1.1. Map of projects shows destructive potential of EU billions
16 April 2009, FOEE and CEE bankwatchnetwork
Faster crisis use requires much smarter thinking say environment groups.
CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe today warned that environmentally destructive and economically unsound projects, at a total cost of 23 billion euro, in the ten new member states of central and eastern Europe, may receive an ‘un-smart’ green light as the European Union seeks to rapidly deploy billions of euros to offset the worsening economic crisis.
Launching an updated map of 55 major infrastructure projects , the campaign groups called for smarter, more effective and more transparent use of EU public money that can deliver long-term jobs and environmental added-value for a region that is now in the grips of recession and struggling with still highly inefficient use of energy. They highlight projects such as motorways and incinerators, the bulk of which are still in line for funding from the EU structural and cohesion funds and the European Investment Bank, and several of which are already being funded.
More at: http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2009/Apr16_Map_of_projects_shows_destructive_potential_EU_billions.html
1.2. Pacific adaptation to climate change program underway
16 April 2009, Chinaview.com
After several years of planning and preparation, a 13.1 million-U.S. dollar climate change adaptation project was now underway in the Pacific region, the Suva-based Pacnews reported on Thursday.
The Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as its implementing agency and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP)as implementing partner.
The project is scheduled to be conducted from 2008 to 2012.
PACC will cover 13 Pacific islands countries and help develop three key areas that will build resilience to climate change in Pacific countries: food production and food security, coastal management and water resource management.
Adaptation projects will be implemented nationally, and were selected after an intensive consultative process with the implementing agencies
Under the project, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands will focus on food production and food security. Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa and Vanuatu are developing Coastal Management capacity and Nauru, Niue, Tonga and Tuvalu are looking at strengthening their water resource management.
"The Pacific countries have continued to indicate at the regional and international forums, the problems they are already facing from climate change, like salination of underground water, inundation of low lying areas and coastal erosion," said Taito Nakalevu of SPREP, who began his new role as the PACC Project Manager last week.
"These are already impacting on the livelihoods of our Pacific people and the very resources they actually depend on. This project is part of the answer to help assist them in addressing this problem," Nakalevu added.
An inception workshop for the region wide project will be staged in June to build the capacity for countries to be able to fulfil the administrative requirements of the Project and to introduce other technical backstopping support.
Nakalevu is currently working with countries bilaterally to help establish project management units that will coordinate PACC on the ground in the Pacific. Ž
"Climate change is an important issue, it just won’t go away. We have to adapt, we don’t have any other option," he said.
1.3. EU calls on US to help lead climate change fight
16 April 2009, AFP
European Union environment ministers called on the United States Wednesday to help the bloc lead and finance the battle against climate change.
"The EU has been the leader of the international debate. We want to keep on and to offer a co-leadership to the US," said Czech minister Martin Bursik, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.
"We need to build a coalition. It cannot be done unilaterally on the EU side," he told reporters after a meeting of EU environment ministers in Prague.
Earlier this month in Prague, US President Barack Obama vowed that the United States was "now ready to lead" on climate change, breaking with his predecessor George W. Bush, whose stance had long frustrated Europeans.
So far, the US has agreed to cut its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, while Europe has pledged to cut its own emissions by at least 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2020, and 30 percent if other advanced economies follow suit.
Bursik said he could see progress in the US, and if the Obama administration sticks to its plan, "it would be a very good starting point."
He also urged a deal on financing the battle against climate change ahead of a summit in Copenhagen in December, which is expected to produce a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.
Without a financial package we can hardly succeed in Copenhagen," Bursik said, calling the summit "vital."
EU commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas agreed that "without money we are not going to get anywhere. No money, no deal."
"It is not only an obligation of the EU to come with fundings and figures… the United States, Japan and all the developed countries should contribute," he added.
He said some 175 billion euros would be required annually until 2020 to fight climate change, and that the EU would need to have "a fair equitable contribution."
Up to now, the EU has been reluctant to disclose the amount of funding it would provide to combat climate change.
"It would not be the most useful thing… if we just delivered a sum and did not have the others around the table to state their part," said Swedish environment minister Andreas Carlgren, whose country will hold the EU presidency at the time of the Copenhagen summit.
"The next step is to define what will be a fair share and for that we need a sustainable and predictable funding," he said.
He urged other countries "to participate in our leadership with ambitious targets and ambitious contributions."
Bursik said on Tuesday it would take another 23 billion to 54 billion euros overall to adapt to the effects of climate change such as extreme floods, retreating Alpine glaciers and huge changes in precipitation patterns.
1.4. EU ‘cheating’ the world on climate, says WWF
14 April 2009, EurActiv
The European Union is playing "tricks on the atmosphere" when it claims it will reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020, argues Stefan Singer, director for global energy policy at the WWF. Speaking to EurActiv in an interview, he explained how he had calculated that the EU’s own domestic emissions will in fact only amount to "4 to 5%".
"What we did was compare the level of ambition that the European Union is pretending to take, compared to what it means in reality. 20% emissions reduction by the EU by the year 2020 on 1990 levels means no more than 4-5% emissions reductions domestically" as from 2009 onwards, he said.
To back his claim, Singer explained that the EU will already achieve an 8% cut, mainly due to de-industrialisation in ex-Soviet states that has taken place since 1990, the base year of the Kyoto Protocol.
"So 12% is left," Singer points out. But he says this will not be achieved by emission cuts within Europe’s borders, as the EU plans to allow a large chunk of it — 60% — to be achieved via emission offsets in developing countries, using the UN’s clean development mechanism (CDM).
"This in principle is not a problem if there were a strong domestic target as well, and if the clean development mechanism would have been shown to be truly additional. But that is not the case."
In fact, he says EU offset projects in developing countries did not truly deliver "because those emissions reductions would have probably occurred anyway" due to policies implemented in countries such as China. As a consequence, Singer says the EU’s 20% target "represents just a 4-5% domestic target" between now and 2020.
"It’s a trick on the atmosphere," he claims.
"If we want to stay below 2°C global warming, the European Union is pretending to do the 20% cut. And then on top of that they ask developing countries to reduce their emissions 15% to 30%. That’s cheating. That does not help to achieve the 2°C."
US and China ‘among the world leaders’
In comparison, Singer says US President Barack Obama has committed to much more aggressive cuts. “The Obama administration is proposing a stabilisation of emissions in the US at 1990 levels by the year 2020. That is a 19% emissions cut in the US from now on, roughly.”
Singer is also keen to counter the argument, often heard in Europe, that emerging economies such as China are not doing enough on climate change.
"China has committed to reducing its energy intensity, energy use per GDP, by 20% in just six years between 2005 and 2010, and another 20-30% until 2020. And this is quite substantive if you look at the GDP growth in China. China has a very ambitious renewable energy target, 15-20% renewables by 2020, similar to that of the EU. China has 14 to 16 new pilot projects on coal gasification in the pipeline. We just have one in Europe."
"China is definitely one of the world leaders."
He also expressed confidence that China will be a constructive player at the Copenhagen climate talks in December. "I am not concerned about China. Everyone talks about China."
But he did express concern that the EU was losing its world leadership. “I’m not saying the EU is doing nothing. We have very good laws in a couple of European countries. Renewable energy laws in Germany, and energy efficiency provisions in Sweden etc., but the European Union, as a whole, is losing its leadership on joint harmonised policies to lead the world on decarbonisation. With 4-5% domestic emissions reductions, you cannot have a low carbon development pathway in Europe.”
Russian ‘black box’ a bigger reason for concern
According to Singer, one of the biggest uncertainties at the UN climate talks will be the position of Russia.
"Experience tells us that Russia always comes in at the eleventh hour with some kind of ridiculous demand. And not just on climate, on all issues, because Russia has the understanding of the UN as a self-service shop."
In order to "deal with Russia," he says the global community should start thinking about making trade offs. The trouble, he said is that "no-one knows what is to be traded off against what with Russia, because Russia is very often a black box."
On the other hand, he is quick to defend the record of developing countries, whose efforts are "often forgotten", he said.
"Brazil has committed before the turn of the year to reducing its emissions in the Amazon by 70%. Indonesia has committed to reducing its emissions by almost 100% in Borneo, which is the largest spot of deforestation. Of course it is not related to industry, but it’s still a big chunk of emissions. So this has changed!"
"Developing countries are doing something. They’re committing. We can all say they’re not doing enough, and we need compliance, but they’re doing something."
And in the face of those efforts, Singer says developing countries are getting little in return from the Europeans.
"Europe has fundamentally missed out on giving at least a minimum of cash to developing countries. By arrogantly, really arrogantly, saying ‘sorry it’s a negotiation, we want to see what the others are doing’."
"This is a recipe for disaster. And Europe is going to be slaughtered by the group of developing countries for that."
2.1. UK risks missing out on thousands of green jobs, report warns
14 April 2009, Guardian.co.uk
Chance to create up to 70,000 jobs in offshore wind industry may be squandered without government action, says IPPR study
The UK risks missing out on tens of thousands of jobs in the offshore wind industry unless the government gives greater support to the sector, a report warned today.
The study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said the UK must rapidly expand its offshore wind capacity or it would fail to meet the legally binding target of sourcing 15% of energy from renewables by 2020.
With wind expected to meet the lion’s share of that target, there is an opportunity to create up to 70,000 long-term jobs in the industry in parts of the country where they are most needed, the report said.
But unless the government acts to remove barriers to investment, provide additional focused support to the industry and build up the skills base, the UK will miss out on green jobs.
While the UK already has the biggest offshore wind capacity in the world, just 700 people are currently employed in the sector and most of the parts for the wind farms are manufactured overseas.
The IPPR report said the government needed to be more proactive in establishing certainty in the domestic offshore wind market to encourage investment.
Measures that should be considered include updating the grid infrastructure, with the government underwriting investment if needed, and targeting support to companies that manufacture parts such as cabling, turbines, installation vessels and foundations to unblock bottlenecks in the supply chain.
Financial support schemes such as the renewables obligation and feed-in tariffs must be monitored to make sure they help deliver expansion of the sector, the report urged.
The government must also embark on an offshore wind investment programme which would include focused packages of grants and research and development incentives, a near-shore testing facility for technology and underwriting of borrowing to ensure short-term guarantees for lending.
In addition, a strategic approach to improving skills in the sector is needed, by encouraging more youngsters to study subjects such as science, engineering and maths, helping to forge links between universities and industry and providing incentives for people going into low-carbon jobs.
Matthew Lockwood, senior research fellow for IPPR, said: "Offshore wind has great potential for UK jobs but we risk being blown off course.
"The government’s pledge to achieve ambitious renewable targets by 2020 shows it is serious about its potential but we need to follow through with concrete policies to create greater certainty for industry, maximise the potential for the UK economy and realise our environmental goals."
The TUC’s general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: "The offshore wind industry could create tens of thousands of good, green jobs in the UK but the recession has shaken the industry’s confidence and exposed the need for government support for green infrastructure investment."
He said an offshore wind investment programme had to be matched by developing appropriate skills in the workforce.
And Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "Gordon Brown personally pledged that the UK would meet its legally binding EU renewable energy target for 2020 but we’re already going to miss the targets for 2010.
"If these targets are going to mean anything then offshore wind needs an urgent boost in the budget.
"Mr Brown must remove the barriers preventing renewable energy development such as planning delays, and a lack of skills, grid connections and UK supply chain."
Energy minister Mike O’Brien told a recent meeting at the Renewable Energy Association that the government had changed planning laws and increased support for renewables, and was working with National Grid and Ofgem to ensure sufficient access to the grid.
"However, we are fully aware of the investment challenges facing some parts of the industry," he said.
"As part of the work we are doing across government on the low carbon industrial strategy, we are looking at the impact of the downturn and what we can do to alleviate it."
2.2. UK charges up for electric car future
15 April 2009, Guardian.co.uk
The government will tomorrow finally put flesh on the bones of its long-awaited £250m electric car strategy. The transport secretary, Geoff Hoon, has announced incentives of up to £5,000 for consumers to buy electric cars and plans for cities to become testing grounds for how drivers will use and charge their vehicles.
But the electric car has had numerous false dawns in the past. Motor manufacturers have had electric vehicles on their drawing boards since the 19th century – the first was invented before the diesel engine. But, every time, the ideas have fallen by the wayside through lack of development and the low price of oil.
Something is different this time. There is a near-global consensus that something has to replace internal combustion engines, which account for 20% of the world’s carbon emissions, and it needs to happen fast. A perfect storm of technology, design and political will suggests 2009 will be the year the electric car begins its takeover in earnest.
"What we’ve got to get people used to is the idea that electric cars will become quite normal, quite usual," Hoon told the Guardian. "That people will have one, that it won’t be exceptional and, without being unkind to existing electric vehicles, they won’t be slightly odd, they will be cars that conform to appropriate safety standards and we can use on an everyday basis."
The move finally brings the UK into line with countries including Germany, Denmark, Australia, Israel, China and parts of the US in stating their hopes for an electric future for cars.
About 22% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from transport, with 13% of these from private cars. According to a study for the Department for Transport (DfT), widespread adoption of electric vehicles capable of a range of 50km or more could cut road transport carbon emissions in half. The UK government initially threw itself behind the electric dream with the launch of a £100m programme last October to accelerate the introduction of electric cars to the UK.
David Bott, director of innovation at the Technology Strategy Board, a government-sponsored research body which funds low-carbon research, said: "Now the motor manufacturers have understood that the [electric] car doesn’t have to be hair-shirt. These are now credible cars and you’re not giving up anything to use one but you get a benefit in terms of running costs – the equivalent cost per mile is an eighth or a tenth of the cost of using a petrol engine."
Every time electric cars have failed in the past, it could usually be attributed to some combination of three specific factors: the low price of oil, the lack of good batteries and the scarcity of charging infrastructure. But now a fourth factor has come into play: the environment.
"I accept that, for most consumers, what drives their decision to buy a new car is generally the reduction in the cost of fuel rather than their concern about carbon emissions," said Hoon. "But there are significant numbers of people, and those numbers are growing every day, who are concerned about the impact of carbon on the environment. It’s the responsibility of the government to help those people achieve our overall targets. Electric vehicles will be part of that, provided that we also ensure that the electricity we generate is generated increasingly from renewable sources."
The oil shock of 2008 has dealt with the first of the usual barriers to electric cars and batteries are also getting better. Not only can modern lithium-ion cells store more energy than ever before, manufacturers can now make them in the quantity and quality needed for the mass car market. "What’s very positive is that we can see down the line the investment the motor industry is making in battery technology," said Robert Evans, chief executive of Cenex, the government-backed agency that develops research into low-carbon transport.
And the infrastructure question – how to keep electric cars charged when you are not at home – is finally emerging from its chicken-and-egg conundrum, with electric car networks popping up in several countries.
A model that is gaining significant traction around the world is that developed by Californian start-up company Better Place. The idea is to build a network of kerbside charging points around a city but also the equivalent of filling stations, where electric car owners would be able to swap their flat batteries for fully charged ones. With a full charge on one of Better Place’s batteries, a typical saloon car would be able to travel 100 miles. The company already has agreements to build networks in Israel, Denmark, Australia, California, Hawaii and Canada and next week it launches a battery-exchange trial in Japan. By 2015, the company plans to have more than 40m electric cars on the road in these networks.
The UK’s own electric car infrastructure tests are more tentative. Though the British government has expressed interest in the past with the Better Place model, today’s strategy does not pick that solution above others. "I’m quite keen that our solution should be technology neutral and we shouldn’t be suggesting that there is only one way this ambition can be achieved," said Hoon. "Not least because if you lock yourself into a particular type of solution and type of infrastructure that is necessarily associated with changing batteries, it becomes more difficult to support the kinds of innovation that are around."
He added that the government wants to create a critical mass of people driving electric cars in the UK before settling on what the infrastructure should look like. "That’s not just the government building the infrastructure, it’s working with the private sector in a complementary way."
In addition to asking cities to bid to become electric car showcases, about 200 electric cars of various models will be available in British town centres for members of the public to try in towns and cities across the country.
These demonstrations will test some fundamental questions about how people drive electric cars. A battery may have a nominal range of 200 miles but how does this change if it is driven in stop-start city traffic or accelerated hard down country lanes? "Will people drive their cars until they’re almost flat and then try to plug them in or will they try and top them up? Will we need to provide interim topping up in car parks? How far do people drive in a day? If the capacity of the car is 200 miles and they only drive 100, they can probably charge up at night on low-tariff rate," said Bott.
London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, recently announced his intent to make the city the electric car capital of Europe. He wants to introduce 100,000 electric cars to the capital’s streets and build an infrastructure of 25,000 charging points in public streets, car parks and shops. And he wants money from central government to do it.
Hoon said he had spoken to Johnson and had warmed to the mayor’s plan. "Clearly I want to work with him and see what’s possible in London and am willing to help financially if there are sensible schemes that can be brought forward. London is a showcase for the UK and large numbers of electric vehicles around the UK would be a good thing."
3.1. Forests could flip from sink to source of CO2: study
16 April 2009, AFP
Forests that today soak up a quarter of carbon pollution spewed into the atmosphere could soon become a net source of CO2 if Earth’s surface warms by another two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), cautions a report to be presented Friday at the UN.
Plants both absorb and exhale carbon dioxide, but healthy forests — especially those in the tropics — take up far more of the greenhouse gas than they give off.
When they are damaged, get sick or die, that stored carbon is released.
"We normally think of forests as putting the brakes on global warming," said Risto Seppala, a professor at the Finnish Forest Research Institute and head of the expert panel that produced the report.
"But in fact over the next few decades, damage induced by climate change could cause forests to release huge quantities of carbon and create a situation in which they do more to accelerate warming than slow it down."
Authored by 35 of the world’s top forestry scientists, the study provides the first global assessment of the ability of forests to adapt to climate change.
Manmade warming to date — about 0.7 C since the mid-19th century — has already slowed regeneration of tropical forests, and made them more vulnerable to fire, disease and insect infestations. Increasingly violent and frequent storms have added to the destruction.
If temperatures climb even further, the consequences could be devastating, according to the report by the Vienna-based International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO).
"The current carbon-regulating functions of forests are at risk of being lost entirely unless carbon emissions are reduced drastically," said Alexander Buck, IUFRO’s deputy director and coordinator of the report.
"With a global warming of 2.5 C (4.5 F) compared to pre-industrial times, the forest ecosystems would begin to turn into a net source of carbon, adding significantly to emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation," he told AFP by phone.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted in 2007 that average global temperatures would go up before 2100 by 1.1 C to 6.4 C (2.0 F to 11.5 F), depending on efforts to curb the gases that drive global warming.
Any increase of more than 2.0 C, the panel said, would unleash a maelstrom of human misery, including drought, famine, disease and forced migration.
Since the IPCC report, however, a growing number of climate scientists have said that this threshold is likely to be crossed no matter what actions are taken.
The forest assessment did contain what appears to be some good news: cold-clime boreal forests stretching across vast expanses of Russia, northern Europe, Canada and Alaska are set to expand rapidly as climate change kicks in.
But while this may be a boon for the timber industry, it is not likely to help curb global warming, it said.
"One might assume with the increasing growth in boreal forests that more carbon would be taken up by forest ecosystems and removed from the atmosphere," said Buck.
"But these positive effects will be clearly outweighed by the negative impacts on forest ecosystems."
The report urged international negotiators trying to hammer out a new global climate change treaty before the end of the year to take into account the potential impact of warming on forests.
Up to now, discussions on forests at the UN climate talks have focused almost exclusively on the impact of deforestation.
The destruction of vegetation straddling the equator — some 130,000 square kilometers (50,000 square miles) disappear every year — accounts for nearly 20 percent of total carbon emissions.
"But it is also important to keep in mind that those forests that remain will be affected by climate change to a degree that might exceed their capacity to adapt," Buck cautioned.
The IUFRO report will be submitted to the UN Forum on Forests
4.1. JISC 15 – Joint Implementation Supervisory Committee, Fifteenth meeting
21-22 April 2009
The proposed Agenda and its annotations for JISC 15 are now available online.
More at: http://ji.unfccc.int/Sup_Committee/Meetings/015/index.html
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