Thursday, 1 April 2010

CO2 Recycling Offers Alternative to Carbon Capture and Sequestration

By 3p Guest Author March 30th, 2010 By Byron Elton, CEO, Carbon Sciences, Inc.
While the current administration has undoubtedly taken an aggressive stance toward advancing conversation on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, many of options being considered to address this issue are on a slow timeline. This has prompted the private industry to tackle this complex, but potentially lucrative problem to reduce emissions with an industry of new mitigation technologies.
Convention says that carbon dioxide (CO2) will be captured and sequestered underground using a technology called Carbon Capture and Sequestration, or CSS. But the questions sequestration raises are just as numerous as the number of companies emerging to potentially provide this service: Whose land will it be buried in? Is it safe? Is it cost-efficient? And, when will the technology be available? Many experts say not for decades.
In response to these challenges, an alternative measure is gaining in popularity that works within the industrial waste stream of places like coal-fired plants to convert CO2 to fuel. This emerging sector is appropriately named Carbon Capture and Recycling (CCR), or CO2 recycling, and it’s quickly advancing to become a viable alternative to burying CO2 emissions underground.
Looking at Carbon With the 3 R’s
Companies like Carbon Sciences, Mantra Venture Group and Morphic Technologies are all developing methods to repurpose carbon into fuel. If successful, such initiatives could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil; allow large carbon emitters to use their waste steams as a source of income; displace the mining of new oil and stop unnecessary exploration; produce infrastructure-ready fuels, like diesel, gasoline and jet fuel, that could be used without engine conversions or adaptations; and substantially reduce carbon emissions.
Most of the renewable technology alternatives to gasoline and other fuels today are based on the same fundamental concept of recycling CO2 into fuels. However, they are done through intermediaries such as terrestrial crops or microorganisms, where CO2 and water are transformed into complex energy molecules. CO2 recycling eliminates many of the steps involved in these other processes.
One technique is based on the direct molecular transformation of CO2 and water into fuel molecules. This low energy approach to recycle large quantities of CO2 into liquid fuels requires a multi-step biocatalytic process. Instead of using expensive inorganic catalysts, such as zinc, gold or zeolite, the technique uses inexpensive, renewable biomolecules to catalyze certain chemical reactions required to transform CO2 and water (H2O) into fuel molecules. Of greatest significance, the process occurs at low temperature and low pressure, thereby requiring far less energy than other approaches.

Graphic courtesy of Carbon Sciences
Making Gas from Carbon
A new technique just announced uses a chemical-based process technology that will allow for the production of gasoline from CO2. The key features of this breakthrough include:
The of use flue emissions directly from coal-fired power plants or industrial factories, eliminating the need for “clean” CO2
The use of brackish water, eliminating the need for distilled freshwater as the source of hydrogen and reaction medium
Mild operating conditions, eliminating the need for capital intensive stainless steel equipment
A highly scalable system to transform large quantities of CO2 into gasoline for use in the existing transportation infrastructure.
With a forecast of over 43 billion tons of annual CO2 emissions by 2030, there is an abundant supply of raw material available to produce renewable liquid fuels for global consumption. Not only does CO2 recycling mitigate CO2 emissions and curb demand for imported oil, enabling energy independence, but it also provides the an efficient approach to produce renewable fuels while utilizing the existing infrastructure to ensure cost-effective and non-disruptive deployment.
Byron Elton brings a unique blend of business experience and personal commitment to environmental ideals to his role as Chief Executive Officer at Carbon Sciences. A veteran media and marketing executive, Elton has a proven track record of pioneering new business development strategies and building top-flight marketing teams. Most recently serving as Senior Vice President of Sales for Univision Online, Elton knows a strong marketing presence is vital in any organization and is spearheading efforts to raise public awareness of Carbon Sciences’ breakthrough CO2 to fuel technology. Prior to Univision, Mr. Elton served for eight years as an executive at AOL Media Networks, led ABC and CBS affiliates in California, and served as President of the Alaskan Television Network.

Pipeline will help cut carbon capture costs: study

Published Date: 31 March 2010
By Bob Rae
A pipeline network, capable of carrying up to 40 million tonnes of CO2 a year from major Yorkshire manufacturers to storage sites under the North Sea, is being hailed as the most cost effective way to implement ambitious Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) plans for the region.
A new study commissioned by local industry and CO2Sense Yorkshire, the organisation that helps businesses developing technologies to combat climate change, reckons the network could lop £250 million off the £900 million cost of laying individual pipes from companies to a central facility.Researchers say investing in additional pipeline capacity in the initial phase of CCS development in the region would be cost effective even if subsequent developers do not join the network for up to 11 years.It would also minimise the planning, environmental and technical impact of the network and operational costs may fall as each new capture project sends CO2 into the pipeline.Stephen Brown director of carbon capture and storage at CO2Sense Yorkshire, said: "Commercial scale CO2 capture projects in the region are likely to be developed gradually over a 15 to 20 year period."Constructing a high capacity CO2 pipeline in the early years will enable industry to invest in CO2 capture projects with the confidence of knowing that transportation and storage was available to them more cheaply than if they built and operated their own pipeline and store."Securing this new infrastructure for the region with the right level of capacity will be crucial in enabling existing power stations and heavy industry to invest in CO2 capture technology with confidence."

New carbon trading legislation confuses businesses

A compulsory carbon trading scheme for 5,000 UK businesses will launch today, amid widespread confusion about its complex rules and a bonanza of extra fees for environmental consultants.

By Rowena Mason, City Reporter (Energy)Published: 12:08AM BST 01 Apr 2010

Under the Government's scheme, an array of businesses from supermarkets to office blocks that spend more than £500,000 per year on energy must conduct an audit of their carbon dioxide emissions.
They must register by September and will next year be ranked in a league according to how much energy they have saved or spent, with financial rewards and penalties dependent on their position. They will also have to buy allowances at a fixed price of £12 per tonne to cover their emissions.

Business groups have been heavily critical of the scheme, called the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme, arguing that its excessive complexity will be extremely costly.
Analysts from PricewaterhouseCoopers believe the scheme is likely to add 6pc to affected companies' energy prices next year. The worst performing may have to pay an extra 20pc on their bills by 2015, while the best may save 6pc over the next five years.
A survey by RWE npower found around half those businesses affected do not understand how to buy allowances to cover their emissions or how to forecast future targets.
Another big complaint among companies was that those who have already spent money on reducing their carbon emissions in the past may not score well, because the scheme only looks at future efficiency savings.
However, the scheme will benefit at least one section of the market. Environmental consultancies and the big energy companies have begun to offer advisory services to help smaller companies understand how to comply with the new legislation.
PwC estimates that the cost of meeting the legislation will be about £25,000 per company and one big six retail supplier said the number of inquiries about consultancy work connected to the legislation had risen five-fold in the last month alone.
"There is a degree of understandable confusion among many UK businesses about what the energy efficiency legislation will mean for them," said Kanat Emiroglu, managing director of British Gas Business, which offers a management service. "Often there isn't one single individual within the business who is tasked with monitoring the CRC."

Bids sought for Pentland Firth tidal energy site

Tidal devices are planned for other sites in the firth
Bids are being sought for a power project in what the Crown Estate said was one of the "most energetic" tidal areas of the Pentland Firth.
The Inner Sound lies between the Caithness coast and island of Stroma.
Ten sites on the seabed off Orkney and in the Pentland Firth have already been leased out to companies for wave and tidal energy projects.
A preferred bidder was selected for the Inner Sound but the developer later pulled out, the Crown Estate said.
'Great potential'
In the first project of its kind in the world, areas in the Pentland Firth and around Orkney were leased to seven companies earlier this month.
The companies are to push forward plans to generate enough electricity to supply 750,000 homes by 2020 from a range of wave and tidal devices.
The Crown Estate owns most of the seabed around the UK.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said it welcomed the speed with which the tendering process for the Inner Sound was reopened.
Audrey MacIver, joint head of energy at HIE, said: "These waters have great potential for energy generation and we look forward to working with the successful bidder to support their success and to maximise the economic benefit their development will bring to the region."

Second plant pathway could improve nutrition, biofuel production

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University scientists have defined a hidden second option plants have for making an essential amino acid that could be the first step in boosting plants' nutritional value and improving biofuel production potential.
The amino acid phenylalanine is required to build proteins and is a precursor for more than 8,000 other compounds essential to plants, including lignin, which allows plants to stand upright but acts as a barrier in the production of cellulosic ethanol.
It had been believed that plants could use two pathways to create phenylalanine. Natalia Dudareva, a professor of horticulture, and Hiroshi Maeda, a postdoctoral researcher in Dudareva's laboratory, have confirmed that while plants predominantly use one pathway, they have another at their disposal. The existence of this second pathway might one day allow scientists to increase a plant's production of the essential amino acid. Their research was published in the early online version of the journal Plant Cell.
"That would allow us to increase the nutritional value of some food," Maeda said. "But also by increasing these compounds, the plants would be better able to protect themselves from changes in the environment."
Maeda added that reducing phenylalanine could lead to a reduction of lignin in plants, which would improve digestibility of cellulosic materials for ethanol production.
Phenylalanine is one of the few essential amino acids that humans and animals cannot synthesize, so it must come from plants. It is produced when sugars enter a plant's shikimate pathway, which creates a link between the processing of sugars and the generation of aromatic compounds. The next steps had not been known until now, and were thought to involve one of two proposed routes - the phenylpyruvate or arogenate pathways.
Dudareva and Maeda found a gene responsible for phenylalanine production, and suppression of the gene expression knocked out 80 percent of the phenylalanine content in petunias. The hypothesis was that the gene suppression would act like a clogged pipe, creating an abundance of compounds that would have later become phenylalanine in a normal plant.
But that's not what happened.
"These plants knew that the last step of phenylalanine production was down and slowed the first steps," Dudareva said.
Maeda said the plant created some sort of feedback mechanism that slowed down the entry point of the shikimate pathway.
Dudareva and Maeda wanted to see what would happen if they forced the shikimate pathway to function, so they gave the petunias shikimic acid. The plants were flooded with the upstream compounds as expected, but since they could not use the usual arogenate pathway to convert them to phenylalanine, they used another path that scientists had only theorized existed.
"What this tells us is this other pathway could be active under certain conditions," Dudareva said.
Understanding how the pathways work is a first step in finding ways to increase phenylalanine for boosting nutritional values of foods, or decreasing it, which may help in biofuel production.
Dudareva and Maeda will next try to determine how the plant creates feedback to the shikimate pathway. Disrupting that feedback could lead to an abundant production of phenylalanine in plants. The National Science Foundation funded the research.
Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-496-2050,
Sources: Natalia Dudareva, 765-494-1325, Hiroshi Maeda, 765-496-6268,
Abstract on the research in this release is available at:

Plan to chop down forests in England

Forests will be chopped down across England to make way for traditional heathland under Government plans to boost rare wildlife.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:30AM BST 01 Apr 2010
The new policy to convert forests to 'open habitat' will increase the area of heathland across England by 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) every year for at least the next five years.
This will mean chopping down thousands of hectares of mostly commercial conifers to allow rare animals like sand lizards, adder, woodlark and curlew to return.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of lowland heathland has been lost in the past 200 years to plantation forestry, agriculture and housing development.
The Department for the Environment and Forestry Commission policy for 'Restoration of Open Habitats from Woods and Forests' is designed to return much of the land taken by commercial forestry to wildlife.
Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for the Natural and Marine Environment, said 'woodland removal' will be balanced by planting trees elsewhere and communities will be consulted.
"Woodlands and forests provide a natural tool to help stop damaging climate change and this solution balances the need to provide more habitats for our wildlife, while still increasing our woodland and forest cover to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he said.
The RSPB wants the government to double the 55,000 hectares (135,000 acres) of lowland heathland in England by chopping down the non-native conifers that stand in the way and has already made a start at its Farnham Reserve in Surrey. More commerical woodland in the area and around the home counties and southern England is expected to be targetted in the future.
Dr Mark Avery, of the RSPB, said wildlife like the Dartford warbler and silver-studded blue butterfly will return.
“Restoring heathland which has been planted with conifers is an easy way of making a big difference for threatened species. Once the conifers are removed the seed bank begins to germinate again and soon the heathland plants start to reappear – before long you have a landscape teeming with life once more," he said.
During the consultation period, the Confederation of Forest Industries expressed concern that the policy would damage the timber industry and even cause global warming because of 'deforestation'. The organisation was not available to comment on the new policy.
:: The South Downs has become Britain's newest national park.
The area, which covers more than 600 sq miles of countryside in Sussex and Hampshire, is the UK's 15th national park.

Obama steers course through tricky waters

Frank Pope, Ocean Correspondent

President Obama’s plan to open huge swaths of the US coastline to oil and natural gas drilling steers a difficult course through the treacherous politics of the Arctic.
Life in the unspoilt white North has been stained black by crude oil spillages before and much damage remains, so the news that the offshore drilling permits sold by President Bush are to be honoured will worry many.
But Mr Obama has not only cancelled any further sales, preventing any more exploration for the next five years, he has at the same time bought himself credit in Congress with which to push forward his Climate Change Bill.
Ice is vital to Arctic ecosystems, and both the temperature and the chemistry of the ocean are changing faster than anywhere else on the planet. The importance of slowing global carbon dioxide emissions outweighs the damage from a few Arctic oil wells.

Oil companies have been touting the reduced environmental impact of their activities in the high North. They boast new technology that has shrunk their physical footprint to almost half what it once was, while strict regulations are in place to prevent and control disasters such as the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, which dumped nine million gallons of crude spill on to Alaskan shores. (It is still there in surprising quantities.)
But much damage is still being done. Even without accidents, oil rigs spill almost three million litres of oil into the ocean every year through routine operations. Companies say that rigs can operate with zero discharges but admit that it is too expensive to do so in the remote Arctic.
Chemicals to disperse oil spills are supposed to be kept close at hand but the Arctic weather can destroy the best-laid plans. In December 2004 a Malaysian ship ran aground off Alaska, killing six of its crew and spilling more than 270,000 gallons of heavy fuel. Despite the new rules, bad conditions meant that the dispersant took three weeks to arrive.
Environmental impact assessments warn of up to a 50-50 chance of large spills in the Chukchi Sea.
Obama has pulled back from further deals in the Arctic because of this uncertainty about the ability to cope with accidents if – or when – they occur. He is also acknowledging the lack of scientific knowledge about the area.
The continental shelf of the eastern seaboard suffers from the same lack of a scientific baseline but the drilling plans there are unlikely to generate the same depth of public sentiment. Most rigs will be located more than 25 miles offshore. They will be invisible from the shore – unless something goes wrong. A slick can cover that distance in short order.
Oil companies, conservationists and indigenous Alaskans might all have wanted more from Mr Obama, but none is furious at his offshore drilling plans. It bodes well for his long-awaited Ocean Policy, a plan to integrate the many demands being made on US waters. Comment: Obama steers course through tricky waters
Such compromises won’t be seen elsewhere in the high North, however. Strategically, Russia has to exploit its Arctic oil and gas reserves, and is far less inclined to listen to environmental concerns when it does so.

UK pushes for twin-track deal on climate change

Britain prepared to extend Kyoto if developing nations agree to a new, global treaty
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Thursday, 1 April 2010
Britain proposed a new twin-track climate deal yesterday to end the logjam which has affected international talks on global warming since the failed Copenhagen climate conference last December.
In a surprise policy U-turn, the Climate and Energy Secretary, Ed Miliband, announced that the Government would agree to an extension of the current international climate treaty, the Kyoto protocol – something developing countries have insisted on but which has so far been rejected by the UK and the European Union as a whole.
Britain would accept a renewed Kyoto, Mr Miliband said, alongside the entirely new, legally binding global deal it has been pursuing. In effect there could be two separate international climate treaties, covering emissions cuts by different countries.

The move is ultimately likely to put pressure on China, one of the countries which blocked agreement at Copenhagen and now the world's biggest CO2 emitter, to join in a comprehensive new climate arrangement covering the whole world.
But if China was intransigent at the talks in the Danish capital, it was British and EU insistence on abandoning the 1997 Kyoto treaty which was the immediate cause of the talks' breakdown, and nearly led to a complete and humiliating collapse of two years of negotiations between 192 countries.
In the end, a limited ad-hoc agreement, the "Copenhagen Accord", was put together by world leaders during the conference's final day but it fell far short of the legally binding global warming treaty, with detailed targets for cutting global emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, which had been Copenhagen's original objective.
In announcing yesterday that Britain would accept a renewal (technically, a "second commitment period") of Kyoto, Mr Miliband was in effect starting the climate talks all over again by sending a clear signal – and making a large concession – to developing countries, for whom maintaining the 1997 treaty had taken on almost totemic status.
"We are interested in trying to break the deadlock and find ways through some of the issues raised in Copenhagen," he said. "We do not want to let a technical argument about whether we have one treaty or two derail the process. We are determined to show flexibility as long as there is no undermining of environmental principles."
Developing countries have strongly supported Kyoto because it commits them to do nothing, at least initially, while getting rich countries to take on legally binding emissions targets. The poorer countries see this as a just reflection of the fact that most of the man-made greenhouses gases in the atmosphere were put there by countries such as the US and Britain, which should therefore be the first to take action.
But more than that, the treaty – indeed, almost the word Kyoto itself – had come to be seen as a talisman of the good faith of rich countries, while abandoning it tantamount to a betrayal of the developing nations.
In its place, Britain wanted a new treaty which would bring in all countries of the world, including the US – which George W Bush withdrew from Kyoto in 2001 – and commit the developing countries for the first time to cut back their own emissions, which from now on will far exceed the CO2 output of the developed world. China overtook the US as the world's biggest CO2 emitter in 2007.
Britain fought hard to achieve this new deal in behind-the-scenes negotiations, and persisted in the position despite many warnings that the poorer countries were simply too attached to Kyoto to give it up. In the end, the draft text of the non-Kyoto deal was leaked, widely criticised by developing countries as a betrayal, and the talks ran into the ground.
Britain still wants the new arrangement, binding on all countries, and yesterday Mr Miliband insisted that it was the only way forward.
As the price of attaining it, he said the UK would accept a renewal of Kyoto, so that there would in effect be two international climate treaties running in parallel. But he stressed that Britain would not accept one without the other.
In part, this is a response to the bloody nose the Government was given in Denmark, and a recognition that its hard-line, no-Kyoto policy was unrealistic. But it is also smart politics, as it will remove the objections of developing countries, but box China into a corner with its own objections to a new legal deal.
"We are uncompromising about the need for a legal framework covering everyone, but we are willing to be flexible about the precise form that takes," Mr Miliband said. "By making these proposals, we can take away this myth that developed countries were trying to destroy Kyoto and get on with a legal treaty."

UK to invest £30m in Nigerian public transport system

Britain to pay for buses and trains to replace molues and danfoes - Lagos's legendarily hectic buses and minibuses

John Vidal, Wednesday 31 March 2010 17.06 BST
Anyone who has experienced the "molues" and "danfoes" - the notorious buses and minibuses of Lagos - will understand the word anarchy. They carry huge numbers of people round the African mega-city but they respect no traffic lanes, bus-stops or policemen, many are falling apart and they belch some of the the dirtiest smoke in Africa.
But Britain is hoping to bring some order to the city of legendary traffic jams and road rage by trying to rationalise its public transport system. Over the next few years it will invest more than £30m increasing the number of bus routes, bringing in bigger buses and helping to build two new train lines to go through some of the most densely populated areas of Lagos.
Lagos has a population of 16 million but the Nigerian government expects this to grow to over 25m in the next 20 years, leaving the city authorities unable to provide clean water and electricity, or to keep pace with the growth of slums. Unless investments are urgently made in the infrastructure, says the UK's Department for International Development, the situation will become critical. It now plans to invest in improving slum areas in other African cities.
The switch to investing in the urban environment rather than rural areas marks a significant shift in approach to combating poverty. Until very recently most aid has been directed at rural areas to try and stem the flow of people to cities and boost agriculture. But there is a new understanding that hunger in large cities and poverty is now as bad in cities as in rural areas.
"Investing in urban areas is a different set of challenges," said international development minister Gareth Thomas. "We have watched the rise of the mega-city, especially in Africa. Places like like Addis Ababa, Cairo and Johannesburg will all see massive expansion over the next 20-30 years. Unless we act now people will only live in slums.
"People find it difficult to access work outside their own impoverished areas due to lack of transport and potential industry around the slums is hampered by unreliable electricity sources," he said.
UN predictions show that, by 2030, 700 million people will live in towns or cities in Africa and of them, 70% will live in slums.

China spends big to counter severe weather caused by climate change

Country invests heavily in warning systems and infrastructure to tackle effects of extreme temperatures, typhoons, fog and storms

Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, Wednesday 31 March 2010 15.13 BST
China will tomorrow start ramping up preparations for typhoons, dust storms and other extreme weather disasters as part of a 10-year plan to predict and prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Improved warning systems, new emergency drills and bolstered infrastructure will form the backbone of the new regulations, which are the country's most advanced measures yet to deal with natural disaster.
China has a long history of devastating floods and droughts, but officials said the problems were intensifying.
"It is necessary to respond to the new situation under climate change to avoid and mitigate the losses caused by meteorological disasters," said Gao Fengtao, deputy director of the state council's legislative affairs office, as he unveiled the new policy.
In recent years, he said, disasters were characterised by "sudden occurrence, wider variety, greater intensity and higher frequency in the context of global warming".
Officials warned this posed a threat to human life and a huge challenge to China's sustainable development.
Zheng Guoguang, head of China's meteorological administration, said natural disasters caused economic losses each year of up to 300bn yuan (£29bn), equivalent to about 2% of the country's gross domestic product.
He cited the unusually severe snow storms that engulfed southern China in 2008 and the worst drought in a century that is now afflicting Yunnan, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces.
The new regulations for the prevention of and preparedness for meteorological disasters will establish a legal framework for disaster response, risk assessment, evacuation measures and public education.
They will cover terrestrial phenomena – such as extreme temperatures, dust and sand storms, lightning strikes, fog, typhoons – and "space weather", such as solar storms.
Officials said the move was part of a 10-year national plan that clarified the government's response to climate change and stipulated what measures regional and local governments should take in terms of infrastructure investment, reporting mechanisms and disaster drills.
But it was unclear how much the central government would spend on the programme and the proportion of the costs it would bear. Local authorities in poor areas often neglect Beijing directives that they cannot afford to implement.
Despite its developing nation status, China has an advanced meteorological monitoring system, using weather satellites and a global network of 158 radar stations.
Zheng said the government has invested 10bn yuan in the system in recent years, with the budget rising 15% annually.
"The large sums that China invests in its meteorological infrastructure are rarely seen in the world," he said.

Britain brandishes olive branch to restart global climate change talks

Ed Miliband concedes ground and offers to sign new Kyoto treaty in unilateral attempt to heal rift between rich and poor countries

John Vidal, environment editor, Wednesday 31 March 2010 17.59 BST

Britain brandished a diplomatic olive branch today as it tried to restart global climate change negotiations with an initiative to heal the rift between rich and poor countries following the failure of the Copenhagen summit.
Climate secretary Ed Miliband conceded considerable ground, offering to sign a new Kyoto treaty as developing countries' demand, but while also requiring that those nations enshrine their commitments to tackling global warming in international law.
Britain's unilateral move addresses the key issue that doomed Copenhagen – that the rich accept the legally binding commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions enshrined in Kyoto.
The initiative could lead to two separate global treaties on climate change. It also offers a challenge to China, India and other major developing countries, who have been unwilling to commit legally to acting on climate change because the Kyoto agreement specifically exempts them.
"We are asking that developing countries internationalise in a legally binding agreement the actions they take domestically," said the government action plan, published today in advance of formal UN negotiations that reopen next week in Bonn.
"We would not envisage developing countries being subject to any punitive compliance measures," it added.
The move is the strongest signal yet that rich countries' attempts to sideline or even abandon the Kyoto treaty have failed and that the negotiations will continue within the 192-nation UN climate body and not in smaller groups of countries as the US and other nations had wanted.
"We hope by doing this we can take away the myth that developed countries were trying to destroy Kyoto," said Miliband.
"We are determined to unblock the negotiations. We are willing to offer a second agreement under Kyoto, provided there is a separate legal treaty covering all other countries."
The move was immediately welcomed by Bharrat Jagdeo, president of Guyana. But he warned that developing countries would not accept an agreement if rich countries – who have emitted by far the most carbon pollution – did not commit to further deep cuts in emissions.
Referring to the US, he said: "There are countries who stick out and clearly need to do more work. If the largest [developed] country emitter falls so far below the minimum, it makes it far harder for other countries, and you lose the element of justice and fairness."
The diplomatic moves came as Gordon Brown met billionaire financier George Soros; Obama's economic adviser Larry Summers; economist Lord Nicholas Stern and other finance ministers to find ways to raise $30bn (£20bn) a year immediately and $100bn a year by 2020 to enable developing countries to adapt to climate change.
The high-level advisory group on climate change financing, convened by UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon and chaired by Brown and Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi, will consider at least six ways of raising up to $1tn dollars for climate change adaptation. These include:
• a small levy on all international aviation and shipping
• enlarging existing carbon cap-and-trade markets
• imposing a small "Robin Hood"-type tax on all financial transactions
• using the International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights.
The group of 19 financial leaders have been asked by Ban to report back by November, when UN climate talks take place in Cancun, Mexico.
Environment and development groups welcomed the British initiative. Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth's executive director, said: "It's positive that the government has restated its commitment to the Kyoto protocol, which enshrines the responsibility of rich countries, as the biggest historical polluters, to slash their emissions first and fastest."
Joanne Green, head of policy at development agency Cafod, said: "This shows that Gordon Brown is listening to the concerns of developing countries. This is a first stride in rebuilding the trust desperately needed between developing and developed countries."
And Melanie Ward, Christian Aid's UK political adviser, said: "The positive language needs to be matched by the necessary political choices.
"These include using international finance to support clean development in poor countries, rather than more dirty coal power stations, and demanding much deeper cuts in EU emissions levels."

Barack Obama reverses campaign promise and approves offshore drilling

President allows oil and gas exploration off several coastal areas to horsetrade with Republicans over climate change bills

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Wednesday 31 March 2010 19.04 BST
Barack Obama took the Republican slogan "drill, baby, drill" as his own today, opening up over 500,000 square miles of US coastal waters to oil and gas exploitation for the first time in over 20 years.
The move, a reversal of Obama's early campaign promise to retain a ban on offshore exploration, appeared aimed at winning support from Republicans in Congress for new laws to tackle global warming. Sarah Palin's "Drill, baby, drill" slogan was a prominent battle cry in the 2008 elections.
The areas opened up are off the Atlantic coast, the northern coast of Alaska and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. However, in a concession to his environmentalist base, Obama did retain protection for Alaska's Bristol Bay, the single largest source of seafood in America and home to endangered species of whale. The Pacific Coast from Mexico to Canada is also off-limits.
Obama said the decision to allow oil rigs off the Atlantic coast was a painful one, but that it would help reduce US dependence on imported oil.
"This is not a decision that I've made lightly," the president said. "But the bottom line is this: given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth, produce jobs, and keep our businesses competitive, we're going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy."
He said the administration would take steps to protect the environment and areas important to tourism off the Atlantic, as well as sensitive areas in the Arctic, and added: "Drilling alone cannot come close to meeting our long-term energy needs, and for the sake of the planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now."
Interior department officials said the areas opened up today are thought to contain the equivalent of three years' annual US useage of recoverable oil and two years' worth of natural gas.
Under the proposals, a vast swath of Atlantic coast from northern Delaware to central Florida, including about 167m acres of ocean, would be open to drilling. An additional 130m acres of ocean in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska could also open up for drilling following environmental assessment studies. About two-thirds of the eastern Gulf of Mexico would be open for exploration though the plan would bar rigs within 125 miles of the Florida coast.
The state of Virginia could see drilling within 50 miles of the coast, and could issue its first licences as early as next year. However, actual drilling would probably not get underway for years. Drilling would be off-limits throughout the US Pacific coast. Bristol Bay in south-western Alaska would also be off the table until 2017.
Today's speech was widely seen as an attempt by Obama to use last week's epic victory on health reform as a springboard for other items on his agenda. He combined the announcement with a renewed appeal to Democrats and Republicans in Congress to pass climate change legislation. The laws would be a huge step forward towards a global deal but has encountered fierce domestic opposition.
A small group of Democrats and Republicans are expected to produce proposals to cut the US's mammoth greenhouse gas emissions, in the coming weeks. But the proposals are unlikely to go as far as environmentalists would like.
The interior secretary, Ken Salazar, made a significant declaration today, saying the administration had renounced the concept of carbon cap and trade. This system, seen by many as efficient and effective, sets a gradually reducing limit to emissions and then allows polluters to buy and sell permits to emit greenhouse gases, but opponents argue it would damage the economy. "The term cap and trade is not in the lexicon anymore," Salazar told CNBC television.
The go-ahead for drilling is also a bitter disappointment for environmentalists and Democrats. That could make it even more difficult to stitch together a compromise proposal on climate change in the Senate. Last week, 10 Senators from coastal states, including those now opened up for drilling, issued a letter expressing concern that offshore exploration would hurt fishing and tourism industries.
Maryland's Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, a supporter of Obama's climate agenda, said: "We know spills happen with offshore drilling. It happens even with the most responsible drilling." Greenpeace saw the announcement as a betrayal of Obama's campaign promise, with director Phil Radford saying: "This act furthers America's addiction to oil." Oceana called it a "wholesale assault" on the seas.
Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Centre for Biological Diversity, said: "Today's announcement is unfortunately all too typical of what we have seen so far from President Obama – promises of change, a year of 'deliberation,' and ultimately, adoption of flawed and outdated Bush policies as his own."
The disappointment could lift on Thursday, as Obama said his administration would then finalise more rigorous fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. The White House will also buy 5,000 new hybrid vehicles for the federal fleet.
Today's drilling decision further consolidates Obama's position in the middle ground between industry and environmentalists. Environmentalists have been disappointed with the president's decisions to restrict – but not ban outright – the highly destructive practice of blowing up mountaintops to mine thin seams of coal.
Obama indicated in his state of the union address that he was ready to offer two key concessions to Republicans – lifting the ban on offshore drilling and supporting new nuclear power plants – to try to gain support for climate change and energy legislation in Congress.
He took the first step last month, spurring the first construction of new nuclear plants since the Three Mile Island leak 30 years ago, by announcing $18bn in loan guarantees for two new nuclear reactors.
As a presidential candidate, Obama had repeatedly attacked his opponent, John McCain, for suggesting drilling would lower gas prices, arguing that it would take several years and billions in investment before those areas became productive. But as the summer of 2008 wore on with prices spiking at the pump, Obama along with other Democrats began moderating their opposition to offshore drilling.
Democrats in Congress did not renew an annual ban on offshore drilling, and Obama began reversing his opposition.

Hacked climate email inquiry cleared Jones but serious questions remain

Climate inquiry has dodged key questions in its rush to clear the name of the harangued head of the Climate Research Unit

Fred Pearce, Wednesday 31 March 2010 07.45 BST

Gaunt, beta-blocked and stood down from duty, Phil Jones is the fall guy for the wider failings that triggered the hacked climate email scandals. But at its hearings into the affair a month ago, the Commons science committee was kind to the director of the Climate Research Unit (CRU), but short-tempered with his grinning sidekick, the University of East Anglia's vice-chancellor Edward Acton.
And so, in their report, Jones gets the benefit of a few doubts. At their final drafting meeting last week, only the MPs' in-house cryptosceptic, Graham Stringer, voted against a sentence saying that, on the evidence they had, "the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact".
Instead, the university administration gets chastised for presiding over a culture of secrecy and possible illegality within the CRU that led to a public relations meltdown.
The MPs are clear that there are serious issues to address both in climate science and in the operation of freedom of information law in British universities. But in their desire not to single out Jones, they end up bending over backwards to support a man who is the pillar of the establishment they are criticising.
Of course, it must have been "frustrating" for Jones to handle freedom of information requests from people "he knew – or perceived – were motivated by a desire simply to undermine his work". But, as the MPs say, his "blunt refusals to share data, even unrestricted data" led to "unfortunate email exchanges" and was "inevitably counterproductive".
The MPs are right to absolve Jones of many of the crimes of which bloggers have accused him. The allegations surrounding his "tricks" and efforts to "hide the decline" are largely malicious inventions.
But, in their rush to judgment before parliament is dissolved for the general election, Phil Willis and his team avoided examining more complex charges, including those raised by the Guardian in its investigations in February.
Even so, they sometimes get confused. The MPs accept Jones's claim that CRU's habit of keeping secret much of its data, methodology and computer codes was "standard practice" among climate scientists. Yet they also note that Nasa scientists doing similar work are much more open. Not so standard, then.
And whatever standard practice may be, surely as one of climate science's senior figures, Jones should take some responsibility for its misdemeanours? Jones has worked for the CRU for more than 20 years and been its director for six. The MPs found there a "culture of withholding information" in which "information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure." It found this "unacceptable". Doesn't its director take responsibility?
The MPs kept their criticism for the university. Its "failure to grasp fully the potential damage [from] non-disclosure of FOIA requests was regrettable".
Also possibly illegal, it might have added.
UEA is rightly in deep doo-doo. The MPs find that its information officers colluded with CRU to subvert legitimate freedom of information requests, and "found ways to support" the culture of secrecy. In a key statement that not even the proliferation of acronyms can disguise, they say: "We must put on record our concern about the manner in which UEA allowed CRU to handle FOIA requests."
The wider research community also has questions to answer. "We recommend that all publicly funded research groups consider whether they are being as open as they can be, and ought to be, with the details of their methodologies," the MPs say. That sounds like a good follow-up for the committee after the general election.
But apart from Acton, the person who will read this report with most gloom, may be Sir Muir Russell, the Scottish grandee appointed by Acton to review the activities of Jones and his colleagues.
The MPs agree with the sceptic Lord Lawson, who gave evidence, that Russell's inquiry should conduct his interviews and hearings "in public wherever possible". Unless Russell has spoken to nobody in the past four months, he evidently is not doing that. They say his inquiry should "publish all written evidence on its website as soon as possible". Yesterday, a month after the deadline for submissions closed, none had been posted.
Worse, the MPs have given him long list of things to investigate or rule on, such as deciding whether emails were deleted in breach of FOI law. Or coming up with rules for CRU on sharing data. And such as deciding whether Jones "subverted the peer-review process". They also suggest that a test of how truly independent the Russell inquiry is will be whether it gives the UEA an advance copy. This story is far from over yet.