1.1. New study to force ministers to review climate change plan
19 June 2008, The Guardian
Exclusive Official review admits biofuel role in food crisis
Britain and Europe will be forced to fundamentally rethink a central part of their environment strategy after a government report found that the rush to develop biofuels has played a "significant" role in the dramatic rise in global food prices, which has left 100 million more people without enough to eat.
The Gallagher report, due to be published next week, will trigger a review of British and EU targets for the use of plant-derived fuels in place of petrol and diesel, the Guardian has learned.
The study marks a dramatic reversal in the role of biofuels in the fight against global warming. As recently as last year, corn ethanol and biodiesel derived from vegetable oil were widely seen as important weapons in that fight – and a central plank of Gordon Brown’s green strategy. Now even their environmental benefits are in question.
A panel of government experts, chaired by Professor Ed Gallagher, head of the Renewable Fuels Agency, has said that far more research is needed into the indirect impact of biofuels on land use and food production before the government sets targets for their use in transport.
The first such target is already in place. Since April, all petrol and diesel in Britain has had to contain 2.5% of biofuels, a stepping stone towards a 2010 target of 5%. The EU is contemplating a 10% target by 2010. The new report means all those goals will have to be reconsidered.
A government official familiar with the Gallagher review said: "Simply setting a target without stipulating what kind of biofuel is to be used in what circumstances can have all sorts of unintended consequences."
Another official said: "The review has thrown up the likelihood of significant impacts. UK and EU targets will have to be addressed."
The report says there is a place for biofuels, both as an alternative to fossil fuels and as a source of income for poor farmers with marginal lands. But it says a distinction must be drawn between "first-generation" biofuels, which use food crops such as corn, rapeseed, palm and soya, and experimental "second-generation" fuels based on fibrous non-food plants which could theoretically be grown without displacing other crops and raising food prices. Criteria to guide fuel policy would consequently have to be drawn up.
It was unclear yesterday whether Britain had left it too late to influence EU biofuel targets, after the government failed to raise objections in a succession of votes in European environment and industry committees. British officials believe the issue can still be revisited in Brussels.
The transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, ordered the review in February, at the height of the food price crisis, but the panel only began work in March and was asked to deliver its conclusions three months later. "There was so little time, I expected it would just be a review of the literature, but it has gone much further than I expected. It has substantive things to say," said a government official involved in drafting the report.
The role of biofuels, which pits concerns over climate change against the need for food security for vulnerable populations, was the most controversial issue at a summit on the food crisis earlier this month in Rome. The US and Brazil, both large-scale biofuel producers, argued fiercely against any hint of criticism of their cultivation in the conference’s final statement, which called only for "in-depth studies".
An American claim that biofuels contributed less than 3% to food price rises was widely derided. The IMF estimates their impact as 20-30%, and other estimates are even higher. Over a third of US corn is used to produce ethanol, while about half of EU vegetable oils go towards the production of biodiesel.
After the Rome summit, a British government team involved in the Gallagher review visited the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to consult specialists who had drawn up UN recommendations on biofuel use. They emerged saying their views were "identical". The FAO recommendations advised against a moratorium on biofuel use or the continuation of "business as usual" under existing policies, calling instead for a set of international standards to ensure plant-derived ethanol and biodiesel did not harm the food supply. Keith Wiebe, a senior agricultural economist at the FAO, said: "There is a push towards the development of these liquid biofuels that is in advance of our understanding of their impact. We need to know more about those impacts, before pushing too hard."
The UN’s World Food Programme has called the food crisis a "silent tsunami" which is pushing more than 100 million people worldwide into hunger.
1.2. Arctic sea ice melt ‘even faster’
18 June 2008, BBC news
A widespread Arctic melt would have major impacts on wildlife
Arctic sea ice is melting even faster than last year, despite a cold winter.
Data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) shows that the year began with ice covering a larger area than at the beginning of 2007.
But now it is down to levels seen last June, at the beginning of a summer that broke records for sea ice loss.
Scientists on the project say that much of the ice is so thin that it melts easily, and the Arctic may be ice-free in summer within five to 10 years.
"We had a bit more ice in the winter, although we were still way below the long-term average," said Julienne Stroeve from NSIDC in Boulder, Colorado.
"So we had a partial recovery; but the real issue is that most of the pack ice has become really thin, and if we have a regular summer now, it can just melt away," she told BBC News.
In March, Nasa reported that the area covered by sea ice was slightly larger than in 2007, but much of it consisted of thin floes that had formed during the previous winter. These are much less robust than thicker, less saline floes that have already survived for several years.
After a colder winter, ice has been melting even faster than last year
A few years ago, scientists were predicting ice-free Arctic summers by about 2080. Then computer models started projecting earlier dates, around 2030 to 2050.
Then came the 2007 summer that saw Arctic sea ice shrink to the smallest extent ever recorded, down to 4.2 million sq km from 7.8 million sq km in 1980.
By the end of last year, one research group was forecasting ice-free summers by 2013.
"I think we’re going to beat last year’s record melt, though I’d love to be wrong," said Dr Stroeve.
"If we do, then I don’t think 2013 is far off anymore. If what we think is going to happen does happen, then it’ll be within a decade anyway."
Countries surrounding the Arctic are eyeing the economic opportunities that melting ice might bring.
Canada and Russia are exploring sovereignty claims over tracts of Arctic seafloor, while just this week US President George Bush has urged more oil exploration in US waters – which could point the way to exploitation of reserves off the Alaskan coast.
But from a climate point of view, the melt could bring global impacts accelerating the rate of warming and of sea level rise.
"This is a positive feedback process," commented Dr Ian Willis, from the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.
"Sea ice has a higher albedo (reflectivity) than ocean water; so as the ice melts, the water absorbs more of the Sun’s energy and warms up more, and that in turn warms the atmosphere more – including the atmosphere over the Greenland ice sheet."
Greenland is already losing ice to the oceans, contributing to the gradual rise in sea levels. The ice cap holds enough water to lift sea levels globally by about seven metres (22ft) if it all melted.
Natural climatic cycles such as the Arctic Oscillation play a role in year-to-year variations in ice cover. But Julienne Stroeve believes the sea ice is now so thin that there is little chance of the melting trend turning round.
"If the ice were as thin as it was in the 1970s, last year’s conditions would have brought a dip in cover, but nothing exceptional.
"But now it’s so thin that you would have to have an exceptional sequence of cold winters and cold summers in order for it to rebuild."
1.3. Kyoto Targets Remain Distant Prospect For EU Countries
19 June 2008, FOEE
New data shows EU must radically strengthen measures to reduce emissions
Brussels, 18 June 2008 – Friends of the Earth Europe is demanding an urgent acceleration of action by governments to fight climate change after new data released today revealed that many European countries remain a long way off meeting their Kyoto targets.
The figures published by the European Environment Agency show that the 15 countries which were members of the EU before enlargement in 2004 reduced their emissions by 0.8 per cent between 2005 and 2006 but still only reached 2.2 per cent below 1990 levels. This puts them a long way short of realising their joint international Kyoto Protocol obligations to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 8 per cent by 2012.
The emissions of the European Union as a whole decreased slightly in 2006. They were 0.3 per cent lower than 2005, reaching minus 7.7 per cent in comparison to 1990 levels.
The biggest source for the recorded decrease in emissions was a drop in emissions from households and the service sector. This was a result of the warmer weather conditions in 2006 which required people to heat their homes less.
The transport sector experienced a growth in emissions with road transport figures rising by 0.7 per cent in 2006.
"This data is alarming. The old Member States are still not on track to meet their Kyoto targets. The small emission cuts achieved are not the result of real political action but mainly due to warmer weather conditions," said Sonja Meister, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. "Europe needs to seriously step-up its action against climate change. This data puts even more pressure on the EU to agree on an ambitious energy package to ensure emissions cuts happen every year and are sustained over the long term."
Spain, Luxembourg, Austria, Denmark, Italy and Finland are still furthest from their Kyoto emission reduction targets.
The EU as a whole is not on track to meet its targets. Its stated commitment of limiting the average global temperature rise to 2 degrees centigrade would require at least 30 per cent domestic cuts by 2020, but countries are not even on track to meet the insufficient target of 20 percent by 2020. Friends of the Earth is therefore urging the EU to strengthen its energy package by making the Emission Trading Scheme and the Renewables Directive as strong as possible and by ensuring a meaningful compliance system under the Effort-Sharing agreement. To deal with rising transport emissions it is calling on the EU to agree strong binding targets and an effective penalty system for car manufacturers on fuel efficiency.
"The EU will only be able to fight dangerous climate change if all member states reduce their emissions year on year. The European Commission must be given the power to ensure that all Member States comply with their targets," said Sonja Meister. "Time is running out and only strong legislation including annual cuts will bring the EU on track to meet its long-term targets."
Almost all new Member States have made large emissions cuts in comparison to 1990 figures and will easily meet their Kyoto targets, but this is due to economic collapses of the 1990s rather than as a consequence of intelligent policies. Around half of Germany’s emissions reductions can still be accounted for by the breakdown of industry in Eastern Germany.
There is a danger that economic growth in central and Eastern European countries could reverse the trend of emissions reductions – most of these countries experienced rising emissions between 2005 and 2006 (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia).
2.1. Revealed: UK’s blueprint for a green revolution
21 June 2008, The Guardian
· Massive increase in wind power planned
· One in four homes to have solar heating
· Owners may be forced to insulate homes
One in four British homes could be fitted with solar heating equipment and 3,500 wind turbines could be erected across Britain within 12 years as part of a green energy revolution to be proposed by the government next week.
The long-awaited renewable energy strategy, a copy of which has been seen by the Guardian, will say Britain needs to make a £100bn dash to build up its clean power supply if it is to reach its EU-imposed target of producing 15% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The UK could cut its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20% and reduce its dependency on oil by 7% within 12 years if it conducts the massive overhaul of energy production and consumption outlined in the strategy document, according to the government.
But at a time of mounting consumer anger over rising fuel prices, it also concedes that greening Britain’s power supply will push up energy bills and increase fuel poverty.
The proposals include:
· New powers to force people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes when they renovate them;
· A 30-fold increase in offshore wind power generation;
· New loans, grants and incentives for businesses and households;
· An area the size of Essex to be planted with trees and other crops to produce biomass energy; · Forcing people to replace inefficient appliances such as oil-fired boilers.
Although the proposals are contained in a consultation document, the government has committed to hitting the 15% target and ministers accept most of the measures will have to be introduced to achieve it.
The government says the transformation of the country’s energy policy will have "significant impacts on all our lives" but claims it will create big new markets and 160,000 jobs.
In what would be the most ambitious change of energy policy in 50 years, the government says 30-35% of all electricity generated in the UK will have to come from renewable sources to meet the 15% renewable energy target set by Europe to try to stem the effects of climate change.
The renewables strategy concedes that the target will only be achievable if there is a completely new approach to generating energy.
"We might just possibly reach 15% renewable energy by 2020. It will require maximum build rates and a very rapid response from the supply chain," says the document.
The government proposes jump-starting emerging technologies by removing all barriers to generation of renewables and providing substantial incentives. It will also require the National Grid to be greatly expanded. Loans and grants would almost certainly be made available for people and buinesses to install solar roofs and other green technologies.
The document says that getting to 15% could cost as much as 1% of GDP but under the most plausible climate scenarios it might be able to avoid having to pay up to 20% of GDP.
"We must make hard choices. The scale of the increase in renewable energy we propose over the coming decade will have significant impacts on all our lives. Not all of these will be positive; indeed there will be significant costs," it says.
The document, expected to be released on Thursday, will raise the political stakes. Last week, David Cameron said the Conservatives would apply new standards for power generation which would effectively reduce the chances of a new generation of coal-fired power stations being built until new technologies have been developed.
Leoni Greene, spokeswoman for the Renewable Energy Association, said: "We applaud the breadth of the imagination and good ideas shown but we urgently need action and not more consultation. Government must take hard measures now."
John Sauven, director of Greenpeace, said: "If this plan becomes a reality, Britain will be a better, safer and more prosperous country. We’ll create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and use less gas, and in the long run our power bills will come down."
2.2. Lithuania split by the atom
19 June 2008, Europe.view
Energy security in the Baltics is getting worse
IT was a mistake to start with, compounded by procrastination. The consequences for the security of one of Europe’s most vulnerable corners are potentially appalling.
As part of the deal to join the European Union, Lithuania agreed to close its perfectly serviceable nuclear-power station at Ignalina. No engineering or safety case for this was ever made: the requirement was a political one, sprouting from a neurotic strand of greenery in western Europe.
Lithuanians can feel cross about that. But they should be furious with politicians of all stripes, who have failed to plan for the now imminent deadline of 2009. After that, Lithuania will be 90% dependent on fossil fuel, with around half of its supplies coming from Russia. Unscrambling the agreement on Ignalina would require the consent of every EU member, at a time when their patience has been taxed by Lithuania’s brave but unpopular veto on new talks with Russia.
Lithuanian officials are looking for wiggle-room—for example, starting to close the power station in 2009, but not actually taking it off-stream. Few would bet much on that bearing fruit. The populist parties that are hoping to take power in this autumn’s elections have a simpler message: they will simply ignore the requirement to close Ignalina. That would mean an almighty bust-up with Brussels. The only bright side is that Lithuanian politicians will finally face the consequences of their actions, or lack of them. The sensible thing would have been to start several years ago building a new nuclear plant on the same site, to replace Ignalina. But the countries involved in the plan (Lithuania and the other two Baltic states, with the belated addition of Poland) still cannot agree how big it should be, or on shareholding structure. That exasperates those who urgently want the Baltic “energy islands” hooked up into the rest of Europe. But nobody seems able to bang heads together with sufficient force.
Other vital projects such as power links to Sweden and Poland are also woefully behind schedule. Lithuania still squanders energy; a programme to improve home insulation is pitifully inadequate.
Matters are even worse because Venezuela has stopped supplies of orimulsion, a bitumen-based fuel that formed an important part of Lithuania’s energy imports. Whether that is due to Hugo Chavez’s friendship with Vladimir Putin is a matter of dark speculation in Vilnius.
The immediate danger for Lithuania is that Russia will drive a hard bargain for the extra gas, most likely by demanding a bigger stake in Lithuania’s energy industry. In the long run, Russia says it will build a new nuclear power station in Kaliningrad, the exclave of territory it holds between Lithuania and Poland.
The truly galling prospect is that this gets built and hooks up to the European energy network, while the Lithuanians and their EU allies continue dithering about a replacement for Ignalina. That would be yet another victory for Russia’s push into Europe, and yet another humiliating defeat for those who try to oppose it.
As so often in European security, hopes for a rescue rest on America. Lithuania is not only offering to host America’s missile-defence base if the Poles decide they don’t want it. It is also hoping that an American company will build the new nuclear reactor.
Perhaps—but these things don’t happen overnight and Russia is hardly likely to find extra gas to heat a country set on hosting a missile base that it sees as a direct threat. It looks like 2009 will be a year of hot diplomacy and cold radiators in Lithuania.
2.3. EU urged to be bold on energy policy
18 June 2008, Reuters
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders must press ahead with ambitious policies on climate change and energy to counter surging oil prices and help overcome the political setback of Ireland’s "No" to the EU reform treaty, the European Commission chief said on Wednesday.
Addressing the European Parliament on the eve of a two-day summit, Jose Manuel Barroso said the 27-nation bloc should not fall into "institutional navel-gazing" over last week’s Irish referendum result. The EU should keep on ratifying the text while pursuing a policy agenda that responds to citizens’ needs.
"The important task for the European Council (summit) is to show that the "No" vote regarding the Lisbon treaty is not an excuse for inaction. We should not have paralysis," he told the EU legislature in Strasbourg.
Barroso was heckled by a handful of Eurosceptical lawmakers, mostly from Britain, who wore green T-shirts with the logo "Respect the Irish vote".
In Paris, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, whose country takes over the rotating EU presidency in July, said the bloc could not afford to remain "stunned and paralysed" by the Irish vote but said its message had to be heard.
”We have to learn how to build Europe differently," he told the French parliament. "Building Europe differently means showing European citizens that Europe does not just amount to institutional quarrels," he said.
EU president Slovenia said leaders would make every effort to agree on a timeline for resolving the problem caused by Ireland’s "No" vote to a treaty which requires unanimous approval to enter into force.
In Dublin, Prime Minister Brian Cowen said he would tell his peers that Ireland could not be rushed into a quick fix.
"I will impress upon them the need to avoid prejudicing the process which we must now undertake in Ireland," he told the Irish parliament.
Britain and several other countries suspended ratification of the draft EU constitution in 2005 after France and the Netherlands rejected the charter in referendums. By contrast, London plans to ratify the Lisbon treaty this week.
"LEARN FROM FAILURE"
As truck drivers and farmers staged go-slow protests with lorries and tractors around Brussels to highlight demands for action on soaring fuel costs, Barroso said the summit would back short-term measures to help the poorest sectors of society.
But he insisted governments must do nothing that would prevent their economies adapting to the reality of higher oil prices, which he said were here to stay.
"Let us learn from the failure of previous oil shocks… when after the oil shock we went back to business as usual."
The EU is in the midst of negotiating a complex package of laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, liberalise its internal energy market, and improve energy efficiency.
Europe’s main business lobby added its voice on Wednesday to green campaigners and politicians urging the EU to reconsider one of its main energy targets in the light of soaring food prices.
"BusinessEurope considers that the current high food prices give additional weight to its call for the EU to reconsider the 10 percent target for biofuels in transport, especially in the absence of a breakthrough in second-generation technology," the organisation representing 20 million companies in Europe said.
In parliament, Socialist leader Martin Schulz called for disciplinary action against Irish European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy for saying during the campaign he had not read the Lisbon Treaty and did not advise voters to do so.
Barroso did not defend McCreevy’s comment but warned against a blame-game over the Irish defeat.
”Let’s not find scapegoats. True, I did not find Mr McCreevy’s statements very fortunate. But I might say the same about statements by certain national politicians that weren’t particularly helpful," he said.
2.4. McCain Talks Energy Policy
18 June 2008, Fox news
John McCain continued to call for offshore drilling for oil today and set out his goals for increased clean coal technology and for more nuclear reactors to be built domestically.
At a speech and roundtable discussion at Missouri State University focusing on energy policy he continued his push for more oil production in the United States, “We need to encourage production in ways that are consistent with sensible standards of environmental protection. And in states that permit exploration, there must be a sharing of benefits between state and federal governments. But, as a matter of fairness to the American people, we must assure affordable fuel for America by increasing domestic production.”
He said Obama mischaracterized his stance on offshore drilling. “He described my position as — you guessed it — another example of Bush’s third term.” But, McCain omitted two other hits on his Democratic rival that he had included in his prepared remarks e-mailed to the press earlier in the day—one on Obama’s stance on nuclear power and another on tax breaks for oil companies.
The presumptive Republican nominee was specific in his goals for nuclear and clean coal power. He said he would build new nuclear reactors and that he will commit two billion dollars each year to clean coal technology, “I will set this nation on a course to building 45 new reactors by the year 2030, with the ultimate goal of 100 new plants to power the homes and factories and cities of America. This task will be as difficult as it is necessary. We will need to recover all the knowledge and skills that have been lost over three stagnant decades in a highly technical field.” McCain said his plan would make clean coal “a reality.”
McCain also took questions from the audience. He was asked if he would reconsider drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, and he said that he would be “glad to review (his stance) in light of world events,” but added that ANWR is a “pristine place.” He compared the site to the Grand Canyon and added that he does not believe there is an ecologically safe way to drill there.
2.5. Declaration on high oil prices
18 June 2008, Speech at the European Parliament Strasbourg
Mr President, Honourable Members of Parliament, chairman of the Council
The price of crude oil surpassed another all-time record last week with a peak at $139/barrel. Over the last three years, prices in US$ have more than tripled. With a 37% share in EU energy consumption coming from oil it is easy to understand the actual and potential impact on our economies and citizens. With a constant decrease in our own production since the late nineties, and a continuing increase in imports, our oil dependency is bound to remain high.
This has a direct effect on our citizens and businesses. Increased oil prices create inflation and that impact can be noticed already. The contribution of energy to the increase in the price index in the fourth quarter of 2007 averaged 0.8% in the euro area. This means direct, tangible impacts on households, and on several economic sectors, not least those who cannot pass on the price of energy to the final consumer.
The increase of prices of motor and heating fuels for households between April 2007 and April 2008 exceeded by far the overall growth of consumer prices. The prices of transport fuels rose on average by 12.7% as opposed to the inflation average of 3.6%. Our most vulnerable citizens are again amongst the most severely affected.
You may remember that back in September 2005, I was talking to you about rising oil prices and I presented a five-point plan. Since then we have been rolling out a whole series of new proposals to begin to reply to this challenge; on energy efficiency, CO2 and cars, fuel quality and renewable energy in particular. As a result of these policies, we can expect a gradual decrease in oil consumption in the EU over the coming years, and the beginning of the switch to cleaner more efficient, and often renewable transport.
Whilst more needs to be done, and certainly not to underestimate the problems resulting from high energy prices for our citizens, particularly the most vulnerable, as well as many businesses, this already provides a good basis on which to further develop the best possible policy response to this huge challenge.
Indeed, the fact that oil prices have continued to rise does not mean that our policies have failed. I am convinced that without our ambitious climate and energy goals the situation would be even more difficult. But it is clear from the latest trends that we need to further step up our efforts.
So let me now consider the long-term factors affecting the oil market. Put simply, we are leaving the era of cheap oil, and cheap energy in general. Global energy demand is growing and the International Energy Agency estimates that it could increase by more than 50% by 2030. In particular, emerging economies are consuming more and more energy.
On the other hand, it is far from clear whether there will be sufficient oil production to satisfy global demand – although experts say that geologically there are still enough resources underground for the next 40-50 years. As the IEA has stated, it is from certain whether the producing countries have the ability or willingness to step up production to meet seemingly inevitable and long-term continued increase in global oil energy demand.
So as I said, the era of cheap energy is over, and at a time when, in any event, we have an absolute obligation to future generations to move to clean, carbon free energy sources for heat, power and transport due to climate change. This is the challenge facing us.
This requires a long term view. But let me first address the short term steps to alleviating the impact on consumers:
The effects on the most vulnerable groups must be mitigated in the shorter term, where necessary through social measures. Support to the poorest households can be justified and needed, but needs to be targeted and should promote a transition to higher oil prices.
We should however be very cautious as regards changes in the oil taxation regime. Experience has shown that such measures, whilst in many ways attractive, in fact only make the longer term transition to dealing with high energy prices and saving carbon more difficult. It is far better to target help where it is most needed.
In terms of further developing the EU’s long-term approach to meeting this challenge, our existing energy policies are viewed by many as a "world-leader". The Commission has always insisted that its recent climate and energy package had the combined objectives of sustainability, security of supply and competitiveness, a fact becoming clearer by the day. Let me recall in more detail the most important elements of these policies, already in place or under examination in this house:
– the draft directive guaranteeing 20% renewables in our final energy consumption by 2020 and the increased consumption of sustainable energy in the transport sector;
– the new rules to expand and strengthen the EU Emissions Trading System, ensuring that we meet our target of a 20% greenhouse gas reduction by 2020;
– the proposal for reducing CO2 in cars and the fuel quality Directive that will oblige oil suppliers to progressively reduce the CO2 in the products that they sell, and
– in my view, most importantly, the Energy Efficiency Action Plan, covering all economic sectors, at all levels, from the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation, to the Covenant of Mayors at the local level, to specific measures like labelling of consumer goods or requirements for the energy efficiency of buildings. Practically all of these measures were already cost effective at 60$ pr barrel of oil.
This represents a good start. But we need to do more. The Commission will therefore:
– continue the work at international level, notably constructive dialogue between the main oil producing and consuming countries, such as the Jeddah meeting convened next week-end by Saudi Arabia.
– scrutinize the functioning of the oil and petroleum markets in the European Union and make suggestions for possible further policy actions, for example with respect to transparency or oil stocks in the second Strategic Energy Review later this year;
– assist oil importing developing countries to mitigate short term impacts of high fuel and food prices and to bring about structural improvements in their energy efficiency performance and use of alternatives fuels; and
– lead efforts in an increased drive for Energy Efficiency. This will remain my highest priority for the remainder of this Commission. This means better legislation internally in the EU, but also to push for a more effective international energy efficiency partnership which was formally adopted last week at the G8 Energy Ministerial in Japan. The existing legislation on energy efficiency and the improvements that I will table over the coming months on buildings, labelling and minimum product standards are truly important, but have to be seen as only a start. The real challenge is the effective implementation of energy efficiency policies at national, regional and local level throughout the EU. The Commission can and must play a far greater role in assisting Member States in meeting this challenge.
Finally, I would like to briefly discuss the issue of biofuels. In the draft renewables Directive we translate the commitment of the European Council to ensure that 10% of EU transport is powered by renewable fuel by 2020 into practice. It should be noted that this 10% can be covered by biofuels, or electricity from renewable sources.
I am convinced that the EU can and must generate the biofuels that it uses in this respect in a sustainable and responsible manner, and not appreciably affecting global food production levels. This can be done by using previous set-aside land in the EU, improving land yields in a sustainable way, investing in technology for second generation biofuels, and working together with developing countries to ensure that biofuels complement food production, not replace it. With such an approach, the development of alternative clean transport fuels must be part of the EU’s response to the challenges of oil prices and climate change.
The European Union will need to continue its international efforts and its dialogue with its main partners. The G8 last week and the Jeddah Meeting on Oil Prices this week-end show that the issue tops the political agenda. We should use the credibility we are building and lead international action to exploit energy efficiency potentials and clean energy production around the globe, and to enable functioning, global commodity markets. However, action starts at home, and a renewed push for Renewable energy and Energy Efficiency is beneficial, not only for the climate, but now also for our economy.
There is an energy future for all of us. This future will most likely be organised around different patterns of production, consumption and behaviour. Like with climate change, action is needed now.
2.6. Bush urges Congress to end offshore oil drill ban
18 June 2008, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to end a ban on offshore oil drilling, responding to consumer anxiety over soaring gasoline prices with a plan sure to anger environmentalists.
”Every American who drives to work, purchases food or ships a product has felt the effect. And families across our country are looking to Washington for a response," Bush said.
As average U.S. pump prices pierced the $4-a-gallon ($1.06-a-litre) level for the first time this month, up more than $1 from a year ago, energy policy has become a key issue in the presidential race ahead of November elections.
Bush said opening federal lands off the U.S. coast — where oil drilling has been banned by both a presidential executive order and a congressional moratorium — could yield about 18 billion barrels of oil.
That would meet current U.S. consumption for about 2-1/2 years, but it would likely take a decade or more to find the oil and produce it.
The short-term impact on oil prices is open to debate. The prospect of more energy supply down the road could calm nervous traders who see a looming global oil crunch but any actual supply would be years away, even if Congress acted quickly.
Congress banned most offshore drilling in 1981. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, followed suit with an executive order banning drilling in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska — the worst tanker accident in U.S. history.
The White House said Congress should lift the moratorium first and then Bush would end the executive order because presidential action alone would not lead to new offshore drilling.
Bush’s latest energy plan adds intensity to a war of words on Capitol Hill over who is to blame. If lawmakers leave for their July 4 holiday without action, they will face the wrath of their constituents, Bush said.
Bush and fellow Republicans have repeatedly blamed Democrats for blocking legislation that would open offshore lands and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to drilling.
"Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal and now Americans are paying the price at the pump for this obstruction," Bush said.
But California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, declined to support Bush’s plan, calling his state’s coastline "an international treasure."
Democrats in turn say 80 percent of the oil in the Outer Continental Shelf is in federal lands already open to drilling, mostly in the Gulf of Mexico, which hold 107 billion barrels of oil — equal to 14 years of current U.S. consumption.
"The White House has become a ventriloquist for the oil and gas industry — repeating the requests of the oil and gas industry that they be allowed to destroy the most pristine areas of our country," said Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.
About 60 percent of Americans support government moves to encourage more oil drilling and refinery construction as a way to combat soaring energy prices — but the same number also profess to be in favor of conservation, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.
Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, increasingly support lifting the offshore drilling ban. The Arizona senator announced his backing this week after opposing it in the past.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and members of his party oppose expanded offshore drilling on environmental grounds and say such action would have little immediate impact on fuel prices.
Analysts say the chances that Congress will drop its ban during an election year are slim.
"Short answer: Don’t bet on it," a Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co Inc report said.
Environmental groups have long opposed expanded offshore oil drilling, raising concerns about the dangers to fragile ecosystems as well as a potential for spills.
"It’s cynical to say that we can drill our way out of this mess," said Athan Manuel, director of lands protection for the Sierra Club. "The solution to $4 gas is not off our coast."
3.1. Europe should reject France and Germany’s ‘disastrous’ car CO2 pact
16 June 2008, T&E
German chancellor Angela Merkel emerged victorious from negotiations with her French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy earlier this month on an agreement that could severely weaken the upcoming car CO2 law. T&E is calling on the other EU member states to reject the deal.
The agreement, announced on 10 June was portrayed in the European media as a breakthrough, with Merkel quoted as saying: ‘I am very happy to be able to say that we both support the EU goal of 120 grams per kilometre on all new EU cars by 2012.’
But environmental groups say the deal, if agreed by all member states, would lead to a severe delay and weakening of the plans.
The agreement is seen as a victory for German carmakers, particularly Mercedes, who have made little progress on CO2 reductions compared with their French counterparts.
Under the terms of the Franco-German agreement, so-called ‘eco-innovations’ such as solar-powered sun roofs would be allowed to contribute 6-8 grams towards each carmaker’s CO2 target. In a letter published in the Financial Times, T&E policy officer Kerstin Meyer said: ‘While such innovations are a good thing in principle, the targets are based on the fuel efficiency new cars achieve under an official testing procedure that does not currently account for them. Including improvements in non-engine technology in the targets currently under discussion is…a way of cheating the system.’
The two leaders also agreed to a ‘phase-in’ of the law, a postponement by another name according to T&E.
‘Whichever word some politicians prefer to hear, the result would be the same. Europe’s drivers, already paying higher fuel prices than they are used to, would have to wait longer for fuel-efficient cars that could be made now and with existing technology’ said Meyer.
Another element that will alarm environmentalists is a target for 2020, which has gone from the recently proposed 95 g/km to a range from 95-110 g/km.
The surprise deal came just days after record oil prices pushed Europe’s oil import bill above €1 billion a day for the first time.
T&E policy officer Aat Peterse said: ‘Europe’s two biggest car producing countries have done a deal to try to keep fuel-efficient cars out of the hands of Europeans for the next decade or more. It is up to the other 25 countries in the EU to stand up for their own interests and kick this disastrous plan into the long grass.’
The European Commission reacted cooly to the deal, a spokesmen told the Associated Press that the EU ‘had no plans to water down its proposal’.
Italian MEP Guido Sacconi, responsible for leading the European Parliament’s position on the car CO2 law, also appeared to be taking a tougher line.
He said last month it was still too early to consider delaying or phasing in the new limits. But he faced opposition from several MEPs on the Parliament’s environment committee whose governments are pushing for a 2015 deadline.
The EU agreed in 1996 that the average new car should emit no more than 120 g/km by 2005. There is still a nominal target of 120 g/km by 2012, but last year the Commission proposed a 130 g/km target, with the other 10g to be achieved through ‘parallel measures’ such as improved tyres.
3.2. MEPs keep up pressure on ministers for meaningful ETS terms for aviation
16 June 2008, T&E
MEPs are refusing to let proposed EU measures to reduce air transport’s contribution to climate change be watered down. A vote last month keeps MEPs and ministers on a collision course over the terms by which aviation will enter the EU ETS.
The European Parliament’s environment committee last month discussed an effective request from ministers to make the terms more acceptable to the aviation industry. Last autumn it voted for certain terms which ministers want to water down, but in their vote last month, the elected representatives held firm in their demands.
There are both differences of quantification and of principle. The biggest issue of principle is that MEPs want the revenue from aviation’s presence in the ETS to be used for measures to tackle climate change, whereas ministers are against any agreement for specific uses of the money (‘earmarking’ or ‘ring-fencing’).
On the quantification issues, MEPs want the baseline level for aviation’s emissions to be 10% down on the levels of 2004-06, rather than the same level, and tightened every year from 2013.
They also want 25% of the emissions permits to be paid-for (via auction) while ministers only want 10%. And they want all flights to be included from 2011, as opposed to the Commission’s proposal of 2011 for EU flights and 2012 for all flights.
The Parliament’s rapporteur Peter Liese said: ‘Our recommendations will not push up the price for consumers by much, but it will mean the most polluting airlines will have to pay most. A return flight from Frankfurt to Mallorca will on average increase by €6.’
The EU is concerned about threats of legal action from America, which says forcing US airlines to pay for emissions permits is against international rules on aviation. But Liese says the next US president is likely to be more open to EU efforts on CO2 from planes.
After speaking to advisers of the (then) three presidential hopefuls, Liese said: ‘The McCain, Clinton and Obama camps confirmed that any legal action by the Bush administration would not be supported by the new president.’
4.1. New UN atlas shows effects of climate change in Africa
A new atlas has been unveiled by UNEP showing the dramatic effects of climate change. The publication features over 300 satellite images taken in every country in Africa .The ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs, some of which span a 35-year period, offer striking snapshots of environmental changes across the continent.
More info at: http://na.unep.net/atlas/index.php
5.1. Workshop on Methodological Issues relating to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest degradation in Developing Countries
Tokyo, Japan, 25-27 June
The workshop is part of the programme of work agreed at Bali related to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries.
More at: http://unfccc.int/methods_and_science/lulucf/items/4289.php
5.2. The New Nuclear Wave: Perspectives for the 21st Century
ING, Avenue Marnix, 24 B-1000 Brussels, Building I
Wednesday 2nd July 2008, 17:30 – 19:00
This debate will address the role of nuclear energy and whether its contribution to the new energy goals of the EU, notably sustainability and low emissions, can compensate for concerns about its potential harmfulness to the environment.
Disclaimer: We do not guarantee for the accuracy, reliability or content of information. For help or questions, contact: [email protected]