Monday, 23 November 2009

Leaders of 65 countries set to attend Copenhagen summit

By Fiona Harvey in London
Published: November 23 2009 02:00 At least 65 world leaders have agreed to attend the Copenhagen summit on climate change in December, raising the stakes on a deal being reached and lending "critical mass" to the meeting, say senior officials.
The Danish government announced this weekend that leaders of most of the world's biggest economies were planning to attend, including the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Japan, Australia, Brazil and Indonesia. In total, 180 nations are expected at Copenhagen.
The talks aimed originally to bring together environment ministers, but as the deadline has begun to loom without agreement on important issues, the Danish government has stepped up efforts to bring in heads of state and government for the final day of the conference, on December 18.
Barack Obama, US president, has not guaranteed his presence, nor has Hu Jintao, Chinese president. The two countries are the world's biggest emitters and their absence from the talks could jeopardise a deal.
But a senior UK government official said yesterday that the number of leaders agreeing to attend had reached "critical mass", making it likely that others would also want to attend.
Intervention of world leaders is necessary, officials believe, to break some of the entrenched positions countries have occupied. The UK official said: "The presence of leaders does not guarantee success but it makes it harder to fail."
One sticking point is thatThe US has been unable to agree on its own emissions target.
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China harnesses mountain wind power

Relax News
Sunday, 22 November 2009

In the mountains above the southwestern Chinese town of Dali, dozens of new wind turbines dot the landscape - a symbol of the country's sky-high ambitions for clean, green energy.
At an altitude of 3,000 metres (9,800 feet), Dali Zhemoshan is the highest wind farm in China, where renewable energy has become a priority for a government keen to reduce its carbon emissions and which has taken full advantage of the global trade in carbon credits.
"Wind resources in Yunnan province are not the best in the country," says Zhai Cheng, a project manager at the farm for the Chinese group Sinohydro.
"But at altitude, it becomes more interesting," he adds, gesturing at the line of 48 metre-high turbines.
China, which relies on coal for more than 70 percent of its energy, is the world's largest emitter of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
But it has set a target of generating 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources - mainly wind and water - by 2020.
In Yunnan, the wind turbines - which operate at full tilt between October and April - are there to boost the region's enormous hydroelectric power resources when productivity falls during the winter months.
"China is redoubling its efforts, with the 2020 target for wind power generation rising from 30 to 100 gigawatts," said Zhai.
The rapid boom in wind farming in China - where installed capacity doubled in 2008 for the fourth year running to sit at 12.2 gigawatts - places it behind only the United States, Germany and Spain.
"In terms of the scale and the pace of the build-up of the Chinese wind industry, it's without parallel anywhere in the world ever," said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
"They went from very little installed capacity and almost no industry five years ago to the point where they will be the number one market in the world this year" in terms of new capacity, he said.
"At the current rate, they will be the number one in the world in cumulative capacity by the end of 2011, early 2012," Sawyer predicted.
As well as major wind farms in the north of China, such as those in Gansu province, smaller projects - like the one in Dali - are multiplying, almost always relying on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
The CDM, which was created as part of the Kyoto Protocol, allows industrialised countries to fulfil part of their greenhouse gas reduction commitments by investing in clean energy technology in developing countries.
With a generating capacity of 30.75 megawatts, the 41 turbines in Dali produce the same amount of energy as the burning of 20,000 tonnes of coal - thereby preventing the emission of 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
The carbon credits produced by the Dali pilot project, funded with a 30-million-euro (45-million-dollar) loan from the French Development Agency, will be purchased by Dutch bank Rabobank, Zhai said.
Those credits should amount to between seven and eight percent of annual income, he added, predicting that the project should pay for itself in 10 to 15 years.
"The wind industry in China and India is one of the biggest success stories of the CDM," said GWEC's Sawyer.
"The Chinese example is a very good example: the only way you can make use of the market mechanism is if you have very clear and effective policies and measures to support the industry at the same time."
The challenge for China now, he says, is one of quality.
"They have had this rapid build-up and now they have to focus on the quality rather than just the quantity. Grid extension and connection is one issue, the performance of the turbines themselves is another."

Renewables policy hopes dashed by tariffs row

Departmental wrangling over "feed-in tariffs" scuppers Ed Miliband's aim to have policy in place by Copenhagen summit
Ashley Seager, Sunday 22 November 2009 17.35 GMT
Ed Miliband's hopes of having a key government policy on renewable energy in place before the Copenhagen summit have been dashed by internal wrangling over the final levels at which so-called "feed-in tariffs" (FITs) will be set. Officials at Miliband's department of energy and climate change (DECC) have admitted that the announcement – originally due around now – will not come until January.
The Treasury insists the full details of the FITs are still scheduled to be released around the time of Alistair Darling's pre-budget report on 9 December. But sources say Treasury officials – egged on by the regulator Ofgem – are having last-minute concerns about the potential cost.
Energy companies, in turn, are worried that the delay will jeopardise the supposed 1 April launch date to FITs consumers, because they may not have had enough time to prepare for it. The nuclear industry, too, has been lobbying against support for renewables because it undermines the case for new nuclear stations.
FITs work by rewarding installers of renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines or solar photovoltaic panels, for every unit of green electricity they generate and/or feed in to the national grid. They produce a steady return on investment for households, thus stimulating take-up of renewables and the growth of a new industry. Germany introduced one a decade ago and has created more than a quarter of a million jobs as a result.
Britain has been slow off the mark and has one of the lowest proportions of renewable energy in the EU. Ofgem says in its submission to DECC's consultation, however, that FITs offer bad value for money and that DECC should stick to giving people loft insulation and smart meters.
It says the aim of offering a return on investment to households of 5-8% is "disproportionately high compensation", even though DECC has been told by many other industries and potential installers of renewables that it is too low to make them invest. Germany offers more like 10%.
Alan Simpson, Miliband's special advisor on renewable energy, said: "The trouble is that the Treasury, Ofgem and government officials have driven this policy with a towering lack of ambition."
He said the aim is to get 2% of electricity from microgeneration. "If they were five times as ambitious, it would only cost the average family another £2 a year. But energy companies and Ofgem don't want to go down that path – they have created a cosy oligopoly which produces non-renewable energy and ever-spiralling prices."
The stop-go nature of various support programmes such as the low carbon buildings programme (LCBP) in the past few years have driven the country's fledgling renewables industry almost to despair.
"It's a source of deep concern that DECC and OFGEM seem to be forever failing the UK renewables industry. After the disaster of LCBP we were hoping for smooth transition to FIT, which would have kick-started the industry 10 years after the Germans lead the way," said Ian Goodwin, renewable energy services director at energy saving and generation firm the Mark Group.

Global body needed to direct green technology, G77 says

Developing nations call for UN body to police battle on climate change
Alok Jha in Tangier, Sunday 22 November 2009 23.56 GMT
A green technology body with powers to direct a worldwide transition away from a high-carbon economy is needed to combat climate change, according to the world's developing nations. While most negotiations ahead of the UN's climate change summit in Copenhagen next month have been concerned with which nations should slash greenhouse gas emissions and by how much, the method in which these cuts will be achieved has received far less attention. Yet the importance of green technology – from wind turbines to electric cars to zero-carbon buildings – is enormous.
Developing nations argue that the costs should be paid by the rich nations, and that a new global body is required, perhaps working as part of the UN, to direct the world's low-carbon transformation in sectors as diverse as power, transport and heavy industry.
"We know that, to limit global temperature rises to below 2C, we'll need a step change in global innovation and technology transfer," said Shane Tomlinson of environment consultants E3G. "In the period to 2020, it's vital we avoid high carbon lock-in. The infrastructure decisions that developing countries are taking today, such as new power stations, are going to determine their emissions pathways for 20-30 years."
In the short term, that means rolling out proven technologies such as onshore and offshore wind power, solar photovoltaics and energy efficiency measures. A recent analysis by the Climate Group found that, to meet the emissions targets already agreed by nations, 9.3bn tonnes of CO2 must be prevented from entering the atmosphere by 2020. But these will not be enough for the deep cuts – 80% or more on 1990 levels – that many rich countries will have to deliver by 2050, if the world is to limit warming to the 2C that scientists agree is the safe limit. By then, according to the International Energy Agency, 17 technologies will have to be developed and rolled out to deliver a reduction of 42bn tonnes of CO2. Most of that technology – ranging from carbon capture and storage, solar power and zero-emission vehicles – will need to be deployed in emerging economies.
At Copenhagen, the first decision on technology will be to decide if a new co-ordinating body should have powers to command the clean tech roll out. "The G77 [group of developing nations] and China have proposed a new central executive, political body," said Tomlinson. It would be part of the existing UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which administers the Kyoto protocol.
However, Europe and the US want only an advisory committee – their main concern is that a strong political body may end up channelling funds into state enterprises rather than keeping a level playing field for all businesses. Developing countries say an advisory body would have little power to drive the dramatic changes needed.
The polarised debate has led some to compare the sharing of IP in green technology to arguments over whether pharmaceutical companies should give up patents for expensively developed HIV or malaria drugs in those nations blighted by the illnesses. Alia al-Dalli, deputy resident representative in Morocco for the United Nations Development Programme, said that without local education programmes, the only winners from Copenhagen will be multinational technology companies. "Capacity-development is very important – people need to be educated and aware. You've got to be able to produce technologies by the south for the south, in the south," she said. "It will not merely be technology transfer."
Ambuj Sagar, a professor of policy studies at the Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi, said: "The best step would be if we stopped using the term technology transfer and started using something like innovation co-operation to signify that this is not a simple issue. It is not a hand-off from producers of technology to users of technology. We need co-operation instead of a simple reliance on markets to tackle what is an immense challenge."

Climate change sceptics and lobbyists put world at risk, says top adviser

• Chance to limit warming squandered, says scientist• World needs to prepare to cope with at least 3-4C rise
David Adam, environment correspondent, Sunday 22 November 2009 19.03 GMT
Climate change sceptics and fossil fuel companies that have lobbied against action on greenhouse gas emissions have squandered the world's chance to avoid dangerous global warming, a key adviser to the government has said.
Professor Bob Watson, chief scientist at the department for environment and rural affairs, said a decade of inaction on climate change meant it was now virtually impossible to limit global temperature rise to 2C. He said the delay meant the world would now do well to stabilise warming between 3C and 4C.
His comments come ahead of key UN negotiations on a new global climate treaty in Copenhagen next month that the UK government insists should still aim for a 2C goal, despite doubts over whether a meaningful deal can be sealed.
In an interview with the Guardian, Watson said: "Those that have opposed a deal on climate, which would include elements of the fossil fuel industry, have clearly made making a 2C target much, much harder, if not impossible. They've clearly put the world at risk of far more adverse effects of climate change."
The decision of former US president George W Bush to walk away from the Kyoto protocol, the existing global treaty on carbon emissions, sent a message to other countries not to act, he said. "The last decade was a lost opportunity. Elements within the fossil fuel industry clearly had major implications for the Bush administration."
He added: "I think they've clearly been partly to blame, without any question at all. But you have to say it is not just the fossil lobby. Within the US, there is not strong support for the Kyoto protocol in both parties. Even Obama now will have to persuade a still somewhat sceptical Senate that we should be doing this."
The Copenhagen talks are not expected to deliver a legally binding treaty as originally hoped, but could still make progress on issues such as emissions cuts for rich countries and financial assistance for the developing world. A strong agreement rests on how far Obama is willing to push towards strong carbon cuts in the US.
European officials fear the agreement could eventually do no better than return emissions in 2020 to 1990 levels; scientists say they must fall by 25-40% to have a good chance of staying within the 2C limit.
Watson, a former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said: "I think we will do well to stabilise between 3 and 4C. Even that is going to take strong political action to decarbonise the energy system and to require us peaking greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 or more years," he said. "We have to make sure we understand what it would mean to see 3-4C. How would we adapt our agriculture, our water resources, coastal protection and human health systems."
A Guardian poll this year showed that almost nine out of 10 climate scientists thought the 2C target would be missed.
The British government last month published a map that laid out the stark details of a world warmer by 4C. It showed that the rise would not be evenly spread across the globe, with temperature rises much larger than 4C in high latitudes such as the Arctic. Because the sea warms more slowly, average land temperature will increase by 5.5C, which scientists said would shrink yields for all major cereal crops on all regions of production. A 4C rise would also have a major impact on water availability, with supplies limited to an extra billion people by 2080.
Watson backed controversial calls for research into geoengineering techniques, such as blocking the sun, as a way to head off dangerous temperature rise – one of the most senior figures so far to do so. "We should at least be looking at it. I would see what the theoretical models say, and ask ourselves the question: how can we do medium-sized experiments in the field?"
Such an effort could divert attention and funds from efforts to cut carbon and switch to cleaner technology, he said. "I think it should be a real international effort, so it isn't just the UK funding it."

Copenhagen summit: US considers target for emissions

Gordon Brown called for a final push to secure a climate change deal at the Copenhagen summit as indications emerged that the United States was considering setting a proposed target for reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

By Toby Harnden in Washington and Geoffrey Lean Published: 6:45PM GMT 22 Nov 2009
Todd Stern, the US State Department's climate change envoy, said that President Barack Obama recognised the US had to produce a target for cutting its emissions, though he said any figure would have to be "provisional".
The Prime Minister said he detected a move by nations in both the developed and developing world to reach a compromise agreement.
"I hope and believe other countries will follow their example over the next few weeks," Mr Brown said. "I believe these decisions are a clear sign of growing international momentum for an ambitious, fair and effective agreement in Copenhagen."
The US declaration boosted the hopes of environmentalists pushing for a global agreement at next month's Copenhagen summit."What we are looking at is to see whether we could put down essentially a provisional number that would be contingent on our legislation," said Mr Stern. "We are looking at that, there are people we need to consult with."
The US, which along with China is responsible for 40 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases, is the only major developed country yet to set a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen.
Although the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would cut American emissions by 17 per cent of 2005 levels by the year 2020. Mr Obama has called for legislation cutting emissions by 14 percent of 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent in 2050.
The Senate has yet to debate legislation and is unlikely to so before next November's mid-term elections. A draft bill proposes a 20 per cent cut in emissions by 2020 but several Democrats have said they could not support the measure.
A provisional figure would increase the chances of a deal being reached at next month's United Nations global warming summit in Copenhagen provisional target but could still be rejected on Capitol Hill.
Mr Brown warned world leaders yesterday that they "cannot afford to fail" to strike a substantial deal on climate change in Copenhagen next month.
The Prime Minister said the summit had to mark a "decisive global shift" towards tackling the problem. The comments came in a letter to Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, formally confirming that he will attend the event in person.
Mr Brown urged other leaders to follow his example, insisting their presence sent an "important signal".
More than 60 world leaders will attend the Copenhagen conference, elevating it to the level of a major summit and improving its prospects of success.
The Danish government, which is chairing the meeting, revealed yesterday that over the last week 65 heads of Government have told it that they will attend. Many more are expected to add their names.
Those accepting included Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, President Luiz Inacio da Silva of Brazil, Prime Minister Yukio Hatayama of Japan and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia.
The Danes only formally decided to invite leaders to attend a week ago, and have been taken by surprise by the rush of acceptances. But Mr Obama, President Hu Jintao of China and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India have yet to take up the invitation.
The participation of so many leaders greatly increases the likelihood that the summit will end in a substantive agreement . While a full-blown treaty won't emerge – the cumbersome UN negotiations have moved too slowly over the last year to formulate a legal text – but hopes are rising that there will be a "political agreement" that will lead to legal document being signed within six months.

Nissan Considers Building Electric-Car Plant in Guangzhou, China

Japanese Company Considers Opening Factory in Southern China to Build All-Electric Vehicles
GUANGZHOU, China - Nissan Motor Co. said it will weigh plans to make all-electric cars in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, as the Japanese auto maker steps up its electric-vehicle activity in China's fast-growing car market.
A senior Nissan executive disclosed the possible factory plans Sunday at a ceremony in which Nissan and its Chinese joint-venture partner Dongfeng Motor Co. signed an agreement with the Guangzhou government to set up an electric-car program -- part of Nissan's global effort to help accelerate use of all-electric cars.
Under that agreement, Nissan's second with a Chinese city, the Japanese company will work with the city government to study ways to promote "zero-emission" cars like the Leaf, which Nissan plans to start test-marketing in the U.S. and Japan late next year and in China in 2011.
As part of the program, Nissan plans to look into the economic rationale for producing Leaf cars in Guangzhou and to "determine the next step," Nissan Executive Vice President Hiroto Saikawa said in a speech at the ceremony. He didn't provide details.
While the plans are still preliminary, they are the first sign that Nissan is considering electric-vehicle production in China, which this year surpassed the U.S. as the world's biggest car market by unit sales. Nissan already has announced plans to begin production of the Leaf in Japan next year, and in the U.S. and Europe by March 2013.
Nissan and its biggest shareholder, France's Renault SA, have been signing agreements with municipal and national governments in several countries to promote electric vehicles, with more than 30 such deals world-wide. The Japanese company increasingly is staking its future on cars that run solely on batteries instead of the hybrid vehicles that many rivals are focusing on.
Nissan's agreement with Guangzhou, a major industrial city in southern China with a population of about 10 million, follows a similar accord it signed in April with the city of Wuhan in central China. In these "zero-emission" programs, Nissan is expected to provide Leaf electric cars to government agencies and help develop a network of battery-charging stations, among other moves.
"Based on our agreement with Nissan today, we're going to try to help electric-vehicle technology go mainstream and help Nissan mass-produce electric cars," Guangzhou Mayor Zhang Guangning said Sunday.
Wuhan is among 13 cities the Chinese government chose earlier this year for a pilot program to boost use of new-energy vehicles. Those cities, which don't include Guangzhou, are supposed to provide subsidies for purchases of all-electric battery cars, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen-fuel-cell cars. They are expected to collectively put 60,000 new-energy vehicles in service in four years.
Write to Norihiko Shirouzu at

Waste project gets go-ahead

Published Date: 23 November 2009
SOUTH Lanarkshire Council has given the go-ahead for a £22.5 million project to process waste and produce electricity.
Proactive Energy said that its M74 "eco-park" development will be capable of producing five megawatts of electricity, enough to power 2,800 homes.Liquid manure, crops and other organic waste will be fed into a fermenter, inside which it will undergo "anaerobic digestion" to produce bio-gas and byproducts that can be turned into fertiliser.The bio-gas will be used to generate electricity, which will be fed into the national grid.Heat from the process will be supplied to other commercial and industrial occupiers on the surrounding business park.Councillor Graham Scott, chairman of South Lanarkshire Council's planning committee, said: "This is an exciting plan, and one of the most unique we have seen at this committee. "As an alternative to landfill, it is in itself to be welcomed, but the developer's commitment to recycling and re-use across the facility is genuinely admirable."

Alas, it’s the end of the road for petrolheads

Modern cars are complex and boring. Gone are the days of tinkering under the bonnet or lusting, like Toad, after a ‘motor’
Carl Mortished

Poor Toad would howl in despair if he knew what the world was doing to his precious motor car. You will recall how the bumptious Toad of The Wind in the Willows, was spell-bound by the sight and sound of a “magnificent motor-car, immense, breath-snatching, passionate”.
Kenneth Grahame’s description is a glorious hymn to the dying spirit of the petrolhead. Sadly, many of these creatures will soon be like Toad, squat in the dust of the road, wailing “Poop poop!” at convoys of hybrid, homogenised utility people carriers.
If the true motor enthusiast still exists, outside vintage car clubs, he should be worried because the car manufacturers would kill him off. It’s not murder, or killing by neglect but the gradual extinction of a creature that thrived in the latter half of the 20th century.
Car sales are in decline — they peaked in Britain in 2003 at 2.6 million registrations but this year only 1.8 million are expected to be sold. The recession has put a scythe to the automotive market but it was already in steady decline, shrinking by a fifth from 2003 to 2008. Bribes to trade in old bangers won’t lift those numbers much but there are more profound reasons to believe that we may never return to the peak of personal motor purchases.
People are bored by cars. The throb of a six-cylinder petrol engine is no longer sex-fuelled thunder but an irritating noise. The motor industry is losing the younger generation. Kids don’t obsess about cars; they don’t cover their walls with pictures of motors and argue the toss in the playground about the merits of a Ford over a Volkswagen. They don’t (as I did) disassemble an old scooter in the garage in a futile effort to make it go faster. The TV programme Top Gear thrives because kids love the stunts, the laddish jokes and crashing cars but not even the flop of Richard Hammond’s locks can hide the expanding bald patch — the petrolhead is getting older.
Cars, even non-hybrids, are too complex, too computerised and too reliable to be interesting. When did you last look under the bonnet? Their workings are too difficult to interest the amateur mechanic, let alone a child. Fun mechanical objects are bicycles and skateboards. This new generation sees the family car as being as exciting as a fridge.
Detroit, once car capital of the world, used to know how to deal with consumer boredom but the public disengagement with the family car is now fundamental. Peugeot-Citroën has begun the process of shifting its business model into new territory. In big cities across Europe next year, the French company’s dealers will rent, by the day, cars or scooters or bicycles.
Exit the snappy-suited car dealer; enter the uniformed car rental clerk. The company that built famous cars, the low-slung Traction Avant, the modest 2CV and the extraordinary, hydraulic DS that conveyed Charles de Gaulle is about to become a utility transport provider. We could blame climate change for queering the car lover’s world but the low-carbon diktats of governments are simply accelerating a process that was already in train.
The electric vehicle will propel motor companies down even more sinister paths to perdition. Petrol is easy to store, you can carry lots of mileage in a jerrycan. Electricity is different, it forms part of a network that is integrated, a closed system that must be balanced.
When motoring went mass-market in the 1950s and 1960s, it was hailed as a liberation to the middle classes. Car-owners were free people who hit the open road, occasionally pausing briefly to fill up cheaply at a garage.
The electric vehicle owner’s world is more complex. You will not just plug in your car and pay the bill. Refuelling cheaply will be a matter of hours, not minutes. According to National Grid, the burden of a million electric cars would impose intolerable burdens on the electricity systems. Therefore intelligent meters will need to be installed in every electric vehicle- owning household to ensure that charging is done at the optimum period. Your car battery will become part of a vast network of stored electricity that the grid will use in peak demand periods.
In the new zero-carbon world you are not a free-wheeling consumer, cruising into a garage to buy a tenner’s worth of petrol and then riding hell for leather up the M1. You are part of a system; your engine is not your own but a cog in a vast electricity machine. Your car will be part of the nation’s energy matrix and your energy consumption will be monitored to make efficient use of its storage capability.
It is hardly surprising that Peugeot-Citroën is thinking about new business models. Who would want to own a car in this world of systems and network balance. The family car is transformed from Dad’s glittering prize to Mum’s domestic appliance and then to its ignominious end as nobody’s integrated transport unit. It’s enough to make you want sit down like Toad in the dust of the road and howl.
Carl Mortished is world business editor