Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Omitted: The Bright Side of Global Warming

It seems the U.N. IPCC only tabulates the benefits of climate change when they are outweighed by the costs.
Could global warming actually be good for humanity? Certainly not, at least if we're to believe the endless warnings of floods, droughts, and pestilences to which we are told climate change will inevitably give rise. But a closer look at the science tells a more complex story than unmitigated disaster. It also tell us something about the extent to which science has been manipulated to fit the preconceptions of warming alarmists.
According to a 2004 paper by British geographer and climatologist Nigel Arnell, global warming would likely reduce the world's total number of people living in "water-stressed watersheds"—that is, areas with less than 1,000 cubic meters of water resources per capita, per year—even though many regions would see increased water shortages. Using multiple models, Mr. Arnell predicted that if temperatures rise, between 867 million and 4.5 billion people around the world could see increased "water stress" by 2085. But Mr. Arnell also found that "water stress" could decrease for between 1.7 billion and 6 billion people. Taking the average of the two ranges, that means that with global warming, nearly 2.7 billion people could see greater water shortages—but 3.85 billion could see fewer of them.
Mr. Arnell's paper, funded by the U.K. government, was duly cited in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's supposedly authoritative 2007 assessment report. But the IPCC uses Mr. Arnell's research to give the opposite impression, by a form of single-entry book-keeping. While it dutifully tallies the numbers of people he predicts will be left with less water access, it largely ignores the greater number likely to see more water courtesy of climate change.

The IPCC's much-shorter "Summary for Policy Makers" is even more one-sided. It is riddled with warnings of warming-induced drought and—while acknowledging that a hotter Earth would bring "increased water availability" in some areas—warns that rising temperatures would leave "hundreds of millions of people exposed to increased water stress." Nowhere does it specify that even more people would probably have more water supplies.
The IPCC also neglects to mention Mr. Arnell's baseline forecasts—that is, the number of people expected to experience greater "water stress" simply due to factors like population growth and resource use, regardless of what happens with temperatures. This leaves readers with the misleading impression that all, or nearly all, of the IPCC's predicted "water stress" increases are attributable to climate change.
These omissions were no accident. In 2006, prior to the release of the IPCC's report and the all-important policy makers' summary, Indur Goklany—at the time with the U.S. Department of the Interior—alerted the summary's authors that it was "disingenuous" to report on a warmer world's newly "water-stressed" without mentioning that "as many, if not more, may no longer be water stressed (if Arnell's analyses are to be trusted)." Mr. Goklany's advice was dismissed.
Mr. Arnell, who helped author the summary and some sections in the full report, told your correspondent he is "happy" with the way his work was represented. He said one reason for the omissions was "space"—apparently there was a "big constraint on the number of words" in texts that total 2,823 pages. The other reason Mr. Arnell cited—which he emphasized in his 2004 paper—is that increased and decreased water stress are asymmetrical indicators, and comparing them is "misleading."
"Having a bit more [water] is not as good as having a bit less is bad," Mr. Arnell explained, though he admitted the degree of asymmetry remains undefined. That defense of IPCC accounting dissolves even faster if you examine a separate section of the IPCC's full report, which cites one of Mr. Arnell's regional breakdowns to show that Latin America will likely see more people with greater water troubles than with less. So apparently it's only misleading to tabulate the benefits of global warming when they outweigh the costs.
On the subject of selective climateering, it's worth noting that Mr. Arnell's 22-page paper is rife with caveats and uncertainties, and the results are highly dependent on the assumptions one adopts—as witnessed by the wide ranges of his estimates. In the 2004 paper he notes, for example, that "the numerical estimates of the implications of climate change on future water resources stresses are not to be taken too literally. . . . The estimated impact of climate change on global water resources depends least on the rate of future [greenhouse gas] emissions, and most on the climate model used to estimate changes in climate and the assumed future population." (Emphasis added).
These nuances—along with the billions of people who might see more water in their lives thanks to climate change—get lost in the translation from the original research to the scientific "consensus." The point here is not to suggest that pollution and any resulting warming will deliver the Third World from its troubles, or that emitting ever-more carbon dioxide should be pursued as humanitarian policy. Clearly any benefits of global warming are extremely speculative—but then so are the costs. Such seemingly deliberate efforts to overstate the risks of climate change while obscuring the possible benefits not only hobbles serious debate, but also raises the question of why such tactics are necessary for supposedly "overwhelming scientific evidence," to quote U.S. President Obama.
With last month's news of non-disappearing glaciers, the IPCC's misuse of data on storm damage, and now its highly selective use of water-availability forecasts, the IPCC's reputation is increasingly looking as tarnished as that of the rest of the U.N.
Miss Jolis is an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.

How the 'climategate' scandal is bogus and based on climate sceptics' lies

Claims based on email soundbites are demonstrably false – there is manifestly no evidence of clandestine data manipulation
Fred Pearce
guardian.co.uk, Monday 1 February 2010 18.04 GMT
Almost all the media and political discussion about the hacked climate emails has been based on brief soundbites publicised by professional sceptics and their blogs. In many cases, these have been taken out of context and twisted to mean something they were never intended to.
Elizabeth Green, veteran head of the Canadian Green party claims to have read all the emails and declared: "How dare the world's media fall into the trap set by contrarian propagandists without reading the whole set?"
If those journalists had read even a few words beyond the soundbites, they would have realised that they were often being fed lies. Here are a few examples.
The most quoted "climategate" soundbite comes from an email from Prof Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, to Prof Mike Mann of the University of Virginia in 1999, in which he discussed using "Mike's Nature trick" to "hide the decline". The phrase has been widely spun as an effort to prevent the truth getting out that global temperatures had stopped rising.
The Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, in the Washington Post on 9 December, attacked the emailers as a "highly politicised scientific circle" who "manipulated data to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures". She was joined by the Republican senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma – who has for years used his chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee to campaign against climate scientists and to dismiss anthropogenic global warming as "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people". During the Copenhagen climate conference, which he attended on a Senate delegation, he referred to the Jones's "hide the decline" quote and said: "Of course, he means hide the decline in temperatures."
This is nonsense. Given the year the email was written, 1999, it cannot be anything else. At that time there was no suggestion of a decline in global temperatures. The previous year was the warmest on record, coming on top of a run of record warm years in the warmest decade of the century. It is only in the decade since that the rise in temperatures has slackened, due to natural cycles of variability.
The full email from Jones says: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith [Briffa]'s, to hide the decline." The decline being referred to was an apparent decline in temperatures shown in analysis of tree rings. Tree rings have historically correlated well with changes in temperature, but that relationship has broken down in the past half century. The reasons are still debated among scientists.
The "trick" was a graphic device used by Mann in a 1998 paper in Nature to merge tree ring data from earlier times with thermometer data for recent decades. He explained it in the paper. Jones was repeating it in another paper. "This is a trick only in the sense of being a good way to deal with a vexing problem," Mann told the Guardian.
Clearly this problem with modern tree ring data raises questions about older tree ring data – at least until the recent divergence from real temperatures is nailed down. And to anyone not familiar with the problems of reconstructing past temperatures from such proxy data, the "trick" may come as a surprise. But it is manifestly not clandestine data manipulation. Nor, as claimed by Palin and Inhofe, is it a trick to hide global cooling. That charge is a lie.
While he was in Copenhagen, Inhofe made a direct link between the "trick" to "hide the decline" and the second most popular soundbite from the emails. He said "of course [Jones] meant hide the decline in temperatures, which caused another scientist, Kevin Trenberth of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, to write: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't."
The link is bogus. The two emails were ten years apart. Unlike Jones, Trenberth's remark from October 2009 was indeed about the slackening of the warming trend that some like to interpret as cooling. That much is agreed. But Inhofe and other sceptics latched on to Trenberth's "travesty" phrase as a revelation that scientists were trying to keep cooling secret because it undermined their arguments about global warming.
Again this is demonstrably false. Nothing was hidden. For months, Trenberth had been discussing publicly his concerns about the inability of scientists to pin down the precise reason for the "absence of warming" since 1998. He had argued in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Stability in early 2009 that "it is not a sufficient explanation to say that a cool year [he had 2008 in mind] is due to natural variability (pdf)". Such explanations "do not provide the physical mechanisms involved." This was the "travesty" he was referring to in his email. He wanted scientists to do better.
He said the best way to improve the explanation and make it more specific was to make better measurements of the planet's energy budget. This would allow scientists to distinguish between any changes in the greenhouse effect, which would result in more or less heat overall in the atmosphere and oceans, and short-term natural cycles of variability, which merely redistribute heat. He was debating this with the former head of the Climatic Research Unit Tom Wigley, who took a different view. But their genuine scientific discussion has, since the publication of the emails online, been hijacked by ignorant or malicious invective.
Several other soundbites were subject to perverse or dishonest interpretations by commentators. Patrick Michaels, the climatologist and heavyweight polemicist for the rightwing Cato Institute published a long op-ed piece in the DC Examiner, slamming Mann for an email quote about keeping sceptics' papers out of the IPCC report "even if we have to redefine what the peer-reviewed literature is". Michaels is an old foe of Mann's, but this genuinely damaging statement was actually made by Jones.
In another case George Will, celebrated in some circles as an intellectual, told ABC's This Week programme that Mann had said in an email that he wished to "delete, get rid of, the medieval warming period". No such words appear anywhere in the emails. What Mann actually said was that "it would be nice to try to 'contain' the putative 'MWP'". Some bloggers suggested this amounted to extinguishing it from the data record. But an intellectual like Will should have known that, in this context, "contain" means to understand its dimensions – how warm it was and how long it was. Mann explained as much to anyone who asked. Verdict: not guilty.

Experts on the chances of a global climate deal working in Mexico in 2010

Politicians, climate negotiators, scientists and NGO experts on the outlook for a global climate change dealChances of Copenhagen 'rematch' unlikely, say experts

Alok Jha, Suzanne Goldenberg, John Vidal, Jonathan Watts, David Smith, James Randerson, Damian Carrington, David Adam, Tom Hennigan
guardian.co.uk, Monday 1 February 2010 13.58 GMT
With the rancour of the failed Copenhagen climate talks still fresh, the election of Scott Brown leaving President Obama without a super-majority in the Senate and doubts over the reputation of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the chances of a global climate deal look further away than ever. The Guardian asked 39 politicians, climate negotiators, scientists and representatives of NGOs whether they thought a global deal was likely in 2010. Many would not speak on the record, but this is what the rest had to say.
Spokesperson for low-carbon investment fund Climate Change Capital, USIn many respects the election of Scott Brown changes little about the prospects of Congress passing economy-wide cap and trade legislation in 2010. A wide-reaching bill already faced opposition within the Democratic camp and a lot of convincing was needed on both sides in order to assemble enough votes to get it through. We had previously assumed that a comprehensive bill had about a one in five chance of passing. Much more likely, both then and now, was the prospect of passing a series of scaled-down bills focused on the energy sector and the economy. Brown has said that job creation will be a focus of his efforts on Capitol Hill. The good news is many of the best opportunities to create jobs lie in expanding the green economy. Here the private sector has already left the government in the dust, moved beyond the perceived politics of climate change, and is already extracting economic gains from lower-carbon strategies. This will continue whether or not there is one more senator opposed to cap & trade, and whether or not Senator Lisa Murkowski tries to block the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon. Unfortunately this is not what the international community wants and expects from the United States around a carbon cap, but the Obama administration has promised to keep pushing that ball uphill.
Professor Bob Watson - chief scientific adviser to the UK's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
I obviously don't know what the election of one Republican senator will do, but it was always a challenge to get the US Senate to work hard on climate change. Unless a very meaningful bill gets through the US Senate there could be major global implications. If we don't have something in the US, as one of the biggest two emitters, then I don't see how we could get a legally binding treaty for other major emitters. It would send a signal to other major emitters and could undermine the chances of a potential agreement in the near future.
Eugen Weinberg, head of commodities research at Commerzbank in Bonn, Germany
Markets were looking to the US for a national cap-and-trade bill to stimulate an expansion. This does not increase the chances of success. It's less likely now that there will be a climate bill this year. But because the carbon price is already depressed it will not have that much effect on prices.
Rae Kwon-cheung, the climate ambassador of South Korea
I think the Copenhagen hangover continues. The statement by the "Basic" group of countries - China, India, South Africa, Brazil - is a sign of that because it showed the nations feel the necessity of clearing things up. But it was very positive that they expressed a willingness to submit information by the end of this month. There are still many things in flux [to predict whether a deal could be achieved this year]. There is a schedule this year for five negotiating sessions. The first of them is in March. It remains to be seen how things will go from there.
Senior member of Japan's climate negotiating teamJapan is a strong advocate of establishing a new legally binding treaty in which all emitters participate. The Japanese government would like to continue to work very hard for a legally binding agreement at Mexico COP16. But we still have to coordinate with other government and parties about the details.
Yang Fuqiang, director of global climate solutions WWF
The key issue now is not the US. It is the EU. Privately, the EU says it will adopt a 30% target and give $10bn to developing nations immediately. That can help. But otherwise, the position of the four Basic countries is fixed. And the US is very conservative. The EU has to take leadership. I don't think China's position will change. Despite mistakes by IPCC, it doesn't change the trends.
Li Yan, Greenpeace China's climate campaigner
I think the Chinese government is still feeling a Copenhagen hangover. The recent Basic meeting was encouraging because the countries said they will stick to the UN process. But I think all key counties need to think more deeply and map out a new strategy. At this point, it will be difficult to secure a deal but I am still positive.
In China, now there are stronger conservative voices and more concerns about the changed diplomatic circumstances and the economic downturn. In the media, you see more climate scepticism, particularly global cooling stories after the heavy winter snow. Famous economists such as Lang Xinping, are publicly criticising the interest groups that stand to benefit from the switch to a low-carbon economy and some scientists are questioning the need for a 2050 global target and the implications for China.
As more scepticism emerges, this demonstrates that scientists, economists and other opinion leaders are no longer looking at climate change as a simple, easy issue. After the failure of Copenhagen, it will be difficult to secure a deal this year, but I am still positive. Climate issues have moved higher up the agenda.
Bryony Worthington, director of sandbag.org.ukI'd say things look pretty gloomy on the UN front. I am not at all optimistic about the chances of a deal in Mexico. The problem will be the US not having legislated and therefore not being able to sign up to anything which will hold everyone else up. They might go for a less comprehensive bill and try to get that through before the mid-term elections but it's very hard to tell if they're up for any kind of fight at the moment. I suspect they might not be. The EU's continued stalling isn't helping either.
The decision from the Basic countries to provide finance to the least developed countries is interesting and important and the only positive sign I've seen since Copenhagen.
The only other glimmer of hope is that the accord will gain reasonable support and start to be worked on and improved in subsequent negotiations this year.
As for the main negotiations if there aren't substantial changes in UN process, ie a decision-making fora established that is based on majority voting rather than full consensus or consensus amongst a smaller group of nations (ie accord signatories) then Mexico will be hijacked by the same lobbies (Saudi, Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela blocking everything, Tuvalu blocking weak deals, US and China blocking strong deals), and deliver the same disappointing result as Copenhagen.
I think the angle [President Obama took in the State of the Union address] regarding jobs and American competitiveness was well done and he took care to address the concerns of some of the fossil fuel lobby and win support from nukes. A comprehensive bill may still be beyond him but could look to pass a pared-down one."

Tom Burke, director of E3G

"Copenhagen killed any real chance of a US bill this year. Procrastination is written into the DNA of the Senate and without the need to validate commitments made in Copenhagen there is no overwhelming reason for the Senate to do something this difficult this year. Brown's election simply reduces the prospects from less than 10% to less than 5%. There is some possibility that there will be enough in an energy bill to call it an energy and climate bill but the climate stuff will be window dressing and base massaging not substantive."
The State of the Union was much as expected – high on energy and jobs, low on climate. No serious expectation of a climate bill this year.
There is also very little prospect of a legally binding agreement being reached in Mexico but it is important to keep this as a goal. Sooner or later everyone, including the Chinese and Indians will talk themselves back to understanding that without a comprehensive global regime there is no solving this problem. There is a line in Edwward Albee's play The Zoo Story where a character says something like 'Sometimes you have to go a long way out of your way to come back a short way the right way.'
We are now setting off on the long way out of our way. This will be very expensive in terms of both money and the climate but that's where we have landed ourselves. The real problem is going to be with the US where I think the requirement for 67 votes for a treaty will make their participation in a comprehensive global regime on climate change always too difficult. The rest of the world should therefore go ahead with what it needs to do and find someway to allow the US to associate itself with whatever regime is constructed. We just need to laugh politely when Americans talk of their leadership.
This is not a short-term strategy but may be the best we can get. In the meantime, the Copenhagen Accord is not going to go anywhere except in the headlines. It has no machinery and no resources outside of the UNFCCC so everything you try to do to make it work will have to go back to the UNFCCC to get done. Think of the period between Bali and Copenhagen as the most expensive political education exercise in history. It is going to take some time to digest all the lessons but when we (collectively) have done so we will find that we are back pretty much to the start but in a far worse climate.
I don't think the [IPCC's] glacier gaff froth matters very much in the real world. There were no climate sceptics among the 192 governments in Copenhagen.
Peter Madden, chief executive, Forum for the Future
"I'm pessimistic about the prospects for a global deal. The misjudgements and mishandling around Copenhagen wasted a lot of political momentum, and actually set the whole process back. And I don't see how the stumbling blocks can easily be resolved: Obama's domestic political problems; China's unwillingness to compromise; and the inadequacies of the international framework for negotiating a deal and for implementing any agreement.
Unfortunately, global warming is not going to pause while we get our collective act together; climate change grinds on, indifferent to our hopes, fears and failed conferences.
However, the business case for action remains as strong as it did before Copenhagen. Peak oil is around the corner. Most of the measures needed to decarbonise bring business benefits and it make good sense to act now rather than later. And history tells us that responding to a constraint can drive game-changing innovation, opening up new opportunities.
The good news is that our leading companies have got the low-carbon message and are forging ahead. The likes of Cadbury, M&S, O2 and Unilever are getting on with decarbonising their businesses, offering new products and services and positioning themselves for success in the future. I hope their example can convince politicians and the general public that we can crack this one."
Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group and chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Climate Change
"It's probably a bit too early to be writing the obituary of COP 16 just yet. While a legally binding deal may now be less likely in 2010, it is very possible to make real progress on a politically binding deal that acts as a platform for meaningful national commitments to cut global emissions. In many ways a politically binding deal amongst major economies can be as significant as a legally binding one if it starts a "race to the top" in terms of ambitious action. Although it is legally binding, is anyone really going to arrest any signatories to the Kyoto Protocol for non-compliance? The good news is that business and sub-national governments are not waiting for COP16. They are already moving because they understand people want to live in a better, cleaner, more energy independent world and the major opportunities for investment, growth and jobs in the low carbon economy are too exciting and compelling to ignore."
David Kennedy, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change
"Despite the disappointments, there were some positive things to come out of Copenhagen. Implicit in the agreement to limit temperature change to 2 degrees is that global emissions should peak in the next ten years. If the commitments to reduce emissions due at the end of January reflect the top end of ambition that was on the table at Copenhagen, then we would be on track. There is great deal of uncertainty, for example about the domestic political situation and whether it will be possible to get through climate change legislation this year, and what the negotiating position of major developing countries will be. This uncertainty will resolve over the course of the year and we hope that there will be an ambitious agreement in Mexico in December. In the meantime, it is important that he UK focuses on laying the foundations for low carbon economy, putting in place policies that will be required to drive the step change here. The UK has a good opportunity to show other countries that reducing emissions is feasible and brings economic benefits for people and for businesses".
Tom Picken, international climate campaigner, Friends of the Earth
Where we are at the moment, we've seen a strategic gain for the US in weakening the expectations on them. Where we had a very clear legal instrument in the Kyoto Protocol that required reductions from a group of countries who were deemed historically responsible and who were committed to action, now what we have is a gain for the US in creating a new space where there is no longer mandatory scientific-led cuts but pledge-and-review.
If we see the momentum pushing the Copenhagen Accord forward this year, I'm very sceptical about any meaningful agreement before the end of the year. Given where we are with the accord, it's opened up parallel political negotiations, much more than the Major Economies Forum meeting had last year. Now we've got the Berlin meeting that Merkel is going to call; then there's the G20 meetings; the Greenland dialogue.
There's certainly a lot of political momentum in the parallel processes but the extent to which the accord politically binds some countries to bring across the weaker proposals into the UN process, that's the determining factor of where we end up at the end of the year. If we're stuck with pledge-and-review as the basis, the ability to having a meaningful international climate regime to tackle the science fairly is significantly undermined. It also opens up tremendous new offsetting opportunities which will further weaken the climate regime.
We haven't yet seen the peak in political pressure to get the shift in ambition that's needed. I think it's too early to call what we can get by the end of 2010 but certainly I don't see the political pressure as having peaked, it'll only get much stronger.
Greg Clark MP, shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change
Copenhagen was a setback. Estimating the chances of a deal is difficult but I do think you need to understand what Copenhagen taught us. There's a danger that the wrong lessons are taken from Copenhagen. There was clearly a procedural story there with the arrangements and chaos, which clearly were a problem and contributed to it not being a success.
The big revelation of Copenhagen was that a number of countries that were big in importance were not prepared to sign a binding deal. That was a stark revelation. We need to understand why it was that countries like China considered a global deal to be against their interests.
[On UNFCC process being best way to do this] It's completely irrelevant – there may or may not be different forms. You find a procedure and protocol to agree a deal if there is a deal that people are willing to do. But, if they're not, then having the right process will not result in a deal.
Simon Hughes MP, Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson
The world needs a global climate deal this year even more than last. The new parliament to be elected in just a few months may be the last chance that we have to help rescue the world from climate crisis. Whatever the US political difficulties, the British government and the European Union must set a bolder example of cuts in emissions and real contributions to help the developing world. A new UN Climate Security Council could be a positive way of making sure we never get a Copenhagen confusion again.
Maria McCaffery, chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association
No I don't [think there will be a deal in 2010]. We are disappointed that we didn't reach an agreement in Copenhagen but disappointment is a function of expectation. We've got a way to go before everyone's signed up and on the same page. The most emphatic point I'd make is that Copenhagen and all those talks are global but we already have a European deal that we're wholly signed up to and, up to Copenhagen we were very much on track, fully supporting that and motoring at a great rate of knots. And we still are. The failure at Copenhagen was of great interest but it hasn't deflected or derailed us in any way from the trajectory were were already on to achieving renewable energy targets. They, in turn, are reducing emissions and addressing exactly what Copenhagen was all about.
Rhian Kelly, head of climate change at the CBI
There are some sectors that are more international in the way they approach investment decisions – the big energy companies or anyone who looks at the emissions trading schemes or is involved in some of the offset or CDM mechanisms. For them, Copenhagen would have provided certainty and confidence and overall direction of global markets. When we talk to members, the majority of them say that that national frameworks will continue moving forwards and that government has climate change firmly within its eyesight – in that sense, national policy is a far larger driver than an international climate deal. We find, these days, that members have embedded climate change and sustainability into their businesses so they'll do it anyway.
I have a glass-half-full approach. It was really disappointing that Copenhagen didn't deliver more but, looking at some of the movement in the past couple of days such as what happened with Brazil, India, South Africa and China, it looks really positive that the accord, post-31 January, will have captured actions to reduce emissions in a significant portion of the local greenhouse gas emissions. That's really positive but there's a job to do in building trust in the process in developing countries and how to work out how the process will deliver a deal. It won't be an easy year, there's a lot of work to be done.
It doesn't matter which forum delivers it as long was we get something that delivers the global context.
Gareth Morgan, shadow minister of water and environmental affairs, Democratic Alliance (South Africa's main opposition party)
Some of the most common correspondence I get is from people referring to the leaked East Anglia emails and the ramifications. If there is a vaccuum it's going to be filled by those who are sceptical. There is a need for negotiators to occupy the void and start arguing back.
We needed a deal in Copenhagen. It wasn't delivered and this has led to people losing confidence. There's going to be a fightback from business because they're going to say we don't see a climate change deal on the table. The momentum has been lost and huge amount of work has to happen. There has be a diplomatic representation to China – I know a lot of Europeans were stunned that the Chinese argued against firm targets.
The South African parliament has finally started taking climate change seriously. Six months ago you could have counted on one hand the number of MPs who knew anything about the debate. There is now a serious move to form a climate change committee. But all these things will become more difficult without knowing what the global plan is.
HaraldWinkler, associate professor at the Energy Research Centre, Cape Town University, South Africa
India's environment minister said the Kyoto Protocol is in "intensive care" and I think that's apt, it needs to be saved. So much now depends on what the US does - it all flows from that. If the US legislation doesn't go through, the whole process of multilateral agreements could be more difficult. Businesses in South Africa might say, 'If the US isn't doing something as a country, why should we?' That's unanswerable.
South Africa did well at Copenhagen but it didn't achieve what it wanted, a legally binding treaty and a second commitment period under Kyoto. South Africa has been very pro-active in the negotiations and has put ideas forward. But it's not that big a country at the end of the day when political deals are made between the US and China.
Joanne Yawitch, deputy director general, environmental quality and protection, South African government
We believe that the climate issue is fundamentally a global problem and its resolution must be achievedwithin that context. We believe that the developed world must lead and in particular if we are to avoid irreversible and dangerous climate change the scale of ambition in relation to emission reductions from the developed world must be increased.
We are clear that the way forward is through engagement in the multilateral process and specfically through the UNFCCC negotiations. We recognise that there are difficult issues to be resolved, but we cannot see any other way to find a resolution. Indeed a legally binding international agreement can only be achieved through the UNFCCC. South Africa therefore is committed to continuing its engagement in the UNFCCC processes in order to be able to achieve in Mexico in 2010 the legally binding outcome that we had hoped for in Copenhagen."
Will Day, Sustainable Development Commission
The word people are using about Copenhagen is disappointing. That is an understatement because the expectations were high. In fact the expectations were probably unrealistic, given the issue at hand polarises views.
People feel very strongly about this issue and it's often not on the basis of well-thought-through information, it's quite often on misinformation. The debate is unattractive in a lot of ways.
Is a global deal likely? I'm a glass half-full person and I would like to think that it is possible.
There are individuals within apparently obstructive nations that clearly want something to happen. If you look at the US, they're problem has been at a federal level; at a city and state level, there are people and organisations and collectives and communities doing stuff. One of the real problems is that Copenhagen was sort of polarised as a struggle between rich and poor. That's hugely damaging because there will have been some political opportunism because there were large sums of money involved. That complicates matters and distracts attention from what we need to do, which is collaborative. The process ended up being competitive.
The UN is kind of the only show in town when it comes to getting global coherence on this thing. We can and will see bilateral and group conversations. But we're talking about a global good here and the mechanism we have is the United Nations, we don't have any alternatives.
I would hope we got a deal this year but the track record hasn't been great so far.
John Prescott, former UK deputy prime minister
[Will there be a legal agreement this year?] In Europe it will be a legal framework, in other places such as China, it might be one based upon what they've nationally have agreed upon. That raises questions of verification but, nevertheless, if you take what people commit themselves to for the 2015-2020 period, whether it's by legal agreement or by voluntarily stating those targets, you add that up and then get to the first stage and if you can show there's sufficient commitments to cutting emissions, you could say we're on target to achieving something. But it might not be a legal agreement.
I don't care if it's NGOs or government ministers – if they think you can get a legal agreement all signed up and framed up by November in Mexico, I don't believe it.
The trouble [with the negotiation process] we've got at the moment is that each nation delegation stays at its position until the ministers arrive so it's almost an impossible timetable for leaders to fly in and fix the deal unless it's fixed before.
Let's be positive about it, if you look at the number of nations that came together – Brazil, South Africa, China, Europe, America - they represent well over 80% of the carbon-producing countries at the present time and for them to say we're prepared to move along to the next stage and commit ourselves to carbon cuts, that is a step forward.
Mohan Munasinghe, director general of the Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester, UK
[The Copenhagen talks] failed miserably to meet expectations (as demanded by the science), and also displayed the remarkable lack of political will by world leaders! To have a "global climate deal worth the name", several conditions are required (see below). I doubt very much whether this will happen in 2010, and it will likely be too late after that, since global emissions must decline by 2020 to reach the 2C (and 400-450 ppmv) maximum target!
1. Industrial countries (already exceeding safe limits) should mitigate and follow the future growth path CE, by restructuring their development patterns to make both production and consumption more sustainable and delink carbon emissions from economic growth.
2. The poorest countries must be provided an adaptation safety net, to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts.
3. Middle income countries could adopt innovative policies to "tunnel" through (along BDE – below the safe limit), by learning from past experiences of the industrialized world.
4. Developing countries should receive technical and financial assistance, to simultaneously continue to develop (and g ow) more sustainably, by following a less carbon-intensive growth path that also reduces climate vulnerability.
Furthermore, both adaptation and mitigation policies must be fully integrated into sustainable development strategy, satisfying three conditions of sustainomics:
1. Economic viability: cost-effective and affordable.
2. Environmental protection: ecosystem services and natural resources (water, food, energy).
3. Social equity: climate justice includes recognition of climate debt due to past emissions of Annex 1, and fair burden sharing for both mitigation and adaptation in the future.
Simon Retallack, associate director and head of climate change at the Institute for Public Policy Research
It is unlikely that there will be a meaningful global climate deal this year. We need to be honest and recognise that the national political conditions in the countries that matter most on climate change just weren't conducive to a deal in Copenhagen and if anything they have become worse since. If we're to make progress at all, we will need to overcome the deep concerns that exist in both the US and China about the impact of action to reduce or limit emissions on economic prosperity.
We need more of a bottom up approach focused on national politics to convince governments and publics alike that climate action can produce development, jobs and security, and that people working in fossil fuel dependent sectors can achieve a just transition, paving the way for the domestic adoption of policies and measures to deliver emissions targets. That can and must happen regardless of what takes place at the international level.
Prof Anthony Giddens, British sociologist and author of The Politics of Climate Change
I was never much in favour of the Kyoto-Copenhagen-style approach, which was too slow-moving, cumbersome and bureaucratic to make the impact needed. If indeed it does progress, the Accord will be driven by a smaller group of countries. But that group is likely to include all the big polluters and, just as important, cross-cuts the divide between the developed and developing countries, the prime source of acrimony at Copenhagen.
The Accord therefore could provide a lynch-pin for emissions reductions, but we have to think and act on a much broader scale too. Copenhagen was not a singular event: its failure expresses deep-seated problems of global governance. We live in a far more interdependent world than any previous generation – climate change is the negative expression of that interdependence. Yet the institutions of trans-national governance have not advanced in tandem with it. The United Nations is regularly paralysed by the very divisions that sunk the hopes entertained at Copenhagen.
The debacle at Copenhagen could lead to a period of quiescence, in which nothing much is done to pursue active climate change policy. I don't think it is what will happen though. We stand on the edge of an era of profound change. The social and economic system created by the fusion of political and industrial revolution in Europe and America, now becoming globalised, is starting to subvert itself. The dangers posed by climate change are the most dramatic and far-reaching expressions of this, but alongside them one can range much broader issues of sustainability. Whatever happens with formal agreements, we can anticipate a burst of innovation, economic, social and political as well as technological, over the next decade and beyond.
Ben Caldecott, Climate Change Capital
After Copenhagen it's clear that international climate change policy is set to become more fragmented. In many ways this is a suboptimal outcome, especially given the international nature of the challenge we face.
Fortunately, the consequences of this are not as dramatic as many people fear. Sustained and coordinated efforts to tackle climate change will continue via the UNFCCC and be complemented by other processes, such as the Major Economies Forum, World Economic Forum, G20, and G8.
We should also acknowledge that it is regional and national policy, in the form of incentives, regulations, market mechanisms and taxes, that drive forward investment in low carbon alternatives. If these continue to be developed and expanded as planned, we will be in a position to tackle the threat from climate change.
Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society
It's important to maintain the momentum – not only via the cumbersome UN route but via the EU, the G20 and of course bilateral discussions between US and China. It would be regrettable if too much delay were caused by the slow progress of the US domestic agenda. The UK government – especially through the efforts of the prime minister and Ed Miliband – deserves credit for its commitment. It's important also to provide appropriate incentives to ensure that the UK takes a lead – to our long-term economic benefit – in R and D into clean energy technologies."
Colin Challen MP, author of Too Little Too Late: the Politics of Climate Change
A climate deal worth having can only mean one which has a universal carbon cap set at a level which forces the price of carbon well beyond $100 a tonne. That would get things moving, but as it is I do not see the will, least of all in the United States to go anywhere near that level of commitment.

The 'Green Jobs' Myth

A European lesson in the pitfalls of industrial-environmental policy.
As he did for health care, President Obama has turned to Europe for inspiration on the environment. Countries such as Spain and Germany are "making real investments in renewable energy" and are "surging ahead of us," he has warned.In last week's State of the Union speech, Mr. Obama proposed to reverse the trend: "The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy," he said. "America must be that nation."
By all means, let's look at Europe's experience. Consider Germany. An October 2009 study by RWI Essen, a leading economic research institutes, found that costly government handouts more likely destroyed than created jobs, and stifled rather than promoted technological innovation—and all without reducing CO2 emissions.
The study estimates that the total cost of subsidizing solar and wind power generators installed between 2000 and 2010 was €53.3 billion ($74.1 billion) and €20.5 billion ($28.5 billion), respectively. The price mark-up for electricity consumers in 2008 was about 1.5 euro cents per kilowatt hour, or 7.5% of a household's average electricity bill. And with a price tag of up to €175,000, or $244,000, in subsidies per job, it's also difficult to call Germany's renewable energy policy a jobs miracle.
"We would . . . regard the country's experience as a cautionary tale of massively expensive environmental and energy policy that is devoid of economic and environmental benefits," the researchers concluded. Keep in mind that cash-for-clunkers was another German brainstorm.

It gets, er, better. Because the sun doesn't always shine and wind doesn't always blow, solar and wind power need conventional backup, which undermines the argument that they promote energy security. And Germany's 20-year head-start in renewable energy promotion has not led to the expected technological breakthroughs, either. On the contrary, the system stifles innovation as it "compensates each energy technology according to its lack of competitiveness," as RWI puts it. The guaranteed government aid thus "creates perverse incentives to lock into existing technologies" rather than develop tomorrow's quantum leap.
The subsidies for renewable energy also failed in the goal of cutting CO2 output. True, the promotion of renewable energy reduces the electricity sector's emissions. But in the presence of Europe's cap-and-trade system—which the Obama Administration would like to impose on the U.S. economy—obsolete emissions certificates can be sold to other industries. The result is "merely a shift rather than a reduction in the volume of emissions," according to the RWI.
But what about the jobs argument? A government can always put people to work in any number of ways. But "green" jobs turn out to be a uniquely expensive proposition. A study published last year by researchers at King Juan Carlos University in Madrid showed that Spain, which copied much of Germany's system and which Mr. Obama also looks to as a model, spends €570,000 ($794,000) to get one worker employed at a solar-panel assembly line. As for the "sustainability" of those jobs, RWI notes that "It is most likely that whatever jobs are created by renewable energy promotion would vanish as soon as government support is terminated." Translation: "green jobs" means taxpayer subsidies unto eternity.
Green jobs also mean forfeited opportunities, as subsidies crowd out jobs in the traditional energy-generation sector, job losses from the drain on the economy as a result of higher energy prices, consumers' loss of purchasing power and the misallocation of funds from more productive investments. As RWI warned, "Governments should scrutinize the logic of supporting energy sources that cannot compete on the market in the absence of government assistance." To which we would only add that here's a case where President Obama really could benefit from studying the European model.

Shell to do deal with Brazilian biofuel producer Cosan to secure future

• Joint venture with Brazil's Cosan said to be worth $12bn• Shell expected to announce 40% fall in quarterly profits

Nick Mathiason
guardian.co.uk, Monday 1 February 2010 20.28 GMT
Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's second biggest energy company, is poised to become the biggest oil major in biofuels as it battles to reassure investors about profitability.
The Anglo-Dutch company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the most powerful Brazil bioethanol producer, Cosan, in a joint venture said to be worth $12bn (£8.19bn).
The move, if finalised, will cement Brazil's position as the world's alternative energy superpower with the potential to ship huge quantities of fuel to the United States and Europe. Shell will now lobby the US administration to reduce its tariffs on biofuel imports in a move that could transform profitability.
The company hopes the aggressive moves into biofuels it has plotted for two years will signal to investors that it has growth potential as it readies itself to announce what is expected to be a 40% drop in quarterly profits on Thursday.
Analysts expect the group to report a quarterly profit of $2.9bn. This would take its annual profit to $13.4bn, down on the $31.4bn it made in 2008. There are suggestions the company will make further job losses on top of the 5,000 already announced.
The joint venture is intended to more than double Cosan's existing bioethanol production, which currently stands at 2bn litres. Cosan is Brazil's leading bioethanol producer in a country where virtually all new cars run on sugar cane.
But there are serious reservations among environmentalists that the growing attraction of biofuels in Brazil could see agricultural land earmarked for food shifted to fuel crops, creating pressure to chop down more rainforests.
Kenneth Richter, who campaigns against biofuels, said: "Massively expanding sugar cane plantations to produce biofuels will significantly threaten Brazil's rainforest. The biofuels industry is pushing agricultural activity on to forested land where trees are cut down to make space for farming. To be truly green energy companies should invest in clean, renewable and safe forms of energy like wind and solar power."
Shell says sugar cane for ethanol uses about 1% of Brazil's arable land (354m hectares). It adds that none of Cosan's farms are anywhere near rainforests. And it cites European Union statistics that suggest that bioethanol from sugar cane produces 71% less carbon dioxide ­emissions than conventional fuel. ­Biofuel, the company believes, will become an increasingly important energy source as the number of cars in the world is ­projected to hit 2bn by 2050. At present, cars and trucks account for 17% of energy-related CO2 emissions.
Mark Williams, Royal Dutch Shell's downstream director, said: "We see joining Cosan as a way to grow the role of low-carbon sustainable biofuels in the global transportation fuel mix."
A City oil analyst said: "Shell has hitherto focused on the laboratory bench looking at second-generation biofuels. This is the first major big move into biofuels by some way by an oil major."
Rubens Ometto Silveira Mello, Cosan's chairman, said: "This new company will be a great force and it will help ethanol to become a real world commodity."
The joint venture will see Cosan pool its 23 sugar mills and fuel stations with Shell's Brazilian interests as well as shares in its other major biofuel investments, which are working on next generation technology. Shell is to pay $1.625bn in cash to Cosan.
Shell has significantly scaled down its wind and solar investments, sparking fierce criticism from environmentalists. It is now concentrating on biofuels and carbon capture and sequestration. Shell has also indicated it will slow its controversial Canadian oil tar sands investments, which are hugely energy intensive amid concerns over its future in Nigeria where violence is hampering its operations.
Brazil is the world's alternative fuel pioneer. It is now forming alliances with Iran to export its technological expertise to help the Middle Eastern country's huge sugar cane industry.
Biofuel in the UK powers 2.7% of the country's transport according to the Renewable Fuels Agency. Britain is on target to meet its 5% target by 2014.

Wind farm boost for north-east industry

• Xanthus Energy wind farm project gets share of grant cash • Plans for north-east manufacturing plant to create 300 jobs

Tim Webb
The Guardian, Tuesday 2 February 2010
Plans to set up a plant in the north-east that will build the foundations for offshore wind turbines have moved a step closer, the Guardian has learnt, providing a much-needed boost to Britain's fledgling renewable energy industry.
Xanthus Energy is leading the project, which would create about 300 jobs. It has received a share of £3m of grants recently awarded by government agencies to companies seeking to develop wind turbine technologies in the UK.
The company will use the money to design the factory and build scale models of its foundations, which unlike current designs used in the UK – all of them imported – can be assembled onshore, making them easier and cheaper to install on the seabed.
The firm will also carry out detailed analysis to show wind farm developers how much its technology will save them. It is in negotiations with developers and will press ahead with building the plant once it has secured its first order, expected to be by the end of the year.
If its plans go ahead, Xanthus will join Skykon in Scotland, currently the only factory making components for the wind industry in the UK after the controversial closure of a plant on the Isle of Wight by the Danish firm Vestas last year.
The north-east has been hit hard by the recession, which has resulted in many traditional manufacturing firms, such as Corus, the steelmaker, closing plants and laying off thousands of workers.
Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, is leading government efforts to support hi-tech industries, particularly those pioneering low-carbon technologies. The north-east is particularly suited to the new industries because there are plans to build thousands of giant wind turbines off the coast in the North Sea. Regional development agencies like One North East want the region to become a staging point for local companies to manufacture, assemble and install the turbines.
The recipients of the £3m funding round will be announced today by the Northern Wind Innovation Programme, funded by regional development agencies. Ricardo and Siemens, the technology and engineering groups, have also secured funding for two separate projects with Sheffield University, one to develop more durable bearings for turbine gearboxes and another to carry out research into energy conversion systems for giant offshore turbines.
But some companies seeking funding complain the amount of money available for grants is still relatively limited and the application process can be lengthy compared to many other countries. In the US the government set aside $100bn (£63bn) for green investments as part of its economic stimulus package.

Payment for homemade power ‘too low to help’

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

New subsidies to encourage millions of British families to install roof-top wind turbines and solar panels were unveiled by the Government yesterday, but were criticised as too low to help to meet its ambitious targets for low-carbon energy production.
Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said that by 2020 a tenth of British households would be generating their own green elecricity under the scheme, the Feed-in Tariff, which will take effect in April.
The scheme will reward households, communities and businesses generating electricity from wind turbines, hydro-electricity schemes or solar photovoltaic panels by paying an above-market rate for power they produce. Homeowners using photovoltaic panels to generate electricity could earn £900 a year and cut bills by £140.
However, critics said that the scheme’s average returns on investment, of 5 to 8 per cent, were too low to encourage its mass adoption. They said that returns were significantly below the 10 per cent average in Germany, where similar arrangements have led to a big expansion of renewable energy.

Alan John, of Osborne Clarke, the law firm, said: “Householders may still regard the initial outlay to purchase a low-carbon energy-generation system as being prohibitive. Installing a typical 2kW photovoltaic domestic system, for instance, currently costs in the region of £10,000.”
Dave Timms, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Ministers have been far too timid with a policy that could make a significant contribution to cutting emissions and boosting energy security.”
Mr Miliband rejected such concerns, saying that the scheme had a “very significant scale of ambition”, similar to other countries that have adopted similar arrangements. “The feed-in tariff will change the way householders and communities think about their future energy needs, making the payback for investment far shorter than in the past,” he said.
Britain aims to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide by a third by 2020.

World's most powerful laser to trigger fusion reaction this year

A pivotal step in the march towards fusion power, the ''holy grail'' of sustainable clean energy, could be taken this year.

Published: 7:30AM GMT 01 Feb 2010

Scientists in the US are preparing for the dramatic moment when the world's most powerful laser unleashes the nuclear force that lights up the sun and achieves ''ignition''.
At that moment, 192 laser beams housed in a building the size of three football pitches will focus on a target the size of a peppercorn to trigger a self-sustaining fusion reaction.

If all goes according to plan, this could be achieved in October. Although no more than a test of the technology, it could mark the start of a revolution that will change the science and politics of energy for ever.
Scientists have spent decades chasing the dream of fusion power, which holds out the promise of producing unlimited amounts of clean energy from hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe.
Nuclear fusion happens when the nuclei of atoms are driven together so hard that they fuse to form a heavier particle. A self-sustaining chain reaction occurs as more atomic nuclei collide, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process.
Stars are driven by nuclear fusion, as is the immense destructive power of the hydrogen bomb. But no one has yet managed to contain and sustain a fusion reaction under controlled conditions.
The biggest problem facing fusion scientists is how to generate the enormous temperatures and pressures necessary for long enough in a confined space.
Self-sustaining fusion requires conditions more extreme than at the centre of the Sun, with temperatures of around 100 million centigrade.
At the new National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, scientists are closer to overcoming this hurdle than anyone has been before.
The 10-storey high NIF is a £2 billion sledgehammer built to crack a nut.
Opened last year, the facility houses an array of optical and electronic devices designed to split a laser 192 ways and boost the combined energy of the beams to 1.8 megajoules.
At its heart the ''nut'' is a tiny beryllium capsule the size of a peppercorn, designed to hold a dash of nuclear fuel in the form of deuterium and tritium.
Both are isotopes, or different atomic versions, of hydrogen.
The aim is to focus the laser beams on the capsule and blast it with a pulse of energy that causes the fuel to implode in an instant, reaching temperatures and pressures greater than those at the centre of the Sun.
Crushed together, the deuterium and tritium nuclei will fuse, releasing a flash of energy. If the experiment is a success, more energy will be generated than was pumped into the capsule in the first place.
A report of the latest progress at the NIF published last week in the journal Science shows that the scientists are on target.
Dr Siegfried Glenzer and colleagues described the first experiments in which all 192 of the lasers were tested on targets empty of fuel, achieving a beam energy of about 40% the NIF's maximum.
A major problem that had to be overcome was getting the capsule to implode evenly.
This was done by encasing it in a gold cylinder called a hohlraum, pierced by holes through which the laser beams were shone.
''We're doing the real thing, and it's going better than expected,'' said Dr Glenzer, quoted in a Science news article.
The facility's ''ignition campaign'', leading to the first attempt to produce a self-sustaining fusion reaction is due to start in earnest in May.
A decision will be made in July on whether or not to push ahead with full-scale fusion experiments paving the way to ignition in October.
British expert Professor Mike Dunne, director of the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, said: ''It's come up better than anyone thought. They're ahead of the curve predicted.''

Electric consumer goods manufacturers named greenest companies in the world

Relax News
Consumer electronics companies Sony and Nokia were among five international businesses named the greenest companies in the world in 2009.
Sony Europe was named Greenest Company of 2009 for its pro-active attitudes towards manufacturing environmentally friendly electronics products, creative green community projects and its ongoing efforts to actively reduce its carbon footprint said Sony in a February 1 press release.
Nokia was third on news service and blog Environmental Graffiti's Greenest Companies of 2009 list. The Finnish-based mobile manufacturer earned points for its voluntary mobile phone take-back program, its removal of all BFRs (brominated flame retardants) in new handsets, and the eradication of all PVC vinyl plastics in all new mobile phone models.
"We were looking for companies that have proven over the last year that being environmentally friendly and profitable can go hand in hand," said Chris Ingham-Brooke, Environmental Graffiti Editor. "What impressed us about Sony was their consistent activities throughout the year that showed they are using their technology in an innovative way to address environmental problems."
Greenpeace's annual Guide to Greener Electronics, 2010, saw Nokia retain the top position with a environmental score of 7.3 out of 10. Sony Ericsson was second with a score of 6.9 and Sony maintained its overall score on the list at number seven with an overall score of 5.1.
Toshiba, Philips and Apple were also in top five in Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics in 2010 with overall scores of 5.3, 5.3 and 5.1 respectively.
Environmental Graffiti's 5 Greenest Companies of 2009:1. Sony2. Timberland3. Nokia4. Whole Foods Market5. Unilever
Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics 2010 (published on January 7, 2010):1. Nokia: 7.3 2. Sony Ericsson: 6.93. Toshiba: 5.34. Philips: 5.35. Apple: 5.16. LG Electronics: 5.17. Sony: 5.18. Motorola: 5.19. Samsung: 5.110. Panasonic: 4.911. HP: 4.712. Acer: 4.513. Sharp: 4.514. Dell: 3.915. Fujitsu: 3.516. Lenovo: 2.517. Microsoft: 2.418. Nintendo: 1.4

Government to reward renewable energy homes with higher feed-in tariffs

Household solar panels will get higher feed-in tariff than proposed but level of support to renewables industry unchanged

Ashley Seager
guardian.co.uk, Monday 1 February 2010 18.24 GMT
The government drew back from a step-change in its proposed levels of support scheme for small-scale renewable energy schemes amid attacks by the Conservatives and campaigners for a lack of ambition.
Unveiling the new so-called feed-in tariffs (FITs) paid to people, communities or businesses who generate electricity from solar panels, wind turbines or other renewable sources, energy secretary Ed Miliband said the government still only intended that the sector would supply 2% of the country's electricity by 2020 – the same figure he proposed last summer.
Some technologies such as solar photovoltaic panels on household roofs will get a higher feed-in tariff, and, importantly, all tariffs will be uprated with inflation each year. But large-scale community wind turbines will get a lower tariff than proposed last year, leaving the overall level of support to the industry little changed.
The FITs for new projects will be held at the current rates for two years but then cut by 8.5%, more than originally planned.
Miliband said: "Our plans represent a significant level of ambition and are comparable to countries that are leading in this area."
But he acknowledged that the overall aim was to produce 2% of the country's electricity by 2020 – much less than the 6% campaigners say is realistic.
He also said the FITs would still only offer 5-8% return on investment, unchanged from last summer's proposals and well below Germany's typical level of 10%. But documents from his energy and climate change department show that the inflation-linking of tariffs will push nominal (not inflation-adjusted) returns up to 7-10%.
The Conservatives said this still lacked ambition and hinted they would do more if they win the election this spring.
Shadow energy secretary Greg Clark said: "FITs are essential to allow decentralised energy to play a major role in our energy mix, but Labour's proposals today lack ambition. Ministers should have been bolder with this scheme so more jobs could have been created and greater emissions reductions achieved."
His Liberal Democrat counterpart Simon Hughes said: "This will disappoint anyone looking to do their bit to contribute towards our energy supply. Another opportunity has been squandered. While dozens of countries already support home energy generation, Labour's plans are too little too late. The government has given in to the nuclear lobby at the expense of community-led power generation."
Miliband would not be drawn on whether the new system would mean more money flowing from the existing energy companies into renewables.
He pointed to an increase of almost all the FITs across the various technologies since the proposals were announced last summer. But the detailed documents showed that the proposed 5 pence per kilowatt hour for power exported to the grid had actually been cut to 3 pence.
Dave Timms, spokesman for Friends of the Earth, which led the FIT campaign said: "The introduction of cash incentives to boost small scale green electricity generation is welcome. However, ministers have been far too timid with a policy that could make a significant contribution to cutting emissions and boosting energy security.
"Installing renewable technologies will now be a good investment for many homes – but farmers, businesses, communities and others will get little or no extra incentive to invest in clean electricity."
Last week a YouGov survey for FoE, the Renewable Energy Association and the Co-operative Group revealed that two thirds of people think that the government's feed-in tariff plans are not ambitious enough, and 71% of homeowners said they would consider installing green energy systems if they were paid enough cash.
But Miliband insisted that the plans were good. He said a family installing a typical 2.5 kilowatt peak photovoltaic system would earn £900 a year and save them £140 on their annual electricity bill.
The Renewable Energy Association said that gave a return on investment of 9%, which they liked. Spokeswoman Gaynor Hartnell, said: "The potential impact on households, businesses, farmers, schools and virtually every other energy user you can think of should not be underestimated. The balance of power has shifted. Instead of being tied to fossil fuels and energy price fluctuations, people and communities can now take control of their energy supply and their energy bills."
But the REA was concerned that biomass boilers had been removed from the FIT scheme and were not happy with the treatment of anaerobic digestion systems.
Campaigners were also unhappy that people who had invested in renewable energy systems in the past decade would not qualify for the full FITs of up to 40 pence per kwh, receiving only 9 pence. Officials defended the decision, saying they were aiming to bring new systems online, not reward existing ones, some of which had received a grant.

Global warming makes trees grow at fastest rate for 200 years

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Forests in the northern hemisphere could be growing faster now than they were 200 years ago as a result of climate change, according to a study of trees in eastern America.
The trees appear to have accelerated growth rates due to longer growing seasons and higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Scientists have documented the changes to the growth of 55 plots of mixed hardwood forest over a period of 22 years, and have concluded that they are probably growing faster now than they have done at any time in the past 225 years – the age of the oldest trees in the study.
Geoffrey Parker, a forest ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre in Edgewater, Maryland, said that the increase in the rate of growth was unexpected and might be matched to the higher temperatures and longer growing seasons documented in the region. The growth may also be influenced by the significant increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, he said.

"We made a list of reasons these forests could be growing faster and then ruled half of them out," Dr Parker said. The study, which is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that northern forests may become increasingly important in terms of moderating the influence of man-made carbon dioxide on the climate.
Dr Parker and his colleagues have carried out a detailed census of the trees on a regular basis since 1987, measuring every tree and sapling that has a diameter of more than 2cm (0.78in). They calculated that the forest is producing an additional two tonnes of wood per acre each year, which is equivalent to a tree with a diameter of two feet sprouting up in the space of a year.
The scientists identified a series of plots with trees at different stages of growth and found that both young and old trees were showing increased growth rates. More than 90 per cent of the tree groups had grown by between two and four times faster than the scientists had predicted from estimates of the long-term rates of growth.
The scientists said that if the trees had grown as quickly throughout their lives as they had shown in recent years they would be much larger than they are now. They based their conclusions on 250,000 measurements taken over more than 20 years.
During the same period, the scientists measured the concentration of carbon dioxide in the forest air and found that it had risen by 12 per cent. The average temperature had increased by three-tenths of a degree, and the growing season had lengthened by 7.8 days. The scientists believe that all three factors have played a role in helping the trees to grow faster.
Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and extended growing seasons could be favourable for agriculture in some parts of the world, mainly in the northern hemisphere. The study in Maryland suggests that the extra growth in trees could help to act as a more efficient carbon "sink", which could offset the carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.

High hopes for carbon index

A global carbon equity index has been launched by Arthur D. Little, a management consultancy, and ECPI, a sustainability research company. The index includes utilities, basic materials, industrial, consumer, energy and technology stocks. Arthur D. Little and ECPI say that the companies in the index will be screened using a customised carbon rating. “The carbon rating determines the strength of companies’ strategy for dealing with the future physical, reputational, market and, more importantly, the regulatory risks of climate legislation,” they say. They add that the index would have outperfomed the general market by 68.78 per cent between 2006 and the end of 2009.