1.1. The EU way to Copenhagen
27 February 2009, WWF
THAT: Dangerous, man-made climate change can only be stopped by an ambitious international agreement that keeps global greenhouse gas emissions under control. This is to be negotiated at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. In January 2009, the European Commission laid down its vision on what the agreement should look like. European Ministers and EU Heads of State and Government will discuss the proposals in the upcoming weeks.
WHEN: Key dates for deciding the EU position for Copenhagen are:
• Monday 2nd March – EU Environment Council, with European environment ministers discussing emissions reductions by all developed countries and contributions by developing countries, to be approved later by EU Heads of State and Government;
• Tuesday 10th March – EU Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin), with European finance ministers negotiating on financing climate protection measures, as well as contributions to assist the least developed countries to adapt to climate change. This discussion will happen at the same time as discussion of the plan to boost economic recovery in Europe.
• Thursday 19th and Friday 20th March – European Council, with EU Heads of State and Government deciding upon proposals from previous Councils. It is possible that not all issues, particularly regarding finance, will be solved at this stage, and that discussions will continue during the Swedish presidency of the EU (second semester 2009).
WHY: Climate change has major implications not only for life on the planet, but also for economic development. Today the world already faces a 0.74° Celsius increase of temperatures compared to pre-industrial times and is committed to at least another 0.3–0.6°C warming even if all climate pollution stopped today. The window of opportunity to stay below 2°C global warming is closing fast.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY: Unfortunately, despite some good intentions, so far EU countries have failed to seriously face the challenge and to see the opportunities created by a greener economy.
Today, the fossil fuel energy sector in the EU-15 countries still receives about €20 billion of subsidies, equal to 0.2% Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Europe imports about 4.8 billion barrels of oil per year, equal to 3% of GDP. Natural gas imports are another 3% of GDP.
According to the European Commission, between 600,000 and 900,000 jobs can be created by renewable energy by 2020, compared to today’s 150,000 jobs. As a comparison, the cement and the steel sectors – some of those crying wolf about strong climate measure – employ about 60,000 and 300,000 people respectively.
“There is a clear link to be made between ambitious climate policies and a new phase of economic growth. The recent financial bailouts prove that when governments decide to fix a problem, money and regulatory instruments are there. There is no excuse to treat the climate crisis with less support and attention”, says Stephan Singer, Director of Energy Programme at WWF International.
HOW: In order to promote a strong international agreement, the EU position needs to be radically strengthened in most of its key elements.
Need for adequate goals. In its proposal, the EU Commission has endorsed the commitment to cut global emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 1990, an insufficient goal to keep global warming below the 2° Celsius threshold level for avoiding unacceptable risks of catastrophic climate change. Based on various studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios, WWF says that emissions will have to be reduced by at least 80 percent by 2050 globally to keep warming below 2°C. In compliance with its fair share of responsibility, the EU must commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
The IPCC also said that industrial countries will have to reduce their greenhouse gases by between 25 and 40% by 2020. The current EU target is only 20%, with a possibility to increase to 30% if other developed nations will join an international agreement. These targets are clearly at the lower end of the IPCC scale, and even lower in reality considering that EU countries are allowed to fulfil up to two thirds of their commitment by way of certificates for projects in developing countries (the so-called CDM credits).
According to WWF, the EU should reduce its emissions by at least 45 % by 2020 (compared to 1990). At least two thirds of this must be achieved within the EU and the financial equivalent of a 15% emission reduction should go to support developing countries in their climate protection efforts, to stop deforestation and to promote clean, efficient and renewable technology. In addition, all revenues from emissions trading should be used for climate protection projects, half within Europe and half in developing countries.
Support to developing countries – The question of finance will be a make or break issue for the Copenhagen agreement. WWF considers adequate the proposed emission reduction targets for developing countries of 30% by 2020 compared to the "business-as-usual" (which takes into account economic growth). However, these reductions should be subject to substantial funding from industrialised countries. Developing countries are the least to blame for the increase in greenhouse gases but the hardest hit by the effects of climate change.
According to WWF, European contributions for clean technology and reduced deforestation in developing countries should amount to €35 billion per year, in addition to the long-time promised 0.7% GDP for development aid. Funding of climate protection measures (avoidance, adaptation and forest protection) should be sustainable, predictable and controlled in a transparent manner by the international community.
Innovation and technology – The Commission proposal fails to address the enormous potential of energy efficiency, with an almost complete lack of concrete proposals for technology co-operation. WWF says that the EU financing of technology development and research should be increased by a factor of 10 compared to current levels by 2020, particularly for renewable energies, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage (CCS). The EU should also promote the setting up of a technology action programme under the UNFCCC to protect intellectual property rights and promote innovation.
2.1. EU prepares trade duties for U.S. biofuels
23 February 2009, Herald Tribune
The European Union is preparing to impose trade duties on biofuels imported from the United States to prevent American producers from putting European producers of biodiesel out of business, diplomats said Monday.
Biofuels are developing into a big business, with annual sales of about €8 billion, or $10 billion, in Europe, and with imports of biodiesel from the United States worth about €1 billion.
The European Union and the United States generously subsidize their biodiesel industries. But European producers complain that producers in the United States benefit twice: from subsidies by the federal government to produce the biodiesel and again from subsidies granted by individual European governments when it is sold in Europe.
But Peter Power, the spokesman for the EU trade commissioner, Catherine Ashton, said the normal procedure in such trade disputes – where the European Commission proves that goods have been sold below cost and that EU industry has been harmed – was for the commission to impose provisional duties. He said that any definitive measures, lasting five years, would need approval by EU governments within four months.
EU trade officials began a formal investigation last year after European biofuel producers complained about unfair support for American producers. EU officials have said they suspect that the subsidies consist of federal excise and income tax credits along with a federal program of grants for increases in production, as well as various subsidies from state governments.
Europe makes large amounts of biodiesel from plant oils like canola and sunflowers. But the Continent, where diesel-powered cars and trucks are widespread, is also a net importer of diesel, including biodiesel made from crops like soybeans in the United States.
Highlighting the scope for trade disputes to escalate, Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organization, called on world leaders on Monday to make joint efforts to show that the global trade environment is not deteriorating and that isolationist pressures are contained.
Power, the trade commissioner’s spokesman, would not comment on whether duties would be imposed on the United States next month.
Raffaelo Garofalo, the secretary general of the European Biodiesel Board, an industry group, said action was urgent because some European producers had already gone bankrupt. The decision to impose duties "proves that our complaint was well-grounded," he said.
The EU duties would total about €44 per 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds, of biodiesel, according to the EU diplomats. The diplomats requested anonymity because governments still needed to be formally consulted on the decision.
The dispute shows that despite talk about the need for global cooperation to fight climate change, countries may come into conflict as demand grows for important products and services.
The move against American producers, which is expected on March 13, comes at a highly sensitive time for global trade. Countries are maneuvering to protect their economies from being undercut by foreign imports to safeguard jobs and industries during the most severe economic downturn in several decades. "Governments should resist the temptation to raise trade barriers," Lamy said.
2.2. If nuclear is the answer, the question is not about climate policy
24 February 2009, www.stopclimatechange.net
The steady drip of converts to the ‘nuclear renaissance’ continued this week as four prominent environmental activists in UK outed themselves as having found a heart for nuclear. However, while they claim that climate change is the reason for their atomic shift, they fail to explain how nuclear power can contribute to our current efforts to combat climate change.
Before getting into any analysis of nuclear power, it is important to look at what the challenge of climate change is. According to the officially accepted scientific advice of the UN IPCC, greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2015 and start to decline thereafter if we are to have any chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees and, thus, preventing dangerous, runaway climate change.
The IPCC advice to policy makers is that industrialised countries should reduce their emissions by 25-40% (based on 1990 levels) to have a 50:50 chance of preventing 2 degree warming (which new research suggests would be too great an increase anyway). A lot of the more recent peer-reviewed science goes far beyond this, calling for much more deep and immediate reductions. Clearly a 40% reduction by 2020 is the very least the EU can credibly commit to as part of a meaningful international climate agreement.
So, we have ten or eleven years to act. Even if you were to ignore (which is not a good idea) all the other persisting problems of nuclear power (proliferation, safety, cost etc), what can nuclear power contribute to this urgently-needed emissions reduction effort in the EU?
Very, very little.
The nuclear industry in the EU is in decline. The number of nuclear reactors being operated in EU member states stood at 146 at the end of 2007, having decreased from 177 in 1989 (for more, see this report and summary) this fact was even acknowledged by the IAEA. The average age of those reactors still operating continues to rise, with the result that many will be decommissioned over the coming years.
Coupled with the fact that the nuclear ‘fleet’ is ageing and being retired, there is the long lead-in for any new build and the lack of skilled workers. The average lead time for a new reactor is 8-10 years. So, even if the decision were made today to build 50 reactors in Europe to ensure a growth in nuclear power, they would not be online in time to contribute to our 2020 emissions reduction targets.
The flagship project of the European (French) nuclear industry is the new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) currently being built at Olkiluoto in Finland. However, the latest estimates suggest that it will be delivered more than 3 years past deadline.
This brings us on to the lack of skilled workers. A major nuclear expansion would only be possible with the required amount of workers with relevant skills to operate these reactors. However, even the nuclear industry has expressed concern about "competence renewal", with an ageing workforce and low numbers of graduates in the relevant disciplines to this highly specialised field. Long story longer, who will man these reactors? Will we follow the Swedish model of using the cleaning staff to provide security for the reactors?
All of this, of course ignores the unresolved issues of proliferation, safety, cost and so on. This is not because they have gone away or because they are not important.
Clearly, any increase in nuclear power would increase the risk of proliferation. The question of how to deal with the highly dangerous radioactive nuclear waste is no closer to being resolved (while reprocessing is also responsible for radioactive contamination and is unviable). The huge costs associated with nuclear power – such as on liability and decommissioning – that are inevitably borne by the taxpayer are also unchanged – read more or see our section on nuclear. President Obama recognises that nuclear is no answer to our current economic crisis and gave it nothing in the US stimulus package.
This blog also doesn’t touch on the fact that there are realistic energy scenarios out there that outline how we can meet our emissions targets, while phasing-out nuclear power (such as this one and this one).
The main purpose is merely to point out that, regardless of what these new nuclear acolytes claim, if nuclear power is the answer, the question has nothing to do with climate change.
2.3. Greenpeace files illegal state aid complaint for construction of nuclear plants in Romania and Bulgaria
25 February 2009, Greenpeace
Greenpeace has filed complaints to the European Commission over alleged illegal state aid for the construction of two nuclear reactors in Romania and two in Bulgaria. The environmental organisation argues that both countries violate EU competition rules.
Jan Haverkamp, EU energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "We have been investigating for many months the unfair competition conditions that have been granted to the nuclear sector in Romania and Bulgaria. We have now submitted the evidence we have collected to the European Commission, and are calling for urgent action to correct these flagrant market distortions."
The Romanian government earmarked €220 million for the Cernavoda 3 and 4 nuclear power plant. On top of this, the state spent €350 million in taxpayers’ money for the purchase of heavy water for the new power station, as well as €800 million to increase the capital of state utility S.N. Nuclearelectrica – S.A., with the purpose of supporting its financial contributions to the project. (1)
The Bulgarian government has invested 300 million Bulgarian Leva (€154 million) in state utility NEK for the construction of the Belene nuclear power station, as well as another 400 million Leva (€205 million) in NEK’s parent holding BEH, partly also meant for Belene. (2)
According to Greenpeace, all of these investments are in violation of EU competition law.
Crisanta Lungu, Greenpeace energy campaigner in Romania, said: "It is particularly important that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely in economically difficult times. Investments in energy efficiency and renewables would bring more jobs and more energy security. Instead, Romania’s nuclear industry is swallowing investments up like a black hole."
Denitza Petrova, from the Green Policy Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria, said: "There is still very little support from the government for energy efficiency and renewables, even though Bulgaria uses up to four times as much energy per GDP as the EU average. Nuclear subsidies harm the healthy development of our energy sector."
3.1. Rich-nation 2020 greenhouse gas cuts seen at 15 percent
26 February 2009, yahoo
Rich nations have converged on targets of around 15 percent for cutting greenhouse gases by 2020, but recession across much of the world could impede efforts to agree a new U.N. climate pact by the end of the year.
Cuts of 15 percent from current levels would fall far short of reductions advised by U.N.-backed scientists, but the recession is limiting government ambitions, analysts say.
"We’re beginning to see a rough alignment for the numbers for developed countries," said Elliot Diringer of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change in Washington, of proposals for cuts of around 15 percent.
The United Nations said deeper cuts were needed.
"A 15 percent cut by industrialized countries in 2020 is not enough if you look at what the science is saying," said Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.
Scientists in the U.N. Climate Panel have advised rich nations to cut by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avert the worst of droughts, heatwaves, flood and rising seas.
A U.N. agreement from 2007 demands that developed nations make "comparable" efforts to fight warming, stoked by gases released from burning fossil fuels.
"The important thing now is finally to get all the industrialized country numbers on the table and then begin to compare the efforts of different countries and see if greater ambition can be achieved," de Boer told Reuters.
Analysts predict huge arguments about the meaning of "comparable" efforts in the run-up to a meeting in Copenhagen in December to agree a new treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
But some say the costs of cuts may not be as high as feared by many countries.
"Within certain limits, the measures will pay for themselves," said Markus Amman of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna. Policies such as more building insulation could save money by cutting energy use.
An IIASA calculator (http://gains.iiasa.ac.at/MEC/) shows that a 15 percent cut from 2005 levels would have negligible impact on most rich nations’ gross domestic product (GDP).
Among national goals, U.S. President Barack Obama wants to return U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — a cut of 14.3 percent from 2007. China and the United States are top emitters.
The European Union, which has done more to cut emissions than the United States since 1990, plans to cut by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. That works out as a 14.2 percent reduction from 2005, according to the EU Commission.
Among 2020 goals, Australia aims to cut by between five and 15 percent below 2000 levels and Canada by 20 below 2006.
Japan says it will unveil a mid-term target by June. Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said last year a 14 percent cut was possible by 2020. Russia has yet to set a number.
Such cuts fall short of demands on the richer countries by developing nations, led by China and India. Developing nations are expected only to slow their own increases in emissions by 2020, rather than make absolute cuts.
The European Commission said last month four factors should be taken into account to ensure "comparable" effort — GDP per capita, emissions per euro of economic output, population trends since 1990 and past efforts in combating warming.
3.2. Polluters pay in Obama’s ‘green’ budget
26 February 2009, Yahoo
US President Barack Obama is banking on a landmark carbon gas cap-and-trade system to both fight climate change and pump 80 billion dollars into the Treasury purse to fund renewable energy programs.
The innovative program — similar to one already in place in Europe — would rev up US efforts against global warming by reducing the output of carbon dioxide and other polluting gases, while raising direly-needed revenue.
The administration’s proposed program was part of a 3.55-trillion-dollar budget unveiled by the president Thursday, which outlines a cap-and-trade system which would limit emissions of greenhouse gases by manufacturers, and permit companies to trade the right to pollute to other manufacturers.
The program forces heavy polluters to buy credits from companies that pollute less, creating financial incentives to fight global warming.
The approach — fiercely opposed by the George W. Bush administration as too costly for companies — penalizes companies that emit the most greenhouse gases, while rewarding the country’s "greenest" business enterprises.
Although the United States is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Bush walked away from the 1997 Kyoto treaty which aimed to combat climate change.
Obama now is set to do a brisk about-face on US climate change and energy policy.
The new US president would set aside as much a 15 billion dollars per year for the development of "clean energy" technologies like wind power and solar energy, doubling America’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.
Meanwhile, Americans would receive some 63 billion dollars in tax breaks and other assistance from the sale of these polluting rights in the form of tax breaks for individuals and businesses converting to clean energy technology.
In a major speech to the US Congress on Tuesday, Obama said legislation setting market-based caps on the emissions of carbon gases was overdue.
"To truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy," Obama told lawmakers in his first-ever address to Congress.
"I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America."
Senator Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment Committee, heeded the president’s plea.
"We will work in partnership with the president, and we will answer his call," she said in a statement after the speech.
But opposition Republicans expressed doubts, calling the plan a stealth tax levied against the individuals and business.
"Let’s just be honest and call it a carbon tax that will increase taxes on all Americans who drive a car, who have a job, who turn on a light switch, pure and simple," said House Minority Leader John Boehner.
"If you look at this whole budget plan, they use this carbon tax as a way to fund all of their big government ideas," said Boehner, who the leader of Republicans in Congress’s lower chamber said.
Environmentalists however were elated at the prospect of an aggressive US push to slow down climate change, after years of what has been seen by some as American intransigence on the issue.
"President Obama understands that our economic recovery and our energy future are inextricably linked," said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
"By calling upon Congress to send him market-based global warming legislation, the president has clearly signaled that he understands the risks we face from unmitigated climate change," she said.
Carl Pope, executive director of the environmental group Sierra Club, hailed the "shift in priorities" under the new US administration as a sign that "the era of dirty energy is coming to an end."
"President Obama has acted faster, smarter, and more decisively than any president in memory. He has put us squarely on the path toward a clean energy future," Pope exulted.
He added: "The question is no longer if or when, but only how we will tackle global warming and build the clean energy economy that will rescue us from economic collapse."
4.1. Financing the EU’s global responsibility
27 February 2009, Greenpeace
In January 2009, the European Commission presented its ‘Copenhagen communication’. The communication puts forward initial proposals on how to generate a flow of funds to developing nations under the future Copenhagen climate agreement, in order to support clean energy investments, protection of tropical forests and measures to adapt to the already unavoidable impacts of climate change.
European leaders meeting on 19 and 20 March are expected to come up with support for a robust funding mechanism and real financial numbers to back up global climate measures under the Copenhagen agreement. Greenpeace presents in this paper a summary of its demands for EU leaders.
4.2. Public attitudes towards climate change and the impact of transport: 2006, 2007 and 2008 (February 2009 report)
More at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/162469/221412/221513/4387741/climatechngandtransport.pdf
4.3. THE STATE OF RENEWABLE ENERGIES IN EUROPE – 8th EurObserv’ER Report
More at: http://www.eurobserv-er.org/pdf/barobilan8.pdf
4.4. An outline of the case for a ‘green’ stimulus
Alex Bowen, Sam Fankhauser, Nicholas Stern and Dimitri Zenghelis
More at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/granthamInstitute/publications/An%20outline%20of%20the%20case%20for%20a%20%27green%27%20stimulus.pdf
5.1. Seventh session of the AWG-KP and fifth session of the AWG-LCA
29 March-08 April 2009,Bonn, Germany
The provisional agendas for the seventh session of the AWG-KP and the fifth session of the AWG-LCA are now available online.
More at: http://unfccc.int/2860.php
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