1.1. U.N. panel to probe further Kyoto CO2-cut projects
30 July 2010, Reuters
A United Nations climate panel will ask a working group to investigate further claims that a Kyoto Protocol scheme may be incentivizing participants to emit more greenhouse gases, it said on Friday.
Several carbon-cutting projects approved under Kyoto’s $2.7 billion Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which helps provide carbon finance to emerging economies, have been accused by green groups of intentionally increasing their emissions in order to destroy them and collect more carbon offsets.
The panel is probing roughly 20 projects and they are the most lucrative under the scheme. Most of them are in China and India. They eliminate a potent waste gas called hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) and account for more than half of the 423.5 million offsets issued to the 2,300 projects approved to date.
One molecule of HFC gas traps around 12,000 times more than a molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The CDM’s 10-member executive board, meeting in Bonn, Germany this week, said it will seek further input on the matter from the scheme’s methodology panel
"It’s clear that these projects are preventing a great deal of a very potent greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere. However, it’s prudent that the board look at whether the safeguards built into the methodology are still sufficient to prevent perverse incentive, or need to be adjusted," said Clifford Mahlung, chair of the CDM’s executive.
Green groups including CDM-Watch and Noe21 have accused HFC project owners, mainly refrigerant gas manufacturers, of "gaming" the system and have called for the UN to suspend the issuance of offsets under the its methodology for HFC projects.
"We welcome the board’s decision to officially launch an investigation. However we are concerned that, without a suspension of the methodology, this could be used to delay taking necessary action," said Chaim Nissim of Noe21.
The methodology panel, after considering a submission made by CDM-Watch earlier this year, raised concerns in a report on July 1 but said more investigation was needed.
We’re following the advice of our methodologies panel and have asked the panel to fill the information gaps they’ve identified," Mahlung added.
The report said there was a strong incentive to avoid improving the plant’s efficiency during any refurbishments because of benefits from the CDM.
REJECTIONS AND SUSPENSIONS
The CDM’s board also rejected 22 projects seeking approval under the scheme, citing in most of the cases a failure to demonstrate they were not viable without receiving offsets, so-called ‘additionality’.
The rejected projects included 10 wind farms and nine hydro power projects in China, and were expected to generate a total 12.5 million carbon offsets by the end of 2012.
UN data showed the projects’ investors included Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Austria’s Kommunalkredit and London-based Carbon Resource Management.
The CDM’s board also said it lifted suspensions on two emissions auditors, Germany’s TUEV-SUED Sud and South Korea’s KEMCO. Both were suspended in March for procedural breaches and concerns over personnel qualifications.
The executive said it will conduct another spot-check at auditors Det Norske Veritas (DNV), which was suspended for three months in late 2008.
1.2. Global climate effort ‘still inadequate’ as talks continue
30 July 2010, EurActiv
Countries’ pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions offer virtually no chance of halting global warming before it reaches dangerous levels, researchers said as negotiators gather in Bonn to continue climate talks next week.
The upcoming Bonn talks (2-6 August) will prepare the ground for the high-level conference in Cancún, Mexico, at the end of the year.
However, agreeing on a legally-binding treaty in Mexico is no longer on the agenda as nobody wants to repeat the disappointment of the Copenhagen conference last year, where the bar was set too high. Instead, the talks are expected to agree on substance in issues like forestry, adaptation, fast-start financing and a mechanism for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).
An new international study, to be published on Monday (2 August) by Climate Strategies, a network of international climate academics hosted at the University of Cambridge, will argue that countries’ pledged targets under the Copenhagen Accord will be "insufficient to drive the robust price in the carbon market needed to peak emissions by 2020".
"There is clearly a discrepancy between agreements made by world leaders for reductions in emissions by 2050 needed for the world to be on a 2°C path and the comparatively weak targets pledged for 2020. The only way to square these two outcomes is that future generations will have to make very deep reductions on a year-by-year basis after 2020," said Murray Ward, who led the study.
The research finds that the pledges use different base years, measure different greenhouse gases and include different approaches to using offsets. Moreover, they do not take into account the effect of the global recession on emissions in 2020, it adds.
"A priority for the ongoing negotiations under the UNFCCC should be to establish a common framework so that national emission pledges can be properly understood and compared. This would allow pledges to be translated into their full, precise and real effects, and allow negotiations to proceed on a secure basis," Ward stressed.
Heading for dangerous global warming
Indeed, analysis of countries’ latest emissions reduction pledges shows that the world is still headed for global warming of 3.5°C by 2100, warned researchers from Ecofys, Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). It is now generally accepted that the limit that cannot be exceeded without triggering dangerous climate change is 2°C.
According to the projections, carbon dioxide concentrations would reach over 650 ppm (parts per million) in 2100, which far exceeds the 350 ppm limit many countries are calling for.
Some developing countries have recently announced significant actions to combat climate change. For instance, Papua New Guinea plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030 and to be climate neutral by 2050, the researchers pointed out.
But the announced delay of climate legislation in the US has added to concerns that the world’s largest polluter after China will not be able to meet its target of reducing emissions to 17% below 2005 by 2020. Beijing has already been criticised for its lack of ambition (EurActiv 28/07/10).
The researchers also reminded the climate negotiators of the task of closing loopholes that threaten to further dilute the actual emission reductions.
One issue is "hot air", the billions of unused pollution credits accumulated by Russia, Ukraine and other former communist states of Eastern Europe after the collapse of their economies in the 1990s, which, if carried over to a post-2012 agreement, could drastically reduce the ambition of the current pledges.
The research pointed out that Moldova, for instance, has asked for new hot air. Its pledge to cut emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 would in fact triple Moldova’s emissions, which are currently 75% below 1990 levels. This would even exceed the emissions in Moldova’s ‘business as usual’ scenario, it said.
Another bone of contention is new rules on how emissions from forests will be accounted for.
"The coming talks in Bonn will focus on possible accounting rules for forests in developed countries. These rules have significant implications on the stringency of the reduction pledges, creating one of the so-called ‘loopholes’ in the system," said Michiel Schaeffer of Climate Analytics.
The researchers calculated that accounting options preferred by developed countries would bring down the developed countries currently targeted emission reductions by five percentage points, from the estimated 11-19% below 1990 levels.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that industrialised countries will have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% by 2020 to stand a fair chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
Such reductions are still a long way off despite the mounting urgency given that large parts of Europe, North America and China having been baking in sweltering summer temperatures (EurActiv 26/07/10).
A new ‘State of the Climate in 2009’ report said that global average surface and lower-troposphere temperatures have been progressively warmer during the last three decades than all previous decades.
It observed that key climate indicators such as land, ocean and air temperatures as well as sea levels keep rising, making the 2000s the warmest decade on record.
1.3. EPA Rejects Attacks on Climate Science, Reaffirms Scientific Basis for Limiting Greenhouse Gas Pollution
29 July 2010, WWF
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today rejected claims, issued by the fossil fuel industry and other opponents of action on climate change, that challenged the scientific basis for EPA’s plans to limit greenhouse gas pollution.
In denying these petitions, the agency reaffirmed its “endangerment finding”, issued in December of 2009, which concluded that airborne pollution resulting largely from the burning of fossil fuels endangers the health and welfare of the American people. The scientific finding compels EPA to regulate these pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
“It’s no secret that the fossil fuel industry and others with a financial stake in the status quo have been engaged in a well-funded, coordinated campaign to forestall any action to reduce fossil fuel use and its related pollution. EPA’s announcement today is the strongest response yet by our government to this shameless campaign to mislead the public and sow doubt where none exists,” said Keya Chatterjee, Director of WWF’s Climate Change Program. “The science is sound, it is overwhelming and it is unequivocal: greenhouse gas pollution and the climate change it causes threaten the health and welfare of our children and all Americans and our leaders have a responsibility to protect the public.”
Chatterjee applauded EPA for reaffirming the science and noted EPA’s legal obligation to limit greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels. She also lamented that Congress has not yet passed legislation that would address the issue and further reiterated the importance of protecting EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.
“In just the past few months, we have seen a flurry of scientific reports reaffirming not only the reality, but the severity of climate change,” said Chatterjee. “And yet, some in Congress continue to aid and abet the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to block action. In the Senate, Republican obstructionists have blocked passage of a climate and clean energy bill, while fossil fuel allies in both houses of Congress are continuing their quest to prevent EPA from carrying out its legal obligations under the Clean Air Act.
“The urgency of climate change isn’t going away so we need Congress to act and we need the EPA to act. We need them both to acknowledge that climate change is endangering public health and to take appropriate action accordingly,” Chatterjee said.
1.4. US inaction on climate troubles global talks
1 August 2010, AP
The failure of a climate bill in the U.S. Senate is likely to weigh heavily on international negotiations that begin Monday on a new agreement to control global warming.
The decision to strike the bill from the Senate’s immediate agenda has deepened the distrust among poor countries about the intentions of United States and other industrial countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions that power their wealthy economies but risk causing the Earth to dangerously overheat, say climate activists.
A split between rich and poor nations has characterized the talks since they began 2 1/2 years ago, but it widened after the disappointment of the Copenhagen climate summit last December that fell short of any binding agreement and produced only a brief document of political intentions.
The withdrawal of the bill to cap U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the most prominent gas blamed for global warming, "plays into the same old fault lines," said Kelly Dent, of Oxfam International. It has let down developing countries that had looked to President Barack Obama’s administration to seize the leadership in climate negotiations, she said Sunday from Bonn, Germany.
Delegations from most of the 194 participating nations begin a five-day negotiating session in Bonn on Monday that is one of the last meetings before another decisive conference convenes at the end of the year in Cancun, Mexico. One more weeklong round of talks is scheduled for October in China.
The two keys to any agreement are commitments by rich countries to cut emissions and their pledges to fund poor countries’ actions to adapt to climate changes affecting agriculture and the frequency of extreme weather events like floods and drought.
So far, Washington has not backed away from its promise at Copenhagen to reduce emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels over the next 10 years. But even that pledge, made more doubtful now by legislative inertia, has been roundly criticized as inadequate.
Christiana Figueres, presiding over the talks for the first time since becoming executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change a month ago, says the industrial countries must lift their emissions reduction pledges if they hope to limit global warming to manageable levels this century.
Pledges given so far amount to reductions of 12 to 19 percent below 1990 levels, she told reporters last week. U.N. scientists have said the rich countries must slash emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020. Because carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere, scientists say it is crucial to act quickly to reach a peak in global emissions.
The U.N. negotiations aim to reach a deal to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which called on a list of industrial countries to cut emissions by a total 5 percent by 2012 as measured against 1990.
The United States rejected Kyoto, partly because it made no demands on rapidly developing countries like China, which now produces more much heat-trapping gases than any other country.
Developing countries now say they are willing to take steps to control emissions, but that they must be given space to build their economies. Although China is the largest carbon polluter and India is rapidly catching up, both countries lag far behind the industrial countries in emissions per person and still have huge populations mired in poverty.
Shifting to a lower gear, Figueres says it would be a mistake to seek an overarching package deal in Cancun, which she said would "ignore the need to continue innovating" to combat global warming.
Instead, delegates should focus on a few essentials they can build on later. One is a practical plan for raising and distributi
After a meeting last week in Rio de Janeiro, the environment ministers of Brazil, China, India and South Africa — an increasingly important negotiating bloc known as the BASIC countries — said "fast-start finance will be the key for an effective result" in Cancun.
Financing must be new, rather than repackaged development aid, and should be given as grants, the four countries said in a joint statement.
1.5. Brazil’s Climate Chief Dampens Hopes for COP16
1 August 2010,
It will be another four months until leaders from around the world gather for COP16 in Mexico, but expectations for the meeting’s outcome are hardly optimistic. After last year’s UN climate summit in Copenhagen produced a less-than-ideal result, the tone at December’s meeting in Cancun is bound to be a bit more subdued — which may not be such a bad thing, says one climate chief. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Brazil’s Ambassador for Climate Change, Sergio Serra, to talk about what the world might expect from COP16.
Although he was in the closed-door meetings at COP15 which resulted a rather watered-down accord, Ambassador Serra sees the previous gathering more optimistically than some. "Copenhagen was not an overwhelming failure," he said, "but an important step forward." The reason why so many people were disappointed, he went on to say, is because "expectations were irrationally huge."
This time around, Serra predicts that things will be different. While some may be concerned that less of a media frenzy around the next climate meeting in Cancun will mean things won’t be delivered as handily, Serra thinks the meeting will benefit from participants will be under "less pressure" to deliver something dramatic, meaning the negotiations could be aimed at a longer-term strategy.
Still, Brazil’s climate chief isn’t holding out too much hope for much glowing success in Mexico. Despite noting Obama’s even-headed managerial style during closed-door negotiations in Copenhagen, Serra insists that "the Americans won’t be ready" at COP16 — words that echoed strongly as the climate bill was killed in the US Senate later that day.
The shortcomings of some wealthier nations isn’t stopping key players in the developing world from making the most of COP16 — particularly when it comes to REDD, which Serra hopes will help fund safeguards to prevent further deforestation in the Amazon. "REDD discussions have been progressing quite well," he said.
Either way, Brazil’s Ambassador for Climate Change hopes to see the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters step-up and take responsibility to help fund the developing nations advance green technologies and a sustainable infrastructure at COP16.
Just as Brazil has managed to dramatically decrease the rate of deforestation in the Amazon and to produce 47 percent of its energy from renewable sources over the decades, the nation’s climate chief seems fully aware that nothing happens overnight — but that the world may be, more or less, on the right track.
"Cancun will another step towards a final result," he said. "The final things will come in South Africa."
2.1. Senate Aims To Pass Energy Bill Before Recess
2 August 2010, NPR
The House of Representatives has adjourned for a six-week summer recess, and the Senate’s set to do the same later this week. But before that happens, Democrats have an ambitious to-do list.
They aim to get Elena Kagan confirmed to the Supreme Court and pass a long-stalled bill to help small businesses create jobs. What’s more, they also want to take up an energy bill which was unveiled last week.
It’s been more than a year since the House narrowly passed its energy bill. That was a tough vote for a lot of Democrats because the bill included curbs on carbon emissions, under a system known as cap and trade, which environmentalists love but business and industry hate.
The hope and expectation of those Democrats was that the Senate would redeem their vote by passing the same kind of comprehensive energy bill.
But that was not the bill Senate Majority leader Harry Reid unveiled a few days ago. He admitted his scaled-back proposal contained not one provision on climate change, which he said would not have the votes to pass.
"This bill is not our first choice but it’s our first step," Reid said. "We need, as you know, to have a broader bill, we needed Republican support."
Reid’s energy-only bill has tepid support from environmentalists.
Bill Meadows of The Wilderness Society, who was at the rollout, said he was "hugely disappointed" the measure did nothing to cut carbon emissions.
"We’d love to have more, but it’s simply not possible with the political arena that we’re working in today," Meadows said.
Others reacted more angrily. That same day, Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse went to the Senate floor and chided his leadership for taking a pass on climate change legislation.
"If there’s value in having a fight when you can’t win, my God, there’s value in having a fight when you can," Whitehouse said. "And I think it was worth trying."
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed Reid’s energy proposal as nothing more than a liberal wish-list.
"It’s perfectly obvious that Democrats are doing their best to keep us from passing a serious energy bill before the August recess," McConnell said.
When asked why he was bringing up an energy bill only days before the Senate is to leave town, Reid blamed McConnell and his fellow Republicans.
"They’ve stalled everything the rest of the year, when else would I bring it up," Reid asked. "Do they want to never bring it up? That’s the answer. The answer is yes. We have to bring it sometime."
The bill does have a few non-controversial measures promoting energy efficient homes and natural gas powered trucks. Far more divisive, though, is its proposal to do away with the current $75 million liability limit for firms that cause disasters such as the BP blowout in the Gulf.
New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, who crafted the measure, says it would remove all limits for how much those firms can be sued.
"It’s a simple, common sense proposition, the proposition that we learned all while we were growing up — when you mess up, you clean up," Menendez said. "You’re responsible for what you do. When a company is perfectly happy to make billions of dollars taking a risky activity in public waters, then it needs to be perfectly comfortable with paying for any and all economic damages if and when something goes horribly wrong.
Republicans — as well as some Democrats — say it’s a bad idea to have unlimited liability for oil disasters. They say only the biggest oil companies have the assets to take on such risk, while small and medium sized firms would be shut out.
"That’s one of those key provisions that we’ve got to be able to have discussion on it," said Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski. "Because if the answer for them (Democrats) is no liability and no amendments to this, I think it’s going to be very difficult to reach a compromise."
Which could mean the energy bill is heading nowhere this week — except perhaps, to become another campaign issue for both sides in this fall’s elections.
3.1. EU carbon edges up to 6-day high, CERs weaker
2 August 2010, Reuters
European carbon permit prices rose to a six-day high in light volumes early on Monday, but slipped back to near unchanged after the first hour of trade.
EU Allowance futures for December delivery climbed to 14.23 euros a tonne, up 8 cents or 0.6 percent above Friday’s close.
By 0710 GMT the contracts were up 2 cents to 14.17 euros on light volume of 206 lots traded.
Benchmark CER contracts slipped by 8 cents or 0.7 percent to 11.86 euros, setting the EUA-CER spread are around 2.15 euros.
German Calendar 2011 baseload power trading on the EEX slipped by 10 cents to 50.50 euros per megawatt hour while nearby British natural gas futures shed 0.75 pence to 42.5 pence per therm.
U.S. crude oil prices rose toward a 12-week high above $79 a barrel, driven by investor appetite for risk, with macroeconomic indicators in top energy consumers the United States and China showing slower but sustained growth.
The Clean Development Mechanism’s 10-member executive board at a meeting in Bonn, Germany last week asked the scheme’s methodology panel to investigate further claims that a few project owners were ‘gaming’ the system by intentionally emitting more greenhouse gases in order to destroy them and collect more CERs.
The CDM’s board rejected 22 projects seeking approval under the scheme, citing in most of the cases a failure to demonstrate they were not viable without receiving offsets, so-called ‘additionality’.
The rejected projects included 10 wind farms and nine hydro power projects in China, and were expected to generate a total 12.5 million carbon offsets by the end of 2012.
The board also lifted suspensions on two emissions auditors, Germany’s TUEV-SUED Sud and South Korea’s KEMCO, and said it will conduct another spot-check at Det Norske Veritas (DNV), which was suspended in late 2008 for three months for procedural breaches.
4.1. CLIMATE JUSTICE AND ENERGY PROGRAMME INTERN
For six months
Internship in the Brussels office, with occasional travel in Europe.
Start date: 1 September 2010
This is a unique opportunity to learn and work alongside our climate justice and energy team to help influence the EU to take up its responsibility to fight climate change, and to help bring people’s voices to decision-makers.
We are looking for an energetic and enthusiastic person to do an internship with our international FoEE team. The intern position is based in Brussels, 5 days a week, and runs for six months from September 2010 until February 2011. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about and contribute to campaigning with an NGO working at EU level – part of a vibrant European and international network.
Climate change can be stopped. Jointly with national groups in 18 countries we are running the ‘Big Ask’ campaign demanding that Europe cuts its emissions by at least 40% by 2020 and 100% by 2050 and provides its fair share of finances for helping developing countries tackle climate change.
FoEE campaigns for sustainable and just societies and for the protection of the environment. It unites more than 31 national organisations with thousands of local groups and is part of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth International.
More at: http://www.foeeurope.org/job/climate_intern_July2010.html
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