1.1. UN official: Climate change agreement achievable at Copenhagen meeting
14 May 2009, ChinaView
A new global agreement on climate change will be difficult to reach, but still achievable at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, the head of the UN’s climate change body said on Thursday.
"Things really are becoming very urgent," with only 200 days left before the meeting, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told reporters at the UN Headquarters in New York.
But there had also been "encouraging" developments in the past 100 days, starting with a "very clear commitment" of the new U.S. administration to re-engage in international negotiations and put an ambitious domestic policy package in place, he said.
Also, "industrialized countries are finally beginning to give developing countries some credit for actions they are already taking on climate change," he said. "(There has been) A lot of encouraging reporting on China, India, Brazil, South Africa and other developing countries to address climate change."
All in all, he said he was "very encouraged" that climate change remained high on the international agenda despite the financial crisis. "I believe there is still a strong commitment to reach an agreement in Copenhagen at the end of this year."
He expressed the hope that at the meeting clarifications on four issues will be made "at the very least."
First, how much industrialized countries would have reduced their emissions by 2020; second, what developing countries were willing to do to limit the growth of their own emissions.
Those two areas were inextricably linked because the United States and other industrialized nations would not be able to ratify any agreement without corresponding commitments by developing countries, he said.
There should also be agreements on financial support for both adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. "I do not believe developing countries would be willing to address climate change in a much more vigorous way unless there is international support," he said.
And, there is also the need to establish an international governance structure on climate change that would more adequately represent the views of developing countries, he said.
"We are on track in terms of meeting those four requirements as there is a constructive atmosphere in the negotiations. I feel people do want to reach a political agreement in Copenhagen. I hope that will succeed," he added.
1.2. Poorest need funds to combat climate change: report
14 May 2009, Reuters
Poor countries already suffering from the impact of climate change urgently need up to $2 billion to help adjust and cope, a new report submitted to the United Nations said on Thursday.
The funds are needed to help the most vulnerable countries, mostly in Africa and small island states, the Stockholm-based Commission on Climate Change and Development (CCCD) said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting in New York on the CCCD report that effects such as droughts, floods, storms, forest fires and melting glaciers hit the poor most.
"Billions of people are at risk," he said. "That is why adaptation (to climate change) is a key element in the negotiations for a new climate deal."
Ban said simple community-based measures can save lives, such as early warning systems, disaster planning and improved management of crops and land.
The CCCD report calls for donors to immediately mobilize $1 billion to $2 billion. The commission said current financing mechanisms for adjusting to climate change are problematic and countries must be able to receive and distribute funds from multiple sources with a minimum of transaction costs.
Gunilla Carlsson, who chairs the CCCD and is Sweden’s minister for international development cooperation, said that fighting poverty and climate change are "inseparable."
The United Nations is striving for a new climate treaty to be agreed at a conference in Copenhagen in December. A new treaty would succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which limits climate-warming greenhouse emissions and expires in 2012.
Ban said the "clock is ticking" ahead of the meeting and urged U.N. member states to agree a deal that cuts greenhouse gas emissions, promotes green development and helps the most vulnerable countries adapt to a changing climate.
"We still have much work to do to seal the deal," he said.
U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer told reporters it is essential that the Copenhagen meeting gives clarity on issues such as how much industrialized countries will reduce emissions and what major developing countries will do to limit growth of emissions.
It must also address developing countries’ need for financial support to help them adjust to climate change, he said. "I do not believe developing countries will be willing to address climate change in a much more vigorous way unless there is international support," de Boer said.
De Boer said there is a strong commitment to reach an agreement in Copenhagen but added that a deal will not be easy to reach because the amount of time remaining is so limited.
The CCCD, made up of 13 international experts including Carlsson, was established by the Swedish government with the aim of looking at how countries can adapt to climate change.
1.3. US Democrats watering down climate targets
13 May 2009, EurActiv
Democrats in the US Energy Committee of the House of Representatives yesterday (12 May) compromised on emissions reduction targets to make sure that the climate bill is approved soon.
After a meeting of between Democrats, Henry A. Waxman, who chairs of the House Energy Committee, told reporters that he was confident of having mustered enough Democratic support for the bill. "We will have the votes for passage of this bill next week," he said, referring to a vote in the committee.
A new version of the text, drafted by Waxman and fellow Representative Edward J. Markey, is expected tomorrow (14 May). If the legislation is passed in the committee, which ranks among the House’s largest, the bill is seen as standing a good chance of passing the full House.
Nevertheless, the architects of the proposed law caved in on medium-term emissions reduction targets in order to bring on board Democrats from Southern and Midwestern states, which rely heavily on coal-powered energy (EurActiv 18/03/09).
The draftsmen of the House bill had originally sought to cut emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020, but Democrats agreed yesterday that this would be lowered to 17%, according to reports from the US capital.
The new target comes closer to US President Barack Obama’s vision, which would stabilise emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, amounting to a 14% cut compared to 2005 levels.
Waxman also agreed to give away 35% of emissions allowances in the forthcoming cap-and-trade system to utilities for free. The Obama administration started from the premise that 100% of permits would be auctioned, but has expressed willingness to consider other options.
In practice, carmakers could initially receive 3% of their permits for free, and certain trade-sensitive industries, such as aluminium, glass and steelmakers, would get 15% free of charge, the Wall Street Journal wrote after talking to people familiar with the outlines of the deal.
Fossil fuel industry building opposition front
In the meantime, the US oil, gas and coal industries are gearing up their campaign to dilute support for the administration’s plans to green the economy. They have doubled their PR budgets in an attempt to sabotage the Democratic leadership’s plans to pass cap-and-trade legislation this year, the Guardian reported.
The campaign involves industry groups, lobby firms, television, print and radio advertising, and donations to pivotal members of Congress, with some of the big players spending $44.5 million in the first three months of the year, the Guardian wrote.
The green lobby is now concerned that fossil fuel interests will dominate the negotiations in the Congress by force of their far superior financial resources.
"These guys are spending a billion dollars this year convincing Americans that they are clean, green, cuddly and warm," Bob Perkowitz, founder of the Eco-America PR firm, told the Guardian. "The enviros are getting their message out, but they are being outspent by ten to one," he said, adding that the ratio is about three to one on advertising.
If the Obama administration fails to push through ambitious climate legislation before the end of the year, it would be disastrous for the outcome of the United Nations Climate Chance Conference in Copenhagen in December. Firm US commitments to emissions cuts will be instrumental in getting emerging nations such as China on board, but the administration’s negotiation mandate would be on shaky ground without national climate legislation in place.
The 17% emission cut target will certainly not satisfy developing countries, which expect the industrialised nations to lead the global climate efforts by committing to cuts of at least 40% by 2020 (EurActiv 29/04/09).
2.1. EU carbon market seizes on signs of economic recovery
15 May 2009, EurActiv
The European carbon market, like its peers across energy and commodities, appears to be pinning its hopes on a big-picture economic recovery and ignoring a weak demand outlook closer to home.
Prices for permits under the European Union’s emissions trading scheme have nearly doubled since hitting a low of €8 in February.
The permits, called EU Allowances (EUAs), reached a new four-month high of €16 this week, before easing to around €15 on Wednesday.
European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said this week that European economic growth was at a turning point and some countries were seeing a rise in gross domestic product.
Oil and CO2 prices ‘disconnected from fundamentals’
Analysts said the carbon market has mirrored equity and oil gains over the past month in reaction to some signs of an improving global economy, but the underlying factors affecting carbon’s supply and demand balance are still bearish.
A reinvigorated world economy would imply more energy consumption and industrial output, and therefore higher greenhouse gas emissions and more demand for carbon permits such as EUAs.
"We are all a bit puzzled why EUAs have rallied so much," SocGen/Orbeo analyst Emmanuel Fages told Reuters.
"For oil, as for carbon, price levels seem increasingly disconnected from fundamentals," he wrote in a research note this week.
US crude oil futures touched a 6-month high of $60.08 a barrel on Tuesday as traders focused on expectations of economic recovery rather than underlying inventory levels which are historically very high.
Many carbon analysts foresee a market surplus in EUAs in 2009 and 2010 as the global downturn has crippled European industrial production, prompting them to reassess EUA demand.
A surplus in the scheme’s first phase (2005-2007) caused EUA prices to crash to zero. Data from the EU executive Commission published in April showed that companies emitted more CO2 then their allocated EUA quota in 2008.
Fundamentals still weak
"From a fundamental macro-economic point of view, the news has continued to be unrelentingly negative over the last three months," Deutsche Bank analyst Mark. C. Lewis said in a report.
Lewis said utilities and speculators could start to buy EUAs before the middle of next year in anticipation of a tighter market in the third phase (2013-2020), when many installations will have to buy a majority of their permits at auction.
"We think that EUAs will only start to reflect fundamentals when generators’ Phase 3 compliance buying begins in earnest (mid to late 2010)," he said.
EUA prices have also not reacted as expected to recent bearish news, and that could affect an EU vision for a linked global market.
That could be a big plank of a new international climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, which faces a tight deadline for agreement in Copenhagen this December.
"We have had some bad news like the Australia delay and low cement and steel output, but the market has not paid attention to that," said Jean-Francois Cauvet, a trader at France’s Sagacarbon.
Australia announced last week it would delay the start of its trading scheme to July 2011 to ease the burden on industry during a recession.
"I think most analysts have missed why we’ve moved up to these levels. We could see some consolidation (and) dropping back to 13 or 14 euros is not impossible," said Fages.
In a recent report, Point Carbon analysts said prices are likely to fall again as utilities’ hedging activity dies down. It forecasts an average EUA price of 12 euros for 2009.
3.1. IEA predicts surge in energy use by electronic ‘gadgets’
14 May 2009, EurActiv
Measures to reduce the energy consumption of mobile phones, computers, TVs and other electronic devices are failing to keep up with soaring global demand for new appliances, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report yesterday (13 May).
If left unchecked, the IEA predicts energy use by new electronic gadgets will triple by 2030, jeopardising efforts to improve energy security and keep emissions of global warming gases under control.
"Despite anticipated improvements in the efficiency of electronic devices, these savings are likely to be overshadowed by the rising demand for technology," said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka. Electronic devices currently account for 15% of household electricity consumption, but their share is rising rapidly, mainly due to growing demand in Africa and the developing world. There are already nearly two billion television sets in use, the Paris-based agency noted, and over half the world’s population already subscribe to a mobile phone service.
Over the next seven months, the number of people using a personal computer will surpass the one billion mark, according to the IEA report, ‘Gadgets and Gigawatts’.
The rise in demand is expected to bring energy consumption up to 1,700 TWh by 2030, "the equivalent to the current combined total residential electricity consumption of the United States and Japan," said Mr. Tanaka. "It would also cost households around the world $200 billion in electricity bills and require the addition of approximately 280 Gigawatts (GW) of new generating capacity between now and 2030."
On the positive side, the IEA said energy-saving opportunities were considerable, noting that consumption from consumer electronics could be cut by more than half with available technologies.
To deliver these savings, strong public policies are needed, the IEA stressed. "The largest improvement opportunity must come from making hardware and software work together more effectively to ensure that energy is only used when and to the extent needed," the agency said.
"In particular, given that new devices increasingly offer a variety of functions, each of which may have differing energy needs, policies are needed that set maximum energy budgets for each function."
The EU has adopted efficiency standards for dozens of energy-consuming appliances such as TVs and freezers under its 2005 Eco-design Directive (see EurActiv LinksDossier). The text has recently been updated to include all products that have an indirect impact on energy use, such as windows, insulation materials, showers and water taps (EurActiv 27/04/09).
3.2. European biofuels firms scramble for ‘idle’ lands in poor countries
13 May 2009, EU Observer
Massive tracts of land in Africa, Russia and Ukraine are being bought up or leased by richer countries to ensure access to food and for production of biofuels – a development that could result in unrest as locals begin to lose access over their territory.
An area roughly the same size as the amount of farmland in Germany is in play and at a cost of tens of billions of euros.
This phenomenon, a product of the twin food and fuel crises of last year, is threatening local communities whose traditional use of such lands is being undermined by the food and energy security needs of others.
This all comes from a warning issued on Monday (11 May) by the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), an agricultural research centre funded by an alliance of 64 governments around the world.
A year after the global food crisis that saw food riots and protests spread throughout the developing world – and even to some rich countries – a number of nations have learnt their lesson.
These countries – largely emerging nations such as China, India and the Gulf states – feel they must ensure food security for their people, even at the cost of the food security of other countries.
At the same time, exacerbating the problem is the scramble by mainly European firms for so-called idle or marginal lands on which to grow biofuels.
Stung by the criticism of scientists last year that using farmland for such crops can actually boost carbon emissions and increase food prices, biofuels firms have been scouting about for cheap ‘wasteland’.
"EU policies is certainly contributing to Western biofuels investment," Ruth Meinzen-Dick, one of the report’s two authors, told EUobserver,
"When you hear the word ‘wasteland’ or ‘unused’, it usually does have some use, just not uses that are officially recognised," she added, "whether as a village common or as pastureland, gathering nuts, honey, or for rattan."
The danger is, her report warns, that these companies risk setting off unrest as communities react to the loss of their lands.
Jatropha, palm oil
Details about the deals, the size of land purchased or leased, and the amount invested are often murky and shrouded in secrecy, according to IFPRI, but they highlight a number of agreements.
UK-based Sun Biofuels has secured land in Ethiopia and Mozambique for the cultivation of biofuels produced from jatropha, as well as some 5,500 hectares in Tanzania for the same purpose. Britain’s CAMS Group has also purchased 45,000 hectares for jatropha biofuels in Tanzania. The researchers found that another 10,000 hectares have been secured in Nigeria by Trans4mation Agric-tech, also of the UK.
Ethiopia is home to 13,000 hectares secured under a contract farming agreement with Germany’s Flora EcoPower for biofuel crop cultivation.
Sweden’s Skebab has secured 100,000 hectares in Mozambique for biofuels as well.
Meanwhile in the east, Denmark’s Trigon has secured 100,000 hectares from Russia. Sweden’s Alpcot Agro has secured 128,000 hectares and Black Earth Farming 331,000 hectares in the country. Landkom, a UK firm, has leased 100,000 hectares in Ukraine.
Food production meanwhile is usually the focus of the land acquisition by emerging economies. The UAE has secured some 378,000 hectares to grow corn, alfalfa, wheat, potatoes and beans, while Saudi Arabia is in the process of gaining access to 500,000 hectares in Tanzania.
Some emerging economies as well are also getting in on the biofuels bonanza. China has secured a whopping 2.8 million hectares in the Democratic Republic of Congo for oil palm and is hoping to access another 2 million hectares in Zambia for jatropha.
All told, the acreage secured through lease or purchase by Asian and European private and public investors amounts to 15-20 million hectares, at a cost of €15-20 billion ($20-30 bn).
By comparison, annual net official development aid by OECD countries amounted to around €90 billion ($120bn) in 2008, €50 billion of which came from the EU.
"Additional investments in agriculture in developing countries … should be welcome in principle," the report says.
These land acquisitions could inject much-needed investment into agriculture and rural areas in poor developing countries, with the monies potentially creating farm jobs, improving rural infrastructure and aiding technology transfer.
But, avers the report, "the scale, the terms, and the speed of land acquisition have provoked opposition in some target countries" as local people lose access to and control over land on which they depend.
Often the agreements are not made on equal terms between the investors and local communities, resulting in smallholders who cannot effectively negotiate with these big players being displaced from their land and unable to seek redress in the event of foreign investors failing to live up to agreements.
Elsewhere, people may not have formal title to the land on which they depend, but instead use it under customary tenure arrangements. As a result, they are frequently pushed off the plot so that the official ‘owner’ of the land can profit from the sale or lease to the investor.
According to IRIN, the UN’s humanitarian information news service, the lease of coastal wetlands in Kenya by Qatar threatens to displace thousands of locals who use the region for produce and livestock farming. Local councillors have said they will go to court to prevent the government from leasing the property.
In Madagascar meanwhile, the IFPRI researchers write, negotiations with South Korea’s Daewoo Logistics Corporation to lease 1.3 million hectares for maize and oil palm played a role in the political conflicts that led to the overthrow of the government in 2009.
Code of conduct
"It is possible to have win-win scenarios," said Ms Meinzen-Dick, "but it requires making sure that local people will at least be no worse off and hopefully derive some share of the benefits from the investment."
To this end, IFPRI has recommended a code of conduct for foreign land acquisition and is developing guidelines on negotiations with investors in tandem with the African Union. The researchers want to see transparency in negotiations so that existing landholders are informed and involved in any land deal negotiations.
There should also be respect for existing land rights, including customary and common property rights.
And when national food security is at risk, they say, domestic supplies should have priority and foreign investors should not have a right to export during an acute national food crisis.
The IFPRI-African-Union guidelines are to be presented to the continent’s leaders at their July summit.
4.1. The European Commission at Vélo-City
12 May 2009, Rapid PR
What is the European Commission doing to foster the mobility of its staff?
Under its mobility policy, the European Commission has brought in a range of measures on travel by staff in connection with work. The policy lays down a mobility plan for journeys between the Commission’s various sites (including between Brussels and Luxembourg) and buildings, as well as between home, welfare facilities (crèches), schools, and the workplace.
In Brussels, the plan is implemented by the Transport and Mobility unit, which manages relations with the transport operators, various associations, and cyclist groups, and provides information and promotes awareness among staff. A similar unit operates in Luxembourg.
What developments have there been in the policy in the last few years?
Initially, the main effort focused on work-related journeys between the Commission’s various buildings, centred on the following four main areas:
(1) Use of bicycles
Service bicycles for travel between offices have been a marked success and the Commission now has twice as many bicycles as cars. In 2008 the bicycles were used nearly 26 000 times, a 13% increase over 2007, with each bike being used an average of 120 times a year, while in Commission car parks, the number of spaces for bikes has been increased to 2900. New Commission buildings are now all equipped with changing rooms and showers. And quite a number of staff have taken up cycling using the service bikes and have then gone on to buy their own.
(2) Public transport
Since 1997 there has been an arrangement between the Commission and the Brussels public transport company STIB/MIVB on the Eurobus scheme, with bus routes 21 and 22 serving most of the buildings occupied by the Commission and the other European institutions in Brussels. The European Parliament joined the Eurobus scheme at the end of 2006. The agreement was extended on 1 June 2007 until 2009 and a further extension is close to being agreed.
For work-related travel between sites not on the Eurobus routes, Commission staff can obtain one-way tickets that are valid across the entire STIB/MIVB network.
Staff who need to get to Zaventem airport when going on mission can obtain tickets for the No 12 ‘Airport Shuttle’ bus.
All these complementary facilities are helping to promote public transport and have had an impact on the travelling habits of staff, especially those living close to the No 21 and 22 bus routes.
(3) Purchase of clean cars
When renewing its car fleet, the Commission pays special attention to environmental criteria: cars are small-engined diesel vehicles, equipped with particle filters as these become available on the market. The Commission monitors technological advances by manufacturers and its fleet already contains hybrid, biofuel and blue or dynamic efficiency vehicles. As a result, CO2 emissions from the Commission’s car fleet fell by 21% between 2004 and 2008 (from 265 g/km to 211 g/km), with a target of a 26% reduction by 2012.
(4) Payment of part of the cost of public transport season tickets by the Commission
In 2006 the Commission first envisaged paying 50% of the cost of STIB, SNCB, TEC or De Lijn season tickets if the necessary funds could be provided in the budget. As discussions with the budgetary authority currently stand, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee have been granted the funding required, but not the Commission. In September 2008 the Secretaries-General of all EU the institutions agreed on a common approach whereby they would seek funding in the 2010 budget for 50% of their staff’s season tickets.
Since April 2007 the Commission has offered staff the possibility of teleworking, giving them the option of working from home, so saving travelling time and transport costs. Regular teleworkers now number more than 1000.
What are the main changes in the modes of transport used by staff?
Surveys of all Commission staff in Brussels in 2004 and 2008 confirm a gradual shift in the use of the different modes of transport for travel between home and work. Between 1998 and 2004, private vehicle use dropped from 50% to 29%, while use of public transport rose from 32% to 50%, and walking and cycling rose from 17% to 18%. Car-pooling remained marginal at 1%. Almost a third of users said that the facilities available to staff had prompted a change in their habits.
What targets does the new mobility plan set for use of the various modes of transport?
The objectives of the Mobility Plan 2006- 2009 were:
* private vehicles: from 44% to 35%
* public transport: from 38% to 45%
* walking and bicycle: from 17% to 19%
* car-pooling: 1%.
These targets have been exceeded. The new Plan for 2010-2012 will be adopted in the course of the year.
What role can the public transport operators play?
There has to be close cooperation with the public transport operators so that the necessary supporting measures can be taken to underpin the effort by employers and their staff and bring about the switch from private cars to public transport. This involves improving all aspects of the transport services on offer, in particular comfort, quality, and frequency, extending operating hours, especially in the evenings, and ensuring greater security and sufficient flexibility, particularly in outer suburban areas, where travel needs are more difficult to identify and satisfy.
How was the Commission’s mobility plan prepared?
The plan is based on the work of a joint working party on mobility that met in 2004, involving DG TREN, DG ADMIN, and OIB, together with staff representatives, and takes into account the staff mobility surveys conducted in 1998 and 2004. It also fits in with the new legislative framework for Brussels, which now requires any organisation with over 200 staff to adopt an employee mobility plan. The new urban planning policy of the Brussels authorities, which changes the ratio of office area to parking space required in order to obtain a building permit, has also had an impact on the Commission’s mobility policy, since it will reduce the area available for parking in new or renovated buildings (Brussels-Capital Region, Circular No 18 of 12 December 2002 on limits on parking spaces). The mobility plan also takes account of the Community ‘eco-management and audit scheme’ (EMAS).
5.1. Public money for fossil fuels in the EU and in three EU member states
A research paper prepared for Friends of the Earth Europe
6.1. Call for experts: electric cars
15 May 2009, T&E
Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace European Unit and Transport & Environment are seeking an expert to carry out the study: ‘Can we make electric cars truly “green”?’. To see the Terms of Reference click here: http://transportenvironment.org/Publications/prep_hand_out/lid:535
Interested? Contact Nusa Urbancic at T&E. The deadline for proposals is 5 June 2009.
7.1. 30th Session of the UNFCCC Convention Subsidiary Bodies – SBSTA and SBI, 8th Session of the AWG-KP and 6th Session of the AWG-LCA
1 -12 June 2009, Bonn, Germany
7.2.LowCVP Annual Conference 2009: ‘The Changing Climate for Vehicles and Fuels’
8th June 2009, City Hall, London
The LowCVP’s sixth annual conference – "The Changing Climate for Vehicles and Fuels" – takes place against a rapidly moving backdrop. The economic recession, the difficulties facing the motor industry and the growing climate threat have prompted Government plans for a ‘Green New Deal’ which will transform the motor industry along with many other parts of the economy.
More at: https://www.eventsforce.net/waterfront/frontend/reg/thome.csp?pageID=17758&CSPCHDx=0000000000000&CSPIHN=108058-108058:443&CSPSCN=CSPSESSIONID&eventID=56&mode=preview&version=future&eventID=56
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