to take that position, and knowing that it would be controversial, why did you choose to go public with that?
Pachauri: Well, you know, I've been getting increasingly concerned at several observations all around. If you look at sea level rise, and this is something that you can take out of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, even with a 2 degree increase in temperature, we will get sea level rise on account of thermal expansion alone, of 0.4 to 1.4 meters. So let's say we were to end up in the middle of that range, you're talking about at least 2 feet of sea level rise. Now if that happens, it's bad news for several parts of the world. The Maldive Islands, which are barely a meter above sea level, most of those islands, extensive areas of Bangladesh, a country of 160 million people, and there are other regions, including parts of the U.S., that will be completely devastated. And therefore even the 2-degree limit that we're talking about, which corresponds to say about 450 parts per million, is pretty bad news. I just couldn't keep my eyes closed to that reality.
And you see so much happening all around. Look at the melting of the glaciers all over the world. What are the implications of that? Look at the impacts on agriculture. We ourselves in the IPCC have projected that as early as 2020, we would see certain African countries suffering a decline of 50 percent in agriculture, and these are countries that have massive malnutrition, hunger all around. And if they have a decline of 50 percent, what does that mean? We are asking for disaster.
As a human being, I just couldn't keep quiet in the face of all this overwhelming evidence. I know it's probably not right for me to take a position such as this, but on the other hand, I think it would be totally immoral on my part not to take a position, so I came out and said so.
• This article was shared by our content partner Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Hopes fading for Copenhagen climate change treaty, says Ed Miliband

Political agreement rather than full treaty is now goal of the meeting, says energy secretary
Allegra Stratton, Thursday 5 November 2009 13.55 GMT
The climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, today became the first British politician to acknowledge publicly that the Copenhagen summit would produce no legal climate change treaty, but insisted a politically binding agreement was still possible – which he described as "a meaningful political track with strong numbers committed by all countries".
Both Miliband and Gordon Brown are due to travel to Copenhagen in the hope of agreeing binding cuts in emissions that will slow climate change. Brown has described the summit as the world's last chance to prevent "catastrophic" climate change. MPs from across the house yesterday described it variously as important as the Bretton Woods talks and the most important international talks since the second world war.
But speaking in the Commons, Miliband said: "The UN negotiations are moving too slowly and not going well," and described a "history of mistrust" between developed and developing nations with negotiators "stuck in entrenched positions". African nations walked out of the latest round of UN climate change talks in Barcelona this week, calling for deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from richer nations.
He went on: "The Danes, who are the hosts of the meeting, have said rather clearly in the last couple of weeks they think achieving a full legal treaty, given the pace of the negotiations, is unlikely.
"We would have preferred a full legal treaty, it has to be said. I think the important thing about the agreement we now seek in December is that while it may be a political agreement it must lead, on a very clear timetable, to a legally binding treaty." Sources said a meeting in Mexico in December 2010 would be more likely to see the legal treaty sealed.
Yesterday top US officials stated that a legal deal was all but impossible in the Danish capital and the president of the European commission, José Manuel Barroso, also dimissed the idea of a legally binding treaty. He said: "Of course we are not going to have a full-fledged binding treaty by Copenhagen. There is no time for that."
Miliband's speech was the first public reappraisal of the British position since officials began to shift the line after the Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said the results of the Copenhagen negotiations would not have a legal status.
Government sources said it has become increasingly obvious as time goes on that negotiations are moving very slowly making a legally binding treaty in December unlikely. But one noted that the Kyoto protocol followed the same course from political to legal agreement. "I don't think we are downbeat about this," said one.
They said that any pledges made at Copenhagen would be as difficult to escape as if they were legally binding, because nations would have made their commitments at the very public forum of a UN meeting. They also pointed to the precedent of 2001 climate change talks which were only converted to a legal status months after political will was agreed.
Instead, British negotiators now want Copenhagen to seal a political agreement and a timetable that leads to a legally binding treaty.
Miliband said: "I'll be completely clear about this, I think an agreement without numbers is not a great agreement. In fact, it's a wholly inadequate agreement."
He added: "We must have reduction commitments from developed countries. We also must have action from developing countries which translate into reduced quantities of emissions – not cuts in emissions, yet, from major developing countries before 2020 but real actions which contribute to the kind of peaking of global emissions which I think is a central part of this agreement."
In reality the government's shift probably began in September, when the Guardian revealed that the US wanted a new approach that would move it away from a legally binding world agreement to one where individual countries pledged cuts in their national emissions without binding timetables and targets – a change from the Kyoto deal in which total emissions were determined by the science, to one in which individual countries pledge their own emissions cuts.
A senior government source said: "The key question has always been: will you or won't you get numbers? Just because you're not getting the legal bit doesn't mean you won't get numbers. And we are hopeful of getting meaningful numbers."

Global climate deal at least a year away, negotiators say

Negotiators say they have abandoned hope of signing a legally binding emissions treaty in Copenhagen and are planning only for a meeting of world leaders

John Vidal in Barcelona, Thursday 5 November 2009 16.38 GMT
A global deal to fight climate change will take at least six months and possibly another year to finalise, according to negotiators at the heart of the UN talks.
In a series of briefings, senior British and EU diplomats said they had abandoned any hope of reaching a legally binding treaty at the Copenhagen summit next month and had now started to plan only for a meeting of world leaders. This final acknowledgement follows weeks of growing pessimism and represents a significant downgrading of the summit's original goal.
The best outcome in Copenhagen will now be a political agreement which rich countries hope will include targets and timetables for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations and major emitters like China, as well as commitments to provide money for poor countries to cope with climate change. But even that reduced goal is far from certain, with huge gaps remaining between nations on key issues such as emissions cuts and funding for poor nations.
The delay was said to be caused by a combination of time running out in the tortuous UN negotiations and Washington's inability to commit specifically to targets and timetables. The US made clear yesterday that it thought a legal treaty was impossible in Copenhagen.
In Barcelona, a British government source said: "We think it will be impossible to sign up and agree a fully worked-up political treaty."
"It is a Catch-22 situation," said Artur Runge-Metzger, the European commission's chief negotiator. People are waiting for each other so it is difficult to blame anyone. [But] the US position is significant in terms of the delay. Clearly the US has been slowing things down."
In London, Ed Miliband, the UK secretary of state for energy and climate change, gave a similar message to the House of Commons, acknowledging that only a political agreement could be hoped for. "The UN negotiations are moving too slowly and not going well," he said.
The plan now is for world leaders to come to Copenhagen next month to sign a politically binding agreement which would have all the key elements of the final deal in it. "It would be substantive. It would set timelines, and provide the figures by which rich countries would reduce emissions, as well as the money that would be made available to developing countries to adapt to climate change", said a British government official.
But she said a legally binding agreement could take up to a year. "It could [take] six months up to a year, but we would want it to be [signed] as soon as possible".
Gordon Brown, President Lula of Brazil, President Sarkozy of France and other heads of state have already said they will go to Copenhagen, and others are expected to agree in the next few weeks. It is now more likely that President Obama will go because he will not be forced to sign a legally binding agreement which the US senate could then reject. Proposed climate laws presented to the Senate have encountered fierce opposition and on Tuesday, lawmakers accepted it could not be passed before Copenhagen. The battle over US healthcare reform and the recent election defeats for Obama have seriously reduced the president's ability to force through the laws.
However, there is the real prospect that even the political deal that world leaders will be asked to sign in Copenhagen will have little or no substance. The gap between the demands of the developing countries and the offers on the table is great in some areas, and there are fewer than seven days' full negotiating time left before world leaders arrive in Copenhagen.
The news was met with resignation by developing countries and NGOs. "Politically binding agreements are worth very little. Tell me of any politician who delivers a politically binding agreement", said Lumumba Di-Aping, chair of the G77 group of 130 countries.
"The world's poorest communities can't afford to wait. The cost of any delay to a climate deal will be counted in children's lives. We estimate that 250,000 children could be killed by climate change next year," said Benedict Dempsey, Save the Children's humanitarian policy officer.
"If the EU is buying time for Obama and Congress, let them come out and say so. To remove the impetus to push as far and as as hard as possible in the timeframe is reductive beyond belief," said Sol Oyuela, climate change policy officer at Cafod.
"The assumption that developing countries will want to go into a further round of talks is dangerous," added Antonio Hill of Oxfam. "There is no guarantee that anything will emerge."
Progress in Barcelona, the last full negotiating session before Copenhagen, has been particularly slow, with two days' negotiations effectively lost after African countries walked out in frustration at the lack of progress by rich countries. Neither the US nor the G77 group of countries have made any major concessions.
The deadlock has been most serious over proposed emission cuts. Rich countries together have proposed cutting approximately 16-23% on 1990 figures, but developing countries are determined to force a 40% cut to avoid what UN scientists say could be catastrophic climate change.
While the EU has proposed cuts of 20-30% by 2020, many other rich countries have not committed more than 15%. The US, the second largest emitter in the world, has pledged the equivalent of a 7% cut on 1990 emissions, or 17% on 2005 levels.
"There is everything to play for but we should lower our ambitions and get it right. Perhaps we were always being too ambitious," said one European diplomat.
NGOs said the talks were in real danger of losing their momentum, and accused the EU of giving up trying to persuade President Obama to give .

Barcelona climate talks beset by rich-poor stalemate

Acceptance appears to be growing among both rich and poor countries at the UN climate talks in Barcelona that no binding deal will be reached in Copenhagen next month, Thursday 5 November 2009 15.06 GMT
The gap between rich and poor countries over a global climate deal appears insurmountable at UN talks in Barcelona, with countries sticking to positions that are fundamentally as far apart as they were a month ago.
America indicated yesterday that a legally binding agreement was probably impossible, and acceptance is growing among both rich and poor countries that no binding deal will be reached in Copenhagen next month and that talks could drag well into 2010 or beyond.
Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chair of the G77 group of developing nations said rich countries had to move further. "We call on developed countries to step up to the challenge. We believe they have a moral, financial and political responsibility to live up to the challenge," he said.
Di-Aping insists that rich countries cut emissions by 40% by 2020, as proposed by UN scientists, a figure way above the aggregate 16% that is on the negotiating table now.
"We try to be optimistic [but] we cannot accept total destruction of our countries as a choice for developing countries. Anything south of [an emission cut of] 40% means Africa is destroyed.
"If you take the EU position of a 20 or 30% cut the result is to condemn developing countries to total destruction, loss of livelihoods, and economies, land forests will be destroyed. You can't solve the climate change problem by tinkering around the edges."
Di-Aping also claimed that the rich nations could find the money to help poor countries adapt to climate change and insisted that it be managed by the UN rather than the World Bank. He further said the bulk of the money should come from public funds rather than carbon markets.
"The EU and US together found $20tr to avert the credit crisis," he added.
The EU responded that it had to be prepared for the talks to go on well into the future. "We are hearing many voices saying we should look for a framework agreement to allow the talks on a fully binding treaty to continue next year", said Artur Runge-Metzger, the European commission's chief negotiator.
"We want a treaty that is legally binding. We are aiming for it to be global and ambitious. But what we are hearing is that some countries are concerned there will not be enough time"
He admitted that the EU and G77 still differed fundamentally in many areas, including the amount of money to be made available, the channels it should go through, whether the money is public or private, and the cuts which rich countries should make to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Runge-Metzger said developing countries had a responsibility to cut emissions, as well as rich nations. "They already account for a huge part of world emissions and in future they will dominate. The developing countries will decide the fate of the globe," he said.
Bruno Sekoli, chair of the least developed group of countries, said that it was more important to get a good deal, however long it takes. "We do not want a compromise deal. If it takes a year, even two years, then we will continue talking. A bad deal is not good for Africa or vulnerable countries."

British climate change campaigners ride The Wave

The Wave claims to be 'UK's biggest ever demonstration for urgent action on climate change'. Will you take part – and do marches work?
The breadth and depth of support for the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition is very impressive indeed. Organisations ranging from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF through to the Women's Institute, Unison and Unicef are members, as are dozens of others. In fact, the coalition claims to boast more than 11 million people spanning around 100 organisations.
Given its focus on, well, coalescing to stop climate chaos, you would expect it to be ramping up its efforts ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit in a month's time. I have to admit that until today it had escaped my attention, but the coalition has been doing just that by organising the "UK's biggest ever demonstration for urgent action on climate change". At 12pm on December 5, it wants as many of its supporters as possible to meet at Grosvenor Square in London for a three-hour march to Parliament Square (nationwide transport details can be found online).
"Tens of thousands of people from all walks of life will flow through the streets of London to demonstrate their support for a safe climate future for all," say the organisers, who are calling the march The Wave. It's a good name, although has some unfortunate connotations with the fascist cult in the film of the same name, not to mention risk of being drowned out online by Google's new communication tool, Wave.
Today marks the official launch of The Wave website, which is dedicated to drumming up support for the march. As seems the norm these days, a Twitterstorm has been called for between 3pm and 4pm today. Supporters are also urged to send in their own homemade videos of themselves performing a Mexican wave. Together, the videos are being stitched together to form a loop of waves rippling across the homepage. (Is this really the best motif to use? I always thought Mexican waves were viewed as a sign of boredom and indifference by a football crowd?!)
Climate change marches in the UK haven't, to date, pulled in the kind of numbers you might expect to see at, say, an antiwar march.
I'm sure there are multiple reasons for this, but principal among them is probably the underlying lack of desperate urgency many people still feel towards the threat of climate change. It is still largely deemed to be a distant problem, particularly as politicians seem to be fixated with talking about targets for the now mythical year of 2050. Holding a march on a Saturday in December is also, no doubt, another contributing factor.
But if there's ever a time to support just such a march I guess it must be now. Will you be going? What are your experiences of the previous climate change marches that have been held in London in December? And, crucially, does marching make a difference?

Democrats make progress on climate but bill's future remains uncertain

Boxer defies Republican boycott to vote through sweeping plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% over 2005 levels by 2020
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Thursday 5 November 2009 19.14 GMT

Democrats on a key Senate committee took a small step forward on a US climate change law today - but also inflamed Republicans to a degree that could ultimately defeat efforts to pass legislation to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions.
Barbara Boxer, chairman of the environment and public works committee, defied a Republican boycott to vote through a sweeping plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% over 2005 levels by 2020. Such a law is seen as vital for the ultimate success of a worldwide treaty to tackle global warming.
Republicans had boycotted the bill drafting sessions, demanding a more time for the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a detailed analysis of how much the bill will cost the economy and ordinary consumers.
Boxer defended her decision to go ahead with the vote despite the boycott.
"The committee and Senate rules that have been in place during Republican and Democratic majorities are there to be used when the majority feels it is in the best interest of their states and of the nation to act," she said in a statement.
The EPA has done an extensive analysis of a climate change bill passed by the House of representatives in June, and Boxer said it would be uneconomical to order a new study of what are essentially very similar proposals. But Boxer's move angered Republicans as well as some moderate Democrats who have reservations about the bill. A powerful Democrat on her committee, Max Baucus of Montana, voted no today. making the final count 11-1.
He said in a statement he was worried that the 20% target was too high and that he wanted more protection for agriculture. But he added: "I'm going to work to get climate change legislation that can get 60 votes, get through the US Senate and signed into law."
The bill's prospects are also threatened by twin defeats this week forDemocrats in governors' elections in New Jersey and Virginia. Senators,especially those from coal producing and rust belt states who had earlierraised concerns that the climate bill could be a "jobs killer" are now muchmore likely to distance themselves from Barack Obama's agenda.
"The question is, do people think we're tending to the things they careabout?" John Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia who has been on the fence on climate change, told reporters. "Don't think people in my stateare going to stand up and start cheering about Copenhagen," Rockefellersaid.
Other Democratic senators - whose support for a climate change law hadalready been doubtful - said they would now have to think carefully abouteconomic consequences of energy reform. "People need to be saying slow itdown and don't add more to the deficit," said Ben Nelson a Democrat fromNebraska. "And what have many of us been talking about? We don't want tosee anything added to the deficit unless there's cost containment."
Boxer reportedly defied advice from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid,to give the Republicans until next Tuesday to end their boycott. She alsodisregarded four moderate Republican senators whose support is seen ascritical to the bill's passage. The senators wrote to the EPA on Wednesdaywarning they could not support a bill without a detailed cost analysis fromthe agency.
"We have a keen interest in ensuring that cost estimates, models and otherdata critical to the legislative process be made available to members ofCongress and the public in a timely manner," the four senators wrote. "Wecannot support legislation without this information."
However, John Kerry who is leading an effort to craft a broader climate andenergy bill that would allow offshore drilling and expand nuclear power,said the vote would not hurt prospects of action on global warming. "Thisis and has always been a big lift," he said.
Kerry said earlier that growing support for climate change legislation inthe business community and the opportunities for different regions in theUS would eventually overpower other arguments. He also said that the USchamber of commerce, which has been opposing the climate change bill, nowseemed to be adopting a more nuanced position.

Common sense and the city: Jaime Lerner, Brazil's green revolutionary

The ex-mayor of Curitiba used massive creativity and tiny budgets to create the world's greenest city
There are times in life – admittedly very few indeed – when you really wish Boris Johnson was in the same room as you. Last night was one of them as the revolutionary Brazilian ex-mayor, Jaime Lerner, spoke at London's British Film Institute as part of its Of Dreams and Cities season.
"You have to keep things simple, and just start working ... You have a lot of complexity-sellers in this life. We should beat them, beat them with a slipper," said the 70-year-old former mayor of Curitiba, the world's most environmentally friendly city. He has the look of an ex-boxer and a military bearing, softened by a ready and guttural laugh. Lerner was there to see A Convenient Truth, an inspiring film by Giovanni Baz del Bello showing how Lerner and successive mayors have over the past 40 years made Curitiba, a city of 3 million in southern Brazil, one of the world's most livable urban spaces – using only massive creativity and tiny budgets.
"You get creative when you take a zero from your budget," says Lerner. "But sustainability starts when you take two zeros from your budget. Many other mayors tell me their budget is small. For many things, we had no budget."
His first major coup was pedestrianising the main central shopping street in 1972 – in a weekend.
"We started one Friday night, and finished on Monday morning. If we'd had to stop and do things regularly, I wouldn't have made it, and I could have been fired. So we took the risk. By the Monday night, business was so good, the head of the local businessmen came to me and he gave me a petition and said: 'We want the whole street pedestrianised.'"
Lerner heard about a possible protest by drivers who planned to drive through the newly pedestrianised thoroughfare. So, he enlisted hundreds of children, armed them with paintbrushes and paper, and set them to play in the street. The protest never materialised.
Using three-section bendy buses in dedicated bus lanes, the city's transport system carries passenger numbers comparable to an underground – 2 million a day – but at a cost of $1m per kilometre rather than $100m. Fares are flat, and the city was encouraged to grow along the bus routes, so any Curitiba resident is never more than 400m from a bus stop. Only the cars get stuck in traffic jams.
Soon, Lerner hopes to launch the Dock-Dock, a 60cm-wide and 130cm-long car – the smallest in the world. "I can fit inside it," he says. "It will run at less than 25kmh with a range of 50km. But you won't own it." It will act as publicly owned feeder vehicles for public transport. Lernert says he'll test drive it in Rio next week.
Recycling in Curitiba is perhaps the most radical reform of all. In 1989, residents in a nearby favela were dumping their trash in surrounding rivers and fields, as there were no collections from their narrow streets. Lerner arranged for a truck to visit the favela at fixed times each week, and residents' rubbish was exchanged for bus tickets, football tickets and shows. Soon, the locals were cleaning the rivers and fields of old rubbish to sell. Schoolchildren were given new plastic toys for old bottles and bags in a scheme called "Garbage that's not garbage".
Separation of organic and non-organic waste improved efficiencies further. Local homeless people and alcoholics were employed at the recycling plant, where they also retrained on computers they rescued from the city's bins. Curitiba's fishermen were paid to fish for rubbish.
Floodplains surrounding the city were bought up and converted to parks with boating lakes acting as overspill areas. This solution, far cheaper and more effective than culvetting rivers with concrete, increased the green space available for residents from 0.5 square metres each in the 1960s to over 50 square metres per resident today.
Housing was tackled in a similarly simple, revolutionary way. Land next to the electricity company's lot was converted into housing estates, and residents were encouraged to redesign their interiors, so they felt more pride and ownership over their properties.
Lerners' reforms have been widely popular and they appear to have improved the peoples' lot. GDP per capita in Curitiba is 60% higher than the average in Brazil. "Those that were most against us transformed into our greatest supporters – they just needed to see the results. Now they are proud of their city."

Is the idea of carbon trading just a lot of hot air?

Carbon trading sounds like a great idea: by putting a price on emissions, it punishes polluters and fosters green technologies. Find out if the reality matches the rhetoric
Felicia Jackson, David Robertson

THE THEORY By Felicia Jackson
We know we have to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but why is carbon trading the way to do it?
We have to start placing an economic value on the environment, but we can’t wait for the perfect solution. We need to act now, and that means using the market tools at our disposal to create the most flexible approach.
Changing the behaviour of governments and industry is likely to have a more immediate impact on emissions than encouraging individuals to buy low-carbon products and services. And to make countries and companies cut emissions quickly, we need to put a price on them. Doing so is not just about motivating polluters to reduce emissions; it is also about enabling politicians and bosses to keep track of the costs and benefits of emissions-cutting measures and make long-term investment decisions.
What are the chief advantages of carbon trading?
It imposes a limit on emissions, which shrinks over time. Trading in emissions — technically called “carbon offsets” — also makes sense as greenhouse gases are a global problem: it doesn’t matter where emissions are cut, as long as they come down. The cost of funding projects that result in lower emissions is immense, and we have to find a cost-effective way to manage this transition. Carbon trading fits the bill as it is economically efficient. As quotas get ever tighter, it becomes harder to generate credits and the cost of emissions becomes more onerous.
In that case, why is there so much international disagreement on tackling climate change?
The Kyoto Protocol was the first legally binding international framework to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, enshrining the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” for developed and developing nations. It is how these responsibilities should be enshrined in law that is causing disagreement.
The industrialised world has grown rich on the exploitation of the world’s natural resources. Developing countries are aggrieved to be told that they cannot follow the same path because of the threat of climate change. It does not help that, despite not having ratified Kyoto, the US is among countries insisting that the largest developing economies must accept binding emissions targets.
Offsets have been strongly criticised as a means for developed nations to outsource their responsibility for cutting emissions to the developed world. There is clearly a need to help the developing world to deal with the environmental impact of climate change, but there is little agreement on how this should be funded internationally.
So will carbon trading benefit the developing world?
The Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation provisions of the Kyoto Protocol should act to encourage investment in new, clean technologies and, in the case of the CDM, generate flows of global finance and knowhow from rich to poor.

What does the future hold for carbon trading?
It seems almost certain that carbon trading and carbon market mechanisms will remain central. Outside the Kyoto framework, a number of regional schemes have been or are being introduced: the European Union has its ETS, the US has several schemes of its own (with Congress debating legislation that could see the creation of a federally regulated scheme), and Australia and the UK are launching their own national schemes.
THE PRACTICEBy David Robertson
Does carbon trading work?
There are some promising signs. In the EU, for example, emissions from businesses taking part in the ETS fell by just over 3 per cent in 2008 compared with the year before, and this while economic growth was 0.8 per cent over the same period. But despite some positive statistics, carbon trading on the whole does not work.
What has gone wrong?
The defining weakness of emissions trading schemes is that they are set up, run and regulated by governments. When the EU established the ETS in 2005, member governments were desperate to ensure that their national flagships did not suffer. The resulting machinations led to industries being allocated far too many credits — 3.4 per cent more than actual emissions. When this overgenerosity became fully apparent in 2006, the embryonic carbon trading market collapsed. The price of emissions fell from €30 to €10 per tonne of CO2 almost overnight and continued to fall to just a few cents a tonne when the scheme’s first phase ended in 2007.
What is continuing to go wrong in Europe?In an attempt to correct the failings of this first phase, the EU tightened emissions caps for phase II (2008-2012). Unfortunately, it appears that once again too many credits have been allocated, a miscalculation which the global downturn has only made worse. Some industries are now awash with credits and, in a further fudge, are being allowed to bank them for phase III (2013-2020). This will make hitting carbon targets much easier during the next decade. The likely result is a trading scheme that will be largely ineffectual during its first 15 years of operation.
Who pays?
To protect their industries from foreign competitors not subject to the pressures of carbon trading, governments have overallocated credits to some and underallocated to others. Power companies, for example, have received comparatively few credits because consumers cannot easily go elsewhere to buy their energy. This allows power utilities to pass on the cost of buying carbon credits to their customers.
Meanwhile, to cut their emissions quickly, power companies are switching from coal to natural gas, which emits less CO2 than coal for a given power output. This is making Europe heavily reliant on fuel supplies from Russia and the Middle East — with all the geo-political implications that entails.
What needs to change?
The European Union needs to be more aggressive in setting targets and allocating emissions quotas if they are serious about using the ETS as the primary means of changing corporate behaviour.
The power of governments to influence the permit allocation system should be removed (Italy and various Eastern European nations are currently said to be lobbying to weaken phase III emissions targets, for example). A central regulator should determine how permits are distributed to industry to prevent favouritism.
To be truly effective the same system needs to apply in all countries, otherwise emissions trading will always be open to “permit tourism” — companies moving their activities to territories with no trading scheme or an overly generous one.
Companies should not be given all their permits for free. This is a subsidy that creates windfall trading profits if a company emits less than its quota of carbon. 
Conquering Carbon: Carbon Emissions, Carbon Markets and the Consumer, by Felicia Jackson, is published by New Holland Publishers at £9.99

Brown's green spin on carbon capture

UK ministers talk up the carbon capture research programme as if it were already an available technology

Fred Pearce, Thursday 5 November 2009 07.00 GMT
Gordon Brown is keen to take the high ground on climate change, in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference. Witness his eagerness to claim success when European heads of state discussed setting up a climate fund for developing countries last week.
But is it greenwash? Or, since we are now in the world of politics, is it green spin?
A key test of Brown's seriousness will be how he treats the coal industry in Britain. And in particular his approach to the proposed technology of carbon capture and storage (CCS) - the idea of catching carbon dioxide emissions as they go up the stack and transporting them for burial in holes in the ground or under the ocean.
Bright and breezy in his first prime minister's question time of the new term, Brown last month sounded tough on coal. Katy Clark, MP for North Ayrshire - where there are plans for a new coal power station at Hunterston - asked him whether the government would insist on the plant capturing its carbon emissions. He replied: "Any new coal power station has got to be carbon-capture compliant."
Only a few minutes before, one of his Scottish ministers had told Clark that "any new plant will be required to incorporate carbon capture."
But it is always wise to be sure. When is "will"? And what the heck does "carbon capture compliant" mean? I asked the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), who directed me to the statement made by the secretary of state, Ed Miliband, to parliament in April, and a consultation document published in June.
Neither Miliband nor the consultation document use the term "carbon capture compliant". Government policy, Miliband said, was to impose "two new conditions that any new coal-fired power station must meet".
First they would have to "demonstrate CCS" on part of the plant. Second the owners must "commit that CCS will be fitted on the entire plant ... within five years of 2020, subject to the technology being ready."
That, to me, is quite a long way from "will be required to incorporate CCS". But let's pursue this word "demonstrate".
As I have written here before, for all the promises there is as yet no proven technology called carbon capture and storage out there.
Miliband himself told the Commons in April: "It [CCS] has never been tried at a commercial scale and never the complete process from start to finish on a power station." There are also serious geological questions in particular about finding safe holes in the ground for hundreds of millions of tonnes of gas a year.
So any government requirements for new power plants to "demonstrate" CCS will be less about demonstration and more about research. The small print of the consultation document makes this clear.
It says the government will require all new plants to bolt on a "carbon capture unit" with a capacity to handle the emissions from a minimum 300 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity. For a typical 1600MW plant, says the consultation document, that will be enough to reduce emissions from about 750g per kilowatt-hour to around 600g. So by about one-fifth. At most.
The government is making no promises and precious few demands. It says there must be "a reasonable expectation that [the units] would operate as intended" and that "operators ... make reasonable efforts" to run them. But it agrees the CCS plants could be offline for long periods, including at times of high electricity demand.
I don't doubt that ministers are keen – extremely keen – to get CCS up and running. A spokesperson for Decc said: "We believe there is no solution to climate change without CCS and we're backing up our words with actions ... We believe it is better to fund a range of smaller projects, on a range of technologies rather than mandating full CCS, in order to prove CCS technology as quickly and comprehensively as possible."
I do doubt, however, the enthusiasm of many power companies, who see only higher generating costs. I fear they whisper to ministers that the only way of getting clean coal in future is to back dirty coal today.
The greenwash comes in when ministers dress up a research programme into a possible technology for tomorrow as if it were a functioning system for preventing carbon dioxide getting into the air today. Even if all goes to plan, only a small fraction of the emissions from planned new coal-fired power stations will be captured until at least 2025, and possible much longer.
Now in Gordon Brown's world that might mean "carbon capture compliant". But not mine.

Don't let the reckless City trade carbon

As the City recovers from one disaster, the next is on its way – but carbon trading will damage the planet, not just the economy

Andy Atkins, Thursday 5 November 2009 16.00 GMT

You couldn't make it up: in the middle of the most serious recession for decades, with banks bailed out with billions of pounds of taxpayers' money, the denizens of the City have sniffed out what they think is the next big money spinner: trading thin air. Of course, the traders aren't heckling over 50 tonnes here or there of bargain basement London smog or Somerset meadow fresh. It's carbon dioxide which is now big business – and could become even bigger if the government gets its way at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen this December.
At talks happening this week in Barcelona – the last round of talks before Copenhagen – British negotiators are pushing hard for the expansion of the global carbon market as their solution to slashing emissions. The principles are supposedly simple: if a factory with a cap of emitting 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year only emits 900 tonnes, it could sell the right to emit the remainder on the open market. The system's backers claim it will reduce emissions and provide cash to invest further in cutting emissions.
A carbon trading system is already in place in Europe, and is big business – the trade was worth $90bn in 2008, and globally is predicted to grow to up to $3.1 trillion in 2020.
But there's a catch – banks, investment funds and speculators have now become the middlemen in this shadowy trade and are packaging carbon credits into increasingly complex financial products, similar to sub-prime mortgages which triggered the recent economic crash. This risks the development of sub-prime carbon and financial crisis – with a double whammy this time of environmental catastrophe to match. It's no coincidence the government has been pushing carbon markets just as traders in the City have become the biggest buyers of carbon permits in the world.
The evidence that carbon trading doesn't work is vast. The EU scheme failed dismally in delivering emissions cuts in its first few years and looks set for further failure in its next phase because too many permits have been handed out to dirty industry yet again. The scheme also allows European business to wiggle out of their emissions reductions through offsetting, allowing for them to pay for cuts to be made overseas instead of at home. Trading also means politicians and industry aren't taking the bold steps needed to cut emissions now by investing in a massive rollout of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The time it will take to extend carbon markets globally will mean precious years wasted when governments could be taken action which is already proven to work.
So what are the solutions? Regulation, taxation and direct government investment in slashing emissions. First, rich countries must commit to slash emissions by at least 40% by 2020, without offsetting. Then we must transform our economy through tried and tested measures that are proven to have worked in the past, including carbon taxes, tougher emissions standards and a big increase in public investment to tackle the climate crisis.
Just when our leaders are slapping each other on the back for rescuing us from one financial crisis, with carbon trading they are already sowing the seeds of the next – with potentially devastating consequences for our economy, the planet and millions of its poorest people.
Friends of the Earth is demanding that the government changes its approach to climate change with its Demand Climate Change campaign. The green campaign group is asking everyone to sign its international online petition to world leaders for a strong and fair climate deal

Even if global warming is the problem, carbon trading isn't the answer

This week, the British courts established that a belief in man-made global warming can be considered a religious faith. In that case, I'm agnostic.

By Tracy CorriganPublished: 6:44PM GMT 05 Nov 2009
Although significant scientific evidence points in that direction, some experts disagree and I feel neither qualified to judge, nor inspired to make a leap of faith.
On a related issue, though, I am a confirmed sceptic, and that is the effectiveness of trading rights to emit carbon as a means of reducing greenhouse gases.

In a new report called A Dangerous Obsession, Friends of the Earth argues that carbon trading is not delivering either significant carbon cuts or the technical innovation required to encourage a shift to low-carbon options. Even advocates of carbon trading admit the first phase of the European Union's emissions trading system, which lasted from 2007-2009, was a disaster and the current phase, which runs until 2012, is hardly a triumph. In its report on the European experience, the US Government Accountability Office concluded that "carbon offsets. . . may not be a reliable long-term approach to climate change mitigation"; the Centre for Climate Change recently warned Parliament that, partly as a result of recession, "there is a risk that the carbon price will not be sufficiently high to incentivise investments in low- carbon technologies". Among other snags are perverse incentives to increase carbon emissions in the short term and difficulties in verifying the offsetting of emissions.
It's not surprising that there are teething problems, given the ambitious scope of the project: to create an actively traded, government-sponsored carbon market which encourages ecologically desirable behaviour. But the mix of the state sector and the financial markets is always a combustible one, and traders are adept at gaming the system – it's what they do.
My worry is not simply that carbon trading won't live up to its billing as the answer to our global warming prayers, but that it will bring fresh problems. The rapidly expanding market creates opportunities for banks, investors and others to make huge profits out of a government-backed system which skews the market. As well as diverting money into the hands of intermediaries and speculators, this market distortion may also cause pollution to shift from developed to emerging economies, a phenomenon known as leakage.
Meanwhile, as a result of this new, profitable market in carbon trading, powerful financial groups now have a vested interest in its survival. Big banks and other institutions have invested in a business which is underpinned by the conviction that a government-sponsored carbon trading scheme will curb emissions and reduce global warming. Hardly surprising, then, that, according to the Center for Public Integrity's analysis of Senate disclosure forms, banks and other financial groups – which were largely silent on this issue until 2003 – had about 130 climate lobbyists in Washington by last year.
Whatever is agreed – or not – at the United Nations Climate Change conference next month, there already appears to be a global consensus that the main mechanism for pursuing any targets will be carbon trading. Despite all the problems, Europe currently accounts for the bulk of the $126bn global market, and if, as seems likely, the US pushes ahead with plans for its own version, the global market is likely to hit $2 trillion within five years, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which wants to regulate it. As commissioner Bart Chilton has observed: "We don't want to see the largest commodity markets in the world – these Green CAT Markets – become a private jungle gym for speculators and fraudsters." Indeed we don't. Nor, of course, is it desirable that the race into this new market and its associated derivatives inflates a new bubble, followed by an inevitable bust.
Yet our governments are creating a huge, highly complex, artificial market which will be far more difficult to regulate than simple products like mortgages – which, if memory serves, they didn't manage terribly well. (And there is, of course, huge scope for the development of derivatives, and derivatives of derivatives.) Even if the carbon market is sensibly regulated and functions reasonably efficiently – the very best that can be expected – large sums will be siphoned off by traders, intermediaries and investors.
Where does that money come from? Ultimately, presumably, from the steel and chemical companies which have to buy emissions permits. It makes me feel rather sorry for the poor old polluters.
Politicians like to talk about their desire for these very real industries to grab a slice of the economic pie from the financial services giants, but I guess that's another target that won't be met.

Shanks builds first anaerobic digestion plant to harness potato peel power

Angela Jameson

Your newspapers and magazines are recycled, your light bulbs are low energy and your weekly bottle collection is embarrassingly better than your neighbour’s.
But there is still one environmental chore that makes even the most die-hard eco warrior wince. Kitchen waste recycling — to compost or not to compost — is messy, smelly and all too attractive to vermin.
Yet recycling food waste could provide an alternative source of low-carbon energy.
Shanks, formerly a landfill company, has begun building its first anaerobic digestion plant, capable of generating enough renewable electricity to power up to 3,000 homes.

The £8 million plant will be built in Scotland and take waste food from Scottish homes and hotels and from restaurants and retailers in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
It will harness the gases produced by the rotting food to fuel a power plant. The power generated will be sold back into the National Grid, while also earning the company double Renewable Obligation Certificates — a government subsidy for renewable energy producers.
In the UK about 20 million tonnes of leftover food is thrown away every year. Using anaerobic digestion Shanks can turn this waste into a high-quality fertiliser for use on agricultural land and generate up to three megawatts of renewable electricity.
For every 45,000 tonnes of food waste recycled this way, about two megawatts of renewable power is produced — enough to heat 2,000 homes.
Shanks sold its English landfill business to Guy Hands, the private equity tycoon, in 2004 and now works with the private and public sector to recycle and reprocess waste.
It already runs similar plants in the Netherlands and Belgium and has plans for facilities in Canada.
The company, which announced a 24 per cent slide in half-year profits yesterday, is pinning its commercial hopes on new environmental legislation and a sharp increase in landfill taxes to persuade many more businesses and councils to opt for new technology and avoid putting waste into landfill at all. Shanks wants to build a clutch of anaerobic digestion plants around the country. It has indicated that it will bid for waste contracts to be put out to tender in Wales in the next year and has recently been shortlisted for similar contracts for Milton Keynes and North Lincolnshire.
It already has a three-year contract to recycle Marks and Spencer’s packaged waste food, which will use the anaerobic digestion technology.
It closed a £720 million Private Finance Initiative deal with Cumbria this year, which will allow it to build two facilities to dispose of the county’s rubbish for the next 22 years.
Tom Drury, chief executive, said: “I’m no eco warrior but how we can be smart in dealing with our waste is a very interesting challenge and could make a huge difference to the renewable energy sector that the Government is struggling to get off the ground.”
While the economy struggles, Shanks’s business, closely related to GDP, has suffered. But Mr Drury expects this to come back strongly when a recovery starts.
“The October PMI figures would indicate an upturn, as would GDP projections for next year. But if I’m honest, we’re not seeing it,” he said.

The big picture: China’s shoots of hope

Woods are spreading over hills around Yan'an, the city where Chairman Mao lived. Here are the facts about reforestation

Alice Fishburn

Once home to Chairman Mao, Yan’an is now at the centre of China’s green revolution. In the past decade 588,000 hectares of the land around the city have been returned to forest. Trees and lawns cover 57.9 per cent of the city.
In China planting trees is not only encouraged but decreed by the National People’s Congress. Since 1981 every citizen between 11 and 55 has been under orders to plant at least three saplings a year. For students, tree planting is a graduation requirement.
China's reforestation project is designed to arrest desertification and reduce the soil erosion that gives the Yellow River its name. Government officials have promised to spend almost $9 billion (£5.5 billion) on increasing forest coverage each year. Their target? To cover a fifth of the country by 2010.
But while the Chinese plant trees at home, they follow different rules abroad. China recently secured 2.8 million hectares of the Congo Basin to develop a plantation for palm oil, a controversial biofuel that has caused deforestation worldwide.

Every year 32 million acres of trees are chopped down to make way for agricultural land to feed a growing population.
Destroying trees accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than every train, car, bus and plane on the planet. Around 17 per cent of our emissions can be traced to felled tree stumps where there used to be rainforests.
If everyone planted and looked after two trees a year, we could reverse the deforestation of a decade in the next ten years.
Attempts to counter carbon emissions through offsetting are increasingly popular. BP has just pledged to plant ten million eucalyptus trees in Australia. The UN’s REDD programme is designed to stop deforestation by offering financial incentives to the most at-risk developing countries.
But planting more trees isn’t always the answer. The forests planted to absorb carbon dioxide are often neither ecologically diverse nor a long-term fix. As soon as they start to rot, their carbon stores are released.
Even China’s programme has slowed. The Government stopped reforestation on marginal farmland as it believes the nation no longer has sufficient arable land to feed all of its people.

Spinners and losers in the wind turbine storm

Rural rejecters of wind power aren't bumptious bumpkins, says Adrian Snook. We are asserting our rights as consumers and voters
Adrian Snook, Thursday 5 November 2009 12.40 GMT
In the last two years the number of large windfarm projects gaining approval from local councils in England has slumped from 57% to an all-time low of just 25%, according to the British Wind Energy Association.
"We are concerned that the number of applications being rejected indicates that politics have become more and more entrenched at the local level," said Gemma Grimes of the BWEA. "We can't stop local authorities rejecting schemes for political reasons."
Grimes used the words "political reasons" rather than "democratic reasons". However, the plain truth is that rural voters have shunned the government's promotion of inland wind energy projects and are now expressing very hostile views via their local elected representatives.
Opinion polls consistently show strong public support for wind power in the UK with around 80% of people expressing support and only 10% opposed. Yet when this translates into local voter reaction to onshore wind development, particularly in England and Wales, support seems to evaporate. It is often replaced by deep anger and opposition. Why is this? I believe there are two reasons.
Firstly, the government has subcontracted the job of creating support for inland wind energy projects to commercial power generation firms. This decision guaranteed dogged resistance from a rural population wary of commercial exploitation by big business.
The notion that commercial electricity providers would be able to win large-scale public support for inland wind projects was completely misconceived. As a starting point, organisations that make vast fortunes from producing carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power stations are not well positioned to lecture voters on saving the planet. Moreover, power suppliers are widely distrusted by most consumers as a result of windfall profits and a history of dubious doorstep sales practices.
It was clear from the outset that Labour's hugely ambitious plans for inland wind power would involve forcing through the most visible and controversial changes in rural land use since the Enclosure Acts. It was entirely predictable that this would create deep waves of social and political anxiety, yet nothing was done to calm the legitimate fears of rural people. The government made no attempt to create protective zoning arrangements or reassuring planning safeguards. As a result, rural communities felt at the mercy of an energy sector lashed into a feeding frenzy by state-devised market incentives. To cap it all, the commercial wind energy developers further inflamed the situation by adopting an arrogant, hard-sell approach to community consultation.
The second and more fundamental reason for rural voters' reticence was the deeply unattractive deal being offered to them. Unlike gas, coal or even nuclear power stations, wind turbines bring no jobs and little else materially worthwhile to the local economy. Power suppliers were arrogantly demanding community support for their commercial developments but they were offering absolutely no incentives in return.
Thanks to energy-switching websites, yesterday's compliant power consumers are today's empowered customers. They choose which electricity deal they support. In turn, empowered customers have become empowered voters, accustomed to rejecting unattractive business propositions from the energy sector.
So inland wind energy development simply looked like a toxic deal for local people. Negative impacts are unacceptable if they are not exchanged for compensating benefits. As the polls suggest, most rural voters remain in favour of renewable energy and even wind turbines, providing it is clear that these are planned in the national interest and are not simply a cynical scheme to line the pockets of big business.
The wasteful and unnecessary battle being fought out across the heart of this country was caused by a catastrophic failure of political foresight. Empowered rural consumers are democratically resisting what they regard as a crude attempt to unfairly exploit them, under the pretext of legitimate concerns over climate change.
Rural voters are not to blame for slowing wind energy expansion, as some in the media and environmental pressure groups suggest. In the end, politicians cannot blame the electorate for their own mistakes.
• Adrian Snook is chief executive of Stop the Spin, a group that opposes inappropriately sited wind turbines.

Farmers agree to set aside land for wildlife

Farmers will be issued with leaflets on how to better protect wildlife as part of plans to bring back the environmental benefits of set-aside.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM GMT 05 Nov 2009

Land set-aside for wildlife should encourage farmland birds like skylarks Photo: REUTERS
European subsides for farmland taken out of production or "set-aside" were scrapped in 2007.
However it immediately became apparent that the system was beneficial to wildlife, with farmland birds and animals thriving on fallow land.

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, suggested bringing back a compulsory scheme that would pay farmers to set aside uncultivated land. But this met with outrage from farmers who argued that the land should be cultivated to produce food.
Now the Government, farmers and conservation groups have come to an uneasy compromise by introducing a voluntary set-aside scheme.
The Campaign for the Farmed Environment will see all farmers obliged to farm in a more environmentally friendly manner.
At the height of the European scheme set-aside resulted in around 8 per cent of agricultural land being left fallow. The voluntary scheme will aim to leave around 180,000 hectares of land uncropped as well as encouraging farmers to better manage farmed land for wildlife. For example by leaving stubble over the winter so birds can feed and leaving hedgerows between fields.
Farmers will also be asked to double the amount of land being especially cultivated for wildlife under new European environmental subsidies from 40,000 to 80,000 hectares. This will include land left fallow for skylarks, wild flowers planted by fields and "beetle banks" created to help insects.
The amount of land managed for the environment on a voluntary basis will be boosted by 30,000 acres.
Altogether the voluntary scheme should ensure the same environmental benefits gained from set-aside.
Leaflets are being sent to every farmer asking them to build ponds, plant trees and bring in other environmental measures.
Farmers with more than 10 hectares of land will also be surveyed in the New Year to ensure they are setting aside land for the environment.
If the targets are not met Mr Benn has threatened to bring in compulsory measures.
However he was confident farmers will sign up to the voluntary scheme.
"We want to encourage them to take voluntary action that best fits how they farm, so they can support wildlife and protect water quality while continuing to produce food in a sustainable way," he said.