Wednesday, 25 November 2009

China calls for 'serious soul-searching' on climate

Jane Macartney in Beijing

China laid out its stall with just days to go before climate change talks in Copenhagen, saying it was time for some serious soul-searching by developed nations and stressing it would not be pushed around.
In an exclusive interview with The Times, China’s special representative to the talks, Ambassador Yu Qingtai, said the major responsibility for reaching a deal lay with world’s developed countries.
China was not ready to give ground on climate issues, Mr Yu intimated, in the absence of firm commitments from developed countries to goals long ago agreed in earlier climate change conferences, from Kyoto to Bali.
China is the world’s third largest economic power and its largest carbon polluter.

He said: “There are nice statements, public announcements by governments and leaders of the developed countries. But if you look at the actions they have been taking, we believe there is a lot of ground to make up. In general, what we wish to see is that the developed countries match their words with their actions.”
Together, the United States and China account for some 40 percent of total carbon emissions.
Beijing has set a target of cutting energy consumption per unit of GDP (gross domestic product) by 20 percent in the five years to 2010. It may reach that by the skin of its teeth.
Another goal China is trying to reach is to increase the ratio of renewable energy, from seven percent to 10 percent of its total generating output by the end of the decade.
Beijing is also aiming to ensure renewable energy makes up 15 percent of its total by 2020, while President Hu Jintao in September pledged to introduce a carbon intensity target, essentially a pledge to reduce the amount of carbon emitted per unit of increased economic output.
That figure has yet to be made public. Mr Yu said researchers were still busily trying to work out a practicable goal, and refused to be drawn on rumours that a number could be made public in Copenhagen.
Mr Yu underscored China’s commitment to accelerate the introduction of cleaner energies in a country that relies on coal for some 70 percent of its electricity needs.
“In the future, China’s overall effort to fight climate change will only be stronger, not weaker.”
The ambassador said China would not be hostage to international demands but was coy on speculation that he may yet bring a surprise offer to the table in Copenhagen, particularly the possibility of raising its goal on renewable energy.

Plant forests across Britain to beat climate change, say scientists

Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

The creation of new forests and woodlands across the country will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent and protect communities at risk of flooding, according to a scientific study for the Forestry Commission.
Planting trees in 23,000 hectares a year for the next 40 years — about the size of Queen’s Balmoral estate, or a town the size of Kettering, Northamptonshire — would result in just an extra 4 per cent of land for trees, bringing a total of 16 per cent forest in Britain.
In flood plains and upland areas such as Cumbria, where extreme rainfall and flooding is already a reality, there is a need for new forestry to capture rainfall and lessen the flood risk. Trees in city and town centres would help to mitigate expected higher temperatures, while new woods along rivers will provide shade and help to protect aquatic eco-systems.
Professor Sir David Read, chairman of the study, told The Times that one of the crucial findings of the report was the importance of woods in river catchment areas. “Trees intercept rainfall and retain water, and one of the problems we are seeing now in the Lake District is [that] there is nothing to stop the water running off the hills,” he said. “We must look again at the contribution of forestry in the uplands and returning them in the direction they once were before we deforested them.”

The professor, one of Britain’s leading plant scientists, accepted that new forests would be controversial in some areas and that it was important for communities to have their say in how areas embrace the challenges of climate change. “What we need is an integrated examination of land use across the UK so that a consensus can be reached on how we tackle our changed circumstances,” he said.
In order to achieve this sylvan future, however, the professor said that Britain must accept the introduction of non-native species to replace native trees. Iconic species such as the English oak and the beech could be destroyed by higher temperatures in the South of England and the Sitka spruce, the most commercial tree in Britain, is likely to be confined to the North and North West.
He said: “We have to think now what is going to replace them. It is possible that Pyrenean, downy or white oak will do better in future conditions, but we urgently need the trials now to test these species. We have got to find out now which species will be best for the environment. We can’t wait until 2050. We can’t be squeamish, as we have been in the past, about replacing native species with non-native species, though of course there would need to be proper safeguards and we would have to assess the potential for invasiveness.”
He suggested that the Sitka spruce grown in Britain, predominantly in Scotland, were from seeds from British Columbia, but that it would be prudent now to try strains that currently grow in the warmer climate of southern Oregon. His scenario envisages many new woodlands for the South of England that would not only capture carbon emissions but that would also be used as an energy crop to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
These woods would comprise willow and poplar, and more mixed deciduous forests of sycamore, ash and birch. The Scottish landscape would continue to be dominated by conifers, he suggested, while in Wales there would be a mixture of new broadleaf and conifer plantations.
Future rainfall patterns forecast most extreme weather on the west coast of Scotland, in the North West of England and the west coast of Wales, and therefore he believed that these areas should be considered a priority for new forests.
The assessment, thought to be the first national study of this kind in the world, is intended to trigger a new debate between the Government and landowners over future land use.
Professor Read said: “By increasing our tree cover we can lock up carbon directly. By using more wood for fuel and construction materials we can make savings by using less gas, oil and coal, and by substituting sustainably produced timber for less climate-friendly materials.
“While so many emission-reduction measures have negative connotations, tree planting can be a win, win, win solution: people love trees, we benefit from them in so many different ways, and now we know they could play a significant part in reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions.”
Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, said that the Government intended to work with communities and businesses to ensure that sufficient trees were planted to tackle climate change. He pledged to do more to increase forestry. “Forests and trees are an important part of the way we live and interact with our surroundings, and we cannot underestimate the role that trees will play in reducing our carbon emissions,” he said.
Many traditional forests have been restored. A century ago there was just over 5 per cent woodland, while today it is 12 per cent. Estimates for the maximum cover since the last Ice Age suggest Britain was once 80 per cent forest.

Climate scientist at centre of leaked email row dismisses conspiracy claims

Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia denies emails provide evidence of collusion by climatologists to fix data

Leo Hickman and agencies, Tuesday 24 November 2009 17.55 GMT
The climatologist at the centre of the leaked emails row said today that he "absolutely" stands by his research and that any suggestion that the emails provide evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate or hide data that do not support the theory of man-made climate change was "complete rubbish".
Professor Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, said that the past week had "the worst few days of my professional life". He added that since the emails were leaked he had received personal threats which have now been passed on to the police to investigate.
In his first full interview since last week's theft, which saw hundreds of emails and documents exchanged between some of the leading climatologists over the past 13 years stolen from the university's servers, Jones defended himself against accusations by climate sceptics that the emails provide evidence of collusion by climatologists to fix data.
"That the world is warming is based on a range of sources: not only temperature records but other indicators such as sea level rise, glacier retreat and less Arctic sea ice," he said. "Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for Nasa and the National Climate Data Centre in the United States, among others. Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them."
Jones accepted, though, that the contents of some of the emails were cause for embarrassment: "Some of the emails probably had poorly chosen words and were sent in the heat of the moment, when I was frustrated. I do regret sending some of them. We've not deleted any emails or data here at CRU. I would never manipulate the data one bit - I would categorically deny that."
He confirmed that all of the leaked emails that had provoked heated debate – including the now infamous email from 1999 in which he discussed a "trick" to "hide the decline" in global temperatures - appeared to be genuine.
"The use of the term 'hiding the decline' was in an email written in haste," he said. "CRU has not sought to hide the decline." (The University of East Anglia has now posted a detailed explanation of why this phrase was used on its website)
Jones said the timing of the theft suggested it was intended to cause maximum embarrassment ahead of the Copenhagen climate talks next month: "One has to wonder if it is a coincidence that this email correspondence has been stolen and published at this time. This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks."
But he stressed that he has never wished to get drawn into the political debate about climate change, saying: "I'm a very apolitical person, I don't want to get involved in the politics, I'm much happier doing the science and producing the papers. I'm a scientist, I let my science do the talking, along with all my scientific climate colleagues. It's up to governments to decide and climate science is just one thing they have to take into account with the decisions they have to make."
He added that he had long been under pressure from climate sceptics to further explain his research: "From about 2001/2002 I was getting emails from a number of people involved in the climate sceptic community. Initially at the beginning I did try to respond to them in the hope I might convince them but I soon realised it was a forlorn hope and broke off communication. Some of the emails I sent them subsequently appeared and were discussed on various sceptic websites."
Trevor Davies, the University of East Anglia's pro-vice-chancellor with responsibility for research, rejected calls – including from the Guardian commentator George Monbiot – for Jones to resign: "We see no reason for Professor Jones to resign and, indeed, we would not accept his resignation. He is a valued and important scientist."
Davies said the university had now decided to conduct an independent review which will "address the issue of data security, an assessment of how we responded to a deluge of Freedom of Information requests, and any other relevant issues which the independent reviewer advises should be addressed".
Yesterday, prominent members of both sides of the climate change debate, including the climate change sceptic Lord Lawson, had called for an independent review. Lawson said he believed this should be carried out by the Natural Environment Research Council, a government science funding body.
But a spokesperson for Nerc said it was not a matter for them. "Nerc believes this is a matter for the University of East Anglia - their Climatic Research Unit is not a Nerc unit - so it is for them to decide if they call for an enquiry and if so who should conduct it. Should there be an enquiry we would of course be happy to contribute, if asked."
A spokesperson for the journal Nature said, "In line with our standard policy, if clear evidence were to arise that anything we've published is in question then we'll look into any action that may need to be taken."

US and India pledge common action on climate change

Hopes of a strong deal at Copenhagen summit renewed as Obama and Singh commit to 'significant mitigation actions'
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent and Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, Tuesday 24 November 2009 19.57 GMT
America and India today pledged common action to fight climate change and to build a new global clean energy economy, claiming the new "green partnership" between two of the world's biggest emitters would help produce a strong political deal at next month's summit in Copenhagen.
Barack Obama and visiting Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, both committed to "significant mitigation actions", ie reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
With today's understanding, three of the world's top emitters, China, America and India are now committed to action on emissions at Copenhagen, though they have yet to reveal the actual targets. But it does significantly boost the prospect that world leaders could commit to strong action at the UN summit, despite the rancourous atmosphere among their official negotiating teams at the last set of meetings in Barcelona this month.
"It takes us one step closer to a successful outcome in Copenhagen." Obama said. Today's pledge from Singh comes a day after the White House said Obama would commit to cutting emissions before the Copenhagen meeting gets underway. China's Hu Jintao committed to reducing the future growth rate of emissions during Obama's visit to Beijing a week ago.
India's new commitment is to take what the White House described today as "vigorous action to combat climate change" in return for assistance from industrialised countries for its shift from coal to cleaner energy sources. Singh made it clear there would be a price for India's cooperation. "We will do more if there is global support in terms of financial resources and technology transfer," he told the Council of Foreign Relations yesterday.
Some of that support came through today, with the announcement of a joint research centre, with US and Indian government funds, to help speed the development of more energy efficient technologies, as well as carbon capture and storage. It is thought the US government will contribute $100m a year to the centre over the next five years.
"India was a latecomer to industrialisation and as such we have contributed very little to the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions that caused global warming, but we are determined to be part of the solution," Singh said.
Although India has resisted international pressure to commit to legally binding emissions targets in negotiations, the country has over the last year embarked on a series of new greener measures.
India's cabinet this week approved a plan to triple solar capacity to 20 gigawatts by 2022, and to give more incentives to the development of solar power.
The two countries directed their national labs to work together on expanding solar and wind energy potential. US officials have also been working with India to set up a local version of the Environmental Protection Agency, which could regulate industry and help assure supply of clean water and air.
In recent weeks, Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea have all slapped down hard figures on the negotiating table. A specific target from China is expected soon and, under one scenario, China reveal it at a summit with the European Union on 30 November in Nanjing.
That would pave the way for Obama to announce the US targets soon after. But creating this domino effect requires a strong enough commitment by Beijing to convince wavering US senators that China was moving significantly beyond business as usual.
But several recent reports and recommendations on China's likely ambition have generated fears that the carbon target will actually mark a step back from its existing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, once more placing the talks in jeopardy.
"Some of the numbers being bandied around seem worryingly low given China's weight of economic growth. But we remain confident that China will ultimately offer us an emissions reduction target that represents a significant reduction from business as usual," said a European diplomat.
The closest the government in Beijing has come to announcing a goal was at the UN summit in September, when president Hu Jintao's promised to reduce the carbon intensity of China's economy by a "notable margin" between 2005 and 2020. But recent reports have suggested that China is considering a reduction in carbon intensity - emissions relative to economic growth - in the lower end of the range 40-50% in the period of 2005-2020.

Dispelling myths about India and climate change

Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh need to overcome the mistrust that has characterised recent US-India relations on climate change and energy.
From the World Resources Institute, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Tuesday 24 November 2009 13.53 GMT

Today, President Obama will host the first state visit of his presidency, rolling out the red carpet for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. Climate change will be high on the agenda for the leaders of the world's two biggest democracies. And the timing is auspicious, coming only two weeks before the start of the high stakes global climate summit in Copenhagen.
With some trying to dampen expectations that the world will seal a new climate agreement in the Danish capital, a US-India breakthrough on action to reduce greenhouse gases could provide the negotiations with much needed impetus.
But for this to happen, the two leaders need to overcome the mistrust that has characterized recent US-India relations on climate change and energy.
For Americans, this requires dispelling three damaging myths.
The first myth lumps India in with China as a global economic player and US competitor which does not need industrialized country support to switch to a low carbon economy. In fact, while India is not Chad, neither is it China. Within its borders, mostly in small villages, live a third of the world's poor. Some three hundred million Indians – more than the entire population of the United States - survive on less than a dollar a day. Four hundred million lack electricity. They are seeking to switch lights on, not turn them off. While a few rich Indians now boast the same carbon footprint as the average American, India's slum dwellers still vastly outnumber its middle class.
The second myth casts India as the rogue of the UN negotiations, refusing to curb its spiraling greenhouse gas emissions without rich country handouts. In fact, while India talks tough, its actions speak otherwise.
In recent years, New Delhi has deployed wind power incentives and high industrial energy prices to foster an impressive nationwide shift to clean technologies. Almost a tenth of India's installed electricity capacity now flows from renewable sources, according to India's Prayas Energy Group, compared with a paltry 3.8% for the United States. Not content with seeding a renewables revolution, India's government has implemented strong energy efficiency standards for new appliances and buildings and launched an efficiency-based "cap-and-trade" scheme involving 700 large industrial companies. Huge subsidies for solar technologies are also in the pipeline. What's more, India has made this investment in a low carbon economy despite using less energy than either the US or China to produce each dollar of GDP.
The third myth is that India is looking for massive cash handouts. In fact, it seeks assistance primarily in the form of a technology partnership and strategic climate and energy relationship with the United States, one which aligns with America's own interests.
Technology partnerships with US federal agencies and companies are a priority for India's leaders because they would help drive down the costs of clean technology and increase Indian capacity to respond effectively and sustainably to booming domestic energy demand. On the world stage, a high profile climate and energy relationship with the United States would also help India's quest to establish itself as a leading economic and diplomatic player. In addition, and understandably, India seeks some financial support in adapting to destructive climate impacts already underway.
What would the United States gain from such a partnership? Access to India's growing market for clean energy technologies, and the American jobs that such demand would generate; leverage to persuade India to embrace more aggressive actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to subject these actions to international verification; and improvements in U.S.-India relations that would benefit not just the two nations but the global community and its shared climate.
The United States, by aiding India, would also be keeping faith with the terms of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which it signed. This requires developed countries to pay the "full incremental costs" for developing countries to implement emission reduction measures.
Building trust, and overcoming the damaging mud-slinging between Washington and New Delhi on who is the more recalcitrant on climate change, will take time.
But that time must be invested. President Obama and Prime Minister Singh can take a first important step this month, by announcing a high level partnership to develop new and affordable renewable energy technologies and promote energy efficiencies. Responding to climate change is a major test for humanity's ability to undertake swift and effective multilateral action. The world's two largest democratic nations need to lead the way, now, in solving this global challenge.
Manish Bapna joined WRI as its executive vice president and managing director in June 2007. His interests and expertise are in international development with a particular focus on rural poverty and natural resources.

Big brands lagging on climate action, survey says

Study of 600 brands finds two-thirds are either increasing emissions, have weak targets on cuts or do not publish data

Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 25 November 2009
Consumer expectations that favourite brands are actively tackling climate change will be challenged tomorrow by a report showing that some of Britain's top corporate names, including Barclays, Amazon and Sky, are lagging behind their competitors and failing to respond to the lead set by the government.
A survey of the carbon performance of 600 of the UK's biggest brands reveals that two-thirds are either increasing their greenhouse gas emissions, have targets that are weaker than the government's Copenhagen goal for carbon cuts, or are failing to put information about their carbon emissions in the public domain.
To tackle global warming the government has set a national target for 2020 of a cut of 34% on the 1990 emission levels.
The companies offered their own information for the survey, entitled Brand Emissions, and the data revealed that only one in five brands was demonstrating a reduction in emissions and had ambitious targets in line with the UK's aims.
The "leaders" emerging from the research included the supermarket giant Tesco, the phone company T-Mobile, the computer company Dell and the car manufacturer BMW.
At the other end of the scale, and for 250 brands, researchers found no carbon emissions information at all reported; this group included Google, McKinsey and Amazon. There were no public emission reduction targets for 320 brands, including Porsche, Harvey Nichols and McDonald's. Around 122 of the brands that did report their carbon output were seen to have increased their emissions in 2008. This group included Barclays, Sky and eBay.
The project, launched tomorrow,was developed by Marketing magazine and Brand Republic, with ENDS Carbon, a specialist carbon ratings agency, and the University of Edinburgh business school. The aim is to give an annual rating of leading UK brands.
Craig Mackenzie, research director of the Brand Emissions project, said: "The 100 or so leading brands show just how much can be done if you set your mind to it. But to keep global temperatures within the 2°C safe zone we need all brands to demonstrate the same level of ambition and achievement."
Rachael Stilwell, publishing director of Marketing magazine, said: "These results will become an important reputational milestone for brands."
Some of the companies that had a poor rating said revealing information could have been beneficial to their competitors. A spokesperson for Google, which claims to have been carbon neutral since 2007, said: "We have taken concrete steps to improve the efficiency of our computing infrastructure and reduce the energy used by our facilities.
Friends of the Earth's Mike Childs said: "The government must ensure that businesses cut their carbon emissions through well-targeted regulation, taxation and financial support."
Best brands
Tesco, T-Mobile, Dell, BMW, Eurotunnel, Accenture, Standard Chartered, Ericsson, KPMG, AMD
Worst brands
Barclays, Sky, correcteBay, Toyota, RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland), Travis Perkins, Bosch, Axa, British Gas
No information or targets
Google, McKinsey, Amazon, Porsche, Harvey Nichols, McDonald's, Amazon, Burger King, Chanel, Facebook
Brands that increased their emissions last year and have not published a target to reduce them
Acer, Juniper Networks, Billabong International, Finnair, Premier Inn, Costa, Gossard, Aegon, Unisys, TNT
Source: Brand Emissions

Australian Opposition Backs Carbon Caps

CANBERRA -- Australia's opposition leader said he will rally support to pass a government plan to cap the country's greenhouse-gas emissions after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd agreed to key compromises aimed at placating critics of the effort.
If Australia's Parliament passes the carbon plan into law -- which now appears likely -- in a vote scheduled this week, Mr. Rudd will have achieved a significant political victory as other nations struggle to contain carbon emissions world-wide.

A similar plan has moved slowly in the U.S. Senate, and talks between world leaders to carve out a new global pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen next month appear unlikely to yield a binding deal.
Australia is the biggest per-capita polluter in the developed world because it uses fossil fuels, chiefly coal, for around 90% of its electricity generation. Like the U.S., it is a heavily industrialized economy that has previously resisted capping emissions for fear it could crimp economic growth.
Australia accounts for only about 1.5% of global emissions, so any such program would be largely symbolic in terms of the broader global picture. But it would put further pressure on countries such as the U.S. to accelerate their plans to approve carbon-reduction schemes. One of Mr. Rudd's first acts in office in 2007 was to add Australia to the signatories of the Kyoto Protocol, isolating the U.S. as the only major developed economy not bound by mandatory caps.
Following weeks of discussions between the government and opposition Liberal-National coalition negotiators, Mr. Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong offered seven billion Australian dollars (US$6.48 billion) in compensation, including loan guarantees and other assistance for coal miners, electricity generators, liquefied natural-gas projects and others. They also offered to permanently exclude agriculture from the program.

Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull said the government made the offers on the condition that its carbon program would pass this year. The opposition leader said the plan is "good for the environment, it is good for farmers, and it offers us one of the best near-term opportunities for carbon-dioxide abatement."
The plan still faces some opposition, including from mining companies and some environmentalists who believe the latest compromises weaken the plan. But Mr. Turnbull's support increases the odds a plan will be approved. Although the governing Labor Party won a majority in Australia's lower house of representatives at the last election, it needs the support of at least seven opposition senators in the country's upper house to pass any new laws -- a number Mr. Turnbull is expected to deliver.
If passed, the government plan will see Australia introduce in July 2011 a market-based carbon-trading program similar to one operating in Europe since 2005, forcing the nation's biggest polluters to pay for their greenhouse-gas emissions. The aim, by 2020, is to reduce Australia's emissions by at least 5% from levels at the turn of the century.
Environment groups and industry were united in their skepticism toward Tuesday's deal. Sen. Bob Brown, whose environmentalist Greens Party holds five seats in the upper house Senate, described it as a "black day for the environment," adding that Mr. Rudd has "caved in to the big polluters" at the expense of households. The Greens are expected to vote against the plan.
Meanwhile, the coal industry continued to hold out for a better deal. Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche said the latest compensation package for coal -- which saw government support doubled to A$1.5 billion over five years, mainly in the form of free permits for carbon emissions -- represents less than 10% of the A$14.5 billion cost the coal industry faces over the next decade if the carbon program is established. Concessions to miners also is a large part of the U.S. debate.
"Every ton of coal not produced in Australia as a result of this tax will simply be produced by our competitors, who are not being penalized in the same way by their governments," Mr. Roche said.
Opposition lawmakers rejected an earlier version of the legislation in August. Key changes since then include making 75% more free permits for carbon emissions available to electricity generators, and extending the compensation period for the sector to 10 years from five years in a package now valued at A$7.3 billion, up from around A$3.9 billion.
Write to Rachel Pannett at

Norway launches osmotic power

Published Date: 25 November 2009
By Wojciech Moskwa
NORWAY has opened the world's first osmotic power plant, which produces emissions-free electricity by mixing fresh water and sea water through a special membrane.
State-owned utility Statkraft's prototype plant, which for now will produce a tiny 2-4 kilowatts of power or enough to run a coffee machine, will test and develop osmotic technology.The plant is driven by osmosis that naturally draws fresh water across a membrane and towards the seawater side. This creates higher pressure on the sea water side, driving a turbine and producing electricity."We believe osmotic power will be an interesting part of the renewable energy mix of the future," Statkraft Chief Executive Baard Mikkelsen said.Statkraft, Europe's largest producer of renewable energy with experience in hydropower that provides nearly all of Norway's electricity, aims to begin building commercial osmotic power plants by 2015.The main issue is to improve the efficiency of the membrane from around 1 watt per square metre now to some 5 watts, which Statkraft says would make osmotic power costs comparable to those from other renewable sources.Future full-scale plants producing 25 MW of electricity, enough to provide power for 30,000 European households, would be as large as a football stadium, Statkraft said

George Osborne waves carrots not sticks in pitch for green mantle

Ben Webster

Being the greenest party is unlikely to be a decisive factor in next year’s general election but that did not stop the Conservatives yesterday making a pitch for the mantle.
George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, made a series of environmental commitments that had two things in common: they will not cost the taxpayer a penny to implement, nor will they force individuals to change their behaviour.
The theme of his speech was that carrots were better than sticks when it comes to getting people to embrace a low-carbon lifestyle. This neatly avoids anything that might be unpopular with voters.
Mr Osborne teased his audience by stating that “there is a role for green taxation” and claimed that rewarding people for recycling was an example of a “clever green tax”.

Yet in praising the reward scheme run by the Tory-controlled Windsor & Maidenhead Council, he neglected to mention that the rewards were paid for not from taxes but with in-kind donations of goods and services by local businesses.
Mr Osborne garnered positive headlines yesterday by suggesting that he would make all councils introduce such schemes. Yet the only specific commitment was simply to “give councils detailed information” so that they could decide for themselves whether they wanted to take part.
Mr Osborne’s other main commitment — to cut central government emissions by 10 per cent in 12 months — is also weaker than it sounds if one looks at the detail of the policy.
Individual departments will not have to cut emissions by 10 per cent. They will have to make a contribution to the overall 10 per cent target but the Conservatives are not yet saying how much effort each will have to make.
There is no new money to help departments to introduce any energy-saving measures, such as more efficient heating and better-insulated buildings.
The Conservatives made much of their pledge to cut the budgets of departments that failed to meet their emission reduction targets. It later became clear, however, that the laggards would not face any cut in their main budgets, only a trimming of their funding for energy bills.
Mr Osborne’s most promising green pledge was also the simplest: the Conservatives will expose energy guzzlers in Whitehall by requiring the real-time energy consumption of government buildings to be published online. “That way the public can hold ministers and civil servants to account for their performance.”
That was the nearest that his speech came to proposing any kind of stick to spur us to reach out for the carrots.

Waste is a potential resource, not a problem

A Conservative government would hand out incentives - not punishment - to encourage recycling and reduce waste

Nick Herbert, Tuesday 24 November 2009 17.30 GMT
The UK sends more waste to landfill than any other nation in Europe. We dump nearly 20m tonnes of rubbish in the ground. Germany, by comparison, sends less than 500,000 tonnes to landfill. We recycle or compost only one-third of our municipal waste, lower than the EU average. Austria manages nearly 60%.
Our addiction to landfill is immensely damaging for the environment, producing methane which is 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. It has also meant that we have failed to see waste as a potential resource for materials and energy. Processes like anaerobic digestion can produce green energy from food waste. - Germany has 2,500 such plants, while we have fewer than 30.
The Labour government has allowed Britain to lag behind in finding greener ways to dispose of waste, but the action it has taken has also been fundamentally misguided. Instead of helping families to go green, Labour has sought to bully people with bin taxes.
The Conservatives believe that instead of punishing the public, we should give people incentives to do the right thing. The RecycleBank scheme which we proposed today is a perfect example of this approach.
By paying people to recycle, the scheme has been extremely successful in the US, increasing recycling rates by up to 200% in 500 cities and communities across the country. The initiative, which is funded by savings in landfill tax, has recently been trialled by the Conservative controlled Windsor and Maidenhead council, with people receiving rewards such as M&S vouchers. The results have been equally impressive: recycling rates have already risen by 30% and the average household is on course to receive £130 in vouchers.
I visited the borough earlier this year during the trial and saw firsthand just how effective this can be in helping families go green. The energy secretary, Ed Miliband, foolishly dismissed our proposals out of hand. Perhaps he should visit Labour-controlled Halton council in Cheshire which is now trialling RecycleBank too.
By setting a floor under the 2013 level of landfill tax up to 2020 – which guarantees that the landfill tax will not fall in real terms for 10 years – we are sending a strong message to companies and councils that innovative approaches like RecycleBank, and alternative forms of waste disposal, can be developed with confidence.
We should be ashamed that we still lag behind our peer group nations when it comes to going green.It is time for a new approach that encourages the public to do the right thing, regards waste not as a problem but as a potential resource, and drives forward towards the goal of a zero waste society.
• Nick Herbert is the shadow environment secretary