E – news update 11 February 2008

CLIMATE

1.1. Russia, Ukraine next to trade Kyoto carbon credits
7 February 2008, Guardian.co.uk
LONDON – Russia and Ukraine will be the next nations to join, within months, only a handful of countries physically connected to a U.N. emissions trading scheme, a senior United Nations official told Reuters on Thursday.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, rich countries need U.N. approval to trade carbon offsets, or credits, to count against their emissions targets.
While futures trading has been flourishing for three years, only Switzerland, Japan and New Zealand are actually approved to take delivery and settle these contracts.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said he expected the next connections within two to three months.
"Russia is preparing to get connected relatively soon… (though the next) may be Ukraine," the official said.
"Some other non-European countries are getting close, but it’s difficult to say about their state of entry."
Russia is expected to be a major seller of credits because it has an inefficient energy infrastructure, meaning it can cut carbon emissions quite cheaply and sell credits under a law it only passed last week.
The U.N.’s carbon trading platform, the International Transaction Log (ITL), allows companies from the Kyoto Protocol’s 38 developed, ‘Annex B’ countries to trade carbon credits. But countries need their own registries and U.N. approval before they can link up.
Under the Protocol’s Joint Implementation (JI) and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) programmes, rich countries can invest in emissions-cutting projects in developing and former communist nations and count the cuts as their own.
Ukraine, the only country to have received JI credits from the U.N. so far, has 755,851 Emissions Reduction Units (ERUs) which can be traded and physically delivered once the ITL connection is operational. In late January, Russia’s government said JI project developers could now submit applications after its Justice Ministry passed the necessary procedures for the Economy Ministry to approve projects.
Russia and Ukraine are expected to corner the ERU market through 2012 with a potential stockpile of some 400 million tonnes, more than 80 percent of the estimated total supply, Core Carbon Group’s chief climate change officer Morten Prehn Sorensen told Reuters.
At an average ERU price of around 10 euros ($14.62) a tonne, this could amount to revenues of some 4 billion euros ($5.85 billion).
EUROPE READY?
The U.N. put the ITL into operation in November. So far only Japan, Switzerland and New Zealand have successfully connected.
Companies participating in the European Union’s emissions trading scheme have been trading Kyoto emissions credits via forward contracts for some time, though delivery has not yet been possible as the link between the EU’s trading platform, called the CITL, and the U.N. system may be delayed until 2009.
Slovakia received Kyoto trading eligibility this week, though it will have to wait until the 27-nation EU connects as a whole.
Although the European Commission said late last year this could be as late as April 2009, the U.N. official was more optimistic on the target.
"I would definitely expect all Annex B countries to be connected to the ITL by the end of the year, likely even earlier than that," he said.
Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/feedarticle?id=7290558

1.2. Top UN official: Int’l climate change treaty hardly concluded in 2 years
8 February 2008, chinaview.cn
NEW DELHI – A top UN official on climate change said here Friday that any breakthrough to finalize a new international climate change treaty would be hardly achieved till the end of the two-year deadline.
"In this matter, nothing falls into place unless everything falls into place," Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Yvo de Boer said on the second day of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS).
The official expected countries around the world to continue setting up their positions at various negotiating forums over the next 22 months.
Industrialized countries want major developing countries to take on mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction commitments after 2012, when the current international treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, expires.
Most developing countries have been stoutly resisting this, as they feel this would constrain their development, mainly in the fields of power generation and improving transport availability. They want industrialized countries to finance action against climate change instead, and also to provide necessary technology at low cost.
The U.S., the world’s largest GHG emitter, has not signed the Kyoto Protocol and has been at the forefront of asking developing countries to take on emission reduction commitments.
Link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-02/08/content_7582503.htm

1.3. G7 to consider climate change fund – Japan
7 February 2008, Forbes.com
TOKYO (Thomson Financial) – Japan, Britain and the United States will propose a special fund to promote clean technologies as part of efforts to combat climate change, a Japanese official said Thursday.
The proposal will be put forward at a meeting of top finance officials from the Group of Seven industrialised nations on Saturday in Tokyo.
‘Japan, Britain and the United States are currently examining a plan to establish a multilateral clean technology fund in cooperation with the World Bank,’ a finance ministry official told reporters.
‘The three countries will explain the content of their current discussions on the fund, and we’ll see how the rest of the Group of Seven members react to it,’ the official said on customary condition of anonymity.
It was unclear whether the plans would be included in the official statement by the G7, which also includes Canada, France, Germany and Italy.
If the idea gains traction, existing organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are expected to be involved.
Japan aims to take a lead in the debate over measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions when it hosts this year’s Group of Eight summit, which also includes Russia, from July 7 to 9 at the northern lakeside resort of Toyako.
The world’s second biggest economy after the US, Japan is the home of the Kyoto Protocol, the landmark 1997 treaty that mandated cuts in greenhouse gas emissions heating up the planet.
Japan is far behind in meeting its Kyoto commitments as its economy recovers from recession in the 1990s.
As well as the issue of climate change, G7 powers are expected to discuss the worsening global economic outlook and recent financial market turmoil.
Link: http://www.forbes.com/markets/feeds/afx/2008/02/07/afx4625818.html

1.4. We Have a Roadmap
4 February 2008, The Claremont Port Side
"We have a roadmap!” exclaimed Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesian Minister of the Environment, in his closing remarks as president of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali. The 13th Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (the organization responsible for the Kyoto Protocol), with some 15,000 delegates, observers, and members of the press, heralded an end to a landmark year for the efforts to fight human-caused climate change.
From Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize to Facebook’s voluntary CO2 offsets, it seemed impossible to avoid the subject anywhere. With so much hype and momentum riding on the conference, it’s apparent why many experts are frustrated with the outcome of the conference, a U.N. commitment-to-commit roadmap known as the “Bali Action Plan.” Before we see what makes this document unsubstantial, let’s examine the positive results of this summit.
New Goals
First, what is this roadmap, and where will it take us? The goal is to formulate an agreement by December 2009 that will seamlessly replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires at the end of 2012. In order to facilitate this process, the Bali Action Plan created an Ad Hoc Working Group to oversee negotiations. The group plans to meet four times in 2008. Given that a decade passed between the drafting and the formal implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, the group certainly has a lot of work ahead of it.
While the timing may be a bit tight, it will be necessary to ensure the proactive participation of the United States. The U.S.’s official delegation to the conference, led by Paula Dobriansky of the State Department, was literally booed for its opposition to including a 25-40 percent reduction goal in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by the year 2020. Unfortunately, this sort of U.S. intransigence has been the norm for the past seven years, as it is the executive branch that participates in international treaty negotiations. If a more climate-friendly president takes office during the second half of the negotiation process in 2009, all parties stand to benefit.
Carbon Controls
Besides establishing a time frame for the new agreement, the Bali talks saw unprecedented progress in moving towards a mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, co-winners with Gore of the Nobel Prize), carbon dioxide released through deforestation accounts for about 18 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. This source of emissions occurs almost entirely in developing countries in the tropics. While causes vary by region, the primary drivers are land conversion for soy (South America) and palm oil (Southeast Asia), as well as illegal logging. Although the Clean Development Mechanism allows developed countries to meet a portion of their Kyoto commitments by funding projects that sequester carbon through reforestation activities, there is no comparable scheme for REDD. Avoidance of this issue is understandable because of the difficulty in carrying out, quantifying, and monitoring projects. While the incentives to not cut down trees must be delivered to the people living in and around forests, a REDD program must also be carried out on a national—ideally international—scale to ensure that deforestation does not simply shift to another location, resulting in no demonstrable change in the amount of CO2 released.
Like a new climate treaty, a REDD mechanism will take time to develop. In Bali, however, the initial signs were encouraging. Countries were adamant about developing a comprehensive scheme to address deforestation. At a side event in Bali, the World Bank launched its new Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, a multimillion-dollar fund dedicated to preparing countries for a REDD mechanism through capacity building programs. There are currently 25 developing countries seeking assistance in learning how to monitor their forests and creating a framework for implementing forest conservation projects.
With all this focus on future actions, it is important to recognize the current programs created under Kyoto. While we have made an excellent start in Bali towards a secure climate future, signatories must also fully implement existing commitments to prove the viability of international climate agreements. Only then can we start moving down the road that Bali mapped out.
Link: http://claremontportside.com/index.php?/20080204154/International/We-Have-a-Roadmap.html

1.5. Climate ‘tipping point’ warning
5 February 2008, TPA
Massive changes to key parts of the climate system such as the Greenland ice sheet and the Amazon rainforest could occur this century as they are pushed past their "tipping point" by global warming, scientists have said.
Researchers warned projected warming could see ice sheets, forests and weather patterns reach critical thresholds beyond which small changes could cause large-scale negative consequences.
Lead author Tim Lenton of the University of East Anglia said the Greenland ice sheet and the Arctic sea ice were the nearest to their tipping points – which would see widespread melting occur.
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), the researchers said the Greenland ice sheet could take more than 300 years to undergo a major change, but could push up global sea levels by two to seven metres.
The loss of the Arctic summer sea ice, which is already in a "striking downward trend" according to Prof Lenton, could take just a decade, altering the ecosystem and amplifying warming as the region loses its heat reflection qualities.
Elements which could have the most obvious and rapid effects on human life include the potential collapse of the Indian summer monsoon, and increases in weather pattern changes caused by El Nino, both of which could spark drought.
Other large-scale systems or "tipping elements" that could be drastically altered after reaching their tipping point within the century are the dying back of the Amazon rainforest and the Boreal forests in the far north, the collapse of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation which could divert the Gulf Stream, and the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet.
All of them would directly affect a large number of people, cause the loss of something of great value – such as the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest – or have a critical impact on the overall climate system.
But the disruption of the West African Monsoon, one of the nine major tipping elements identified, could have a positive effect through the greening of the Sahel/Sahara region.
In some cases the changes will be irreversible, and those that in theory could be reversible may not be if the climate is in an upward trajectory.
Link: http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5gnabU6rO9tni7gjFl9SwqAG8MXdw

1.6. Global meltdown: scientists isolate areas most at risk of climate change
5 February 2008, The Guargian, Ian Sample, science correspondent
Scientists have long agreed that climate change could have a profound impact on the planet; from melting ice sheets and withering rainforests, to flash floods and droughts.
Now a team of climate experts has ranked the most fragile and vulnerable regions on the planet, and warned they are in danger of sudden and catastrophic collapse before the end of the century.
In a comprehensive study published today, the scientists identify the nine areas that are in gravest danger of passing critical thresholds or "tipping points", beyond which they will not recover.
Although the scientists cannot be sure precisely when each region will reach the point of no return, their assessment warns it may already be too late to save Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet, which they regard as the most immediately in peril. By some estimates, there will not be any sea ice in the summer months within 25 years.
The next most vulnerable area is the Amazon rainforest, where reduced rainfall threatens to claim large areas of trees that will not re-establish themselves. The scientists also expressed concerns over the Boreal forests in the north, and have predicted that El Niño, the climate system which has a profound impact on weather from Africa to North America, will become more intense. The scientists are so concerned they have called for an early warning system to monitor each of these fragile ecosystems.
The international team, whose study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represents some of the world’s most prestigious organisations, including the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, the University of East Anglia and Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. The scientists polled 52 environmental experts and combined their responses with discussions among 36 leading climate researchers at a workshop at the British embassy in Berlin. Each was asked to rank regions at greatest risk of climate change in the next century.
"There’s a perception that global warming is something that will happen smoothly into the future, but some of these ecosystems go into an abrupt decline when warming reaches a certain threshold," said Tim Lenton, an environmental scientist at the University of East Anglia and lead author of the study.
"If we know when the different tipping points are, we can use them to inform targets to limit global warming. It gives us something to aim for," he added.
Last year, the UN’s expert panel of climate scientists warned average temperatures could increase by as much as 6.4C by the end of the century, with a rise of 4C most likely. Such a rise would bring food and water shortages to vulnerable parts of the world, displace millions of people and wipe out hundreds of species.
In the latest study, the scientists calculate Arctic sea ice will go into irreversible decline once temperatures rise between 0.5C to 2C above those at the beginning of the century, a threshold that may already have been crossed. There is already a 50% chance that the Greenland ice sheet will soon begin melting unstoppably, although it could take hundreds of years to melt completely. The meltwater would raise global sea levels by seven metres.
A temperature rise of 3C could see more intense El Niños, with profound effects on the weather from Africa to North America.
Warming of 3C to 5C could reduce rainfall in the Amazon by 30%, lengthening the dry season. The Boreal forests could also pass their tipping point, with large swaths dying off over the next 50 years. In Africa, more rainfall may regreen the Sahel region, but the west African monsoon could collapse, leading to twice as many unusually dry years by the end of the century. The Indian summer monsoon is predicted to become erratic and in the worst case scenario, begin to flip chaotically, unleashing flash floods one year and droughts the next.
Measurements of the western Antarctic ice sheet show the balance of snowfall and melting has shifted and it is now shrinking. According to the study, a local warming of more than 5C could trigger uncontrollable melting, adding five metres to sea levels within 300 years. Under the same warming, Atlantic currents that power the Gulf Stream could be severely disrupted.
"If you can get some warning that you’re nearing one of these thresholds, you can get to work on adapting to it. You could work harder on reducing emissions, or you might use it as impetus to try other options," said Lenton.
Explainer: What could happen next
If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, the global average temperature will reach 2C above pre-industrial levels by 2050, according to the government’s 2006 Stern report on climate change.
One of the first impacts will be droughts and floods, as rainfall increases at high latitudes and drops in the tropics. Some glaciers will disappear, though crop yields in some countries could rise, scientists believe.
Last year, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concluded that human activity was "very likely" to be behind most of the warming seen in recent decades. It predicted a rise of between 2.4C and 6.4C by 2100.
The most likely rise, of 4C by the end of the century, would cause droughts across Africa, and a fall in harvests of 15% to 35%. Globally, crop yields would fall 10%.
Sea levels would rise by up to 59cm, with Bangladesh and Vietnam among the worst hit, along with coastal cities such as New York, London, Tokyo, Kolkata and Karachi. In Britain alone, there would be 1.8 million people at risk of flooding. The western Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets would begin to melt irreversibly and Europe would lose 80% of its Alpine glaciers. Across the Arctic, half of the tundra is at risk.
A 4C rise is predicted to drive 20% to 50% of land species to extinction and put 80m more Africans at risk of malaria as mosquitoes thrive.
Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/feb/05/climatechange

ENERGY

2.1. Food-based biofuels can spur climate change
7 February 2008, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Alternative fuels made from corn, soybeans, sugar cane and palm trees can in some cases increase the amount of climate-warming carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.
These so-called food-based biofuels can actually hurt the environment if they are produced on land that was formerly grassland, rain forest or savanna, the scientists said in the journal Science.
Industry groups took issue with the findings, calling them simplistic and noting the use of environmentally sound techniques to cultivate biofuel crops. At the same time, academic environment experts wrote to President George W. Bush and congressional leaders calling for new policies to make sure biofuels do not come at a prohibitive ecological cost.
Nonfossil fuels — ethanol made from corn or sugar cane and biodiesel made from palm trees or soybeans — are meant to lessen dependence on petroleum products, which release the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide when they burn.
But biofuels can release carbon even before they are burned, depending on how they are made, said study co-author Jason Hill of the University of Minnesota.
As demand for these alternative fuels grows, farmers are plowing under forests and grasslands that used to store carbon and keep it from getting into the atmosphere, and using these lands to grow the food crops that now can be used for ethanol or biodiesel.
Biofuels grown this way come with a "carbon debt," the researchers found. Instead of cutting greenhouse pollution, the net effect is to increase it.
For example, the scientists wrote, Indonesia’s conversion of peatlands for palm oil plantations had the world’s greatest carbon debt, one that would take 423 years to repay.
The next worst case was the planting of soybeans in the Amazon, which would not pay for itself in renewable soy biodiesel for 319 years.
There are biofuel sources that do not rack up these formidable carbon debts, Hill said, citing nonfood plants including perennial grasses that only have to be harvested, without plowing under existing species that hold on to carbon.
"Our group has looked at using diverse mixtures of native species … (on) prairie land, land that’s restored back into prairies," Hill said in a telephone interview. "We essentially have no native prairies left in this nation but we can restore land into prairies, thereby restoring an ecosystem that was natural and also getting the biofuel benefit from it."
Ten academic experts — including Steve Hamburg of Brown University, David Wilcove of Princeton University and Stuart Chapin of the University of Alaska — cited the study in a letter to Bush, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders on Capitol Hill.
"There is an urgent need for policy that ensures biofuels are not produced on productive forest, grassland or cropland," the said in the letter.
The Renewable Fuels Association, which represents the U.S. ethanol industry, called the study a "simplistic view of land use change," adding: "Biofuels alone are not the silver bullet to the energy or environmental challenges our planet faces. But they do offer a pathway forward."
The Biotechnology Industry Organization cited its own study that indicated farmers could produce enough feedstock for biofuels through environmentally sustainable no-till agriculture.
Biofuels, whether made from prairie plants, corn or soybeans, lack the potential to satisfy U.S. fuel needs, Hill said.
"If we take every corn kernel we produce in this nation and convert it to ethanol, we would offset only 12 percent of our gasoline use," he said. "And that doesn’t include the energy it took to produce that ethanol in the first place.
Link: http://uk.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUKN0716998820080207?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

2.2. The case for investing in energy productivity
4 February 2008, EurActiv, McKinsey Global Institute
Containing energy demand is as important as developing new sources of supply, despite fears that this will require "large costs and economic sacrifices", according to a new study from management consultants McKinsey. Indeed, additional annual investments of $170 billion between now and 2020, shared between the industrial, commercial, residential and transport sectors, would be enough to "capture the energy productivity opportunity", the study argues.
The study – entitled ‘The Case for Investing in Energy Productivity’ – predicts that global energy demand growth will accelerate to an average of 2.2 percent a year to 2020, while global CO2 emissions will grow by 2.4 percent annually until the same year due to a shift to a more CO2-intensive fuel mix.
McKinsey argue that "a concerted global effort to boost energy productivity" – defined as "the level of output we achieve from our energy use" – involving annual investment of $20 billion between now and 2020 – could "cut energy demand by the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of 5.3 million US households or 20 million cars".
Moreover, raising energy productivity will not require "enormous costs" as "we already have in our hands the potential to abate accelerating energy demand in a practical, cost-effective way," the report finds.
McKinsey highlight key areas for action if the barriers to raising the level of energy productivity are to be raised, including setting energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment, upgrading the energy efficiency of new buildings, raising corporate energy-efficiency standards and strengthening energy intermediaries. They go on to suggest policies that should be followed to address each in turn.
The report warns that market forces alone will not bring about a positive outcome, calling for "targeted policies" to overcome the price distortions and market failures acting against higher energy productivity.
To this end, the authors suggest scrapping subsidised energy pricing, as "the economic benefits from subsidised production seldom justify the investment" and shield specific companies from competition, leading to economic inefficiencies.
However, this will be politically difficult as subsidies are used to alleviate hardship in low-income households, McKinsey warn. Policies to mitigate the difficulties of the transition to a market-based economy will thus be required, and consumers and businesses should be provided with more information about the energy productivity choices available to them, says the report.
McKinsey conclude that boosting energy productivity can make "a spectacular dent in the rate at which demand for energy is increasing", and that this can be done primarily by using existing technology rather than relying on "costly research" into new methods.
Link: http://www.euractiv.com/en/energy/case-investing-energy-productivity/article-169503

PUBLICATIONS

3.1. Completing the Mochovce Nuclear Power Plant in Slovakia – Reactors from the 70’s for the 21st Century
The Italian-Slovak utility Enel/SE and the Slovak government are speeding up the completion of Mochovce Units 3 and 4. When it comes to nuclear safety of these VVER 440/V213 units, there is conflicting information as to which standard is to be applied.
The report can be downloaded at: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2008/Mochovce_Factsheet_EN.pdf

CONFERENCES

4.1. The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference 08
26 – 27 February, Brussels
After a series of high profile events related to climate change throughout 2007 such as the G8 summit or the major economies meeting, the climate change negotiations during the COP13 in Bali have accepted a roadmap for the negotiations for a post-2012 climate change agreement. After taking stock of the state of negotiations, this joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for the post-2012 agreement.
More info: http://guest.cvent.com/EVENTS/Info/Summary.aspx?e=cfd208ee-edfd-4763-abe5-f28dd0de99d4

4.2. World Biofuels Markets Congress
Brussels, 12-14 March 2008, www.worldbiofuelsmarkets.com
Last week’s statement from the European Commission confirming a 10% biofuels for transport target for all member states by 2020 renews confidence in the global biofuels market as the industry transitions to a sustainable 2nd gen platforms.
Over 700 senior decision makers from 38 countries are already registered to attend Europe’s premier biofuels networking event. Register today and do business with the leading industry players.
The congress also features Europe’s largest dedicated biofuels equipment and services networking exhibition. To find out about the remaining exhibition and branding opportunities, please contact
[email protected]
Download PDF brochure: http://greenpower.msgfocus.com/c/11eg3RAkwh7Zw
View Agenda: http://greenpower.msgfocus.com/c/11ejsjv5LuXjl
Register Now: http://greenpower.msgfocus.com/c/11emQLpR0IMDa

4.3. IEA: Meeting Energy Efficiency Goals: Enhancing Compliance, Monitoring and Evaluation
28 – 29 February 2008, Paris
Many policies now exist, both mandatory and voluntary, for improving energy efficiency and minimising greenhouse gas emissions, but there is frequently a gap between expectations of what such policies will achieve and their actual impacts. This gap represents a substantial lost opportunity to maximise saved energy, reduce the cost of energy services and greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance energy security.
More info: http://www.iea.org/Textbase/work/workshopdetail.asp?WS_ID=349

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