Saturday, 5 December 2009

Copenhagen climate summit: Barack Obama to attend end of summit

President Barack Obama will attend the end of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen instead of the beginning, the White House has said.

Published: 11:49PM GMT 04 Dec 2009

The US president abruptly altered the timing of his appearance at the conference, hoping to capitalise on steps by India and China in the effort to agree a new global warming pact, Robert Gibbs, the White House official press secretary, said.
"The president believes that continued US leadership can be most productive through his participation at the end of the Copenhagen conference on December 18th rather than on December 9th," Mr Gibbs said in a statement.

"There are still outstanding issues that must be negotiated for an agreement to be reached, but this decision reflects the president's commitment to doing all that he can to pursue a positive outcome."
Mr Obama had earlier planned to stop at the summit on Wednesday on his way to Nobel Peace Prize events in Oslo.
The move means that Mr Obama will be squeezing in a separate, 10th foreign trip before Christmas - a record pace of travel for a first-year president - as a means to giving momentum to a deal aimed at fighting global warming.
Mr Obama will now leave for Oslo late Wednesday, attend Nobel events on Thursday and return to Washington on Friday.

Gordon Brown attacks 'flat-earth' climate change sceptics

'Dangerous, deceitful' attempts to derail Copenhagen summit condemnedFor regular email updates on Copenhagen sign up for the Guardian and Observer's Greenlight newsletter

Damian Carrington and Suzanne Goldenberg, Friday 4 December 2009 20.50 GMT
Gordon Brown tonight led a chorus of condemnation against "flat-earth" climate change sceptics who have tried to derail the Copenhagen summit by casting doubt on the evidence for global warming.
Sceptics in the UK and the US have moved to capitalise on a series of hacked emails from climate change scientists at the University of East Anglia, claiming they show attempts to hide information that does not support the case for human activity causing rising temperatures.
On the eve of the Copenhagen summit, Saudi Arabia and Republican members of the US Congress have used the emails to claim the need for urgent action to cut carbon emissions has been undermined.
But tonight the prime minister, his environment secretary, Ed Miliband, and Ed Markey, the man who co-authored the US climate change bill, joined forces to condemn the sceptics.
"With only days to go before Copenhagen we mustn't be distracted by the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics," Brown told the Guardian. "We know the science. We know what we must do. We must now act and close the 5bn-tonne gap. That will seal the deal."
According to the government adviser Sir Nicholas Stern, 10bn tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions must be taken out of the atmosphere by 2020. So far agreement is in place for only half of that amount.
Ed Miliband gave his most damning assessment of the sceptics yet, describing them as "dangerous and deceitful".
He said: "The approach of the climate saboteurs is to misuse data and mislead people. The sceptics are playing politics with science in a dangerous and deceitful manner. There is no easy way out of tackling climate change despite what they would have us believe. The evidence is clear and the time we have to act is short. To abandon this process now would lead to misery and catastrophe for millions."
Markey warned against allowing America's political agenda to be hijacked by the email affair. "We can no longer allow our climate and energy policy to be hijacked by the government of Saudi Arabia, ExxonMobil, and the defenders of the fossil fuel status quo," he said.
Even if an investigation into the university emails were to show evidence of wrongdoing, scientists and politicians say there is an overwhelming body of evidence that humans are causing climate change. However, the hacking affair is putting new obstacles in the way of getting a bill past Congress – seen as a crucial precondition for a binding climate change treaty.
The summit, which begins on Monday, aims to seal a global deal to control greenhouse gas emissions, but all of the significant issues remain to be resolved. There is still no agreement between developing nations and the richer countries over the carbon cuts required and the funding which must be given to poorer countries to help them cope with global warming.
China and India, whose economies are growing rapidly, must still agree a deal on curbing their emissions while being able to lift billions of people out of poverty.
The concern for some of those attempting to drive through a global deal is that the sceptics will delay critical decisions by casting doubt over the science at a time when momentum has been gathering towards a historic agreement. "The sceptics have clearly seized upon this as an incident that they can use to their own ends in trying to disrupt the Copenhagen agreements," said Bob Watson, Defra chief scientist and former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "If this slows down an international agreement to significantly reduce greenhouse gases, it will mean we're committed to an even larger temperature change … with adverse consequences on agriculture, water, human security, human health and biodiversity."
Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, said it would be disastrous for the planet if sceptics were able to undermine support for a climate change deal. "Ideological dinosaurs, whether in Saudi Arabia or in the Conservative party, who deny climate change must not be allowed to hide behind some leaked correspondence to support their outdated theories," Clegg said.
A number of prominent Conservatives, including former chancellor Lord Lawson and former Cameron frontbencher David Davis, have pounced on the email furore. But tonight the shadow climate change secretary, Greg Clark, made clear the party line remains that climate change is a serious man-made threat. "Research into climate change has involved thousands of different scientists, pursuing many separate lines of independent inquiry over many years. The case for a global deal is still strong and in many aspects, such as the daily destruction of the Earth's rainforests, desperately urgent," he said.
Additional reporting by Alok Jha and Andrew Sparrow

The carbon-cutting crew's faulty logic

If localism is a cure for climate change then the assumptions that the scientific consensus rests upon are wrong

Tim Worstall, Friday 4 December 2009 18.00 GMT

I've a small confession to make and where better to make it than here? I'm one of those classical liberal types with the libertarian mindset that sees the carbon-cutters as, in general, authoritarian, super-statist, quasi-socialist conspirators intent on bossing people around and interfering with their lives and liberties. Having confessed, I'm now going to prove that it's true, that it's not just my belief but a true reflection of the world.
We're all entirely familiar with the usual puffery that infests the pages of every newspaper across the land. Everybody from Greenpeace to the Green party via Friends of the Earth, the Sustainable Development Commission, Plane Stupid, WWF and the tail-end of the whole alphabet soup tells us that the solution to climate change lies in localism. We shouldn't eat from outside our bio-region, economies should be regional or smaller, what trade there is should be within Polanyi's mutual networks rather than around the world and, well, in general, we've got to reverse this horrible, nasty globalisation thing. What we're less familiar with is that they're all, on this particular point, wrong: provably so.
Let us move to the scientific consensus, shall we? Yes, those reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that tell us all about climate change. They are of course based upon economic models: they have to be. For without an economic model, we can't think about how many people there are going to be, how rich they'll be, which technologies they'll be using and thus what emissions will be. If we don't know what emissions are going to be then we cannot run a climate model, can we? Good, these economic models are the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES).
There are forty scenarios grouped into four families. Each family is an economic model, a scenario is a technological path within that model. As a reasonable thumb sketch the families are A1 (globalised capitalism), A2 (local or regionalised capitalism), B1 (globalised Kumbaya*) and B2 (local or regionalised Kumbaya).
Whether you prefer the forced communalism of the campfire singsong over the red in tooth and claw of wealth creation is up to you: apply your moral principles as you wish. But have a look at Table 5-1 in chapter 5. You will see that capitalism produces more emissions than Kumbaya, yes: but you'll also see that globalisation produces fewer than a localised and regionalised world: definitely so in the B families, potentially so in the A. If you read the storylines, you will see as well that globalisation both times produces a smaller population and both times a larger world economy.
Please do note that this is the scientific consensus. These are the models that the whole cloth of the IPCC is made up of. You cannot reject these basic building blocks without rejecting everything which is built upon them: which of course means that if you reject them then you reject the IPCC reports, Al Gore's film, all the proof we have of climate change and the Kyoto and Copenhagen treaties.
Globalisation, whether we go for capitalism or caring and sharing, gives us fewer, richer people with less damage to the environment as a result of having fewer emissions, than not globalisation. So those telling us that localism, regionalisation, are a cure for climate change are clearly ignoring, ignorant of or lying about the scientific consensus.
Or, of course, they could just be authoritarian, super-statist, quasi-socialist conspirators intent on bossing people around and interfering with their lives and liberties and using any damn excuse to do so. Which is about where we came in wasn't it?
* Kumbaya here standing for a more caring and sharing approach than capitalism, one concerned more with the distribution than creation of wealth.

Airlines may profit from carbon trade

By Rowena MasonPublished: 9:06PM GMT 04 Dec 2009
Airlines could almost double their profits on the back of carbon trading if they succeed in passing on the full price of emissions permits to their customers, according to the Carbon Trust.
The organisation highlighted a huge variation in predicted airline profitability after emissions trading is introduced in Europe from 2012. It estimates that the worst-performing airline will see up to 80pc lower profits than the best-performing airline as a result of the system.
In total, passengers flying to and from Europe will pay an extra €23bn (£21bn) to €35bn on the price of their tickets between 2012 and 2020 based on an estimated carbon unit price of €25, its new report will say next week.
This would compensate the aviation companies for the amount of permits they will have to buy if the heavy emitters do not switch to greener fuels.
However, the sector is given 82pc of its permits for free - and could see huge windfall profits if it adds the value of these free allowances on to ticket prices.
The Carbon Trust also calculated that the cost of jet fuel price is likely to rise 15pc if there is a carbon price of €25. It warned jet fuel prices could rise by four times this amount if other harmful gases emitted by the industry are at some point included in the trading system.
The Carbon Trust will publish its full findings ahead of the key Kennedy report on aviation next week, led by the Government's Committee on Climate Change.
David Kennedy, who leads the committee, is likely to outline draconian new controls in the UK that could involve more taxes on the sector or limits on flights and airports.
Last week, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, BAA, BAE Systems, Airbus UK and Rolls-Royce all signed up to a new industry-led Sustainable Aviation Manifesto ahead of the report, which they fear could damage the industry. It calls for a global framework for emissions, needed to stop the "differential impact" of nationally-imposed targets that would harm the UK.
Next week world leaders and businesses meet in Copenhagen for the world summit on the environment, where aviation emissions will be a key part of the debate.
The industry has pledged to return emissions to 2000 levels by 2050.

Let’s accelerate pace of new energy technologies

Peter Voser, Viewpoint

We are seeing early signs of a far-reaching shift in our world’s energy system. Desire for secure energy supplies and concern over global warming have consumers, companies and governments embarking on a long journey towards a more sustainable energy future.
Government policymakers are in the best position to accelerate our trip. Starting with the climate change summit in Copenhagen this month, they will largely determine whether society steps on the throttle or idles along at the current speed. Building a new energy future will take huge effort. But it will be a boon for consumers, thanks to a great proliferation of energy types, from cleaner fossil fuels to renewables, such as biofuels, wind and solar, to nuclear and hydrogen. Everything from cars to fridges will be much more efficient than what we know today.
Some people hope that that future can arrive as fast as the next big hit in consumer electronics. That is unrealistic. Over the past century each new energy technology, once proved, has taken about 25 to 30 years to grow to providing 1 per cent of the world’s energy. Biofuels are just now reaching that mark. Wind could be there by 2015, 25 years after the world’s first big wind farms went up in Denmark and the United States.
It simply takes time to build the industrial and people capacity needed to produce energy on a massive scale. And to learn by doing. Today’s largest wind turbines have nearly 100 times the generating capacity of the ones available in the mid-1980s.

Society’s great hope for accelerating the pace of change lies with aggressive government policies, incentives and financial support for new energy technologies, from the lab all the way through commercial deployment. Indeed, every major new energy source since coal and oil has flowered thanks to extensive government support and a regulatory framework conducive to private investment.
This is not about government handouts to business. It is about spurring innovation and encouraging companies to invest in technologies that can help to reduce emissions but are still far from able to make money.
Support must be tailored to individual technologies, depending on their stage of development.
Take the promising technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities and store it safely underground. The knowhow exists but remains to be proved in practice. Governments in Europe, the US, Canada and Australia have pledged more than $20 billion to support some two dozen pilot projects with the hope of having at least ten running by about 2015.
In the longer term, the main factor encouraging deployment of low-carbon technologies will be a price on emitting carbon dioxide. The most effective pricing mechanism is a system that caps CO2 emissions and allows companies to trade emission allowances, as the European Trading Scheme already does.
However, when carbon markets such as Europe’s are still young, they may not produce a carbon price high enough to prime the technology pump. Governments may need to intervene in early years with policies that give additional support to a range of technologies. For instance, Europe has already done so for pioneering carbon capture and storage projects by offering them bonus emission allowances to sell.
Companies are already taking important steps towards a more sustainable future. They are improving the efficiency of facilities and reducing emissions. For instance, Shell chemical plants are nearly 8 per cent more energy efficient than they were in 2001. And we are providing energy-saving advice and products to our customers. We are also raising production of cleaner-burning natural gas. When used to generate electricity, natural gas emits 50 per cent less CO2 than coal. It can help to build a bridge to a future when renewable energy comes of age. By 2012 more than half Shell’s production will be natural gas.
In Copenhagen, governments can lay the foundations of a global policy framework that would help the world to move towards a more sustainable energy future. That is a tall order, given divergent views. But the world needs, and deserves, real progress toward a final deal with binding commitments for emission reductions and funding to help developing nations to do their part.
With governments’ lead, society can jump-start the development of new technologies with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s get going.
• Peter Voser is chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell

Nepal holds Cabinet meeting on Everest

Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent

Nepal held the world’s highest Cabinet meeting today as ministers wearing oxygen masks gathered on the slopes of Mount Everest to highlight the danger that global warming poses to Himalayan glaciers.
The 23 Cabinet members, also wearing purple sashes reading “Save the Himalayas”, sat at folding tables next to the Everest base camp at an altitude of 17,192ft (5,250 metres).They signed a commitment to tighten environmental regulations and expand protected areas before flying back to Kathmandu.
“The Everest declaration was a message to minimise the negative impact of climate change on Mount Everest and other Himalayan mountains,” said Madhav Kumar Nepal, the Prime Minister.
Many of the ministers are in their seventies, but they avoided altitude sickness by staying the previous night in a nearby town at 9,180ft. Four ministers declined to attend either because of health concerns or because they were travelling.

Thakur Sharma, the Environment Minister, said that the event was designed “to get the world’s attention on the impact global warming is having on underdeveloped countries” before the climate change conference in Copenhagen.
He said that Nepal would urge wealthy countries to commit 1.5 per cent of their earnings to help poorer nations to protect the environment.
The country is also sending some of its most famous Everest climbers to highlight the challenges facing Nepal, such as floods from glacier melting, erratic rains, longer dry spells and unprecedented forest fires.
Today's meeting follows the first underwater Cabinet, held in the Maldives in October to highlight the threat of rising sea levels to the archipelago.