Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Kenya at carbon crossroads, says report

Kenya's planned development path will more than double its carbon emissions unless efforts are taken to pursue low carbon development, according to an environmental think tank.
From, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Tuesday 19 January 2010 12.15 GMT
Kenya's planned development path will more than double its carbon emissions unless efforts are taken to pursue low carbon development, according to an environmental think tank.
Yet the country has high potential for mitigating climate change because it has significant opportunities to use renewable energy, says a report released by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI).
Kenya emits relatively low levels of carbon because it has an electricity generation system based on renewable energy and widespread use of biomass for household energy generation, the report says.
But its Vision 2030 plan — which could see a ten per cent rise in economic growth each year and a doubled population by 2030 — would increase carbon emissions from 42 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005 to 91 in 2030.
This is because the plan involves investment in infrastructure based around private car use, for example, and the introduction of coal in electricity generation which could potentially offset plans to use geothermal energy and import hydropower from other countries.
But Kenya can leverage many areas to achieve a green path to the same level of economic development, the report says.
For example, huge biomass and hydro resources could be exploited for off-grid and mini-grid generation to power the 35 per cent of households that national electrification forecasts show will be connected by the year 2020.
And biomass — which will still provide around 60 per cent of household energy requirements in 2030 — is another opportunity to reduce emissions by improving stove efficiency and expanding the use of biogas.
The government's policy – not only to preserve its forest cover but to increase large scale reforestation and afforestation drives – also puts the country in good stead, says the report.
A separate SEI analysis, in consultation with the government of Kenya, affirms that the country is planning annually to invest about US$385 million for the next 20 years to boost forest cover from the current three per cent of land to ten per cent.
But Kenya will also have to deal with the headache of a rapidly growing transport sector, expected to be a key driver of carbon, because of increasing demand for private car travel and a ballooning second hand car industry.
The report, released late last year, was funded by the UK International Department for International Development (DFID) and Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).
• This article was shared by our content partner, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Obama faces emissions U-turn with new Congress challenge

Senator Lisa Murkowski is expected to put forward a proposal that would seek to prevent federal regulation of carbon emissions

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Tuesday 19 January 2010 14.30 GMT
The Obama administration faces a challenge in Congress that could strip it of its powers to cut greenhouse gas emissions, barely a month after committing to action at the Copenhagen climate change summit.
An Alaska Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski, is expected to put forward a proposal for a vote as early as tomorrow that would seek to prevent the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
A show of support for Murkowski's proposal would be a personal humiliation for Obama who told the Copenhagen summit that America was committed to action on climate change. It also threatens to remove a fall-back position if Congress fails to pass a climate change law.
Climate law has stalled in the Senate and Democratic leaders had sought to use the possibility of EPA regulation as a prod to get Senate to start moving again. Democrats admit the underlying message of Murkowski's proposed vote – that action on climate is bad – could completely kill off its chances.
"It's a highly political move, and a highly hazardous one to our health and the environment," said Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader at a conference in New York. "If this senator succeeds, it could keep Congress from working constructively in a bipartisan manner to pass clean energy legislation this year."
Thirty-seven environmental and health organisations have condemned Murkowski's effort to block the EPA. The senator has also been widely criticised for calling on energy industry lobbyists to help draft her proposals.
But Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Murkowski, argued she was trying to stop Democrats from using the stick of EPA regulation to force through flawed measures. "What this vote means is that you can't use this to blackmail Congress to pass bad legislation. The whole approach has been the administration threatening Congress that if you don't pass bad legislation, we are going to pass worse regulation," he said.
The EPA ruled in December that greenhouse gas emissions are a danger the public. The finding compels the EPA to begin curbing emissions from power plants and – though widely acknowledged as an option of last resort – was seen as an important "Plan B" should climate legislation fail in Congress.
Unlike many of her fellow Republicans – and some Democrats from midwestern states – Murkowski has tried to position herself as a potential supporter of action on climate change. Although she comes from a state whose fortunes depend on oil, she has acknowledged the effects of global warming. But she has voted against climate change bills in the past, and is opposed to the proposals that are currently in circulation.
"She supports doing something to address climate change and greenhouse gas emissions but the prerequisite is that it must not harm the economy and it must lead to substantial reductions," Dillon said. "The bill we have seen so far does none of that."
Dillon said Murkowski was still weighing her options on which measures to use to try to block the EPA. She could seek an amendment to an unrelated bill on debt due to go to a vote on 20 January, or she could introduce a resolution of disapproval, which would not be subject to a filibuster and would need only 51 votes to pass. He said Murkowski already had the support of 34 Republicans, and was reaching out to Democrats.
Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, said other senators who support climate change law but are opposed to EPA regulation could be tempted to vote for the Murkowski proposal. "The vote on the Murkowski bill is not going to be a surrogate for a vote on climate," he said. "But it is a very serious challenge to the nation's ability to go forward if there isn't legislation."
He did not expect Murkowski's proposal to pass. Even if did pass it would still need to go through the house and leap the unlikely hurdle of being signed into law by Obama. But environmentalists fear the symbolism of a vote against action on greenhouse gas emissions would turn already wary Democrats from oil and gas states away from climate change law.
It would also send a damaging signal to the international community just as countries are trying to move ahead on fleshing out the 12-paragraph accord on global warming produced at the Copenhagen summit, said campaigners. "How can Congress contemplate sending a signal to the world that we are not serious about holding big polluters accountable under the Clean Air Act for climate pollution when other nations have finally stepped forward together to try to tackle this problem?" said Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation.
A troika of Senators – the Democrat John Kerry, Republican Lindsey Graham and Independent Joe Lieberman – are working on climate change proposals aimed at gathering broad support from Republicans as well as Democrats – in part by expanding the role of nuclear power and compromising on offshore oil and gas drilling. But the senators have yet to make public their proposal – let alone draft a bill.
The delay is causing increasing concern among supporters of climate change action, especially with the approach of congressional elections next November when the Democrats anticipate losses that could weaken their hold on Congress.

Why the pink-footed goose is a CO2 villain

Could this bird really have a worse carbon footprint than a patio heater?

David Adam
The Guardian, Wednesday 20 January 2010

The pink-footed goose is an increasingly common sight on the waterways and fields of Britain. Smaller than a mute swan but larger than a mallard, the geese can currently be spotted all over estuaries such as the Wash and Solway, where they will stay until April, when they head for their Arctic breeding grounds.
The RSPB notes that the pink-footed goose is pinkish-grey with a dark head and neck, a pink bill and, not surprisingly, pink feet and legs. It likes to eat grain and potatoes. What was less well known about the pink-footed goose, until now, is that each bird is responsible for more than 100kg of ­carbon-dioxide emissions each year. The pink-footed goose: the bird with a carbon footprint four times larger than a patio heater.
Unlike cows and sheep, the geese do not fart and burp out their sizable contribution to ­global warming. Rather, they free the carbon from the ground when they grub around in the Arctic soil for food.
"The geese arrive in the Arctic in April and May, before the vegetation has had a chance to grow," says James Speed, a scientist with both the University of Aberdeen and the University Centre in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, halfway to the North Pole. "So to get something to eat they dig down into the soil with their bills to get at the bits of plants that are still buried."
The foraging geese leave the landscape in a mess, its mossy coating pulled up and scattered to the wind. And as the hungry birds move on, they leave a ­minor ­environmental ­crisis in their wake. Stripped of its protective layer of moss, the exposed ­Arctic soil warms and decomposes, and is washed away by wind and water. Once freed from its secure store, goose by goose, the liberated carbon can be converted to carbon dioxide by bacteria.
A new analysis by Speed and his colleagues, published in the journal Polar Biology, calculates that each goose grubs up some 37kg of Arctic carbon each year. That's the equivalent of 136kg of carbon-dioxide emissions per bird, compared with a measly 35kg of CO2 produced by the average patio heater.
Ironically, the number of pink-footed geese, and the amount of carbon they release, is on the increase due to conservation measures in Britain and northern Europe. Changes in farming styles and reduced shooting have also contributed to a three-fold rise in the Svalbard population since the 1960s.
Not that people concerned about global warming should reach for their shotguns. "The carbon produced by the birds is minuscule in terms of the global carbon picture," Speed says. "We're not saying that there should be controls on their numbers or anything like that."
David Adam

Eco-bling and retrofitting won't meet emissions targets, warn engineers

Engineers' report says building industry will 'struggle' to meet zero-carbon government targets due to lack of skills and training
Alok Jha, Wednesday 20 January 2010 00.05 GMT
Attaching "eco-bling" such as wind turbines or solar panels to buildings will not help the UK cut the carbon emissions from buildings fast enough to meet the government's ambitious targets, engineers warned yesterday . They also said the building industry will "struggle" to meet requirements to make all new buildings zero-carbon by 2020 because of a lack of skilled workers who understand how energy is used, and therefore saved, in buildings.
The UK government has committed the country to cut its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. On the path to that, all new homes are required to be zero-carbon by 2016 and all remaining new buildings should be zero-carbon by 2020.
In a report published today by the Royal Academy of Engineering, experts called for a "step-change" in retrofitting old buildings to make them waste less energy. They also want funding for a study to work out how many workers will need to be trained in order to meet the demand for designing and building the number of energy-efficient buildings required to meet government targets.
Doug King, a visiting professor of building engineering physics at the University of Bath and author of the new report, said that it had become fashionable for people to install renewable energy at home but warned against it. "Eco-bling describes unnecessary renewable energy visibly attached to the outside of poorly-designed buildings – it's a zero-sum approach," he said. "If you build something that is just as energy-hungry as every other building and then put a few wind turbines and solar cells on the outside that addresses a few per cent of that building's energy consumption, you've not achieved anything … You can't put a turbine onto a building that is big enough to have any decent electrical generation, because the vibration it would cause would knock it off the building."
He added that eco-bling seemed to be more about showing off environmental credentials to neighbours than saving carbon. The reality, he said, was that it would cost the same amount of money designing a more sustainable building in the first place as it does to install renewable energy on a building, with the added benefit that residents could save up to half on their energy bills.
That means designing new buildings to, for example, use masonry to store heat and ensuring best use of natural light. In existing homes and offices, low-cost solutions that can save carbon include fitting thermostats to central heating systems and using low-energy light bulbs.
Scott Steedman, of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said that retrofitting was a major issue. The majority (80%) of the buildings that will be used in 2050 have already been built and applying traditional energy-saving measures such as insulation and double-glazing were not happening quickly enough for the UK to meet its targets. "We know that, between 1990 and 2005, we did achieve a 4% reduction in carbon emissions for homes just through the normal processes of upgrade, people putting in loft insulation, draft proofing," he said. "That steady process over 15 years led to a 4% reduction, not a big win really. What we need is a step-change. Traditional methods take decades to penetrate the market."
Instead he called for a major ramping-up in retrofitting activity that would involve owners of major estates driving the supply chain for energy efficiency technologies. "Whether it's universities, the health service or ministry of defence – that's a huge pool. If they take a lead and say we're going to stimulate new products, new skills and training that is going to lead to the decarbonisation of our existing properties, that's a big help."
King criticised the government for its "woeful" practice of setting targets it never met. "The classic example of that is a National Audit Office report from 2008/9, which said that, in 80% of cases, government procurement of building projects have failed to meet their own targets for environmental sustainability."
The engineers did not advocate altering the government's zero-carbon buildings strategy. However, they warned of major potential problems in achieving it, given how few people were trained in analysing how buildings used energy and then designing the best ways to make them more efficient. "The delivery side is what's missing," said Steedman. "We've got plenty of targets and aspirations but what's missing is an implementation plan. To do that, you have to speak to the industry, you have to speak to the professions, because they're the ones who are going to do the work."

The risks of nuclear energy are not exaggerated

Most scientists in this field agree that there is danger even in small doses of radiation

Ian Fairlie
The Guardian, Wednesday 20 January 2010
You reported the view that radiation risks are exaggerated, but left out vital information on radiation protection (Radiation health threat overstated – Oxford professor, 11 January). The article relied upon and extensively cited a retired ­professor of particle physics, Wade ­Allison, who is neither a radiation ­biologist nor an epidemiologist, and is not in my view an expert in radiation risks. Indeed, the other three scientists quoted in the article pointedly refrained from supporting Allison. His sole contribution to the literature is a self-published book.
An article alongside (Nuclear theory: the current consensus) states that "a single dose below 100 millisieverts (mSv) is usually considered safe", and later gives Allison's claim that "there is a threshold of about 200 mSv, below which the body can repair all DNA ­damage caused and, therefore, which is safe". But there is no safe dose of ­radiation: no matter how low it is, a small risk remains.
The linear no-threshold (LNT) theory is used by all the world's radiation authorities – the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the etc – to estimate risks at low doses. It presumes that risks decline proportionately as you lower the dose all the way down to zero, and that the only dose with no effect is zero.
And, yes, there is evidence that exposures to residents near nuclear facilities cause them harm. For example, a recent German government study found large increases in leukaemia (220%) and embryonal
cancer (160%) among children living near all German nuclear ­reactors. Its results are supported by many other worldwide studies into child leukaemias near nuclear reactors.
Current radiation risks are based on an unsatisfactory dataset – the Japanese survivors of the US atomic bombs in 1945. Though relevant for estimating the risks of sudden blasts of powerful types of radiation, this data is irrelevant for slow, long-term exposures or for weaker types of radiation which are more common. And many studies point to the risks being higher than this data suggests.
Then there are the unusual non-­targeted effects of radiation. These cause changes in cells temporally and spatially distant from the cells hit by radiation. These effects challenge the present explanation of radiation's effects but are unknown by the public. They are hotly discussed by radiation biologists throughout the world, and are the ­subject of thousands of ­scientific articles. The older explanation had given considerable support to current estimates of radiation risks. The new effects strikingly do not do this, as they occur after very low doses of ­radiation. In other words, these new effects raise ­serious questions about whether ­existing dose limits should be tightened.
I do not think current radiation risks are overrated, and neither do most ­scientists in this field.

Putin move revives environment flap

Decree modifying restrictions on discharges in Russia's Lake Baikal will allow pulp company to resume operations
MOSCOW–Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who plumbed the depths of Lake Baikal in a minisubmarine in August and pronounced the lake "ecologically clean," has given a well-connected tycoon's paper mill the go-ahead to resume dumping waste there, reversing what had been a landmark victory for environmentalists.
A decree Mr. Putin signed last week removed waste discharges in the production of pulp, paper and cardboard from a list of operations banned by environmental legislation in and around the world's largest body of fresh water.
As a result, OAO Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill said Tuesday it will restart operations that it halted in October 2008 after environmental authorities instructed the company to introduce a closed-loop waste-treatment system. Such a system would prevent discharges into the lake, but the company deemed it unprofitable, declared a permanent shutdown in February and began laying off its 2,000 employees. It started bankruptcy proceedings in March.
Mr. Putin's decree brought relief to Baikalsk, where workers had staged hunger strikes and blocked highways for a week in June to protest the demise of the Siberian town's biggest employer. It also resolved a problem for Oleg Deripaska, the tycoon whose control of the plant had cast him as the villain of those protests.
But the measure has enraged Russia's environmental activists, whose campaign against the mill gained widespread attention in the late 1980s as leading Soviet political and literary figures rallied behind it. The effortsucceeded after environmental groups sued the company and won a 2008 court decision banning the discharge of waste water into the lake.
The mill, built in 1966, can produce 200,000 metric tons of pulp and 12,000 metric tons of packaging paper per year. A portion of the pulp, a special grade that can be produced only by using lake water, is used in Russia's nuclear warheads. Environmentalists said the mill's discharge threatened hundreds of species of wildlife, including a rare type of freshwater seal.
"This decree undoes more than two decades of struggle to defend the lake," said Roman Vazhenkov, head of Greenpeace's Lake Baikal campaign. Greenpeace appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev to reverse the measure. "To allow chemical wastes to be dumped there," he said, "…what else can you call it but a crime?"
He added: "The only thing I can conclude is that Putin is doing this to protect the interests of one person—Oleg Deripaska."
Mr. Deripaska's LPK Continental Management, part of his Basic Element industrial group, controls 51% of the mill. The state owns the other 49%. People close to Mr. Deripaska say he has used direct access to Mr. Putin and other top officials to become a major recipient of Kremlin bailouts and preserve a sprawling business empire that was threatened by the financial crisis.
Mr. Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, denied any favoritism toward Mr. Deripaska. "The only interests we can speak about protecting," he said, "are the interests of the 16,000 people in Baikalsk, whose lives depend almost entirely on that mill."
Mr. Peskov said preserving the lake's ecology is a "high priority" that the prime minister had to weigh against the town's fortunes. He said Mr. Putin consults frequently with scientific experts on Baikal and had ordered "strict government surveillance" of the mill's discharges once they resume.
Some economists say Mr. Putin's focus on saving jobs has delayed the restructuring of inefficient Russian companies crippled by the crisis. The Russian leader has been making televised appearances around the country, visiting near-bankrupt factories, scolding their managers and owners, and ordering banks to issue loans to revive employment.
The decree to rescue the Baikalsk mill, published on the government Web site, was first reported late Monday by Russian media. Oksana Gorlova, a spokeswoman for Continental Management, said Tuesday that the government decision behind it had been made in July, a month before Mr. Putin's televised dive in the minisub.
"I see the bed of Lake Baikal and it is clean," Mr. Putin told reporters through a hydrophone from 1.4 kilometers beneath the surface. Later, he said, "There is practically no environmental damage" and hinted that the mill might reopen.
Mr. Deripaska invested $6 million in November to start reviving the mill, the spokeswoman said. She said the company recently upgraded its technology for purifying waste water.

There is no bore quite like an eco-bore

Wednesday, 20 January 2010
A new, thoroughly 21st-century threat to domestic harmony is emerging. In some relationships, it is said to be causing as much discord as those age-old battlegrounds, sex and money. The problem is environmental incompatibility.
According to an urgent report in the New York Times, therapists across America are reporting a sharp increase in what they call "green disputes". Couples are finding it increasingly difficult to agree about how much their little unit should contribute to that great cause of our age, the saving of the planet.
A computer executive from California is taken as an example of a green dispute in action. The man is environmentally aware: he cycles to work, avoids plastic bags, recycles wherever possible. With his girlfriend, he rears free-range chickens.
None of that, for her, is enough. She complains that he uses too much water while shaving and taking a shower. As a couple they had agreed on a less materialistic lifestyle, and yet he is sometimes to be found buying things online. They no longer go to fish restaurants – her heated wrangles with waiters as to whether their food is sustainable, local or ecologically acceptable have become too much for him to bear.
Poor guy. One can just imagine the green disputes in their agreeable Californian residence. There would be the tissue-found-in-the-rubbish dispute, the leaving-appliances-on-standby dispute, perhaps the disposable-nappy dispute. With a wild and reckless courage, the man has defended himself, speaking up on behalf of those who like to relax in the shower, who have decided not to allow the state of the planet to reduce their private life to a state of crazed, guilt-ridden masochism. He has daringly criticised what he calls his girlfriend's "high priestess phase".
There is surely no bore quite like a green bore. Most sensible people now try to moderate their lives in order to waste less, conserve more, have an awareness as to the environmental cost of what we do and buy, but none of that will satisfy the high-priestesses, or the rather fewer high priests, of greenery.
For them, it is not enough to lead a responsible life; others must follow. For an eco-nag, it is a living insult to Gaia that someone should stand under a shower, not even washing, while the planet's most precious resource gurgles wastefully down the plughole. If tissues all around the world were recycled rather than thrown in the kitchen waste, they believe, then the poor wounded Mother Earth would stand a greater chance of survival.
There are serious problems with the high priestess approach. It spreads a restless unhappiness and discontent because its ultimate goal is unreachable. However great a family's sacrifice, however radical the change to daily domestic life, its carbon footprint will still be a shaming 20 times greater – probably more – than that of someone living in Africa.
It is also essentially miserabilist. Those who are most militant in their concern for planet Earth often seem to be least alive to the pleasures it offers. So obsessed are they with the threats to the natural order that they are no longer able to appreciate its joys. For them every tree, flower, bird, field is merely a reminder of the tragedy they believe lies ahead.
The high priests and priestesses should, for the sake of their case, give the rest of us a break. All this scolding, bossiness and moral superiority is not only bad for relationships, but it does more harm than good to the planet. Spreading guilt is never a good way to convert souls, even to the great secular faith of our times.

Smart meters to help cut city's power bills

Published Date: 19 January 2010
THE Ross Bandstand and Scott Monument are among hundreds of public buildings to be fitted with "smart" meters as part of a drive to cut the city's soaring power bills.
Schools, museums and libraries are also getting the meters, which track hour-by-hour how much electricity, gas and water they use.The council's energy bills rose by nine per cent to £14.4 million last year, thanks largely to rising wholesale electricity prices.As well as the rising cost, it means the council is failing to meet targets of cutting carbon emissions by five per cent a year.The "smart" meters will be installed in 422 buildings at a cost of £318,140 a year to rent in the hope they will ultimately save money.They will allow the local authority to act quickly to cut energy waste rather than waiting for quarterly bills.Other high-profile buildings which will be fitted out include the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill, Museum of Childhood and Museum of Edinburgh.City environment leader Councillor Robert Aldridge said: "Historically the data provided to analyse our energy use has been poor, which is an advantage of the smart meters as they will provide instant, accurate information on energy use."Sixty-four council buildings already have "smart" meters but they are now being rolled out to almost every council-owned building.Cllr Ian Murray, Labour's finance spokesman, said the idea would only solve part of the problem."It would be good for schools in particular to see what they are using," he said. "The only problem is, if they are losing a lot of ambient energy through dodgy windows or leaky roofs, there is not much they can do." The new meters will support the council's attempts to improve its environmental performance in line with Scotland's Climate Change Declaration, which the local authority has signed up to.A new sustainable development strategy is to be drawn up which will look at climate change policies. The council has had a carbon management officer since August.

Roof-mounted wind turbines ‘no help in reducing carbon’

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

Roof-mounted wind turbines and solar panels are “eco-bling” that allow their owners to flaunt their green credentials but contribute very little towards meeting Britain’s carbon reduction targets, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Developers will waste millions of pounds installing such micro-generation devices unless the Government revises its building regulations on carbon-neutral homes and offices.
Doug King, Professor of Building Engineering at the University of Bath and the author of a report on low carbon buildings published today, said that far greater savings could be made by installing better insulation and methods of trapping the Sun’s rays.
He proposed that the government target for all new homes to be carbon-neutral by 2016 should be relaxed in return for developers making equivalent contributions to wind farms and other large-scale renewable energy projects. “Wind turbines and solar cells on the roof achieve little or nothing and are what I describe as eco-bling. It’s just about trying to say to the general public, ‘I’m being good, I’m helping the environment’.

“The things that save the money are not done, because they are not sexy.”
Dr King said that wind turbines on urban homes often consumed more energy than they generated.
Field trials carried out last year by the government-funded Energy Saving Trust found that the most productive building-mounted wind turbines in urban or suburban areas generated only £26 of electricity a year. Many of these turbines, which cost about £1,500, were net consumers of electricity because their controls drew power from the grid when the wind was low.
David Cameron installed a wind turbine on the roof of his home in West London but was forced to remove it because he had not obtained planning permission. His spokeswoman said yesterday that the turbine had been returned to the architect. “The technology has moved on so there was no point in putting it back up,” she said.
Professor King said that for wind turbines on urban homes to be effective, they would have to be so big that their vibration would damage the building. He said that installing microgeneration devices could cost £10,000 to £12,000 per home and reduce its emissions by only a few per cent. He proposed an alternative policy under which developers would offset the entire emissions of new homes by contributing £3,000 per dwelling towards a wind farm on a hilltop.
Professor King said that offices would need to be redesigned to reduce energy use and cope with regular power cuts caused by the failure to replace ageing power stations. He accused the Government of failing to practise what it preached on emissions. A recent National Audit Office report found that 80 per cent of government buildings opened since 2002 fell below minimum environmental performance standards.
Running out of puff
1.9% of homes (455,000) are suitable for building-mounted turbines
5m a second minimum average wind speed to justify the cost of a small turbine
80% by 2050: target for cut in 1990 level of greenhouse gas emissions
2016 date for all new homes to be zero-carbon under target
45% of current emissions come from buildings
80% of the buildings in which we will live in 2050 have been built
Sources: DECC, Energy Saving Trust, Royal Academy of Engineering

Obama moves to improve car efficiency

President Barack Obama has announced groundbreaking plans to make cars more fuel efficient as part of an ambitious package designed to cut vehicle pollution by almost a third.

By Toby Harnden in Washington Published: 7:16PM BST 19 May 2009

Under the proposed standards, passenger cars will be required to do an average of 39 miles per gallon by 2016 in a move that would have the same effect as taking millions of vehicles off the road.
White House officials said it would help cut carbon emissions by more than 30 per cent, equivalent to 194 coal plants.

The delicate compromise, which still has to pass through Congress, is the first to link greenhouse gas emissions limits, favoured by environmentalists, and fuel economy standards, backed by the auto industry.
The new standards would raise the price of the average vehicle by $1700 (£840) but the White House argues that greater fuel efficiency – the current average is 25 miles per gallon – would compensate for this.
Mr Obama hailed the deal as an "historic agreement to help America break its dependence on oil, reduce harmful pollution and begin the transition to a clean-energy economy".
Bringing together advocates for tackling climate advocates and executives from the embattled auto industry for a ceremony in the Rose Garden, he said it was "extraordinary" that the two groups had compromised.
"It's no secret that these are folks who've occasionally been at odds, for years, even decades. In fact, some of the groups here have been embroiled in lawsuits against one another."
He said the agreement would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years and would help improve America's national security by cutting reliance on imports.
Also present at the ceremony were Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, the biggest of 13 states fighting in the courts to establish their own standards, and Jennifer Granholm, Governor of Michigan, home of the crisis-hit American car industry.
The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by both environmental campaigners and industry officials, albeit for very different reasons. Mr Obama predicted that a series of national lawsuits over auto emissions would now be dropped.
The announcement represented a major break from the Bush administration, which had rejected California's push for its own standards.
In addition, the weakness of the auto industry, much of which is now beholden to the Obama administration for its very survival, prompted it to make a deal. Consumers, already suffering in the ailing economy, had already moved towards more fuel-efficient vehicle models.
"We are pleased that President Obama is taking decisive and positive action as we work together toward one national standard for vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions that will be good for the environment and the economy," Ford said in a statement.