Friday, 27 November 2009

China, U.S. Square Off on Climate Proposals

The world's top two greenhouse-gas-producing countries for the first time offered specific targets for controlling their emissions, but their broad promises ahead of a United Nations climate summit merely set the terms for a high-stakes struggle over money and future economic growth.
China kicked off the latest round of global climate poker Thursday when it announced the country would aim to cut its "carbon intensity" -- or the amount of greenhouse gas it emits per unit of gross domestic product -- by 40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2020. The plan is fundamentally different from those offered by the U.S. and the European Union in that it doesn't pledge to reduce emissions, but rather to slow the rate at which emissions grow.
The move came a day after President Barack Obama announced he would travel to the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen on Dec. 9 to deliver a pledge that the U.S. will cut greenhouse-gas emissions 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050.
Left unanswered were a host of questions, most notably how both nations will achieve their cuts at a time when industries across the world are reeling from the recession and in no mood to sacrifice further economic growth in the name of the environment.
The proposals by the U.S. and China -- which together account for 40% of the world's total emissions -- don't address one of the most contentious issues in the climate-change debate: Which countries and industries in the West will pay, and how much they'll pay, to help finance a clean-energy revolution in the developing world, home to many of their toughest competitors.
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China and other developing countries say they want the U.S. and other industrialized nations to pay 1% of their yearly gross domestic products to help the developing world finance emissions reductions.
China notes that the U.S. and Europe developed in an era without constraints on greenhouse-gas emissions, which are produced when fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are burned. Per capita incomes in China are less than a tenth of those in the U.S., despite the dramatic surge in wealth in the country's coastal cities.
If the rest of the world wants China to shift its economy toward a cleaner path, China says, the rest of the world is going to have to help China pay for that transformation. India and other developing countries make a similar argument.
U.S. officials have said they expect to offer some financial assistance to developing countries, but have not specified how much. U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern has said the request for 1% of GDP, which would translate to more than $140 billion for the U.S. alone, is "untethered from reality."
Many U.S. lawmakers and leaders of major U.S. industries are concerned that if the U.S. agrees to hard caps on emissions, and China agrees to become more energy efficient without a cap on growth, U.S. industries will be saddled with higher costs and become less competitive.

The National Association of Manufacturers said Thursday in a statement that it wants additional details on the Obama administration's pledge: "As we evaluate this proposal, we will do so with an eye toward its impact on American jobs, our economic recovery and long-term growth."
Beneath the green rhetoric, the actual promises from the U.S. and China don't appear to go far beyond near-term environmental improvements that the two economies already are on track to achieve, several analysts said. The recession has crimped industrial activity, and both countries have been improving their energy efficiency, because that cuts energy costs.
Enthusiasm for tough climate action has also waned in the U.S. as the economy has soured. The U.S. House passed a climate bill with limits similar to those Mr. Obama will propose in Copenhagen. But the Senate has put off action until spring.
The White House said Thursday that it welcomes "China's intention to cut the growth of their emissions," adding that the "international community will be closely analyzing this proposal."
Neither the Chinese nor the U.S. proposals may satisfy the EU, which has been well ahead of the U.S. in pledging cuts. The bloc's 27 nations have agreed to lower greenhouse-gas emissions 20% below their 1990 levels by 2020, or the equivalent of a 14% cut from 2005 levels. They have also agreed to a larger reduction, equivalent to a 24% cut from 2005 levels by 2020, if other nations outside the bloc make substantial cuts.
Some European leaders suggested that both the U.S. and Chinese pledges were insufficient. Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's climate and energy minister, said leaders "must analyze more carefully" how significant China's pledge is. As for the U.S., said Ms. Hedegaard, the bulk of the promised cleanup appears likely to come many years out.
Both the general idea of capping U.S. emissions and the details of how that cap might be structured remain hugely contentious in the U.S., pitting different regions of the country, and different industries, against each other.
The White House said its target reductions are conditional on Congressional approval. But that wasn't enough for some lawmakers. Sen. James Webb (D., Va.) sent a letter Wednesday to the White House expressing "concern" that U.S. officials "may be intending to commit" the U.S. to an emissions cap at the Copenhagen conference before Congress agrees to anything. Sen. Webb is one of several Democrats from states with significant coal-mining or heavy-industry interests who have expressed opposition to the climate proposals backed by Democrats from coastal states.
Xie Zhenhua, China's top climate envoy, said his country now expects "real action" by the West before the Copenhagen conference on funding and technical support to slow the growth in Chinese emissions. So far, he said, such support hasn't materialized.
China said the West also has failed to live up to its own emission-cutting promises so far. Europe imposed rules capping emissions from much of its industry in 2005, but to date its reductions haven't matched its promises, Chinese officials said.
Emissions through 2008 of the EU nations are down more than 10% since 1990, more than halfway to the target of a 20% cut by 2020.
The pledges by the U.S. and China followed a development in recent days that many analysts said could erode public support for expensive policies to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. Hacked emails from an influential U.K. climate-science lab suggest that researchers there tried to squelch scientific challenges to what has become scientific consensus: that human beings are largely responsible for climate change.
The emails were hacked from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. They suggest that many scientists around the world were concerned about the policy implications of a recent decline in average global temperatures. Although global temperatures remain among the hottest on record, they have declined since 2005, according to various measurements.
Opponents of significant curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions have pointed to the disclosed emails as reason to pause before implementing any broad policies.
—Charles Forelle, Stephen Power and Evan Perez contributed to this article.
Write to Jeffrey Ball at and Shai Oster at

Obama’s big climate journey: he has a mountain to climb and a gulf to bridge

Giles Whittell in Washington

President Obama has no official engagements for the Thanksgiving weekend but that does not mean that his Blackberry will be switched off. Behind the scenes he has a mountain to climb to sell his new climate change commitments to a sceptical American public.
For all the President’s aspirations to global leadership on climate change there remains a gulf between what the world expects and what he can deliver. That gulf has been exposed by starkly contrasting reactions at home and abroad to his pledge to cut US carbon emissions by 17 per cent relative to their 2005 levels in the next 11 years.
Mr Obama’s target is the first by a US administration in more than a decade, and the most realistic in the history of American involvement in UN-sponsored climate change talks. Yet it was “lower than we would like” and would prove “disappointing to some”, an EU spokesman said. On the conservative wing of the Republican Party, Senator James Inhofe, of Oklahoma, said that it was likely to prove unacceptable to Congress because “it will harm our economy and have virtually no effect on climate change”.
Between such views the White House finds itself in uncharted territory, balancing the risk of being seen to undermine the Copenhagen conference with that of losing congressional support for Mr Obama’s entire domestic agenda.

His announcement that he will travel to Copenhagen with a concrete carbon reduction proposal has already yielded an historic dividend: yesterday’s response from Beijing — an undertaking to cut Chinese carbon emissions per unit of GDP by at least 40 per cent by 2020 — marks the first time the world’s two biggest polluters have committed themselves to measurable carbon targets as part of UN climate change negotiations. It will also allow Mr Obama to argue that the US is not committing itself to a costly process that demands no sacrifices from developing economies.
China’s exemption, along with India and Brazil, from core requirements of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol led the US Senate to reject it by 95-0.
In Denmark on December 9 Mr Obama will hail an almost complete reversal of US policy on climate change since then. He will point to new US car mileage standards and the passage of a climate change Bill through the House of Representatives as evidence that his Administration has done more to curb greenhouse gas emissions in ten months than its predecessor did in eight years. He will also say that the target of a 17 per cent cut by 2020 should become legally binding in a Bill he hopes to sign next year.
That may be enough to mollify those heading for Copenhagen who have accused him this week of snubbing the conference by appearing at its start — when he happens to be in the neighbourhood collecting the Nobel Prize for Peace in Oslo — rather than at the leaders’ forum near the end of the conference. Whether Mr Obama can indeed turn his 17 per cent pledge into law is another matter.
Senator John Kerry, Mr Obama’s closest congressional ally on climate change and the author of a stalled Senate climate change Bill, has called the pledge “one hell of a game changer”. Crucially, the US coal and coal-fired power industries have also broadly endorsed the principle of carbon cap-and-trade, by which major polluters receive an allocation of permits to pollute that is lowered year-on-year to meet carbon targets but which rewards firms that move fastest to cleaner technologies by allowing them to sell surplus permits.
“A well-designed cap will provide a smooth transition to clean energy,” James Rogers of Duke Power, one of America’s largest coal-fired power producers, said when lending his support to the Waxman-Markey climate change Bill passed by the House of Representatives this summer.
American Electric Power, Duke’s biggest rival, also endorsed the Waxman-Markey Bill. The company has since started pumping liquefied carbon dioxide thousands of feet beneath its largest plant in West Virginia in a project that it hopes will prove the viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS), attracting sufficient federal subsidies to remove carbon from the smokestacks of the plants that still provide 40 per cent of America’s electricity.
The Waxman-Markey Bill set out roughly the same targets adopted by Mr Obama this week. His problem is that it cannot become law until it is merged with a comparable Senate Bill, and the 60 votes needed to pass one are still little more than a White House dream.
Senator John McCain, in the past a staunch campaigner for climate change legislation, is now withholding his support for a new Bill being drafted by Senators Kerry and Lindsey Graham, demanding sweeping guarantees for a new generation of US nuclear power plants before joining them.
Experts believe that Mr McCain will be won over eventually but senators from the major oil-producing states will have to swap sides as well to give a Senate Bill a hope of passing. Robert Dillon, spokesman for the powerful Senator Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, has welcomed Mr Obama’s decision to travel to Copenhagen but he warned on Wednesday that whatever the Administration says there “the real negotiations on reductions happen here in Congress. We pass the laws.”
Environmentalists worry that the White House will concede almost anything to win the votes of the senators whom it regards as proxies for Big Oil because the US legislative timetable is already being squeezed by next year’s mid-term elections. “There is a desperation for getting something done before June next year because of the mid-terms,” a Greenpeace spokesman said.
Meanwhile, America’s climate change sceptics have seized on the hacked British academics’ e-mails that appear to point to the suppression of data that may undermine parts of the UN consensus of climate change science. Carole Browner, Mr Obama’s chief adviser on the subject, has made light of what conservatives are calling “Climategate”, saying: “I’m sticking with the 2,500 scientists” who continue to support the view that climate change is real and that humans are largely to blame.

Behind the scenes at the biggest deal on Earth

For all the corridor plotting and text chopping the best hope is a fudge. After Copenhagen we’ll turn to wackier solutions
Tony Brenton

Sometime towards the end of the Copenhagen climate conference, Michael Zammit Cutajar, a Maltese diplomat and conference chairman, will gather 20 or so people into a back room of the Bella Conference Centre for an all-night session (or two) to do the deal. All the noise and the posturing, the 20,000 delegates, the lobbyists, the dramatic green demonstrators, the 180-page legal negotiating text, will be shut outside.
Those 20 people — representatives of the world’s key climate-change governments — will have in front of them perhaps a ten-page text. They will agree, or not, on greenhouse gas emissions limits for developed countries, financial assistance for developing countries and emissions constraints that developing countries are willing to take on in exchange for that assistance. If they find agreement they will sell it to the wider conference and then to the wider world. It will set our course for at least the decade to come.
What are the chances of success? Of all the negotiations I have been involved with, those on climate have been the hardest to call. This is the biggest piece of international business that mankind has ever done. Huge interests are involved (we are talking about fundamental reform of the world’s trillion-dollar energy sector). Lobbyists, from Exxon to Greenpeace, are stridently present. The range of national interests — from Saudi Arabia’s dependence on hydrocarbons to Vanuatu’s potential submersion — is bewilderingly wide. And because it is so important, the maelstrom of corridor plotting, text chopping, endless reaffirmation of entrenched negotiating positions and rhetoric make it very hard to identify where the centre of gravity might lie.
In the case of Copenhagen the shelving of efforts to finalise a legally binding text demonstrates how complex and fractious things have become. That the negotiation coincides with a world recession limits what rich countries can offer. And the poor world remains obdurate that it will do nothing the rich world won’t pay for. On the other hand, no one wants to take responsibility for failure. The US has come up with its first real offer on emission cuts since its abandonment, a decade ago, of the Kyoto Protocol. Even in India (a benchmark developing country) there is some debate about more flexibility.
So outright failure is unlikely. But it is equally unlikely that Copenhagen will get us right around the climate corner. The probability has to be, at best, an interim deal with lots of work still to do. This is a pity because, behind the fog of negotiation, the political landscape is more positive than it has ever been.
Two key things have changed. First, US public and scientific opinion is much more convinced of the reality of climate change, and the need to deal with it, than was the case at Kyoto. And the US now has an administration ready to take the lead. This doesn’t mean it will be easy to reduce US energy profligacy, but at least the will is now there.
Second, the hitherto refusal of the developing world to contribute to emissions reductions is beginning to fragment. Key players, led by China and Brazil, recognising the potential costs of climate change for themselves as well as the benefits of taking the lead in energy-saving technology, are now looking for ways to constrain their emissions growth. This is a huge step in negotiations that have been dominated by a sterile confrontation between developed and developing blocs. In a world where the annual increase in China’s emissions alone outweighs all of the savings achieved by the Kyoto Protocol, it is a crucial step.
But, while the politics may be moving from red to green, the science tells us that the timing problem is acute. The positive trend is undermined by evangelism winning over objectivity in the scientific debate. The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change read more like exercises in advocacy than sober scientific analysis. This has undermined the credibility of their projections and contributed to the growth of “climate agnosticism”, led here by Nigel Lawson.
Even taking into account the huge uncertainties, the picture painted by the IPCC and others is both persuasive and stark. We have perhaps a couple of decades to reduce global emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic climatic effects.
It is hard to see the negotiating process moving fast enough to turn this round. Its first product, the 1991 Rio Convention, was broken-backed at birth. Its second product, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, was abandoned by the US and, to the extent it did succeed, only did so because of the Soviet industrial collapse. The process has been bedevilled by green posturing, overoptimistic target setting, US solipsism and Third World militancy. The “Copenhagen Protocol”, if we get there, will reincorporate the US and begin to place downward pressure on the fastest-growing emissions; those from developing countries. But while those emissions may grow more slowly, they will continue to grow. The governments of the poor are not going to let concern about the climate condemn their people to remain poor.
So radical new approaches are going to be needed. Expect, after Copenhagen, much more talk of carbon taxes and tariffs. Expect, too, sharply increased interest in the various “geoengineering” options recently aired by the Royal Society: global afforestation, deliberate plankton growth, “space mirrors”, artificial volcanoes. Wacky (and hideously difficult to agree) as some of these may seem, they may soon be our only way out.
Tony Brenton was a British diplomat from 1975 to 2009, most recently serving as Ambassador to Moscow

Al Gore and Lord Monckton go head-to-head over climate in spoof video rap battle

Leo Hickman: Brilliantly rapped spoof news report for YouTube channel TheJuiceMedia pits Al Gore against Lord Monckton in a war of words over climate change

It's what the world has been waiting for. We've had the Rumble in the Jungle. And the Thriller in Manilla. But now – following years of trying to get it on– we're proud to bring you news of The Storming of the Warming.
Finally, Al Gore and Lord Monckton have come together to "rap battle" over climate change. Well, sort of.
Hugo Farrant, "an MC/spoken word performer from the UK now based in Melbourne", has put together a brilliantly rapped "news report" for TheJuiceMedia, a YouTube channel which describes itself as "an independent media source for events taking place in Australia relating to indigenous people, history, law and the environment". Farrant, who has clearly done his homework, plays the role of anchorman Robert Foster, as well as the parts of well-known climate combatants Al Gore and Lord Monckton. Neither Gore nor Monckton come out of it too well. Here's a snippet of their rap battle …
Monckton: The IPCC are Marxist trapeze artists, bleeding the free market. We're the target! They'll keep us herded in corners: one currency, one government, a new world order.
Gore: Better than the coroner, Let this fact just sink in: World. Unite, or face the sixth mass extinction, a feedback cycle, the death of the Gulf Stream. We need 'clean coal' or it's the end of the Holocene.
Monckton: That's just postulated, we've got to collate it. Secretly these people want the earth depopulated, a communist dictatorship, a way station, good Christians killed by UN troops and Aids patients.
Gore: You strain my patience, you scaremonger.
Monckton: It's freedom they're plundering, and you're the scaremonger king!
Gore: I got my Nobel prize, I was nearly the president.
Monckton: I share that prize for revealing this evidence.
Gore: You got a pin melted down from a physics experiment.
Monckton: You're a pin melted down from a physics experiment.
Foster: Lord Monckton! Let me hear from you. Have any of your articles been peer-reviewed?
Monckton: Well, no, but the SPPI has published a few.
Foster: The Science and Public Policy Institute. Their chief policy adviser happens to be who?
Monckton: Well, me.
Foster: You? So you publish you. I think we've heard enough from you. People, please, research the truth. Nowadays it isn't tough to do. Mr Gore.
Gore: Robert, we need global governance: A new world order to replace local governments.
Foster: And I suppose who better to comprise it than the very same people who altered the climate.
Gore: Sure, who else?
Hugo Farrant is a name to watch, it seems. Last year, he helped to put together another spoof rap that went viral called Branksome, which was about life on the mean streets of Branksome, a middle-class suburb of Poole in Dorset. It went as far as catching the attention of the Daily Telegraph and the Sun.

Australia's Copenhagen climate strategy is smoke and mirrors

Australian PM Kevin Rudd talks a good climate game, offering 25% emissions cuts. But do the numbers add up?

Fred Pearce, Thursday 26 November 2009 07.00 GMT
This may seem churlish in the week when the Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, is doing a deal with the opposition to get climate change legislation through the Senate. After all, that puts him one step ahead of Barack Obama.
But it has to be said: Australia has had a ridiculously easy ride on climate change so far. And, whatever Rudd's domestic green credentials, he seems intent on continuing as before. For when Rudd shows up in Copenhagen in a couple of weeks, he will bring a negotiating position almost certain to ensure that, while others make cuts, Australia's emissions remain above 1990 levels until at least 2020.
Australia got lucky in Kyoto back in 1997. I wrote afterwards in New Scientist magazine:
"Australia, which threatened not to accept any limit on its emissions, was made an offer too good to refuse. First came a licence to increase its emissions by 8%. Then, in the final hours, it won an amendment that allows it to benefit massively from past deforestation… Up to 30% of its CO2 emissions in 1990, the baseline date for the targets, were from deforestation. But far from being penalised for this, Australia won the right to count any improvement from this position as a carbon credit. It just has to make sure it doesn't cut down quite as many."
And that is what has happened. Aussies offset rising emissions from cars and power stations by reducing their deforestation, in Queensland and New South Wales in particular. In fact, even before signing in Kyoto, Australia had cut back deforestation emissions from 131m tonnes in 1990 to 75m tonnes. It was, according to an analysis carried out by the Sustainability Council of New Zealand, "the equivalent of Australia starting with an 11% discount on its Kyoto target."
But the story of Australia's emissions without forests – what carbon counters term its "gross emissions" – has been very different. UN statistics today show that gross emissions rose by 30% between 1990 and 2007. Among developed countries, that figure is exceeded only by Spain, Portugal and Iceland.
Some other countries besides Australia had a head's start in meeting Kyoto targets. In Britain, for instance, Margaret Thatcher spent the 1990s shutting down the coal industry for reasons that had little to do with climate change. But many of those countries accepted tougher emissions targets in recognition of that head start. Under a deal with the rest of the European Union, Britain agreed to national cuts of 12.5%.
But Australia has simply milked its good luck, carrying on largely as if Kyoto never happened. As a result, today it has the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases of any major developed nation.
In response, a spokesperson for the Australian government said: "Australia does not accept that our base year emissions [1990] are 'inflated'… Deforestation emissions from the Australian continent are a significant part of the national emissions profile. The large reduction in [Australian] deforestation emissions that resulted [from the Kyoto protocol] provides a lesson on the value of international agreement on deforestation emissions."
But since Australia is the world's hottest and driest continent, it is potentially more vulnerable to climate change than any other. That suggests another path would be prudent. And, to be fair, Rudd is aware of that. But he has a tough task persuading his industrialists and hugely powerful coal industry (Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal.)
So what is Australia bringing to Copenhagen? Rudd will be there in person. His headline grabber is the offer of a 25% cut in emissions. Except that the "conditions" he sets the rest of the world for this are so stringent that he is unlikely to have to deliver.
For instance, as the government spokesperson said, it would only be "fair" for Australia to make cuts that deep if other "advanced" countries made cuts "in the middle of the range identified by the IPCC" – that is, between 25-40%.
That's an odd definition of fairness. It is based, according to the spokesperson, on the fact that "Australia faces higher economic costs to achieve equivalent emissions reductions… than most other advanced countries." Funny, but I don't remember Australia offering bigger cuts in Kyoto because it was cheap and easy to end deforestation. Quite the contrary.
Otherwise, Rudd offers a range of reductions from 5-15%. That doesn't sound too bad until you remember the deforestation discount that Australia won in Kyoto. Along with other land-use changes since then, even a 15% "cut" would still allow Australians to emit more from burning coal in power stations, running cars and industry than they did in 1990. About 1% more, according to the analysis by the Sustainability Council of New Zealand.
A new beginning in Copenhagen? Rudd's Copenhagen plan looks like a greenwashed version of the old Kyoto plan.

Scientists target Canada over climate change

Damian Carrington, Thursday 26 November 2009 22.54 GMT

Prominent campaigners, politicians and scientists have called for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth over its climate change policies.
The coalition's demand came before this weekend's Commonwealth heads of government summit in Trinidad and Tobago, at which global warming will top the agenda, and next month's UN climate conference in Copenhagen. Despite criticism of Canada's environmental policies, the prime minister, Stephen Harper, is to attend the Copenhagen summit. His spokesman said today: "We will be attending the Copenhagen meeting … a critical mass of world leaders will be attending."
Canada's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are among the world's highest and it will not meet the cut required under the Kyoto protocol: by 2007 its emissions were 34% above its reduction target. It is exploiting its vast tar sands reserves to produce oil, a process said to cause at least three times the emissions of conventional oil extraction.
The coalition claims Canada is contributing to droughts, floods and sea level rises in Commonwealth countries such as Bangladesh, the Maldives and Mozambique. Clare Short, the former international development secretary, said: "Countries that fail to help [tackle global warming] should be suspended from membership, as are those that breach human rights."
The World Development Movement, the Polaris Institute in Canada and Greenpeace are among the organisations supporting the plan. Saleemul Huq, a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said: "If the Commonwealth is serious about holding its members to account, then threatening the lives of millions of people in developing countries should lead to the suspension of Canada's membership immediately."
Canada's environment department refused to comment on the call for it to be suspended.
The Commonwealth comprises 53 states representing 2 billion people. In the past it has suspended Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa for electoral or human rights reasons. Speaking earlier this week, its secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma, said: "I would like to think that our definition of serious violations could embrace much more than it does now."

Battle against climate change begins at home

The Conservatives' Green Deal would help to greatly reduce the 27% of UK carbon emissions that comes from households, writes shadow housing minister, Grant Schapps

Grant Shapps, Thursday 26 November 2009 11.49 GMT

Next month world leaders will gather in Copenhagen to thrash out a deal to tackle climate change. Reaching agreement at this UN summit will be the key to addressing one of the defining challenges of our century. But the hard work isn't just setting those targets, it's reaching them. Each country will have to set their own priorities to reduce emissions and here in the UK, we'll need to look close to home.
Twenty-seven per cent of all the carbon emissions in this country actually come from the homes we all live in. So it's clear that improving the carbon footprint of our housing stock is crucial if we are to meet our legally binding carbon reduction targets.
Part of the solution lies in making the new homes we build as energy efficient as possible and I enthusiastically endorse the concept of building all new homes at zero carbon. However, the fact remains that 85% of the housing stock that we'll be living in by 2050 already exists.
So, there is a simple and, once again, inconvenient truth – greening-up the 25m existing homes is essential. The efficiency of these properties has been largely ignored thus far.
Under a Conservative government however we will introduce the Green Deal. Every household in this country will be entitled to an allowance of up to £6,500 for energy improvements. Utilities companies, charities, social landlords will improve homes with no cost to the homeowner.
Healthy competition in retro-fits will create 70,000 new jobs and a £2.5bn marketplace, while consumers save money and most importantly 9.4m tonnes of carbon emissions are avoided. It's a great scheme, but that doesn't necessarily lead to great take-up. The key is to create a trigger for people to easily and quickly sign up for retro-fitting.
Imagine if you could walk into your favourite store, buy some clothes or do your weekly shop and then at the checkout, as you hand over your clubcard, the cashier offers you the prospect of permanently lower utility bills. There's nothing to pay, now or later. Your home will be retro-fitted and all you'll notice is that it costs less to heat and power it. Unless you enjoy burning money, you're going to love the Green Deal. Behind the scenes this retailer is working with the banking sector to fund the £6,500 spent on retro-fitting your home, resulting in home improvements like energy-efficient lighting, modern boilers, cavity and loft insulation.
Under a Conservative government you won't have to imagine this scheme, because the likes of Marks & Spencer and Tesco are already interested and more providers of all types will want to get in on the act. In future you'll be able to pick-up your groceries and green-up your home at the same time.
But living a greener life isn't just about the physical changes you can make to your home; it's about how you live in it too.
Even without retro-fitting our properties, there are plenty of things we can do to influence our energy consumption behaviour. Last year I installed a small device which sits on the window sill in our kitchen and constantly reports how much electricity we're using as a household.
This particular energy monitor is called a Wattson and it expresses itself £s sterling. Worryingly it let us know when we switched everything off, we were still spending about £700 per annum on powering our home.
That's the fridge, the freezer and those TVs and chargers which all prefer to go on standby, rather than off.
With the kettle and toaster on for a cuppa and sandwich the clever little monitor told us that our electricity bill could hit £7,000 per annum.
Now rather than filling the kettle to the top, we put just enough water in for cups we're making. Meanwhile, the kids spend their time hunting round the house searching out left on lights and Nintendo DSs which are charged but still plugged into the mains. Devices like this can really alter habits.
For the first time we also became aware that a TV or computer monitor left on standby costs around 15p per day.
With two, three or maybe four screens in the house that's a couple of hundred pounds per year.
Slashing the 27% of carbon currently emitted from our homes is a big ask. The Green Deal enables a combination of the physical and the behavioural changes needed to make a big difference straight away. It removes barriers currently preventing a domestic green revolution. It gives us a significantly better chance of meeting our Kyoto obligations.
As we head towards the Copenhagen summit the Conservative party understands that the solution to the global challenge of climate change truly begins at home.
Grant Shapps is the Conservative shadow housing minister

Obama's Copenhagen stopover

The US president's cameo appearance at Copenhagen's climate summit might make more of an impact than his critics realise

Kate Sheppard, Thursday 26 November 2009 14.00 GMT
The White House has announced that Barack Obama will travel to Copenhagen for the beginning of the UN summit on climate change next month. Obama will make an appearance at the negotiations on 9 December, a pit stop en route to pick up his Nobel prize in Oslo the following day. There, he plans to tell delegates that the US will commit to cutting emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.
The move that comes after months of lobbying on the part of citizens concerned that global warming has not gotten due attention. And while many are cheering his decision to attend the summit, the development should be put in its appropriate context. Obama is not planning to return for the end of the summit, which runs until 18 December. That's when approximately 65 other heads of state and government are expected to attend. He's coming early, a visit that will be more geared at setting the tone of the summit rather than sealing a deal at its conclusion – an important distinction.
This shouldn't be seen as a problem; it was already clear that there's not going to be a final treaty in Copenhagen, so the presence of heads of state is not quite as important as once hoped. The real work is still to be done by negotiators, who spend those two weeks in December hashing out the litany of specifics that must still be hashed. If Obama were to show up at the end it would merely be symbolic anyway.
Though it would be nice to see him there alongside other world leaders, his presence would not change the outcome. So while groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, the most aggressive of the United States environmental organisations, are basically calling Obama out for treating the summit like a photo-op, that would probably be more true if he showed up at the end to shake hands and pose with other leaders, declaring victory over a non-binding political agreement.
Appearing later – when it wouldn't influence the conversation one way or another – might only lead to a repeat of October's Olympics debacle, wherein Obama showed up in the very same city to much fanfare. His presence didn't change the outcome, and only created bad press. Remember the conservative glee at that failure?
Instead, he is showing up early to set the tone and, for the first time, putting a solid target on the table for emissions cuts. Obama will promise that the US will commit to cutting emissions "in the range of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020," according to a White House official. His presence demonstrates high-level engagement on the issue in the US (even if he should be doing more), and perhaps even shows a desire to go on and earn that Nobel he'll receive the following day.
Let us not underestimate the influence of a real commitment on near-term emissions cuts – a commitment for 2020 that, for the first time, involves actual numbers. That alone is expected to help move the climate talks along. Of course, the 17% figure is not nearly as high as the reductions called for by the European Union, Japan, developing nations, and basically everyone else in the world. It's far from the 25%-40% below 1990 levels that many science and other world leaders acknowledge is necessary. But the hope is that if the US puts out real figures, other key players like China and India will also start talking in real numbers.
And it looks like it might have already prompted that. Today, the Chinese government made an announcement about its ambitious climate policy and action plan (China plans to slow emissions growth by up to 45%). Of course, it was a big deal back in September that China was even willing to talk about specific climate goals. Their announcement will likely be another major development for both the country and international negotiations – and the announcement helps that along.

The cost of adapting to climate change

Farmers in developing countries are already feeling the effects of climate change. What is needed to help them cope is an almost unprecedented shift of resources from north to south, says Anne Perkins
The gap between rhetoric and reality, the developed and developing worlds, is cruelly illustrated by the huge promises and meagre results of successive global gatherings on providing funds to help less developed countries adapt to the changing climate.
On Tuesday, Farm-Africa, one of the Guardian's partners in the Katine project, helped launch Climate Frontline, a collection of African voices reflecting on how their climate has already changed, and how they are adapting to it. It is full of practical ideas – new ways of making liquid compost from animal droppings, or growing maize in pits where moisture is better retained, to name just two.
But unless Copenhagen sets in train a colossal effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, many African communities are going to have to do much more than get smart about soil improvement. Reforestation and irrigation, improved seeds, technology and education are all part of the answer to saving the continent's agricultural potential.
At the Climate Frontline launch at Westminster, Farm-Africa's chief executive, Christie Peacock, warned that despite the experience of generations of farmers in adapting to harsh conditions, "the pace of change is stepping up", while the reaction of the major polluters remained "depressingly poor".
Another speaker, Saleemul Huq, of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), warned that the loss of viable agricultural land could lead to mounting insecurity and the massive relocation of whole peoples, possibly across borders.
The failure of the rainy season is already bringing instability back to some parts of the Teso region of north-east Uganda, in which Katine is found. East of Katine, the Karamojong – whose region is even worse affected – have returned to cattle rustling to replace stock they have lost to drought.
Sub-Saharan Africa is only one of four global regions that will feel the impact of climate change most severely. Island states, coastal areas and the great Asian river deltas are all likely to experience devastating loss of land.
That is why, as long ago as 2001, the protocol agreed at Kyoto included a plan for an adaptation fund. The best feature about it was that it was to be funded by a levy on "clean development mechanism project activities" - that is, it was to depend on funding on the rate at which developed countries reduce their emissions. It was to have an independent source of income rather than relying on vulnerable national pledges of donations.
Sadly, it has taken until now to agree the governance and rules under which it would operate. And although they are hailed as a triumph for a new way of doing business, with developing countries having a majority on the board and the final say on the disbursement of funds, it is still waiting for a steady revenue stream.
Meanwhile other funds have proliferated. The Overseas Development Institute sponsors a site that lists dozens of them from the UN, the World Bank, the EU and some individual countries. As the Guardian reported last month, there is one common feature of the multilateral funds, like the UN's special climate change fund and its less developed countries' fund, and others like the World Bank's loan-based strategic climate fund: the money pledged by individual countries has not been delivered.
Yet the predicted cost of adaptation and mitigation is rising steeply. As the IIED reported in August, it is now estimated at something approaching $150bn a year.
In the likely absence of any deal on targets for emissions reductions at Copenhagen next month, all attention is going to focus on finding a way of guaranteeing that there are reliable, predictable, additional and equitable funds available to the countries that pollute the least and will suffer the effects of global warming the most.
What is needed is an almost unprecedented shift of resources from north to south. It is going to take something like a revolution to get it.

Kiwi Carbon Cramdown

There is no 'good' way to do emissions controls.
New Zealand's government is crowing about the amended cap-and-trade bill passed Wednesday as a "balanced" and "responsible" solution to fight global warming. That is, if pork barreling and ramming a bill through parliament without any serious economic study of its impact is what's considered "responsible."
Prime Minister John Key's National Party-led government ran on a campaign promise to amend the previous government's onerous cap-and-trade law, which was rushed through before the last election. Mr. Key promised to water down the scheme to protect the economy from severe harm, while fulfilling New Zealand's Kyoto Protocol commitments.
The Key government soon found that its coalition partners, the ACT Party and the Maori Party, had serious reservations about passing what turned out to be the world's most comprehensive cap-and-trade bill. No wonder they were alarmed: National's bill covered all greenhouse gases and would affect most of the economy, including the country's key export industries of agriculture and forestry.
Critics also questioned the usefulness and timing of the bill, pointing out that New Zealand only contributes 0.2% of total global emissions, and a Copenhagen deal next month looks unlikely. Add in the climate-gate scandal bubbling in Britain, where evidence surfaced that climatologists tried to suppress skeptical global-warming studies, and there's even more reason to delay.

Yet the nominally conservative Key government plowed ahead by buying off the Maori Party earlier this week. In return for votes, the Maoris will get "energy efficiency assistance" for 8,000 low-income homes, the right to plant trees on government land to offset emissions elsewhere, and other goodies. The Nationals then rushed the bill through parliament under the "urgency" tool, used to extend sitting hours for priority business. The bill still only passed by a hair, 63-58.
Pork barreling to get a bill passed is nothing new in politics. But in this case it is only part of a bad picture: The government still has not released its own comprehensive study of the new law's potential economic impact. Kiwis may soon demand one as their energy prices rise and foreign investment goes elsewhere—all in the name of being "responsible."

CO2 curve ticks upward as key climate talks loom

AP foreign, Friday November 27 2009
Associated Press Writer= MAUNA LOA OBSERVATORY, Hawaii (AP)
The readings at this 2-mile-high station show a troubling upward curve as the world counts down to crucial climate talks: Global warming gases are building in the atmosphere at record levels from emissions that match scientists' worst-case scenarios.
Carbon dioxide concentrations this fall are hovering at around 385 parts per million, on their way to a near-certain record high above 390 in the first half of next year, at the annual peak.
"For the past million years we've never seen 390. You have to wonder what that's going to do," said physicist John Barnes, the observatory director.
One leading atmospheric scientist, Stephen Schneider, sees "coin-flip odds for serious outcomes for our planet."
Far from this mid-Pacific government observatory, negotiators from 192 nations gather in wintry Copenhagen, Denmark, next month to try to agree on steps to head off the worst of the climate disruptions researchers say will result if concentrations hit around 450 parts per million — in 30 years at the current rate. Some say the world has already passed a danger point, at 350 ppm, and must roll back.
Today's emissions curve is tracking the worst case among seven emissions scenarios set out in 2001 by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), British climatologists reported in September.
The U.N. expert group projects that such a path would raise global temperatures between 2.4 and 6.4 degrees Celsius (4.3 and 11.5 degrees F) by century's end. That would come on top of a global temperature increase of about 0.6 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) in the past century, a warming trend the authoritative IPCC says is mainly due to the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Such warming will shift climate patterns, cause more extreme weather events, spread drought and floods to new areas, kill off plant and animal species, and cause seas to rise from heat expansion and the melting of land ice, the IPCC says.
"Changing several degrees may not seem like much, but we're just changing things too fast," Barnes said. "So the consequences could well be drastic."
The IPCC has urged industrialized countries to reduce global emissions by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. As of 2007, they stood only 4 percent below 1990 levels, and the rest of the world continued pouring out more and more heat-trapping gases, chiefly from the burning of coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels.
Through this decade global emissions have grown by 23 percent. In 2008, almost three-quarters of the increase came from China, researchers reported last week. Other big contributors among developing countries were India, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia, Iran and Mexico.
Experts see no sign of a slowdown.
It would "probably be at 390 (ppm) next year at Mauna Loa," said Fred T. Mackenzie, a professor emeritus of oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. That would represent almost a 40-percent increase in carbon-dioxide density in the atmosphere since before the industrial age and extensive use of fossil fuels.
Schneider, a Stanford University climatologist, said the world faces a huge risk.
"I think meters of sea-level rise are virtually inevitable, unless we can stop this. But I'm not such an optimist," he told journalists on a fellowship program with the Honolulu-based East-West Center. "The main message is we're in risk management. We do not know the science well enough to know exactly what the temperature is at when a tipping point will occur."
This U.S. government observatory, 11,141 feet up Mauna Loa's northern flank, also measures methane and other significant greenhouse gases. It was here on Hawaii's Big Island that climatologist Charles David Keeling pioneered the measurement of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, installing his experimental manometer on the gently sloping volcano in 1958.
He chose the site, already a U.S. Weather Service station, because the trade winds blowing over it had some of the cleanest air on the planet. Barnes said the CO2 measurements here, thousands of miles from major industry, were the first to show that manmade carbon dioxide emissions were accumulating throughout the global atmosphere.
The upward trend, averaging 1.9 parts per million per year in the past decade, undergoes seasonal fluctuations. In summer, during the growing season, plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But in winter, the concentration of C02 rises as vegetation and other biomass decompose.
The observatory is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's worldwide network for measuring greenhouse gases. It coordinates measurements with other U.S.-run research stations in Alaska, California, American Samoa and the South Pole. Japan and Australia also run such networks.
The Mauna Loa researchers extend their measurements through their "flask network" — containers sent to dozens of places around the world each week or carried on commercial ships so people can fill them with air and send them back to be measured for C02 and other gases.
Barnes, watching the carbon dioxide "ppm" curve track ever upward on Mauna Loa, while some other greenhouse gases decline, noted that long-lived CO2 is "more and more the bigger player."
"It is going into the ocean, and there's some plant uptake, but a whole lot of it just goes into the air and it's going to stay there for thousands of years," he said.
On the Net:
NOAA Mauna Loa Observatory:

What do the US and China's emissions targets actually mean?

The momentum towards Copenhagen is gaining but how do emissions reduction offers from the EU, US and China compare?

Bryony Worthington, Thursday 26 November 2009 15.57 GMT
So we finally have the long-awaited emissions reduction offers from the US and China: a 17% reduction from 2005 levels from the US and a 40-45% reduction in "the carbon intensity of the economy" by 2020 from China. The momentum towards the UN climate talks in Copenhagen seems to be gaining by the hour and these developments must be welcomed.
The EU's initial offer of a 20% cut on 1990 levels over the same time period – finalised last month – is the third important part of the jigsaw. These three country blocks account for around 60% of global emissions so what they do is incredibly important. But what do these targets really mean?
China's impressive-sounding target to reduce its carbon intensity refers to cutting the CO2 that is emitted per yuan of economic activity. But because economic forecasts already predict that China's economy will become less carbon intensive in the next decade, the country's pledge actually only amounts to a cut of between zero and 12% off business as usual emissions in 2020 (depending on what version of the future you choose to compare it with). That is roughly a 40% increase in CO2 emissions on current levels.
The US's number, as environmentalists, frustrated by the lost decade under President Bush, are keen to point out, amounts to only a 4% cut in emissions compared with 1990 levels.
But Europe is also playing the same game. The 1990 baseline for its targets flatters the EU massively because it allows it to count the emissions reductions that occurred in the 1990s due to the collapse of Soviet economies that are now part of the club. The combination of this unearned reduction, with a handful of one-off reductions in industrial gases in a few countries, delivered Europe its Kyoto target ahead of schedule. And it is now set to achieve more than a 10% reduction by the end of this decade – helped along by the current recession. Compared with 2005 emissions the current 20% target is only a 13% reduction by 2020.
So what is the best basis to judge whether countries are committing to a comparable effort? The main obstacle to reaching global agreement is countries' concerns about their economic competitiveness. And clearly what impacts this most is the level of effort that needs to be expended to reduce emissions between now and the target deadline. So arguably the most sensible metric is to compare targets against most recent levels.
Recast against a 2007 baseline the US and EU numbers look like this: Europe – minus 11.7%; US – minus 17.3%.
Over a number of years, the EU has claimed to be leading the world in reducing emissions. It has introduced a range of policies to try to curb emissions but these have been slow to start and dedicated climate and energy policies have delivered few savings to date. This is evident not only in the emissions record so far but also from the continued unbroken link between emissions and economic growth or decline. Investment in energy infrastructure also appears not to have deviated significantly from "business as usual", with many more coal-fired power stations being proposed in Europe. Cap and trade regulation has been implemented on 50% of emissions, however, they have been set too leniently leading too surpluses in emissions permits and low prices.
More investment is now being made into renewable electricity but this is still too insignificant on its own to achieve a significant reduction in all energy-related emissions. The harder tasks of reducing emissions from coal-fired power stations and industrial plant and decarbonising our transport and heating systems has yet to begin in earnest. As a result, emissions in recent years, the effect of the recent recession aside, have been more or less static.
But the good news is that Europe does at least have some momentum and a policy head start over countries like the US. But only tougher targets will provide the impetus for serious policy change and investment on the ground. That is why the targets announced over the last two days by the US and China are welcome because the EU should now be forced to move to its higher conditional target of at least a 30% cut on 1990 levels (meaning a 22% cut on 2007).
Even if Europe does this, the collective effort now on the table still falls well short of the latest scientific recommendations that global emissions should peak and decline by 2015 to avoid a less than 50/50 chance of going above 2C warming. Negotiators in Copenhagen must therefore try to ratchet up all the numbers currently on the table. Failing that it is imperative that these numbers for 2020 are reviewed following the publication of the next scientific assessment due in 2014. By then, the world will be well on the way to developing clean energy technologies, and it should be possible for much more ambitious targets to be agreed.
Capturing countries' current ambitions now in a legally binding framework, even if they are low, is politically important but we should not see this as the final word. A decade is a long time and we must plan to increase our efforts as soon as possible.
• Bryony Worthington is director of Sandbag. To help make sense of the numbers Sandbag has developed a quick and easy online target convertor.

China Offers Specific Carbon Targets

BEIJING -- China unveiled targets to slow its carbon emissions and said Premier Wen Jiabao would attend the global climate-change summit in Copenhagen next month, a day after Washington laid out concrete U.S. emission targets for the first time and announced that President Barack Obama would join the meeting.
But China's widely expected offer falls short of a cap on emissions. The Chinese State Council, or cabinet, said Thursday that China would aim to cut carbon intensity -- the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product -- by a range of 40% to 45% by 2020.
One of the world's most polluted countries, China has increasingly stressed its commitment to changing its dirty ways ahead of a December 7-18 climate change summit in Copenhagen.
The move would be a "binding goal" incorporated into the country's mid- and long-term development plans, the cabinet said.
China and the U.S. are the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases and have wrangled for years over who should shoulder more of the burden of cutting emissions.
At Copenhagen, Mr. Obama intends to propose that the U.S. cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83% by 2050. It marks the first time the Obama administration has formally offered specific commitments.
The Chinese targets will add to the momentum to achieve some kind of agreement at the Copenhagen summit. But because they are only a pledge to cut relative levels of emissions -- not a promise to cap or cut back total greenhouse gasses from current levels -- some observers feel they won't be enough to get more than a political commitment from the meeting instead of a binding international treaty.
Still, the Chinese move is significant, representing the first time that China has spelled out its goals for slowing carbon emissions.
The United Nation's top climate negotiator, Yvo de Boer, said in a statement he welcomes both the U.S. and the Chinese moves. "The U.S. commitment to specific, midterm emission-cut targets and China's commitment to specific action on energy efficiency can unlock two of the last doors to a comprehensive agreement," he said.
"This is a significant announcement at a very important point in time. But China could do more," said Ailun Yang of Greenpeace China. "Given the urgency and magnitude of the climate-change crisis, China needs stronger measures to tackle climate change." Ms. Yang added that "if they had announced 45% to 50% then we could say they were ambitious."
The WWF also welcomed China's announcement. "A 40% to 45% reduction in China's carbon intensity from business-as-usual projections is far from trivial," said Kim Carstensen, the leader of WWF's global climate initiative.
China's top climate envoy said the Chinese targets were a domestic voluntary action rather than an international one. But "Chinese people stick to their word," Xie Zhenhua, deputy head of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission, the former state planning agency, told a news conference.
Mr. Xie said that China now expects "real action" by the West on funding and technical support before the Copenhagen meeting. So far, such support had failed to materialize, he said.
China has proposed that developed nations contribute 1% of gross domestic product to subsidize efforts by poorer nations to cut carbon-dioxide emissions. That translates to more than $140 billion for the U.S. alone. U.S. officials have dismissed the Chinese proposal as "untethered from reality."
Some observers say the low end of the new Chinese target is just an extension of energy policies already in place. China has a goal of cutting its energy intensity -- measured as energy used per unit of GDP -- by 20% to 2010 from 2006, a goal that Mr. Xie said is achievable. China's energy-efficiency goals are also motivated by energy security concerns. But burning less coal -- the source of 80% of China's electricity -- means less carbon is released into the air.
Even a 40% drop could be hard to reach because many of the easy gains have already been achieved, warns Zou Ji, the China representative of the World Resources Institute. "The future is harder, the potential gains will become smaller and smaller," Mr. Zou said.
In addition, measuring carbon intensity poses a huge statistical and scientific challenge for China. For example, it is hard to determine how much carbon is absorbed by increasing China's forest coverage to create carbon sinks.
"My feeling is that even if we set up this goal, it will not be easy to reach," Mr. Zou said. "We will need to do very hard work. I'm not so optimistic we can reach that. But we can try."
A Chinese foreign ministry statement said Mr. Wen would attend the Copenhagen meetings, which run from Dec. 7 to 18. Mr. Obama will show up on Dec. 9.
Write to Shai Oster at

French Economic Nationalism Lives On

True to form, economic nationalism may be about to trump industrial logic in France. Nuclear engineering company Areva, 93%-owned by the French state, looks set to sell its transmission and distribution business to Alstom and Schneider Electric despite their inferior offer, according to a person familiar with the situation. Paris is fully prepared for the inevitable criticism. But rival bidders Toshiba and General Electric stood little chance.
Alstom and Schneider have been outbid by Toshiba, which is offering €4.2 billion ($6.36 billion) compared with roughly €4 billion from the French and third bidder General Electric. The two French companies propose a riskier future for the transmission and distribution business. They want to split the company's high-voltage and medium-voltage activities, arguing that will create more value than integrating the business as a whole, the plan at Toshiba and GE. Unlike Alstom and Schneider, the business's main rivals, ABB and Siemens, also are integrated-equipment suppliers. But old distinctions between transmission and distribution are blurring as customers focus on integrated approaches to energy efficiency, from the power station to the digital smart meter at the point of consumption. By some estimates integrated contracts account for 30% of the market.
Toshiba and GE bent over backward to accommodate French political concerns. They offered to list the transmission and distribution business in Paris and keep the headquarters in France, making it look little different from most CAC-40 companies, majority-owned by foreign shareholders. That hasn't satisfied Paris, which never expected foreign bidders to trump the domestic offer in an auction. The government's chief worry was that it would be tough to get a decent price for the transmission and distribution business to repair Areva's balance sheet. The recession has knocked back demand for power equipment. Instead, the Toshiba and GE bids have underscored how transmission and distribution is a sweet spot in the infrastructure market.
Of course, there still is time for the French government to change its mind. But Paris has shown before it has a thick skin when it comes to international criticism of its nationalist industrial policy. Toshiba and GE likely are to learn the hard way what should have been clear from the start.
Write to Matthew Curtin at

Funding for all-electric cars future

Cities compete for Government money to improve infrastructure for charging electric car.

By David Williams Published: 6:30AM GMT 26 Nov 2009

On-street charging points for electric and hybrid cars should increase
Towns and cities are being invited to compete for £30 million of Government funding to put into charging points for electric and hybrid vehicles.
Transport secretary Andrew Adonis announced the scheme to help with the installation of plug-in points on streets, car parks and at commercial, retail and leisure facilities.

The initiative – Plugged-In Places – will support the development of between three and six electric car cities and regions across the UK which will act as trailblazers for electric car technology. The experiences of these locations will help shape the future development of a national charging infrastructure.
The Government says it is investing around £400 million to encourage the development, manufacture and use of next-generation ultra-low carbon vehicles. Delivered by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, the programme is aimed at creating new jobs in a low-carbon automotive sector and at cutting carbon from UK road transport.
"The UK can be a world leader in electric and low carbon cars which is why the Government has already committed about £400 million of support to encourage development and uptake of ultra low-emission vehicles," said Mr Adonis. "Our aim is for electric and low carbon cars to be an everyday feature of life on UK roads in less than five years. There is still a lot of work to be done, however Plugged-In Places is one very significant step putting us firmly on the path to a low carbon future."
Successful applicants will have to match the Government's investment. Under a separate scheme, the Government recently announced seven schemes to benefit from £500,000 of funding through the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Grant Programme, providing 72 electric charging points and four gas refuelling stations in areas across England.

Q+A-China-Europe seek to bolster ties at summit

Reuters, Friday November 27 2009
By Chris Buckley
BEIJING, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Currency tensions and climate change will feature in talks over the weekend and on Monday between Chinese and European Union leaders in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu province. Here are some questions and answers about the summit and the state of EU-China relations.
The EU will be chiefly represented by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency. On Monday, they will meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
Before the summit, central bank and financial officials from each side will meet over the weekend in Nanjing. European Central Bank Governor Jean-Claude Trichet is due to hold talks with Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China.
Both sides have said the topics in focus are the global economy, climate change and strengthening ties. But China and the EU will bring different priorities to the table.
(1) The economy and trade. For Brussels, the priorities will be pressing China on currency and trade. China has been holding its yuan currency virtually pegged to the dollar even as the dollar has weakened against other key currencies. That has meant the yuan has dropped 15 percent against the euro since March.
That angers Europe, which has been trying to narrow its big trade deficit with China. In 2008, the EU imported Chinese-made goods worth 247.6 billion euros and exported to China goods worth 78.4 billion euros.
European officials also believe a stronger yuan is essential to global rebalancing efforts as the United States consumes less. Without it, they fear that the euro zone will bear most of the burden of a weaker dollar.
China has its own worries about EU anti-dumping actions aimed at its exports, steps Beijing has decried as protectionism.
(2) Climate change. The summit takes place just over a week before negotiations open in Copenhagen on a new international pact to fight climate change.
The EU and China will be key players in those negotiations, and the summit is a last chance to assess and test positions.
On Thursday, China announced goals to cut carbon intensity -- the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to make each unit of economic value -- by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 compared with levels in 2005. But it also said those were purely domestic commitments and would not be part of any internationally binding commitment.
(3) Market economy status and an EU arms embargo. China may press the EU to recognise it as a "market economy", and end an embargo on arms sales imposed after the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing.
Granting "market economy status" would limit some anti-dumping and other trade protection measures taken by Brussels against Chinese goods.
The summit is unlikely to produce substantive agreements on any of these issues. It will give leaders from both sides an opportunity to set priorities as the EU seeks to lift its diplomatic profile after the Lisbon treaty reforms.
As for Europe's plea for a stronger yuan, the issue that will garner the most interest from global financial markets, leading euro zone officials have said they expect no immediate results from the talks.
China and the European Union have been seeking to revive ties after a rough patch in 2008 stoked by friction between Beijing and EU member states, especially France and Germany, over Tibet.
Tensions peaked late in 2008, when French President Nicholas Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibet Buddhist leader who Beijing calls a "separatist".
France held the six-monthly rotating presidency of the European Union at the time, and China withdrew from a planned summit with the EU.
Relations would not have been so vulnerable if broader ties were more robust. But relations have been sapped by trade imbalances and disputes, slow progress in negotiations for a new treaty to steer relations, and the unwieldiness of dealings between an often opaque China and the EU and its 27 sometimes fractious member states. (Editing by Ken Wills and Dean Yates) ((; +86-13501014479)) ((If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to

Wind turbine noise rules are 'out of date'

Noise level regulations for wind turbines are 11 years old and fail to address the impact of new technology that has allowed larger and louder sites, a pressure group has warned.

By Alastair JamiesonPublished: 9:42AM GMT 26 Nov 2009

Environmental Protection UK say turbines are now so large that the noise generated by turning blades is affecting more nearby residents.
The charity, which campaigns to minimise noise pollution as well as reducing air pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases, believes changes in technology are not being reflected in current local government planning guidelines.
The government says it is continuing research into the impact of noise from wind turbines.
Experts working for Environmental Protection UK say the government guidelines on acceptable noise levels for wind turbines were due for revision 11 years ago and there has been little sign that changes in wind turbine technology is reflected in these rules.
They add that this guidance was designed for structures of about 90ft (27m) in height, but some applications for wind farms include turbines that are at least three times higher.
Current guidance assumes background noise at ground level, such as the rustling of leaves, would mask the noise of the blades turning.
However, turbines are becoming so big that they residents will be able to hear the blades above any background noise.
Environmental Protection UK argues the rules need a radical overhaul, otherwise applications for new wind farms are in danger of being rejected.
The charity has also questioned whether smaller renewable energy sites, particularly those in urban areas, are beneficial at all when weighed against the impact of noise on communities.