1.1. EU, US criticised for low profile in Bonn climate talks
15 June 2009, EurActiv
The EU and the US took a backseat at the negotiating table during the second round of global climate talks in Bonn, while Japan shocked developing countries by announcing a "shameful" emissions reduction target.
As the two-week talks drew to a close on Friday (12 June), the negotiating text had swelled to hundreds of pages as all parties raced to add their amendments. There was, however, no movement towards agreement on financing for climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries, recognised as a prerequisite for any agreement in Copenhagen next December.
The European Union was criticised for sending the wrong signals, as EU finance ministers at their meeting on 9 June did not put forward any concrete figures but merely agreed on criteria for how developed nations should share the burden of future funding (EurActiv 09/06/09). The US was equally criticised for a lack of leadership.
"The US has been very quiet this time around," said Tim Gore, Oxfam International’s climate change adviser, drawing a comparison to the first round of talks two months ago. Back then, the global community broadly welcomed the engagement of President Barack Obama’s administration after years of inaction under President Bush.
It is far from certain whether the US will be able to get its climate bill through Congress by the end of the year, which would cement the government’s mandate to sign up to emission reduction targets. Concerns are now being raised that the anticipated US leadership on ambitious commitments to reduce emissions will not materialise in the face of domestic realities.
Indeed, rich nations did not come any closer to agreeing a collective emissions reduction goal. They came under heavy criticism on the final day of the Bonn conference, when 40 developing countries of the G-77 specifically called for a 40% below 1990-level emissions reduction target for industrialised nations.
Neither the EU’s 30% offer in case other developed nations sign up to comparable efforts, nor the target of returning to 1990 levels in the draft US draft climate bill come anywhere close to this. Moreover, Russia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Belarus and Ukraine refused even to define an initial target.
Japanese target ‘pathetic’
The eagerly awaited unveiling of Japan’s midterm target for emissions reductions turned into one of the greatest disappointments of the talks. Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso announced that his country would cut its greenhouse-gas emissions to 15% below 2005 levels by 2020. However, this only translates into an 8% cut from 1990 levels.
"It was essentially a slap in the face of developing countries that called for a 40% target," Gore said.
Aso, however, asserted that the target was ambitious and pointed out that Japan was already the most energy-efficient economy in the world.
But observers were quick to note that the target was only marginally above the 6% commitment that Japan had made under the Kyoto Protocol.
"This is a great shame, and it sets the wrong tone for the negotiations here in Bonn. Aso’s decision, influenced by polluters rather than the public, makes reaching a good deal even harder," said Kim Carstensen, who leads WWF’s Climate Initiative.
The EU was cautious not to criticise Japan’s feeble commitment, and simply "encouraged" Tokyo to take further steps.
Aviation and shipping to contribute
But observers noted that discussions on funding mechanisms had seen some progress, as consensus was building around a Mexican proposal for a climate fund. The idea of the fund – to which all parties, including developing and developed nations, contribute according to their GDP, population and level of emissions – is proving popular due to its universality.
The contribution of the aviation and shipping industries to climate funding was raised, as a group of developing countries proposed a levy on international flight tickets and shipping fuel. This could be used to help them deal with the consequences of climate change, they said.
Australia also proposed a mechanism to cap emissions in the two sectors. But it did not say how the money raised via the mechanism should be spent.
The EU has included the aviation in its emissions trading scheme (EU ETS; see EurActiv LinksDossier), but it has been waiting for the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to come up with a framework for shipping emissions. Nevertheless, it has pledged to address maritime emissions alone in the event that the IMO continues to drag its feet on the issue, and the pressure is now on for it to put its weight behind an international framework within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Call for high-level intervention
With the talks continuing to produce few tangible results, NGOs started calling for intervention at the highest political level.
"It’s clear that many of the government officials negotiating in Bonn are in their own little bubble, impervious to both public concern and climate science," said Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace International’s climate policy director.
World leaders should step up to the plate at the G8 meeting in July in Italy and start fighting for an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen, green groups said.
1.2. EU leaders leave climate change to the G8
18 June 2009, Greenpeace
Brussels — Following discussions at an EU summit in Brussels today, Greenpeace expressed grave concern on the readiness of European leaders for climate talks at the forthcoming G8 meeting in Italy. European leaders were unable to agree on any concrete proposals to break the deadlock in negotiations for a global climate treaty.
“Today has shown us that European leaders are still not up to the challenge. We need European leadership to push for a strong climate deal by the end of this year,” said Joris den Blanken, EU climate and energy policy director for Greenpeace. “No action from the EU now, leaves the road wide open for less ambitious countries like Japan and the US to water down the deal.”
Greenpeace calls on EU leaders taking part in the G8 to prepare an emergency proposal on climate change in the next two weeks. The emergency plan should contain commitments for upfront payments to support the preparation of green action plans in developing countries and fund the immediate needs to adapt to the already unavoidable impacts of climate change.
At today’s summit, EU leaders only reiterated what was already agreed last week by finance ministers: that sharing the financial effort to support climate measures in developing countries should be based on the principles of ability to pay (GDP per capita) and historic emissions. The leaders concluded that all other aspects of climate finance would be agreed by October.
“Money is the make or break issue in the ongoing global climate negotiations. Waiting until October means another three months of deadlock in international negotiations,” said den Blanken.
1.3. EU to postpone decision on climate finance until autumn
19 June 2009, EurActiv
EU leaders yesterday (18 June) postponed crucial decisions on financing the fight against climate change in developing countries until their October meeting, in line with draft conclusions. But leaders agreed on the principles setting out the terms for financial contributions.
Meeting in Brussels yesterday for a two-day summit, heads of state and government discussed progress made in climate talks to decide on a global agreement in Copenhagen by the end of the year. They concluded the discussions on financing climate change by endorsing the draft conclusions.
EU leaders backed backed the agreement reached last week by finance ministers, who stressed that the principles of ability to pay and responsibility for emissions should serve as a basis for climate funding (EurActiv 09/06/09). But they postponed decisions on other aspects of financing, to be agreed before October.
Leaders supported the incoming Swedish EU Presidency’s proposal to draw up a work programme and ensure proper EU coordination and decision-making ahead of international negotiating meetings leading to the Copenhagen conference.
The Council will ask the Commission to promptly table proposals, especially on financing, to allow EU leaders "to take appropriate decisions on all aspects of financing at its October meeting," state the draft conclusionsPdf .
The failure to put any figures on the table for the EU’s contribution provoked a backlash from environmentalists. WWF accused the Union of shifting the burden onto developing countries by insisting it was up to poor nations to describe in detail why they deserve support for tackling climate change, before EU countries make any pledges for action themselves.
Greenpeace expressed concern that the EU might not be ready to take the international talks further at the G8 summit in Italy next month. "No action from the EU now leaves the road wide open for less ambitious countries like Japan and the US to water down the deal," said Joris den Blanken, EU climate and energy policy director at the NGO.
Danish premier sidelines targets for stabilising emissions
Speaking at a conference organised by the European Policy Centre, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen confirmed the decision on financing would come in few months.
Rasmussen, whose country will host the global climate change talks in December, stressed the need for targets and national commitments on reductions of CO2 emissions that will lead to stabilisation of global emissions in 2020. "It would be nice to have everybody agree on short term targets, but what we need is to stabilise emissions by 2020," he said.
"If we allow some countries to increase emissions for some time, it means that others have to be more ambitious," he added, noting that the EU should maintain its leadership role and keep its ambitious target of 30% cut by 2020.
"Instead of discussing on how we should try to push the US to be more ambitious, I think it is important to find a common ground upon which to build the sound architecture of a deal," he argued, pointing out industrialised countries as the EU and the United States must agree on mid-term emission targets.
Rasmussen wants the EU to maintain leadership towards reaching an ambitious global deal, even if that means that others will follow different paths at different speeds. "If we need to be 100 km from here in an hour we can drive 50 km/hour for some time – but at some stage the pace will certainly have to be increased considerably – and surely we should not wait 50 minutes before we do it," he said, metaphorically-speaking.
Adequate financing linked to specific actions in emerging economies
Despite progress made on financing mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, Rasmussen acknowledged that adequate funding should be mobilised, and linked it to specific actions and low-carbon strategies developed by emerging economies.
On this point, the summit conclusions note that the financing mechanism should as far as possible build on existing – and if necessary reformed – instruments and institutions.
"Efficient, effective and equitable financing mechanism must be ensured," states the document, backing the European Commission’s proposal to establish a comprehensive system to measure, report and verify mitigation actions in developing countries.
Carbon border tax
Commenting on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to impose a carbon tax on products imported from countries that do abide by international agreement like the Kyoto Protocol, the Danish premier said it was not advisable. "First we have to negotiate an international agreement. Then we will deal with the question of carbon leakage," he said.
1.4. Current Carbon dioxide levels highest in past 2.1m years
19 June 2009, The Economic Times
NEW YORK: Present day carbon dioxide levels in atmosphere have touched the highest mark in the past 2.1 million years which may result in large scale climatic changes from greenhouse effect, says a study.
The study published in today’s edition of journal ‘Science’ says the present levels of carbon dioxide are 38% higher than the levels that hovered around 280 parts per million during last 2.1 million years.
The researchers from Columbia University say that estimation of atmospheric carbon dioxide for the period will give an insight in the cooling and warming cycles of planet earth.
Carbon dioxide is a principal green house gas which traps the warm infrared rays coming from the Sun and blocks them from being reflected again in the space by the earth’s surface.
This helps in maintaining adequate temperature on earth but its rapid increase emanating from human activities like vehicles, factories etc is increasing temperature to an extent that large scale climate change is becoming inevitable.
Through the analysis of carbon dioxide, scientists helped them rule out that dip in gas levels was the factor for ice ages growing longer and more intense some 8.5 lakh years ago.
2.1. Transport set for greater EC attention as emissions again hold back EU action
15 June 2009, T&E
Hints that transport will be targeted by the new Commission in its next stage of reducing greenhouse gases have been dropped by three leading officials.
Their comments come as the transport sector once again held back a fall in overall EU emissions.
Last month the Commission president José Manuel Barroso met with the British climate economist Nicholas Stern and the chairman of the UN climate panel Rajendra Pachauri, and said afterwards that eliminating greenhouse gases from power stations, cars, lorries and aircraft must feature in the priority list when 27 new commissioners are appointed later this year. ‘I want to underline specifically the question of transport,’ Barroso said.
‘We need to come up with concrete policies to decarbonise our electricity supply and transport fuels, and to transform the grid,’ Barroso added after his meeting with Stern and Pachauri. ‘It’s not too early to be thinking about this.’
Two weeks later the environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said the new Commission could propose a major climate and transport policy package. Dimas was speaking at the announcement of European Environment Agency (EEA) figures which show EU greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.2% in 2007, despite an alarming rise in emissions from transport.
The idea of a major initiative on transport was further reinforced by the second-highest Commission official in the environment directorate, Jos Delbeke. In an interview with Reuters news agency, he said Europe needed ‘a climate and transport package … to make a quantum jump’. ‘We’ve been very successful in reducing emissions from the power and manufacturing sectors by around 15-20% since 1990,’ he said, ‘but we’ve been neutralising that with an increase in emissions from transport. We have to be much more ambitious on the nuisance of transport services.’
Delbeke confirmed that legislation to reduce emissions from vans was on its way, and Dimas said proposals could be published by the current Commission.
The EEA says total EU greenhouse gas emissions would have fallen by 14% since 1990 if transport had followed the same decreasing trend as other sectors, whereas its current figure is 7.9% down.
2.2. Greenpeace comment: Commission communication on the future of transport policy
18 June 2009, Greenpeace
Brussels, Belgium — The European Commission has today put forward its vision on the future of the European transport sector.
The Commission communication prominently features comfort and safety considerations. However, calls for “more sustainable transport“ and “further action in particular on noise, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions“ only appear as secondary objectives. The communication is also expected to focus on “smart prices” for transport, while issues such as reducing demand and controlling speed are largely ignored.
“Official EU data shows that the damage on the climate from cars, airplanes and ships is increasing, but the Commission fails to recognise the need to set transport emission targets,” said Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace EU transport policy adviser.
The EU transport sector is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the power sector, with 22% of total EU emissions. According to a European Environment Agency report released this year, transport emissions increased by 28% between 1990 and 2006, while, overall, emission from all sectors have decreased by 3%.
“We just can’t achieve sustainability if we continue to have an ever-expanding transport sector. If the Commission does not tackle this burning issue, the growth of EU transport will continue undermining climate efforts in other sectors,“ said Achterberg.
2.3. Obama shepherds deal with car makers to improve fuel efficiency of US vehicles
15 June 2009, T&E
The US president Barack Obama has launched a plan to regulate vehicle emissions in America from 2012 which has the agreement of leading car makers.
The plan, described by the governor of California as ‘staggering’, has led to car makers dropping all threats of legal action against measures which will force them to be more fuel-efficient.
The deal envisages a programme from 2012 to 2016 to achieve a maximum fuel consumption of 35.5 miles per gallon. This would reduce CO2 emissions by around 25%, leading to average emissions of around 170 g/km in 2017, which was the level the EU was at in 2000.
Announcing the deal alongside representatives from American, Japanese and European car makers, Obama said: ‘The status quo is no longer acceptable. We have done little to increase the fuel efficiency of America’s cars and trucks for decades. This is unprecedented change.’
Improved fuel efficiency standards in America have been driven by California, but the state’s efforts have been constrained by former-president George Bush’s refusal to allow stricter standards in California than in the rest of the USA.
California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was ‘ecstatic’ at the news. ‘This is staggering,’ he said. ‘This president after 120 days in office has taken the action and pulled everyone together.’
Officials said the new regulations will add an average of $600 (€400) to the price of a new car, but Obama said the savings in fuel would wipe out the difference in three years. ‘The fact is that everyone wins,’ he said.
In March, Obama said he was making money available to help establish high-speed passenger rail lines in at least 10 regions across the USA.
3.1. Ministers chide ‘unrealistic’ green housing plans
15 June 2009, EurActiv
EU energy ministers received an update on progress made regarding the bloc’s energy efficency legislation at their meeting on Friday (12 June), as the EU seeks safeguard its energy future in a sustainable manner.
The Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission presented a progress report on energy-saving legislation on buildings, tyres and energy labelling, which are to contribute to the EU’s target of using 20% less energy by 2020.
According to a progress report from the Czech Presidency, many member states are concerned that the directive on the energy performance of buildings could come with too high an administrative burden.
Although generally supportive of the legislation, they think the European Parliament’s first-reading position that all new buildings should produce on-site at least as much renewable energy as they consume by 2019 is "overly ambitious and unrealistic" (EurActiv 24/04/09).
On energy labels for consumer goods, member states seem to be divided between the Commission’s proposals to change the current A-G classification by adding categories to the highest ‘A’ class, and the Parliament’s first-reading position of retaining the closed scheme and upgrading classification thresholds instead (EurActiv 06/05/09).
After the Parliament’s rejection of the new label format for televisions (EurActiv 07/05/09), the legislation on labelling is at an impasse, which the Commission is trying to unblock by conducting a consumer survey.
The directive on tyre labelling, on the other hand, has proven less controversial, although some member states wanted to add provisions for a tyre type used in Nordic winter conditions. The Commission will now propose an amended version in the form of a directive to speed up implementation.
The incoming Swedish EU Presidency has announced that it will make energy efficiency one of its priorities for the next six months.
3.2. EU-US deal on energy savings from office equipment
18 June 2009, EurActiv
The European Commission yesterday (17 June) agreed with the US Environmental Protection Agency to set more stringent energy standards for computers, copiers and printers that qualify for the EU-US ‘Energy Star’ label.
The Commission expects energy savings in the magnitude of 22 TWh in the EU alone, from purchases made in the next three years once the new criteria have entered into force on 1 July. The savings will accrue over the next four to six years, and are expected to be comparable to the annual energy consumption of Ireland.
More stringent specifications for computers would save 18 TWh, while including imaging equipment like faxes and printers would cut energy use by a further 4TWh compared to the business-as-usual scenario.
The ‘Energy Star’ is a voluntary label awarded to consumer appliances that comply with specified energy-efficiency standards. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set up the scheme in 1992, and it has become the market standard in the States. The EU introduced the label for office equipment in 2001.
According to the EPA, imaging equipment that fulfils the new requirements will be 14% more efficient than current Energy Star models. Computers meeting the new specification will use between 30% and 60% less energy, the agency says.
"The new criteria are an important contribution to reach the EU’s energy efficiency targets. Energy Star is a very successful example of energy efficiency cooperation with the US, delivering concrete energy and CO2 savings worldwide, while saving citizens’ and enterprises’ money," said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
Both member-state governments and the EU institutions have a binding obligation to apply standards at least as high as the Energy Star criteria in public procurement. The Commission hopes this will drive consumption towards more efficient equipment, contributing to the EU’s target to use 20% less energy by 2020 (see EurActiv LinksDossier).
The EU executive plans to add criteria for other office equipment such as servers and date storage equipment soon.
4.1. WWF report: Green industries create more jobs
17 June 2009, EurActiv
Jobs in low-carbon sectors are already outstripping those in Europe’s traditional polluting industries in Europe, but the EU is missing the boat as regards harnessing the economic crisis to kick-start the transition to a low-carbon, competitive economy, a WWF study published yesterday (16 June) shows.
The conservation NGO’s estimates show that renewable energy, green transport and energy-efficient goods and services employ at least 3.4 million people in Europe. This compares favourably with 2.8 million jobs in mining, electricity, gas, cement, iron, steel and other polluting industries, it reads.
Renewable energies employ 400,000 people, but the potential for growth is significant, the study points out. Although around 70% of renewables technology rests in the hands of European companies, only a small number of countries, with Germany and Spain in the lead, account for the bulk of jobs in Europe.
The largest share of green jobs, around 2.1 million, is in sustainable transport. The auto industry employs some 150,000 of the two million, and is involved in producing smaller cars that emit less than 120 grams of CO2 per kilometre, the WWF underlines, noting that despite the financial crisis, the industry is still adding production lines.
More difficult to estimate is the number of jobs in energy efficiency-related activities, but the WWF gives a conservative figure of over 900,000. It argues that this sector is critical due to its multiplier effect, as the money saved in energy can be used in other, more labour-intensive parts of the economy.
WWF stressed that climate policies will not threaten jobs in traditional polluting industries, as structural changes including automation and mergers account for most of the job losses. But it argued that the transition should be managed properly by putting in place policies for retraining and social protection to safeguard individuals who lose out in the process.
Insufficient green stimulus
WWF argues that the economic crisis has made it even more crucial to implement the EU’s energy and climate legislation agreed in December (see EurActiv LinksDossier) to create new, green jobs in the transition to a decarbonised economy. Nevertheless, European economic stimulus packages have not been "nearly green enough," and the window is closing on what might be a once-in-a-generation opportunity, it claims.
While almost 64% of the EU’s economic recovery plan is green, the proportion is just below 10% when combined with member-state funds, according to a recent study by HSBC (EurActiv 08/04/09). WWF thus concluded that it is the member states that are dragging down the EU’s green investment.
A similar trend in green job growth is visible in the United States, according to a study from the Pew Charitable Trusts published last week (10 June).
In the period 1998-2007, green jobs grew by 9.1% to 777,000 in the US, much faster than overall jobs, the report shows. The low-carbon economy is still in its infancy as this only amounts to about half a percentage point, but it is "poised to expand significantly" as both private and public funding begins to flow, the Pew report argues.
It pointed out that clean-technology sectors are weathering the crisis better than others. Although their share of venture capital investment was down 48% in the first quarter of 2009, they fared much better compared to an economy-wide drop of 61%.
EU regulation to boost the transition
Despite the EU’s leadership in green technology innovation, the US has been far more successful at attracting venture capital to put products to market (EurActiv 30/03/09). The EU’s climate legislation attempts to create a framework for overcoming hurdles to investment.
"Our study aims to give policymakers political backing to make the change to a decarbonised society," said Jason Anderson, head of European climate and energy policy at WWF, pointing to the economic benefits of strict climate policies.
Anderson singled out the current recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which he said should include a binding target for zero-carbon buildings. In its first-reading position, the Parliament spelled out that all buildings should produce as much renewable energy on-site as they consume by 2019 (EurActiv 24/04/09), but many member states consider this to be unrealistic (EurActiv 15/06/09).
Italy alone wastes 17% of the total energy Europe loses from buildings every year, WWF pointed out. If Swedish building standards were applied across the continent, the EU could cut its energy losses by half, it added.
5.1. Take part! Be a participant on the tour!
We are expecting a total of 25 primarily young participants (around the age of 20-30) from the countries of the tour (Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary). But applications from other countries might be considered as well. Application process is open and continuous till all places are filled.
* good biking,
* good English,
* interested in the topics: environment protection, sustainability, active citizenship,
ABOUT THE TOUR
Date: 19.06.2009 Koper (Slovenia) – 20.07.2009 Pécs (Hungary)
Total distance (approx.): 740 km
Average distance of a day: 50 km Ž
Days spent with pedalling: 17 days
All the costs are covered by the project for those, who take part on the whole tour, except the travelling costs (to Koper – starting point – and from Pecs – destination)
More at: http://greenbikesforpeace.eu/node/331
Disclaimer: We do not guarantee for the accuracy, reliability or content of information. For help or questions, contact: [email protected].