Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Why the Copenhagen conference will be 10 times more difficult than Kyoto

At Kyoto, we knew every final detail wouldn't be agreed at the negotiations. This time, we need an even greater consensus

John Prescott
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 November 2009 17.47 GMT
Listening to Denmark's environment minister, Connie Hedegaard's comments about Copenhagen today takes me back 12 years to the lead up to Kyoto.
At Kyoto, we knew every final detail wouldn't be agreed at the negotiations. The important thing was to agree on principles – in Kyoto's case, on targets for emissions cuts – that could later be nailed down in a final legally binding agreement. But even though the deal agreed in Kyoto was a political one rather than a legal one, it still took until the 11th hour to strike an agreement between the three major players – the US, Japan and Europe.
The original proposal for a 5% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2012 (on 1990 levels) was quite rightly felt not to be sufficient. With the help of Al Gore, we managed to get the Japanese to go to 6%, provided it was less than the US. The US agreed to accept 7% as long as it was less than Europe, which we then set at 8% in order to secure an agreement.
That was the principle agreed on emissions cuts and later finalised during the next three years in what became known as the Kyoto protocol. The principle was to agree and later finalise at the following "conferences of the parties" (COPs – Copenhagen is number 15, hence COP15).
So the lesson I've learned from Kyoto for Copenhagen is that we were never going to be able to dot all the i's and cross the t's.
However, Kyoto involved 47 countries. Copenhagen will cover 190 countries where an even greater consensus will be required. That's why I say it will be 10 times more difficult than Kyoto.
My recent discussions in the US with Obama's people and Congress members in September, talks in Europe with the Council of Europe, my meetings with China's environmental team as well as discussions in Abu Dhabi with ministers from the Arab oil producing countries last week, convince me all the more that my earlier judgment was right – that we will get an agreement in principle.
I also believe that the EU/China summit, which takes place in a fortnight, has the potential, especially after China's bilateral discussions with Obama, to help secure that agreement at Copenhagen.
Today, Hedegaard was speaking realistically about the need to prevent a breakdown at Copenhagen and emphasised the need for a framework for a roadmap that will, eventually, implement the principles of a binding agreement.
Now is a time for the art of the possible and that's the role of the negotiator – to achieve far more than the doomsayers predict, as we saw at Kyoto. At Kyoto when pressed by the journalists wanting an instant response on how the talks were going, I always said: "I'm walking and talking.''
So forget about doom and gloom. Let's all keeping walking and talking towards an agreement.
• John Prescott was an EU negotiator at Kyoto. He is the Council of Europe's climate change rapporteur and runs the New Earth Deal campaign.

Copenhagen's Collapse

The climate change sequel is a bust.
'Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all," President-elect Obama said of global warming last November. "Delay is no longer an option." It turns out that delay really is an option—the only one that has world-wide support.
Over the weekend Mr. Obama bowed to reality and admitted that little of substance will come of the climate-change summit in Copenhagen next month. For the last year the President has been promising a binding international carbon-regulation treaty a la the Kyoto Protocol, but instead negotiators from 192 countries now hope to reach a preliminary agreement that they'll sign such a treaty when they meet in Mexico City in 2010. No doubt.
The environmental lobby is blaming Copenhagen's pre-emptive collapse on the Senate's failure to ram through a cap-and-trade scheme like the House did in June, arguing that "the world" won't make commitments until the U.S. does. But there will always be one excuse or another, given that developing countries like China and India will never be masochistic enough to subject their economies to the West's climate neuroses. Meanwhile, Europe has proved with Kyoto that the only emissions quotas it will accept are those that don't actually have to be met.
President George W. Bush, for all the obloquy heaped on him for walking away from Kyoto, tried to shift the climate-change debate toward policies that were realistic and achievable, in particular by insisting that benefits had to justify any brakes on economic growth. This strategy resulted in far too much taxpayer waste, including the green-pork subsidies that Mr. Obama loves and has ramped up. Yet it also prevented Mr. Bush from making grandiose if futile promises with no relationship to political reality.
Of course, the pointlessness of Copenhagen will now become part of Mr. Obama's argument that the Senate must inflict cap and tax on the U.S., as well as a justification for the EPA's nondemocratic carbon crackdown via clean-air regulation. If he and we are lucky, however, the Senate will fail to act too, the EPA will get tied up in court, and the economy will recover faster without the looming burden of higher energy taxes.

Copenhagen summit: Change we can't yet believe in

The Guardian, Monday 16 November 2009
Confirming yesterday what had already been apparent for some months, Barack Obama and other leaders yesterday said that time had run out to secure a legally binding climate deal at Copenhagen. They said the 22 remaining days were just too few in number to secure binding emissions targets and overcome the divisions between the developed and developing world. This could be viewed as a realistic assessment. Mr Obama said that we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The British government's view is also optimistic. As long as political targets and outline commitments are agreed at Copenhagen, why should it matter that a few more months are taken to thrash out the details, if the end result is a package that is workable and enforceable? Rather a good package later than a weak package now. After all, the same thing happened to the Montreal protocol on CFCs, which took a year to harden up but remains the best of its kind.
But that is an optimist's view. There is a big difference between a few more months and the whole process being delayed for another year. If governments and negotiators can keep the pressure going, and if the US Congress passes carbon-capping legislation, then the Obama administration could bring a 2020 target and financing pledges to the table at a UN climate meeting in Mexico or Germany midway through next year. But that remains a big if. As we have seen with the centrepiece of his domestic legislation, his attempts to reform healthcare have been continually set back by the ferocity of the opposition. And at each stage, the reform has become less ambitious. What Mr Obama acknowledged yesterday was that he cannot do everything at once. He does not have the political leverage over his senators – but that is not how he embarked on power a year ago. If, as a result of yesterday's decision, the summit in Copenhagen loses urgency and becomes a talking shop with no all-night sessions hammering out deals, the US Congress could simply be putting off the hard and painful decisions for another year. Without a commitment from a major polluter, such as the US, what chance is there of negotiating global compliance? Not without reason are US officials anxious about the timing of an expected announcement from China on its first carbon intensity target, with reductions of about 40 to 45% relative to economic growth by 2020. China would thus be joining other key nations, such as Brazil and Japan, who have pledged more action than the US.
We know that voluntary action is not enough. China and India are sitting on vast stocks of coal, which push the amount of their emissions above those of older polluters in the west. Forests offer untold wealth to millions in poverty in Indonesia and Brazil, if only trees can be chopped down, and at the very top of the carbon food chain sit western consumers unwilling to part with cheap weekend flights, strawberries in winter and two cars. When we stop buying cars or other durables, our economies grind to a halt. The developed world has become accustomed to ever-increasing levels of material consumption. Cutting carbon emissions is therefore inextricably linked with wider questions of the pressure on all natural resources, land and water.
This is a task that only governments can undertake and it is not as if they have not already had enough time to do it. The meeting that created the Kyoto protocol has convened in 10 other countries and cities since. The immensity of the task ahead is probably more apparent to world leaders than it was a decade ago. But time is running out. To prevent the global average temperature from increasing by more than 2C, there will need to be a global cut in emissions within the next five years or so. Some say the point of no return has already been reached. Does yesterday's decision represent change we can believe in? Not for now, and it remains to be seen if it will come next year.

Copenhagen must set date for treaty, says Denmark's environment minister

Connie Hedegaard tells negotiators it is important to set the deadline for a legally binding agreement 'as soon as possible'
Associated Press
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 November 2009 13.13 GMT
Next month's summit on climate change in Copenhagen must set a deadline for a legally binding document, Denmark's climate minister said today.
Connie Hedegaard said it is very important to set the deadline "as soon as possible" in the text to be agreed upon in the Danish capital. She spoke at the start of a two-day closed meeting of climate negotiators from nearly 40 countries who are preparing for the Copenhagen UN summit, which starts on 7 December.
The head of the UN climate change secretariat, Yvo de Boer, said participants at the Copenhagen meeting must come up with "a series of clear decisions" in order to have a treaty within six months of the conference ending. It would be designed to replace the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.
Yesterday, Barack Obama supported plans to delay a legally binding deal until next year at the earliest, pushing for next month's meeting to become a first-stage series of commitments rather than an all-encompassing protocol. Michael Froman, US deputy national security adviser for economic affairs, said: "There was a realistic assessment ... by the leaders that it was unrealistic to expect a full internationally legally binding agreement to be negotiated between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days."
Germany also said today that Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to attend the summit on its final two days, after annoucements last week by leaders including Gordon Brown and the Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, that they would be attending. Merkel's spokesman, Christoph Steegmans, said the chancellor does not expect the meeting to produce a legally binding accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but that she expects "an important step toward a treaty" to be made. Merkel was instrumental in securing the Kyoto protocol, which was approved while she served as Germany's environment minister.
The Danish prime minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, is urging world leaders to attend the conference, which has been billed by many as a last chance to halt dangerous climate change. Obama has yet to confirm he will be going, though this month he said he would attend if countries were on "the brink of a meaningful agreement".

UN chief Achim Steiner warns of high cost of climate delays

• Plea for world leaders to avoid Copenhagen failure • Deadlock poses enormous 'human and financial risks'
Damian Carrington, John Harris and Suzanne Goldenberg
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 November 2009 20.09 GMT

The likely delays in sealing a global deal to fight climate change would have a "human cost", and increase the risks of great harm to the planet and the economic costs of dealing with it, the head of the UN environment programme said today.
Achim Steiner also said there was an "extremely high" risk that the UN-hosted talks would drift into deadlock if the summit in Copenhagen next month failed to deliver a meaningful agreement. "The world has been focused on this moment for years," he told the Guardian.
"There have been hundreds of meetings and summits and workshops. If you then take that momentum out you run the risk of entering into an open-ended process and before you know if it you are in the same situation as the Doha round of the World Trade Organisation talks.
"There is a moral hazard in any attempt to further delay action on climate change," he added. "Political leaders in Copenhagen will have to explain in a credible way to the 2bn-3bn people who are living on the frontline of climate change why they could not reach a deal."
Steiner added: "I believe that a deal [in Copenhagen] is still do-able. But any delay has real cost implications in economic, social and human terms and those implications must be at the forefront of the people's minds as they go to Copenhagen."
On Sunday the US president, Barack Obama, acknowledged that a legally binding deal was impossible in Copenhagen. He needs a reluctant Senate to pass domestic laws to cut greenhouse emissions before being able to agree to an international deal, a requirement that has stalled the talks. Obama gave his support to a Danish plan to delay any deal to mid-2010. His comments were widely received as a blow to hopes of a meaningful agreement in Copenhagen, but senior figures said today a deal was still possible.
Ed Miliband, the UK climate change secretary, said Copenhagen could still deliver a "comprehensive" and "ambitious" agreement and lead quickly to a legally binding treaty. He spoke to the Guardian at international talks in the Danish capital aimed at increasing political momentum prior to the full UN meeting next month.
"An ambitious deal is still possible," he said. "It has to include all the major issues: targets for carbon emissions, including mid-term targets, finance, technology, forestry, and crucially, a very clear and short track to a legally binding treaty."
Sources within the British delegation characterised yesterday's negotiations as "anxious" and "urgent" and earlier cited "a large amount of mistrust" from some developing countries.
Despite pessimism about whether the US would be able to make commitments at December's summit, they remained optimistic about the US proposing bigger cuts in emissions in future.
In response to claims that the Danish plan threatened to turn the Copenhagen summit into a mere "photo opportunity", Denmark's climate and energy minister, Connie Hedegaard said her resolve to get a legally binding deal was intact.
"I believe it is important that Copenhagen sets a deadline," she said. "We have to do that, so we do not end up with something that goes on for years and years and years."
In the US key negotiators warned that President Obama must deliver on his environmental agenda by early 2010 if there is to be a chance of a global treaty.
In London the foreign secretary, David Miliband, also said there were grounds for hope: "I don't accept we should write off Copenhagen at all," Miliband said. "It shouldn't be just another summit that produces a string of warm words."
Additional reporting: Julian Borger

It was the Sun wot done it. Or was it?

A sharp drop in solar activity could soon tell us how much mankind and the Sun are responsible for warming the planet
Stuart Clark

Like it or not, it will soon be time to start placing bets for a white Christmas. If most climatologists are to be believed you are almost certainly throwing your money away.
The onward march of global warming is consigning such traditional Christmas card scenes to history. No more deep and crisp and even winters for Britain, replaced instead by damp and slush and stormy.
But, if a small group of maverick scientists are right, the chances of Yuletide snow may rise dramatically over the coming decades.
The difference of opinion hinges on what role — if any — the Sun plays in climate change. The vast majority of climate scientists maintain that the solar influence is limited or even negligible, and it is the unsustainable growth of industrialised nations that is driving the climate into chaos. The mavericks contend that the Sun’s activity dwarfs the human contribution, and that there is nothing we can do except wait for the Sun to change.
The public seems to agree with the mavericks. In a recent poll for The Times, only 41 per cent of UK voters thought the case for man-made global warning had been proved. Now, by a quirk of nature, the Sun has presented us with a golden opportunity to resolve this debate once and for all.
Satellite measurements for the past 30 years show that the Sun’s energy output has remained remarkably constant. What is changing is the level of solar activity. Solar activity governs the appearance of sunspots — dark blemishes on the solar surface. Sunspots form where magnetism reaches out from the Sun into space. In times of high solar activity, sunspots pockmark the solar surface for years and the Sun’s magnetic field balloons outwards to shield the Earth from deep space particles called cosmic rays.
According to the mavericks, cosmic rays induce clouds to form when they strike our atmosphere and low-level clouds are thought to reflect sunlight, cooling the Earth. So, when solar activity is high, the Earth is protected from cosmic rays and fewer clouds are formed. Thus, more sunlight reaches Earth’s surface and the planet heats up.
But how to prove this? During the 20th century, solar activity rose steadily, as did the amount of industrial gases being pumped into the atmosphere. With both quantities rising, it has been impossible to distinguish between them. Now, that has all changed.
In the past 12 months solar activity has fallen to levels unseen since the 1920s. Sunspots have become rare sights and for three quarters of this year the Sun has been spot-free. According to one study if the trend continues at its current rate, the Sun will lose its ability to produce sunspots by 2015. That would take it back to its condition in the latter 17th century, when hardly any sunspots appeared for 70 years — and Northern Europe underwent the worst years of the so-called Little Ice Age.
Winter scenes from this period were romanticised by artists such as Brueghel painting frost fairs and hunting scenes. But was the 17th century sunspot crash responsible for the Little Ice Age or a coincidence? Could we now find ourselves plunged into a similar freeze if the sunspots do not return?
The answer to the latter is, presumably, yes if the Sun is solely responsible for climate change; no if the mainstream is correct and solar influence is negligible. With this in mind, tonight in Bruges, I am chairing a public debate for the sixth annual European Space Weather Week between world authorities on solar variability who represent all sides of this discussion and have differing opinions about the Sun’s influence on climate. Topping the agenda is the sunspot crash and the opportunity that it presents. The plunging solar activity level will effectively remove the solar influence on climate change. If we are vigilant and honest about any slowdown in warming, its amount will tell us exactly how much the Sun was contributing.
The smart money is on the level of solar contribution being somewhere between the two extremes. In other words, both solar activity and industrial gases play a role. There is credible scientific work that ascribes up to a third of current warming to solar influence. Studies show that the Earth’s temperature mirrored solar activity until the 1980s. Then the number of sunspots stabilised but the temperature continued to rise. In other words, something overtook the Sun as the primary driver of the Earth’s temperature. That is generally thought to be industrial gases.
Now the test can be made. It is time for all sides to put away the rivalry and begin to work together. Observations must be made, experiments performed and all data must be published, not cherry-picked. This golden opportunity to reach consensus must not be squandered.
Above all, we must not let any downturn in temperatures be used as an excuse by reluctant nations to wriggle out of pollution controls. Just as certainly as the solar activity has gone away, so it will return. If we have done nothing in the interim to curb man-made global warming, we will be in worse trouble than ever.
Dr Stuart Clark is the author of The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began (Princeton)

Building Design editor attempts to demolish climate change argument

Amanda Baillieu has laid bare her utter contempt for environmentalism but failed to construct a solid argument

An article from the Building Design magazine website written by its editor Amanda Baillieu. Photograph: bdonline.co.uk
The climate change debate has a habit of rearing up unexpectedly in all manner of places. In recent days, it's been the turn of the architecture press.
Proceedings kicked off when Amanda Baillieu, the editor of a magazine called Building Design, used her column last week to ask: "Is global warming hot air?" With her utter contempt for environmentalism laid bare for all to see, Baillieu trotted out the familiar sceptic's line about there being a "growing wealth of scientific evidence" that climate change is not predominantly man-made. Of course – as is now usual with such a claim – she didn't actually point to where this evidence has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
However, her comeback comments to the string of outraged readers were even more revealing. The cut-and-paste sceptic reposts from Baillieu kept coming: "Environmentalism is now officially a religion" (er, no it isn't, as she might have realised if she'd bothered to carefully read the judge's statement); "Recent warming has stopped since 1998"; "The science is not settled"; "Regulations that are based on very questionable statistics which are simply there in order to have an outcome that support what politicians want to hear." And so on.
Baillieu also implied – by using the medium of her magazine, which offers the option for online readers to leave their own comments – that there is somehow a suppression of free-speech taking place.
Naturally enough, a rival magazine called Architects' Journal issued a repost on its website, entitled "Amanda Baillieu's BD editorial is full of hot air". Again, Baillieu's views were largely monstered by those within the architecture profession. But she did drop by herself to defend her position; another example of the suppression of free speech, then. As people kept asking – and Baillieu keeps failing to do – show us this "growing wealth" of evidence you speak of.
Anyway, to give Baillieu her dues (editors always love a good controversy, as is clear by the joy she has displayed on her Twitter feed over the hoopla), rather than retreat, on Friday she came out blazing with yet more of her contrarian views.
A new article has been published asking, "Should we question green orthodoxy?" It begins: "Readers are split in their responses to last week's leader calling for a debate on climate change." This suggests that there was a 50:50 split in responses, which doesn't appear to be the case if the reader comments on the online version are anything to go by.
But Baillieu doesn't leave it there as she pops up again with a new column called "The climate debate isn't over". It includes the classic line:
Apocalyptic language is now standard, but when it is challenged the proponents of emission[s] reduction point to science for their answers.
Er, yes, that's always a sensible idea when trying to put forward an argument.

Biodiversity – insurance against hunger

To ensure food security we need to encourage crop diversity and establish a science-based red-alert system for the planet
José Manuel Barroso
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 November 2009 11.00 GMT

There are plenty of summits to choose from this year, but the World Summit on Food Security deserves not to be lost in the crowd. This meeting in Rome from 16 to 18 November provides badly needed political momentum to three linked issues that rank among the most challenging of the current era: food security, biodiversity and climate change.
Collectively, we are failing in the fight against world hunger. More than 1 billion people in the world today do not have enough food to meet their basic daily nutritional needs, and the situation in developing countries is getting worse.
This is, first and foremost, a moral outrage. How can it be that in the 21st century, when we have taken men to the moon and back, we still cannot feed everyone on this planet? Policymakers must recognise, moreover, that food insecurity is linked to the lasting effects of the economic crisis and ongoing climate change, and that it represents no less a threat to our global community.
To be fair, world leaders have responded. At the recent G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, we made a firm commitment "to act with the scale and urgency needed to achieve global food security" and we collectively pledged $20bn over three years. This is a sizeable commitment, but it may not be enough – more needs to be done to increase agricultural production, to free up the potential of trade to address food insecurity and to deal with the increasing impact of climate change on agriculture.
The European commission, too, has responded, with finance for food security coming via a number of instruments. Our European Union food facility, agreed last year, is mobilising an additional $1.5bn for a rapid response to rising food prices. And we will pump in another $4bn in the coming three years to fund activities that help countries improve food security and adapt to climate change.
Extra money to address food security problems, among other things, should be one of the key outcomes of the finance package that the EU strongly supports for the next crucial event on the summit calendar: the Copenhagen climate conference in December. Changing weather patterns and the increasing magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events will require substantial investments if farmers are to adapt successfully. These changes hit the poorest the hardest, and global trends mask deep regional disparities.
Small farmers, predominantly in developing countries, will bear the brunt of climate change. If we do not act quickly, the 40 poorest countries, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, will by 2080 lose 10% to 20% of their basic grain-growing capacity due to drought.
But answers to this problem are close to hand. The impact of biodiversity is often insufficiently understood, which means that we have undervalued its contribution to tackling global challenges. The more diverse the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, the more resilient it is to change.
So biodiversity can act as a natural "insurance policy" against sudden environmental changes and a buffer against losses caused by them (as well as by pests and diseases). Biodiversity is essential for reliable and stable long-term food production. The famines in Ireland in the 19th century and in Ethiopia in the late 20th century provide clear evidence of the vulnerability of undiversified crops to environmental changes, and the dramatic consequences of such vulnerability for the population.
Crop diversity can also deliver important ecosystem benefits. Varieties that are tolerant to drought and flood can not only increase productivity, but also can prevent soil erosion and desertification. In southern Ghana, for example, farmers have managed to reduce crop failures arising from rainfall variability and unpredictability by cultivating several drought-tolerant types of the same crop species. In addition, crop diversification has reduced the need for costly and environmentally damaging pesticides.
So I am convinced that we should raise the profile of biodiversity in tackling climate change and food insecurity, and that we need more high-level attention to this subject.
When leaders meet in Rome, I hope that we will agree on the key priorities to fight hunger and food insecurity, and in particular to establish an authoritative source of advice on food security to governments and international institutions. In fact, we need for food security what the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel has done for climate change: a science-based red-alert system for the planet. And at the start of a new five-year term at the commission, I will continue to do all I can to promote this important issue.
But even the best and most up-to-date donor policies will remain vain exercises if governments in developed countries fail to translate their commitments into hard cash and improvements in agricultural investment worldwide.
So finally let the World Summit on Food Security provide tangible evidence of a commitment from all governments to a common objective: a world free of hunger. History will judge us unfavourably if we fail.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2009

Carbon emissions deal is vital, says new Greenpeace head

Associated Press in Johannesburg
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 November 2009 18.06 GMT

A former anti-apartheid campaigner who today became the new head of the environmental group Greenpeace promised to keep the pressure up on governments to tackle climate change. Kumi Naidoo, from South Africa, who recently went on a hunger strike to press for solutions to Zimbabwe's political and economic crises, said it was vital that December's Copenhagen climate talks result in a binding treaty to cut carbon emissions. "We either get it right and all of humanity comes out on the other side with a new world," Naidoo said, "or we get it wrong and all the world is going to sink."

The European emissions trading scheme is now a success

It was not the market that failed, but the policies that governed how it worked

Alexandra Galin
The Guardian, Tuesday 17 November 2009
Your article is profoundly disheartening (Carbon trading is useless, says Friends of the Earth report, 5 November). Instead of adding political pressure to commit to emissions reduction targets, FoE criticises carbon markets and investors, who are working to make this common goal a reality.
You report: "FoE says that to date cap-and-trade carbon markets have done almost nothing to reduce emissions… [and are] unfit for purpose." They are misinformed. Markets do not reduce emissions and were not created for that purpose. Technology, energy efficiency and behavioural changes deliver reductions. Markets incentivise and finance these by putting a cost-effective price on the carbon that is most cost-effective.
"FoE claims that the first phase of the European emissions trading scheme between 2005 and 2007 failed. And the second phase, from 2008 to2012, is likely to fail too." It was not the market that failed in the first phase, but the policies that governed how the market worked. The EU designed a system in which a large proportion of emissions allowances were given away, to defray costs for industry. Phase one was the test phase and, lacking precise data, they gave away too many allowances that could not be carried over into phase two. These two design elements caused the price crash in 2007.
But the second phase was designed much more prudently. Studies note that emissions fell in year one, and analysts agree that they continue to fall. Phase two is a success. It is important to look at the markets in the longer term, just as targets are set with a 2020 goal.
Misguidedly, FoE calls for governments to use more "reliable instruments", such as a tax to replace a market-based scheme. Yet a tax is anything but reliable; it does not allow for visible target-setting, and it does not guarantee that emissions will be reduced. A carbon tax is simply another cost of doing business; as production and profits grow, the tax is paid while emissions rise. By contrast, an emissions cap allows for a clear environmental goal and a measurable target, and incentivises further reductions.
You report the FoE's fears that markets could be "hijacked by speculators and financial markets". This fear displays a failure to understand that financial institutions participate in the market largely on behalf of businesses that do not have the capacity or expertise to do so themselves. Furthermore, there are no "complex" instruments creating "shadow finance" – carbon trading uses essentially the same simple market instruments as trading in gold, wheat and coal. They have been used over decades and during recent and historical financial cycles without causing crises.
Yet a carbon market is only as good as the cap. The more ambitious the emissions reduction targets, the more visibly and effectively a market performs its function. Market nay-sayers would make better use of their time by increasing the political pressure to set ambitious reduction targets and recognise that markets help with the cost of achieving them. To criticise those who share their objective is to risk political inaction.

Suzlon Energy Gets U.S. Order for Wind Turbines

MUMBAI -- Wind turbine maker Suzlon Energy Ltd. said it has received an order to supply wind turbines to a community wind farm in the U.S. state of Minnesota.
Suzlon, which will supply 10 S88 2.1-megawatt turbines, said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange that construction at the site is underway and commercial production is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2010.
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Write to Satish Sarangarajan at Satish.Sarangarajan@dowjones.com

China and US poised to break new ground in green technology partnership

Barack Obama's trip to Beijing expected to yield cooperation on 'clean coal' and smart grids and rejuvenate stalling climate talks
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 November 2009 16.45 GMT
Barack Obama said the US and China will break new ground in their partnership on clean energy technology during a summit in Beijing tomorrow that will also seek to find a new way forward for global climate talks.
A day after backing a delay in the international negotiating process towards a deal in Copenhagen, the US president told a townhall meeting in Shanghai that he and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao would focus on ways to reduce their carbon footprints.
As the world's two biggest emitters expand their economies and populations, he said they needed a way to minimise the impact of increased energy use. "Both countries have a great interest in finding new strategies to combat climate change," he said.
During the summit, the two nations will announce a new energy cooperation programme, unveil closer collaboration on "cleaner coal" technology and smart grids and establish a joint research centre.
Sources close to the preparations say a memorandum of understanding will be signed in the Great Hall of the People, under which the US Trade Development Agency will fund an office in Beijing to assist US firms to secure government financing for new energy projects.
A group of companies led by Peabody, one of the biggest US coal firms, will receive seed money from the US government money to establish a demonstration facility in China that shows off its scrubbing, washing and emission-reduction technology, the source says. The firm may also unveil a deepening of its involvement in China's GreenGen project to pioneer cleaner and more efficient coal burning technology.
General Electric will sign a deal with Shenhua, China's biggest coal company, to use the former's coal gasification technology for increased energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage.
But the message of cooperation between the world's two biggest emitters looks likely to be diluted by the competitive instincts of businesses and politicians who are reluctant to share funding and technology with a rival.
US sources say no public money will be channelled to Chinese firms or projects because the country is seen as a rival. At the start of his Asia tour, Obama highlighted this point by describing China as a "vital partner, as well as a competitor."
The potential for friction has been evident in backroom negotiations over the funding of a joint clean energy research centre. China is thought to have asked the US to provide a larger share of the costs to reflect its greater wealth and historical responsibility for the carbon in the atmosphere. But the US wanted a 50-50 split. The final amount of its investment in the new centre, which is expected to be unveiled by energy secretary Steven Chu tomorrow, will be in the region of $18m, according to a source familiar with the deal. US officials have recently been trying to link China's Qinghua University, MIT in the US, and Cambridge in the UK.
The two nations also talk a different language when it comes to the transfer of technology from west to east, a key concern for China. On Beijing's wishlist are salt-resistant materials for offshore windfarms, hi-tech components for large wind turbines, smart-grid control systems and more efficient pumps for nuclear reactors.
But the US side prefers to talk in terms of "technology cooperation", suggesting more of a two-way street. Observers say far more could have been achieved with a smoother transition between the Bush and Obama administrations and a greater level of trust.
"There are some areas where China is more advanced, but in key areas, it needs US technology," said Yang Fuqiang, head of climate solutions at the Worldwide Fund for Nature. "The difficulty is how to compensate the private sector and how to remove trade restrictions on items that the US does not want to give to China because of its fears a loss of competitive advantage."
Claims that China needs US technology are disputed. "There is nothing out there that China does not have access to if it is willing to pay for it. This is more about money," said Charlie McElwee, a Shanghai-based American lawyer specialising in environmental issues. "On carbon capture and storage, China is among the world leaders if not the leader."
Business optimism about a potential low-carbon market worth $1 trillion in China has been tempered by concerns about trade tensions. US solar panel manufacturers have accused Chinese rivals, such as Suntech, of dumping underpriced photovoltaic panels in the US.
Such concerns have slowed progress. But industry insiders say tomorrow's summit could smooth future collaboration.

Fishing quota will lead to extinction of bluefin tuna, warn conservationists

Frank Pope, Ocean Correspondent
Conservationists have accused the organisation charged with ensuring the survival of the bluefin tuna of pushing the fish to extinction.
Members of the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) voted to allow 13,500 tonnes of tuna to be caught next year, which scientists say will lead to the disappearance of the fish from the Mediterranean within two years.
The European Union was blamed for having blocked plans at the Brazil conference for a moratorium on catching the fish in the Mediterranean.
According to members of the Pew Environment Group, the EU had been protecting the interests of the Spanish fishing fleet.
Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for Pew, said: “Only a zero catch limit could have maximised the chances that Atlantic bluefin tuna could recover to the point where the fishery could exist in the future.”
Since ICCAT was established 40 years ago the population of bluefin tuna has fallen by more than 75 per cent.
The fate of the fish now rests with the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, which could ban trade in bluefin when it meets in March.

Habitat banking is the future of nature conservation in the UK

Habitat banking is not a 'license to trach' – it's an opportunity to apply market-based conservation that can help biodiversity in the UK
David Hill and Rob Gillespie
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 November 2009 06.35 GMT
We need to be far more intelligent in the way we use land. In truth, we need to pay the true cost of using it – and this applies to development as much as to growing crops. Currently, compensation for impacts to the environment through development planning is insufficient. But the adversarial approaches to development planning just exacerbate the problem. In fact, biodiversity and landscape conservation, together with the other "ecosystem services" that land provides, could be provisioned by a proper engagement with the development industry.
"Biodiversity banking" or "habitat banking" – similar to the conservation credit scheme favoured by the Conservatives in the UK – is an economic strategy that funds conservation actions intended to compensate for and mitigate the unavoidable environmental impact caused by development projects. By brokering arrangements between developers, landowners and planning authorities, a lot of money can be found to help create and manage habitats in the natural environment – something we all want.
Ecologists and conservation groups would, in many circumstances, release developers from the physical task of providing on-site compensation. This makes possible landscape conservation projects of much greater value. This is an extension of biodiversity banking, a successful mechanism that has been working effectively in the US for a couple of decades. Habitat banking can provide an abundance of new, high-quality natural habitats – thus supporting greater biodiversity, sustaining soils and water, and increasing the aesthetic and recreation value of the landscape.
Habitat banking has sustainable development as its core objective. It is not a "licence to trash". The planning system will still operate on the basis that acknowledged and protected sites of nature conservation value are protected by policy.
A key benefit of habitat banking is the pooling of credits from a range of development schemes. There would be agreements to monitor and manage habitats over the long term. In future it could, for example, be used for targeting areas of the country where landowners are already showing a commitment to nature conservation, biodiversity and landscape.
In the US, wetland mitigation banking alone was worth $3bn in 2008. There is no reason why we could not stimulate a similar system in the UK. The Environment Bank Ltd, which we run, is committed to introducing the benefits of habitat banking to the UK, and numerous developers and landowners have signed up to our proposed scheme. We have also assisted with the development of the conservation credit scheme advocated by the Conservative shadow environment secretary, Nick Herbert. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also has positive things to say about biodiversity banking.
Here is an opportunity to apply market-based conservation that can deliver enormous long-term benefits to UK biodiversity. The evidence and expertise we require already exists in this country. We have to plan for the future of nature conservation and biodiversity in the UK, and this is the best option.
• Professor David Hill is the chairman and Rob Gillespie the managing director of Environment Bank Ltd

Tories reveal plans for 'conservation banks'

The Conservative party plans, which would fund nature protection through the sale of conservation credits to developers, have been met with caution by wildlife groups

John Vidal, environment editor
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 November 2009 00.05 GMT
Developers would be forced to buy credits from "conservation banks" as a condition of building permission under new Conservative party plans to revolutionise nature protection revealed exclusively to the Guardian.
The hundreds of millions of pounds which could be generated each year will lead to the creation of major new woodlands, wetlands and wildlife corridors, and would also earn money for farmers and charities, they say.
The plans, which have been sent for comment to Britain's major conservation groups by the shadow environment secretary, Nick Herbert, and seen by the Guardian, received a mixed welcome from green groups such as RSPB and Wildlife Trusts.
Many conservationists like the idea in principle if it leads to new funds, but fear that the entry of the free market into nature protection could be a licence to destroy habitats on the promise of compensatory ecological benefits elsewhere. In addition, there are fears that a market-based scheme, if successful, could encourage the government to withdraw public money from nature protection and rely on developers to protect Britain's most valuable wildlife sites.
"We do need a change in attitude to conservation. But there is a danger that it could be used to destroy something on a vague promise that it would be compensated for elsewhere. The devil is in the detail," said Tony Whitbread, chief executive of Sussex Wildlife Trust.
The "banks", which could be run by local communities, voluntary groups or companies, would issue credits to create or manage wildlife reserves or other conservation initiatives. An open market would be set up by the government, and developers would have to buy credits at the going market rate.
"The existing bureaucratic, regulatory approach has failed to halt biodiversity loss. We need radical new thinking to reverse the decline. Our natural ecosystems and the services they provide like carbon storage, water storage, habitat for wildlife are worth billions of pounds. We have to find a way to unlock this value", said Herbert, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian. "With a market approach we can look forward to new ways of supporting wildlife, habitats and landscape."
He denied that the money raised would be a new tax on developers or would lead to companies owning nature reserves. "This is not the privatisation of nature. This will not affect the value of land. It's about opening up a new revenue stream. The market system is a new, additional way to achieve protection of wildlife, not a substitute. I believe there will be a flourishing of schemes across the country," Herbert said.
"We will rule out any proposals that would weaken the existing protection of endangered sites or species and ensure that any measures are in addition to existing safeguards regarding development on green spaces", said Herbert. "My goal is that the schemes would be managed by minimal bureaucracy. Protected land must remain off-limits to development. It is also essential that any new mechanism does not impose additional costs on businesses," he said.
But he declined to say whether the new banks would be run to make a profit or what it could cost to set up and maintain them.
"It's a new idea, and it needs more thinking through, but its definitely an idea worth thinking about," said Mark Avery, conservation director at the RSPB. "But we are perplexed how it would work in practice. The conundrum yet to be worked out is how does it produce lots of money without it being an unpopular tax on development? Also, how do you give local people a big say in how the money is spent whilst making sure that it delivers the greatest conservation benefit?"
"Government could generate a significant market mechanism for getting greater funding into the natural environment by implementing a policy for habitat banking in the UK. In the US wetland mitigation banking alone was worth $3bn in 2008 and there is no reason why we could not stimulate a similar system in the UK", said David Hill, a board member of Natural England and co-founder of the Environment Bank.
The idea was first floated in a speech in February by the Conservative leader, David Cameron. "Conservation credits are about placing a value on biodiversity for the first time, because only if you place a value on something can you truly compensate for loss. This is potentially an incredibly exciting idea to enhance biodiversity, but the practicalities need careful consideration," he said.

Testing environmental pollution liability rules take effect

New environmental liability rules could catch you out. Steve Coates from Allianz advises

By DoctorBiz Published: 7:36PM GMT 16 Mar 2009
Q: I run a small waste management company in Yorkshire and I've heard that a new environmental liability directive came into force on 1 March. What are the implications for me and what precautions should I take?
A: The Environmental Liability Directive sets out requirements that member states must enact to prevent and remedy environmental damage, specifically damage to habitats and species protected by EC law. It aims to hold companies, whose activities have caused environmental damage, financially liable for remedying the damage.
The existing UK pollution liability regime, which includes the Environmental Protection Act 1990, already imposes significant responsibilities on polluters. The directive extends the liability of polluters beyond property damage and into areas of environmental damage and un-owned property such as rivers, countryside and wildlife.
If you or your workforce causes any environmental damage, the new directive imposes a wide range of responsibilities and will cost your company money if you are responsible for a pollution incident. Alarmingly, research commissioned by Allianz has shown that 77 per cent of businesses are unaware of the new law and its implications. It is therefore crucial that businesses talk to their brokers to fully understand the insurance cover that is required and make sure suitable cover is in place.
A proposal to make it compulsory for operators to take out insurance was not included in the final version of the directive. Instead, it suggests that member states encourage the use and development of insurance products or other forms of financial security. The implications are that traditional liability policies are ill-equipped to meet the challenges posed by the new legislation because of the different nature of directive's liability. Therefore, those companies in the UK who rely on existing public liability may find their policy does not provide the protection they require.
A standard public liability policy, for instance, will cover an insured party's legal liability to pay damages to a third party for accidental injury, damage to property, nuisance or interference with some other right. Although statutory clean costs and remediation are likely to be the most costly aspect of many pollution incidents, a standard public liability policy will not normally cover these costs.
Provision of cover via traditional third party liability insurance is difficult; some liability insurers might be willing to extend policies to cover certain directive liabilities, although a proper environmental liability policy will usually provide a more cost-effective solution.
Businesses need to take relevant steps to understand how their activities might expose them to the risk of pollution. Risks must be assessed and understood from which risk management techniques can be deployed to remove or reduce the risk. Insurance arrangements should be re-evaluated in the light of the more onerous responsibilities placed on businesses to ensure cover remains appropriate. Your insurance broker/adviser should be able to provide advice on cover available.
Steve Coates, head of Property & Casualty, Allianz

Firms Call for Electric Car Tax-Credit

WASHINGTON -- A coalition of auto makers, battery manufacturers, utility operators and shipping companies called on Congress to offer tax credits for buying all-electric plug-in vehicles as part of a $128 billion program to get seven million such cars on the road by 2018.
The "cash for volts" approach is part of an effort by the Electrification Coalition, a 13-member group that includes Nissan Motor Corp. and shipping giant FedEx Corp., to campaign for more government support for electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to make them more appealing to consumers and businesses.
The group outlined a plan to put 100 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, starting with pilot projects in six to eight U.S. cities. The Obama Administration earlier this year awarded $2.4 billion in grants funded by the economic stimulus program to subsidize development of electric vehicle production in the U.S.
"We're talking about heavy investment" in cars, batteries and supporting technology, said Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, a member of the group. Nissan's all-electric vehicles will be sold in the U.S. starting next year. Mr. Ghosn predicts electric vehicles will account for 10% of cars sold by 2020. Hybrid vehicles that mix traditional internal-combustion engines with electric power accounted for just 3% of car sales in 2008.
The group is proposing that residents in test cities who buy electric vehicles be granted tax credits significantly higher than the $7,500 maximum now available. The group also proposes tax credits to fund 50% of the costs to upgrade electric grid facilities and 50% to 75% of the cost to build public charging stations that would allow drivers to charge vehicles on the go, and ease the anxiety about the limited range of today's battery-powered cars.
The tax credits would offset the high costs of electric vehicles and the supporting infrastructure. Auto industry officials worry that unless there is a significant increase in gasoline prices, most consumers won't see the value of expensive electric vehicles that have ranges between refueling stops of 100 miles or less.
The group notes that Japan and the European Union already offer large financial incentives to spur electric vehicle purchases.
"We can set the stage for it, with a wide range of tax credits," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.) who took part in the event.
Write to JUDITH BURNS at judith.burns@dowjones.com

Now you can hear electric cars coming

HALOsonic technology makes electric vehicles sound more like spaceships or sports cars - which should make roads safer for people with visual impairments

Bibi van der Zee
The Guardian, Monday 16 November 2009

Is this what a spaceship sounds like? I'd imagined something a bit more whooshy, a bit more Millennium Falcon. These stately tones are more "we come in peace" than "brace yourself for the jump into hyperspace". Still, at 25mph up Camden Road, maybe that's no bad thing.
I'm sitting in a Toyota Prius, testing out the new HALOsonic External Sound Synthesis technology, which could both save lives and liven up the morning commute no end. As electric vehicles (EVs) become part of our lives – both Nissan and Mitsubishi will have models on sale here within the next year, and charging points are being installed by local authorities around the country – one safety issue is becoming urgent. Unlike, say, an electric milk float, EVs are astonishingly silent, with just the wheel rumble and an occasional electric whine to alert you to their approach. The Royal National Institute of Blind People has been raising awareness of the risk; legislation is likely to follow soon.
All this is wonderful news for Lotus Engineering, which has been working for two years on a system to mimic engine noises. With the help of Harman International – which specialises in car sound systems – it came up with an electronic device that is wired into the engine and follows the revs to produce a synthetic engine noise.
So how does it sound? In the end Harman synthesised a number of alternatives, including a Prius in petrol-powered mode, the purring of an Aston Martin's supercharged V8, the tiger's roar of a Ferrari V12 engine, and the four-cylinder boxer engine you might find in an Alfa Romeo. And just for good measure, they added two spaceship sounds: rising and gently descending.
Tony Harberman, director of sales, lets slip the fact that these sounds were inspired by spaceships in well-known sci-fi films. As we float gently through the streets of London, a construction worker does a double take; an entire column of schoolboys, coming out of Regent's Park, nudge each other and point. Which film? It's definitely not Star Wars, I'll tell you that much.