Sunday, 31 January 2010

Climate change study was ‘misused’

Jonathan Leake

LORD STERN’S report on climate change, which underpins government policy, has come under fire from a disaster analyst who says the research he contributed was misused.
Robert Muir-Wood, head of research at Risk Management Solutions, a US-based consultancy, said the Stern report misquoted his work to suggest a firm link between global warming and the frequency and severity of disasters such as floods and hurricanes.
The Stern report, citing Muir-Wood, said: “New analysis based on insurance industry data has shown that weather-related catastrophe losses have increased by 2% each year since the 1970s over and above changes in wealth, inflation and population growth/movement.
“If this trend continued or intensified with rising global temperatures, losses from extreme weather could reach 0.5%-1% of world GDP by the middle of the century.”

Muir-Wood said his research showed no such thing and accused Stern of “going far beyond what was an acceptable extrapolation of the evidence”.
The criticism is among the strongest made of the Stern report, which, since its publication in 2006, has influenced policy, including green taxes.
Muir-Wood’s study did show an association between global warming and the impact and frequency of disasters. But he said this was caused by exceptionally strong hurricanes in the final two years of his study.
A spokesman for Stern said: “Muir-Wood may have been deceived by his own observations.”

UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim

Jonathan Leake

A STARTLING report by the United Nations climate watchdog that global warming might wipe out 40% of the Amazon rainforest was based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its 2007 benchmark report that even a slight change in rainfall could see swathes of the rainforest rapidly replaced by savanna grassland.
The source for its claim was a report from WWF, an environmental pressure group, which was authored by two green activists. They had based their “research” on a study published in Nature, the science journal, which did not assess rainfall but in fact looked at the impact on the forest of human activity such as logging and burning. This weekend WWF said it was launching an internal inquiry into the study.
This is the third time in as many weeks that serious doubts have been raised over the IPCC’s conclusions on climate change. Two weeks ago, after reports in The Sunday Times, it was forced to retract a warning that climate change was likely to melt the Himalayan glaciers by 2035. That warning was also based on claims in a WWF report.

The IPCC has been put on the defensive as well over its claims that climate change may be increasing the severity and frequency of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.
This weekend Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, was fighting to keep his job after a barrage of criticism.
Scientists fear the controversies will be used by climate change sceptics to sway public opinion to ignore global warming — even though the fundamental science, that greenhouse gases can heat the world, remains strong.
The latest controversy originates in a report called A Global Review of Forest Fires, which WWF published in 2000. It was commissioned from Andrew Rowell, a freelance journalist and green campaigner who has worked for Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and anti-smoking organisations. The second author was Peter Moore, a campaigner and policy analyst with WWF.
In their report they suggested that “up to 40% of Brazilian rainforest was extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall” but made clear that this was because drier forests were more likely to catch fire.
The IPCC report picked up this reference but expanded it to cover the whole Amazon. It also suggested that a slight reduction in rainfall would kill many trees directly, not just by contributing to more fires.
It said: “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state. It is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems that have more resistance to multiple stresses caused by temperature increase, droughts and fires, such as tropical savannas.”
Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at Leeds University who specialises in tropical forest ecology, described the section of Rowell and Moore’s report predicting the potential destruction of large swathes of rainforest as “a mess”.
“The Nature paper is about the interactions of logging damage, fire and periodic droughts, all extremely important in understanding the vulnerability of Amazon forest to drought, but is not related to the vulnerability of these forests to reductions in rainfall,” he said.
“In my opinion the Rowell and Moore report should not have been cited; it contains no primary research data.”
WWF said it prided itself on the accuracy of its reports and was investigating the latest concerns. “We have a team of people looking at this internationally,” said Keith Allott, its climate change campaigner.
Scientists such as Lewis are demanding that the IPCC ban the use of reports from pressure groups. They fear that environmental campaign groups are bound to cherry-pick the scientific literature that confirms their beliefs and ignore the rest.
It was exactly this process that lay behind the bogus claim that the Himalayan glaciers were likely to melt by 2035 — a suggestion that got into another WWF report and was then used by the IPCC.
Georg Kaser, a glaciologist who was a lead author on the last IPCC report, said: “Groups like WWF are not scientists and they are not professionally trained to manage data. They may have good intentions but it opens the way to mistakes.”
Research by Richard North

Bye bye black sheep thanks to climate change

Mark Macaskill

The oldest flock of native sheep in Scotland are changing colour because of global warming, claim scientists.
The Soay sheep of Hirta — which have been found in the Hebridean islands for more than 4,000 years — have succumbed to climate change and are shedding their dark coats, a new study suggests.
The darker-coloured animals used to have a better chance of survival than the smaller sandy-coloured sheep on the island, as their wool helped them absorb the sun’s warmth to maintain their body heat in harsh Hebridean winters.
However, as temperatures have risen, the sandy-coloured Soays are gaining the upper hand because they need less food to survive and have stronger reproductive genes.
Scientists in Western Australia and South Africa found the proportion of sheep with dark fleeces fell by nine percentage points between 1985 and 2005 as average temperatures rose by about 1C. The findings, published in Biology Letters, a Royal Society journal, suggest sheep with dark coats could disappear altogether. “We suggest that while in the past a dark coat has offset the metabolic costs of thermo-regulation by absorbing solar radiation, the selective advantage of a dark coat may be waning as the climate warms in the North Atlantic,” the study states.
“If environmental effects are the cause of the decline, then we can expect the proportion of dark-coloured Soay sheep to decrease further.”
Scientists from the University of Western Australia and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, compared Met Office temperatures at Stornoway airport on Lewis, about 50 miles east of the St Kilda archipelago, with population statistics for dark Soay sheep.
They found that the proportion of dark Soay sheep had fallen from 77% to 68%.
Shane Maloney, lead author of the study, said: “Taking the extrapolation to its logical conclusion, if the climate there keeps warming, the sheep will keep getting lighter.”
Soay sheep are one of the most primitive forms of domestic sheep in the world. Before a flock was moved to Hirta in 1932, they were found only on Soay. They are classified as “vulnerable” on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust watch list.
Jacqui Tucker, chair of the Soay Sheep Society, said the number of dark sheep regularly fluctuated and they were being more closely monitored.

Bad science needs good scrutiny

Science and public policy can be uncomfortable bedfellows, as we saw last year with the sacking of Professor David Nutt, the government’s chief drugs adviser. Politicians, we know, can play fast and loose with “expert” evidence. But scientists, too, are neither infallible nor always pure of heart. Their findings must be open to scrutiny and challenge.
There have been two recent developments in which this newspaper has had a pivotal role. One concerned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
As is now conceded by the IPCC, a claim made in its influential fourth assessment report in 2007 that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 “or perhaps sooner”, was wrong. The claim, based on an eight-year-old magazine report subsequently picked up by environmental pressure groups, had been challenged by scientists commissioned by the Indian government but their views were dismissed by Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, as “voodoo science”.
If this was an isolated example, perhaps the matter could rest. But other sections of the IPCC’s report dealing with the impact of climate change are also in doubt. The scientific basis is thin for claims that global warming is responsible for a rise in the number or severity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes and was not based on peer-reviewed research, as we reported last week. Alarm bells should have rung much sooner when the IPCC began drawing on such “grey” science and claims by pressure groups to support its case.

We are not seeking to rubbish every claim by the IPCC or destroy the underlying arguments about climate change. The IPCC’s evidence on the physical science is extensively peer-reviewed and remains largely intact. But when scientists allow claims from pressure groups into the public arena, without checking the evidence, they let themselves and everybody else down.
That is also true of the case of Dr Andrew Wakefield and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. For parents of children with autism, the idea that this was caused by the vaccine provided succour and the prospect of compensation. Many other parents refused to have their children vaccinated with MMR.
Dr Wakefield exploited these concerns ruthlessly, taking money from the parents’ lawyers for his researches, developing his own patented single measles vaccine and recruiting children for £5 a time at his son’s birthday party for experiments with, as the General Medical Council put it, “callous disregard” for their distress and pain. Some sections of the media have been criticised for spreading his claims but we should remember that they were first published in The Lancet after being peer-reviewed by scientists. Conversely, it was Brian Deer’s reporting for The Sunday Times which exposed this wrongdoing.
Dr Wakefield is finished in this country, thanks to the GMC, whatever his followers may think. Dr Pachauri is still head of the IPCC, although he presided over the use of dodgy science in its reports and ignored legitimate criticism of that science. He should go.

Ed Miliband declares war on climate change sceptics

Climate secretary Ed Miliband warns against listening to 'siren voices', in an interview with the Observer
Juliette Jowit, environment editor
The Observer, Sunday 31 January 2010
The climate secretary, Ed Miliband, last night warned of the danger of a public backlash against the science of global warming in the face of continuing claims that experts have manipulated data.
In an exclusive interview with the Observer, Miliband spoke out for the first time about last month's revelations that climate scientists had withheld and covered up information and the apology made by the influential UN climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which admitted it had exaggerated claims about the melting of Himalayan glaciers.
The perceived failure of global talks on combating climate change in Copenhagen last month has also been blamed for undermining public support. But in the government's first high-level recognition of the growing pressure on public opinion, Miliband declared a "battle" against the "siren voices" who denied global warming was real or caused by humans, or that there was a need to cut carbon emissions to tackle it.
"It's right that there's rigour applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it's somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there," he said.
"We know there's a physical effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leading to higher temperatures, that's a question of physics; we know CO2 concentrations are at their highest for 6,000 years; we know there are observed increases in temperatures; and we know there are observed effects that point to the existence of human-made climate change. That's what the vast majority of scientists tell us."
Mistakes and attempts to hide contradictory data had to be seen in the light of the thousands of pages of evidence in the IPCC's four-volume report in 2007, said Miliband. The most recent accusation about the panel's work is that its chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, may have known before the Copenhagen summit that its assessment report had seriously exaggerated the rate of melting of the Himalayan glaciers.
However, Miliband was adamant that the IPCC was on the right track. "It's worth saying that no doubt when the next report comes out it will suggest there have been areas where things have been happening more dramatically than the 2007 report implied," he said.
The danger of climate scepticism was that it would undermine public support for unpopular decisions needed to curb carbon emissions, including the likelihood of higher energy bills for households, and issues such as the visual impact of wind turbines, said Miliband, who is also energy secretary.
If the UK did not invest in renewable, clean energy, it would lose jobs and investment to other countries, have less energy security because of the dependence on oil and gas imports and contribute to damaging temperature rises for future generations. "There are a whole variety of people who are sceptical, but who they are is less important than what they are saying, and what they are saying is profoundly dangerous," he said. "Every­thing we know about life is that we should obey the precautionary principle; to take what the sceptics say seriously would be a profound risk."
The Copenhagen conference in December ended with no formal agreement to make deep cuts in global emissions, or even set a timetable, but Miliband warned activists against "despair".
The UN conference was a "disappointment", he said, but there were important achievements, including the agreement by countries responsible for 80% of emissions to set domestic carbon targets by today. "There's a message for people who take these things seriously: don't mourn, organise," said Miliband, who has previously called for a Make Poverty History-style mass public campaign to pressure politicians into cutting emissions.
Lord Smith, the Environment Agency chairman, said: "The [Himalayan] glaciers may not melt by 2035, but they are melting and there's a serious problem that's going to affect substantial parts of Asia over the course of the next 100 or more years."

Stern report was changed after being published

Information was quietly removed from an influential government report on the cost of climate change after its initial publication because supporting scientific evidence could not be found.

By Richard Gray, Science CorrespondentPublished: 9:00PM GMT 30 Jan 2010

Claims that eucalyptus and savannah habitats in Australia would also become more common were also deleted from the report
The Stern Review on the economics of climate change, which was commissioned by the Treasury, was greeted with headlines worldwide when it was published in October 2006
It contained dire predictions about the impact of climate change in different parts of the world.

But it can be revealed that when the report was printed by Cambridge University Press in January 2007, some of these predictions had been watered down because the scientific evidence on which they were based could not be verified.
Among the claims that were removed in the later version of the report, which is now also available in its altered form online, were claims that North West Australia has been hit by stronger tropical typhoons in the past 30 years.
Another claim that southern regions in Australia have lost rainfall due to rising ocean temperatures and air currents pushing rain further south was also removed.
Claims that eucalyptus and savannah habitats in Australia would also become more common were also deleted.
The claims were highlighted in several Australian newspapers when the report was initially published, but the changes were never publicly announced.
A figure on the cost of US Hurricanes was also changed after a typographical error was spotted in the original report. The original stated in a table the cost of hurricanes in the US would rise from 0.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 1.3%.
The later report corrected the error so the increase was from 0.06% to 0.13%. A statement about the correction appeared in a postscript of the report and on the Treasury website.
The Stern Review has been instrumental in helping the UK government draw up its climate change policies while it has also been cited by leading organisations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its assessment reports on climate change.
Details of the changes, which have not been publicly detailed before, have emerged as the IPCC is under fire for errors on the melting of Himalayan glaciers that appeared in their most recent assessment report because of a failure to check the sources of the information.
A spokesman for Lord Stern, who headed the review and is now chair of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said that the changes to the statements about Australia were made following a quality control check before the report was printed by Cambridge University Press.
He said: "Statements were identified in the section on Australia for which the relevant scientific references could not be located.
They were therefore, as a precaution, omitted from the version published by Cambridge University Press and they were deleted from the electronic version on the HM Treasure website.
"These changes to the text had no implications for any other parts of the report.
"It is perhaps not surprising that in a report of more than 700 pages a few typographic errors and minor but necessary clarifications to the text were identified in November and December 2006 after its launch.
"However, none of these corrections and changes affected the analysis or conclusions in the Stern Review, which is rightly regarded as an important contribution on the economics of climate change."
Professor Roger Pielke, from the centre of Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado who has been a long term critic of the Stern Review, described the changes to the report as "remarkable".
He said: "In any academic publication changes to published text to correct errors or to clarify require the subsequent publication of a formal erratum or corrigendum.
"This is to ensure the integrity of the literature and a paper trail, otherwise confusion would result if past work could be quietly rewritten.
"Such a practice is very much a whitewash of the historical record.
"One would assume – and expect – that studies designed to inform government (and international) policy would be held to at least these same standards if not higher standards."

Greenhouse effects: dishwasher tablets

Consumers need to take action themselves as cleaning agents for dishwashers often have a high phosphate content

Tony Juniper

One of the most damaging long-term environmental trends worldwide is the build-up of plant nutrients. Sewage works, transport emissions and farming all play their part — and so do the products we use in our homes.
One cause is the use of phosphates in detergents. As a result of these getting into water via sewage treatment plants, rapid growth in algae can occur. This leads to reduced oxygen levels, which can kill fish and wildlife. It can also promote blooms of algae, which are toxic to dogs, and indeed humans. Two-thirds of lakes and rivers in England are thought be below the “good ecological standard” set by EU law due to phosphate contamination.
There are plans to ban phosphates from laundry detergents, but not from dishwasher tablets, where they are used as a water softener and to improve cleaning. Most liquid detergents sold for washing dishes by hand are phosphate-free, but cleaning agents for dishwashers often have a high phosphate content; most UK detergents contain more than 30% phosphate.
While Sweden is taking steps to ban phosphates from dishwasher detergents, manufacturers in this country are still reluctant to consider alternatives; for now, consumers need to take action themselves. In part, the Swedish leadership on the issue is down to the soft water there, but that is not the whole story.
The performance of some of the low-phosphate tablets available in the UK has been favourably compared with the normal ones (even in hard-water areas), but you might need to use salt and rinse aid as well; most tablets sold these days are combined.
Low- and zero-phosphate brands you can find in the shops include Ecover ( and BioD ( Most supermarket chains also have their own brands — look on the box.
Thinking of household stuff getting into water, I saw photos last week that show what discarded plastics do to sea birds. Visit and click on the Midway selection.
Be prepared for a shock.
Tony Juniper is an environmental campaigner and former director of Friends of the Earth;

Green energy firms fear new feed-in tariffs will be too low

Campaigners fear government's cashback offer for microgeneration will not be enough to stimulate renewables industry

Ashley Seager
The Observer, Sunday 31 January 2010

The government will tomorrow publish the long-awaited levels of remuneration it will offer for renewable energy generated by households and communities and fed back into the national grid.
It hopes the new tariff will boost the growth of "micro-generation" by small-scale wind turbines, solar panels or hydro power. But there are fears in the renewable energy industry that the Department of Energy and Climate Change will make little or no upward adjustment to the tariff levels for clean electricity it proposed last year.
The DECC has been heavily lobbied by the big energy firms, and tomorrow's announcement has been delayed several times. The Clean Energy Cashback, or feed-in tariff, will reward households, businesses or communities by paying above-market rates for the electricity they produce and feed into the grid.
When the tariffs were unveiled last year, they were criticised for offering rates of return too low to encourage people to install micro-generation plants. Germany introduced feed-in tariffs a decade ago offering double-digit rates of return and sparked a green revolution.
But Alan Simpson, special adviser to energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband, fears the battle to get higher tariffs has been lost and believes the DECC will stick to its aim of getting just 2% of the UK's electricity from smaller scale renewables by 2020. He says three times that would be easily achievable at an additional cost per household energy bill of £1.20 a year.
"Germany needed starting rates that gave a 10% return on investment to kickstart their leap to the top of the renewables league. Britain needs to do the same," he wrote in a letter to Gordon Brown last week. "At the moment, we don't have a renewables industry. We have survivors; firms that exist despite government policy rather than because of it.
"A coalition of groups – from farmers to the fuel-poor, environmental NGOs to eco-builders, ethical bankers to engineers and installers – has been lobbying DECC officials for all they are worth. But little seems to be working."
Andrew Melchior, head of the EIC Partnership, which is setting up the Horizon energy co-operative in Manchester, said his business was only viable because of an EU grant. The feed-in tariff would not be enough, he warned.
"The Germans created an efficient industry that is able to provide solar installations at competitive prices. The UK does not have this industry, more a collection of enthusiasts experimenting with new technologies or proponents well versed in the pragmatics and dark arts of exploiting pots of grant funding.
"We must provide a decent incentive so that the public begin to accept the concept of economically viable solar energy in the UK."

Second wave of funding for Aquamarine Power

New investment will allow the company to develop the second phase of its Oyster turbine
Jane Bradley

Wave energy developer Aquamarine Power is on the verge of completing a new funding round that will allow it to develop the second phase of its Oyster turbine.
By March, the Edinburgh-based firm expects to have generated £6m of investment, after successfully holding a £10m funding round in September last year. The news comes as the company announced the appointment of a chief financial officer, Richard Round, from renewable energy generator Novera.
Chief executive Martin McAdam said Round would take up his post in March.
“This is a key appointment for Aquamarine and it is great news that Richard, with his wealth of financial expertise combined with his knowledge of the energy sector, has agreed to join the team,” he said.
Aquamarine has grown rapidly in the past year, increasing its headcount from 8 to 45. Its new Oyster 2 device is made up of a 2.5-megawatt “pod” of three linked waveenergy devices powering a single onshore generator.
The firm, which hopes to deply its first Oyster 2 turbines by 2013, estimates that a commercial farm holding 20 of the devices would provide energy for 9,000 three-bedroom family homes and offset carbon emissions of up to 20,000 tonnes.

Scottish Water taps into demand for electricity

The company is poised to become an energy provider using turbines in its pipes

Mark Horne

Scottish Water is to generate green electricity by fitting turbines in mains water pipes, in a revolutionary scheme that it claims could slash bills and provide energy for thousands of homes.
The publicly owned utility is to launch a pilot scheme in Fife later this year, which will produce renewable energy by harnessing the power of water flowing at high pressure underground.
The aqua-turbine system, which was developed by Norwegian scientists to power offshore oil and gas rigs, will be fitted at one of its plants in Glenrothes. The device will generate enough electricity to power about 50 homes.
Although the Difgen turbine will cost around £100,000 to install, it is expected to produce £20,000 worth of energy every year.
If the trial is a success, Scottish Water intends to install the turbines at its water treatment plants across the country. Larger individual turbines could potentially produce enough electricity to power more than 200 homes.
“The first trial will demonstrate whether the reality meets the theory, and we will use the data to look at further opportunities across the rest of our network,” said Grant Nairn, Scottish Water’s director of technology and innovation.
“The device that we intend to fit at Glenrothes promises to generate around 60kW of power — enough to power around 50 homes — which we could either feed into our own plant or hook back into the grid.”
Nairn said the turbines would also reduce leaks and lower operating costs, which would be passed on to consumers in the form of lower bills.
“The device has the dual benefits of generating electricity from the flow of water in our mains pipes as well as allowing us to control the pressure in those pipes,” said Nairn.
“This is a very useful feature in our ongoing battle against leakage and wastage. In the long term, this promises to benefit customers through lower bills, and it also contributes towards Scotland meeting its carbon reduction commitments.”
Ash Gupta, who is promoting the technology in the UK for the Norwegian manufacturer Zeropex, said the science behind the scheme was simple.
“Water can travel underground at the sort of pressure that would blast the taps off,” he said. “This device has a brake which steps that pressure down and is connected to a turbine which spins and generates power. It kicks out at least 60kW of clean, green energy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
The Stavanger-based firm showcased the technology at an oil industry exhibition in Aberdeen last year.
“Scottish Water are going to be the first out of the blocks to use it this way,” said Gupta.
“But we are also now talking to a number of other utility firms, including Severn Trent and Northumbrian Water in England.”
The UK government-funded Carbon Trust, which helps and advises companies on cutting energy waste, confirmed that it is interested in the Difgen scheme.

Solarcentury considers listing

By Mark Leftly
Sunday, 31 January 2010
Solarcentury, a renewable energy company founded by green campaigner Jeremy Leggett, is mulling a flotation on the London Stock Exchange.
A listing could value the company at up to £100m, according to an estimate by an industry expert.
Solarcentury, which employs more than 110 people and provides solar technology across Europe, has a £35m turnover and is one of the country's fastest growing clean technology firms. A source close to the company said that while a decision has not been made, it was "an option [because] the company is doing well".
Solarcentury is believed to be considering the flotation for later this year, taking advantage of "feed-in tariffs", which will be detailed in a government announcement next week. From April, people who install photovoltaic cells will be able to sell surplus energy to the National Grid, creating an incentive to buy the kit.
Mr Leggett, who was a leading campaigner for Greenpeace International on climate change in the 1990s, declined to comment.

French bank faces broadside on ‘greenwash’ ads

Crédit Agricole, France's biggest bank, is being attacked by the environmental lobby for its advertising campaign
Danny Fortson

ONE of the world’s biggest banks is to be referred to advertising watchdogs over a campaign fronted by Sir Sean Connery that highlights its green credentials.
Friends of the Earth, the campaigning group, called the marketing push from Crédit Agricole “the worst example of greenwash we’ve ever seen”.
The environmental group and a French organisation, France Nature Environnement (FNE), are compiling a dossier on the bank’s activities in the fossil-fuel and defence industries to submit to France’s advertising standards board.
The global campaign is the first from Crédit Agricole, which has grown from a network of regional mutuals to become France’s biggest bank. The campaign is part of the bank’s efforts to expand its business outside France and includes full-page advertisements in international newspapers such as the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.
It also includes television ads depicting dramatic scenes of planetary destruction. Scarred landscapes are blown away by wind turbines and give way to a gleaming Crédit Agricole skyscraper as Connery intones: “Back to common sense. It’s time for green banking.”
Calyon, Crédit Agricole’s investment-banking arm, is one of the primary funders of oil exploration in the developing world. Last year it led a syndicate of banks that lent $520m (£324m) to Trafigura, the Swiss oil giant that was caught dumping toxic waste off the Ivory Coast.
It is one of the main financiers of Tullow Oil, which is developing giant new oil projects in Ghana and Uganda, and recently led a $1 billion financing of Perenco, a private group that is developing oil fields in Iraq and the Amazon.
The bank has made a concerted push into Africa and shows no sign of pulling back, according to Philippe Vasset of Africa Energy Intelligence, a specialist publication. “They weren’t really a presence until three of four years ago when they had a big breakthrough — they gave some oil-backed loans to Sonangol [Angola’s state-owned oil firm],” he said. “It’s been hugely lucrative for them.”
Yann Louvel, of Friends of the Earth France, said: “We know what they invest in. This is absolutely the worst case of greenwash we’ve ever seen.” The Friends of the Earth dossier will shortly be sent to France’s advertising authority, the ARPP.
Crédit Agricole said the ad campaign was “not simply an environmental notion” but was meant to highlight a broader change in the bank’s approach to business, focusing on more “responsible and ethical” practices. It also pointed out that it was a signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and a member of the FTSE4Good index. Given its activities, however, industry experts said the bank will have a tough time convincing consumers that its claims are not disingenuous.
AS banking emerges from the global financial crisis, a growing number of firms are claiming to be eco-friendly in an attempt to attract new customers. In most cases, though, it is little more than lip service, writes Tricia Holly Davis.
Bank Track, a green watchdog, will say in a report this week that climate change has influenced banks’ investment decisions only marginally, if at all. Its research has found that banks with green reputations — including Crédit Agricole, Standard Chartered and HSBC — finance environmentally destructive projects. Not one bank appears in the FTSE Environmental Opportunities index.
To make the index, companies must derive at least 20% of their revenues from green goods and services.

New laws to ensure batteries recycled

Published Date: 31 January 2010
By John Ross
RETAILERS have been forced to set up new collection points for used household batteries in an attempt to cut down on the hazardous chemicals sent for dumping.
Britons throw away around 600 million spent batteries in their rubbish every year, most ending up in landfill sites.But from tomorrow, shops which regularly sell batteries to the public will have to take them back free of charge or face legal sanctions.At present, only three per cent of batteries are recycled in the UK, one of the worst rates in western Europe. But an EU Batteries Directive requires that this increases to 25 per cent by 2012 and 45 per cent by 2016.While consumers cannot be forced to recycle, they are being encouraged to return all batteries from a range of household appliances – from remote controls to computers – to the shops with recycling points. The retailers involved are those who sell more than 32kg of portable batteries a year – about seven packs of AAs a week. They must then be delivered to recycling firms who extract components that can be reused and dispose of dangerous chemicals safely.The directive aims to stop harmful pollutants such as mercury and cadmium contained in batteries from leaking into the environment. In addition, thousands of tonnes of valuable metals, such as nickel, cobalt and silver, could be recovered if batteries did not go to landfills or incinerators.A spokeswoman for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency said: "Householders are encouraged to take advantage of the systems set up in their areas and return batteries so that they do not end up in landfill but are appropriately recycled or disposed of." Vince Armitage, divisional vice president of Varta Consumer Batteries, a major battery supplier, said all batteries should be recycled."Households need to be aware that next time the batteries run out in their remote control, alarm clock or smoke alarm they shouldn't just head straight for the bin," he said. "All batteries, regardless of size or purpose, should be recycled at specified drop-off points. "It may sound like more of a chore, but the directive has actually made it really easy for consumers. All retailers that sell reasonable quantities of batteries will have to provide a collection point, so when you buy a new pack just drop the old batteries off at the same time. There's really no excuse not to recycle."The UK's portable battery recycling rate is one of the lowest in western Europe. Belgium recycles 41.5 per cent of its portable batteries, Austria 38 per cent and the Netherlands 37 per cent, while the EU average is about 20 per cent.At present, facilities in the UK for recycling batteries are limited, but kerbside collections are made in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Argyll & Bute, East Renfrewshire, Falkirk, Orkney, Shetland and Perth & Kinross.A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "This directive is in line with what we are trying to do in terms of making Scotland a zero-waste country. "This puts responsibilities on everyone, including government, businesses and individuals, to do more to recycle and reduce the amount of material that goes to landfill." However, retailers say they cannot be expected to be solely responsible for recycling batteries. They argue that better and continuing information is needed to change consumer habits, along with improved facilities in schools, offices, community centres and kerbside collections.Bob Gordon, head of environment for the British Retail Consortium, said retailers support the aim of the directive and recognise their own responsibilities. But he added: "Informing customers isn't all down to retailers. We need a comprehensive and continuing information campaign."We need more local authorities to take used batteries from homes and a more consistent recycling regime for all materials."Duncan McLaren, Friends of the Earth Scotland chief executive, said more effort should be put into waste prevention."While we welcome that batteries have been banned from landfill, because they are toxic and damaging to people's health and the environment, banning individual products from the waste stream is not the most efficient way of reducing waste."It's much more efficient to prevent waste in the first place, and in terms of batteries we advise people to use rechargeable instead of disposable ones."