Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Prince Charles to attend Copenhagen climate change summit

Prince of Wales invited to address UN summit and expected to lobby for measures to reduce deforestation
John Vidal, environment editor, Tuesday 1 December 2009 18.26 GMT
Article history

Prince Charles will join at least 65 world leaders in Copenhagen later this month, it was announced today.
In an unexpected move by Denmark, the prince has been invited by the host country to address the UN summit during the opening ceremony of the second "high-level" week of the conference, when political leaders arrive.
But the Prince of Wales, who will only be in the Danish capital city for four hours on 15 December, will not take part in any formal negotiations. It is understood that his role will only be to help set the "tone" of the meeting. He will also meet meet global business leaders to lobby for measures to reduce deforestation, including a carbon market.
Forestry is expected to be one of the key discussions at Copenhagen, but the negotiations are on a knife edge, with no guarantee that money will be found to pay poor countries to protect their trees.
Two years ago, Prince Charles set up the Prince's Rainforests Project and since then then he has hosted several international forestry meetings in London.
The UK prime minister, Gordon Brown, was the first national leader to pledge to attend Copenhagen, and will be joined by Brazil's president, Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and others.

Global Warming Revolt Down Under

Other than Al Gore, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd may be the world's leading climate-change crusader, and he has made a sweeping cap-and-trade bill the centerpiece of his legislative agenda. But his ambitions met a fresh obstacle at home yesterday with the election of a new opposition leader who opposes a steep carbon tax that would do nothing to curb global emissions.
For two years, Mr. Rudd's climate alarmism has gone almost unchallenged. The conservative Liberal Party, which embraced a cap-and-trade scheme before losing the 2007 election, first said it would oppose any legislation that hurt the economy. Then last week, under then-party leader Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberals threw in with Mr. Rudd and agreed to carve out as many handouts as possible for big business. Given that Australia accounts for only 1.5% of global emissions, the bill would pile on economic costs with no real environmental benefit.
The conservative wing of the party revolted on Thursday, with six MPs stepping down from the front bench in protest—an unprecedented event in the Liberal Party's more than 50-year history. Yesterday the party ousted Mr. Turnbull as party leader in favor of Tony Abbott, an MP from Sydney.
Mr. Abbott has spared no time in setting out his views. Yesterday he called cap-and-trade "a great big tax to create a great big slush fund to provide politicized handouts, run by giant bureaucracy." That is exactly what Mr. Rudd is proposing: to have business pay government for carbon credits, starting in 2011. Canberra would then redistribute the revenues to the constituencies it is courting, especially green industries and middle-class voters, and build a bureaucracy to manage the whole thing.
Mr. Abbott asked his Liberal Party colleagues yesterday to vote on whether they would support cap and trade. They overwhelmingly oppose it. That's a welcome switch for the party, which has been emboldened by Mr. Abbott's courage of conviction.
This means Mr. Rudd now has a fight on his hands to pass cap-and-trade in the Senate, which his Labor Party does not control. He said Tuesday that further delay of the bill "equals denial on climate change." If Mr. Abbott can mount a solid economic case against such fact-free moralizing, then the Liberals may soon revive their electoral fortunes.

Climate Change and Poverty

Global warming has captured the attention of politicians around the world. The following article is part of a series leading up to the December United Nations conference in Copenhagen on how ordinary people in different countries view the issue:

Nine years ago, Maya Bishwokarma moved with her family to Kathmandu from Trisuli, a remote village in the hilly Nepal countryside. Their search for a better life has proved elusive. She and her husband and two sons live in a small, two-room house with her brother-in-law's family, near the bank of a small stream that has been converted into an open sewer.
"The life of the poor is more miserable here [than in the countryside]," Mrs. Bishwokarma told a Copenhagen Consensus researcher in June. "Our kids are suffering." The family cannot afford to send their children to a good school.
One of the visible signs of this family's hardship is the lack of basic amenities. Their hut has electricity, but rolling blackouts mean there is no power for as much as 16 hours a day. Even during the wet season, Mrs. Bishwokarma must line up with other local residents to collect water handed out every six days by government officials. Due to a long drought, the price of vegetables and food has soared.
The lack of water in the shadow of the Himalayas may seem like a strong argument for drastic, short-term reductions in carbon emissions. Indeed, the plight of people like the Bishwokarmas has been used by Al Gore and other campaigners to argue for just such cuts. Climate activists argue that there is a link between melting glaciers in the Himalayas and water shortages elsewhere.
On the surface, this makes sense. But when we dig deeper, we find that the Himalaya glaciers are difficult even for scientists to understand. Most suggestions of rapid melting are based on observations of a small handful of India's 10,000 or so Himalayan glaciers. A comprehensive report in November by senior glaciologist Vijay Kumar Raina, released by the Indian government, looked more broadly and found that many of these glaciers are stable or have even advanced, and that the rate of retreat for many others has slowed recently.
Jeffrey S. Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona, declared in the Nov. 13 issue of Science that these "extremely provocative" findings were "consistent with what I have learned independently," while in the same issue of the magazine Kenneth Hewitt, a glaciologist at Wilfrid Laurier University, agreed that "there is no evidence" to support the suggestion that the glaciers are disappearing quickly.
When glaciers thicken and expand, the summer runoff into rivers decreases. In other words, when climate change does increase glacial melting, the flow of water to poor people like the Bishwokarmas will increase for several decades.
This does not mean that we should cheer on climate change, which will affect the planet in a myriad of complex and challenging ways. It does cast new light on one argument for drastic, short-term carbon cuts. It is important, after all, that we base our response to global warming on the most solid scientific expectations.
What did Mrs. Bishwokarma have to say about such questions? Several times, she asked the Copenhagen Consensus researcher to explain what "climate change" was. When it was explained, she agreed that it was a concern.
But she added that the government of Nepal and others should spend money "first on our everyday problems, then on global warming." To her, with the perspective of living in a slum and unable to send her children to good schools, that prescription makes a lot of sense.—Mr. Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank, and author of "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" (Knopf, 2007).

Climategate: Follow the Money


Last year, ExxonMobil donated $7 million to a grab-bag of public policy institutes, including the Aspen Institute, the Asia Society and Transparency International. It also gave a combined $125,000 to the Heritage Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis, two conservative think tanks that have offered dissenting views on what until recently was called—without irony—the climate change "consensus."
To read some of the press accounts of these gifts—amounting to about 0.0027% of Exxon's 2008 profits of $45 billion—you might think you'd hit upon the scandal of the age. But thanks to what now goes by the name of climategate, it turns out the real scandal lies elsewhere.
Climategate, as readers of these pages know, concerns some of the world's leading climate scientists working in tandem to block freedom of information requests, blackball dissenting scientists, manipulate the peer-review process, and obscure, destroy or massage inconvenient temperature data—facts that were laid bare by last week's disclosure of thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, or CRU.
But the deeper question is why the scientists behaved this way to begin with, especially since the science behind man-made global warming is said to be firmly settled. To answer the question, it helps to turn the alarmists' follow-the-money methods right back at them.
Consider the case of Phil Jones, the director of the CRU and the man at the heart of climategate. According to one of the documents leaked from his center, between 2000 and 2006 Mr. Jones was the recipient (or co-recipient) of some $19 million worth of research grants, a sixfold increase over what he'd been awarded in the 1990s.
Why did the money pour in so quickly? Because the climate alarm kept ringing so loudly: The louder the alarm, the greater the sums. And who better to ring it than people like Mr. Jones, one of its likeliest beneficiaries?
Thus, the European Commission's most recent appropriation for climate research comes to nearly $3 billion, and that's not counting funds from the EU's member governments. In the U.S., the House intends to spend $1.3 billion on NASA's climate efforts, $400 million on NOAA's, and another $300 million for the National Science Foundation. American states also have a piece of the action, with California—apparently not feeling bankrupt enough—devoting $600 million to their own climate initiative. In Australia, alarmists have their own Department of Climate Change at their funding disposal.
And all this is only a fraction of the $94 billion that HSBC estimates has been spent globally this year on what it calls "green stimulus"—largely ethanol and other alternative energy schemes—of the kind from which Al Gore and his partners at Kleiner Perkins hope to profit handsomely.
Supply, as we know, creates its own demand. So for every additional billion in government-funded grants (or the tens of millions supplied by foundations like the Pew Charitable Trusts), universities, research institutes, advocacy groups and their various spin-offs and dependents have emerged from the woodwork to receive them.
Today these groups form a kind of ecosystem of their own. They include not just old standbys like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, but also Ozone Action, Clean Air Cool Planet, Americans for Equitable Climate Change Solutions, the Alternative Energy Resources Association, the California Climate Action Registry and so on and on. All of them have been on the receiving end of climate-change-related funding, so all of them must believe in the reality (and catastrophic imminence) of global warming just as a priest must believe in the existence of God.
None of these outfits are per se corrupt, in the sense that the monies they get are spent on something other than their intended purposes. But they depend on an inherently corrupting premise, namely that the hypothesis on which their livelihood depends has in fact been proved. Absent that proof, everything they represent—including the thousands of jobs they provide—vanishes. This is what's known as a vested interest, and vested interests are an enemy of sound science.
Which brings us back to the climategate scientists, the keepers of the keys to the global warming cathedral. In one of the more telling disclosures from last week, a computer programmer writes of the CRU's temperature database: "I am very sorry to report that the rest of the databases seems to be in nearly as poor a state as Australia was. . . . Aarrggghhh! There truly is no end in sight. . . . We can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!"
This is not the sound of settled science, but of a cracking empirical foundation. And however many billion-dollar edifices may be built on it, sooner or later it is bound to crumble.
Write to

Beware global warming – and the lobbyists

It’s hard enough to persuade people how critical climate change is without hurricanes of hysteria and propaganda
Joss Garman

There is an unassuming strip of glass-fronted buildings a mile north of the White House which is now almost as important to the formulation of our national political culture as Fleet Street used to be. Our own politics have become so hard-wired to the US media that K Street — the home of America’s lobbying industry — now sets the parameters of political debate on both sides of the pond.
Imagine if, instead of 60 years ago, the Labour Party was trying to create a National Health Service today. The right-wing campaign to scupper the formation of an NHS would be run against the backdrop of UK media coverage of America’s simultaneous healthcare debate. Every “death panel” and “compulsory abortion” myth concocted on K Street would soon be digested by British correspondents in Washington before being tailored for a UK audience as an insight into the fallout from the introduction of “socialised medicine”. Fortunately, the NHS was created before K Street helped to create the political weather on this side of the Atlantic. But brace yourself because next up is climate change — and if you thought the US healthcare debate was skewed by lobbyists disseminating scare stories, then in the words of Ronald Reagan, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Over the coming months climate legislation will be discussed before the Senate. A vote is expected next year and a hurricane of hysteria is already forming, with Britain’s climate debate likely to be caught in the vicious tailwinds.
A television advert launched in the States by a DC-based group called CO2 is Green extolled the glories of pumping unlimited quantities of carbon into the atmosphere: “Higher CO2 levels than we have today would help the earth’s ecosystems and would support more plant and animal life.” Soon Americans will no doubt be faced with new evidence proving that climate change is a myth propagated by the Left and politically motivated liberal academics who seek to undermine the Western way of life from within.
To the likes of Richard Betts, of the Met Office Hadley Centre, all this is utterly alien. He told an Oxford university gathering of the elite of the climate modelling community this year: “We’ve always talked about these very severe impacts only affecting future generations, but people alive today could live to see a 4C rise.” A 4C rise could threaten the water supply of half the world’s population, wipe out up to half of animal and plant species, and swamp low-lying coasts.
In that company his was not a controversial statement, yet it bears no resemblance to the conversation currently happening between the elected and the electors.
As the US climate debate ramps up, this disconnect will become more stark. Prepare to be told, in contrast to the peer-reviewed science and indeed reality itself, that the glaciers are expanding, the polar ice caps are growing, global temperatures are dropping and sea levels are falling.
It has become evident in recent months that the British national conversation on climate change may not be robust enough to withstand a severe warping by the coming storm of unreason. The recent Populus poll for The Times found that only a quarter of people believe that climate change is the most serious problem that the world faces. This followed other research from Cardiff University that found that the number of Britons who don’t trust climate scientists to tell us the truth about global warming is up to 29 per cent — double the number who held the same opinion in 2003. The capacity of politicians, even if they were so minded, to enact the policies we urgently need is severely restricted by a national debate that is going in the wrong direction.
The climate debate here in the UK is still characterised to a great extent by misinformation, conspiracy theories and ideological prejudices. But why? When did science and progress become the enemy?
After all, it hasn’t always been like this. In the 1980s humans in predominantly richer countries were found to have been influencing the make-up of the atmosphere to the detriment of all mankind, but on that occasion there was a global collective will to act. The United Nations organised a meeting of political leaders in Montreal to agree a deal. And crucially, they stuck to it and it worked. Kofi Annan went so far as to describe it as “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date”. The crisis was the hole in the ozone layer, the cause was CFCs and the solution was a protocol that forced businesses and consumers to change their behaviour.
With the key climate conference in Copenhagen only a week away, why is it so different this time? The reason, of course, has nothing to do with scientific uncertainty and everything to do with the fact that, unlike CFCs, the CO2 emissions that cause climate breakdown are tied inexorably to the most powerful political, cultural and economic force of our age: consumerism. We greens need to accept that hundreds of millions of people around the world credit this economic creed with raising them out of poverty, improving their quality of life and extending life expectancy. But it’s a fact that the more we consume, the more we emit, and so demanding real action on climate change is to challenge the foundations on which our postwar world has been built, nowhere more so than in America. Thus the frenzied fightback against the climate science, one that in scale and content dwarfs the piecemeal efforts of the “ozone deniers” of 20 years ago.
Being a CO2 realist today means demanding policies that will force carbon emissions to peak in the next six years then drop dramatically, as the scientific consensus says we must. And yet, driven by turbo-consumerism, the trajectory of global carbon emissions remains pointed inexorably upwards with little sign of a plateau, let alone a reduction. What we’re asking for is so far outside the accepted parameters of debate that we might as well be living on a different planet.
Nasa, the Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences — once we would have allowed these authoritative, trustworthy, dependable voices to shape those parameters. Instead, the scientists we rely upon have become a target for hackers and death threats. In the face of consumerism, these establishment institutions have been cast in the role of radicals. And the demonising of them is likely to become even more entrenched in the coming weeks and months as Obama’s climate Bill approaches that crucial Senate vote and those K Street “think-tanks” — the intellectual cosa nostra of consumerism — mobilise the forces of ignorance.
Joss Garman is a Greenpeace activist and was co-founder of Plane Stupid

Climate research chief Phil Jones stands down pending inquiry into leaked emails

Director denies conspiracy claims and stands by scientists' findings on global warming

Alok Jha and agencies, Tuesday 1 December 2009 22.03 GMT
The head of the climate research unit that had its emails hacked and posted online will step down from his post while an inquiry into the affair is carried out.
Messages between scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were posted on the web last week, and climate-change deniers seized on them as alleged evidence that scientists have been hiding and manipulating data to support the idea that the world is warming up.
Professor Phil Jones, the director of the CRU, said he stood by the science produced by his researchers and suggestions of a conspiracy to alter evidence to support a theory of man-made global warming were "complete rubbish". But he said today that he would stand aside as director of the unit until an independent review into the hacked emails had been completed.
"What is most important is that CRU continues its world-leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible," he said. "After a good deal of consideration I have decided that the best way to achieve this is by stepping aside from the director's role during the course of the independent review and am grateful to the university for agreeing to this. The review process will have my full support."
Emails between researchers at the centre were obtained by hackers and then published on websites run by climate sceptics. Some argue that the timing, just before next week's major climate talks in Copenhagen, seems meant to undermine the negotiations.
Critics of the argument that global warming is human-induced say the emails show evidence of collusion by scientists. Some claimed that the contents of some emails suggested scientists prevented work they did not agree with from being included in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2007. But earlier this week, Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the IPCC, said there was "virtually no possibility" of a few climate scientists biasing the advice given to governments by the UN. He said that the large number of contributors and rigorous peer review mechanism adopted by the IPCC meant that any bias would be rapidly uncovered.
He was responding in particular to one email from 2004 in which Phil Jones said of two papers he regarded as flawed: "I can't see either … being in the next [IPCC] report. Kevin [Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"
Pachauri said: "People should be discreet … in this day and age anything you write, even privately, could become public and to put anything down in writing is, to say the least, indiscreet … It is another matter to talk about this to your friends on the telephone or person to person, but to put it down in writing was indiscreet. If someone was to say something like this in an IPCC authors' meeting then there are others who would chew him up."
Peter Liss, a specialist in interaction between the oceans and atmosphere at UEA, will stand in as acting director of the CRU while the review is conducted. The university's vice-chancellor, Edward Acton, said: "I have accepted Professor Jones's offer to stand aside during this period. It is an important step to ensure that CRU can continue to operate normally and the independent review can conduct its work into the allegations."
The economist Nick Stern said the views of those who doubted the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming were "muddled and unscientific". He admitted that all views should be heard, but said the degree of scepticism among "real scientists" was very small. The evidence for global warming stretches back more than 800,000 years, he said. "This is evidence that is overwhelming, from all sources, that's the kind of climate science we're talking about. I think it is very important that those with any kind of views on the science or economics have their say - that does not mean that unscientific muddle also has the right to be recognised as searing insight."
He added: "If they are muddled and confused, they do not have the right to be described as anything other than muddled and confused."
The move received a welcome from many involved in environmental non-government organisations.
One leading environmental campaigner said: "It seems like a sensible course of action – finally, the CRU seem to be getting their public response in order. But any reading of the emails in context would lead to the conclusion that nothing untoward happened here at all."

While the politicians talk, business can profit from climate change

One of President Obama's favourite building materials suppliers has the solution to a rather big problem.

By Richard Tyler Published: 5:13PM GMT 01 Dec 2009
The world consumes around 15 terawatts of energy and this is forecast to double in the next 20 to 25 years. Add together all the planned alternative energy projects and you gain a few terawatts of power. Build 45 new nuclear power stations and you get a couple more terawatts. It's nowhere near enough. A wealthier world will demand more power.
Enter Mark Mitchell, chief operating officer of US green company of the moment Serious Materials. He argues that if developed economies can reduce demand for energy while still growing there is hope for the ambitious carbon emissions targets that may be agreed by world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen next week.
Serious Materials sounds sexy, but isn't. It simply makes high-performance windows and drywall. But venture capital firms have just invested around $120m (£73m) in the company and President Obama recently championed the reopening of one of its plants outside Pittsburgh.
For Mitchell the biggest energy savings can be found not from taxing air travel or hiking fuel duty but by making factories, offices and housing more energy efficient. He points to the window of the room in the Judge Business School building where we meet and says that if it was better insulated it could reduce the room's energy loss by more than 50pc. "It's an open sieve." There are a lot of windows like that in Cambridge.
Serious Materials is now retrofitting tens of thousands of windows in public buildings across the US as it benefits from the billions being spent under The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. Private-sector housebuilders battered by the recession have been a harder sell. Mitchell says there is progress but innovation does not come naturally to this industry. "It's like pulling a wet noodle up a hill," he admits.
Demand for change needs to come from consumers. Mitchell points with some enthusiasm to Britain's compulsory system of commercial property energy performance certificates – the US has a voluntary approach so far.
But the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors is less optimistic. It says there is little pressure on landlords to improve properties with existing tenants on long leases. Energy efficiency may influence the rent a new tenant is prepared to pay.
But this is only happening at the margins. RICS calls on the Government to follow Germany's lead and match legal compliance with incentives to invest.
It is already happening on a small scale. Thanks to a generous interest-free loan from the Treasury via the Carbon Trust, tank part maker Astrum has pushed the button on investment that could slash its electricity bill in half. The electricity savings cover the interest payments. "It was a no brainer," is how Astrum puts it. The Chancellor could use his pre-Budget report to do more.
Bank Charter con?
Small business charters have become the rage as banks attempt to repair broken fences. The two banks with taxpayers as shareholders – Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest (and its parent Royal Bank of Scotland) – have responded to government pressure to provide more support.
The cold shoulder is being replaced by tea and sympathy. Lloyds was first off with a commitment to provide a clearer and fairer charging regime with fees for loans and overdrafts pegged at 1.5pc of the overall value. NatWest and RBS are following suit with a similar annual cap for businesses with a turnover up to £25m. The pair say that nine out of 10 small businesses have had overdraft facilities renewed at the same or lower rate following a price and overdraft promise last year.
Wrapping the small business measures in a charter makes the packages sound grander than they are but the banks can be forgiven for a little marketing licence. The mere use of the word charter, however, makes it all sound solemn and binding. Can the first breach of the charter be far away? A public pat on the back to the first business that manages to use the charter to get its errant bank manager to change his mind

Copenhagen climate summit: companies turn up the heat

Many have already dismissed next week's Copenhagen climate change summit as a political talking shop: long on ambitions and short on achievement. It depends what you define as accomplishment.

By Rowena MasonPublished: 9:37PM GMT 01 Dec 2009

For what could be more certain to influence the course of global political history than a hothouse of lobbyists with vested interests blooming into friendships with key negotiators?
The most furious activity is likely to centre around the most powerful countries, according to Ben Stewart, a Greenpeace officer, who will be making it his business to know who companies are wooing next week – and doing his own share of influencing as well.
"What's different about the UK is that it isn't susceptible to the same corruption as the US political system when it comes to lobbying," he says. "That's why Big Oil won't be wasting its time and money hanging around Ed Miliband. It will all be done through the US."
A survey by the Center for Public Integrity recently found that there are five climate-related lobbyists circling every US senator – four times the number six years ago. Another think tank estimates that US energy companies are spending $102.7m (£61.8m) on politicians ahead of the talks.
"Lobbyists come in many different forms," Mr Stewart says. "Some are in the open, while others are in the vibrant fringes behind closed doors. They can be very effective at killing proposed legislation."
Many big companies will leave the dirty work to their industry pressure groups, betting on the fact that there is safety in numbers if some arguments undermine the strength of their commitment to tackling climate change.
The key Copenhagen Business Day does not list company delegates, but its website shows almost every industry represented by an umbrella body: from the International Chamber of Shipping to the World Coal Institute.
The demands of these groups will range from the overarching to the extremely niche. But the key issue for most industries will be global carbon trading policy, which President Obama is trying to push through the Senate, but developing countries have resisted.
Even companies such as Shell and Exxon have come out in favour of a cap-and-trade system in recent years, in a concession that could mean less punishing taxes or emissions targets.
Wholeheartedly on the side of a tough system, Alexandra Galin, policy manager for the Carbon Markets & Investors Association (CMIA), will be evangelising about the cause at Copenhagen, claiming that for any British steel worker put out of a job if businesses move abroad due to carbon trading, there will eventually be a sparkling new low-carbon position. "Global carbon trading could bring so many new industries," she enthuses.
But for the oil majors and heavy industrial users of energy, there is important room for manoeuvre on which industries will be granted exemptions, how many allowances will be given away free and which countries can wriggle out of promising to implement trading in future.
It is, of course, easy to cast the array of slick spinners for every possible argument in a simplistic light. The Angry Mermaid website, run by climate campaigners, is currently running a disparaging competition to find the world's most manipulative lobbyist, from a shortlist including Shell, the European Chemical Industry Council, and the International Air Transport Association.
But one of the criticisms of the Kyoto treaty was its failure to represent the interests of private companies, or what the UN calls BINGOs (Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organisations). Companies claim that they only want politicians to listen and stop walking into overly ambitious promises that industry cannot deliver.
Organisers of the oversubscribed Copenhagen Business Day say many thousands of companies have applied for accreditation.
"I understand there is much more business interest than there was at Kyoto," says Carlos Busquets, policy manager at the International Chamber of Commerce.
"It's not just the oil and gas representatives, but companies like GE and Siemens who are selling green technology, plus all the big banks looking for business. It is much more than networking – we are likely to see foundations of deals being done."

Australia's Carbon-Emissions Plan Faces Derailment

CANBERRA -- The Australian government's closely watched plan to reduce carbon emissions is likely to be stalled until February, and possibly beyond, after the opposition's newly elected leader vowed to block it in the Australian Senate this week.
The almost certain defeat or delay of the plan in Australia's upper house means Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will be without a long-coveted domestic emissions-trading program ahead of global climate talks in Copenhagen this month.
The failure would also provide further evidence of the difficulty in achieving consensus on addressing climate change, even in countries like Australia where steps to reduce emissions have broad popular support.

Mr. Rudd appeared to have the votes locked up to secure his program's approval, after reaching a deal with then-opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull a week ago that provided billions of dollars of compensation to affected industries in return for conservatives' support.
But the deal fell apart on Tuesday when the opposition Liberal Party voted 42 to 41 to oust Mr. Turnbull in favor of conservative faction leader Tony Abbott.
Mr. Abbott said he believes climate change "is real" and that humans do make a contribution. But he described Mr. Rudd's carbon plan, which by 2020 aims to reduce Australia's emissions by at least 5% from turn-of-the-century levels as a "great big tax," especially on industries such as the power sector, which relies heavily on coal.
Mr. Abbott has said he will seek to refer the climate package to a Senate committee, delaying its passage until at least February, when Parliament resumes after a long summer recess, and possibly much later. If that motion is unsuccessful, he would push the party to vote down the proposal this week, forcing the government to start over again next year.
Mr. Rudd still has several options, and it is still possible Australia will approve a climate-change plan eventually.
If a vote is held this week and the climate package fails, Australian law would allow Mr. Rudd to call an early election, which analysts believe he would easily win. That might give him a bigger mandate to pass a carbon plan later.
Another option would be to simply wait out the rest of his term, which would mean an election would be held any time between August 2010 and early 2011. In that scenario, Mr. Rudd could keep pushing for some form of climate-change compromise with the current opposition, though Mr. Abbott appears likely to keep fighting a deal.
It is also technically possible Mr. Rudd could muster enough support to pass the climate-change package this week, though analysts now view that as unlikely given the change in Liberal Party leadership.
Either way, Mr. Rudd hasn't indicated any plans to call an early election yet.
"I would urge all parliamentarians today in Australia -- whatever their political party -- to vote in the national interest, and to vote for action on climate change," Mr. Rudd told reporters while traveling in Washington.

Despite his success on Tuesday, Mr. Abbott has his work cut out for him. Polls show that most Australians support some form of climate-change plan, and he assumes leadership of a deeply divided opposition party that could fare poorly if another election is held.
"I am not frightened of an early election," Mr. Abbott said, noting that Australia shouldn't be legislating a domestic carbon program in advance of the Copenhagen talks or before the U.S., which is also debating a plan, has set its position.
If Mr. Abbott isn't able to unify the party or improve the party's standing in opinion polls, history indicates he may not last long in the position. He is the third leader to be elected since Australia's Liberal-National coalition's government was defeated in 2007. When the Liberals were last in opposition, from 1983 to 1996, they changed leaders many times.
Mr. Abbott has made a number of missteps through the years, including a gaffe just before the 2007 election in which he had to apologize to a terminally ill anti-asbestos campaigner for comments perceived as insensitive. The 52-year-old has also often courted controversy with his conservative views and blunt talk on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to stem-cell research.
He could be helped by his 15 years in Parliament and many years of experience in government. A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford who briefly attended a Catholic seminary, he has also worked as a journalist and as a press secretary and adviser to a former opposition leader. Mr. Abbott was also close to former conservative Prime Minister John Howard and was a government minister from 1998 until Mr. Howard's defeat in 2007.
Mr. Abbott's supporters say he is a man of principle and insight who can be effective in debate with the government. He is also a magnet for conservative elements in the Liberal Party.
Write to Rachel Pannett at and Iain McDonald at

New technology ‘must drive global carbon emissions cuts’

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

New technology including smart meters, “intelligent” electricity grids and teleconferencing systems could cut global carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 per cent, according to the chairman of BP.
Carl-Henric Svanberg, the newly appointed chairman of Britain’s biggest company, said such technology would play a significant role in tackling climate change by cutting energy wastage and demand for domestic and international travel.
“The world’s GDP will treble by 2050 and if we continue, that means three times our energy consumption and three times our carbon dioxide emissions,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Times.
“We cannot just live the way we do and multiply it by three. We must find more intelligent ways of doing things.”

Mr Svanberg, who remains chief executive at the Swedish telecoms company Ericsson until the end of the year, said that smart meters that monitor household energy consumption in real-time would be a key factor.
“Over time every house and every energy-consuming unit will have a Sim card that means there can be a dialogue with energy suppliers. You can save a lot of energy by doing that.”
His remarks come as the Government sets out details today of a £9 billion plan to introduce smart meters in all 26 million British homes by 2020. However, the company advising the Government on the technology said yesterday that there was no reason “in principle” why the introduction could not be completed four years ahead of the government schedule.
Omar Abbosh, managing director at Accenture, said the meters were crucial to reducing and managing energy consumption before predicted energy shortages over the next decade.
The new meters will enable power companies to make improvements in energy efficiency by introducing off-peak deals similar to those offered by telephone operators.
Consumers will be rewarded for using energy-hungry appliances such as dishwashers and tumble dryers at off-peak times, such as between 1am and 5am, allowing for a reduction in the total number of power stations needed to power Britain.
Inaccurate billing should also end because suppliers would receive exact data.
Mr Abbosh said: “The rapid roll-out of smart meters is critical if they are to help address the generation gap forecast for 2014 to 2017, as meters will help reduce and manage consumption. We expect the industry to be ready for mass deployment by 2013, so full deployment by 2016 is possible, albeit challenging.”
Mr Svanberg, 57, said the present trajectory of the world’s energy consumption was unsustainable, adding that world leaders meeting in Copenhagen this month must set a high global price for carbon emissions in order to drive billions of dollars of fresh investment into low-carbon sources of energy.
“If the world’s scientists and leaders can agree that emissions need to be reduced, then putting a price on emissions seems like the way to go. There is a lot of support for finding a way of pricing emissions.”
Mr Svanberg said that businesses needed to lead the way in taking action to control emissions, rather than waiting for politicians.
“As citizens of the world, I don’t think we can just sit back and wait for the politicians to make their decisions and then just act. Everyone must contribute. Everybody needs to do their part.”
Mr Svanberg, who has no previous experience of working in the oil industry, said there were parallels between the worlds of telecoms and energy.
“If you see the world as a human being, you can see the oil as the blood and the telecoms as the nervous system. Both are very crucial to a country’s prosperity. Both are very important for a country’s development.”
Mr Svanberg also said that large chunks of global air, road and rail passenger traffic could be removed through the use of teleconferencing and telecommuting.
“We continue to travel the world just to have meetings . . . [but] you can replace an awful lot of meetings with teleconferencing.”
Transport accounts for 14 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The bulk of these are from road transport, at 76 per cent of total transport emissions, and aviation, at 12 per cent.
“In many ways we have come full circle as a society. First we had the horse and carriage, then came the railroad and then steamships and then airplanes so you could fly across the world. Now we don’t have to travel so much because of technology," Mr Svanberg said.

Nine locations given go ahead to become eco-towns

Nine new locations have been given permission to develop plans to become environmentally friendly eco-towns, the Government has announced.

By Rosa Prince, Political CorrespondentPublished: 4:09PM GMT 01 Dec 2009
Among the “second wave” of proposals for new eco-towns being developed by local councils is land alongside the Bradford Shipley canal corridor, and Shoreham Harbour in West Sussex.
In July, John Healey, the housing minister, gave four locations the go ahead to become eco-towns from an original shortlist of 15 sites.

The next nine have now been permission to proceed with developing plans for new settlements which meet environmentally-friendly standards, and will receive a share of £5 million in Government funds.
To qualify to become an eco-town a development must have 5,000 homes, at least 30 per cent of which should be affordable for those on low incomes, and contain low-carbon services, buildings, transport and energy.
Shoreham Harbour and a second site in Northstowe, Cambridge, have already begun development and will be redesigned to meet higher levels of sustainability.
Five more local authorities are seeking to set up potential eco-towns across 10 locations.
They are: Monkton Heathfield and Corneytrowe in Taunton, Yeovil, the Lincoln area and Gainsborough, Coventry, and the Leeds City Region – which covers four sites at Aire Valley, York North West, North Kirklees and Bradford Shipley canal corridor.
Councils in Cornwall and Sheffield have been given the go ahead to carry out a survey of potential eco-town development in their areas.
The Government’s aim is to build 10 eco-towns by 2020.
Mr Healey said: "The further nine areas are looking at proposals to design and develop to the tough new eco-town standard.
"This signals real and radical momentum to change and rethink how we design our towns and homes for the future.
"We are leading the world with these developments, which combine affordable housing with new green infrastructures and an exceptional quality of life."
Eco-towns are opposed by critics who claim that they will "devastate the countryside" by increasing traffic congestion, destroying wildlife habitats and exacerbating flooding.
Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, said: "Ministers have already conceded that eco-towns will create homes which are less green than ordinary houses built at the same time.
"This latest desperate announcement is the Government simply trying to save face by throwing in existing planned developments and calling them eco-towns."

Global emissions exceeding 'carbon budget', PwC study finds

World has emitted extra greenhouse gases this century equivalent to the annual totals of China and the United States, PricewaterhouseCoopers research finds
Ashley Seager, Tuesday 1 December 2009 14.06 GMT
The world is rapidly depleting its "carbon budget" for the first half of this century and must slash the carbon intensity of the global economy, a new report said today.
Economists and climate change experts at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said their new research highlights the need for an ambitious carbon reduction agreement at the Copenhagen climate conference, which starts next week.
The report's authors calculated the global carbon budget between 2000 and 2050 required to limit temperature rises to 2C, the climate threshold defined as "dangerous" by the EU.
A fifth of that budget had been used up by 2008, they said, meaning the world is already 10% off the necessary trajectory to hit the target. The carbon "debt" in 2008 was equivalent to the joint emissions of the US and China.
John Hawksworth, PwC's head of macroeconomics, said: "Despite the widening consensus around the need to decarbonise, few countries are doing enough to live within our estimates of their carbon budgets. "If the world stays on this [course] we will have used up the entire global carbon budget for the first half of this century by 2034, 16 years ahead of schedule."
The report added that the G20 countries which account for over 80% of global emissions need to cut their carbon intensity - the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each unit of GDP - by 35% by 2020, four times the rate achieved between 2000 and 2008.
Global emissions from the use of energy need to peak by 2015 and fall back to 2009 levels by the end of the next decade, the report said.
Leo Johnson, a PwC climate change partner, said previous inaction meant that much faster action was needed now: "If we had started on a low-carbon pathway in 2000, we would have needed to decarbonise at around 2% a year up to 2008. We managed only 0.8% in 2000-08. The result is we now need to decarbonise at a rate of 3.5% a year to get back on track by 2020 - four times more than we have managed at the global level since 2000."
The report said that Britain, one of the first countries to set a legally binding carbon budget, has recorded the eighth best performance in the G20 in the period. The UK is behind France and Germany but ahead of Italy, and around 6-7% off the required trajectory to meet its carbon budget by 2050.
The EU as a whole, which claims leadership on the climate change agenda, is estimated to have been around 7% off target in 2008, having improved carbon intensity by 1.8% a year since 2000 compared to the 2.6% annually that would have been necessary to be on target.
Only Russia reduced its carbon intensity by more than the budgeted amount since 2000, thanks to very rapid increases in energy efficiency, although it started from a very low base.

UK charity SolarAid offers green answer to African energy problems

Jonathan Clayton in Rumphi, Malawi

Noel Halawa has never forgotten the plague that destroyed his family’s life.
He first saw a few of the caterpillar-like army worms in a neighbour’s bush early one morning in 2005. By nightfall they had spread into nearby maize fields. Within days, moving like a blanket of locusts, they devoured the entire village harvest. “They destroyed every crop. It was devastating. My father lost everything. I vowed to do something to stop it happening again, it caused so much misery and suffering,” he said.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most of its 12 million people are dependent on subsistence farming. Food supplies are precarious. Every year the country suffers shortages, usually brought on by droughts or heavy rains, and needs emergency food aid from the UN.
A plague of crop-eating insects, easily fought off in the developed world, represents a disaster of tsunami-like proportions. Once a farmer loses his crop he cannot earn money to feed his family, nor can he buy seeds for the following season. The cycle of poverty begins.
“People were distraught. They were staring disaster in the face,” said Mr Halawa. “The whole village was in panic, but no one could do anything.”
He said that farmers did not have crop sprayers. In remote rural communities, it is virtually impossible to hire or borrow one at short notice.
“Even if they did have one, a local farmer cannot afford insecticides and pesticides. The Government sometimes helps, but they cannot react quickly enough, and often do not have enough money themselves,” said Mr Halawa.
That gave the 36-year-old entrepreneur an idea, and he set to work. It took two years, but eventually, after much trial and error, recycling abandoned goods such as cooking oil containers, he created a rudimentary crop sprayer.
The 9-volt device was powered by six batteries — enough to last three weeks if used between two and three times a week for less than an hour at a time. Mr Halawa soon found himself with a thriving business. In his home region of Rumphi, in northern Malawi, dozens of farmers wanted to hire the sprayer. However, only a handful could afford the cost of about 75p a session. “The problem was single-use batteries ... They are expensive, do not last very long if the device is used a lot, and we have to go a long way to find them,” he said.
In Malawi, where only 4 per cent of the population have access to electricity, rechargeable batteries are almost unknown. On one of his visits to the nearby city of Mzuzu, Mr Halawa heard of a new shop, sponsored by the UK charity SolarAid, which was offering an almost magical answer to his problem — solar power. SolarAid was established three years ago to fight two key threats facing the developing world: poverty and climate change.
Those behind the organisation realised that the two were often linked by the absence of a commodity taken for granted in the West: electricity.
No electricity means that rural women in Africa have to fell trees and turn wood into charcoal, just to cook. This adds to deforestation, which increases soil erosion and further deteriorates habitat, fuelling global warming. Without electricity, they also cannot see at night. Children cannot do their homework.
SolarAid has been selling, at a subsidised price, small solar panels, no more than 6in square, attached by wire to an LED bulb. This provides enough light for an entire room.
If the panels are left in the African sun during the day, they quickly store enough energy to last up to seven hours. The result is changing the lives of many poor Africans. “When I saw them, I could not believe it ... It was the answer to my dreams,” said Mr Halawa. He quickly adapted his sprayer so it could use the device. He took out a micro-loan for 4,500 Malawian kwatcha (about £18) and bought a unit to power his sprayer. He cut costs elsewhere by using local witchdoctor remedies to make herbicides to kill the pests, instead of buying expensive chemical products.
“Without the need for batteries, I was able to cut my prices. In no time, I had 65 regular clients, and a thriving business,” he said.
SolarAid panels are most commonly used for lighting homes. Darkness falls early and quickly in African villages. Traditionally, families use kerosene lamps that belch out foulsmelling fumes, clogging young lungs and stinking out small homes with eye-stinging smoke. They are often knocked over, and the leaking paraffin or kerosene starts terrible fires.
The solar units have also been adapted recently to charge mobile phones or small radios — often the only source of entertainment and news in villages. People are then no longer forced to walk miles each day to spend income on batteries or kerosene. The economic savings are incalculable.

Vibrating kettles: The power stations of the future?

Researchers at Bristol University want to harness power of vibration to provide free energy. From, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Tuesday 1 December 2009 11.12 GMT
A team at Bristol University hopes to harvest kinetic energy from vibrating household appliances and vehicles in order to use it as a clean source of commercial electricity within five years.
The concept known as 'energy harvesting' has been around for more than a decade, and commercial devices already exist in specialised areas. For example, vibrations from industrial pumps are currently employed to power sensors that monitor the pumps' operational condition.
At the moment, devices can only make use of vibrations within a narrow range of frequencies or number of vibrations per second. They use a spring with a mass on the end and employ a process called resonance to amplify small vibrations, which enables energy to be extracted.
"Even just a few milliwatts can power small electronic devices like a heart rate monitor or an engine temperature sensor, but it can also be used to recharge power-hungry devices like MP3 players or mobile phones," said Dr Stephen Barrow, who is leading the project.
But the current problem is that, if such vibration levels are too low, too little electricity is produced to make the device usable. This situation generates problems in applications such as transport, where the frequency of vibrations changes constantly.
As a result, the Bristol University team is developing a new kind of device based on a non-linear spring and mass. The new type of spring enables the appliance to resonate over a much wider range of frequencies than a conventional one, which should broaden the number of applications in which it can be used.
The amount of energy produced is similar in scale to a battery, but is more environmentally friendly in that devices do not run the risk of leaking polluting chemicals on disposal. They also do not need to be regularly replaced.
"There's a huge amount of free, clean energy out there in the form of vibrations that just can't be tapped at the moment. Wider-frequency energy harvesters could make a valuable contribution to meeting energy needs more efficiently and sustainably," said Burrow.
Such devices are particularly suited to applications where hard wiring is impractical, vulnerable to damage or difficult to get at for maintenance purposes.
They are also expected to be used in wireless monitoring and diagnostic sensors that generate data on the amount of stress that engine components and structural elements in buildings are subject to.
The appliances could likewise be used to monitor break temperatures in railway rolling stock or patients' heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure.
• This article was shared by our content partner, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Progress to Shut Coal-Fired Plants

Bowing to rising environmental pressures, Progress Energy Inc. said it will shut 11 coal-fired power plants at four sites in North Carolina by 2017 and replace the capacity with gas-burning units.
The action is part of a trend in which utilities are shuttering older, smaller coal-burning units and embracing cheap natural gas as a "bridge fuel" to fill the gap until the 2020-to-2030 time frame, when nuclear power and renewable energy are expected to be larger sources of low-carbon electricity.
The power plants facing retirement in North Carolina were built between 1952 and 1972 and thus will be of retirement age by 2017. They constitute 30% of the utility's North Carolina coal capacity and, in an earlier era, might have been refurbished. But Progress has concluded that it would cost too much money to add scrubbers to reduce controlled pollutants like sulfur dioxide and it also suspects that it will cost too much, in coming years, to purchase the emission allowances that likely will be required for carbon dioxide emissions.
Bill Johnson, Progress chief executive, said the coal-to-gas strategy will reduce the utility's total carbon-dioxide emissions significantly, although not by the goal set by President Obama, to cut emissions 17 percent by 2020. "It's still a single-digit number for us, but it's moving in the right direction," Mr. Johnson said in an interview Tuesday. "I think others will follow."
North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue, applauded the announcement, saying that it was "important for North Carolina's air quality" and "is good for the environment and the economy."
The announcement wasn't good news for the coal industry. One coal publication estimated that the news will reduce Progress' consumption of Central Appalachian coal by about 25%.
Other utilities have said they will shut coal-fired power plants in coming years, too. Duke Energy Corp., for example, said it will shut down 18 coal plants totaling 1,600 megawatts by 2020 and replace them with a mix of resources.
Progress Energy hopes to build two nuclear power plants in the next decade at an expected cost of $16.5 billion to $17 billion.
After 2017, Progress would continue to operate three coal-fired plants in North Carolina, totaling 3,542 megawatts, in which it has invested more than $2 billion for pollution control equipment. That equipment curbs nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions but does nothing to control carbon dioxide, regarded as the leading greenhouse gas.
Mr. Johnson said the utility was asked by North Carolina utility regulators to come up with a plan for meeting the state's energy needs in coming years, after it sought permission to build a big gas-fired power plant.
Write to Rebecca Smith at