1.1. Ban asks private sector to join fight against climate change
30 October 2008 , NEWS X
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Thursday asked the private sector to pitch in to fight climate change by employing clean technologies and alternate renewable energy.
"With the growing relevance to clean and alternative sources of energy, I feel that private sector will play a prominent role by coming up with economically viable solutions to harness eco-friendly technologies and make it commercially viable," Ban said.
The General Secretary was addressing corporate heads of the country at a meet organised by Teri, which is led by eminent scientist RK Pauchari.
Talking about the world business community partnership with the UN on climate change, he stressed on the need to have a solid, strong trilateral partnership represented by United nations, business community and civil community.
"When we will have trilateral partnership we can address whole issues (of climate change)," he added.
Ban also talked about a UN campaign "Caring for Climate" where corporates, including many Indian companies, actively participate for the cause.
"They pool money to create technologies, share knowledge and work with a firm belief that the profit can be made through environmental friendly practises that will help in the growth of the economy," he underlined.
Exhorting the business honchos to join the initiative he said, "You will play an essential role in making viable options that you can pursue."
1.2. World’s first climate law is a victory for people power
29 October 2008 , FOE Europe
UK law ups pressure on EU and other European governments
Brussels/London, 29 October 2008 – The UK Parliament voted yesterday evening for the world’s first Climate Change Law upping the pressure on other European governments to legally commit to cut emissions and on the European Union to agree a strong climate and energy package.
The UK Climate Change Law has been hailed as a major victory for people power following a three and a half year Big Ask campaign by Friends of the Earth. Since the campaign was launched more than 200,000 people in the UK have emailed, written to or visited their MP to ask them to support a strong law.
The Big Ask campaign continues in 16 other European countries and at EU level. Friends of the Earth is demanding legally binding annual emission cuts across Europe to reach 40 per cent domestic cuts by 2020 and 100 per cent by 2050.
The UK Bill – which will be made law in November – will make the UK the first country in the world to commit to legally binding cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions. The bill commits the UK government to:
– reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050;
– set 5 year ‘carbon budgets’ which will put a limit on the quantity of emissions allowed by the UK within that period. In setting the carbon budgets the UK has to take the advice of a newly established Committee on Climate Change which includes scientific, environmental and economic expertise;
– set annual targets in the form of annual ranges (i.e. x plus or minus) in meeting the 5 year carbon budgets;
– to produce an action plan, to be reviewed by the Committee on Climate Change, and report annually to Parliament.
The longest running debate in the campaign for a Climate Change Law was on the inclusion of emissions from international aviation and shipping. The Government resisted the inclusion until a last minute change of heart following intense pressure from tens of thousands members of the public. The Law now includes emissions from international aviation and shipping.
But unfortunately the bill does not limit the amount the UK can ‘off-set’ by purchasing credits from outside Europe .
The European Big Ask campaign, which was launched in Brussels in February by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, has already registered notable successes. The pressure is growing for similar laws in many EU countries, for example in Finland where the parliament is discussing a draft climate law to reduce emissions by 5 per cent every year. At the
European level MEPs supported strong measures, including financial penalties for member states which do not reduce their emissions year by year, in its vote on ‘effort sharing’.
Friends of the Earth Europe climate campaigner Sonja Meister said: "This Climate Change Act in the UK is a world first and shows that people want their governments to take meaningful action on climate change. This sets a challenge to the EU. Ministers must not be allowed to water down the energy package. The UK should follow the ambitious lead it has taken at home at the European Council, and push others to follow."
Thom Yorke, Radiohead front man and supporter of The Big Ask, said: "When I helped launch the Friends of the Earth campaign for a climate change law just over 3 years ago we were still arguing with climate change sceptics.
"Now the UK will have the world’s first climate change law. And it came about simply because hundreds of thousands of people on the ground hassled their MP who in turn hassled the government. Amazing."
2.1. Wedding ceremony celebrates EU Commission’s love-in with big business
28 October 2008 , FOE Europe
Seattle to Brussels network campaigners  today (Tuesday 28th October) called on Trade Commissioner Baroness Ashton to end the unholy alliance between DG Trade and business lobby group BusinessEurope with a mock wedding celebration outside BusinessEurope’s Going Global conference event.
The ceremony took place outside the Charlemagne Building , the official home of DG Trade and the venue for BusinessEurope’s "Going Global" conference on the Global Europe Strategy of international trade. According to the Seattle to Brussels network, the conference reflects the close working relationship established between DG Trade and BusinessEurope over the Global Europe trade strategy, which has seen business interests prioritised over the needs of the world’s poor and the environment .
Olivier Hoedeman from Corporate Europe Observatory, a member organisation of the Seattle to Brussels network said:
"The Commission seems to be so intimately involved with business lobbyists that they have given them privileged access in putting together the Global Europe strategy. The result is a trade policy that prioritises big business at the expense of almost every other sector. It is the world’s poorest, the environment and society who are paying the price."
BusinessEurope’s involvement has also been criticised by Swedish MEP Jens Holm (GUE/NGL) who last week sent an open letter to the new trade Commissioner, Baroness Catherine Ashton, asking her to remove BusinessEurope’s conference from the Charlemagne building .
Campaigners say that with a new Commissioner in post, it is time for DG Trade and the Commission to break away from the undemocratic liaison with business lobbyists and to develop a more sustainable approach to trade.
Amélie Canonne from the Seattle to Brussels network said: "It is time to bring an end to the intimate liaison with big business that typified trade policy during Peter Mandelson’s time as Commissioner. It is damaging Europe and developing economies as well."
3.1. European Scientists: ‘Let’s Set Up A Global Solar Energy Grid’
25 October 2008 , ENN
The Europeans are serious about nanotechnology to wean countries off using fossil fuels in the next century. There´s considerable interest in setting up a solar grid that is global because the sun consistently shines on some part of the planet.
The technologies European scientists say are going to dominate the sustainable energy sector include Dye Sensitized solar Cells (DSCs) and biomimetics. These two technologies are popular because they show great promise for capturing or storing solar energy. At the same time, nanocatalysis already has begun to churn out efficient methods for energy-saving industrial processes convincingly.
The ground tone at the recent European Science Foundation conference about Nanotechnology for Sustainable Energy was overly clear about it; Europe is ready to accelerate development of nano technologies. The conference focused on solar rather than other sustainable energy sources such as wind, because that is where nanotechnology is most applicable and also because solar energy conversion holds the greatest promise as a long-term replacement of fossil fuels.
Solar energy can be harvested directly to generate electricity or to yield fuels such as hydrogen for use in engines. Such fuels can also in turn be used indirectly to generate electricity in conventional power stations. "The potential of solar power is much, much larger in absolute numbers than that of wind," according to Professor Bengt Kasemo, who chaired the conference and who is attached to the Chalmers University of Technology.
A drawback of solar energy is that it -like wind energy- varies greatly across time and geography. That’s because it is confined to the daytime and less suitable for regions in higher latitudes, such as Scandinavia and Siberia . For this reason there is growing interest in the idea of a global electricity grid according to Kasemo.
"If solar energy is harvested where it is most abundant, and distributed on a global net (easy to say – and a hard but not impossible task to do) it will be enough to replace a large fraction of today’s fossil-based electricity generation," said Kasemo. "It also would solve the day/night problem and therefore reduce storage needs because the sun always shines somewhere."
Sources at the conference and independent organizations say that in the immediate future, solid state technologies based on silicon are likely to predominate the production (manufacture) of solar cells, but DSC and other "runners ups" are likely to lower costs in the long term, using cheaper semiconductor materials to produce robust flexible sheets strong enough to resist buffeting from hail for example.
Although less efficient than the very best silicon or thin film cells using current technology, their better price/performance has led the European Union to predict that DSCs will be a significant contributor to renewable energy production in Europe by 2020. The DSC was invented by a Swiss professor,Michael Grätzel, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at Lausanne , who was one of the speakers and vice chair at the ESF conference.
One key point to emerge from the ESF conference is that there will be growing choice and competition between emerging nanotechnology-based solar conversion technologies. "I think the important fact is that there is strong competition and that installed solar power is growing very rapidly, albeit from a small base," said Kasemo."This will push prices down and make solar electricity more and more competitive."
Some of the most exciting of these alternatives are biomimetics, which involves mimicking processes that have been perfected in biological organisms through eons of evolution. Plants and a class of bacteria, cyanobacteria, have evolved photosynthesis, involving the harvesting of light and the splitting of water into electrons and protons to provide a stream of energy that in turn produces the key molecules of life.
Photosynthesis can potentially be harnessed either in genetically-engineered organisms, or completely artificial human-made systems that mimic the processes, to produce carbon-free fuels such as hydrogen. Alternatively, photosynthesis could be tweaked to produce fuels such as alcohol or even hydrocarbons that do contain carbon molecules but recycle them from the atmosphere and therefore make no net contribution to carbon dioxide levels above ground.
Biomimetics could also solve the longstanding problem of how to store large amounts of electricity efficiently. This could finally open the floodgates for electrically-powered vehicles by enabling them at last to match the performance and range of their petrol or diesel-based counterparts.
Because in spite of all the excitement, the commercial realisation of biomimetic and other emerging technologies is still quite far off. But meantime nanotechnology has an important contribution to make, improving the efficiency of existing energy-generating systems during the transition from fossil fuels.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) presented a virus based type of solar electricity. The presentation by Angela Belcher showed the details of a type of virus that infects E.coli bacteria (a bacteriophage) capable of coating itself in electrically-conducting materials like gold. This can be used to build compact high capacity batteries, with the added advantage that it can potentially assemble itself, exploiting the natural replicating ability of the virus. The key to the high capacity in small space lies in the microscopic size of the nanowires constructed by the viruses – this means that a greater surface area of charge carrying capacity can be packed into a given volume.
3.2. European biofuels win last-minute reprieve
29 October 2008 , EUOBSERVER
The European Commission has amended its values for the amount of greenhouse gas emissions biofuels release so that certain fuels produced in Europe that previously would not have met new "green" thresholds approved by MEPs now meet them.
The change, based on new data from the commission’s researchers, car manufacturers and oil companies, is a convenient move for the European biofuels industry. Diplomats from EU member states are meeting today (29 October) to decide on a working document – seen by EUobserver – on the renewable energy directive that features the new figures and that the EU presidency will use as the basis for compromise negotiations on the legislation with the European Parliament.
When proposing the bill, the commission had initially suggested that in order to be included as part of a target that 10 percent of road fuels come from renewable sources, biofuels had to achieve a 35 percent savings in greenhouse gas emissions on what traditional fossil fuels would have emitted. This standard was low enough that a range of biofuels produced in Europe could meet it. However, the industry committee of the parliament in September more strictly demanded that biofuels achieve a 45 percent savings on fossil fuels immediately, and a 60 percent savings by 2015.At 45 percent, while fuels such as ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane would easily meet such sustainability critieria, a number of European biofuels, such as sugar beet ethanol, would not have met the cut-off.But in the new document, the commission has adjusted its original rules for calculating what exactly is the greenhouse gas impact of different biofuels, and sugar beet ethanol is in the clear once again. The commission has now submitted to diplomats updated figures from the Joint Research Centre, the automotive manufacturers’ association for research and development in Europe (EUCAR) and the oil companies’ European association of environment, health and safety in refining (CONCAWE).Sugar beet ethanol, which under the commission’s previous assessment using data also from these sources was found to have a greenhouse gas saving of 35 percent, is now found to have a savings of 52 percent.Some biofuels, such as ethanol produced from sugar cane and biogas from municipal organic waste, according to the new data have seen small reductions in their assumed greenhouse gas savings, but they already easily meet both the 45 and 60 percent targets. All other biofuels have seen increases in what the commission assumes are their greenhouse gas savings, or have remained the same.Environmentalists say that the figures may well be correct, as the industry may indeed have been able to squeeze out more efficiencies in their production methods, but they have no way of assessing the data, because the report from the JRC that compiles them is not open to scrutiny as it has not yet been published. This is unfair to the parliament, they say, because while MEPs cannot check the figures, they are already forming the basis of a presidency compromise.Additionally, argues Nusa Urbancic, of Transport and Environment – a Brussels-based NGO – it is unfair that the commission include fresh, unpublished data that favours the European biofuels industry "at the drop of a hat while they continue to refuse to incorporate scientific paper after scientific paper on the far more profound impact of indirect land-use change."Research, including the UK government’s review of biofuels policies, increasingly shows that when land that would have been used to grow food or animal feed is now used to produce fuel, the additional emissions – a process known as "indirect land-use change" – far outweigh any greenhouse gas savings."It is right that the EU takes on board the latest science regarding greenhouse gas emissions from biofuel production," she added, "but the fact that the commission and council are still ignoring the absolutely critical issue of indirect land-use change shows that they are being selective about the science they take on board. "The timing and lack of transparency surrounding these new figures raises serious questions about how the biofuel lobby has been able to influence the debate."
3.3. France to phase-out inefficient lamps from 2009
27 October 2008 , ENDS Europe DAILY 2644
French retailers signed a voluntary agreement with the government last week to phase-out the most inefficient light bulbs on the market from 2009. The deal is intended to implement a goal adopted as part of a consultation process on France ‘s future environmental policy (EED 06/05/08 ) and backed by French MPs last week (EED 22/10/08 ).
Under the agreement, three quarters of light bulbs sold by the retailers will have to be energy efficient by the end of next year. All 100-watt incandescent bulbs will be banned from June 2009, followed by 75-watt light bulbs in December. Lower wattage bulbs will be gradually phased-out between 2010 and 2012.
Several other EU countries are already taking or considering measures to phase-out incandescent light bulbs (EED 21/03/07 ; EED 25/06/08 ; EED 18/08/08 ). The European commission will this year propose to ban these products as part of measures on domestic lighting implementing the 2005 energy-using products (EuP) directive. EU energy ministers back a 2010 deadline (EED 13/10/08 ).
The French retailers’ initiative is expected to save eight terawatt hours of energy, according to the government. Incandescent light bulbs accounted for more than 80 per cent of total sales in France last year compared to only around 11 per cent for more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Their market share is expected to increase to 35 per cent by the end of 2010.
4.1. Emissions from land-use change must not be ignored
30 October 2008 , T&E
It is unfortunate, especially considering the millions of euros his company is spending on advertising its views on EU biofuel policy, that the president and CEO of Abengoa Bioenergy is apparently not aware of studies that calculate the impacts of land-use change (LUC) on lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from biofuel production (‘Truth about biofuels is not inconvenient’, 23-29 October).
According to its website, Abengoa Bioenergy is "currently one of the largest producers of bioethanol in the US ". So one such study, by Searchinger et al, published in the journal Science in February seems particularly relevant. "By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% saving, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years," he says.
The US government has passed a law that requires direct and indirect emissions from LUC to be included in calculations of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels. Europe is still lagging behind with a proposal to increase its volume target without accounting for indirect impacts in any way.
The European Parliament’s industry and environment committees have both wisely voted to reverse this stance and include a conservative correction factor that would apply in 2011, if a comprehensive methodology is not developed before. That approach follows the precautionary principle, which is a fundamental element of European law. Or as John Maynard Keynes put it: "It’s better to be approximately right [ie, with a correction factor] than to be precisely wrong [without one]." The impacts of biofuel production are occurring now, so we believe the correction factor should apply as soon as the directive comes into force.
T&E is not against biofuels per se. We simply argue that only those that bring genuine environmental benefits should be brought to market and rewarded for their environmental performance. That is why T&E and others have long argued to replace biofuel volume targets with a greenhouse gas reduction target for transport fuels. Accounting for land-use change must be absolutely central to the policy.
The following letter from Timothy Searchinger of Princeton University, author of the report cited above, was also published in this week’s edition of European Voice:
Ten major reports this year from international and European technical agencies have warned that using productive land to make biofuels competes with land needed to grow food and to store carbon and therefore risks both hunger and increases in greenhouse gases.
Productive land is already in short supply in a world that must produce roughly twice as much food by 2050 to feed a growing population and yet somehow reduce the large deforestation already occurring to do so. Biofuels are simply one way of taking advantage of the capacity of land to grow plants that remove carbon from the atmosphere – forest and food are others.
To assess whether biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions, any fair accounting must calculate not only the benefit of using this land for biofuels but also the cost. This cost is the carbon emitted directly by ploughing up forest or grassland to grow biofuels or indirectly to replace food diverted to biofuels.
This basic accounting principle represents an absolute consensus of such technical organisations as the International Energy Agency, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, the OECD, the European Commission’s Joint Research Committee, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Science Committee of the European Environmental Agency.
I therefore read with interest Javier Salgado Leirado’s letter ‘Truth about biofuels is not inconvenient’ (23-29 October) arguing that “certain biofuels” can avoid indirect land use change. His letter does not elaborate, but this statement is certainly true.
Biofuels from municipal and forest waste, and some crop residues provide excellent examples because these raw materials do not need to be replaced by clearing more land.
For the EU to encourage these kinds of good biofuels that do not compete with food and forest, the Union must enact policies that calculate the land use change resulting from different biofuels and therefore differentiate between them. The original biofuels directive proposed by the European Commission last January did not do so, but the European Parliament has improved on that proposal and its version would distinguish biofuels based on their land use change.
It is a pleasure that Leirado, who represents one of Europe ‘s largest biofuel producers, recognises the potential to pursue biofuels that do not compete with food and forest. It is now up to those crafting the final directive to ensure that it reflects this wisdom, differentiates biofuels by their land use change and encourages only those that avoid it.
5.1. Living Planet analysis shows looming ecological credit crunch
29 October 2008 , WWF
The world is heading for an ecological credit crunch as human demands on the world’s natural capital reach nearly a third more than earth can sustain.
That is the stark warning contained in the latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report, the leading statement of the planet’s health. In addition global natural wealth and diversity continues to decline, and more and more countries are slipping into a state of permanent or seasonal water stress.
More at: http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/where_we_work/europe/what_we_do/wwf_europe_environment/index.cfm?uNewsID=148823
5.2. New global energy [R]evolution report
27 October 2008 , Greenpeace
Aggressive investment in renewable power generation and energy efficiency could create an annual USD 360 billion industry, providing half of the world’s electricity, slashing over USD 18 trillion in future fuel costs while protecting the climate, according to one of the most comprehensive plans for future sustainable energy provision launched today.
Download here: http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/New-global-energy-(r)evolution-report
6.1. 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
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