Thursday, 4 February 2010

Net fraudsters target carbon markets

By Fiona Harvey in London and James Wilson in Frankfurt
Published: February 3 2010 23:51
Hackers have targeted the international carbon markets, with a spate of attacks on the registries in which carbon credits are held.
The German registry reported on Wednesday that it had blocked a “phishing” attack, whereby fraudsters had sent e-mails to emissions trading companies asking for their details.
Under attack: hackers are broadening their scope

It is thought the computer fraudsters were attempting to use the details to steal carbon permits, such as those issued under the European Union’s emissions trading scheme, and carbon credits issued by the United Nations.
They would then have tried to sell the stolen electronic certificates to other carbon market participants.
A statement from the UN Framework on Climate Change raised the alarm about the breadth of the hacking.
The UN said it was aware of at least nine attempts at fraudulent transactions, but moved to reassure the carbon markets that its core carbon registry, which governs the buying and selling of credits issued under the Kyoto protocol, had been secured.
“Many national registries have already confirmed that they have taken appropriate security measures and that access to their system is now secured,” said the UN body. “The secretariat has also been informed that the software of national registries does not appear to have been compromised.”
The attacks, in which registries in several countries have been targeted over the past week, are believed to be the first to target the carbon markets in this way. “Phishing” attacks are common on other parts of the internet, for instance as a way of duping people into revealing bank details or other personal data that can be used to steal identities.
The UN said it was working with national governments to ensure the safety of their carbon registries.
The European Commission said that any attempts at fraudulent transactions under its emissions trading scheme could be traced.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.

Europe clinches deal to fund carbon capture technology

By Joshua Chaffin in Brussels
Published: February 4 2010 02:00
Europe's ambition to become a leading player in carbon capture and storage advanced yesterday after member states agreed a plan that will direct billions of euros to test the unproven technology.
CCS - which involves capturing carbon from power plants and other industrial installations and then burying it underground so that it cannot collect in the atmosphere - is seen by some as a vital part of efforts to reduce global warming.
But it has also aroused considerable opposition because it has not yet been shown to work on a large scale at commercially viable rates. Critics complain that investment in CCS could divert much-needed funds from renewable energy sources - such as wind and solar - and energy-efficiency initiatives.
The European agreement, reached on Tuesday, broke a months-long deadlock between the European Commission and some member states that had imperilled an EU plan to build up to a dozen CCS-equipped demonstration plants by 2015.
Chris Davies, the British MEP who was a co-author of the original initiative, hailed it yesterday as "a positive step forward" and estimated that it could yield as much as €10bn ($14bn, £8.7bn) in public funding for CCS in Europe.
"We have now got in place the largest programme in the world for the funding of CCS technology," said Mr Davies.
The pilot plants are the cornerstone of an EU effort to bring down the cost of the technology and prove its safety so it can become commercially available by 2020. European leaders adopted a European parliament proposal in December 2008 to use revenues from the sale of 300m carbon permits under the EU's emissions trading scheme to help finance the pilot plants . They also agreed to dedicate some unspecified share to support "innovative renewable energy technologies".
Those plans have since languished amid a power struggle between member states and the Commission about who should have authority over the allocation of those funds. CCS proponents warned that the delay was causing Europe to lose ground to the US and China in a potentially lucrative green industry of the future.
Under the EU agreement, the Commission and the European Investment Bank will have a final say as to which projects receive funding to ensure the full range of capture and storage technologies is tested across Europe. The EIB will also oversee the sale of the permits, which will ultimately determine how much money is available.
At current carbon prices, which have been depressed since December's Copenhagen climate summit, the permits would be worth about €3.8bn. Although it is not compulsory, member states are expected to contribute to the test projects, potentially resulting in billions of additional euros.
Mr Davies expressed confidence that CCS projects would soak up the majority of the funding because their size and financial requirements were much greater than those of the renewable technologies.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.

School to Probe Climate Scientist

Pennsylvania State University has begun a formal investigation into whether a prominent faculty member is guilty of scientific misconduct for the way he carried out research into climate change.
But the university said a preliminary inquiry into Dr. Michael Mann's work, completed late last month, cleared him of allegations that he conspired with other scientists to squelch views and data at odds with their belief that the earth is warming.
Those allegations arose after an unknown computer hacker stole hundreds of emails and other documents from a British scientific center, the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, in late November.
The emails and documents were published online shortly before the United Nations' climate summit in Copenhagen. Global-warming skeptics said the documents called into question the validity of U.N.-sponsored reports contending that the earth is heating up and that human activity is almost certainly the primary contributor.
Dr. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State, was a leading contributor to the U.N. reports. He is perhaps best known for his controversial "hockey stick" chart, which showed the earth's temperatures rising rapidly.
In a statement released Wednesday, Dr. Mann said he believed Penn State's first review, which centered on material in the hacked emails, cleared him of misconduct. But he said he fully supports the new inquiry into his scientific methods, "which may be the best way to remove any lingering doubts."
Penn State said it is undertaking the new inquiry because the purloined emails may be undermining public confidence in Dr. Mann's findings, "in science in general and climate science specifically."
Officials at East Anglia University determined last month that scientists there had failed to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests to share their data. The director of the climate-research unit, Dr. Phil Jones, subsequently stepped down from his post.
The U.N.'s climate-change group has also admitted there was no scientific basis for its predictions that warming would lead to the demise of Himalayan glaciers. It has promised more-rigorous scrutiny of research.

Climategate: global warming data 'rock solid', says University of East Anglia

The scientist at the centre of an ongoing row in the UK about climate research, Phil Jones, will be vindicated by "rock solid" evidence that shows global warming is happening, according to his colleagues.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Published: 7:30AM GMT 03 Feb 2010

Prof Jones, the former head of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, is accused of manipulating data to prove world temperatures are rising.
He was forced to step down from his post during an ongoing inquiry into the scandal known as "climategate".

His replacement, Professor Peter Liss, has however, predicted Prof Jones will be "vindicated" by the science and get his job back.
"I think there is no question that the global temperature record produced by the Climatic Research Unit is absolutely correct and of course it is vindicated by two other institutions in the United States, who have looked at the data and processed it in their ways," he said.
"It is almost impossible to see a difference between the results so I think the results from the climatic research unit are rock solid."
Questions were first raised over the global temperature record after Prof Jones mentioned using a "trick" on global data in emails he sent from the University that were later stolen.
Sceptics also claim that information was withheld on the locations of weather stations in China that were used to measure rising temperature
Prof Jones insisted information was made available, although he conceded that scientists need to be more clear to prevent the public questioning global warming in future.
"It makes me quite worried people are beginning to doubt the climate has warmed up," he added.
Questions have also been raised about the studies of one of Prof Jones' research partners Wei-Chyung Wang, from the University of Albany in New York.
The prominent Chinese-American scientist's research was cleared of any wrong doing after he was investigated by his university for misconduct.
In a statement to The Daily Telegraph a spokesman for the University said: "The University concluded in June 2008 that there was no evidence whatsoever that Professor Wei-Chyung Wang committed data fabrication or any research misconduct with respect to those allegations.
"During the time of the investigation, the University and Dr. Wang took the allegations seriously and dealt with them rigorously.
"The University strongly supports Dr. Wang and his research, and encourages him to continue his celebrated research on climate variance."

Our licence fees pay for climate denial

The BBC spouts rightwing bias while ignoring environmental science. So why not give other conspiracies a platform too?

Sunny Hundal, Wednesday 3 February 2010 12.00 GMT

After watching last night's Newsnight, I can only come to one conclusion: the BBC has become this country's most pernicious climate-change-denying media outlet in the UK.
There is simple reasoning behind this grand statement. While the assorted commentators who regularly spout ill-informed propaganda across the media are usually taken with a pinch of salt, the BBC is broadly trusted as an impartial and trustworthy reporter of news. It sets the agenda. Which makes the rubbish it has been producing lately on climate change even more dangerous.
Let me start by saying I believe that man-made activity is the prime driver behind global warming. I don't have time for tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy nuts who think it is one big plot by scientists across the world. I do believe CC deniers are no different to 9/11 Truthers. But that point is moot while we focus on the country's biggest culprit.
The hook for last night's Newsnight report was today's Guardian reporting that the IPCC head Dr Rajendra Pachauri rightly refusing to apologise for a mistake that wasn't made under his watch.
He admitted the mistake and accepted that other recent scandals such as the illegal hacking of UEA emails had boosted the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) deniers.
But presenter Kirsty Wark's agenda was to try and rubbish the IPCC's entire report — the biggest piece of scientific work undertaken on the topic. The IPCC contains hundreds if not thousands of graphs and claims — and yet one or two slips were used as an excuse to rubbish the whole thing.
At one point, she said "Are you surprised the public are really worried about this?" — let's be clear, public opinion on global warming has stayed the same (and accepting of AGW) even after the UEA scandal.
This is despite attempts by newspapers like The Times to try and distort public opinion.
This sort of crap isn't the only example from the BBC. Last week the BBC's so-called "ethical man" Justin Rowlatt presented an absurd programme that argued the green movement was bad for the environment. That's right, the likes of Nigel Lawson and Exxon Mobil will save the environment instead.
The agenda is simple: rather than focus on bogus claims and bogus science of deniers, BBC journalists are trying to deflect accusations of "bias" towards AGW by bashing hippies. Meanwhile Nigel Lawson, Melanie Phillips et al are invited on programmes regularly without much fact-checking.
Oh and then there's Andrew Neil. The avowed right-winger not only presents the Daily Politics show, but also writes blogs on the BBC site claiming that the "dam is cracking" on the science behind AGW. And yet you won't find any other senior presenters allowed to publish such blantantly partisan propaganda, nor have any of their journalists question it.
And don't forget Jeremy Clarkson — another prominent presenter given full reign to spout AGW denying nonsense.
There have been other prominent incidents. In one, a BBC article actually claimed global warming had ceased, but contained several inaccuracies. Then there was the cancellation of Planet Relief several years ago.
The BBC is continually painted as some liberal-left dominated haven, but it remains deeply institutional and rightwing. The subject of climate change is the latest instance where this is becoming increasingly obvious.
If its journalists are so intent on providing balance on every issue, why doesn't it invite 9/11 and 7/7 Truthers to every discussion of those terrorist attacks? If overwhelming evidence is an unnecessary guide to coverage, why not invite the Birther to discuss President Obama's origins on a more regular basis?
The BBC needs an in-depth review to how it covers global warming. And it needs some science to inform its journalism.

U.K. Eyes Energy Reforms as Regulator Warns on Future Supply

LONDON—The U.K.'s deregulated energy market, the most liberalized in Europe, should be reined in so the country can attract the billions of pounds in investment necessary to ensure an adequate power supply and meet tough climate-change targets, the country's energy regulator said Wednesday.
A new report from Ofgem, which regulates the gas and electricity market in England, Scotland and Wales, portends what could be a significant shift in U.K. energy policy. It said the country's energy-deregulation policy has delivered choice and price competition to consumers, but hasn't provided enough incentive for new investments. Utilities operating in the U.K. need to invest £200 billion ($320 billion) over the next 10 to 15 years to replace retiring nuclear and coal power plants with new and costly low-carbon generation, the regulator said.
Instead, companies are delaying investments or building cheaper gas plants, leaving the U.K. more dependent on gas imports and exposed to volatile international prices, Ofgem said. The global financial crisis and weak carbon prices have also compounded the problem and made it harder to get the funds to finance new projects.
To remedy that, Ofgem proposes five packages of solutions in its Project Discovery report. The suggested measures include a minimum carbon price, obligations on suppliers, a centralized renewables market, replacing the renewables obligation with tenders for renewable generation, and establishing a central energy buyer. The renewables obligation is a government mechanism that rewards companies for each unit of green electricity they generate.
Ofgem Chief Executive Alistair Buchanan said the evidence in the report shows that Britain has a window of opportunity to put in place far-reaching reforms to meet the security of supply challenges that the country faces in the coming decade.
"We do not advocate change lightly, but all the facts point to the need for reforms now to provide resilient supply security," Mr. Buchanan said. "Acting earlier will also help keep costs as low as possible for consumers and business."
Ofgem's most radical solution--the central energy buyer--would involve coordinating all future investment through a single entity. This central energy buyer would determine the amount and type of new generation needed and enter into long-term energy contracts for power.
If implemented, the central energy buyer option would represent a significant shakeup of the U.K. energy market. Ofgem said the government ultimately would determine what sort of entity would run the central energy buyer and whether the state would have a direct role.
U.K. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said the government was confident the country would meet its security of supply needs in the years ahead, but agreed with Ofgem that changes were required.
"For the longer term, Britain will need a more interventionist energy policy," Mr. Miliband said. "The scale and upfront nature of the low-carbon investment needed is likely to require significant reform of our market arrangements to deliver security of supply in the most affordable way."
The U.K. broke up and privatized its electricity monopoly in the 1980s and 1990s and removed controls on prices. The nation's liberalized system has delivered benefits to consumers in the years since, but industry analysts are growing increasingly skeptical that the U.K. will be able to meet its target to cut emissions 34% by 2020 with the deregulated and liberalized systems it currently has in place.
It is still cheaper for U.K. power companies to supply customers with inexpensive energy generated by dirtier technologies such as coal- and gas-fired power plants than through low-carbon sources such as nuclear or wind energy.
The weak agreement at last year's Copenhagen climate summit was another setback for investors as it further weakened already slumping carbon prices--one of the key metrics for spending decisions on new nuclear-power and coal plants fitted with carbon capture and storage technology.
Although there's "considerable nervousness" in moving to a more interventionist approach, the stability and predictability it would provide could bring cheaper and easier access to project financing, said Andrew Wright, Ofgem's senior partner for markets.
"The ultimate balancing act on the finance side is this: Is the lower cost of capital that you get enough to offset the fact that regulators and governments aren't as efficient as markets? And that's what the government will have to decide," Mr. Wright said during a conference call.
U.K. utilities were divided on Ofgem's proposals.
"Changes to the market are needed if we are to meet the challenge facing the U.K. to provide clean, secure and affordable energy," said EDF Energy Chief Executive Vincent de Rivaz. EDF Energy, the U.K. arm of French state-controlled Electricité de France SA, is the largest operator of nuclear-power plants in the British Isles and plans massive investment in a new fleet of reactors.
Gas and power network operator National Grid PLC and the U.K. arm of German utility E.ON AG also welcomed Ofgem's proposals, while the U.K.'s largest gas and electricity supplier, Centrica PLC was more critical.
"Rather than a lurch to centralization, we need stability in the market with Government supporting the industry as it continues to deliver the key elements that underpin Britain's energy future," Mark Hanafin, managing director of Centrica's power generation and gas supply business, said in a statement.
David Porter, chief executive of industry lobby group the Association of Electricity Producers, expressed concern that reforms could create further delays to investment. "The last time we changed the electricity trading arrangements it took three or four years to complete," Mr. Porter said in a statement. "Changes of that kind actually add to the uncertainty facing investors, and Ofgem admits that even the most modest of its five proposals involves 'significant change'." —James Herron contributed to this article.
Write to Selina Williams at

Ofgem: 'Only state intervention can prevent power cuts'

Privatised electricity and gas network will not deliver enough energy
By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Thursday, 4 February 2010

Britain faces power cuts over the next decade unless ministers take greater control of the privatised gas and electricity network, the energy regulator warned yesterday.
In a gloomy assessment of the UK's crumbling power stations, Ofgem said there were serious doubts that the current system deriving from liberalisation 20 years ago would generate enough power by 2020.
Calling for greater state intervention, it also warned that investing £200bn on a secure, green network would push up domestic bills. Ofgem has previously forecast rises of between 15 and 60 per cent, but the price-comparison website claimed the regulator was underestimating the impact on bills, which it said might reach £4,733 a year by 2020.

It is the first time Ofgem has admitted that Britain's private network will not meet future demand and is a warning to ministers to make up their minds quickly about the future shape of the system – or risk blackouts. Industrial users were cut off last month as the grid conserved supplies for homes during heavy snow. Privately, Ofgem stressed that companies rather than householders would be in the front line of any future cuts in supply, but warned that homes would have to fund the investments.
Fossil fuel power stations are ageing and many nuclear plants will be decommissioned in coming years as the UK expands solar and wind power to fight climate change. Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, who will announce his plans at the Budget, said the Government was confident it would be able to meet future needs. "However," he added, "for the longer term, Britain will need a more interventionist energy policy."
Outlining the shape of the network by 2020, Ofgem suggested there should be a minimum price for carbon to ensure greener power and stiffer fines for suppliers failing to generate enough supply. In the most drastic scenario – a semi-privatisation – it envisaged the creation of a new central buyer to control the market. Ofgem said: "The unprecedented combination of global financial crisis, tough environmental targets, increasing gas import dependency and the closure of ageing power stations has combined to cast reasonable doubt over whether the current energy arrangements will deliver secure and sustainable energy supplies." Its chief executive, Alistair Buchanan, said there was a consensus "that leaving the present system of market arrangements unchanged is not an option."
Industry body Energy UK expressed concern that "further political and regulatory uncertainty" might discourage investment. Consumer groups warned that customers were already struggling to pay bills. Ann Robinson, at uSwitch, said: "This is one of many recent announcements from Ofgem, which have gradually lifted the lid on what household energy bills are expected to look like in the future. When you add the pieces together it's a big wake-up call."
Shadow Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: "This is a devastating verdict on Labour's 13 years of neglect of energy security. The result is we are cast back to the 1970s, facing the prospect of power cuts for the first time in over 30 years."
Power politics: Where energy of the future will come from
Gas Thanks to the "dash for gas" in the 1980s and 90s, gas is the greatest source of power, contributing 36 per cent of the fuel mix. But with North Sea reserves falling sharply, and global demand for liquefied supply intensifying, the UK is wary of having too many gas plants.
Coal Coal still rules, generating 35 per cent of UK power. But many plants are coming to the end of their lives and new stations are controversial, given their high greenhouse emissions. E.ON abandoned its plan for a new coal-fired station at Kingsnorth, Kent, last year after environmental protests.
Nuclear The last nuclear power plant was built in 1995 and most of the ageing facilities will be decommissioned by 2023. Last year, the Government approved 10 new nuclear power stations but they are unlikely to come into operation before 2018. One fifth of the UK's power comes from nuclear.
Renewables Privatised suppliers have failed to meet their renewable targets and only 5.5 per cent of the UK's energy comes from wind, solar, hydro and other green sources. Ministers plan thousands of offshore wind turbines, but they are more expensive than fossil or nuclear alternatives.

Plugging the holes left by Copenhagen

Without a binding deal on climate change, countries need to find ways to bring carbon emissions under control before it is too late
Edward Fennell
The Copenhagen climate change summit was a classic adolescents’ house party. Over-anticipation, chaos, gate-crashers and then the tears and disappointment when the grown-ups arrived to bring it all to an end.
Now it’s time to pick up the pieces. Last weekend marked the deadline for governments to reaffirm their commitment to the agreement reached at Copenhagen and, by Sunday, 55 countries (accounting for 78 per cent of global emissions from energy use) had signed up. But what does this mean?
Well, the Copenhagen Accord is not legally binding but, as Matt Towns-end, of Allen & Overy, says, it was unrealistic to think that it might be. “The hyping up of expectations by the NGOs to pressurise governments into a deal was never going to succeed. Nonetheless, the Copenhagen Accord represents an important first step in what is bound to be a long journey.”
The challenge now is to establish what direction that journey should take. In particular whether it is even possible to achieve restraint on greenhouse gases through a global, legally binding agreement, or whether other measures should be pursued.
Anthony Hobley, of Norton Rose, is clear that worldwide agreement is essential. “If we are to restrict temperature increase to two degrees or less then it needs a global, concerted push expressed through an international agreement. Otherwise we will achieve nowhere near the scale of reduction needed by 2020.”
However, Tallat Hussain, of White & Case, predicts that it will be at least a decade — maybe two — before the world unites to create such an agreement. And some people believe that the chaotic elements of Copenhagen may mean that the international community loses confidence in the UN’s ability to deliver at all.
“The outcome may be that there will be a splintering of international efforts so that individual groupings of countries adopt go-it-alone policies.” Townsend says.
Such a gradual approach is seen by some as a viable way forward. In the European Union, for example, there are mechanisms in place for emissions trading. “Carbon trading is the mechanism to deliver climate-change measures,” Townsend says. “The EU is taking the lead in carbon emissions trading and providing incentives for renewables. Despite some of the failings of Copenhagen, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme will continue after 2012.”
The aim would be for similar schemes to be established by countries belonging to, say, the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean). In time, all the systems would be linked together.
However, Hussain foresees that regionally based systems could become “tools of protectionism” with “regional differentiation” emerging. As a result, the big trading blocs would compete with each other and deploy their “climate change” regimes — like their tax or health and safety regimes — as a way of attracting investment. This does not mean “a race to the bottom” in terms of the least onerous requirements. For example the EU could offer incentives for greenhouse gas reductions that would more than off-set the costs to companies of introducing green technology.
In any case, Hussain says, market forces will do most to shape the world’s response to climate change. “Business has got the message about energy costs, and shareholders will put pressure on management to introduce energy-saving measures because they will impact on the bottom line.”
Certainly, as things stand, market forces may be the vital factor in shaping the development of emission-free industries, such as wind energy. Andrew Iyer, of Ince & Co, who is heavily involved with the offshore wind turbine sector, points out that the huge costs of building these vast structures in inhospitable environments make them viable only when the price of oil is high. “Oil at $80 dollars a barrel means good profits for the oil companies but without being prohibitive for the consumer,” Iyer says. But it does not create an incentive to invest in offshore developments. So oil prices may need to be consistently higher if offshore wind power is to become a really attractive option.
The result is that intervention by a regulatory framework may still be essential to steer the world away from its addiction to carbon.
While regional fragmentation may have its merits, it could be disastrous for industries such as aviation and shipping. As Georgina Crowhurst, of Clyde & Co, points out, the Copenhagen Accord failed to address the shipping industry at all. “Shipping industry observers had expected that, at a minimum, the Copenhagen summit would reach a political agreement on bunker fuels [used to power ships and aircraft], perhaps together with a carbon emissions trading scheme,” she says. “But the bunker fuels working group was unable to reach consensus. In the end nothing was included in the Accord which, in the words of the International Chamber of Shipping, leaves the way ahead uncertain.”
With doubts also about the ability of the International Maritime Organisation to make significant progress, it is possible, Crowhurst says, that the European Commission will introduce legislation to include shipping in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. That may sound good, but if the world ends up with a patchwork of incompatible regimes for ships and aeroplanes then gridlock could result — and illustrate graphically why a global, legally binding agreement is needed after all.

Time to Embrace the Nuclear Option

Nuclear power has the potential to help solve the problems of climate change and energy security, writes Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska
The World Economic Forum rightly prides itself on innovative thinking about global problems. But the solution to the challenges of energy security and cutting carbon emissions lies, I believe, in a technology celebrating its 50th anniversary.
It is 50 years since the first commercial nuclear power plants began to generate electricity. Even in the dark days of the Cold War, these reactors, in France and the U.S., were seen as vital to the world's future. They were expected to mark the beginning of a new peaceful atomic age that would help meet our energy needs.

Nuclear power now generates 15% of the world's electricity. But a combination of alternative and plentiful energy sources, high costs, the impact of the Chernobyl disaster as well as scare campaigns has meant nuclear power has failed to live up to its pioneers' loftiest ambitions.
Oil is, however, no longer cheap or plentiful. There are serious worries about future supplies. At the same time, demand for energy continues to accelerate to support the growth of developing economies. Climate change caused by emissions from fossil fuels poses a threat to our quality of life. It is no surprise that the balance is tipping back in favor of nuclear power.
The International Atomic Energy Agency expects at least 70 new plants to be opened within the next 15 years. This could result in a doubling of the amount of electricity produced by nuclear plants.
I believe, however, that nuclear power offers far greater potential than this. It can help power economic growth and drive the switch to a low-carbon future. But we will only reap the full benefits if we focus on lifting the barriers that are currently preventing its expansion.
Governments must increase support for their own nuclear industries. More bilateral and international effort is needed to help introduce the industry to new countries—and particularly the energy-poor developing world.
The small- and medium-sized reactors now in development could help meet energy needs in the more remote areas of the world. They don't run on fossil fuels so their location isn't constrained by access to oil, gas or coal. Nor do they require the expensive infrastructure of national electricity grids.
These new reactors are a further improvement on everything we have learned about reliable, safe and value-for-money power generation. They remove safety problems associated with operator error and equipment failure. Their working lives will be much longer than past reactors thanks to advances in fuel technology, coolants and metal alloys. We also stand on the edge of a breakthrough with new fast reactors that can reuse fuel and leave little waste.
Modern reactors will be cheaper to run and with a safety record which can't be beaten. They will also be cheaper to build. There are reactors in development that could be cost competitive with natural gas and coal.
With the right help, we could see nuclear power at last living up to the hopes of its pioneers 50 years ago. But this requires governments to act rather than just talk about their determination to meet the important and interlinked challenges of energy security and climate change.
The continuing global economic crisis offers new opportunities to meet these goals in a way that will help stimulate high-tech research and manufacturing. Governments should make new nuclear-power projects central to their economic- stimulus packages.
We also need increased cooperation at a bilateral and international level to help expand nuclear power to new countries. At the moment the plans for new reactors are concentrated in those countries that already have civilian nuclear programs, predominantly in Asia. Electricity generation from nuclear power in China and India is projected to grow at an average annual rate of around 9%.
But unless we help new countries join the club, we will fail to see nuclear power helping to tackle global poverty and support development. This is not just about sharing expertise and technology and providing funding. Equally important is help in drawing up the right regulatory framework and support for training.
At an international level we need to think innovatively about new safeguards to counter proliferation fears. We should work swiftly to agree and implement a multilateral fuel bank under IAEA auspices. This would guarantee a supply of nuclear fuel for states that agree not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing activities of their own. This could run alongside steps to standardize technology and equipment and the handling and transportation rules for nuclear material.
If we can get these conditions right, we can accelerate the expansion of civil nuclear power for the good of our economies and our environment. It is a goal which needs international organizations, governments, businesses and the scientific community to work together to ease concerns and reap the maximum benefits. But it is a goal which, I strongly believe, is both achievable and in all our interests.
Mr. Deripaska is the chief executive of Basic Element, a Moscow-based industrial holding company.

Tesla's Roadster Sport saves the electric car

The Roadster Sport isn't just the first genuinely head-turning electric car, a quick spin around London shows it is practical too

How often do police take your picture just because they like your car? Not very often, presumably. In which case, try driving the latest electric sportscar from Tesla Motors, the Roadster Sport.
Being the first British newspaper journalist behind the wheel of this £87,000 superstar new model – one that has been Anglicised with a right-hand drive – is a strange experience. Driving it around London, people literally stop, stare, gawp and nudge their friends and children. The jaws of two men drop simultaneously; I'm not sure if they are more impressed by the car or horrified to see a woman driving it. And Dave, a community support police officer in central London, can't resist taking a photograph. "My brother would kill me if I didn't," he says, peering inside afterwards . A few minutes later when I ask a police officer for directions, his eyes light up. "Is that that new electric car?" he asks, as his partner rolls his eyes. I've never experienced anything like it.
But what about the driving? First of all, you're incredibly low down on the road (let's skip quickly over the business of clambering in and out – not graceful, to say the least) and at moments on the London roads I feel like a weeny unprotected child, in between all the double decker buses and coaches.
Secondly, it's surprisingly heavy – that's the weight of the bank of lithium-ion batteries that keeps it moving – and like many sports cars it doesn't have power-steering. The power behind its famous 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds is not instantly obvious, the weight making it slightly less nippy than you would expect in the traffic. The braking (regenerative obviously) is joltingly powerful – I nearly put the Guardian's camerawoman through the window several times.
It is an automatic, which takes a little getting used to, but is then heaven. And there's a neat little display on the dashboard which shows how much current you're using – two amps while sitting in traffic, and up to 68 when driving at high speed. The dashboard is actually a little over-complicated, and the speed dial is positioned awkwardly behind the steering wheel so you can't see it unless you duck a little (or maybe I should have been taller.)
However, the place where the Tesla finally stops feeling strange and starts to feel extraordinary is – as you might expect – the fast lane of the motorway. Without a private track we can't go from a standing start to try out the acceleration experience that nearly caused Jeremy Clarkson to swallow his own dentures on Top Gear. But I went for a spin on the M4 and it was instantly powerful. One moment we are doing 55mph and the next we were doing 70. Other cars just drop away like falling fruit.
But adrenalin kicks aside, why should we care about the Tesla? I would argue that it's one of the most important cars ever made. Back in 2006 the idea of the electric car was dying – see Chris Paine's documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? – as the giant car companies dragged their feet and then either brought out models with restricted availability, dumped them or just threw up their hands and said "it's impossible". Nickel-metal hydride batteries could not provide the range that was needed and there didn't seem to be much else available.
And then, like Sir Galahad in a sunlit clearing, the Tesla appeared. Unlike the unattractive and slow city cars that had made up most electric history, it was slinky, bright red, desirable and capable of sportscar-worthy performance off a bank of lithium-ion batteries (the batteries that lap-top computers use). Robert Lutz, vice-chairman of General Motors, has been quoted as saying that "all the geniuses here at General Motors kept saying lithium-ion technology is 10 years away, and Toyota agreed with us – and boom, along comes Tesla. So I said, 'How come some tiny little California startup, run by guys who know nothing about the car business, can do this, and we can't?' That was the crowbar that helped break up the log jam."
In the years since the log jam appears to have nearly disappeared, with Renault, Nissan, BMW, Mitsubishi and GM itself all taking the electric car seriously these days. The Leaf, the i-MiEV, and the electric Mini are the new generation of EVs which are going to be appearing all over Europe this year and next; they're all good to drive, they're modelled like a normal petrol car – rather than the Marmite love-it-or-hate design of the G-Wiz – and the car manufacturers have worked out that if they lease you the expensive battery instead of selling it with the car, then they'll be priced like, well, any other car.
But for now the Tesla Roadster is very much not like any other car. Just ask a policeman.

Ahmed al-Jaber: Oil-rich Abu Dhabi pins its hopes on dreams of a green future

The Business Interview: A carbon-neutral city is just the start, the chief executive of the Masdar investment fund tells Sarah Arnott
Thursday, 4 February 2010
We are part of a transformation," says Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber with the uninhibited zeal of a man on a mission. "We are making history." The chief executive of Masdar, the Abu Dhabi government's green investment vehicle, may not be exaggerating. Not only does his organisation command a budget most company bosses would swap their left leg for, but the "vision" behind it is nothing short of turning the unimaginable petro-wealth of one of the richest Gulf states into a diversified, sustainable economy. And the success of the initiative is "very, very high" on the agenda of the emirate's all-powerful, hereditary leadership.
"Masdar has helped to raise the profile of Abu Dhabi and is also contributing on a global scale," Dr Jaber says. "Abu Dhabi has always been known as a global energy player, but with Masdar it set out the responsibility of oil nations and what is required of them to help create a balance between hydrocarbons and renewable energy."
In a country where the majority of powerful positions are occupied by members of the ruling al-Nahyan family, Dr Jaber has risen purely on merit. He is highly respected among his staff and has a reputation for knowing his subordinates' jobs as well as they do. But he scoffs at the notion that his exacting approach is a mirror of pressure from above.
"The guidance from the leadership is very clear and helps me do my job," he says. "We are blessed with leadership that understands the challenges of making Masdar a reality, and has the will to do it. There is a real desire for this to happen, because it is the future, not just for Abu Dhabi but for the whole world."
The list of the organisation's activities is long. There is the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MI), a postgraduate research body with links to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. Like everything else in Abu Dhabi, MI is not short on ambition. The newly created institute has only 88 students so far, with another 154 starting in the next academic year. But the plan is to turn it into the best place in the world for research into advanced renewable energy and sustainability, with 600 students plus the faculty by 2015.
But MI is just the beginning. There are also Masdar's industrial investments, the largest of which is Masdar PV, which is the anchor client in Abu Dhabi's nascent high-tech manufacturing cluster and aims to become one of the world's top thin-film photovoltaic technology companies. Then there is Masdar's carbon management unit, working on how to make money from carbon reduction through the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and on the development of carbon capture and storage technologies.
Then there is the utilities and asset management branch, which includes a $265m (£166m) clean-tech private equity fund and power project developments around the world, not least a 20 per cent stake in the 271-turbine London Array wind farm planned for the Thames Estuary. "Masdar covers the whole value chain of the green sector," Dr Jaber says. "That means education, seed capital, research and development, manufacturing, building, reduction of carbon emissions, CDM and investment in mature companies."
Even that is not everything. The real show-stopper is Masdar City. So far, the scheme is in its infancy – a vast expanse of virgin desert dotted with construction sites on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. But the plan is for a whole new city: a tax-free, super-green home for 40,000 residents and 1,500 clean-tech companies that is entirely carbon neutral, powered by renewable energy and equipped with a futuristic transportation system (see box below).
The development, designed by British architects Foster and Partners, has turned urban planning on its head, starting from scratch to create a low-energy environment attuned to the harsh Gulf climate. Without the need to accommodate cars that belch carbon, the streets are narrow and shaded by buildings which are themselves angled to funnel prevailing winds through the city. No windows are positioned flat on to direct sunlight but 80 per cent of all buildings are covered with solar panels. The beautiful curve of the half-built library is no aesthetic gimmick but will harvest the morning and evening sun. It is an almost unbelievably ambitious plan, but it is really happening. The first phase is already under construction and the Masdar Institute headquarters and campus, complete with labs, accommodation, shops and cafés, is scheduled to open in September. The surrounding area, which has General Electric and Boeing as committed anchor tenants, is scheduled for completion by 2013.
Yet even Abu Dhabi cannot entirely escape the repercussions of the global economic downturn. Dr Jaber denies outright any rumours of finance issues and delays, saying: "We always said Masdar City would be delivered in phases and I am confident there is no delay whatsoever with phase one."
Masdar itself may no have finance troubles, but it is less easy to dismiss the impact of recession on the companies its new city must attract if it is to fulfil its promise as a cluster for clean-tech business. "Masdar City is difficult, challenging and ambitious," Dr Jaber says. "The progress that can be made is not only dependent on financial ability – that is only the facilitator."
There are all kinds of risks. One is the technology itself, much of which exists only in small demonstraion projects. But the biggest is undoubtedly the state of the market and the nominal completion date of 2016 is being quietly dropped. That said, Dr Jaber dismisses concerns that the development will end up as an expensive white elephant. "This is not a 'build and they will come' project," he says. "We are not going to build without a clear understanding between us as the developer and the international companies that are going to be interested in coming and getting involved."
Although that interest still exists, there may be other short term priorities. "A couple of years ago the excitement was very, very high," Dr Jaber says. "It is still there today, but these are companies exposed to the economic crisis. That doesn't mean they are changing their position, but they are slowing down their activities."
Whatever the mood in the global economy, Masdar itself will not be so easily deterred. "Renewables are a way to diversify the economy, to maintain the position in the global energy market, and to help encourage human capital development," Dr Jaber says, implying that there is simply too much to lose.
Masdar City: Tomorrow's world today
* Few of its buildings may be finished, but Masdar City already has a field of solar panels covering 210,000 square metres. They produce 17,500 megawatt hours of power per year, enough to power up to 8,000 households. At the moment the bulk of the power is being fed back into the Abu Dhabi grid, but ultimately the solar farm will be the main power source for the green city.
* Elsewhere on the largely undeveloped site, research into cutting-edge renewable energy technology is already under way. The "beamdown" project looks like something straight out of a James Bond villain's lair, with a massive array of mirrors focusing and re-focusing sunlight to create a patch of light with the intensity of 100 suns and a temperature of 500C.
* Perhaps wackiest of all is a "personal rapid transit" system. The streets of Masdar City are at first-floor level, beneath which six-person pods will race around a network of sealed tunnels using magnetic guidance rather than fixed tracks. The scheme is at an early stage, but the first two stations – at Masdar Institute and the nearby Project One gateway into the city – are in the process of being built.

Wetlands to be recreated in England

Farmland in England is to be flooded to recreate wetlands under Government plans to boost wildlife and tackle climate change.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM GMT 03 Feb 2010
Government watchdogs the Environment Agency will be building ditches, planting reeds and flooding fields between Huntingdon and Peterborough in a project to return 20 square miles to ancient fenland.
It is part of a controversial nationwide project to increase the amount of wetlands in Britain.

Lord Smith of Finsbury, the Chairman of the Environment Agency, said wetlands not only act as carbon sinks but provide a home to rare birds like the bittern.
"We need to greatly increase the amount of wetland that we have because it is incredibly important for our biodiversity and for ensuring that we maintain some of the very valuable species and plants that we have," he said.
England used to be covered in wetland but most of it was drained for agricultural land. There is now just 350,000 hectares left, just 10 per cent of what existed 500 years ago.
Wetlands provide habitat for rare birds like avocet as well as thousands of species of insects and plants. Boggy land also stores carbon dioxide, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere and causing global warming.
The Great Fen project, run by the EA in partnership with the National Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other conservation groups, will see farmland and scrub transformed into a huge nature reserve over the next 100 years.
Visiting Wicken Fen for World Wetlands Day, Lord Smith, insisted only poor farmland will be flooded.
“Across England we’ve inherited only a few small and fragmented areas of wetland, often under pressure from pollution and development. Our remaining wetlands and their wildlife are deteriorating just as we are beginning to understand how vital they are in helping people and wildlife adapt to an increasingly uncertain future," he said.
“Through partnership projects such as Great Fen and Wicken Fen, working hand in hand with agriculture, conservation organisations and local communities, the Environment Agency is playing its part in managing the effects of climate change and increasing the chances of survival for some of our most threatened wildlife.”
Allan Buckwell, policy director of the Country Land and Business Association, pointed out that a lot of the best agricultural land in England is low lying.
"Given the global situation any Government should think very carefully before flooding," he said.