1.1. Concrete results expected at Mexico climate change conference: Danish PM
11 April 2010, English News
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has said that "concrete results" are expected at the Mexico climate change conference at the end of this year.
He noted that no matter whether the conference will reach an agreement ， it surely will have a more concrete result in the areas that the Copenhagen conference has made progress.
However, "it’s too early to give a conclusion on the conference right now," Rasmussen told Xinhua on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference held this weekend in Boao in south China’s island province of Hainan.
The 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference is scheduled to be held in Cancun, Mexico, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10. It is the first round of formal UN climate talks since the Copenhagen conference last December.
A three-day preparatory session was held this weekend in Bonn, Germany, to determine how to proceed with the future talks in the run-up to the Mexico conference.
Rasmussen said, "The Bonn conference of this week will define a road map or a schedule toward the Mexico conference," and efforts of cooperation and communications should be continued for reaching new progress.
He highlighted China’s constructive role in the Copenhagen conference.
1.2. Skirmishes renewed at UN climate conference
11 April 2010, The Washington Post
Climate talks nearly ground to a halt before they began in earnest Sunday, with delegates squabbling over how to conduct negotiations for the rest of the year on a new agreement to control global warming.
Talks about talks appeared at times on the verge of breakdown over seemingly minor procedural issues, but that reflected a deep divide on how to treat the hastily crafted political deal struck at the Copenhagen summit last December by President Barack Obama with a small group of other world leaders.
The lengthy battle ostensibly was over the authorization of a committee chairwoman to prepare a draft negotiating text for the next meeting in June.
But it provided an early warning that the rancor evident during the Copenhagen summit had not faded, and that the split between industrial countries and the developing world is likely to continue characterizing the talks.
After the letdown of Copenhagen, delegates and officials appeared determine to dampen expectations of a final deal this year, and said negotiations are almost certain to stretch past the next major conference in Cancun, Mexico, in December.
"We should not be striving to get answers to each and every question in Cancun," Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. climate secretariat, said Sunday. "The quest to address climate change is a long journey, and achieving perfection takes practice."
The agreement is meant to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which has provisions capping greenhouse gas emissions by industrial countries that expire in 2012. The new accord would be expanded to curtail emissions by swiftly developing countries like China, which already has surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest polluter. With hotel workers dismantling the meeting rooms around them, the unusual three-day meeting in Bonn debated an agreement to intensify the negotiations this year leading up to the decisive ministerial conference in Cancun. Two extra preparatory conferences were to be scheduled, each lasting at least a week.
At a final session, delegates from 175 parties wrangled over wording that implied a lesser status for the Copenhagen Accord, which failed to win consensus approval in Copenhagen. Also on the table is a draft treaty that had made slow and painful progress through negotiations among more than 190 countries over the last two years, but which left many of the core issues unresolved.
"This is not even a negotiating decision," chairwoman Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe said in frustration, trying to cut off the debate. "If we can’t agree on this then we may have problems when we really start negotiating."
The accord, cobbled together in the final 36 hours at Copenhagen, set a goal of limiting the increase in the Earth’s average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from preindustrial levels, but did not specify how that would be done.
It asked industrial countries to set targets for reducing carbon dioxide and other polluting gases causing global warming, and developing countries to submit national plans for slowing emissions growth. It also called for international monitoring to ensure those goals were met, but did not set any penalties.
Many countries – even among the 120 countries that supported the Copenhagen Accord – denounced the closed-door manner in which it was done and voiced disappointment that its emissions requirements were voluntary.
U.S. chief delegate Jonathan Pershing said the accord was a package deal and rejected suggestions "in which certain elements are cherry picked."
Pershing also confirmed Washington opposed granting financial help to countries that refused to sign on to the Copenhagen deal, which included a $30 billion three-year package of aid for handling climate emergencies and helping poor countries turn to low-carbon growth.
"Countries that are not part of the accord would not be given substantial funding under the accord," Pershing told reporters. "It’s not a free rider process."
On Saturday, Bolivian delegate Pablo Solon protested the cutoff of funds from the U.S. Global Climate Change initiative as "a very bad practice" and an attempt to put pressure countries to support the agreement. Solon said Bolivia would not change its policies.
1.3. Global climate deal impossible in 2010: U.N.
11 April 2010, The Washington Post
The world cannot agree a final climate deal this year, outgoing U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer told Reuters on Sunday, saying the focus should be on practical steps to help the poor and save forests.
De Boer was speaking on the sidelines of the first U.N. talks since a bad-tempered summit in Copenhagen in December fell short of agreeing the full legal treaty many nations had wanted.
Negotiators at the April 9-11 talks in Bonn struggled to find a formula to revive negotiations on a pact to combat global warming and agree a schedule before the next annual ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico in November and December.
"I don’t think Cancun will provide the final outcome," said de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. climate change secretariat, who steps down in July after almost four years.
"I think that Cancun can agree an operational architecture but turning that into a treaty, if that is the decision, will take more time beyond Mexico. I think that we will have many more rounds of climate change negotiations before the ultimate solution is arrived at."
Many delegates at the Bonn talks were gloomy about the outlook, saying the negotiations to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol after 2012 had lost momentum.
De Boer said the focus should be on practical actions to slow climate change, rather than trying to make a deal legally binding — a major barrier to progress so far.
"We have legally binding targets under the Kyoto Protocol but it’s very difficult to take a country to court if a target is not met. Perhaps the rules and instruments, the compliance that is put in place, is even more important than the international legal definition."
De Boer said many scientists were advocating a halving of world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. "Even in my wildest dreams I don’t think that Cancun in detail is going to define exactly how that will be achieved," he said.
After two years of talks the Copenhagen summit failed to agree a successor to Kyoto, but more than 110 countries have since signed a non-binding accord. U.S. President Barack Obama is one of its top supporters.
The accord pledged $30 billion from 2010-2012 to help the poor face the impacts of climate change, such as floods, droughts, mudslides and rising seas.
It also sought to keep a rise in average world temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) from pre-industrial times. But it did not spell out how this should be done.
De Boer described the Copenhagen Accord as a "very important outcome," but many developing countries in Bonn rejected further mention of it in U.N. talks, underscoring tension with the United States, which never ratified Kyoto.
The mood in Bonn was also soured by Bolivia’s claim that the United States and Denmark had withdrawn funding to the Latin American nation, which opposes the accord.
De Boer said the most needy should get funds to help adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
"There is a general agreement on the question of adaptation, in that the money should go primarily to small island countries, to least developed countries and to African nations."
"I hope that the decision in Cancun will be that irrespective of how those countries feel about the Copenhagen accord they should be eligible for adaptation support."
1.4. Senators prepare compromise climate change bill
11 April 2010, Reuters
Six months after introducing a sweeping climate change bill that flopped in the Senate, Democrat John Kerry is preparing to offer a compromise measure that seeks to reel in reluctant senators.
Kerry, collaborating with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, might introduce a new bill promoting clean energy early next week, just days before the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, environmental sources said.
Despite Kerry’s consistently upbeat assessment of legislative prospects this year, the new bill also faces plenty of hurdles.
On Friday, a new problem potentially arose when U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement. President Barack Obama said he would move quickly to name a replacement.
That will trigger a Senate confirmation debate that could eat up time — like the healthcare debate did over the past year — that otherwise could be spent on the complicated, far-reaching energy and environment bill.
Reacting to the news of Stevens’ retirement, Kerry insisted there was time to pass major legislation "and still confirm a new justice."
"Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman will unveil their proposal later this month," Kerry spokeswoman Whitney Smith said, adding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was "committed to making this Congress the one that finally passes comprehensive energy and climate legislation."
Last week, Obama’s top negotiator to international climate talks, Todd Stern, told Reuters that action in Congress was critical for U.S. leverage and credibility in U.N. negotiations toward a global pact controlling carbon pollution.
The United States is second only to China in emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Other high-priority initiatives that will tie up the Senate in coming months are the federal budget for next year and an array of spending bills, including one for the war in Afghanistan. Controversial banking industry reforms and additional job-creation steps Democrats want to enact this election year also are stacked up on the runway.
Most senators and environmentalists backing attempts to reduce U.S. smokestack emissions associated with global warming think that if a bill is to be passed before November congressional elections, the Senate must do so by July, before the election campaigns heat up.
SEVENTEEN PERCENT SOLUTION
Aides to Kerry, Graham and Lieberman toiled over legislative details of their climate bill during a two-week recess that ends on Monday.
Its centerpiece will be a 2020 deadline for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels. Oil and coal, cheap and dirty energy sources, gradually would be replaced with more expensive, but cleaner alternative fuels.
The 17 percent lines up with the House of Representatives’ target and commitments made by Obama in global talks.
In a move to lure more votes, the compromise Senate bill is expected to have new incentives for domestic oil and natural gas production and expanding nuclear power.
Electric utilities would be the first sector to have pollution controls imposed — starting in 2012 — through a "cap and trade" system to bring down carbon emissions with required permits that would be traded in a regulated market.
Factories would join the pollution-reduction system in 2016, industry and environmental sources have been told.
A third sector, transportation, would see a tax levied on refined oil products, a Senate source told Reuters last week, with the expectation it would be passed on to consumers when they buy gasoline and other fuel products.
Writing the bill has been a long, tough slog for Kerry. It seems that just about every time he finds a way to gain some support from one corner, concerns pop up from another.
Asked about the difficulty, the Senate source would only say, "We are working to address and reconcile all of the concerns raised by particular members about particular provisions."
For example, Senator Robert Casey told Reuters in late March he would try to kill an oil industry proposal letting states, rather than Washington, regulate shale gas drilling methods. The Pennsylvania Democrat cited groundwater contamination concerns.
Kerry is being hit with an array of other competing concerns: Industry wants the federal legislation to pre-empt state climate control efforts and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation, an idea many state officials oppose.
A dizzying number of other concerns were still being addressed too, according to government and private-sector sources. They include how oil industry tax revenues would be used, how pollution permits would be allocated to utilities and the shape of a border tax to protect steelmakers and other energy-intensive industries from unfair foreign competition.
2.1. Europe’s biofuel policy unsustainable new research confirms
26 March 2010, FOEE
New research released by the European Commission confirms that Europe’s demand for biofuels is likely to contribute to climate change and harm the environment. 
Adrian Bebb, agrofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The EU’s biofuel policy is looking more and more unsustainable and if not urgently reviewed will lead to deforestation, more climate changing emissions and damage to the environment. It is time to end this madness and bring in real solutions to the climate crisis.”
The research evaluates the implications of Europe obtaining just 5.6% of transport fuels from biofuels by 2020 and concludes that anything above that figure will “rapidly” increase climate emissions and “erode the environmental sustainability of biofuels”. The EU has set a target of 10% of all road transport fuel to come from “renewable” sources by 2020, with a majority likely to come from biofuels. For example, the UK government estimates that at least 9.5% of its transport fuel requirements will be met by biofuels by 2020.
It also concludes that the threat of indirect land use changes – expanding agriculture to grow crops to meet the biofuel target, often at the expense of forests – is real and needs to be taken into account. The research shows that greenhouse gas emissions would increase rapidly after only 4.6% biofuel use. The European Commission needs to make proposals by the end of 2010 on how to deal with these extra emissions.
Adrian Bebb continued: "This research demands an urgent review of EU biofuels policy – how is the EU going to restrict use so that biofuels do not damage the environment or people? The case against the current 10% target is as strong as it ever was.”
2.2. Greenpeace activists resist shipment of nuclear waste from France to Russia
9 April 2010, Greenpeace
Greenpeace activists have been on the frontlines all week attempting to stop the shipment of nuclear waste from France to Russia. Despite attempts from the nuclear industry to silence us, our activists continue to nonviolently resist the transport of nuclear waste.
More at: http://weblog.greenpeace.org/nuclear-reaction/
Nuclear regulators in Europe investigating EPR piping
8 April 2010, Platts
Nuclear safety authorities in four countries are assessing the significance of undocumented welding on primary circuit piping for the EPR reactor under construction at Olkiluoto-3, Petteri Tiippana, director of the nuclear reactor regulation department at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK, told Platts in an interview Thursday.
But Tiippana said that contrary to a statement made Wednesday by Marie-Pierre Comets, a commissioner of French nuclear safety authority ASN, regulators from Finland, France, the UK and the US are not preparing a joint statement on the piping quality issue. A spokesman for the UK Health and Safety Executive said that the HSE and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission had observed a joint inspection of the piping made by the French company Nordon for the Olkiluoto-3 EPR. He said, "any action relating to this is for ASN and STUK, but we are not currently planning to issue a joint statement." HSE and the NRC are currently in the process of reviewing the "next-generation" EPR reactor design, but are not overseeing construction of EPR units, unlike STUK and ASN. The HSE spokesman said the piping quality is "not a design issue, it’s a quality issue."
Olivier Gupta, ASN’s director for power reactor regulation, said through a spokeswoman Thursday that "there will be no joint statement" on the piping issue. He said Comets had meant to refer to the "joint inspection" of the Nordon facilities by STUK and ASN, which was observed by representatives of NRC and HSE. The spokeswoman said Comets had "made a mistake."
The piping was manufactured by Nordon, a subcontractor to Areva, the French vendor which is supplying the nuclear part of the Olkiluoto-3 unit under a turnkey contract to utility Teollisuuden Voima Oy. Nordon, based in Nancy in eastern France, is a unit of the Fives group and has long been a major supplier of piping for nuclear power plants.
In October 2009, STUK found that small cracks in piping made for the main coolant lines of Olkiluoto-3 had been repaired with welding procedures that were not documented.
Tiippana said the piping is still in France and that analysis of the significance of the undocumented welding could be finished within several weeks. STUK will then do final inspections, probably before summer, he said.
Until the piping is approved by STUK, it cannot be transported to Olkiluoto. The main coolant lines for the EPR must be manufactured to very high quality standards and documentation must substantiate that quality, because the safety case for those high-pressure lines assumes they will not rupture suddenly.
In an unprecedented initiative, STUK, ASN and HSE issued a tripartite regulatory statement last November expressing concern about the instrumentation and control system architecture proposed for the EPR in their three countries.
3.1. EU emissions plunge leaving emissions trading scheme high and dry
1 April 2010, SandBag
New data released today reveals greenhouse gas emissions across the EU are in steep decline. Emissions covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme between 2008 and 2009 dropped by 11%, following on from a cut of 6% the year before.
This would be welcome news for the environment and provide a silver-lining to the grim economic recession that has contributed to the cuts, if it were not for one thing: unless caps are tightened there will be no overall reduction in pollution levels. Permits issued under the EU trading scheme can be banked forward indefinitely meaning they will sooner or later be used to pollute.
The 11% drop in 2009 has left the caps on European emissions higher than actual emissions for the first time since the second trading phase started in 2008. The first phase of trading from 2005-07 had exactly the same problem with caps languishing high above actual emissions thanks to Member States handing out overly generous allowances. This phase was meant to be tougher but the effect of the recession combined with continued generous allowances to heavy industry has but pay to that.
Overall there were 62 million more permits in circulation last year than there were emissions. An additional 70 million were released for sale in auctions taking the total surplus to 142 million. But this masks the fact that there is a tug of war going on between the power companies of Europe and heavy industry. Power generators saw their emissions fall by 119 tonnes (8%) last year but that still left them 124 tonnes short of permits. On the other hand heavy industry including steel and cement saw a fall of 96 million tonnes (18%) leaving them with 185 million tonnes of permits spare or 30% more than they needed. If they were to sell them at today’s prices this would raise €2.4 bn with most of this money would coming from consumers of electricity.
This is significant because it is the heavy industries who have been the most vociferous opponents of Europe taking on tougher emissions targets. In fact these surpluses give them a very comfortable cushion against the effect of any future caps and enable them to make a profit if they choose.
A decision about future caps on emissions between 2012 and 2020 has to finally be reached in June of this year. At the moment, under the EU’s target of a 20% cut in emissions by 2020 this would mean a reduction in the cap of 1.74% a year. Today’s figures revealed that we are already half way to achieving that reduction level with a decade still to go. Given the cuts achieved to date, which can be banked, and the levels of reductions rich countries like the EU are now expected to deliver, it would seem tighter targets are the only sensible way forward.
Nevertheless some oppose tightening caps in a recession for fear that it will lead to demands for caps to be loosened in a period of economic growth. However, the purpose of the laws introducing caps is to deliver an environment outcome – tightening caps is completely in line with that objective whereas loosening them is not.
The arrival of Connie Hedegaard as the new Climate Action Commissioner has seen a subtle shift in the Commission position on whether or not to take on tougher targets and caps, hinting that a more ambitious target could be adopted ‘when the time is right’. In an article today she was quoted as saying: “To achieve a 20 percent reduction by 2020 is not nearly as ambitious today as it was two years back before the crisis”. A move to the higher 30% target would help to save the EU’s flagship emissions trading policy from becoming irrelevant by taking more permits out of the system more quickly.
The biggest challenge for the UK and the EU is to ensure that its growth out of the recession is sustainable – this means delivering real economic investment in new more efficient technologies. Flaccid caps on emissions will slow down this investment and mean a return to the status quo meaning more severe and costly cuts in emissions have to made later.
The rapid decline in EU emissions was predicted by many analysts in the carbon market so there is unlikely to be a sudden drop in price resulting from this new data. But it is certain that the lack of demand for permits is acting as a break on the market. With so many permits spare in the system the need for overseas offsets is very likely to decline.
More ambitious targets and tighter caps must be set if we want strong investment signals and the growth out of recession to be green. We hope the Commission will take this fully into account when it makes its recommendations later this year.
4.1. Policy Officer – Air Pollution & EU Infrastructure Investment
More at: http://www.transportenvironment.org/jobs
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