1.1. Arctic sea ice at lowest level ever
15 September 2008, WWF
Arctic sea ice may well have reached its lowest volumes ever, as summer ice coverage of the Arctic Sea looks set to be close to last year’s record lows, with thinner ice overall.
Final figures on minimum ice coverage for 2008 are expected in a matter of days, but they are already flirting with last year’s record low of 1.59 million square miles, or 4.13 million square kilometres.
“If you take reduced ice thickness into account, there is probably less ice overall in the Arctic this year than in any other year since monitoring began,” said Martin Sommerkorn, WWF International Arctic Programme’s Senior Climate Change Advisor.
“This is also the first year that the Northwest Passage over the top of North America, and the Northeast Passage over the top of Russia are both free of ice.”
Dr Sommerkorn said the continuing loss of older, thicker ice means that the Arctic ice cover is following a trend of becoming younger and thinner each year.
The area of ice that is at least 5 years old has decreased by 56% between 1985 and 2007. The oldest ice types have essentially disappeared.
Taken together, the new figures clearly show the Arctic is experiencing the continuation of an accelerated declining trend.
“We are expecting confirmation of 2008 being either the lowest or the second-lowest year in terms of summer ice coverage,” Dr Sommerkorn said.
“This means 2 years in a row of record lows since we started recording Arctic sea ice coverage, and a continuing catastrophic downward trend.
“There are already signs that species such as polar bears are experiencing negative effects as climate change erodes the ice platform on which they rely.
These changes are also affecting the peoples of the Arctic whose traditional livelihoods depend on healthy ecosystems.”
The trend of melting Arctic ice is also alarming for the rest of the world. “The Arctic is a key factor in stabilising the global climate,” Dr Sommerkorn said.
“Arctic ice is like a mirror, reflecting the sun’s heat back into space. As that ice goes, Arctic waters absorb more heat, adding to global warming.
“The local warming of the Arctic will also soon release more greenhouse gases from the Arctic that were previously locked in permanently frozen ground.
“This means there will be 2 powerful feedbacks from the Arctic affecting the global environment. This is not just an Arctic problem, it is a global problem, and it demands a global response.”
The governments of the world are currently negotiating a new climate agreement to come into force from 2013 when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol has ended.
“Governments must speed up these talks and agree the new climate deal at the UN Summit in Copenhagen in December 2009, just 15 months from now, Dr Sommerkorn said.
1.2. UN chief appoints two new special envoys on climate change
19 September 2008, AFP
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appointed two new special envoys on climate change, one of his top priorities, his press office said Thursday in a statement.
Former Botswanan president Festus Mogae and former Macedonian foreign minister Srgjan Kerim, who has just stepped down as president of the UN General Assembly, are to join two other special envoys for climate change appointed last year: former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos and Norwegian ex-prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.
Their role will be to "support the secretary general in his consultations with heads of state and governments as well as other key stakeholders, to facilitate progress" in the ongoing multilateral talks on climate change, the statement said.
A ministerial international conference is to be held in the Polish city of Poznan in early December to weigh steps needed to respond, mitigate and adapt to global warming.
1.3. Economic crisis threatens EU measures on climate change
21 September 2008, AFP
he recent economic downturn could push the European Union to adopt more modest ambitions in its fight against climate change.
Although the European Commission has said it wants to cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020, business leaders oppose the use of fines to oblige industry to reduce its emissions — especially in the current economic crisis.
The cost to industry is estimated at some 44 billion euros per year between 2013 and 2020, with a tonne (1.1 US tons) of C02 costing 30 euros.
Business leaders have denounced the policy as a "tax", threatening to take their investments elsewhere and move their more polluting activities out of Europe.
Faced with the threat of job losses, governments are feeling the pressure.
"As the economic situation becomes more challenging, it’s normal that government becomes more defensive on climate change as the required efforts will lead to additional costs in the short term," a senior Commission official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
A number of European politicians are now speaking openly about diluting, or even abandoning the project.
"This plan is garbage. It’s politically correct, but it won’t happen," former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato said at the end of August.
Renato Brunetta, Italy’s minister for innovation, has been equally blunt.
"If it happens, it would kill the economic upturn. No one needs to kill themselves," said Brunetta, a trained economist.
One negotiator involved in the talks between the Commission and member states, said: "We’re hearing these arguments more and more, notably from countries such as Italy and Germany, where industry is increasingly worried."
Brussels was taking the threat very seriously, the negotiator added.
The EU’s Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has nevertheless also publicly called on politicians and businesses not to oppose the measures.
And European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said: "I’m counting on Mr. Sarkozy’s authority that the package will be adopted without being watered down before the end of the year."
France has made this plan one of its priorities during its EU presidency. But Sarkozy’s own difficulties finding agreement at home on how to finance his "environmental revolution" suggest the size of the task facing the EU.
French negotiators still have a few weeks and two ministerial meetings to agree on a common position to be presented to the European parliament in October, with a view to reaching an agreement by the end of the year.
"There has been no fundamental breakthrough as yet, but the final phase of negotiations has begun and provided the economic situation does not worsen, we hope to find an agreement," one negotiator said.
The plan has two goals, the same source said: "It’s about putting in place the tools to maintain European industry’s competitiveness and helping member states achieve their national objectives.
But the negotiator cautioned: "Some decisions are very political and will involve trade-offs."
More at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080921/wl_afp/euclimatechange_080921184622;_ylt=AlUa59qz6S8TowhT3Rdk8TRrAlMA
2.1. First US greenhouse gas auction set for Thursday
22 September 2008, Herald Tribune
A coalition of 10 northeastern states this week will take steps to check global warming when it conducts the nation’s first carbon auction, taking the same approach that curbed lake-killing acid rain.
Environmental groups, energy producers, and government leaders will be watching closely as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative sells carbon credits Thursday in the first of a series of quarterly online auctions.
The cap-and-trade greenhouse gas reduction program, which aims to hold carbon dioxide emissions steady through 2014 and then gradually reduce them, is widely viewed as a model for future programs around the globe.
"With the leadership vacuum in Washington, it has fallen to the states to take the lead on combating climate change," said Richard Revesz, dean of the New York University School of Law and an expert on environmental law.
In July 2003, then-New York Gov. George Pataki brought together nine other governors to develop a regional strategy to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The bipartisan action followed President George W. Bush’s rejection of greenhouse gas reduction goals set under a 1997 United Nations protocol reached in Kyoto, Japan.
Governors in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont joined Pataki in the coalition known as RGGI, or "Reggie." Other regional greenhouse gas coalitions, such as the Western Climate Initiative and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord, are in earlier stages of development.
Both John McCain and Barack Obama support cap-and-trade programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, seen as key contributors to global warming.
The approach is patterned after the acid rain-reducing program targeting sulfur dioxide that began with a New York law in 1984 and was expanded nationally with amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990.
RGGI caps the total amount of carbon that power plants in the 10-state region can pump out of their smokestacks at the current level — 188 million tons (171 million metric tons). Electric power generators must pay for allowances covering the amount of carbon they emit and RGGI will provide a market-based auction and trading system where the generators can buy, sell and trade the emissions allowances.
The initiative will gradually reduce carbon going into the atmosphere by lowering the cap in several steps, until it is 10 percent below the current level in 2018. During that 10-year span, businesses will have to reduce their emissions. Those that can’t, because of cost or technical hurdles, can buy allowances from companies that have achieved cleaner emissions.
Companies have a financial incentive to curb emissions because they won’t have to buy as many credits and because they can sell any they don’t need. The price of credits is likely to rise as the cap is lowered. That gives companies more incentive to curb emissions sooner rather than later so they can buy and use credits at a lower price and sell them at a profit.
In addition, generators can make up for a small percentage of their emissions by purchasing narrowly defined carbon offsets, such as investing in energy-efficient building technology or planting trees to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
The overall goal is to give utilities an economic incentive, rather than a regulatory mandate, to burn less coal, fuel oil and natural gas, while at the same time making carbon-free energy alternatives such as wind and solar power more economically attractive.
While power plants account for only a third of the carbon dioxide generated in the region, they’re the easiest source to regulate because their emissions are already monitored in other pollution programs, said Peter Iwanowicz, director of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Climate Change Office.
Eventually, the program may be expanded to include sources such as industry and transportation, Iwanowicz said.
Some business and utility leaders have urged the states to hold off until a national plan is developed.
The Business Council of New York State warns that the regional plan could harm the power supply and system reliability while increasing energy prices that are already 52 percent higher than the national average for commercial customers.
Research conducted by RGGI projects the typical New York residential customer will see an increase of 78 cents per month. But the Independent Power Producers of New York, an industry group, says the cost assumptions used by RGGI are outdated and inaccurate.
Not all energy generators oppose the plan.
"We’re very much in favor of a national cap-and-trade system for reducing carbon emissions because we believe climate change is real and that it requires a national, and really international, solution," said Don McCloskey, environmental policy manager for Public Service Enterprise Group, a power generator in Newark, New Jersey…
More at: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/09/22/business/NA-US-Carbon-Auction.php
2.2. Germany opposes EU plans on carbon auctions
18 September 2008, Reuters
The German government wants to limit industry’s required purchase of carbon emissions permits to a maximum of 20 percent a year between 2013 and 2020, government and industry sources told Reuters on Thursday.
That is well below the European Commission’s proposed target of 100 percent by 2020, which Germany and other countries oppose.
The European Parliament’s industry committee recently endorsed plans for CO2 emitters to buy permits for their greenhouse gas emissions from 2013 at auction, while ignoring German pleas for a raft of exemptions.
3.1. MEPs’ call for ‘phased’ CO2 limits amounts to a postponement, IEEP study shows
16 September 2008, T&E
The European Parliament’s industry committee has proposed a weakening of the EU draft legislation on cutting carbon dioxide emissions from cars, calling for a ‘phased’ approach. T&E says the proposal, if adopted, will make the new rules ‘almost completely meaningless’ and is calling on the EP’s environment committee to reject the idea.
In a vote earlier this month, the industry committee narrowly supported a collection of changes to the EU’s proposals. The draft legislation still proposes average CO2 emissions from new cars to be limited to 120 g/km by 2012, but – as currently drafted – envisage car makers being responsible for only 130 g/km by 2012.
The industry committee, which is very influential but is subsidiary to the environment committee on this issue, says it wants a phased introduction to delay the 130 g/km target to 2015. It also voted to lower the maximum fine payable for missed targets from €95/g/km to €40, and wants certain ‘eco-innovations’ such as tyre pressure monitors to count towards the 130 g/km target.
T&E issued a statement saying the industry committee ‘has fallen into line with virtually every single demand of the car industry lobby’. Kerstin Meyer said: ‘It is vital the committee’s proposals are rejected by their colleagues in the environment committee and EU environment ministers.’
T&E director Jos Dings said a phased-in approach would mean the cleanest cars are regulated first. ‘It’s the equivalent of demanding that a smoking ban should only apply to non-smokers,’ he said.
When the ‘phasing-in’ amendment was proposed, T&E asked the Institute of European Environment Policy (IEEP) to look at its implications. In a four-page assessment, IEEP says: ‘All suggestions of a phase-in of compliance with the CO2 target lead to significantly reduced levels of compliance relative to the overall 130g/km target.’
It also says many of the makers with the worst emissions would not have to do anything for another couple of years, and compliance levels would be even worse if the idea of lower fines for missed targets were adopted.
The industry committee stance also clashes with an opinion poll from five EU countries (D/E/F/GB/I) published last month which showed 87% support among citizens for urgent measures to force car makers to reduce fuel consumption by 25%. And T&E has shown that even the bigger cars can cut fuel consumption in its latest list of car consumption per manufacturer (see page 2).
The EP environment committee will discuss the legislation later this month, and EU environment ministers will discuss it next month.
• The International Automobile Federation (FIA) says the car industry ‘needs to reach the next level’ in cutting CO2 and other pollutant emissions. In a report on vehicle environment assessments which criticised even the best performing cars, the FIA said addressing CO2 and other pollutants simultaneously was ‘the standard all must aim for across their models’.
3.2. MEPs vote to keep 10% biofuels target but with land-use criteria
16 September 2008, T&E
A new compromise solution has emerged in the immensely complex battle to develop an EU policy on biofuels.
A meeting of the European Parliament’s industry committee earlier this month agreed to maintain the EU target of having 10% of transport fuels coming from biomass by 2020, but with certain ‘sub-targets’ aimed at placating those concerned about the social and environmental impact of biofuels production.
The committee agreed to an interim target of 5% by 2015, which is down on the current voluntary target of 5.75% by 2010. Of this 5%, a fifth will have to be either second-generation biofuels or electric cars powered by hydrogen or electricity from renewable sources. The 2020 target of a 10% share of transport fuels is supposed to be made up of two-fifths (40%) of second-generation fuels or electric cars.
MEPs also agreed to a major review of the targets in 2014. The overall package has to be approved by ministers.
There also appears to be greater clarity on the sustainability criteria that will form the measuring stick by which biofuels are approved. Biofuels can only be approved if they are shown to save at least 45% of the equivalent CO2 of fossil fuels, rising to 60% in 2015.
In addition, MEPs have included a criterion on ‘indirect land use change’, following concerns that changing the use of land to grow biofuel crops could lead to more land being used for food crops and an increase in overall greenhouse gases.
T&E policy officer Nuša Urbancic said: ‘The fact that the savings have to be 45% from the start, rather than the 35% the Commission proposed, is a positive development, but we cannot be happy that the overall 10% target has been maintained. The EU should not be concentrating on volume targets but on the climate objectives it wants European industry to achieve.’
Meanwhile a report by the OECD says existing biofuels policies in developed countries are expensive, inefficient and a poor substitute for cutting energy consumption in the transport sector. The authors say biofuels cost between €600 and €1070 of CO2 saved.
4.1. Operations Director, WWF European Policy Office, Brussels, Belgium
The Operations Director is a senior management position. The postholder will work with the EPO Director, the Programme Director and senior finance and administration staff to develop and improve internal management systems in line with WWF International operating standards.
The successful candidate will have senior management experience. She/he will be fluent in spoken and written English and with excellent knowledge of French. S/he will be a team player able to work effectively in a global network setting.
The post will be offered under a Belgian contract.
Occasional travel is necessary.
Application letter and CV should reach WWF-EPO no later than 3 0ctober 2008 and be sent to [email protected]
More at: http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/jobs/index.cfm?uNewsID=145103
5.1. European NGOs Discussing Sustainable Energy in Paris, France, October 13-15, 2008
Organised by INFORSE-Europe, CLER and Helio.
Date: October 13-15, 2008
Place: Montreuil – Paris, France
More at: http://www.inforse.org/europe/seminar08_France.htm
5.2. Stakeholder conference on post-2012 climate change agreement
The European Commission, DG Environment is organising a one-day stakeholder conference "Towards a comprehensive and ambitious post-2012 climate change agreement in Copenhagen" on 15 October 2008 in Brussels.
More at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/post_2012/reg.htm
5.3. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznañ, Poland – COP 14
The 14th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 14) will be held in conjunction with the 4th Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 4) in Poznañ, Poland, from 1 to 12 December 2008. The conference will also include the 29th sessions of the Convention’s two subsidiary bodies – SBSTA and SBI – as well as the 4th session of the AWG-LCA and the 2nd part of the 6th session of the AWG-KP.
More at: http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_14/items/4481.php
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