Monday, 9 November 2009

Tear down this wall! And save the planet - Mikhail Gorbachev

There are urgent parallels between the fall of Communism and the fight to stop climate change
Mikhail Gorbachev

The German people, and the whole world alongside them, are today celebrating a landmark date in history: the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Not many events can claim their place in the collective memory as a watershed that divides two distinct periods. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall — that stark, concrete symbol of a world divided into hostile camps — is such an event. It brought incredible hope and opportunity to people everywhere, and provided the 1980s with a truly jubilant finale. That is something to think about as this decade draws to a close, and the chance for humanity to take another momentous leap forward appears to be slipping away.
The road to the end of the Cold War was certainly not easy, or universally welcomed at the time, but it is for just this reason that its lessons remain relevant. In the 1980s the world was at an historic crossroad. The arms race had created an explosive situation. Nuclear deterrents could have failed at any moment. We were heading for disaster, spending billions on an arms race, rather than investing in creativity and people.
Today another planetary threat has emerged. The climate crisis is the new wall that divides us from our future, and today’s leaders are vastly underestimating the urgency, and potentially catastrophic scale, of the emergency.
People used to joke that we will struggle for peace until there is nothing left on the planet; the threat of climate change makes this prophecy more literal than ever. Comparisons with the period immediately before the Berlin Wall came down are striking.
Like 20 years ago, we face a threat to global security and our very future existence that no one nation can deal with alone. And, again, it is the people who are calling for change. Just as the German people declared their will for unity, world citizens are today demanding that action is taken to tackle climate change and redress the deep injustices that surround it. Twenty years ago key world leaders demonstrated resolve, faced up to opposition and immense pressure, and the Wall came down. It remains to be seen whether today’s leaders will do the same.
Addressing climate change demands a paradigm shift on a scale akin to that required to end the Cold War. But we need a “circuit-breaker” to escape from the business-as-usual that currently dominates the political agenda. It was the transformation brought about by perestroika and glasnost that provided the quantum leap for freedom for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and opened the way for the democratic revolution that saved history. Climate change is complex and closely entwined with a host of other challenges, but a similar breakthrough in our values and priorities is needed.
There is not just one wall to topple, but many. There is the wall between those states which are already industrialised, and those developing countries which do not want to be held back. There is the wall between those who cause climate change, and those who suffer the consequences. There is the wall between those who heed the scientific evidence, and those who pander to vested interests. And there is the wall between the citizens who are changing their own behaviour and want strong global action, and the leaders who are so far letting them down.
In 1989, incredible changes that were deemed impossible just a few years earlier were implemented. But this was no accident. The changes resonated the hopes of the time and leaders responded. We brought down the wall in the belief that future generations would be able to solve challenges together. Today, looking at the cavernous gulf between rich and poor, the irresponsibility that caused the global financial crisis, and the weak and divided responses to climate change, I feel bitter. The opportunity to build a safer, fairer and more united world has been largely squandered.
To echo the demand made of me by my late friend and sparring partner President Reagan: Mr Obama, Mr Hu, Mr Singh, Mr Brown and, back in Berlin, Ms Merkel and her European counterparts: “Tear down this wall!”
For this is Your Wall, your defining moment. You cannot dodge the call of history. I appeal to heads of state and government to personally come to the climate change conference in Copenhagen this December and dismantle the wall. The people of the world expect you to deliver; do not fail them.
Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union, was awarded the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the peaceful conclusion of the Cold War. He is the Founding President of Green Cross International and is heading an international Climate Change Task Force

Why the U.S. Needs Nuclear Power

Other clean energy sources can't meet the needs of a growing economy.
As America climbs out of one of its worst recessions in decades, we must keep in mind that long-term economic growth requires an abundant, affordable supply of electricity.
By 2030, electricity demand in the U.S. is expected to grow by 21% from its current level, according to the U.S. Energy Administration. To meet our needs we have several options.
One is to increase our dependence on fossil energy sources. Unfortunately, this will only add to the environmental burden caused by burning carbon-based fuels. Another option, the Obama administration's goal, is to increase the supply of energy sources that reduce the country's carbon footprint. These sources include solar, wind, hydro, biofuels and geothermal energy, as well as new domestic sources of natural gas, which burns cleaner than oil or coal.
Toward that end, the proposed Senate climate-change bill, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) and John Kerry (D., Mass.), provides incentives to electric companies to use energy sources that reduce carbon emissions. The bill also expands federal loan guarantees to support the financing of new nuclear plant projects.
These loan guarantees are crucial for providing the financial security that's needed to build advanced nuclear energy plants. These new plants will promote energy independence, improve our country's economic competitiveness, and help provide a cleaner environment for future generations.
To be sure, the U.S needs to embrace all forms of renewable and sustainable energy technologies whenever possible. But the simple, unavoidable truth is that all renewable energy sources produce only a small percentage of our total electricity output. Wind and solar combined, for example, account for less than 5% of the total U.S. electricity supply. It is doubtful that they can be scaled up to a degree that would make a significant impact on rising electricity demand over the short or intermediate term.
Greater energy efficiency and conservation also make good business and environmental sense. But a 21% growth in demand for electric power, compounded by the need to replace aging power plants, is too great to satisfy with energy efficiency and conservation alone.
Nuclear energy, therefore, must play a larger role in our effort to become and remain energy independent, and to reduce carbon emissions. The growth of nuclear power will also have peripheral benefits, as it constitutes an economic stimulus package in and of itself.
To date, the recent growth of the nuclear energy industry has created at least 15,000 jobs, with many more on the horizon. Westinghouse's work alone in the deployment of four new nuclear plants now under construction in China will create or sustain an additional 5,000 U.S. jobs in 20 states. These jobs are in fields such as engineering and design, and in the manufacturing of fuel rods and assemblies, pumps, motors, circuit breakers, etc.
Beyond that, the American Council on Global Nuclear Competitiveness (a trade group) estimates the nuclear energy industry will create as many as 350,000 jobs over the next 20 years, many in traditional building trades (welders, pipe-fitters, construction workers) that have been hard hit by both global competition and the current economic downturn.
These projections are grounded in reality. To date, 25 new nuclear power plants have been announced for the U.S., 14 of them by Westinghouse. We expect the first of these new plants to come online about 2016.
Meanwhile, China and India have announced major nuclear power construction programs that will bring as many as 50 new plants online in each country over the next two decades. Nuclear power plants have proven to be the low-cost source of baseload electricity (electricity in large volume that is required all the time, and which is generated essentially only by coal and nuclear fuel). And as countries such as China and India increase the percentage of electricity generated by nuclear energy, American businesses and manufacturing companies will be at a distinct competitive disadvantage if they are forced to rely on electricity generated by comparatively more expensive energy sources.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly stated his belief that nuclear energy must play an important part in America's energy future, and he supports the Senate climate-change bill. In a town-hall meeting in New Orleans on Oct. 15, the president said: "We need to increase domestic energy production, employ safe nuclear energy like France, but also develop new sources of energy efficiency."
Mr. Obama's reference to France is highly relevant to the controversial issue of how to manage used reactor fuel rods. Until very recently, the U.S. government and nuclear energy utilities had planned to place this material in deep storage at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. However, because of political considerations, storage at Yucca Mountain will likely never happen.
Instead, Westinghouse and others in the industry are exploring alternatives such as the recycling of used fuel. This technology, developed in the 1970s, is used in France, which is the world's most nuclear-dependent and energy-independent country. Used fuel rods contain upwards of 85% of their original energy. Tapping this energy through recycling is environmentally sound and consistent with the goal of energy independence.
With huge new finds of domestic natural gas and a commitment to renewables, the U.S. has never been closer to realizing true energy independence. But to seize this opportunity, nuclear energy and renewable energy sources must be developed in harmony to provide the abundant clean energy that the American economy needs to grow.
Dr. Candris is president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Co

Radioactive waste to be put in £18bn hole

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

Radioactive waste from a new generation of British nuclear power stations will be buried deep underground in a storage facility that could cost up to £18 billion to build, under plans to be announced by the Government today.
Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, will give the formal green light to a plan to construct a “deep geological repository” for permanent disposal of the 200 tonnes of high-level waste produced annually by the ten new reactors planned for Britain.
Each reactor will produce about 20 tonnes of highly radioactive spent fuel per year, which will remain lethal for up to 100,000 years.
The store will also provide a permanent place for the stockpile of about 5,000 canisters of high-level nuclear waste from the country’s past civil and military nuclear programmes, which are housed in a temporary facility at the Sellafield plant in West Cumbria.

The Government’s announcement today that it is satisfied with the arrangements it has created for handling Britain’s nuclear waste stockpile will form part of a series of six National Policy Statements on British energy policy designed to fast-track big energy projects — including nuclear power stations, giant wind farms and clean coal plants — through the planning system.
The projects are all considered essential to maintaining the security of Britain’s energy supply while meeting the Government’s goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
Mr Miliband has said that the planning rules are essential. “We can’t build a 21st-century energy supply with a 20th-century planning system,” he said.
Britain generates 15 per cent of its electricity from nuclear energy but wants to increase this to at least 25 per cent by 2025. An increase of 55 per cent in total energy demand is expected by 2050, and all of this will need to come from low-carbon sources.
The announcement today will also include a list of 11 likely sites for new nuclear power stations — including Hinkley Point in Somerset, Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa in Angelsey, as well as possible greenfield sites where plants may be built in future. One proposed site for a new reactor where an existing nuclear station exists, Dungeness in Kent, may be rejected because of its low- lying location, which leaves it under threat from rising sea levels. But a site for the nuclear waste store, which is expected to take decades to build, is unlikely to be chosen for many years.
The Government wants a community to volunteer to host it in exchange for a package of jobs and benefits, but so far only one has expressed an interest — West Cumbria.
The so-called National Policy Statements are part of a strategy to strip local authorities of the power of approving big energy projects. A new organisation — the Infrastructure Planning Commission — will instead take decisions. Its aim is to cut the time required to win planning approval from seven years to one year.
Greenpeace said that the Government “still has no environmentally acceptable solution to the problem of dealing with radioactive wastes”.
Additional policy statements will be made today on fossil fuels, renewables, gas supply and electricity networks.

Ed Miliband to deliver nuclear site assessment reports

Government to open new central authority in March to fast-track nuclear applications and avoid red tape
David Teather, Sunday 8 November 2009 19.29 GMT
The government will tomorrow identify further sites around Britain that could be suitable for building a nuclear plant, as part of a scheme to fast track a new generation of reactors.
Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, will unveil a series of national policy statements setting out the need for new energy infrastructure including renewables, fossil fuels and gas, as well as an overarching energy statement which will include climate change policy. A separate strategy statement on the nation's ports will also be published tomorrow.
Miliband will stress what the government believes to be the importance of a diverse energy supply. But the most detail will given in the nuclear policy statement, which will include a forensic assessment of the 11 sites already nominated by energy firms as well as identifying alternatives. "Because nuclear is controversial, we wanted to make it quite clear where the sites we consider suitable are," said one official.
The policy statements, which run to 3,000 pages, will be open for consultation until early next year and will act as guidelines for the Infrastructure Planning Commission, a new central authority which will start accepting planning applications in March.
The aim is to speed up planning decisions and give answers to developers within one year, to end what one official described as the current "long and tortuous" process of winning approval for schemes. It took six years to steer the Sizewell B power station through the planning process, and officials believe red tape is discouraging investment. The IPC will be kept away from the government in an attempt to remove politics from the planning decision. The official said it was not about "concreting over the countryside" but making the system "less labyrinthine". The IPC would, he added, be "inquisitorial rather than adversarial".
Utility firms keen to build plants in Britain, including EDF and E.ON, have long argued for a more certain planning regime. "We have always said we would simplify nuclear planning," the official added. "We are streamlining decision making by covering off questions in the policy statements such as whether the technology is safe or whether we even need nuclear power. The planning would then be specific to configuation of that site."
Energy firms and industry experts have warned of an impending energy gap in Britain unless more large scale projects are hurriedly built.
The policy statements are expected to be a drawing together of already stated policy. As well as the public consultation, which ends in February, a commons select committee has been formed to scrutinise the statements. Other government departments are set to produce similar policy statements on subjects including the water supply and airports.
But green groups expressed dismay at the prospect of new nuclear power and warned that the government could be open to legal challenge if the statements do not properly consider climate change.
They have also raised concerns that people will not be able to influence decisions on major projects because schemes covered by the statements will not be subject to public inquiry.
But the government insists firms will have to work closely with local regions and show they have consulted widely in order to gain approval.
Robin Oakley, head of the group's climate and energy campaign, said: "Nuclear is a dangerous and expensive irrelevance to tackling climate change and providing real energy security.
"We don't need coal or nuclear, because proven green technologies such as wind and combined heat and power stations can secure Britain's energy needs, create green jobs and slash our emissions."
Andy Atkins, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said the battle against climate change should be at the "core" of all government decisions in order to meet commitments on reducing emissions.
He added: "Building new nuclear reactors is not the answer to the challenges of climate change and energy security.
"Nuclear power leaves a deadly legacy of radioactive waste that remains highly dangerous for tens of thousands of years and costs tens of billions of pounds to manage.
"And building new plants would divert precious resources from developing safe renewable power, while doing little to bring about the urgent emissions reductions that are desperately needed within the next decade."

Think Tank: Eco energy can drive a recovery

Ireland must tap into the next big thing: green power.

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh

Financiers, economists and leaders of industry have all tipped green technology as the next big thing for the world economy. They see it as being on the scale of information technology, the internet and mobile communications — the kind of economic breakthrough that builds industries, generates jobs and creates fortunes. The internet was largely built by Silicon Valley start-ups, not by telecom giants. The green tech industry could be a similar story, making it an ideal sector for innovative Irish companies.
The term “green tech” encompasses businesses that can reduce global warming, such as renewable energy, water purification, waste management and sustainable transport solutions. Green technologies no longer inhabit a niche; they are now becoming mainstream drivers of growth and employment worldwide. It was the third largest venture-capital investment sector last year, behind IT and biotechnology.
Irish entrepreneurs and their financial backers should now be positioning themselves to tap into a new wave of clean technologies. To assist them, one key development is required: a smart-grid electricity network. Basically, this is a software overlay on the existing electricity power lines. It would allow us to apply IT to improve the efficiency of energy consumption.
Today’s electricity distribution grid is a centralised one-way system, built to take power from a small number of large power stations and distribute it. A smart grid is a two-way system that would allow the ESB buy electricity back into the grid from private power generators, so householders and businesses can become energy producers, not just consumers.
At the same time, electricity systems can also transport information. Cisco, whose technology helps run the internet, is building a two-way link into electricity grids. The idea is to send internet protocol data down power lines instead of using the current internet-telecoms channel. John Chambers, its chief executive, has described the smart grid as “an instant replay of the internet; instead of moving zeros and ones, we’re moving electricity”.
A smart grid could be a big driver of wealth and jobs over the next decade. Christian Feisst, the head of business development at Cisco’s smart-grid subsidiary, has said: “The change in energy will be the greatest infrastructure project of the next decade.”
Ireland has set a target of producing 40% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. A smart grid is the link that will allow us to tap our enormous renewable energy resources. Because many alternative energy sources tend to be intermittent, they are difficult to integrate into the existing grid network.
Although a smart grid is essential for a lower carbon future, there are still many obstacles to overcome. The ESB will need to be persuaded to change its business model, and we need to update the power distribution infrastructure.
Michael Walsh, the chief executive of the Irish Wind Energy Association, says many wind firms face delays of up to 10 years for a connection to the national grid. A number of wind producers’ planning permissions expired by the time they received the offer of connection, and they will need to apply a second time.
EirGrid, the state-owned electric power transmission operator, has said Ireland needs 1,150km of new electricity circuits and the upgrading of a further 2,300km if we are to meet our 2020 goal. A spokeswoman said that this was “a massive task” but that they were on target to achieve it.
According to its latest annual report, EirGrid has the best-paid staff in the public sector — with its 225 employees receiving an average of €110,000 each — and giving it a target of 2020 is not acceptable. Firms such as IBM and Cisco are introducing smart grids in Miami, Amsterdam and Malta over a much shorter period.
Despite this year’s 10% reduction in electricity prices, Ireland’s remain among the highest in Europe and they are being blamed for our continuing lack of export competitiveness. The Small Firms Association has called for a review of the regulation of the entire energy market.
We also need action on the feed-in rate, the price the ESB pays micro-generators for the power they sell to the grid. Our rates are dismal by international standards, and this should be rectified immediately, otherwise it will stunt the growth of this promising sector.
Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh is the author of Celtic Meltdown: Why Ireland is Broke and How We Can Fix It, Collins Press, €14.80

Concerns raised over Marine Stewardship Council’s fish label

Frank Pope, Ocean Correspondent

An eco-labelling scheme intended to encourage people to eat fish from sustainable sources is being criticised by conservationists.
The collaboration between the conservation group WWF and Unilever, one of the world’s biggest seafood retailers, now gives its stamp of approval to $1.5 billion (£900 million) of business every year. There is concern, however, that the scheme’s blue label, which is put on packaging, is being awarded to fisheries whose stocks are not properly managed or where the ecosystem is being damaged.
The scheme was established ten years ago by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), based in London. There are 58 certified fisheries, with a further 114 in the process of being assessed. It is intended to benefit fishermen by ensuring long-term sustainability of their livelihood and boosting the price of their catch.
The source of the New Zealand hoki — a bug-eyed, deep-water fish once used for McDonald’s Filet O’Fish — was one of the first fisheries to be certified in 2001. Stocks promptly crashed and quotas were slashed from 250,000 tonnes to just 90,000 tonnes by 2007.

While the hoki industry cites the reduced quotas as a sign of pre-emptive good management, conservationists say that they are a sign of underlying problems with the science of how stocks are judged sustainable.
At the other end of the Pacific, the same argument rages over the pollock used to make many of Britain’s fish fingers. The MSC-certified Alaskan pollock fishery is worth nearly $1 billion a year, but despite being rigorously managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service the stock’s assessments are controversial. Populations appear to have halved since 2004, and last year quotas were cut by nearly 20 per cent. Jeremy Jackson, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, said: “Economic pressures to keep on fishing at such high levels have overwhelmed common sense.”
The MSC prides itself on its transparency and well-regulated objections process, but there are signs that it is not fulfilling its function. Southeast of the pollock grounds, the Pacific hake fishery was in the closing stages of certification earlier this year. The Monterey Bay Aquarium and Oceana, a marine conservation group, filed an objection, pointing out that the stock was at the lowest level ever observed, down nearly 90 per cent from the 1980s. The claim was dismissed.
To date, no objections have resulted in a rejected application. Only one fishery — for lobsters, in British waters — has been turned down after an assessment has been paid for The MSC uses independent companies to assess fisheries, which critics say leaves the door open to “special arrangements” between them and the fishing companies which pay to be evaluated. The fees are typically between £9,000 and £72,000.
Moody Marine International does about half of all MSC certifications around the world. Like the other certifiers, Moody will provide fisheries with a pre-assessment to assess their likelihood of being accepted. But as Andrew Hough, one of Moody’s lead assessors, admits, “as the market has increased, far more enquiries we get now lead to pre-assessment, and most of those lead to full certification”.
“I wouldn’t say they’ve all come out smelling of roses ... Each fishery has some area of weakness,” he said.
A report by Consumer Focus, formerly the National Consumer Council, adds to criticism of the scheme today, saying it is not convinced supermarkets give the information shoppers need to decide whether fish are from sustainable stocks.
“In theory certification is a great idea, but this scheme has never fulfilled its potential,” said Barry Weeber, of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “The bar has always been set far too low.”
Rupert Howes, CEO of the MSC, said: “Fisheries science is an evolving business. At some stage in the future standards will be reviewed. In the interim, don’t let expectations of perfection obscure the significant progress that is being delivered.”

Some Utilities Push Congress to Act on Carbon Emissions

Utility executives are stepping up calls for legislation to cap greenhouse-gas emissions, fearing that if Congress doesn't act, the EPA will establish rules that would be costlier and less effective.
The executives' desire for prompt action is colliding with Washington's focus on other issues and growing reluctance to tamper with power-industry costs during a weak economy.

Some executives said last week they think intervention by the Environmental Protection Agency would be doomed because, for the most part, all the agency can do is order firms to install "best available control technology." Most power companies don't think any effective, affordable technology exists to capture and store carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants.
Most power companies prefer so-called cap-and-trade legislation to EPA regulation because the former is expected to give them greater flexibility on how to comply and thus cost them less than EPA regulation, they say.
Still, plenty in the utility sector continue to oppose legislation to cap carbon emissions.
Under cap-and-trade legislation -- which the House has passed but the Senate hasn't vote on yet -- the government would require companies to hold permits to emit greenhouse gases. Over time, the government would issue fewer permits, bringing emissions down gradually while allowing companies to trade the permits among themselves. Companies that find it too expensive to reduce their own emissions could pay other firms to reduce theirs. They could also invest in activities that offset carbon-dioxide emissions, such as planting trees.
The EPA would be "forced to pursue a technology road map that doesn't exist," warned Jim Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy Corp., Charlotte, N.C., who also has lobbied the Hill repeatedly to pass a bill.
John Rowe, head of Exelon Corp., Chicago, said that EPA regulation would be "more arbitrary, more expensive, and more uncertain for investors and the industry than a reasonable, market-based legislative solution like cap and trade."
The executives said they want legislation -- and soon -- because utilities need to make billions of dollars of investments in coming years and risk bad choices in a legislative void.
Republicans have largely opposed a Senate bill as economically ruinous, and some have indicated that they won't be pressured into voting for a bill, even if the EPA moves forward with regulations on power plants.
"The actions the EPA has taken and its plans to regulate greenhouse gases are a serious concern," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.). "However, EPA's actions should not scare Congress into passing bad legislation."
An EPA spokeswoman said Friday, "We agree that we need Congress to step in and enact comprehensive and integrated energy reform as quickly as possible."
Even some executives who have opposed bills in the House and Senate say they would rather have legislation than EPA oversight. David Ratcliffe, CEO of Southern Co., Atlanta, said Friday that he would prefer legislation because "the EPA process is not designed to deal with this complex an issue." But, he said, he would still take EPA regulation "over a bad legislative framework."
The Senate has been consumed recently with health-care legislation, and isn't expected to pass a climate bill this year. The Democratic party's moderates -- who tend to wield more influence in the Senate than House -- are moving to assert more influence over the issue.
Many in the power industry still hope that legislation will be passed that is technologically neutral and would embrace any method of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions -- including nuclear power.
Write to Rebecca Smith at and Stephen Power at

Carbon ration account for all proposed by Environment Agency

If people used up their yearly ration early, they would have to buy extra from those who had not used their full allowance
Ben Webster, Environment Editor

Everyone should be given an annual carbon ration and face financial penalties if they exceed it, under a proposal by the Environment Agency.
Lord Smith of Finsbury, the agency’s chairman, will say today that rationing is the fairest and most effective way of meeting Britain’s legally binding targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
People would be given a “carbon account” and a unique number that they would have to submit when making purchases of carbon-intensive items such as petrol, electricity or airline tickets. As with a bank account, people would receive statements showing the carbon weight of each purchase and how much of their ration remained.
If they used up their ration within a year, they would have to buy extra credits from those who had not used their full allowance.

Lord Smith, who was Culture Secretary in Tony Blair’s Government, believes that the system would encourage people to think about the carbon cost of their purchases as well as reward those who lived frugally and did little travelling, who could make a significant profit from selling their unused credits.
Speaking at the agency’s annual conference in London, Lord Smith will say that carbon rationing would help people to “judge how they want to develop their own quality of life in a sustainable way”.
He believes that rationing would be fairer than taxing carbon because extra taxes could make certain activities, such as flying, too expensive for people on low incomes. If everyone had an equal free carbon allowance, the basic cost of flying would remain cheap but those who flew a lot would quickly use up their ration and have to purchase extra carbon credits for each additional flight.
Under the Climate Change Act, Britain is obliged to cut its emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050. This means annual CO2 emissions per person will have to fall from about 9 tonnes to only 2 tonnes.
Rationing would make it much easier to meet the target because the total amount of permitted emissions under the Act would simply be divided by the size of population.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a feasibility study last year which found that rationing was technically feasible and could be effective in cutting emissions.
Defra said at the time: “The study indicates that personal carbon trading has potential to engage individuals in taking action to combat climate change.” However, it said that the idea was “ahead of its time” and would be very expensive to implement.
The statement concluded: “The Government remains interested in the concept of personal carbon trading and, although it will not be continuing its research programme at this stage, it will monitor the wealth of research focusing on this area and may introduce personal carbon trading if the value of carbon savings and cost implications change.”
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee called on the Government last year to resume research on a rationing scheme and to be “courageous” in seeking to overcome likely public hostility to the idea.
It said in a report: “Opposition to personal carbon trading could be reduced if the public could be convinced of three things. First, that it is absolutely essential to reduce emissions; second, that this can only be achieved if individuals take personal responsibility for reducing their own emissions; and third, that personal carbon trading is a fairer and more effective way of reducing personal emissions than alternatives such as higher taxes.” The committee concluded: “Widespread public acceptance, while desirable, should not be a pre-condition for a personal carbon trading scheme; the need to reduce emissions is simply too urgent.”
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, called for a “thought experiment” on carbon rationing when he was Environment Secretary in 2006.

G-20 Finance Ministers Make Little Progress on Climate Issues

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Finance ministers from the Group of 20 leading economies were struggling to agree on climate-change issues at their meeting Saturday, with big developing economies reluctant to make commitments before broader talks in Copenhagen next month.
The apparent lack of progress on climate issues doesn't bode well for the United Nations summit in Denmark in December, where nations hope to agree a new global deal to tackle global warming.

British finance minister Alistair Darling urged his G20 counterparts to work towards a $100 billion deal to tackle climate change at a summit in Scotland. Video courtesy of Reuters.
A Brazilian government official said Brazil, India and China didn't want to agree new financial commitments at a finance-minister level at the G20 summit while climate negotiations were going on elsewhere, adding that talks ended at an impasse.
"This isn't the forum for these [climate] talks," the person said.
The weekend's G-20 meeting in Scotland was tasked with making progress on the issue of financing efforts by developing countries to combat climate change. This included ensuring that any financial support given to developing nations would be used wisely.
Speaking at the talks, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had no illusion about the scale of the challenges policy makers still faced ahead of the Copenhagen meeting.
"It is a historic moment: a test of global cooperation every bit as significant as the economic tests we have faced together this year," Mr. Brown said. "It is essential that we urgently move toward resolving the issues that still divide our nations."
Earlier Saturday, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling said it is "imperative that when we reach the end of the day we show real progress...If there isn't an agreement on finance, negotiations in Copenhagen will be much more difficult."
A person in one of the delegations from the Group of Seven leading developed economies also said Saturday that progress on climate change looks very difficult because developing countries are throwing up roadblocks.
On Friday, an official from the French Finance Ministry separately told reporters there was no guarantee the final communique of the G-20 meeting would even mention the issue of climate change.
Write to Nicholas Winning at

Global Warming as Seen From Bangladesh

Momota Begum worries about hunger, not climate change.
The following article is part of a series leading up to the December United Nations conference in Copenhagen on how ordinary people in different countries view global warming.
When the monsoon rains come, Momota Begum and her husband and children must take turns sleeping in their tiny concrete house's one bed to escape the waste and human excrement that can wash in from outside. They live in a three-decade old refugee camp in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is run for Urdu-speaking people who found themselves on the wrong side of the border after Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan in 1971.
Late last year, campaigning politicians and journalists visited the 20,000 residents of the camp. This visit gave many of the refugees hope that their living conditions would soon be improved.
"They saw our living conditions here," 45-year-old Mrs. Begum told a Copenhagen Consensus Center researcher in June. "It gave us hope every time these people came, but now I understand that even if people know about us, it doesn't matter."
As a cart-puller, Mrs. Begum's husband earns about $44 each month. The family has no savings. Mrs. Begum believes that education could help her children achieve a better life. But her eldest daughter dropped out of school at age 13. The family could not afford the $22 annual fee for books and uniforms. "It's better that she stays at home and helps out," Mrs. Begum said.
Bangladesh provides camp residents with water and electricity, but not proper sanitation. Mrs. Begum cooks the daily meal next to an open drain. Diarrhea is common. Mrs. Begum's family cannot afford the $2.90-$4.30 cost of going to a private health clinic when someone in the family gets sick.
In the developed world, when we consider how best to help Bangladesh, our minds quickly turn to policies that would reduce the amount of carbon emissions to lessen the risk that global warming will lead to rising sea levels over the next 50 or 100 years.
Mrs. Begum's biggest challenge is not what the sea level may do in five or 10 decades. She has a more modest request: "It would be a heaven's gift if a proper drainage system could be arranged in this area where all the drains are covered and do not overflow."
Getting basic sanitation and safe drinking water to the three billion people around the world who do not have it now would cost nearly $4 billion a year. By contrast, cuts in global carbon emissions that aim to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius over the next century would cost $40 trillion a year by 2100. These cuts will do nothing to increase the number of people with access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Cutting carbon emissions will likely increase water scarcity, because global warming is expected to increase average rainfall levels around the world.
For Mrs. Begum, the choice is simple. After global warming was explained to her, she said: "When my kids haven't got enough to eat, I don't think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about."
One of Bangladesh's most vulnerable citizens, Mrs. Begum has lost faith in the media and politicians.
"So many people like you have come and interviewed us. I have not seen any improvement in our conditions," she said.
It is time the developed world started listening.
Mr. Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank, and author of "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" (Knopf, 2007).