1.1. UN climate chief urges flexibility in talks
10 September 2010, The Washington Times
The United Nations’ climate chief on Friday urged countries to be flexible in order to make progress at weeklong climate talks in China next month, the last formal negotiations on climate change ahead of a major year-end meeting in Cancun, Mexico.
Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, said countries need to be willing to negotiate with each other in order to pave the way toward consensus on a global climate deal.
"It is in their interest to be very practical, very pragmatic, and take very concrete and firm steps forward in Cancun," she told a small group of reporters.
Figueres was on a brief trip to Beijing to finalize preparations for the Oct. 4-9 preparatory meeting in Tianjin, outside the capital.
Last year’s U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen disappointed many environmentalists and political leaders when it failed to produce a global and legally binding treaty on curbing the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Instead, nations agreed to a nonbinding political declaration on fighting climate change.
However, Figueres said countries have felt a renewed urgency to address global warming given this year’s series of frequent and catastrophic disasters, including massive flooding in Pakistan, drought and fires in Russia, and mudslides and floods in China.
"All these events are constant reminders to governments that they need to deal in a consummate manner together to address climate change," she said, adding, "It needs to be the contribution of all countries together to be effective."
The goals for Cancun are less about reaching a binding treaty than moving forward on operational decisions on funding and technology transfer from industrialized nations to developing countries to deal with the effects of climate change, she said.
A key component would be implementing the transfer of billions of dollars from industrialized nations to developing nations to deal with the effects of mitigating and adapting to climate change. Rich nations had pledged to give $30 billion over three years, with an eventual goal of $100 billion by 2020.
It would also include the establishment of a mechanism so cutting-edge technology could be transferred between advanced and developing nations to combat climate change.
1.2. China says rich-poor divide still dogs climate pact talks
13 September 2010, Reuters
The prospects of a new global climate change pact still hinge on resolving the divisions between rich nations and the developing world, a top Chinese climate negotiator said in remarks published on Monday.
"Right now there are still huge differences between developed and developing countries in the negotiations on climate change problems," said Su Wei, the head of the climate change office at the National Development and Reform Commission.
Negotiators from nearly 200 nations continue to haggle over the smallprint of a sprawling 34-page draft agreement to combat global warming, and an additional round of talks at the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin will begin on Oct. 4.
The deadline for a new binding global climate pact was originally set for the end of 2009, but a final round of negotiations in Copenhagen ended in failure.
Few now expect a binding deal to emerge before the new deadline of December 2010, when talks move to the Mexican resort of Cancun.
In remarks carried by the China Today magazine, Su said the crucial divide still centred on the core Kyoto Protocol principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities", which committed richer nations to take the lead in cutting greenhouse gases.
He said industrialised nations were still seeking to "water down" the principle by asking large developing countries such as China and India to commit to quantifiable cuts in emissions.
The two sides were still unable to agree on how the burden of cutting emissions is distributed, and also on the provision of funds and the transfer of key technologies.
Su said rich nations were still putting the emphasis on creating market mechanisms to supply funds and transfer technology, and were ignoring government responsibilities.
He also accused rich countries of overlooking the issue of adaptation to climate change.
The first phase of the Kyoto Protocol will expire at the end of 2012, and Su said China was urging developed countries to clarify their post-2012 commitments in time for the Cancun talks.
"To ensure that there is not a gap between the first and second compliance periods of the protocol, the protocol working group’s most urgent task is to complete negotiations as soon as possible," he said.
1.3. Rich States Should Pay For Africa Mineral Advice: Panel
12 September 2010, The NY Times
Rich countries should pay for African governments to get advice on negotiating the best deals for exploiting their natural resources, a panel set up by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Monday.
The Commission for Africa, which includes serving and former African leaders and financial figures among its 17 members, also called on donor governments to provide an extra $10 billion-$20 billion a year to help Africa adapt to climate change.
Five years after the commission’s initial report helped focus international efforts to boost development in the poorest continent, the panel issued a new report praising the progress African countries had made on the economy and on increasing spending on health, education and agriculture.
But it said much remained to be done.
Despite average annual growth rates for Africa of six percent for much of the past decade and a quadrupling of trade and foreign investment, most Africans had yet to feel the benefits of economic growth, it said.
While some African countries were on track to meet some of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aimed at drastically reducing poverty and hunger worldwide by 2015, progress needed to be broader and faster, it said.
It urged African governments to ensure strong growth reduced poverty among ordinary Africans.
Donors were falling short of their aid pledges and progress on reforming international trade rules had been dismal, it said.
The commission urged donor countries to support a fund to help African governments get access to the best legal and technical advice so they could "negotiate deals on the exploitation of their countries’ natural resources that will be of greatest benefit to their population."
SCRAMBLE FOR RESOURCES
Demand for African oil and other commodities, particularly from fast-growing China, has helped drive growth and investment in Africa. However, there is a widespread perception that commodities riches often benefit the elite rather than the poor.
The panel urged other rich countries to follow the U.S. lead by making it mandatory for oil, gas and mining companies listed on their stock exchanges to disclose what they pay foreign governments for the right to extract natural resources and to make it an offence to import illegally sourced timber.
The commission said African governments must act quickly to draw up strategies to tackle climate change and said they would need tens of billions of dollars a year in additional funding from rich countries to confront this "massive challenge."
The Commission for Africa includes former British prime ministers Blair and Gordon Brown, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, South African Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, Botswana central bank Governor Linah Mohohlo and activist and musician Bob Geldof.
The commission’s original report, published in March 2005, made ambitious proposals to cut African countries’ debts, make world trade fairer, boost aid and eradicate disease.
The report helped pave the way for the agreement among Group of Eight leading industrial nations at the July 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, to more than double aid to Africa.
The commission’s new report was released shortly before world leaders meet at the United Nations from September 20 to 22 to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals.
1.4. Climate change is inevitable, says Caroline Spelman
13 September 2010, Telegraph.co.uk
Britain can no longer stop global warming and must instead focus on adapting to the ‘inevitable’ impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts and rising sea levels, Government ministers will warn this week.
For the past few years Government policy has concentrated on trying to make people turn off lights and grow their own vegetables in an effort to bring down carbon emissions.
But as global greenhouse gases continue to increase, with the growth of developing countries like China and India, and the public purse tightens, the focus will increasingly be on adapting to climate change.
The Government will set out plans to protect power stations from flooding and ensure hospitals can cope with water shortages during dry summers.
Since the beginning of the industrial era, the temperature has already risen by 0.8C, according to the Met Office.
Temperatures are expected to rise further because of greenhouse gases that are already “locked in” but will take decades to warm the atmosphere.
In her first speech on climate change since taking office Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, will speak about the need for Britain to adapt to rising temperatures.
“It is vital that we carry on working to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions to stop the problem getting any worse,” she will say. “But we are already stuck with some unavoidable climate change. Because of this, we need to prepare for the best and worst cases which a changing climate will entail for our country.”
However environmental groups are nervous about the change in direction. They fear that the move away from tackling climate change is motivated by spending cuts rather than saving the planet.
They also point out that no new money is being offered to help companies or the public sector adapt to climate change, preferring to leave it to ‘the Big Society’ and forward thinking businesses to come up with the cash.
Lord Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said it was dangerous to rely on adaptation rather than trying to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“If Caroline Spelman makes her first speech about adaptation and nothing about mitigation it spells out significant danger for all of us,” he said.
Mrs Spelman will be speaking in response to a hard-hitting report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), due out on Thursday.
The committee, set up to advise the Government on tackling climate change, is expected to recommend specific actions to protect against global warming. For example flood defences in coastal areas at risk of rising sea levels. Emergency plans are recommended for coping with heatwaves in the summer that could kill thousands of elderly people and more floods throughout the year.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is also producing a report on the risk of climate change, which will also call for more efforts to prepare for the impact of rising remperatures.
The powerful group of businesses leaders will call for a new public information bank, easily accessible online, that explains the risks in the local area to companies and individuals. People will be able to type in a postcode and be told the likelihood of floods and droughts over the next few decades.
The CBI said the current information available needs to be simplified so that businesses and home owners can protect themselves in future.
In a speech to the CBI, Lord Henley, the climate change minister, will warn that business, public bodies and each individual will have to adapt to climate change.
“One way or another, climate change is going to affect every organisation and every individual in this country. If we are to thrive as a society, every organisation and every individual must adapt,” he will say.
Professor Beddington, the Government’s Chief Scientific adviser, will be in conversation with Sir David Frost today at the Garden Party to Make a Difference.
The festival in the grounds of Clarence House has been organised by the Prince of Wales to highlight the ways ordinary people can help to tackle climate change by reducing emissions.
In the “Frost on Sunday” style talk, Prof Beddington and Sir David will debate the arguments of the climate change sceptics that Prince Charles branded “extraordinary” last week.
2.1. Merkel’s ‘nuclear tour’ remains inconclusive
13 September 2010, EurActiv
For several months, Germany has been discussing the future of its energy policy. Last month, Chancellor Angela Merkel went on an "energy tour" through the country to meet different stakeholders and visit various power plants. They included renewable energy as well as nuclear. EurActiv Germany reports.
The government’s plans to extend the lifespan of Germany’s nuclear power plants and the duration of the scheme has stirred controversy in recent months.
Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) was seeking a short renewal, while the Liberal coalition partners were hoping for a longer one.
Among the governing coalition, there is a broad consensus that nuclear power is needed as a ‘bridging technology’ on the way to the long-term goal of attaining a sustainable and largely renewable energy supply.
Merkel’s energy journey identified energy security as its highest priority, but did not address issues of safety such as the question of final storage of radioactive waste.
When the German government announced its Energy Concept 2050 on 6 September (see Background), the renewal that was granted to nuclear power plants was much longer than commentators had expected.
An extension of eight years was granted to plants built before 1981 and 14 years for plants built after that date. The average extension was 12 years compared to ten years under previous forecasts.
In addition, some stakeholders noted that few binding requirements were introduced to improve safety and the reinvestment of profits in research on renewables.
Sharp criticism came from municipalities, renewables companies and some länder, like North Rhine-Westphalia, which is governed by the Social Democrats and Green parties.
There was talk of suing the government for failing to put the package to a vote in the Bundesrat, the representation of the länder, where the parties of the federal government do not hold a majority.
It has been claimed, however, that a law suit would be unlikely to succeed as the Bundesrat is not supposed to have a say in this matter.
Infringement procedure looming?
Germany, like the other EU member states, was supposed to report on the security of its energy supply by 31 July. But the government let the deadline pass and now faces a possible infringement proceeding from the European Commission. It is expected to hand the report in later in the year.
Greenpeace, the environmental NGO, suspects foul play and intends to sue. Its assumption is that the government has tried to hide the fact that demand for nuclear energy is falling and that there is no need for extending the lifespan of nuclear plants.
An argument that shores up this theory is that the last report from 2008 assumed that the share of renewables until would rise to 23% by 2020, above the EU target. But the latest figures by the National Action Plan for Renewable Energy are actually much higher, at 38.6%.
Despite the harsh criticism, Germany’s EU Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, congratulated the German government on the healthy compromise of the strategy.
He points to increased spending on safety and the reinvestment of a large part of the additional profits made by nuclear companies in renewable energy, and perhaps even in coal subsidies. The latter are meant to be discontinued as from 2014 causing great outcry in Germany.
3.1. EU Emissions trading scheme threatens to trap Europe in a high carbon future
10 September 2010, Sandbag
The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the flagship policy covering half of the EU’s carbon emissions, could turn intended restrictions on pollution into a trap that commits Europe to increasing carbon emissions for much of the next decade, unless changes are swiftly introduced, warns campaign group Sandbag.
Sandbag’s analysis shows that the ETS is on course to require savings of, at best, a miniscule 32 million tonnes of emissions between 2008-2012, despite covering 12,000 installations and 1.9 billion tonnes of emissions annually. Regulating a single power station over the same period could have had a greater impact.
An already weak cap for this period became a severe over allocation of pollution permits when the recession caused a sharp drop in production and therefore carbon emissions. These lower emissions, far from helping Europe towards a low carbon future, may actually trap it into continued high carbon economy because the ETS allows the huge volume of unused permits to be carried over into the next phase of the scheme that runs from 2013-2020. These permits would then be available for companies as the economy picks up again, removing a key driver for investment in low carbon options. The ETS in its current form, though a very powerful and effective policy in principle, is in danger of actually hindering a low carbon economy for years to come.
There are a few ways to fix the ETS and avoid the carbon trap, which Sandbag recommends be implemented urgently. These centre on how to compensate for the fact that too many permits have been put into the system and include:
· increasing the EU carbon reduction target from 20% to 30% by 2020. The EU has already achieved half of the existing target and a higher target would protect momentum to wards low carbon future.
· setting caps for the next trading phase (2013-2020) based upon actual emissions and not on the permits allocated, which were too many. This would require holding back 1.4 bn tonnes of permits from the scheme from the start, whilst a political decision is reached to cancel the permits permanently. This decision must be reached as quickly as possible.
· consider amending the rules of the ETS (through a change in the directive) to allow flexibility to respond to large drops in demand such as caused by the recession, in order to prevent a flood of permits undermining carbon savings.
These measures face some stiff resistance. While too many permits have been handed out overall this was not done evenly across those companies covered by the scheme. Some received a cap lower than their emissions but others higher. A few of the latter received an enormous over allocation of permits making millions from their sale. These are the ‘carbon fat cats’, led by steel conglomerate ArcelorMittal, and a number are lobbying hard to keep the ETS broken.
Millions of Europe’s citizens are working hard to reduce their carbon emissions, saving a tonne here, half a tonne there. The ETS covers 1.9 billion tonnes annually, including those from electricity production. To allow the ETS to fail, providing miniscule carbon savings and allowing some carbon ‘fat cats’ to make huge profits though over allocated permits, would be a travesty.
“The recession has rendered the ETS caps thoroughly obsolete,” says Sandbag campaigner Damien Morris. “Unless they are adjusted to reflect our new circumstances, the EU ETS risks becoming an albatross around the neck of European climate policy, a carbon trap rather than a carbon cap, obstructing the mitigation efforts of the EU and its Member States. Our political leaders must address this by withstanding exaggerated industry lobbying and agree to tighter caps.”
3.2. EU floats method for handing out free CO2 permits
10 September 2010, EurActiv
The European Commission’s climate department yesterday (9 September) announced it had identified some 50 product benchmarks for allocating free CO2 emission permits to industry amounting to around €100 billion until 2020.
The draft benchmarking decision sets the rules for allocating free emissions allowances to EU companies for the 2013-2020 trading period under the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS).
Benchmarking was part of the revision of the EU’s flagship instrument for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which sought to avoid the pitfalls of over-allocation and windfall profits for companies that have plagued the scheme in the past.
The Commission’s climate action department has now identified some 50 product benchmarks covering around three quarters of relevant emissions, Hans Bergman of DG Climate Action told journalists. For other products, heat or fuel consumption will be used as the basis for benchmarking.
The benchmarks are identified for products such as cement, steel, lime, chemicals and glass.
These values will serve as thresholds for what installations get for free, the official explained. They are based on the average performance of the 10% most carbon-efficient installations in a given sector (based on 2007/08 data) and take into account the most efficient techniques.
The list is the first draft to be subjected to inter-service consultation within the EU executive. It was submitted for consultation yesterday.
The Commission did not want to give any details of individual benchmarks or values at this stage, but Bergman said that the products are practically all included in the list of sectors vulnerable to "carbon leakage".
The list includes 164 sectors which the EU executive reckons would be at risk of relocating their activities outside of the EU if they had to buy allowances for every tonne of CO2 they emit (EurActiv 21/09/09).
Sectors on the list will get 100% of the benchmarked allowances for free, while others will get 80% in 2013, declining to 30% in 2020.
The benchmarks do not concern the power sector, which for the most part will have to buy its permits at auction.
€100bn until 2020
The allocation decision is not insignificant, as the Commission estimates that the six billion or so allowances that will be allocated for the 2013-2020 trading period will add up to around €100 bn.
Once the Commission decision is out, member states will calculate by 30 September 2011 the amount of allowances to be allocated to individual installations based on the benchmark in question and historical production figures over a number of years.
Only the most efficient installations will be able to go without purchasing additional allowances, Bergman said.
Environmentalists have expressed concern that powerful industry lobbies will manage to bargain for high benchmarks, which would translate into subsidies for carbon-intensive sectors. EU businesses, on the other hand, say they will lose out to foreign competition if the benchmarks are set too harshly.
Bergman said that the benchmarks will become less challenging as 2020 approaches as a result of technological development. He claimed that the 50 draft benchmarks are "relatively uncontroversial".
One sticking point is free allocations for waste gases, which are mainly used by the steel industry to produce electricity. The industry wants 100% free allocations, arguing that anything else would discourage such efficient use of the gases, while environmentalists say this would be no more than a subsidy for heavy industry.
"We have taken the line that since there is no free allocation for electricity, they should not get completely free allocation for electricity production with waste gases but some kind of reduction," Bergman said.
He added that the steel industry would still get "probably quite a lot" for generating electricity, and the wrangling between the steel industry and the EU executive was mainly about the size of the free allowances.
A ‘complicated, expensive waste of time’
Sanjeev Kumar of E3G, an environmental group, argued that the Commission’s benchmarking exercise is "a complicated, expensive waste of time". He argued that if there are free allocations for waste gas emissions, this will subsidise big industry at the expense of smaller sectors like tile and brick-makers.
Bergman also cast doubt on the Commission’s plan to set aside 800 million allowances for a ‘technology accelerator’ to support deployment of existing technologies and innovation in the sectors.
"If there are allowances left over […], some of the revenues could be used to support the best innovative technologies," the official said. But he added that at this point it is not possible to know whether the final amount of allowances will exceed the predetermined maximum amount, in which case all allowances would go to companies.
"It’s only in a year and a half that we’ll know if we really can go ahead with this," he said.
3.3. T&E letter in the Financial Times: End airlines exemption from fuel tax
10 September 2010, T&E
The European Commission should set a minimum level of kerosene tax for aviation, as it already does for road fuel. So said Bill Hemmings, from Transport & Environment, in a letter published on 8 September in the Financial Times.
In the letter, Mr. Hemmings challenges the argument according to which the inclusion of aviation as of 2013 in the European Union Trading Scheme (ETS) would already represent major progress towards offsetting the greenhouse gas pollution caused by airplanes.
"The impact of bringing aviation into the ETS is equivalent to 1 cent on a litre of kerosene", he wrote. "That looks absurd compared with the average 46 cent tax on petrol and diesel in the EU."
Hemmings also stated that VAT exemption for airline tickets is "blatantly unfair and makes EU climate policy needless inefficient. The European Commission said in 2005 that the VAT derogation covering airline tickets should be abolished", the letter reads. "Five years ago it was a smart idea; in the current economic climate it’s a no-brainer".
Click here to read the letter.
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