1.1. German-led research tackles climate sceptics head on
17 September 2010, EurActiv
In an attempt to rebalance the debate on global warming, the German research branch of Deutsche Bank has commissioned a report that refutes the claims of climate sceptics.
The report, authored by researchers at the Columbia University’s Earth Institute, defuses "misconceptions" that can hinder investment in the green economy, which can help tackle climate change.
The report lists twelve oft-made arguments against climate change, such as global average temperatures are not rising, climate researchers are engaged in a conspiracy and water vapour is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. They then address each issue with scientific evidence to the contrary.
"The paper’s clear conclusion is that the primary claims of the sceptics do not undermine the assertion that human-made climate change is already happening and is a serious long-term threat," said Mark Fulton, who heads the bank’s Climate Change Investment Research arm.
The report argues that while it is true that science is not settled on the specific dynamics of the climate system, the role of CO2 as a driver of global warming is manifest in an increasing body of research. The latest ‘State of the Climate’ report, published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for instance, said that global average surface and lower-troposphere temperatures have been progressively warmer during the last three decades than all previous decades (EurActiv 30/07/10).
Deutsche Bank is one of the big players in climate investment, with some €7 billion of its portfolio dedicated to climate funds. It targeted the report at its investors, who make decisions based on the available science.
"Due to the persistence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the lag in response of the climate system, there is a very high probability that we are already heading towards a future where warming will persist for thousands of years," argued Fulton. "Failing to insure against that high probability does not seem a gamble worth taking."
Climate scepticism has come to the surface after leaked letters from the University of East Anglia were used as evidence that top scientists had colluded to manipulate data to dramatic effect in influential reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The incident, dubbed ‘Climategate’, erupted shortly before the Copenhagen climate conference, which then failed to find agreement on a new global climate treaty.
The Deutsche Bank report states that various investigations have since found no evidence supporting misconduct. Moreover, the controversy is centred on a tiny subset of emails sent mainly between four individuals and did not represent the broader community of climate scientists, it pointed out.
2.1. European Commission misled over nuclear safety on eve of new directive
15 September 2010, Greenpeace
Highly radioactive waste from power stations could poison groundwaters
European leaders are being misled over the safety of underground disposal of highly dangerous nuclear waste which could poison groundwaters for centuries, a new study concludes.
The European Commission is due to publish a draft nuclear waste directive this Autumn. Deep disposal has dominated the research effort put into the management of highly radioactive nuclear waste for over 30 years and is expected to be centre stage in the directive. However, the Commission has been misinformed of the dangers of deep disposal by its most critical advisors, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and European Implementing Geological Disposal Technology Platform (IGD-TP). Both claim that a scientific consensus has been reached and construction should proceed .
However, the study Rock Solid? A scientific review of geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste, commissioned by Greenpeace and written by GeneWatch UK director Dr Helen Wallace , reveals serious flaws in the advice being given to the Commission. Despite making scientific claims, key reports produced by the advisory bodies make little or no reference to scientific studies. One rare example of a referenced claim is based solely on an unpublished note of a panel discussion . Neither advisor has conducted a literature review of research on deep disposal. Despite these grave flaws, DG Research appears to have accepted the advice and is upbeat about the prospects of exporting deep storage around Europe and to developing countries .
Following her review of scientific journal papers, Dr Wallace comes to a far more sobering opinion of the viability of deep disposal. Dr Wallace said: “There are blanks in our understanding of deep storage; cracks that are papered over at our peril. We are talking about trying to bury thousands of tonnes of highly dangerous waste for longer than people have existed on Earth. It would be a mind-boggling engineering triumph which, if miscalculated, could release highly radioactive waste into our groundwater or seas for centuries, so far below ground that there will be nothing we can do about it.”
The most probable causes of failure identified in journals include accelerated corrosion of containers; heat and gas formation leading to pressurisation and cracking of the storage chamber; unexpected chemical reactions; geological uncertainties; future ice ages, earthquakes and human interference. The different constitution of waste from future nuclear reactors and its complicated chemistry adds to the uncertainty. Dr Wallace’s study acknowledges that computer modelling is now advanced, but not sufficient to account for the multiple factors of heat, mechanical deformation, microbes and coupled gas and water flow through fractured crystalline rocks or clay over long timescales.
Greenpeace EU nuclear policy specialist Jan Haverkamp said: “It is incredible that the European Commission is being given a green light when the scientists are all clearly flashing an amber, at best. This study yet again demonstrates that there is no solution to the nuclear waste problem and we should be phasing out its largest source, nuclear power, in favour of a fully renewable energy supply by 2050. Europe would be mad to consider deep storage now, in anybody’s backyard.”
2.2. Regions look to create global power base
17 September 2010, EurActiv
Regional representatives from around the world this week outlined plans to create an ‘R20’ for global cooperation on climate and energy reform during a high-level Energy Congress in Canada. Blogactiv reports from Montreal.
The original ‘R20’ declaration – the ‘R’ stands for ‘Regions’ – was made at last year’s global climate summit in Copenhagen, following an initiative by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the ‘Global Summit on Climate Change’, held in Los Angeles in September 2009.
The basic premise is to help willing and selected regions to design and implement their Climate Change and Energy Regional Package (CCERP). As well as bringing together leading regions with pre-existing devolved legislative power, the R20 will seek to develop the capacities of a limited number of interested sub-national governments from developing and emerging countries.
On Wednesday evening (15 September), at a side event of the World Energy Congress in Montreal, the plans for an R20 were fleshed out with considerable fanfare. An official launch for the new cooperation is expected in November.
As the concept has gathered pace, some major players have come to support the idea, most notably the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and global corporation GE Energy, which is a major player in developing ‘green’ technology and solutions in Europe.
In tandem with the Montreal World Energy Congress, which aims to be a forum for answers and solutions to the pressing questions of clean energy generation and smart grid technology ahead of the coming global climate summit in Mexico, the R20 is hoping to pool influence and impact in the fight against climate change.
Michele Sabban, president of the Assembly of European Regions, claimed the new body will "not be another talking shop," but an "action tank" as opposed to a think-tank.
According to the AER, and other R20 backers, while the role of world leaders at events like the Copenhagen or Mexico gatherings is clear – i.e. negotiating a legally-binding global treaty – the importance of regions, large and small, in implementing that treaty will be vital.
This role will require the approval and funding of many new clean energy generation and smart grid infrastructure projects and the communication of important energy saving messages to the public, meaning that national, regional and local politicians could potentially block the progress of any global deal.
To head off such problems in advance, Governor Schwarzenegger is busy building consensus for working together now.
Because the financial aspects of climate negotiations remain the sticking point in global summits, the proposed R20 is placing finance firmly at the forefront of its agenda.
Public-private partnerships, in particular, are viewed as a key tool to make these changes happen. For example, speaking in Montreal, Terry Tamminen, a New York-based venture capitalist at Pegasus Capital Advisers, laid out broad plans to start a ‘Green Investment Bank’ to bring R20 members, projects, partnerships and money closer together.
Industry representatives took a similar approach, spelling out a number of possible immediate solutions. Firstly, Ricardo Cordoba, president of GE Energy Western Europe, pointed to the benefits of regions taking up a technical partnership such as theirs with the Assembly of European Regions. According to Cordoba, such partnerships provide the benefit to policymakers of crafting policy, guidelines and regulations that have a real world relevance.
2.3. 64% of new power to be renewable over next decade
16 September 2010, EurActiv
Renewable energy is set to make up nearly two-thirds of new electricity generation capacity installed in the EU over the next decade, according to new estimates by the European Commission.
The EU executive’s update on its energy trends to 2030 report, published without any public announcement, projects that renewable electricity will account for 64% of new electricity generation capacity installed over the next decade up to 2020. Gas will make up 7%, coal 12%, nuclear 4% and oil 3%.
The new figures take into account the dramatic change in the economic context since the last 2007 scenario, as energy-intensive industries have had to deal with production drops while new legislation has been passed to encourage the deployment of renewable energies and energy-efficient technologies, it said.
As a result, the EU’s more ambitious scenario, which also reflects the agreed legally-binding targets on greenhouse gas emissions reduction and renewables, predicts that renewables will make up 36.1% of total electricity generation in 2030.
The Commission expects wind, including both onshore and offshore, to dominate the renewables market both in 2020 and 2030, followed by hydro power and biomass.
As renewables conquer ground, fossil fuel generation contracts significantly. The market share for gas decreases to 17.8%, while coal and other solid fuels decrease to 21.1% of total electricity generation in 2030, the Commission says.
While the share of nuclear power falls considerably, its production volumes are set to remain at current levels as some member states build new plants while others decommission them, either due to ageing or a phase-out, the report states.
The wind industry dismissed the estimates for new wind power in 2030 as unrealistic. Despite nearly doubling its expectations to 280 GW compared to its 2008 scenario, they were still far below the 400 GW that the industry itself expects to reach.
The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) took issue with the Commission’s assumption that new wind power investments would slow from an annual average of 13.6 GW in the decade up to 2020 to 5.8 GW in the following decade.
"I find it unrealistic that after 20 years there would suddenly be a dramatic decline in wind power investments, especially given the new scenario’s high expectations for offshore wind energy up to 2020," said Christian Kjaer, EWEA’s chief executive officer.
3.1. UN Climate Chief Figueres Favors `Transformational’ Projects as HFCs Ebb
16 September 2010, Bloomberg
United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres vowed to expand the world’s second-biggest carbon market by favoring “transformational” energy and transport projects over industrial-gas credits.
Investors are forecasting a reduction in emission credits in developing countries as UN regulators tighten scrutiny of projects that cut hydrofluorocarbons, an industrial gas known as HFC and linked to almost a half the offsets created so far under the UN-overseen Clean Development Mechanism.
“HFCs definitely played a role in the beginning of the market,” Figueres said in a telephone interview today from Bonn. “The question is whether now, as we continue into a more mature market, we shouldn’t be looking for volume and scale in other types of projects as well. And there I would put at the top of my list those that have the potential to bring about industrial and economic transformation.”
The Bonn-based environmental group CDM Watch said in a June 14 report that some companies won “bogus credits” by artificially boosting greenhouse-gas emissions on HFC projects. The claim is rejected by polluters and investors including Natsource LLC.
“The potential perverse incentive was recognized very early in the development of the methodology and it was already addressed in the first revision of the methodology,” Figueres said. “So what the board is doing now is it’s looking at all these safeguards and trying to determine whether that set is enough or whether they need to introduce any other safeguards.”
Credits generated in the CDM can be used in the European Union’s carbon cap-and-trade program, the world’s largest. The European trading system, started in 2005, caps emissions for more than 12,000 factories and power stations, allowing them to buy and sell credits and use UN offsets known as Certified Emission Reductions in place of EU allowances.
The EU is working on a proposal to restrict the kinds of offsets linked to industrial gases that can be used for compliance in the EU. It said earlier this year that some HFC projects were generating “significant windfall profits.”
“Any country or group of countries is free to bilaterally decide the characteristics of the demand that it will have in its participation in the market,” Figueres said. “However, I would say that another way of looking at it is how we could encourage certain other types of projects, for example those that really have a true economic-transformational potential.”
Projects linked to renewable energy, energy efficiency and transportation “have the potential to bring about not just volumes of tons reduced but also to transform the way we produce and consume energy,” she said.
UN CERs for December delivery jumped almost 12 percent in the past month after CDM regulators said they are withholding credits as they review requests for projects that cut HFC-23, a gas whose warming effect is 11,700 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard said today the 27-nation bloc wants international action to control hydrofluorocarbons. The EU said the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to protect the world’s ozone layer, is the appropriate forum for that and will complement the efforts undertaken through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
‘Very Low Ebb’
The confidence of the carbon market in the CDM is at a “very low ebb,” the International Emissions Trading Association said last month. Climate campaigners including CDM Watch have criticized the UN market for lack of transparency in decision-making and poor environmental integrity.
While the global CO2 market increased 6 percent to $144 billion last year, the value of investment in CDM projects dropped 54 percent, according to World Bank data.
“It’s not unusual for the market to react the way it is reacting in an atmosphere of regulatory uncertainty,” Figueres said. “It’s very understandable. The market also needs to understand that this particular commodity is created through a political agreement and hence the only value that the commodity has comes from a successful political agreement.”
Envoys worldwide are bracing for a new round of talks to iron out a climate-protection framework after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. They failed at last year’s meeting in Copenhagen to reach a binding deal to cut greenhouse gases, settling instead for a political accord calling for $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate financing for poor nations. It also includes a vow to stop global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times.
They also recommended that the CDM improve its efficiency and transparency, which Figueres said she is addressing with the executive board of the CDM. Given “the potential that the CDM has to go to scale, even those reforms probably don’t go far enough,” she said.
“There’s an undeniable low in the market right now,” she said. “However, let’s not forget what is there,” she said. “We do have almost 2,400 projects in almost 70 countries and these projects are up and running.”
In the run up to the next summit in Cancun, Mexico, negotiators are considering different types of overhaul to expand the CMD, including a complementary new market and non- market financial mechanisms, Figueres said.
One of the options is “the creation of a fund that would help support investment in both mitigation and adaptation on non-offset basis,” and others include sectoral crediting, where effort to limit emissions in a given industrial sector could earn credits, Figueres said.
“The natural anomalies that we have seen again this year – – floods in Pakistan or heat waves and fires in Russia — are very clear reminders to governments that time is running out,” Figueres said. “While they may not be ready yet to agree to an overarching agreement, it’s very clear that they need to make firm steps in that direction, and from what we’re seeing of preparations to Cancun, I’m confident that governments are aware of this need.”
3.2. Mexico says world should trust U.S. on emissions
16 September 2010, Reuters
Developing countries should trust the Obama administration to cut its greenhouse gas emissions as promised so progress is not derailed on financing to help poor nations deal with global warming, Mexico’s climate chief said on Thursday.
Mexico will host the next big round of climate talks beginning in late November. While few expect major breakthroughs on binding emissions cuts, steps on items like financing to help poor nations battle the extreme effects of climate change could improve prospects for a global deal in following years.President Barack Obama set a goal last year ahead of global climate talks in Copenhagen to cut U.S. emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.
"I think we are confident the Obama administration will work to reach that level of reduction," Mexican climate chief Luis Alfonso de Alba told reporters.
It would be "quite dangerous to put in doubt that commitment at this stage because we risk losing the commitment of all the main parties in this process," said de Alba.
Undue conflict over the U.S. emissions goal could put the brakes on progress being made over financing for poor countries, he added.
Some developing countries have worried that the United States, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, does not have the ability to reach the goal after the Senate failed to pass a climate bill in July.
The legislation was to have launched a cap and trade market that would have raised money for a global fund to help developing countries battle climate change. A U.S. cap and trade market would have also given a jolt of confidence to the world’s developing carbon markets to raise more of the funds.
But Obama’s climate envoy Todd Stern said last month the United States would honor the short-term goal, despite the Senate’s failure to act. [ID:nN0297673]‘MODEST CONTRIBUTION’
The nonprofit World Resources Institute has said that aggressive enforcement of U.S. initiatives already on the books could help the country near the target.
The Obama Administration also contends the Environmental Protection Agency can enforce a number of programs to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, although the agency faces court challenges from industry.
De Alba called the U.S. goal a "modest contribution" but he acknowledged other developed countries are having trouble with emissions-cutting goals with the Kyoto Protocol set to expire in 2012.
World leaders failed last year in Copenhagen to agree to binding emissions cuts and few expect major progress when the talks continue in Cancun.
Obama, however, led a small group of large emitting countries to form the Copenhagen Accord. It encourages rich countries to pledge funds to help poor countries deal with the worst effects of climate change.
The nonbinding accord, which more than 110 countries have signed, promises that rich countries will provide poor nations with $30 billion between 2010 to 2012 to help them move away from fossil fuels and adapt to floods, heat waves and droughts.
The accord also promises that rich countries increase aid to $100 billion a year by 2020.
De Alba said if financing agreements can be reached, it could eventually lead to a binding pact on cutting emissions.
"This is a process in which everyone is looking at their neighbor," said de Alba. "If we want China, India, Brazil, South Africa or Mexico to honor their own commitments those from United States and the European Union will also need to be honored."
Among the challenges at Cancun will be figuring out how to pay for the long-term aid after the cap and trade setback.
3.3. UN urges aviation sector to slash carbon emissions
16 Septemebr 2010, YahooNews
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres urged the air transport industry on Thursday to press on with curbs on emissions, underlining that it held "critical keys" to tackling global warming.
Aviation produces an estimated two percent of global emissions from human activity which "if left unchecked, will have further impacts on climate change," Figueres told an industry conference on aviation and the environment.
"The world will continue to need a stong aviation industry but the high flying plane must also be a symbol of pro-active action to address climate change," the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said.
"Your sector has been proactive and I welcome that… but we face major challenges and the aviation sector holds some critical keys," Figueres added in a video message to the two-day gathering in Geneva.
Over the past three years, airlines under the wing of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), backed by the aerospace industry and airports, have set targets for cuts in carbon emissions.
They include 1.5 percent a year increases in fuel efficiency by 2020, carbon neutral growth thereafter and a 50 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.
Cuts are being sought through more efficient modern aircraft, better flight management and air traffic control and improvements in infrastructure, as well as the ongoing development of biofuels.
However, industry executives warned that they needed a global and coordinated approach from governments to issues such as aviation emissions, flight paths and to stimulate the nascent biofuels industry.
Paul Steele, head of the Air Transport Action Group, a joint lobby for airlines, airports and aircraft makers, said that 12,000 new aircraft would be needed at a cost of 1.3 trillion dollars to meet the 2020 target.
Carbon neutral growth "is probably the most crucial target and probably the most difficult one, and it’s certainly politically the most contentious one."
"What we’re seing emerge is… a fragmented approach," he complained.
The industry is pressing the 190-nation International Civil Aviation Organisation to agree on a global framework on emissions at its assembly starting on September 28, before aviation and shipping are scrutinised at the UN climate confrence in Cancun in December.
4.1. Rock Solid? A scientific review of geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste
15 September 2010, Greenpeace
European leaders are being misled over the safety of underground disposal of highly dangerous nuclear waste which could poison groundwaters for centuries, a new study concludes.
Worldwide, thirteen countries are actively pursuing long-term waste management programmes for high-level radioactive wastes resulting from nuclear electricity generation, but no country has yet completed an operational geological disposal facility for such wastes.
The European Commission Joint Research Centre’s 2009 conclusion that the technology of geological disposal has developed well enough to proceed with stepwise implementation is based largely on a description of ongoing research projects and nuclear agency reports, and references only three papers published in scientific journals. Further, the Centre’s report falsely claims that it is mainly due to a lack of public acceptance that repository programmes in Germany and the UK have (temporarily) foundered, rather than because of safety issues. Similarly, the statement of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) that “geological disposal is technically feasible” and that a “geological disposal system provides a unique level and duration of protection for high activity, long-lived radioactive waste” is based on the collective views of its Radioactive Waste Management Committee, not on an analysis of the existing scientific evidence.
Based on a literature review of papers in scientific journals, the present report provides an overview of the status of research and scientific evidence regarding the long-term underground disposal of highly radioactive wastes.
This review identifies a number of phenomena that could compromise the containment barriers, potentially leading to significant releases of radioactivity:
– Copper or steel canisters and overpacks containing spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive wastes could corrode more quickly than expected.
– The effects of intense heat generated by radioactive decay, and of chemical and physical disturbance due to corrosion, gas generation and biomineralisation, could impair the ability of backfill material to trap some radionuclides.
– Build-up of gas pressure in the repository, as a result of the corrosion of metals and/or the degradation of organic material, could damage the barriers and force fast routes for radionuclide escape through crystalline rock fractures or clay rock pores.
– Poorly understood chemical effects, such as the formation of colloids, could speed up the transport of some of the more radiotoxic elements such as plutonium.
– Unidentified fractures and faults, or poor understanding of how water and gas will flow through fractures and faults, could lead to the release of radionuclides in groundwater much faster than expected.
– Excavation of the repository will damage adjacent zones of rock and could thereby create fast routes for radionuclide escape.
– Future generations, seeking underground resources or storage facilities, might accidentally dig a shaft into the rock around the repository or a well into contaminated groundwater above it.
– Future glaciations could cause faulting of the rock, rupture of containers and penetration of surface waters or permafrost to the repository depth, leading to failure of the barriers and faster dissolution of the waste.
– Earthquakes could damage containers, backfill and the rock.
Although computer models of such phenomena have undoubtedly become more sophisticated, fundamental difficulties remain in predicting the relevant complex, coupled processes (including the effects of heat, mechanical deformation, microbes and coupled gas and water flow through fractured crystalline rocks or clay) over the long timescales necessary. In particular, more advanced understanding and modelling of chemical reactions is essential in order to evaluate the geochemical suitability of repository designs and sites. The suitability of copper, steel and bentonite as materials for canisters, overpacks and backfill also needs to be reassessed in the light of developing understanding of corrosion mechanisms and the effects of heat and radiation.
Unless and until such difficulties can be resolved, a number of scenarios exist in which a significant release of radioactivity from a deep repository could occur, with serious implications for the health and safety of future generations. In this light, the existence in a number of countries of ‘road maps’ for the implementation of deep disposal, and the rejection of other options, do not automatically mean that deep disposal of highly radioactive wastes is safe.
At present, the following issues remain unresolved and have implications for policy development:
– the high likelihood of interpretative bias in the safety assessment process because of the lack of validation of models, the role of commercial interests and the pressure to implement existing road maps despite important gaps in knowledge. Lack of (funding for) independent scrutiny of data and assumptions can strongly influence the safety case
– lack of a clearly defined inventory of radioactive wastes, as a result of uncertainty about the quantities of additional waste that will be produced in new reactors, increasing radioactivity of waste due to the use of higher burn-up fuels, and ambiguous definitions of what is considered as waste
– the question of whether site selection and characterisation processes can actually identify a large enough volume of rock with sufficiently favourable characteristics to contain the expected volume of wastes likely to be generated in a given country
– tension between the economic benefits offered to host communities and long-term repository safety, leading to a danger that concerns about safety and impacts on future generations may be sidelined by the prospect of economic incentives, new infrastructure or jobs. There is additional tension between endorsement of deep disposal as a potentially ‘least bad’ option for existing wastes, and nuclear industry claims that deep repositories provide a safe solution to waste disposal and so help to justify the construction of new reactors
– potential for significant radiological releases through a variety of mechanisms, involving the release of radioactive gas and/or water due to the failure of the near-field or far-field barriers, or both
– significant challenges in demonstrating the validity and predictive value of complex computer models over long timescales
– risk of significant escalation in repository costs.
Download Document at: http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/rock-solid-a-scientific-review
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