Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Copenhagen climate summit issues: carbon trading

Countries from the US to South Korea debating whether to introduce an emissions trading system at Copenhagen this week will be looking to learn from Europe’s mistakes.

By Rowena MasonPublished: 8:00AM GMT 07 Dec 2009
It is too complicated for the world to invent a global carbon market – penalising heavy emitters of carbon dioxide and rewarding those who cut their emissions – in time for an agreement at the summit. But there are signs that countries have begun to look more favourably at the idea of emissions trading within individual nations, while complying with international standards.
Europe has already been trading permits to emit carbon dioxide since 2005 – not entirely successfully. But it looks as if President Barack Obama may push a law through the US political system early next year setting up a so-called emissions “cap-and-trade” system.

The economic concept of the European Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) is simple, but the practice itself has been fraught with problems. In Europe, policymakers distribute permits to emit carbon to utility companies and heavy industrial polluters. At first these were given out free, but now a small proportion are auctioned off by governments and eventually most will be sold in this way. Any allowances not used or extras required may be traded on the open market, as each country gradually reduces the amount of available credits and begins to auction them.
On top of that scheme, there is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), where companies can buy up a certain number of extra credits (known as offsets) from low-carbon projects in developing countries.
However, the main problem is that industrial players, from cement-makers to paper companies, proved so effective at lobbying that they were showered with extra permits that they did not need in the early years. Between 2008 and 2012, the UK power sector will make at least an additional 1.3 billion euros purely from carbon trading, with windfall profits mostly going to the coal sector. The recession has only exacerbated the glut as industrial emissions fall, pushing down the price of carbon credit to approximately 13 euros. This means there is not enough incentive for utility companies to switch from burning coal or gas to building new nuclear plants or wind farms without huge incentives.
One key issue at Copenhagen will be whether countries ought to impose a lower limit – a “floor price” – possibly up to 40 euros per tonne, to keep the cost of carbon high. Governments will also want to talk about so-called “carbon leakage”, where heavy emitters in one nation with a trading system simply move abroad to having to buy permits and higher energy bills.
With more countries preparing for cap-and-trade schemes over the next decade, worries about global competitiveness ought to diminish. But the practical problem of international standards in auditing emissions remains. This is an issue that has dogged the Clean Development Mechanism regime.
Only last week, the UN suspended China from participating over concerns Beijing had deliberately lowered subsidies to make wind farms eligible for funding. Croatia and Greece have also been disciplined. And earlier this year, Greenpeace exposed phoney carbon offset projects in Bolivia, where 90 per cent of promised carbon reductions had not been delivered.
Other complaints centre on the fact that the European system has so far failed in its fundamental aim to reduce emissions, meaning its only effect is to redistribute wealth among companies and traders.
Secondly, the market is a magnet for derivatives that few people understand, which some believe may brew up a speculative bubble.
Lastly, there are easy opportunities for fraud, given the intangible nature of the product changing hands. Campaigners such as Friends of the Earth have argued that the entire system is so flawed it may need to be demolished in favour of a straightforward tax on polluters

Climate change e-mails have been quoted totally out of context

If this was a conspiracy, it wasn’t a very successful one
Andrew Watson
We non-media-savvy scientists at the University of East Anglia have learnt a hard lesson this week — the truth is not enough in the face of a media-savvy enemy.
Character assassination is a purely diversionary tactic, but in the hacked e-mails affair it has been spectacularly successful.
How many of us would emerge unscathed if all our private e-mails over 20 years were opened by someone determined to prove that we were up to no good? The hackers have picked choice phrases out of context — and context is all: without it, these statements look awful. In the one most quoted, the director of the Climate Research Unit (CRU), Phil Jones, talks about using a “trick” to “hide the decline”. At first reading, this easily translates as “deceiving [politicians, other scientists, everyone] into believing the world is warming when it is actually cooling”.
But it doesn’t mean that at all. Jones is talking about a line on a graph for the cover of a World Meteorological Organisation report, published in 2000, which shows the results of different attempts to reconstruct temperature over the past 1,000 years. The line represents one particular attempt, using tree-ring data for temperature. The method agrees with actual measurements before about 1960, but diverges from them after that — for reasons only partly understood, discussed in the literature.

The tree-ring measure declines, but the actual temperatures after 1960 go up. They draw the line to follow the tree-ring reconstruction up to 1960 and the measured temperature after that. The notes explain that the data are “reconstructions, along with historical and long instrumental records”. Not very clear perhaps, but not much of a “trick”.
In another e-mail, Jones calls a sceptical research paper “garbage”, and says of this and another, that he “can’t see them being included” in the International Panel on Climate Change report that was being prepared. Such strong reactions are commonplace in academic research. What matters is what actually gets published. Were the papers excluded? No. Both are discussed appropriately in the report. If this was a conspiracy, it was singularly unsuccessful.
Climate sceptics would have us believe that the CRU data is invalid, and that the 20th-century warming is a construct entirely in the minds of a few scientists. This point of view surely has difficulty explaining why Arctic sea ice is declining and glaciers are retreating so rapidly, and why spring arrives earlier and autumn later than 50 years ago.
Andrew Watson is Royal Society Research Professor at the University of East Anglia

Copenhagen summit: Europe turns on US and China over weak emission targets

Ben Webster, Environment Editor, in Copenhagen

The European Union has rejected the new carbon emission targets tabled by the United States and China and said they were much too weak to prevent catastrophic climate change.
The dispute between the three main players at the Copenhagen climate change summit overshadowed the first day of negotiations and dashed hopes that a deal on emissions was imminent.
The EU called on President Obama to announce a more ambitious target next week, when he arrives in Copenhagen for the last day of the conference on December 18.
But the US insisted that the provisional offer made 10 days ago by Mr Obama was “remarkable” and in line with what scientists had recommended.

Mr Obama has proposed to cut its emissions by 4 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020, although he has said this is subject to getting the approval of Congress. The EU has made a legally binding commitment to cut its emissions by 20 per cent over the same period. It has also said it would increase the cut to 30 per cent if other countries committed to “comparable action”.
Washington tonight attempted to demonstrate that it was serious about fighting climate change by formally announcing that green house gases were a danger to American health and paving the way for new regulations to control them. This would technically allow Mr Obama to override Congress and impose carbon cuts but, in practice, he is more likely to use the prospect of regulations as a bargaining chip to persuade enough senators to pass a Bill enforcing the 4 per cent target.
Andreas Carlgren, Sweden’s environment minister and the EU’s main negotiator under the rotating presidency, said the targets proposed by the US and China were too low to qualify as comparable action and therefore the EU would not strengthen its 20 per cent target.
“If you analyse the bids they are not going to deliver the emissions reductions that would be keeping the Earth’s temperature [increase] below 2C. The US and China cover half the world’s emissions so it will be absolutely decisive what they deliver.
“It would be astonishing if President Obama arrived here next week and just delivered what was in last week’s press release. I would rather expect the US President will deliver something further.”
Mr Carlgren also dismissed China’s offer to reduce its emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 per cent by 2020. He said the target would result in a huge increase in emissions because of China’s predicted 8 per cent annual economic growth.
Mr Carlgren dismissed the recommendation from Lord Stern of Brentford that the EU should take the lead at the summit by making an unconditional commitment to cut its emissions by 30 per cent by 2020.
“The EU wants to go to 30 per cent but other parties must also deliver and it mostly depends on the US and China.
“We must keep the pressure until the end . We have said 30 per cent as a lever to put pressure on other parties.
“If we were to weaken that pressure by already delivering we would lose that endgame and we would risk having an agreement of too low an ambition level."
Jonathan Pershing, the US chief negotiator at Copenhagen, tried to downplay America’s contribution to climate change.
He said: “The US is responsible for one fifth of emissions which means four fifths come from the rest of the world.” He suggested that the US was making up for its weak short term target by offering an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050. Most other countries argue that promising reductions in 40 years time is a political fudge and no substitute for firm action in the next decade.
But Mr Pershing hinted that Mr Obama might be willing to offer more short-term action, possibly in the form of a substantial contribution to a global fund to help poor countries adapt to climate change.
“The president has put a remarkable number on the table. What we need to now do is see how these negotiations proceed and we look forward to his coming and engaging in the discussion.”

Copenhagen climate change conference: 'Fourteen days to seal history's judgment on this generation'

This editorial calling for action from world leaders on climate change is published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languagesCopenhagen climate change summit - opening day Editorial
The Guardian, Monday 7 December 2009

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.
Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.
Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.
The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.
Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.
But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."
At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.
Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.
Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.
Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than "old Europe", must not suffer more than their richer partners.
The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.
Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.
But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.
Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.
Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".
It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.
The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.
This editorial will be published tomorrow by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like the Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page.

Hopes of a deal remain high as climate talks open in Copenhagen

UN and rich nations express confidence that a political deal is possible but the summit remains overshadowed by questions over climate aid and the science of global warming

John Vidal, environment editor
guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 December 2009 18.14 GMT
The Copenhagen climate change summit opened today with the United Nations and rich countries expressing confidence that a political deal can be reached. But the summit remains overshadowed by major disagreements over climate aid and questions over the science of global warming.
Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark, appealed to the 192 countries present to be prepared to compromise to achieve one of the most important agreements that the world would ever make. "The political resolve to forge a global deal is manifest. Differences can be overcome if the political will is present. I believe it is," he said.
"The clock has ticked down to zero. The time has come to deliver. The time has come to reach out to each other," said Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN's climate body.
Diplomats in the vast Bella conference centre on the edge of the city were warned strongly by Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the UN's Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that unless a way was found to limit greenhouse gas emissions that sea ice would entirely disappear, cyclones and hurricanes would become more powerful and many of the world's cities would be drowned by sea level rise by the end of the century.
"The evidence is overwhelming that the world will benefit from early action and that delay would only lead to costs that will become progressively higher," he said.
Pachauri defended climate science against its critics. "Given the wide-ranging nature of [climate] change that is likely to be taken in hand, some naturally find it inconvenient to accept its inevitability," he told the conference. "The recent incident of stealing the emails of scientists at the University of East Anglia shows that some would go to the extent of carrying out illegal acts, perhaps in an attempt to discredit the IPCC. But the panel has a record of objective assessment performed by tens of thousands of dedicated scientists from all over the globe".
Nonetheless, the chief negotiator for Saudi Arabia, one of the world's biggest oil exporters, told the conference that the emails would have an impact. "The level of trust is definitely shaken, especially now that we are about to conclude an agreement that ... is going to mean sacrifices for our economies," said Mohammed al-Sabban.
A British initiative to fast-track $10bn a year from rich to poor countries to enable them to adapt to climate change was yesterday gaining ground with the US, Japan and other developed countries publicly supporting it.
The money would be available by 2012 and sources close to the talks said that Britain intended to pledge a total of £800m over a number of years. This evening, it was not clear how much of this money was new and how much, if any, would be as loans.
But the tentative offer of $10bn was dismissed as "peanuts" by the G77 group of 132 developing countries.
Development groups expressed deep unease over advanced plans by the EU and the US to expand carbon trading to provide much of the money needed to compensate poor countries and prepare them for the worst of climate change.
Analysis released by Friends of the Earth international and the Third World Network said that carbon trading "threatened to be ineffective and might only result in enriching banks while posing new [financial] risks."
Environmental and development groups also warned that in the rush to get an agreement at Copenhagen, loopholes could emerge which would compromise efforts to cut deforestation. Razing forests causes almost 20% of all carbon emissions but finding a watertight way to pay countries to halt deforestation is complex.
"The talks are on a knife edge. If the wrong deal is signed up, then some of the most corrupt countries on earth could get their hands on billions of dollars without any checks and the forests could continue to be felled," said a spokeswoman for Global Witness.
"The conference must not end only with political statements. There must be concrete commitments from the developed countries on their emission reduction figures and commitments on finance", said Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, an intergovernmental thinktank of developing countries.
"The pledges are so far depressingly low, adding up to only 12-19% by 2020. This is still far below the 40% cut that developing countries say is needed and below the 25-40% figures quoted by the IPCC," he said.

Climate chief David Kennedy advocates 'stronger levers' to change our habits

Philip Pank

David Kennedy’s pedigree suggests that he is a firm believer in government being forceful in promoting laws to beat climate change.
For him, the phenomenon is beyond doubt and its impact will increasingly be felt by humanity.
But the economist whose PhD from the London School of Economics was in transport economics is careful to avoid entering the political fray launched by his latest work as chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change.
He is firmly of the belief that the potentially explosive findings of the aviation report — that airports and air travel can expand, that high-speed rail is needed to offset the carbon impact of aviation, that higher taxes and expensive carbon permits may be needed — can only be decided on by government.
“These options require political judgments,” he said. “The precise combination is a choice for [government].”
He does, however, believe that people must change their behaviour and even their diet to ward off global warming. He gave up doner kebabs, his favourite food, because they contain lamb. One study found that producing 1kg (2.2lb) of lamb released the equivalent of 37lb of CO2 into the atmosphere.
The committee’s first annual report to Parliament this autumn found that a “step change” was needed to limit CO2 emissions on the roads. The committee, which devised government carbon reduction targets and advises ministers on how to meet them, said that motorists should be charged to drive on British roads as well as paying fuel duty.
Government grants to people willing to buy electric cars might need to be doubled; 8,000 more wind turbines should be built and three nuclear power stations; and a national programme of home insulation adopted. In summary, Mr Kennedy argued that the Government needed “stronger levers” to force us to cut emissions. “We have to have a more forceful policy, and if we do that we can succeed,” he said.
That this man is leaving the door open to airport expansion will make his findings all the more stark to the environmentalists.

Copenhagen climate summit: Barack Obama given power to cut greenhouse gases

President Barack Obama has taken powers to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars, factories and power plants across the United States.

By Geoffrey LeanPublished: 9:02PM GMT 07 Dec 2009

The news dramatically improves the prospects of reaching a new agreement to combat global warming at the climate summit which opened in Copenhagen on Monday.
His administration formally declared that the gases "endanger the public health and welfare of the America people" empowering its Environment Protection Agency to regulate them across the country under the country's Clean Air Act, without having to get a hotly-contested climate bill through the US Congress.

Lisa Jackson, the agency's administrator, said the move "relied on decades of sound, peer-reviewed, extensively evaluated scientific data" which both "authorised and obligated" it to take reasonable efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
She called it "a reasonable and common-sense measure" that would "drive technology innovation for a better economy and protect the environment for a better future without placing an undue burden" on business.
She added: "It also means that we arrive at the climate talks in Copenhagen with a clear demonstration of our commitment to facing this global challenge. We hope that today's announcement serves as another incentive for far-reaching accords"
But Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said that regulations under the Act would pose "a threat to every American family and business".
Late last month President Obama announced that the US was ready to cut emissions by 17 per cent on 2005 levels, boosting the prospects for agreement in Copenhagen. But until now that has been dependent on getting a bill through Congress.
A version of the bill was approved by the House of Representatives last summer, but the administration is struggling to get similar legislation through the Senate in the face of opposition from Republicans and some dissident Democrats from states with big oil, coal and car industries.
The new ruling gives Mr Obama the firepower to meet the target anyway. It also makes it much more likely that he will get the bill through Congress as the House bill would take away the agency's powers to regulate the gases and substitute a more flexible system which industry would greatly prefer.
It will also greatly improve the chances of getting a deal in Copenhagen, since other countries will now know that the US can deliver on any undertakings it makes there.
But Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UN climate change negotiations, said that any agreement made in the Danish capital could still be a “suicide pact” for small low-lying island states that will disappear if sea levels rise. He added that the current target of the negotiations – to limit global warming to 2C (3.6F) – would also still result in floods, droughts and sea level rise.
“What the small island nations are telling us here is anything over 1.5 C increase will be a suicide pact for them because it means their nations disappearing,” he said.
On the opening day of negotiations in Copenhagen, Mr Boer said the threat to such vulnerable countries made it even more important to reach a deal.
“The clock has ticked down to zero. After two years of negotiations, the time has come to deliver,” he said. “Developing countries desperately need tangible immediate action on these crucial issues.”
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change, also said vulnerable people will suffer if temperatures rise by even a small amount.
“Some even question the goal of 2C as a ceiling because that would lead to sea level rise on account of thermal expansion alone of 0.4 to 1.4 metres,” he said. “This increase added to the effect melting of snow and ice across the globe, could submerge several small island states and Bangladesh.”
Speaking on behalf of the small island states Dessima Williams, the chief negotiator for Grenada, said the group would not accept a “made for TV” solution.
She called for a legal treaty that would commit rich countries to cutting their carbon emissions by between 25 to 40 per cent.
“We are here to save ourselves from burning and drowning,” she said. “We are here to work towards an ambitious outcome.”
Other vulnerable countries like Nepal and Bangladesh also claimed that 2C will leave millions of people homeless and called on the rich world to provide money to help them adapt as part of any deal.
Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Environment Programme, agreed 2C will put many parts of the world in danger.
He said the world may need to meet again to push for an even tougher target in the future.
“Maybe in three or four year’s time, as the science firms up we may have to accelerate forward and increase the target to keep the world safe,” he said.
But Connie Hedegaard, the president of the negotiations, was optimistic the world will reach a deal that prevents the worst effects of global warming.
She said rich countries are willing to sign up to ambitious targets to cut carbon at the same time as giving poor countries billions of pounds to adapt.
“Let’s mark this meeting in history. Let’s open the door to the low carbon age. Let’s get it done now,” she said.

Business Fumes Over Carbon Dioxide Rule

Officials gather in Copenhagen this week for an international climate summit, but business leaders are focusing even more on Washington, where the Obama administration is expected as early as Monday to formally declare carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant.
An "endangerment" finding by the Environmental Protection Agency could pave the way for the government to require businesses that emit carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to make costly changes in machinery to reduce emissions -- even if Congress doesn't pass pending climate-change legislation. EPA action to regulate emissions could affect the U.S. economy more directly, and more quickly, than any global deal inked in the Danish capital, where no binding agreement is expected.
Many business groups are opposed to EPA efforts to curb a gas as ubiquitous as carbon dioxide.
An EPA endangerment finding "could result in a top-down command-and-control regime that will choke off growth by adding new mandates to virtually every major construction and renovation project," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said in a statement. "The devil will be in the details, and we look forward to working with the government to ensure we don't stifle our economic recovery," he said, noting that the group supports federal legislation.
Advancing Emissions
EPA action won't do much to combat climate change, and "is certain to come at a huge cost to the economy," said the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that stands as a proxy for U.S. industry.
Dan Riedinger, spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, a power-industry trade group, said the EPA would be less likely than Congress to come up with an "economywide approach" to regulating emissions. The power industry prefers such an approach because it would spread the burden of emission cuts to other industries as well.
Electricity generation, transportation and industry represent the three largest sources of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.
An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment Sunday on when the agency might finalize its proposed endangerment finding. Congressional Republicans have called on the EPA to withdraw it, saying recently disclosed emails written by scientists at the Climatic Research Unit of the U.K.'s University of East Anglia and their peers call into question the scientific rationale for regulation.
The spokeswoman said that the EPA is confident the basis for its decision will be "very strong," and that when it is published, "we invite the public to review the extensive scientific analysis informing" the decision.
EPA action would give President Barack Obama something to show leaders from other nations when he attends the Copenhagen conference on Dec. 18 and tries to persuade them that the U.S. is serious about cutting its contribution to global greenhouse-gas emissions.

The vast majority of increased greenhouse-gas emissions is expected to come from developing countries such as China and India, not from rich countries like the U.S. But developing countries have made it clear that their willingness to reduce growth in emissions will depend on what rich countries do first. That puts a geopolitical spotlight on the U.S.
At the heart of the fight over whether U.S. emission constraints should come from the EPA or Congress is a high-stakes issue: which industries will have to foot the bill for a climate cleanup. A similar theme will play out in Copenhagen as rich countries wrangle over how much they should have to pay to help the developing world shift to cleaner technologies.
"There is no agreement without money," says Rosário Bento Pais, a top climate negotiator for the European Commission, the European Union's executive arm. "That is clear."
An endangerment finding would allow the EPA to use the federal Clean Air Act to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, which are produced whenever fossil fuel is burned. Under that law, the EPA could require emitters of as little as 250 tons of carbon dioxide per year to install new technology to curb their emissions starting as soon as 2012.

The EPA has said it will only require permits from big emitters -- facilities that put out 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year. But that effort to tailor the regulations to avoid slamming small businesses with new costs is expected to be challenged in court.
Legislators are aware that polls show the public appetite for action that would raise energy prices to protect the environment has fallen precipitously amid the recession.
Congressional legislation also faces plenty of U.S. industry opposition. Under the legislation, which has been passed by the House but is now stuck in the Senate, the federal government would set a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas the economy could emit every year. The government would distribute a set number of emission permits to various industries. Companies that wanted to be able to emit more than their quota could buy extra permits from those that had figured out how to emit less.
Proponents of the cap-and-trade approach say emission-permit trading will encourage industries to find the least-expensive ways to curb greenhouse-gas output. But opponents say it will saddle key industries with high costs not borne by rivals in China or India, and potentially cost the U.S. jobs.

The oil industry has warned that climate legislation could force some U.S. refineries to shut down, because importing gasoline from countries without emission caps could be cheaper than making the gasoline on domestic soil.
Legislators "have decided that coal and electric users don't bear the burden" of emissions constraints for many years, said John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group. "Early in the program, oil users are the ones who are hammered."
The Iron and Steel Institute, which represents more than 75% of steel made in the U.S., said that successful climate policy -- whether through the EPA or Congress -- must "reduce emissions without altering the competitiveness of American steelmakers."

The issue of how curbing emissions would affect jobs in developed countries is likely to erupt in Copenhagen in the battle over how much rich countries should pony up for cleaner technologies in developing nations.
Estimates of the cost for reducing emissions in developing countries vary widely, but the European Commission said in September that the bill could reach $150 billion annually by 2020. Leaders of the EU's 27 nations have said only that the EU would pay its "fair share" of the total, without committing to an amount.
Yet EU industry lobbies are weighing in against that proposal. It is "not realistic," said Axel Eggert, spokesman for Eurofer, the trade group for European steelmakers. Steelmakers want to "make sure that the financing is not a subsidy for our competitors," he said.
-- Ian Talley and Stephen Power contributed to this article.
Write to Jeffrey Ball at jeffrey.ball@wsj.com and Charles Forelle at charles.forelle@wsj.com

Brown wants 30% Euro emissions cut

Press Association, Tuesday December 8 2009
Gordon Brown has called for deeper cuts in European Union carbon emissions as negotiators started hammering out a new agreement on climate change in Copenhagen.
With just a handful of days of talks before world leaders arrive in a bid to seal a global deal, the Prime Minister said he wanted to see the EU slash greenhouse gas output by 30% by 2020 - 10% more than the nation group is currently proposing.
He told The Guardian: "We've got to make countries recognise that they have to be as ambitious as they say they want to be.
"It's not enough to say, 'I may do this, I might do that, possibly I'll do this'. I want to create a situation in which the European Union is persuaded to go to 30%."
More than 100 heads of state and government, including Mr Brown, are attending the closing stages of the two weeks of talks which aim to secure a global deal on cutting emissions and providing finance to support poor countries in the fight against climate change.
Negotiators have six days of talks before government ministers arrive for the high-level segment of the conference, with another two days before the world leaders arrive in the hope of endorsing a deal which will deliver immediate and long-term action to limit rising temperatures.
The conference's president Connie Hedegaard said the world had reached the deadline for achieving a new deal.
"Now is the time to capture the moment and conclude a truly ambitious global deal. This is our chance. If we miss this opportunity, we will not get a better one," she warned.
The United Nations' chief climate official Yvo de Boer said there was unprecedented political momentum for a deal, but warned the conference would only be a success if it "delivers significant and immediate action that begins the day the conference ends".
The leaders will join more than 15,000 negotiators, environmental campaigners and journalists descending on the Danish capital in the bid to secure a new deal to stop temperatures rising more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Shanks demands higher price after £535m bid

Elizabeth Judge
Shares in Shanks Group, the waste management company, jumped 39 per cent after it hoisted a "for sale" sign following a £536 million takeover approach.
The group revealed today that it had received a135p-a-share offer, from Carlyle, the US private equity group. While it said that the offer was "preliminary and unsolicited", it declared itself open to a bid of 150p-a-share. Shares rose 35.9p to 126p after the announcement.
It said that, after talks with its two largest shareholders, it had decided that the 150p figure would "deliver appropriate value to shareholders".
Shanks, which is Europe's largest quoted waste management group, has shifted in recent years away from landfill towards recycling and generating power from waste materials.

It sold its English landfill business to Guy Hands, the private equity tycoon, in 2004 and now works with the private and public sector to recycle and reprocess waste.
Earlier this year, it begun building its first anaerobic digestion plant, capable of generating enough renewable electricity to power up to 3,000 homes.
The £8 million plant, in Scotland, will take waste food from Scottish homes and hotels and from restaurants and retailers in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The company, which recently unveiled a 24 per cent slide in half-year profits, has operations in the Netherlands and Belgium and is eyeing Canada.
It has been hit hard by the recession as reduced GDP relates to lower waste production.
However analysts said that its longer-term attractions include increasingly punitive measures on both sides of the Channel to divert waste from landfill towards recycling and waste-to-energy schemes.
The 135p-a-share offer represents a 49.8 per cent premium to Friday's closing price of 90.10p.
Consolidation in the industry has been underway for some time. In recent years Biffa, the waste business demerged from Severn Trent and Cory, have both been acquired by private equity groups.
Biffa was taken over by Montagu Private Equity, HBOS Fund Investments and Global Infrastructure Partners, in Europe's fourth-biggest deal of 2008.

Solar Lamps Face Subsidy Shadow in Rural India

CHIKANPADA, India -- Sunset used to be bedtime for 10-year-old Ankash Govind. This village, three hours from the bright lights of Mumbai, has not had electricity for the last eight years.

A villager scans for snakes and scorpions with the help of his Sun King solar lantern in Chikanpada, India.
Now, he spends his nights reading to his siblings by the light of a solar-powered lantern called the "Sun King." They were sold last year to about 400 subsistence farmers in the village, converting them from smoky, expensive kerosene lighting to a cleaner and cheaper alternative.
Some 400 million people in India do not have access to electricity, according to the World Bank. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pledged "power for all" by 2012. Supporters of solar technology say products such as the Sun King can play a crucial role in achieving that goal.
But, they contend, it is being hampered by government rules on what products qualify for government subsidies, which will be needed en masse to produce power-generating devices that even India's poorest can afford.
The solar lamps in Chikanpada were provided by Greenlight Planet, a for-profit enterprise, based in the U.S. It was started by one Indian and two American college students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign last year with a specific agenda: profitable philanthropy. The start-up now distributes lanterns in the western state of Maharashtra, the southern state of Karnataka, and the eastern states of Bihar and Orissa.
Solar Lamps Bring Light to Rural India
Some 400 million people in India do not have access to electricity. But new and cheap solar lamps are replacing smoky, expensive kerosene lighting in rural India. WSJ's Linda Blake reports.
Its co-founder Mayank Sekhsaria, says the company sold the Sun King, a light-emitting diode, to villagers at a discounted price of $4 compared to $15 that they regularly sell for. The company made up the difference with monetary support from Rotary Club Bombay Queens. The lamp provides 16 hours of light from a single charge.
Mr. Sekhsaria says that for such solar lamps to take off on a large scale requires them to be sold to villagers at such a low cost. But so far the government, which provides huge subsidies for power nationwide, hasn't accepted the Sun King as a product that meets its qualifications for receiving subsidies. The reason: its thin beam of light emits an average of only 6 lux (a measure of light penetration), short of the 16 lux average required for government backing.
Bharat Bhargava, director of India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, says the quality standards are there for good reason. "If a product does not meet the performance level set by the ministry, they are not eligible for a subsidy support," he said.
The government does sponsor a solar-lantern program but those lanterns, which are bulkier than the Sun King, cost consumers between $25 and $40; without the subsidy they cost an average of $60.
Mr. Sekhsaria argues that what villagers require is a cheaper product that is just bright enough to provide adequate light but at an affordable cost. Being able to expand the number of Sun Kings in the market also will help his company make money.
"When distribution finally expands, we will have higher efficiencies of scale and preferential treatment from our suppliers in China. This means profit growth," he says.
Even without subsidies, though, he says the lights make economic sense. He says villagers who purchase Sun Kings at the retail price of $15 and quit using kerosene for lamps can recover the cost of the lamp in 15 months.
Here's how: The Indian government sells subsidized kerosene to rural Indians at around 20 U.S. cents a liter, said India's petroleum minister, Murli Deora, at a recent conference. Rural families in Chikanpada say they use up to five liters of kerosene per lamp each month, which means they spend around $1 a month on lighting.
Mr. Sekhsaria also argues that the government would save money for every unsold liter of kerosene by not having to provide a subsidy on that liter.
An estimated one million families use kerosene for lighting in India. The United Nations Environment Program says that kerosene fumes are responsible for around 64% of deaths for children under the age of five in developing countries.
In Chikanpada, an elderly woman points to her blackened wall then dangles the culprit – a rusty kerosene lamp – at arm's length, as if she is holding a rat by its tail. "This made me cough all the time," she said. "But now we got these solar lamps."

Nitrous oxide concerns cloud future of biofuels

European scientists cast doubt on whether oil alternatives can ever be sustainably produced in significant quantities

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 8 December 2009

Scientists at the European commission have cast doubt on whether biofuels could ever be produced sustainably in significant quantities, dealing a blow to the aviation industry, which sees such fuel as a key way to reduce its emissions.
The researchers argue that the greenhouse gases emitted in making biofuel may well negate most of the carbon dioxide savings made by replacing fossil fuels. Of particular concern is the uncertainty over emissions of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.
The road transport industry is also keen to increase the use of biofuels, and an EU directive last year requires 10% of all road transport fuel to come from plants by 2020. Theoretically the fuels are carbon-neutral: when burned they only release the carbon dioxide they absorbed while the plants were growing.
Campaigners argue biofuels are not as sustainable as they seem and say more biofuels would mean the destruction of virgin forests – and the release of their stored carbon – to create agricultural land.
Heinz Ossenbrink, of the EC's Institute of Energy (IoE), said research carried out by EU-funded scientists increasingly pointed to a long-term problem for large-scale biofuels use, namely the emissions of nitrous oxide. This is about 270 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and is released through use of fertilisers to grow biofuel crops. "Some of the older studies don't take that into account," he said. "We have now come to less positive values for biofuels."
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does consider the production of nitrous oxide when deciding on the sustainibility of particular biofuels, but errors in its calculations are known to be large."That's because there's such a huge local variation – [emissions] could double from one end of the field to the other and hundreds of times between the fields in the same country and thousands of times around the world," said Robert Edwards, of the renewable energies unit at the IoE.

Nitrous oxide concerns cloud future of biofuels

European scientists cast doubt on whether oil alternatives can ever be sustainably produced in significant quantities

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 8 December 2009
Scientists at the European commission have cast doubt on whether biofuels could ever be produced sustainably in significant quantities, dealing a blow to the aviation industry, which sees such fuel as a key way to reduce its emissions.
The researchers argue that the greenhouse gases emitted in making biofuel may well negate most of the carbon dioxide savings made by replacing fossil fuels. Of particular concern is the uncertainty over emissions of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.
The road transport industry is also keen to increase the use of biofuels, and an EU directive last year requires 10% of all road transport fuel to come from plants by 2020. Theoretically the fuels are carbon-neutral: when burned they only release the carbon dioxide they absorbed while the plants were growing.
Campaigners argue biofuels are not as sustainable as they seem and say more biofuels would mean the destruction of virgin forests – and the release of their stored carbon – to create agricultural land.
Heinz Ossenbrink, of the EC's Institute of Energy (IoE), said research carried out by EU-funded scientists increasingly pointed to a long-term problem for large-scale biofuels use, namely the emissions of nitrous oxide. This is about 270 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and is released through use of fertilisers to grow biofuel crops. "Some of the older studies don't take that into account," he said. "We have now come to less positive values for biofuels."
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does consider the production of nitrous oxide when deciding on the sustainibility of particular biofuels, but errors in its calculations are known to be large."That's because there's such a huge local variation – [emissions] could double from one end of the field to the other and hundreds of times between the fields in the same country and thousands of times around the world," said Robert Edwards, of the renewable energies unit at the IoE.
World Agenda: Oil-for-Food scandal 'a warning for all at Hopenhagen'
James Bone in New York

Delegates to the climate change conference in Copenhagen should remember the dread words “Oil-for-Food”.
World leaders plan to design global “Cap-and-Trade” system — which could grow to $2 trillion (£1.22 trillion) — to limit greenhouse gas emissions in a last-gasp bid to reverse global warming. Environmental critics such as James Hansen, the Nasa scientist considered the “grandfather of global warming”, have made conceptual objections to Cap-and-Trade, which they dismiss as ineffectual.
But even if the system is created, there are enormous pitfalls.
Key parts of Cap-and-Trade have a “corruption” warning written all over them in red flashing lights, because they are to be run by the United Nations.

A Cap-and-Trade system caps emissions by granting permits to polluting industries. Polluters who do better than their quota will be able to sell their emissions credits on a global market. Polluters who go over their limit are also able to “offset” some of their emissions by purchasing an equivalent quantity of emissions reductions — or “offsets” — from a clean-energy project in the developing world, such as a new wind farm in China or methane-capture at a landfill in Brazil.
Negotiators envisage putting a UN agency in charge of certifying these emissions reductions, and that is where the potential problem lies.
The UN already has an offset system known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), set up by the Kyoto Protocol. Based in Bonn, the CDM has approved 1,938 projects with about 328 million metric tonnes of annual carbon offsets, called Certified Emissions Reductions, or CERs. The current value of the CDM offset market is a relatively paltry $6.5 billion, with Britain buying about 28 per cent of the total. But that amount could soar if a deal is sealed following “Hopenhagen”.
The Clean Development Mechanism sounds like a solid system: projects have to be certified by a board of governors elected by the governments involved. But it has already been criticised for certifying projects that do not cut greenhouse gases below “business as usual” (cuts that, in the jargon, do not provide “additionality”.)
Michael Wara, a Stanford law lecturer and leading critic of the mechanism, testified to Congress this year: “There has been and will continue to be substantial crediting of business-as-usual behavior within the CDM.
“This crediting of counterfeit emissions reductions is likely to be a hallmark of any real offset programme. The crux of the problem is the inability in practice to tell which of the many applicants for carbon offsets are telling a genuine story regarding emissions reductions, and which would have installed cleaner technology even in the absence of the carbon market.”
The lesson of the Oil-for-Food scandal is that such a system almost begs decision-makers to make politicised, if not outright corrupt, rulings.
From 1996 to 2003 the UN supervised the sale of $64 billion of Iraq’s oil and its use of the money to buy humanitarian goods such as food and medicine. Saddam Hussein was able to corrupt the humanitarian programme through and through.
Dozens of politicians and influential business leaders around the world received pay-offs from Iraq in the form of vouchers to sell underpriced Iraqi oil. The head of the UN programme was charged with corruption for allegedly taking cash bribes from the brother-in-law of the former UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros Ghali. The company that employed the son of Kofi Annan, the UN chief at the time, won a key inspection contract from the UN. The list goes on and on.
Years later it emerged from a defector that the Russian UN overseer entrusted with pricing Iraq’s oil was actually a serving Russian military intelligence officer who diverted almost half a billion dollars to top Russian officials.
Even where UN officials were elected, corruption surfaced. The elected Russian head of the UN’s powerful budget oversight committee was convicted in a US court and sentenced to four years in prison.
The UN record bodes exceedingly ill for the expanded offset system foreseen by the Copenhagen leaders. Third World governments have an obvious interest in promising emissions reductions that they do not deliver; UN officials will be under intense pressure from those governments to certify the promised emission reductions. Indeed, these official might also — perish the thought — get bribed by the firms that stand to benefit.
It’s a recipe for what Saddam might call the Mother of All Scandals.

The big green bogeyman

Why must the media undermine sensible carrot and stick eco-initiatives by turning them into inaccurate scare stories?

Zac Goldsmith
guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 December 2009 13.30 GMT
We always hear from newspapers that while people understand the environmental challenge, they are unwilling to stomach the solutions. The trouble is, we only ever hear about the solutions from the media, and for whatever reason, they are almost always caricatured beyond recognition. If there's no appetite for green, it's not surprising.
I remember opening a tabloid one day to find a photograph of myself next to the image of a giant pink vibrator and under the headline "Goldsmith wants to ban dildos" (because sex toys are apparently energy inefficient). No less than the paper's political editor demanded that my ideas be "dropped like a stone". Of course he knew I'd never said anything of the sort. I believe the story was prompted by a news release calling for greater standards to be imposed on electrical appliances.
Other newspapers are less direct, but no less tricky when it comes to green policy. A couple of years ago, a broadsheet was given an exclusive look at a green car policy being proposed by the Conservative party's Quality of Life review, which I was part of.
We were calling for measures to make new clean cars more affordable, and recommended a tax on new polluting cars to pay for it. The idea was that people would still have a choice, they wouldn't be punished for a decision they'd already made, it wouldn't represent a stealth tax, and we would have a cleaner car fleet within a matter of a few years. This idea already works well in Denmark, and is a no-brainer if we want to cut emissions and oil dependence.
A senior writer prepared an article in which he properly described the idea. He explained that the cost of polluting cars would go up, and the cost of clean cars would go down. He gave the idea a big thumbs-up.
But by the time it was published in that paper, all reference to clean cars becoming cheaper, and indeed all reference to this being imposed only on new cars, was removed. With common sense stripped from the idea, the paper was able to trash it, and it did. The journalist was rightly furious, and later cited this as his reason for resigning from that newspaper shortly after.
Green policy is about triggering a shift to a cleaner way of doing things. To be effective, it needs to incentivise the right behaviour, for example through tax breaks, and that needs to be paid for by disincentives on polluting behaviour. It should never be retrospective, it should be revenue neutral for governments, and it needs to be totally transparent.
There will be winners, just as there will be losers. Clever companies will spot the trend and deliver clean products that can last. Others will be left behind.
It's a basic good cop/bad cop approach, and it's not complicated. When opinion surveys have been conducted on specific green policy ideas, they are almost always met with overwhelming approval. But never when newspapers focus exclusively on the "bad cop".
This is a major problem. If you tell people, "that old banger of yours, we're going to tax the hell out of it," they'll rightly tell you to get lost. But if you tell people that when they next buy a car, the tax will be adjusted so that the cleanest ones will cost less and the polluting ones will cost more, most people would say "fair enough". Cars would cost less to run, we'd be less oil-dependent, and we'd see a cut in our emissions.
It is true that many of our newspapers now devote pages to the environment. Pictures of icebergs and Inuit appear virtually every week. That represents an improvement. But when it comes to actual policy, the thing that might help move us in the right direction, it is almost always portrayed in such a way that it can only be rejected by readers.
Only this week for instance, the Sunday Times has me calling for "a great big new tax" on polluting cars. The quote is 50% true, but the missing 50% (a great big tax cut on the cleanest cars) is absolutely key. Indeed its omission from the quote is an obvious deal-breaker. So why leave it out? I had a detailed conversation with the Sunday Times on this very issue.
Politicians usually get the blame for dragging their feet on environmental issues. And fair enough. Most of them do just that. But the blame isn't theirs alone. For politicians afraid of losing votes, a bristling media waiting to transform good green ideas into monsters is a colossal disincentive.