1.1. Hot air at UN to curb global warming a success
8 September 2008, UN
Hot air at the United Nations has been so successful that more is on the way.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised the temperature in offices at U.N. headquarters by 5 degrees during August and announced he would be wearing lighter suits.
Many male staff members doffed their jackets and ties while women chose sleeveless attire as thermostats went up from 72 to 77 degrees in offices and 72 to 75 degrees in conference rooms.
U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said Monday the experiment — dubbed "Cool U.N." — saved the equivalent of 710 round-trip trans-Atlantic flights.
"The initiative saved about 30 million pounds of steam, which translates into the equivalent of 2,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide," she said.
Carbon dioxide is the main industrial gas blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse and causing global warming.
"In view of these concrete results, the secretary-general has decided to expand the Cool U.N. initiative … until Sept. 15," Montas said.
That means some 4,500 U.N. staffers working in the glass-walled 39-story Secretariat building overlooking New York’s East River will sweat it out for another week.
The experiment will end, however, before world leaders descend on the United Nations for their annual ministerial meeting the week of Sept. 22.
1.2. Adapt or die
11 September 2008, The Economist
Environmentalists have long said the world should concentrate on preventing climate change, not adapting to it. That is changing
“I USED to think adaptation subtracted from our efforts on prevention. But I’ve changed my mind,” says Al Gore, a former American vice-president and Nobel prize-winner. “Poor countries are vulnerable and need our help.” His words reflect a shift in the priorities of environmentalists and economists.
For years, greens said adaptation—coping with climate change, rather than stopping it—was a bit like putting out a fire on the Titanic: desirable, no doubt, but the main thing was to change course. In July, however, a committee of America’s Senate set aside $20m for international adaptation efforts. That was peanuts; and nothing will come of it anyway because there is no comparable legislation in the House of Representatives. But it was the first time American legislators had showed willingness to put money into global efforts at coping. In June, the United Nations hammered out the details of how to control spending of the first carbon tax earmarked for international adaptation.
Two things have changed attitudes. One is evidence that global warming is happening faster than expected. Manish Bapna of the World Resources Institute, a think-tank in Washington, DC, believes “it is already too late to avert dangerous consequences, so we must learn to adapt.”
Second, evidence is growing that climate change hits two specific groups of people disproportionately and unfairly. They are the poorest of the poor and those living in island states: 1 billion people in 100 countries. Tony Nyong, a climate-change scientist in Nairobi, argues that people in poor countries used to see global warming as a Western matter: the rich had caused it and would with luck solve it. But the first impact of global warming has been on the very things the poorest depend on most: dry-land agriculture; tropical forests; subsistence fishing. In a recent paper* for the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington DC, Robert Mendelsohn of Yale University estimates that African farmers on rain-fed land will lose $28 per hectare per year for each 1°C rise in global temperatures. Global warming erodes coastlines, spreads pests and water-borne diseases and produces more erratic weather patterns.
The victims share two characteristics. They are too poor to defend themselves by expensive flood controls or sophisticated public-health programmes. And (unlike China or Brazil) their own carbon footprints are tiny. Kirk Smith, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, calls climate change the world’s biggest regressive tax: the poorest pay for the behaviour of the rich.
The new focus on adaptation shows itself in a slew of private- and public-sector projects. A private Australian company called New Forests cleans up degraded land in South-East Asia, creates “biodiversity conservation certificates” and sells them to big firms which want to be greener. Swiss Re is designing new kinds of subsidised insurance to help poor farmers in a dozen African countries guard against some of the impacts of climate change, creating innovative climate-risk indices and weather derivative contracts. Dozens of small firms advise big ones on cutting their carbon footprints; although most aim at reducing emissions, a few invest in reforestation, soil protection and the like.
On the public-sector side, rich-country governments are levying new taxes and using the revenues for global poverty-reduction and adaptation. France, for example, imposes a tax on international flights of between €1 and €40 per seat, using the money for HIV/AIDS in Africa. Some environmentalists want a similar tax on all international flights to help adaptation. Countries are creating adaptation funds by auctioning rights to pollute under cap-and-trade arrangements. A fifth of the money raised by the European Union’s emissions-trading scheme—forecast at over $2 billion a year by 2020—is supposed to go on climate-change efforts including, as the scheme says, “developing countries’ adaptation”. A bill proposed this year in America’s Senate would have generated $10 billion-20 billion a year after 2025. The bill failed but similar steps have the backing of both Barack Obama and John McCain.
Most important, a United Nations conference in Bali last December set up what is essentially a global tax on carbon, with the money to be spent by an international body. Under the Kyoto protocol, companies in rich countries that have signed the climate accords can finance reductions in emissions by private firms in developing nations. In return, rich-country companies can offset a portion of their own (capped) emissions. These company-to-company deals produce “carbon credits” which have a value and can be traded. In June, it was agreed that 2% of that value (forecast at up to $950m by 2012) will go into an adaptation fund controlled by donors and recipients. About $100m-worth of these credits are already in the bank.
So adaptation is becoming a proper business. As it does so, however, it encounters a host of problems.
To begin with, the money involved is just a puff of smoke. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest the cost of coping with climate change is in the tens of billions a year for poor countries (see table). The total pledged to date (cumulatively, not per year) is $300m, of which just 10% has actually been spent. China says rich countries should allocate 0.5% of their national incomes in official aid to help developing countries adapt. But most rich countries are failing to fulfil earlier promises to increase aid for other reasons, so that looks like a non-starter.
The discrepancy means poor countries will end up bearing most of the burden themselves. China has a national climate-change programme with an elaborate series of targets and exhortations to cope. Bangladesh this year put $50m into a national adaptation fund and invited rich countries to add of their plenty. But this sort of thing is much easier for giants like China or large countries like Bangladesh, than it is for poorer Mali or tiny Maldives.
With more problems than money, there will—as always—be a fight over the spoils. Rich countries may concede the poor are harder hit and need help, but once there is a pot of money, they too will want a share. For an American administration, rebuilding the levees of New Orleans (an adaptation programme) will take precedence over projects in Africa or the Caribbean.
Even if poor countries do get help, there are bound to be fights over how to use it. In general, says Saleemul Huq of the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, most adaptation spending should go on what countries are doing anyway—irrigation, drought-resistant seeds and so forth. But that leaves plenty of room for disputes.
If sea levels go up, do you build sea walls or rehouse people? If infectious diseases are rising, do you spend money trying to eradicate the worst ones, like malaria, or on health and nutrition in general? The latter makes sense but most donors concentrate on single-disease efforts. George Soros, a financier who runs a chain of philanthropic organisations, says that in their experience, few people in poor countries have a clear idea about climate change and how to cope with it.
Lastly, the international arrangements that might help sort out some of these disputes are a shambles. Among developing countries, most negotiations on climate change (as on everything else) are led by the big three: China, India and Brazil. But they are large polluters themselves and their interests differ from very poor states and islands. Angus Friday, Grenada’s ambassador to the UN who speaks for island states there, says the states most vulnerable to climate change are least able to participate effectively in climate-change talks.
The poorest lose out in another way. When industrial polluters in emerging markets cut emissions, they are rewarded through Kyoto. But the poorest are not rewarded for the big contribution they could make towards reducing emissions, which is the better management of tropical forests. That is because forests were excluded from Kyoto, to the chagrin of the poor.
Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland and UN high commissioner for human rights, says that there should be a “rights-based” approach to climate change, meaning poor countries should have some redress under international law for the environmental costs they suffer. This seems like a recipe for alienating rich countries. But it reflects a growing impatience. As the costs of climate change bear down on the poor, so their demands grow that rich countries, which caused most of the problems, should help them cope.
2.1. Nuclear´s Great Expectations
11 September 2008, IAEA
The IAEA has revised upwards its nuclear power generation projections to 2030, while at the same time it reported that nuclear´s share of global electricity generation dropped another percentage point in 2007 to 14%. This compares to the nearly steady share of 16% to 17% that nuclear power maintained for almost two decades, from 1986 through 2005.
In its 2008 edition of Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period to 2030, the IAEA expects global nuclear power capacity in 2030 to range from a low case scenario of 473GW(e), some 27% higher than today´s 372 GW(e), to a high case scenario of 748 GW(e), i.e., double today´s capacity.
"Over the last five years projections have gone up for several reasons," said Hans-Holger Rogner, Head of the IAEA´s Nuclear Energy Planning and Economic Studies Section.
"Performance has improved greatly since the 1980s, and the safety record of the types of reactors on the market today is excellent. In addition, the average load factor of the global reactor fleet has increased from 67% in 1990 to more than 80% since early 2000. Rising costs of the dominant alternatives, particularly natural gas and coal, energy supply security and environmental constraints are also factors that are contributing to nuclear´s appeal."
The report´s projections reflect major expansion plans that are under way in key countries like China and India, and new policies and interest in nuclear power that are emerging in countries like the UK and USA.
But while projections for nuclear power´s future rose, its share of the world´s electricity generation today dropped from 15% in 2006 to 14% in 2007.
"The reason is that while total global electricity generation rose 4.8% from 2007 to 2008, nuclear electricity actually dropped slightly," Rogner commented.
The main reason that nuclear generation dropped was an earthquake in western Japan on 16 July 2007, which shut down all seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant – the seven units total 8.2 GW(e), almost one sixth of Japan´s nuclear capacity. There were also several other unusual outages and reductions experienced in Korea and Germany. Finally, the increases in the load factor for the current fleet of reactors appear to have plateaued.
According to the IAEA´s 2008 high projection, growth in nuclear generation will match the 3.2% per year growth in overall generation, and nuclear power´s share therefore will hold steady at 14%. In the low projection, overall electricity growth is lower, but nuclear power´s growth is lower still, and by 2030 nuclear power´s share of global electricity is projected to drop to about 12.5%.
3.1. EC mulls proposals to set emissions limit for new EU power plant
10 September 2008, Platts
The European Commission is willing to look further into proposals from European Parliament members to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plant, a senior commission official said late Tuesday.
"The commission could turn to its Joint Research Center to assess what the thresholds proposed by the parliament [members] would mean in practice for operators," the commission’s energy and environment unit head in its environment department, Piotr Tulej, told the parliament’s environment committee.
The comment came during a debate on the commission’s January draft proposal for an EU law on carbon capture and storage, to which environment committee members have proposed more than 400 amendments.
The commission proposed in January that all combustion power plant of 300 MW or more developed after the law enters into force must be CO2 "capture-ready"–that is, able to retrofit to capture and store CO2 at some
But several committee members, including UK center party MEP Chris Davies who as rapporteur is responsible for guiding the parliament’s debate on the draft law, have proposed setting new power plant an emissions limit of
"We don’t need a Joint Research Center study," said Davies. "350gCO2/kWh would prevent all but the most modern gas plant being built."
Davies said that EU governments could be given the option to opt out of the emissions limits "as long as they were on track to meet their emissions targets in other ways."
The commission has proposed binding national 2020 emission reduction targets for each of the 27 EU countries. In total, and combined with a separate target for the EU emissions trading scheme (which covers the power
sector), these targets would see the EU cut its total emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.
The aim of an emissions limit for new power stations, said Dutch Green MEP Kathalijne Maria Buitenweg, was to keep the technology options open and not restrict them to carbon capture and storage.
A separate amendment from UK centre-right MEP John Bowis proposing a 500gCO2/kWh limit would exclude new coal and oil plant without carbon capture and storage, said Bowis. "Coal and oil wouldn’t meet it without capturing 90% of their emissions."
The committee is due to vote on the amendments on October 7, with the parliament in full expected to vote on the committee’s final recommendations in December.
The commission, parliament and the EU Council, representing the 27 EU governments, have to agree on a common text before the draft law can enter into force.
3.2. Greenpeace convoy drives low-emissions message to MEPs
8 September 2008, Greenpeace
Brussels, Belgium — A Greenpeace ‘low-emissions convoy’ will take to the streets of Brussels at noon today, showcasing car models that already meet the EU’s emissions target of CO2 per km. The convoy of eight cars, which will stop on Place Luxembourg, outside the European Parliament(1), illustrates that low emission models are already available and cost-effective for a number of leading carmakers, refuting manufacturers’ claims that they need more time to comply.
"All of the cars here today are on sale now and their emissions are well below the EU targets that car manufacturers want to delay by three years to 2015," said Melanie Francis, Greenpeace International transport campaigner. "These cars are proof that the industry is just stalling for time to keep profits high and continue business as usual."
The convoy coincides with the publication of a Greenpeace report, ‘Off track: inflated claims of the car industry,’ which shows that the financial and social costs of compliance with environmental rules have repeatedly been overestimated by the car industry. A new Greenpeace manual, ’10 easy steps to cut car emissions’ also presents existing technological solutions to reduce emissions. It shows that scrapping the two largest engines for each model would lead to a 10-12% reduction in average fleet fuel consumption.
Proposed emission standards for cars are under attack from the car industry, which says it needs more time to bring down car emissions and cannot comply within the deadline proposed. Heavy lobbying by the industry has meant that the European Parliament’s Industry Committee supported these demands in an opinion on 1 September.
"This legislation is aimed at accelerating CO2 reductions in the car sector, following the failure of the industry’s voluntary commitments," said Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace EU transport campaigner. "Lawmakers are making themselves irrelevant if they do not require carmakers to take action ahead of 2012."
Greenpeace is calling on MEPs to vote for cleaner and efficient cars and to bring in the car emissions target in 2012.
4.1. Euro MPs vote to weaken EU biofuels target
11 September 2008, FOE Europe
Brussels, 11 September 2008 – Members of the European Parliament voted today to scale back the EU’s ambitious plans to expand the use of biofuels as a transport fuel following widespread environmental and social concerns. Friends of the Earth Europe called it a "welcome step in the right direction."
The MEPs supported proposals that would lead to 5% of transport fuels containing biofuels by the year 2015, followed by a major review into its impacts before any further increases. The proposals call for a move away from using food crops to produce transport fuels and also the encouragement of electric and hydrogen vehicles.
Adrian Bebb, Agrofuels Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The vote by the European Parliament recognises the serious problems associated with the large scale use of biofuels. This is a welcome step in the right direction but much still needs to be done. Using crops to feed cars is a false solution to our climate problems and could lead to irreversible loss of wildlife and misery for millions of people in the South."
MEPs also voted to increase the greenhouse gas savings from biofuels – demanding savings of at least 45%, rising to 60% by 2015, and to take into consideration indirect climate impact from converting land to grow biofuels.
4.2. Statement on renewables vote in European Parliament industry committee
11 September 2008, Greenpeace
Brussels, Belgium — Greenpeace welcomed today´s crucial vote on renewable energy legislation at the European Parliament as an encouraging step in the right direction. Members of Parliament (MEPs) have demonstrated resolve in supporting the broad uptake of clean renewable energy sources, but are only slowly putting the brakes on the rush towards unsustainable biofuels, the organisation said.
The industry committee of the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of binding renewable targets for each EU Member State and concrete measures to secure their achievement .
Frauke Thies, Greenpeace EU renewable energy campaigner, said: "An overwhelming majority of MEPs have today supported plans to make the EU´s 20% renewables target a reality and boost the contribution of clean energy in the fight against climate change.
"We are moving closer to the energy revolution in the fight against climate change. It´s now up to member states to seal the deal."
The committee took a critical stance on a sub-target to substantially increase the use of biofuels in road transport until 2020, calling for its profound review in 2014. The large-scale development of biofuels could cause serious negative impacts on the environment and people´s livelihoods, while its benefits to the climate are marginal at best.
"Today´s vote in the Parliament shows that the tide is finally turning against unsustainable biofuels, but we´re not home and dry yet," said Thies.
5.1. Seeking European Organizer for Fall Staff Position on Global Grassroots Climate Project
Intro: Join a small team working to build a global movement to stop global warming. We’re running an international campaign to unite the world around the number 350, and we need your help.
350.org launched in April 2008. It is a call to action, a call for ideas and energy, and a call to help revision what’s possible in the current climate debate. We’re working to empower, coordinate, and unify local and regional efforts across the globe, support efforts to spread this number–350, the upper limit for a safe level of co2 in the atmosphere measured in parts per million, and advocate for a bold, just, and rigorous international agreement on climate change. Please visit 350.org for more.
Job Description: Western European Field Coordinator, working in conjunction with the European Climate Foundation, 350.org European Coordinator Jeremy Osborn, Central/Eastern Europe Field Coordinator Judit Varga, as well as the rest of the 350.org team.
Who we are looking for: A bi- or multi-lingual organizer from Europe who is passionate about building a powerful grassroots climate movement. Good communication and leadership skills a must. An independent worker – self-starting and comfortable with internet communication, because the rest of the team will be spread around the world. A personable individual who likes to travel, meet people, work hard, and have fun doing their job.
Contributing your energy and enthusiasm for a global grassroots movement on climate change
Communicating with local organizers planning events with 350 in Western Europe and spreading 350 projects
Communicating in non-English language(s), possible role in translation
Developing contacts and partnerships with NGOs in Western Europe
Researching and developing organizing strategies for the project in Western Europe
Working out of European Climate Foundation offices in The Hague, Netherlands.
Position running through December of 2008, with potential continuation in 2009.
Salary to be determined.
Paid travel, including to Poland for UNFCCC meeting in Poznan November 29 – December 15 with the 350.org team.
Contact us for more details: [email protected]
Deadline for Application: September 25, but please indicate interest early, and send along a resume and cover letter describing your interest in the project.
6.1. EU Climate & Energy Package: WWF position paper on climate & EU employment
6.2. Europeans’ attitudes towards climate change
Eurobarometer – report
7.1. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznañ, Poland – COP 14
The 14th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 14) will be held in conjunction with the 4th Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 4) in Poznañ, Poland, from 1 to 12 December 2008. The conference will also include the 29th sessions of the Convention’s two subsidiary bodies – SBSTA and SBI – as well as the 4th session of the AWG-LCA and the 2nd part of the 6th session of the AWG-KP.
More at: http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_14/items/4481.php
7.2. Third meeting of the Adaptation Fund Board
15-18 September, 2008
Disclaimer: We do not guarantee for the accuracy, reliability or content of information. For help or questions, contact: [email protected].