1.1. US Senate deals blow to global climate talks
24 July 2010, Yahoo
A year and a half after President Barack Obama breathed new life into global talks on a climate treaty, the United States is back in a familiar role — the holdout.
The Senate’s decision Thursday to shelve legislation on climate change is certain to cast a long shadow over December’s meeting in Cancun, Mexico that will work on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Obama’s Democratic allies acknowledged they lacked votes to approve the first-ever US plan restricting carbon emissions blamed for global warming. The task is unlikely to get easier soon, with Democrats facing tight congressional elections in November.
"This is going to change the mood dramatically in terms of what countries are willing to put on the table in Cancun," said Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which backs action to curb global warming.
"This will seriously downplay what we can realistically achieve."
Obama vowed to act on climate change when he was elected president, sharply reversing course from his predecessor George W. Bush, who was a sworn foe of the Kyoto Protocol, which he considered biased against wealthier countries.
Obama’s climate negotiators enjoyed rousing welcomes when they arrived on the scene — especially from the European Union, Kyoto’s most enthusiastic champion.
The State Department, which leads international negotiations, said the Obama administration still considered climate a "priority" and would engage with other countries and with Congress.
"This is a global challenge and we have to resolve it through global cooperation and joint action by all of the key countries and key emitters. We are one of them," agency spokesman Philip Crowley said.
"And central to our ability to do our part is passing climate and energy legislation."
The clock is ticking on sealing a new treaty, with the Kyoto Protocol’s obligations for rich nations to cut emissions expiring at the end of 2012.
Climate talks, including the contentious Copenhagen summit in December, have been plagued by fighting between wealthy and developing nations, which are both looking for clear commitments from the other side.
Major emerging nations have resisted any legally binding requirements to cut emissions and pressed first for industrialized powers to seal their commitments.
"Countries like China and India are not likely to commit to any sort of binding obligation if the US is not part of the discussion, part of the negotiation and makes some similar commitment," said Daniel Fiorino, an expert on environmental politics at American University.
While the United States may be the most visible holdout, other major developed nations have also grappled with controversy on climate change, a major issue ahead of Australia’s August 21 elections.
Arabinda Mishra, a climate expert at India’s Energy and Resources Institute, said the lack of an international treaty "has a real danger in domestic will" in his country to invest political capital on fighting global warming.
The Obama administration has authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon, potentially offering a way to meet US promises at Copenhagen to curb emissions by 17 percent by 2020 off 2005 levels.
But without Senate action, it would be difficult for the United States to meet another promise — to contribute, along with the European Union, Japan and other rich nations, to a 100 billion-dollar fund to help poor nations cope with climate change.
Climate legislation was passed by the House of Representatives last year, but Republican lawmakers have strongly opposed it, rejecting Obama’s arguments that a green economy would create jobs.
"We’re still facing a very weak economy and we’re still facing questions on the cost of any meaningful reduction," said Ben Lieberman, an energy expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think-tank.
"It’s pretty clear that no post-Kyoto treaty is in the making — certainly not in Cancun, and maybe not ever."
1.2. UN lists post-Kyoto options if no climate deal
22 July 2010, EurActiv
The UN’s climate agency has for the first time detailed contingency options if the world cannot agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, whose present round expires in 2012 with no new deal in sight.
The document reflects the stuttering pace of UN talks to extend or replace the Kyoto pact and disappointment at the outcome of a summit in Copenhagen last December (EurActiv 19/12/09).
Countries which have ratified the Kyoto Protocol in June asked the UN climate secretariat to report on legal options to avoid a political vacuum or gap.
Kyoto placed carbon emissions caps on nearly 40 developed countries from 2008-2012. Under existing rules, a new round of targets needs the agreement of at least 143 countries – or three quarters of all parties to the Protocol.
But a new deal appears months or years off, and even after an agreement its implementation would require ratification by the national parliaments or relevant bodies of more than 100 countries. The process of national ratification of the original Protocol took eight years.
"Domestic ratification processes are likely to involve […] national legislative bodies, a process that may involve a considerable amount of time," said the UN paper, published online and dated 20 July.
Ratifying a successor agreement should be quicker, focused mostly on amending the targets in the existing text.
"A delay in the entry into force beyond 1 January 2013 would result in a gap between the end of the first commitment period and the beginning of the subsequent commitment period [of emissions targets]," the paper added.
Legal remedies to avoiding a gap focused on tweaks to the treaty, such as cutting the number of countries required to approve any new targets or extending the existing caps to 2013 or 2014, the UN document said.
UN talks are now in their third year to agree a new deal, having missed a deadline in Copenhagen, with the next major conference due to start in November in Cancún, Mexico.
With so little time to agree a complex climate deal, which will shift the way the world supplies and consumes energy away from fossil fuels, attention is shifting to how countries could soften that legal requirement.
However, such changes to the treaty would have to be made "provisional", to avoid relying on lengthy, national approval, which would defeat their purpose.
Such an approach would leave uncertainty over the final form of any deal, the paper acknowledged, doubt which investors say is mounting, in particular for the carbon market.
Without a deal by the end of 2012, the future of a $20.6 billion trade in carbon emissions rights under Kyoto was unsure, said the paper, entitled ‘Legal considerations relating to a possible gap between the first and subsequent commitment periods’.
2.1. Green energy can win Europe technology race with China and US
8 July 2010, Greenpeace
Green energy can help Europe regain a competitive advantage in the international technology race, while cutting ballooning fuel costs, creating jobs and slashing carbon emissions. These are the findings of a new study commissioned by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) and launched today in Brussels.
The third edition of the EU Energy [R]evolution shows that a drive for renewables and energy efficiency can ensure that the EU does not fall behind China and the United States in green technological innovation. The study, carried out by the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), demonstrates that 97% of Europe’s electricity and 92% of its total energy use could come from renewables in 2050, cutting CO2 emissions by 95% with no need for nuclear power or carbon capture and storage. Even taking into account investment costs, savings on fossil fuels would save European economies an average of €19 billion every year up to 2050. Hundreds of thousands of new jobs would also boost EU economies.
Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Frauke Thies said: “40 years ago, renewables were a dream; today, they are a reality; 40 years from now they should be the norm. Moving towards 100% renewables in 2050 doesn’t just make sense for the climate, it’s smart for the economy too. Coal and nuclear energy are dead weights for innovation, but renewables can deliver new technologies, jobs and energy security. To unlock this potential, the Commission must study the benefits and feasibility of a 100% green energy future”.
While the EU considers its vision for energy and the economy in 2050, China and the United States are moving ahead in the development of innovation and energy independence. China has in fact already overtaken Europe in the installation of renewable energy technologies. The development of efficiency and renewable energy technologies within a modern power grid could help create a robust and clean economy in Europe.
EREC Secretary-General Christine Lins said: “The Energy Revolution report demonstrates that it is technologically feasible to achieve 100% renewables in 2050 and reap its many benefits for the environment and Europe’s economy, while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. All that is missing to bring about a truly sustainable energy future for Europe is political will”.
When compared to other EU energy roadmaps for 2050, the Energy [R]evolution is ambitious, but based on realistic assumptions that can deliver flexible energy which is closer to local businesses and communities. A secure and balanced mix of energy sources for Europe’s energy system makes the Energy [R]evolution the most sustainable and credible blueprint for a genuine energy revolution.
To make the Energy [R]evolution a reality, the EU must fulfil its ambition on climate change, stop massive subsidies for fossil fuels and actively support the creation of a strong and clean economy.
2.2. Japan Seeks Consumer Burden To Push Renewable Energy
26 July 2010, Planet Ark
Japanese consumers will have to pay higher electricity bills under a government plan to help triple the generating capacity of renewable energy in the next decade and cut CO2 emissions.
Utility firms will be required to buy at a fixed rate electricity generated from renewable sources of energy — mega solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydro power — from as early as 2012, the trade ministry said on Friday.
The cost will be passed on to consumers in a scheme called a "feed-in" tariff, which is already used in countries including Germany and Spain.
A pilot scheme for retail solar power in Japan has been in place since last November, with the government providing subsidies and tax breaks to owners of houses with solar panels as well as developers of solar and other renewable power sources.
The ministry estimates the new plan could boost carbon-free electricity capacity to almost 50,000 megawatts in 10 years after the launch, triple the current levels, and aims to finalize details of the plan by the end of this year.
The latest plan could help Japan achieve its goal to cut emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels and is also in line with its economic growth strategy of putting clean-energy technology innovation as one of the drivers to create new demand and jobs.
Renewable energy sources currently account for 6 percent of Japan’s primary energy supply, half of it in hydro power. Tokyo aims to boost that ratio to 10 percent by 2020.
2.3. Reuters report asks whether EU officials are changing science to suit EU policy
22 July 2010, T&E
Another two independent scientific studies have cast further doubt on the EU’s policy of pushing for biofuels to make up 10% of the transport market by 2020. And in a special report, the Reuters news agency says the general picture that emerges from a series of Commission documents is that EU officials might have ‘deliberately skewed the findings of scientific studies to fit their policies’.
Seldom has a month gone by over the past year in which there has not been a study casting doubt on the environmental benefits of biofuels. The Reuters special report, published last month, looks at all these studies alongside Commission’s internal documentation acquired through transparency laws. It paints a picture of the dilemma that appears to be growing in the Commission over the evidence that biofuels might not be a frontline tool in the fight against climate change but could actually be worse than fossil fuels they replace.
Reuters says the evidence available so far ‘raises questions’ about the actions of Commission officials, and asks: ‘Could Europe be knowingly fuelling global warming under the guise of fighting climate change?’
Emails obtained by the news agency show officials from the Commission’s agriculture department deleted sections of a report by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute which were critical of the environmental performance of certain biofuels. The Fraunhofer Institute, which had been commissioned by Brussels to look at EU’s policies to mitigate climate change, added a disclaimer to its research on biofuels after the Commission altered it before publication.
The Commission is facing legal action from T&E and three other NGOs over failure to release documents giving scientific evidence about indirect land-use change. As Bulletin went to press, the Commission had responded to the action but its response was not yet public.
The two new studies question the effectiveness of biofuels as a tool to fight climate change. Joanneum Research says there is a major flaw in the way carbon savings from forest-derived biomass are calculated in EU law, and that harvesting trees for energy therefore creates a ‘carbon debt’ that takes decades to repay. Meanwhile, CE Delft says most current biofuels are as bad as fossil fuels for the climate once indirect land-use change has been taken into consideration.
The commissioner responsible for biofuels, Günther Oettinger, told Reuters, ‘We promote only sustainable biofuels and take the phenomenon of indirect land use [change] very seriously. If it is confirmed that there is indeed a serious problem related to indirect land use, we may adapt our legislation.’
3.1. Potočnik delays improved air quality measures until 2013
22 July 2010, T&E
EU legislation to improve air quality on land and at sea is to be delayed until 2013. The environment commissioner Janez Potočnik says the measures to revise the National Emissions Ceilings directive and other air quality legislation will be too expensive, and he has other priorities for the next couple of years, but his assessment has been strongly criticised by environmental and health groups.
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, Potočnik said the [long overdue] revision of the NEC would be too costly, and a few days later, the environmental news service Ends Europe said he wanted to concentrate on biodiversity, resource efficiency and water in the period 2010-12.
His comments were attacked by environmental and health NGOs, who said the decision will put the health of millions of European citizens at risk, and cause premature deaths among children and people suffering from breathing diseases. They also say the argument that it is too expensive is flawed, as the benefits to health, the environment and the economy have been shown ‘to significantly outweigh the costs involved’.
A delay in the NEC revision, which was originally expected in 2007, could also slow down the rate at which cities introduce bans on high-emission vehicles.
Legislative proposals revising the sulphur content in fuels used at sea looked like also being affected. Proposals revising sulphur in marine fuels were expected in 2008, but have still not appeared.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) agreed stricter limits on SOx and NOx emissions from international shipping in 2008, after years of heated debate, during which the EU threatened to go it alone if the IMO did not act. As a result, the Commission delayed its review of the sulphur in marine fuels directive due in 2008, putting it back to 2010, but this now looks like being 2013.
3.2. Beijing Fund Warns On Kyoto CO2 Offset Rule Changes
26 Luly 2010, Planet Ark
A Chinese government fund has told a U.N. panel it supports project developers which earn carbon offsets under a lucrative Kyoto Protocol scheme, and which rejects the idea that they are over-compensated.
Chinese project developers rejected key grounds for a review of Kyoto’s clean development mechanism (CDM), and the China CDM Fund supported them, confidential papers showed a week before a U.N. panel decides whether to launch a formal review of the scheme.
The projects are the most lucrative under the CDM, which allows rich countries to buy offsets from carbon-cutting projects in the developing world as a way to ease the cost of reducing emissions.
The projects are rewarded if they destroy the potent greenhouse gas HFC 23, which they produce as a waste product in the process of manufacturing refrigerants.
An environmental group, CDM Watch, earlier this year said the projects were producing more of the waste gas than necessary, to destroy it and claim the resulting offsets.
The CDM executive board (EB) will judge next week whether to conduct a formal review.
"We consider that some of the key issues raised … are contrary to the actual facts … lack scientific proof," said an undated letter signed by 10 Chinese project developers.
One issue is whether projects are resisting modernizing their factories, which may then produce fewer greenhouse gases.
"All of our plants were built and had been running for at least three years before 2004, and adopted appropriate … production technologies," the project developers said.
Their view was supported by the government fund, a Chinese agency which collects a levy from the developers.
"We believe (the) EB could pay high attention to their comments and appeals fairly and objectively," said Xie Fei, the director of the fund, in an accompanying letter.
He referred to the developers’ "high concern." The letter was not addressed to a particular body, but its submission to the EB was confirmed in published U.N. documents.
HFC projects account for more than half of all carbon offsets generated under Kyoto, but represent just 22 out of a total of more than 5,300 CDM projects, U.N. data show.
The projects — mostly in China and India — have so far generated carbon offsets, called certified emissions reductions (CERs), worth 2.6 billion euros ($3.32 billion) at Friday’s prices, at comparatively little cost.
A blocking minority of three people at next week’s meeting of 10 EB board members would be enough to prevent a formal review, sources close to the process told Reuters.
3.3. Australia PM again delays emissions trading
23 July 2010, Reuters
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard reaffirmed on Friday a delay in introducing a price for carbon pollution, angering environmentalists, scientists and business ahead of her bid to secure re-election. The delay, until 2012 at least, is certain to test the ruling Labor Party’s ties with the small Greens party ahead of the August 21 contest. The Greens are set to be kingmakers in the next parliament, controlling the balance of power in the Senate upper house.
Voters deserted Labor in favor of the Greens in April when the government first postponed a carbon trading scheme after twice failing to win passage of its climate policy in parliament.
"This is a complete failure of leadership by the prime minister," said Greens Senator Christine Milne.
Some academics were blunter.
"The majority of Australians will see this for what it is, a feeble attempt to defuse climate change as an election issue," said Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute.
Opinion polls show Gillard has turned Labor’s fortunes around and the latest Reuters Poll Trend shows she is on track to win the election with an increased majority.
The government and conservative opposition have both promised to cut emissions by five percent by 2020, but the opposition is opposed to carbon trading, which it calls a great big new tax.
Big business and mining companies also oppose carbon trading, saying it would increase their costs and force projects offshore.
Gillard said a trading scheme was essential to reduce carbon emissions, but no decision would be made until a new Citizen’s Assembly canvassed community views for the next 12 months.
"Australians have real concerns about making changes that are this big and they need more information," she said. "They are concerned about the impact on jobs and the impact on the prices of goods and services that they rely on, especially electricity."
Voters want quick action on climate change, according to opinion polls. Business is increasingly concerned over a lack of a carbon policy, with power suppliers warning of stalled investment and rising power prices.
Economics professor Warwick McKibbin, a board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said Labor’s climate policy was "extremely disappointing" and delayed action purely for "political advantage."
EMISSIONS TRADING UNCERTAINTY REMAINS
The lack of a price on carbon would cost the economy and consumers an extra A$2 billion ($1.75 billion) by 2020 due to investment in less energy efficient coal-fired power plants, the Climate Institute estimates.
"Business has been on board with carbon pricing for some time. This proposal could simply mean more procrastination," Frank Jotzo, deputy director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute.
The global head of Baker & McKenzie’s climate practice also questioned Labor’s climate policy.
"To what extent is this an election policy as opposed to a government policy?" said Martijn Wilder. "On the key issue on whether or not there will be an emissions trading scheme, there still remains uncertainty."
To reassure big business, Gillard said carbon trade policy would remain the base for generous compensation for the biggest polluters. She ruled out lifting the threshold for compensation.
Australia , the world’s largest coal exporter, accounts for about 1.5 percent of global emissions, but is one of the highest per capita emitters due to a reliance on burning coal to generate about 80 percent of domestic electricity.
Gillard said a re-elected Labor would demand new coal-fired power stations be equipped to capture and store carbon.
She also announced an extra A$1 billion over 10 years to help promote renewable energy projects. Australia has laws to ensure 20 percent of power comes from renewable energy by 2020.
"We have not abandoned our commitment to take action on climate change," Gillard said. "We will harness the power of natural resources – wind, sun, geothermal energy and biofuels."
3.4. Back to the future as 2050 roadmap published
22 July 2010, T&E
Europe ’s road transport in 2050 will involve lower speed limits and very few internal combustion engines. That is the vision that emerges from a Commission consultation on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Europe’s transport sector.
The report, which ends a 15-month consultation with around 100 interested parties from industry and the environmental movement, says a mixture of technical and non-technical options could reduce emissions from transport by 89% between 1990 and 2050, whereas a 74% rise is foreseen under ‘business as usual’.
The conclusions suggest that technical measures alone – including doubling the greenhouse gas efficiency of biofuels and replacing nearly all internal combustion engines with electric cars or cars with some form of fuel cell – will achieve a 36% reduction. Such a cut requires all the electricity needed to power the vehicles coming from renewable sources. It shows that part of the GHG reductions from technical improvements is undermined by rebound effects and that non-technical measures are needed to ensure that promised GHG cuts are achieved in practice.
Among the non-technical measures recommended are lowering speed limits, and reorganising taxes and charges so that forms of transport that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases lose all subsidies.
T&E director Jos Dings said, ‘This report again demonstrates the importance of strong technical measures. But it truly adds value by being sober about what technical measures can achieve by themselves – which is not as much as we need. It demonstrates that deep greenhouse gas cuts can only be achieved if we address the fundamental drivers of transport emissions. That means getting rid of subsidies, starting with aviation and company cars. It means introducing serious carbon pricing in all modes. And, last but not least, it means managing transport speeds, and not just on the road.’
3.5. T&E studies show cheap and quick ways to cut fuel consumption of vans
22 July 2010, T&E
The fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of vans can be cut much more quickly and cheaply than the European Commission’s research suggests. That’s the message from two new reports published by T&E. The first study says that fitting less powerful and smaller engines has been an overlooked but quick and cheap option to reduce emissions. The second report suggests emissions can be cut even more by limiting a vehicle’s maximum speed.
With the EU’s first law to regulate fuel consumption – and thereby carbon dioxide emissions – going through the legislative process, a battle is being fought over the maximum emissions that the average new van is allowed by 2016 and 2020. The Commission has proposed limits of 175g of CO2 per kilometre by 2016 and 135g by 2020, but these limits are already under attack from automotive industry interests.
Yet two new reports on the fuel consumption from vans, prepared for T&E by the Dutch consultancies TNO and CE Delft, suggest the Commission’s thinking on vans is flawed. T&E policy officer Kerstin Meyer says, ‘Much of the political debate over the new proposals has focused on the costs of advanced technologies needed to meet the new standards. But our report, “Potential CO2 reduction from optimal engine sizing for light commercial vehicles”, suggests the official impact assessment for the new legislation ignored an altogether simpler and cheaper option.
‘We can cut emissions and save money at the same time if we make the most of smaller and less powerful engines. The findings suggest light commercial vehicles could be made up to 16% more fuel-efficient and up to 10% cheaper to buy simply by reversing the upward trend in horsepower and using smaller engines.’
T&E has called for stricter limits than the Commission is proposing: 160 g/km by 2015 and 125 g/km by 2020. It says the 175 g/km target proposed for 2016 by the Commission could be met using optimal engine sizing alone, and at the same time make vans cheaper to buy.
‘It’s time to call an end to the van engine power arms race’, Meyer added. ‘The report we have published shows that just by returning to the engine power of 10 years ago, vans could be cheaper to buy, and much more fuel efficient. It’s a win/win for the millions of businesses that depend on keeping costs down, especially in a crisis. The Commission’s impact assessment completely ignored this potential and is thus too pessimistic about how far fuel consumption can be cut, at what speed, and at what cost.’
In another report, T&E has shown that there would be significant advantages to introducing mandatory speed limiters in vans, which would limit the speed at 100 km/h. This speed reduction could lead to a decrease in CO2 emissions by up to 7% and a few per cent more if the speed limiter led to less
powerful engines being used.
It also finds a 110 km/h limit would reduce average CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by 4-5%. And these benefits could be even greater if vans had smaller engine sizes.
The idea of limiting the speed of new vans appears to be quickly gaining support. It was initially floated in the legislation by the Parliament’s rapporteur, Martin Callanan. In recent votes both the transport and industry committees of the European Parliament have voted to back an obligatory speed limiter set at 120 km/h, and the idea was boosted when 85% of respondents to a survey by the German freight industry newspaper Verkehrsrundschau supported these limiters.
4.1. How to increase bicycle use: key policies identified
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