Monday, 12 April 2010

Labour election manifesto: weak, not tough, on causes of climate change

Green policies lack detail but some experts detect 'seismic shift' in new era of regulations, sanctions and subsidies•
Juliette Jowit, Monday 12 April 2010 19.00 BST
Disappointment greeted the Labour environment manifesto today as experts from all quarters suggested there was nothing new, it was too cautious about cutting climate change emissions, and there was not enough detail about policies they liked.
Buried in section 8 of the party's manifesto, however, was a radical statement which might also herald a very different time ahead if Labour is elected to government for a fourth term.
Introducing the Green Growth chapter, it says: "Only active governments can shape markets to prioritise green growth and job creation. Environmental sustainability cannot be left to individuals and businesses acting alone."
Where for so long Labour policy has focused on targets, encouragement and partnerships; this appears to herald a new era of firm rules, limits and sanctions; what Ed Matthew, who runs Transform UK, a group working on the UK's shift to a low carbon economy, calls a "seismic shift".
To encourage more low carbon energy, for example, Matthew said government needed to offer more subsidies, grants and low interest loans to the new companies.
"After 13 years they have finally understood that they can't create a low carbon, secure energy supply in this country without some more intervention," said Matthew. "[We need] certainty for investors so they shift their money from high to low carbon energy services. They need that support to get off the ground, but eventually they'll stand on their own and end up cheaper than the fossil fuel industries."
Such a fundamental shift in policy would open up the prospect of a battle of ideas between the main parties on the environment. Liberal Democrats have already - more overtly - embraced the intervention agenda; Conservatives have taken more cautious steps, advocating new financial institutions like the Green Investment Bank and a feed-in-tariff for big renewable energy schemes, but might not be willing to go this way for industrial policy, said Matthew.
Supporters of this approach point to the global success stories in creating green industries: China, South Korea and Germany have all been more interventionist.
"Regulation has been such a dirty word for 13 years for Labour," added Matthew. "It's about realising regulation isn't red tape: regulation is the building blocks on which our society is built, if you get it right it's great for the economy and, critically, for the environment."
Clues as to how brave Labour would be in office were mixed: the manifesto repeated an early suggestion that the party would ban many items from landfill in future, and promised that if the European Commission did not ban illegally logged timber, the UK would do so unilaterally. However, it continued to say that better food labelling would be designed "with" (although they presumably mean "by") the food industry and retailers, and that it wanted to introduce more competition into the energy market, something which could make it harder, not easier, to meet climate and security targets.
There were few new ideas in the manifesto, though many of the existing proposals are either fairly recent (local communities to share in renewable power profits) or very long term (400,000 new green jobs).
One new initiative is the promise to create more protected areas, and forest and woodland, as well as to "sustain" the amount of greenbelt land. Protected areas will be especially picked to create wildlife "corridors" along which species can migrate as they adapt to climate change, something that conservationists have long been asking for.
The party also tantalisingly promised a new "framework" for land use, to balance the competing demands of housing and development, wildlife and climate change, and food security. However there was no detail about what this would be, or how it would be determined.

The Department for Transport will not commit to biofuels yet

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

In a meeting with civil servants at the Department for Transport (DfT) last week, ActionAid was pleased to hear that the UK government won’t be committing to increasing the amount of biofuels in our petrol and diesel.
Instead, the government department will wait for the findings of a number of scientific studies that are due to be released later this year before holding a formal consultation and then making their decision as to whether to push ahead with this controversial fuel source.
The UK, like all other EU member states, must submit a National Action Plan to the European Commission by June outlining how it plans to ensure that 10 per cent of all fuel used for transport will come from renewable sources by 2020.
No new commitments to biofuels
Until the recent meeting, ActionAid had been concerned that the government would choose to meet the entire 10 per cent target with industrial biofuels. However, ActionAid now has it in writing that the UK’s National Action Plan “will not include any new commitments to increasing transport-related biofuel use in the UK”. A major ActionAid report launched in February concluded that an additional 100 million people could be forced into hunger if UK and EU biofuel targets are allowed to go ahead. Report author Tim Rice said: “Biofuels are driving a global human tragedy. Local food prices have already risen massively. As biofuel production gains pace, this can only accelerate. “Poor people can spend as much as 80 per cent of their income on food. Even small increases in the price of staples such as maize and wheat mean that many more will become increasingly desperate.”
Continuing cause for concern
Despite the good news that the DfT are delaying their decision, ActionAid is still concerned that the government is not taking the link between biofuels and hunger seriously enough. A UK government study concluded that biofuels had not been a significant cause of the food price rises in 2007/8. This is in contrast to numerous other research which has found that industrial biofuels could have contributed to anywhere from 30-75 per cent of the global food crisis which pushed 30 million more people into hunger. Meredith Alexander, Head of Trade and Corporates for ActionAid, said: “Almost all of the DfT’s concerns focus on how biofuels can have higher greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels. That’s a vital argument; climate change will make it harder for farmers to feed themselves in the future.
“But the government also needs to look at the impact of biofuels on hunger now. Every tiny one per cent increase in food prices forces an estimated 16 million extra people into hunger. In a world where one sixth of humanity is already going hungry, using land to grow fuel for cars instead of food for people is just plain wrong.”ActionAid and its supporters will continue to campaign against industrial biofuels, demanding that the government doesn’t increase UK biofuel targets following the formal consultation that is planned for early 2011. A major review by the European Commission into the impact of EU biofuel policy on food prices is also set to take place in 2012. Campaigners hope that they can convince the DfT to hold off on their final decision until this has taken place and more information is available.
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[ Any views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not of Reuters

How cattle farmers in Britain are cutting emissions from cow burps

Beef farmers in Britain are fighting back against the green lobby by producing meat with a lower carbon footprint.

By Louise Gray and Nick CollinsPublished: 7:00AM BST 09 Apr 2010

Paul McCartney, Lord Stern and a host of high profile environmentalists have been urging the nation to cut back on red meat because the methane produced by cows belching increases global warming. The beef industry has already noticed a dip in consumption over the last year with sales falling more than 2 per cent to just over one million tonnes in 2009.

In Britain farmers have been arguing for some time that free range cattle are good for the environment because grassland stores carbon dioxide in the ground.
And in an effort to fight back against "the vegetarian lobby" 350 beef farmers, supported by Government quango the Carbon Trust and including the suppliers of McDonald's, are working on producing cattle with a low carbon footprint.
The Beef and Lamb Executive has also launched a "Environmental Road Map" that gives farmers advice on how to reduce greenhouse gases.
The beef produced will be marketed as more "environmentally friendly" and is already popular in countries like America where farmers have copied the "mob grazing" of bison to produce beef with a low carbon impact. Other methods of reducing the methane from cattle includes adding fish oil to feed, using breeds that are more efficient by having a greater number of calves, turning the manure into energy and sending the animals to market earlier. Farmers can also use biofuels on the farm, cut down on nitrate fertilisers and cut energy use.
Gas produced by flatulent livestock accounts for 4 per cent of the UK's total carbon emissions. It is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse agent.
The UK Government has committed to reducing emissions by 34 per cent by 2020, including greenhouse gases from farming.
But Alistair Mackintosh, chairman of the NFU’s livestock board and a beef farmer from Cumbria, said cutting emissions does not have to mean taking animals off the hills.
"There is not a day that goes past where we don't have to defend ourselves from opponents," he said. "This is far too important an issue to allow a prejudice to take over. We cannot afford to ignore it, we take it very seriously."
Mr Mackintosh said that about a quarter of Britain's fields – which make up 60 per cent of all land – cannot all be used for fruit and vegetable production, and would produce more greenhouse gases if left to rot and grow wild.
"People need to recognise that grassland is a huge carbon sink and that grassland has to be managed so it keeps delivering on that. The easiest and most economic way of doing that is to graze cattle on it," he said.
Kim Haywood, director of the British Beef Association, said farmers are concerned customers are turning away from meat because of environmental concerns.
She pointed out that British beef is actually good for the environment in comparison to cheap beef from countries like Brazil that is raised on felled rainforest.
"It is a very, very big concern for us because we produce a product that is incredibly healthy and important for the environment. There is very little grassland left on the Earth, cattle grazing on that land not only preserves the environment as a carbon sink and beautiful landscape but provides a nutritious food."
However, Liz O'Neill of the Vegetarian Society, insisted cutting out meat altogether is the best way forward.
"It far more effective and straight forward for an individual to go vegetarian or better still vegan. Yes you can make minor changes in how you produce meat but essentially you are talking about a very inefficient system compared to using the land to grow grains and pulses that humans can use."

UN process under fire at climate change talks

Climate change negotiations remain in the mire after the first meeting since Copenhagen showed rich and poor countries are still not ready to trust each other.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 9:00AM BST 10 Apr 2010
More than 180 countries are gathered in Bonn to discuss a way forward after the last United Nations meeting in the Danish capital ended in chaos.
But initial talks ended in recriminations and there was little progress on deciding the best way to stop global warming.

All countries agree greenhouse gases must be cut in order to stop catastrophic climate change, the question is how to do it.
At the heart of the problem is the failure to even agree the best way to draw up an agreement.
Developing countries suggested the world should be meeting every month in order to ensure a treaty is signed by the end of the year.
They felt that Copenhagen was dominated by larger rich countries meeting "behind closed doors" rather than involving the whole of the United Nations.
Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, representing African nations, said Copenhagen damaged "the trust that is necessary for any partnership".
"The one thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history," he said.
However the Mexican delegation, that is in charge of the next major summit in Cancun at the end of the year where any final treaty would be signed, is already suggesting alternatives.
The suggestion, where smaller groups meet to thrash out particular issues and then report to the full meeting for approval, has already been dubbed the "Mexican process".
Fernando Tudela, Mexico's vice minister for planning and environmental policy, said modernisation would allow sticking points to be worked out much more quickly.
"We need to improve our working methods," he said. "This process of negotiations requires adjustment and modernisation without of course using different practises that are used in the United Nations."
Already there are plans for meetings outside the UN process to try and speed things along.
The Major Economies Forum, the world's 17 major economies accounting for the bulk of carbon emissions, will meet later this month in Washington to discuss the best way to cut greenhouse gases. Germany has also invited some 50 environment ministers to a conference in May.
Alicia Montalvo, the Spanish delegate speaking for the European Union (EU), said smaller groups must be allowed to move the process forward.
"We cannot go back to business as usual," she said.
Wendel Trio of Greenpeace said different nations remain at loggerheads over the best way to progress the talks.
But he was hopeful that by the end of the meeting the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), that is in charge of the process, manages to agree on a couple more meetings before Cancun and the key subject matter that must be worked on before the end of the year.

My fight for fish

Charles Clover

It was when a third of the cinema audience sprang to its feet shouting at us, and my wife, fearing violence, slipped out of the side door, that I began wondering if we had taken on more than we could handle. The screening last month of The End of the Line in Malta, the centre of the Mediterranean bluefin tuna industry, was the closest I have yet come to a riot since I first pointed out that overfishing is killing our oceans.
Making the case for a ban on the international bluefin trade in a country that earns £87m a year from supplying sushi to Japan was always going to be like telling the barnyard cats that mice were off the menu.
Though I knew that Malta’s prosperous tuna ranchers wouldn’t enjoy being told they were making their precious fish extinct, the fury of their reaction took me by surprise. Were the figures right? What business did we British have in talking about banning trade in tuna? What about banning trade in north Atlantic cod, eh? Eh? I remember shouting back, “Sit down, shut up and I’ll answer your questions,” but the Maltese tuna men were not in the mood to listen.
I cast my mind back a year, to one of the film’s first screenings, held for schoolchildren at the Sundance film festival in Utah. The opening question had a stunning directness: “When I’m your age, will there still be fish in the sea?” I only wished the teenager who asked it could have seen my Maltese audience. It would have shown him what we’re up against.
LOW-BUDGET documentary features don’t usually get this kind of reaction, but The End of the Line — a film based on my 2004 book of that name — is no ordinary documentary. It is a wake-up call about the decline of the world’s wild fish catches, alerting viewers to the imminent eradication of one of the planet’s great species, and showing them what can be done to stop it.
The bluefin tuna has been around for 400m years. An astonishing fish, it accelerates faster than a sports car and migrates across whole oceans. Unfortunately, its rich, marbled flesh has become one of the most prized delicacies on earth. In the past decade its population has fallen 60% through rampant illegal fishing. The stock is now on the verge of collapse and the WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) predicts that bluefin spawners will be virtually eradicated by 2012.
Although the bluefin is recognised as an endangered species — alongside the giant panda and the white rhino — large specimens continue to fetch thousands of pounds at auction and it is still served in restaurants across the world. Quotas limit the catch but scientific experts on population renewal rates point out these quotas have been set far too high and are, in any case, widely ignored and unenforced. Only last month, an attempt to give bluefin tuna real protection by bringing in an international trade ban failed spectacularly when signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species at Doha, Qatar, voted overwhelmingly against it. The night before the vote, the Japanese delegation threw a banquet for favoured guests. The pièce de résistance? Bluefin tuna sushi.
My own understanding of what has been happening to fish in the sea began, improbably, on a riverbank in Wales, many miles inland, where I caught a 23lb salmon. It was one of the last of a run of big spring fish that has now virtually died out. For all my pride at landing such a catch, I felt guilty because I discovered that the spring run had almost certainly declined, there and elsewhere, as a result of angling alone. If an angler could overfish a species with a fly or a spinner, I wondered, what was happening in the sea, where they used enormous trawls, long-lines and giant purse seine nets? As a journalist specialising in the environment, I decided to learn more and publish my findings in a book.
I BEGAN my journey in the once-great flatfish port of Lowestoft, in Suffolk, where the biggest employer is now the fisheries lab, set up to ensure there would always be fish to catch. I went to Bonavista in Newfoundland, where catching a cod attracts a fine of $500 and where the locals, subsidised not to fish, long only to return to their trawlers. I watched the last bluefin tuna of the Mediterranean being rounded up illegally by purse seiners and spotter aircraft because of negligent enforcement. And I went to Dakar, in Senegal, where one of Africa’s most productive marine ecosystems is being mined out by subsidised European fleets. I also saw vast ships catching blue whiting in unsustainable quantities to be turned into fishmeal for salmon farms.
My journey taught me that we face a choice. Do we go with the rare examples of good, sustainable practice: the dazzling marine reserves of New Zealand, or the way fishing is regulated in Iceland or in the United States’ waters in Alaska? Or do we go on as we are and leave our grandchildren with nothing wild to eat but jellyfish and plankton?
THE book’s questions seemed to strike a chord — reviews were favourable, sales encouraging — but it was only when I joined up with the director Rupert Murray and the producers Claire Lewis, Christopher Hird and George Duffield to turn the book into a documentary that things really started to take off.
I have mercifully forgotten most of the process of making the film, how we all fell out with each other at least once during the two-year process of filming and editing and how our New York publicists got paid the most for doing the least. Now I mainly remember the redeeming moments, such as the day when we had run out of money with only half the film shot and George Duffield, our co-producer and fundraiser, rang up and asked which country I was in. He had been offered $600,000 by the foundation of Ted Waitt, the Gateway computer founder, but the deal had to be tied up within 48 hours.
Independent film-making is a roller-coaster ride. Ted Danson, our Hollywood narrator, said yes first time, charged nothing and has tirelessly supported the film. A big Hollywood studio talked to us for months about distributing the film across Europe and then backed out. Instead, we had to distribute it ourselves, which in Britain turned out to be an extraordinary success after Stephen Fry and Sarah Brown came to the launch and tweeted about it.
When Julian Metcalfe, founder of the sandwich chain Pret A Manger, saw it he undertook to serve only tuna caught by selective methods. Several influential customers of the Japanese restaurant chain Nobu — including Ben and Kate Goldsmith, Zac Goldsmith, Colin and Livia Firth — called on its owner and chef to drop bluefin from his menus. The actress Greta Scacchi lent her glamorous figure to the enterprise, posing naked with an enormous cod, and followed up this act of courage by joining me on a visit to the fisheries minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, who soon announced his support for a bluefin trade ban.
Support for a ban rolled in — thanks to our other big benefactor, Erica Knie of the marine environmental campaign group MarViva — from Kofi Annan and Javier Solana, the former secretaries-general of the United Nations, the actor Michael Douglas and, thanks to to the US and Madrid-based group Oceana, the narrator of our Spanish-language version, the singer and ocean activist Miguel Bosé. The film was screened at Clarence House, No 10 Downing Street, the department of the environment and in Brussels, where I debated reform with the fisheries commissioner, Joe Borg, who is Maltese. We went on to screen it at the UN general assembly and at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas meeting in Recife, Brazil.
Suddenly we had 10,000 friends on Facebook, a virtual army of people angry about our destruction of the sea. Somewhere along the way we had become campaigners. Somehow, we had done what environmental groups had failed to do before: we had made people care about fish in the same way as they do about other animals. And we had become a force that European politicians could not ignore.
ALL that people power cried out to be harnessed. We decided to focus on white-tablecloth restaurants, where so many of the endangered fish are eaten. We set up a restaurant review website, fish2fork, that ranked restaurants on the sustainability of what they served. About 15% of the restaurants we reviewed changed their menus as a result and Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons put his sourcing policy for fish online.
Two of the producers, George Duffield and Chris Gorell Barnes, started thinking even bigger. The film says that according to UN law, the sea belongs to us citizens, so why shouldn’t we claim it back? Why not raise money from citizens with interests in the sea, from yachtsmen to divers, shipping lines, retailers and even oil and gas companies?
The idea of a foundation crystallised rapidly after David Miliband, the foreign secretary, announced proposals to make everything within a 200-mile radius around a bunch of obscure islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean into the largest marine reserve in the world. We knew there were obstacles, but we also knew the benefit a marine reserve would bring to the reefs of the Chagos archipelago and the Indian Ocean.
However, the British government would not have the money to police a reserve. So I urged George and Chris to use their idea of a foundation — to be called the Blue Marine Foundation — to raise the money.
A week after our confrontation in Malta, I went to Doha for the culmination of our bluefin campaign, the three-yearly summit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. We had high hopes: the EU and the United States had confirmed their support for a bluefin trade ban, and wasn’t this a tribute to the power of the case made in our film? Yes and yes.
But they did nothing to back this with diplomacy — until too late. Though Norway, a fishing nation, accepted the opinion of a specially convened panel of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation that the bluefin had declined so far that it met the criteria for a trade ban, other influential fishing nations, such as South Africa and Australia, had not been persuaded and were worried about the precedent that might be set for stocks of other fish in their waters.
Japan, the world’s hungriest bluefin customer, had clearly worked for months to nourish their fears and, when the vote was held, we suffered a crushing defeat.
We had not failed utterly, however. We never thought at the outset that we would get as far as persuading the EU and America to back a bluefin trade ban. And even though that proposal has been defeated, Monaco might bring the proposal back again in three years’ time. That, in turn, will keep up the pressure on Japan. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean countries will be under new pressure to agree science-based quotas and crack down on illegal fishing. Doha was a setback, though one that made our film sadly even more relevant than before.
Then the phone rang. It was George Duffield. He said: “We’ve got the money.” The Blue Marine Foundation had just received the promise of several million pounds to help to create the largest marine reserve in the world, provided the British government could iron out the diplomatic problems. The funding would make it possible to throw out the tuna fleets that fish in those waters.
There is more to do — persuading people to avoid eating endangered fish, getting the film distributed in China and Japan, which the message does not yet seem to have reached. But our little army of the converted is growing daily ... and it does look, finally, as though someone is listening.
Ocean Giants worth up to $100,000 each
Bluefin tuna are remarkable creatures, able to dive to 3,000ft and migrate thousands of miles each year across the ocean. Since the second world war, industrialised fishing techniques and growing fleets of large fishing vessels have steadily reduced the population of these ocean giants, bringing them precariously close to collapse. Only about 41,000 reproductively mature bluefin are left in the western Atlantic, down from about 222,600 in 1970.
Biology Atlantic bluefin tuna can live for 40 years, grow to 14ft long and weigh up to 1,600lb. They have two known spawning grounds — the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean. Their annual return to these regions makes protection of spawning areas an urgent priority.
Older and larger female fish produce more eggs than younger ones. A 15- to 20-year-old spawning female produces up to 45m eggs, whereas a five-year-old may produce only 5m. So protection of these giant females is extremely important for the future of the species.
History Archeological evidence shows that humans have hunted bluefin tuna since the 7th century BC.
The Romans and Phoenicians fished for it with traps and hand lines. Fishing practices remained essentially unchanged and relatively few of the fish were taken until the 20th century, when the introduction of canning technology created high demand for bluefin tuna.
Fishermen, driven by the potential for higher profits, began using larger purse seines, harpoons and longer open-ocean fishing lines. Since the introduction of sonar, radar and spotter planes, commercial fishing has caught bluefin tuna faster than nature can replace them.
In the 1980s, the Japanese market for sushi and sashimi exploded, driving the value of these fish even higher. The largest fish are exported directly to Japan for sale; others are caught for tuna farms in the Mediterranean. Here juvenile bluefin tuna are raised to a marketable size and larger bluefin tuna are held for a few months to increase the fat content in their flesh to command a higher market value. Prime bluefin tuna can sell for more than $100,000 per fish.
Unfortunately, these “farms” don’t breed the fish; they just enhance the value of ones caught by fishermen.

Sir John Chilcot in MoD lobbying row

Jonathan Leake and Chris Hastings

SIR John Chilcot, chairman of the Iraq war inquiry, successfully lobbied the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to drop its opposition to a lucrative £150m wind farm project of which he is a director.
Chilcot was among a group of three of the company’s directors who met MoD officials in a private home in London in January 2009. The MoD was blocking the whole scheme because it said the 410ft high turbines would interfere with military radar.
Chilcot, who is a non-executive director of the company, was appointed chairman of the Iraq inquiry on June 15, 2009. Two weeks later, on July 1, the MoD formally dropped its opposition. A public inquiry is due to reopen on Tuesday in Duns in the Scottish Borders.
The disclosure that Chilcot — who has a 1.1% shareholding in the company — has benefited from a policy U-turn by the MoD leaves him vulnerable to accusations of a potential conflict of interest. He has not declared his business links.

An MoD spokesman said: “The MoD has withdrawn its planning objection on the condition that North British Windpower provides a technical solution to interference affecting local air defence radar.”
Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said he would write to the cabinet secretary, asking him if Chilcot should have flagged up his connection with the firm at the start of the inquiry.
As head of the inquiry, Chilcot is responsible for investigating the conduct of senior military and political leaders in the run-up to the war, as well as during the conflict and its aftermath.
Chilcot’s inquiry was intended to settle controversies surrounding the conduct of the Iraq war after previous inquiries were bedevilled by acrimony. The Hutton inquiry, which reported in 2004 on the circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly, the biological weapons expert, was dismissed as an “Establishment whitewash” after its findings exonerated the government.
In July of that year, the Butler inquiry, whose members included Chilcot, found there were serious flaws in the way the government used intelligence to justify its case for war.
Chilcot’s company, North British Windpower, wants to erect 48 turbines up to 410ft tall on a grouse moor belonging to the Duke of Roxburghe’s estate in the Lammermuir hills, southeast of Edinburgh. It would generate revenues of about £30m per year.
It would be one of the biggest such developments in Britain, but the changing stance of the MoD could be decisive in whether it goes ahead or not.
The scheme was recommended for rejection by a planning inspector in February 2008 because of MoD concerns that many of the turbines would interfere with radar systems at nearby Brizlee Wood air defence radar.
The report was not made public at this stage, but the results were given to the company, which then began lobbying the MoD to change its stance.
In 2009 there were “around half a dozen” meetings between North British Windpower and the MoD, according to Andrew Shaw, the firm’s managing director.
In January 2009, Chilcot, Shaw and Christopher Wilkins, its chairman, met with three officials at Wilkins’s London home.
Shaw confirmed Chilcot was present but said: “Sir John acted largely as an observer at the meeting he attended. He raised one or two points for the sake of clarification, but as far as the company was concerned I was the driving force at the meeting.”
“I had previously found the stance of the MoD bewildering and I wanted someone at the meeting like John who had not been involved in our previous dealings with them and who could provide a fresh perspective.”
The meetings achieved their goal. On July 22, 2009, it emerged that the MoD had formally withdrawn its opposition to the proposal.
The disclosure of Chilcot’s outside business dealings is the second potential embarrassment for the inquiry. In January it emerged that the military historian, Sir Lawrence Freedman, who sits on the Iraq war inquiry with Chilcot, had helped Tony Blair write a speech justifying military interventions.
Freedman wrote to Chilcot to make him aware of the potential conflict of interest on the day Jonathan Powell, Blair’s former chief of staff, was due to give evidence.
A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, which oversees the inquiry, said: “When appointed, panel members were required to disclose any conflict of interest with their appointment to the cabinet secretary. No such conflicts were reported.” He confirmed Chilcot had not declared his links with North British Windpower to his fellow committee members.
Chilcot declined to comment. His wife, Rosalind, said her husband was a sleeping member of the board, who had been in wind farms since they were “a very small egg”.
“John doesn’t use influence. He will not pull strings for anybody, not even me or his mother.”

US denies climate aid to countries opposing Copenhagen accord

Bolivia and Ecuador will be denied aid after both opposed the accord

Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent, Friday 9 April 2010 18.14 BST
The US State Department is denying climate change assistance to countries opposing the Copenhagen accord, it emerged today.
The new policy, first reported by The Washington Post, suggests the Obama administration is ready to play hardball, using aid as well as diplomacy, to bring developing countries into conformity with its efforts to reach an international deal to tackle global warming.
The Post reported today that Bolivia and Ecuador would now be denied aid after both countries opposed the accord. The accord is the short document that emerged from the chaos of the Copenhagen climate change summit and is now supported by 110 of the 192 nations that are members of the UN climate change convention.
"There's funding that was agreed to as part of the Copenhagen accord, and as a general matter, the US is going to use its funds to go to countries that have indicated an interest to be part of the accord," the state department envoy, Todd Stern, told the Washington Post. He said the decision was not "categorical", suggesting that other countries that opposed the accord could still get aid. Bolivia had originally been in line for $3m (£1.95m) in climate assistance and Ecuador for $2.5m under the State Department's original request to Congress for international climate aid, the Post reported.
Environmental organisations in Washington said they had been briefed that the State Department was contemplating such a step. According to their understanding, the Obama administration sees the Copenhagen accord and the promise of $30bn in climate aid for poor countries as combined package. Countries that oppose the deal, therefore, do not qualify for such funds.
However, Alden Meyer, the climate change director for the Union of Concerned Scientists, warned that such a policy risked further inflaming the tensions between the industrialised world and developing countries that have been a major obstacle to getting a deal.
"They are playing a pretty hard line," he said. "But it has the potential to be a counterproductive strategy. To cut off adaptation aid to countries suffering the impacts of climate change that are largely the result of past emissions from the US and other industrial countries risks making them look like the bad guys in a morality play. It is not a strategy that is going to play well in the developing world."
It could also expose America to further criticism that it is not doing enough to shoulder its share of climate aid. America has contributed slightly more than a billion to the fund, below its share.
At the Copenhagen summit last December, Bolivia had cast itself as a champion for the concerns of developing countries that they were being railroaded into an international agreement that would not do enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or protect the African and small island nations that will bear the brunt of climate change.
Bolivia joined Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua in formally opposing the accord. Ecuador did not issue such a statement but it is among the countries that have yet to formally endorse the accord. Some of those hold-outs are acutely vulnerable to climate change – such as the island state of Tuvalu which was outspoken in its opposition to the process of negotiation at Copenhagen. Others are fairly large emitters, such as Argentina.

The fight against eco-imperialism

It is not acceptable to use climate change as an excuse to limit growth in poor countries as the west's carbon emissions rise

Andrew Chambers, Sunday 11 April 2010 11.00 BST

Last Thursday the World Bank approved a £2.4bn loan to build a huge new coal-fired power station in South Africa. The issue has exposed the rift between two central international goals – alleviating poverty and preventing global warming. South African ministers claimed that the project was essential for their country's development, while a concerted environmental campaign lobbied international governments to block the scheme. Amid concerns about global warming, this question of development versus environment may become one of the most contentious international issues over the next few years.
Since the 1970s the green movement has acquired ever-greater prominence in international development. In the last decade, global warming concerns have refocused the emphasis of poverty reduction strategies away from development and towards the environment. This is portrayed as a win-win situation – where the interests of the local people are perfectly aligned with the interests of environmental campaigners. Sustainable technologies like wind turbines and solar panels improve the lot of the recipients while keeping their carbon emissions to a minimum. However, this approach has been criticised as a form of eco-imperialism – because western carbon considerations remain a limiting factor on developing world progress.
The Working Group on Climate Change and Development is a network of more than 20 NGOs including WWF, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Founded in 2004, its "central message is that solving poverty and tackling climate change are intimately linked and equally vital, not either/ors".
The group's most recent report lists the overarching challenges as (1) how to stop and reverse further climate change, (2) how to live with the degree of climate change that cannot be stopped and (3) how to design a new model for human progress and development that is climate-friendly. The makes fascinating reading – and is illuminating as to the ideological backdrop to development policy.
These environmental groups, while spanning quite a large spectrum, tend to demonstrate an affinity with the pro-rural socialist left. The report describes climate change as not just a threat but also an "opportunity" to re-think the entire global system. It challenges western notions of development and growth and, most starkly, concludes that "mere reform within the current global economic system will be insufficient" to tackle poverty in a carbon constrained future. Indeed, members of these groups often seem to embrace rural village life as representing a pre-industrial idyll which should be preserved.
Such romantic ideology therefore seeks to largely maintain the status quo – where the African poor are kept "traditional" and "indigenous". It's hard to disagree with Lord May, former president of the Royal Society in his observation that "much of the green movement isn't a green movement at all, it's political".
With poverty redefined in terms of the environment and infused with pro-rural socialism, large-scale projects to industrialise or modernise are not the priority – indeed, western-style development and modernisation are seen as part of the problem. Instead there is a self-limiting bottom-up approach which subsidises underdevelopment not as a transitionary phase but as an end goal.
To effectively sideline the development strategy that every western country has undertaken in raising living standards is remarkable. Indeed, while India and China have lifted at least 125m people out of slum poverty since 1990, over the same period 46 countries have actually got poorer – the large majority of them African states.
It would be too simplistic to prescribe the industrialisation and modernisation agenda pursued by India and China as a panacea for the problems of sub-Saharan Africa, and the Indian and Chinese policies have not been without adverse consequences. Nevertheless, it is a staggering achievement which demonstrates that poverty alleviation should be pursued through a developmental agenda.
The truth is that African poverty is not a result of global warming. It is likely that the poor will be disproportionately affected by global changes in temperature – but this is not a reason to limit development. It is development which will allow countries to better cope with the consequences of a changing climate. For example, the Netherlands is better prepared to build dams to protect its coastline from rising sea levels than Bangladesh. Those that will be hardest hit by global changes to temperature will be those who are most exposed to the vagaries of the environment now – the rural poor.
Environmental policies that seek to reinforce the rural status quo as a means of limiting carbon emissions may be of benefit to the developed world, but they are detrimental to the long-term ability of the poor to cope with climate change. The planned South African power plant at Limpopo exposes the collision between these different policy aims. With the country going to the World Bank for a £2.4bn loan, international governments have been forced to weigh up developmental advantage versus environmental damage.
South Africa suffers major power shortages and insists that a new plant is essential to the country's economic progress. Environmentalists are horrified that the plant will emit 25m tonnes of carbon per annum, and point out that much of the new electricity will be used by heavy industry. Despite a concerted lobbying campaign from environmental groups, the loan was approved on Thursday – albeit with abstentions from Britain, America and the Netherlands. A US treasury spokesman explained that the abstention was due to an "incompatibility with the World Bank's commitment to be a leader in climate change mitigation and adaption". Considering that the World Bank's first affirmed purpose is to alleviate poverty, we can see how pervasive the reframing of poverty in terms of environment has become.
It is up to the developed world to produce the technologies for cleaner energy and implement policies to significantly reduce carbon emissions. It is not acceptable to use global warming as a way of limiting growth in poor African countries when our own climate emissions continue to rise.
Environmental movements certainly have a role to play in highlighting ecological degradation and its impact on local people, and in some cases the interests of protecting the environment will be perfectly aligned with the needs of the local community. However, it is unacceptable for poverty reduction in the developing world to become a staging post for ideological battles lost elsewhere. We should embrace whatever methods provide the best outcome in alleviating poverty – whether that be new roads or airports, power stations or renewables. To do otherwise is to be guilty of the worst kind of eco-imperialism – where the poor are held back for the benefit of the rich.

Confidential document reveals Obama's hardline US climate talk strategy

Document outlines key messages the Obama administration wants to convey in the run-up to UN climate talks in Mexico in November

John Vidal in Bonn, Monday 12 April 2010 10.05 BST
A document accidentally left on a European hotel computer and passed to the Guardian reveals the US government's increasingly controversial strategy in the global UN climate talks.
Titled Strategic communications objectives and dated 11 March 2010, it outlines the key messages that the Obama administration wants to convey to its critics and to the world media in the run-up to the vital UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico in November. (You can read the document text below).
Top of the list of objectives is to: "Reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change." It also talks of "managing expectations" of the outcome of the Cancun meeting and bypassing traditional media outlets by using podcasts and "intimate meetings" with the chief US negotiator to disarm the US's harsher critics.
But the key phrase is in paragraph three where the author writes: "Create a clear understanding of the CA's [Copenhagen accord's] standing and the importance of operationalising ALL elements."
This is the clearest signal that the US will refuse to negotiate on separate elements of the controversial accord, but intends to push it through the UN process as a single "take it or leave it" text. The accord is the last-minute agreement reached at the chaotic Copenhagen summit in December. Over 110 countries are now "associated" with the accord but it has not been adopted by the 192-nation UN climate convention. The US has denied aid to some countries that do not support the accord.
The "take it or leave it" approach divided countries in Bonn this weekend and alienated most developing countries including China, India and Brazil who want to take parts of the accord to include in the formal UN negotiations. They say the accord has no legal standing and should not be used as the basis of the final legally binding agreement because it is not ambitious enough. It lacks any specific cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and sets a temperature rise limit of 2C, which critics say is too high to prevent serious harm to Africa and other parts of the world.
Last night Jonathan Pershing, lead US negotiator at the Bonn talks, said he "had no knowledge" of the document. But he endorsed one of its key messages. "We are not prepared to see a process go forward in which certain elements are cherry-picked. That was not the agreement we reached in Copenhagen," he said.
Text of the leaked document:
Strategic communications objectives
1) Reinforce the perception that the US is constructively engaged in UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change. This includes support for a symmetrical and legally binding treaty.
2) Manage expectations for Cancun – Without owning the message, advance the narrative that while a symmetrical legally binding treaty in Mexico is unlikely, solid progress can be made on the six or so main elements.
3) Create a clear understanding of the CA's standing and the importance of operationalising ALL elements.
4) Build and maintain outside support for the administration's commitment to meeting the climate and clean energy challenge despite an increasingly difficult political environment to pass legislation.
5) Deepen support and understanding from the developing world that advanced developing countries must be part of any meaningful solution to climate change including taking responsibilities under a legally binding treaty.
Media outreach
• Continue to conduct interviews with print, TV and radio outlets driving the climate change story.
• Increase use of off-the-record conversations.
• Strengthen presence in international media markets during trips abroad. Focus efforts on radio and television markets.
• Take greater advantage of new media opportunities such as podcasts to advance US position in the field bypassing traditional media outlets.
• Consider a series of policy speeches/public forums during trips abroad to make our case directly to the developing world.
Key outreach efforts
• Comprehensive and early outreach to policy makers, key stakeholders and validators is critical to broadening support for our positions in the coming year.
• Prior to the 9-11 April meeting in Bonn it would be good for Todd to meet with leading NGOs. This should come in the form of 1:1s and small group sessions.
• Larger group sessions, similar to the one held at CAP prior to Copenhagen, will be useful down the line, but more intimate meetings in the spring are essential to building the foundation of support. Or at the very least, disarming some of the harsher critics.

Going carbon neutral: California pours a foundation for cities to build on

Communities adapt with own brands of sustainability planning and conservation. From SolveClimate, part of the Guardian Environment Network

From SolveClimate, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Monday 12 April 2010 11.31 BST

State governments are beginning to set the stage for widespread climate action with emissions laws, energy efficiency rules and renewable energy standards, but the hands-on work of actually achieving carbon-neutral status is happening in cities.
Let's look at California as an example. The state is leading the nation down the green path overall, adopting statewide policies that encourage residents to reduce their carbon footprints and change their wasteful ways.
It is implementing the first-ever law that uses regulatory and market mechanisms to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions. AB 32, or the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, is expected to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. But that's only the start.
Another law, AB 375, sets GHG targets for different regions and connects land use with AB 32 goals by offering a roadmap for halting urban sprawl. Signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008, it encourages cities to adopt a general plan with a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) that requires new development to be near transit or clustered with existing development. Cities are not required to adopt the SCS, but only those that do will be eligible for a share of the state's $6 billion annual transportation budget. It also exempts qualifying smart-growth projects from the state's onerous environmental review process.
Faced with California's GHG mandate, many local governments have already implemented green building standards for public and commercial projects, as well as programs designed to conserve resources and reduce waste and GHG emissions.
Santa Monica, Pasadena and Los Angeles, for example, have adopted "green" building ordinances that require new and renovated public and commercial buildings to meet criteria for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver rating.
Attorney Elizabeth Watson, a partner at the Los Angeles law firm Greenberg Luster, which specializes in land use, notes that cities started by imposing LEED standard on themselves before requiring them in the private sector. She predicts that local governments will eventually require existing buildings to be upgraded to sustainable standards, too.
Los Angeles has already begun sustainable retrofits on its own buildings, Watson notes. Once the city determines a sustainable upgrade is reasonable to expect, it is likely to make sellers upgrade buildings to LEED standards before changing hands.
This concept got a shot in the arm last year with California requiring building owners to disclosure a building's energy rating to prospective buyers and renters. While this policy is intended as a "buyer beware" statue, the state is using this information to create a database of building energy use.
The idea is that if building owners are forced to disclose this information periodically or when a property is sold or leased, they will upgrade the building's energy systems to improve marketability, says Toni Liou, a principal at Los Angeles-based Partner Energy, an energy consulting firm that works with building owners and users to improve a building's energy rating.
Updates to California's new Title 24 building energy efficiency standards, which came online Jan.1, also increased building energy performance standards, as well as water conservation and waste reduction requirements for all types of projects. For instance, 75% of water heated for swimming pools must be from solar, native plants must be used for landscaping, and 65% of waste must be recycled.
The state also was first to offer PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy), a municipal solar finance program that enables home and building owners to install solar energy without any upfront costs and repay the loan over 20 years with savings from electric bills. It launched the Million Solar Roofs Initiative, which provides $2.9 billion in incentives for home and building owners who install solar electric systems. It also increased the amount of excess electricity utilities must buy back from owners of rooftop solar systems. Its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) calls for 20 percent of California's energy to come from renewable energy sources by 2010.
Cities Lead the Way
While the states are laying the foundation for sustainability, it is forward-thinking cities that are the leading the way toward true zero-emissions development, in California and elsewhere.
Cities have the flexibility to lead because they have the greatest control over sustainability processes, explains Claire Bonham-Carter, a principal and director of Sustainable Development, Design and Planning in the San Francisco office of AECOM who is developing Climate Action Plans (CAPs) for several California cities.
San Francisco, Berkeley, Chicago, Seattle, Portland and Boulder have all developed Climate Action Plans that outline strategies to bring down greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change.
So far, Austin, Texas, is the only U.S. city that has formally committed to going carbon neutral, but a number of projects attempting to reach the same goal are under way or proposed. The economic downturn has created challenges for many, delaying some of their grandest plans, but projects are still in the works.
For example, Quay Valley is a proposed $25-billion, 13,172-acre new city of 150,000 people in central California that would produce all of its power with renewable energy technologies. That would include 100 solar arrays, wind turbines and geothermal to help with efficiency, according to Dustin Watson, a LEED-certified architect and vice president at Baltimore-based Developers Design Group, master planner for the project.
"We're starting to see clients like this one in California pushing the envelope," Watson says.
In New Mexico, Mesa del Sol, a 12,900-acre sustainable master-planned community under way south of Albuquerque, will utilize regionally available renewable energy resources to eventually power 37,000 residential units and 18 million square feet of commercial space.
In fact, developers plan to make alternative energy technology the community's primary economic driver and has already attracted two world-class solar energy companies. New Mexico is a national leader in alternative energy research, one of the highest concentrations of Ph.D.-level scientists in the nation. Both Sandia National Laboratory, just minutes from Mesa del Sol, as well as Los Alamos National Laboratory are focused on sustainable energy research.
The federal government is also moving forward. The largest net-zero commercial building in the nation is under way in Golden, Colo. The $64-million, 218,000-square-foot building home for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a unit of the U.S. Department of Energy, will consume so little energy that it won't need to draw a single electron from the grid.
According to project manager Eric Telesmanich, this high-performance, LEED platinum building will attain net-zero status through conservation and alternative energy production. The goal is to limit energy use to no more than 32,000 BTUs per square foot a year, so that the one-megawatt solar array on the NREL campus meets all the building's energy requirements. The typical commercial building in Colorado requires 65,000 BTUs per square foot annually.
Getting to Net Zero
Getting to net zero energy requires a closed-loop system, where everything onsite is used to produce energy, which is the way energy production is going in future, notes Dustin Watson.
"What it boils down to is the most cost-effective way to get there," he says, pointing out that the process begins with the free stuff, like taking advantage of natural breezes and daylighting, then applies conservation to decrease demand, and lastly introduces technologies for onsite energy production.
Ideally, each community someday will operate on its own micro-grid system that derives energy from different sources, so that when one system has downtime the others pick up the slack, he explains. "It would be great if everyone's house produced its own energy, and whatever isn't used goes on a local grid for use by other buildings.
"There's lots of possibilities out there for the future. It's an exciting time to be in this business," he adds. "Things are happening so fast, it's a full job just keeping up."

Bonn climate talks: picking up the pieces after Copenhagen

Negotiators have been examining which elements of the Copenhagen accord could be salvaged and turned into a binding global deal in Mexico

Saleemul Huq, Monday 12 April 2010 12.24 BST
Over the last three days in Bonn, climate change negotiators from around the world met for the first time since the fiasco of last December's conference in Copenhagen. It wasn't the happiest of reunions.
As representatives of the 192 countries that are party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), they had a messy task.
Copenhagen had ended in chaotic scenes. Two years of intense negotiations were due to end there with a global agreement on how to tackle climate change.
But these talks and the process that ran them were swept aside in the final hours as heads of states from a handful of countries met in secret and cobbled together an alternative text – the Copenhagen accord – which said little and did not legally bind any countries to act.
In the end, the parties to the UNFCCC merely "noted" the existence of the accord, as some were utterly opposed to it.
While almost everyone agreed that Copenhagen was a failure, different countries and negotiating blocks differ on who or what to blame. What is certain is that Copenhagen generated a huge level of mistrust between the developed and developing countries.
The aim of the negotiators who met in Bonn at the weekend was to pick up the broken pieces of the Danish meeting and see what could be salvaged and turned into a proper global agreement at the next UNFCCC conference, in Cancun, Mexico in December.
The United States seems to be the only country that still sees the Copenhagen accord as having a life of its own. Almost all the rest, including countries that have "associated" themselves with the accord have insisted that the UNFCCC remains the only agreed decision-making forum.
Hence the discussions in Bonn revolved around which bits of the accord could be brought into the UNFCCC and how.
The Bonn talks were mainly about procedures - for example, which texts to start with, how many meetings to hold before Cancun, whether to mandate the chair to prepare draft text, and so on - but there was also much informal stocktaking about which pieces could be put together by Cancun.
While some countries continued to call for an all-or-nothing approach, most feel that it is more realistic to aim for a number of less ambitious, partial agreements on several elements. These include ways to transfer climate-friendly technologies and funds for adaptation to climate change from rich to poorer countries, as well as a deal that would compensate countries for keeping their forests intact.
This would mean delaying the more difficult decisions on ambitious targets for countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and an overall legally binding agreement to the conference in South Africa at the end of 2011 or beyond.
But to achieve even the smaller agreements negotiators will need to hold Copenhagen's broken shards together with the "glue" of money.
So throughout 2010 the climate change talks are likely to focus on finance, and particularly the billions that the developed countries pledged to provide to developing nations at the end of the Copenhagen meeting. This includes the so-called "quick start" pledge of US$30bn of "new and additional" funding as well as the longer term financing of US$100bn a year from 2020 onwards.
The deciding factor in whether anything at all can be achieved in Cancun will be the means of monitoring, reporting and verifying who gives how much and how these funds are delivered.
Some developed countries already seem to be double-counting old pledges as well as raiding overseas aid budgets, which are meant for development, not tackling climate change.
This could end up causing more distrust instead of fostering the badly needed restoration of trust between developed and developing countries. Some developed countries seem to think that developing countries will take whatever they are offered on the basis that "beggars can't be choosers".
They do not seem to realise that, unlike overseas aid, any payments pledged under the UNFCCC are treaty obligations. Such payments, especially for adaptation to climate change in poor and vulnerable developing countries, are perceived not as charitable aid but as compensation to the victims of pollution according to the "polluter pays" principle.
They will soon find out that beggars can indeed be choosers.
• Saleemul Huq is senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development