1.1 Business ‘should lead’ on global warming, says U.N. climate secretary
22 December 2010, CNN
Private businesses are better placed than governments to tackle global warming because they can act faster, according to panelists at CNN’s climate change debate.
High profile figures in the private sector and the United Nations agreed the urgency to reduce carbon emissions was such that business could not afford to wait for politicians to act.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said at the CNN Earth’s Frontiers debate in Cancun, Mexico, that business should be "pulling governments along."
She said: "The difficult thing is to balance two realities. One reality is the urgency of it, which science tells us and we can see and economics has already figured out, with the political pace with which governments can move.
"That’s where private sector comes in, that’s where private sector, seeing the opportunity, should be not waiting for governments but taking the lead and pulling governments along."
Figueres was joined in the debate by Felipe Calderon, President of Mexico, and Caio Koch-Weser, vice chairman of Deutsche Bank, discussing who should pay to combat climate change.
Koch-Weser agreed: "The business community is doing this already. They see the risk, see the opportunity. I think we are ahead because business thinks longer term than politicians."
Calderon, who has pledged to make Mexico one of the first developing countries to take a lead in combating climate change, said everyone should contribute to avert disaster.
"We will need a lot of public money, we will need a lot of private money, we will need the market, we will need new rules, we will need taxes.
"But, in any case, it will be cheaper than to pay the consequences of climate change."
He added that all countries should pay according to their circumstances.
"You have more money, you pay more; your consumption of carbon is larger than mine, you must pay more; but the point is everyone is going to pay the consequences, everyone has to contribute."
During the debate, hosted by CNN anchor Becky Anderson, Koch-Weser praised the efforts of Mexico, China and other emerging economies in tackling carbon emissions.
He said: "I think countries like Mexico and China have understood that this is compatible with growth, job creation and eradicating poverty.
"There’s a huge potential for competitive advantage and technological leap-frogging if you go for green growth, if you go for the big transformation that’s coming our way.
"Some call it the next industrial revolution, where you go for much more natural-resource saving generally and low-carbon future growth path.
"I think Mexico, China and other emerging economies are more vigorous than some mature market economies."
The panelists discussed the establishment of a global carbon market to make the highest polluters pay for their emissions.
Koch-Weser, a member of the United Nations High-Level Advisory Committee on Climate Finance, said this could best be brought in by building on individual country pledges.
He said: "I’m skeptical, unfortunately, that we will have in the foreseeable future a global carbon market, but what we will have is domestic schemes spring up. We have the European experience, of course.
"China is thinking as part of its next five-year plan about establishing carbon markets and we could link domestic markets, create regional markets and eventually lead back to an international agreement."
He added: "We need a carbon price — get the incentives right and humankind will be very innovative in responding."
Patrick Moore, the environmentalist, speaking to CNN separately, said a country’s individual circumstances need to be taken into account instead of trying to impose a one-size-fits-all solution.
He said: "If we really want to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, if we really want to change technology, we really need to do it country by country, or perhaps bilateral agreements among countries that have similar circumstances.
"One of the main reasons that Kyoto has failed is that every country is different, some countries are rich, some countries are poor."
He added: "How can you expect countries as disparate as this to have some kind of common cookie-cutter agreement on what everyone is supposed to do? It’s impossible."
2.1. EU postpones cleanup of biofuels policy again
22 December 2010, T&E
Hopes of a sustainable future for EU biofuels policy have been dealt a blow following the European Commission’s decision to delay a critical decision on how to account for the impacts of ‘indirect land use change’ (ILUC). Environmental groups BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and T&E are calling for the immediate revision of biofuel sustainability criteria to take ILUC impacts into account.
Nusa Urbancic of T&E said: “The science shows that Europe’s biofuel policy currently causes more environmental problems than it solves. Despite that, after more than a year of work, and countless scientific studies, the European Commission has decided to delay action again, leading to continued uncertainty for the biofuels industry.”
ILUC is a result of fields of food crops being converted for biofuel production. Additional farm land is needed to grow the displaced food somewhere else in the world, causing rainforests, grasslands and ancient peatlands to be ploughed up to meet the demand. This releases huge quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, has severe impacts on people and threatens some of our most valued biodiversity worldwide.
Faustine Defossez of the EEB commented: ”A policy promoting biofuels that save emissions on paper but not in reality is doomed. The only way out of this scenario, and to secure a future for biofuels, is to start accounting for all emissions associated with its use, including indirect land use change’”.
A recent study by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) based on the National Renewable Energy Action Plans submitted by EU Member states found that, unless EU policy changes, extra biofuels coming on the market will increase greenhouse gas emissions by 81 to 167% (1). EU targets, agreed in 2008 as part of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED), oblige Member States to source 10% of their fuels from renewable sources, resulting in a huge boom for biofuels. The RED also contains ‘sustainability criteria’, but these do not include the issue of ILUC but instead subject it to a Commission review by the end of 2010.
Over the past year the Commission has gathered thousands of pages of research into the issue, the balance of evidence of the studies leaves no doubt that ILUC impacts are substantial. However, the Commission has been reluctant to release the findings of the studies and only did so following legal action by environmental groups (2).
“More and more evidence has revealed the impact of both direct and indirect land use change driven by the European Renewable Energy Directive” said Trees Robijns of BirdLife Europe. “The Commission should do all it can to avoid negative direct and indirect effects on people, their environment and the climate. How much longer do we have to keep waiting before they take the evidence seriously and take action?”
The environmental groups are calling for the full environmental impacts, including those from ILUC, to be taken into account in the sustainability criteria. Such an approach is the only way of ensuring that biofuels sold on the EU market are better than the fossil fuels they replace, and hence it is also the only way to give future investment security to the industry.
2.2. UN’s top climate chief enriches the mix at UAE energy summit
23 December 2010, The National
The UN’s top climate official, Christiana Figueres, will be among key figures arriving in the capital next month for the World Future Energy Summit.
The four-day event, which is hosted by the Abu Dhabi clean energy company Masdar, gathers politicians, business leaders and scientists for discussions on renewable energy and clean technologies, starting on January 17.
Ms Figueres is the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which guides the world’s joint efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
She will discuss the most recent round of negotiations to stop dangerous changes to the climate, which were held in Cancun, Mexico earlier this month.
Analysts said the Cancun talks did yield some success, with countries agreeing to create a fund for the countries most vulnerable to climate change, and to establish measures to stop deforestation.
The most difficult question of how developed and developing countries are to share the burden of curbing carbon emissions has been left for a summit in Durban, South Africa, next year.
That question will, however, be put to top officials from 11 countries at the World Future Energy Summit, where organisers hope to generate ideas and build networks in the clean technology industry.
The ministers’ panel will include Dr Farooq Abdullah, the Indian minister of new and renewable energy, Hassan Younes, the Egyptian minister of electricity and energy, and Norbert Rottgen, the Germanenvironment minister.
Officials from several oil-rich countries are also scheduled to be present, including Per Rune Henriksen, the Norwegian deputy minister for petroleum and energy and Iris Evans, the minister of international and intergovernmental relations for the western Canadian province of Alberta.
3.1. EU should raise carbon target to play a more powerful role after Cancun
20 December 2010, Greenpeace
Environment ministers will today discuss the outcome of the recent Cancun climate conference and the next steps that the EU should take to implement the agreements. Ministers will also continue their assessment of a controversial European Commission proposal that allegedly gives EU countries the ability to ban GM crops on their territory.
EU climate policy director Joris den Blanken said: “World leaders chose hope over fear in Cancun. Now EU ministers need to carry that momentum forwards and put words into action by increasing their climate ambition.”
He added: “In Cancun, India, Japan and even China made concessions. EU ministers were often left on the sidelines, with little new to offer beyond their 20 percent carbon target agreed already three years ago. An increase in carbon cuts is a pre-requisite for EU negotiators to play a role in future negotiations and to unlock the benefits of a green economy.”
During the climate talks earlier this month, the EU and other industrial countries agreed that a 25-40 percent cut in missions is required to steer clear of a global climate disaster.
Commission proposal on GM crops
Discussions on the Commission’s proposal that claims to give EU countries the right to ban GM crops are likely to continue into next year. So far, several EU governments have rejected the proposal or called for substantial amendments.
Greenpeace EU agriculture policy adviser Stefanie Hundsdorfer said: “The Commission proposal needs to be significantly improved to allow countries to ban GM crops based on scientific evidence on environmental and health risks. It’s now two years since all 27 EU countries called for stronger safety testing for GM crops. EU ministers must press the Commission to reform its policy on GM crops and clean up the troubled EU food authority.”
Two weeks ago, Greenpeace and Avaaz delivered the first-ever European Citizens’ Initiative to the European Commission. Over one million Europeans called on the Commission to freeze authorisations of GM crops until safety testing is made independent and scientific.
3.2. Japan greehouse gas emissions fall 5.7 percent in 09/10
27 December 2010, Reuters
Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 5.7 percent to 1.209 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent in the past financial year, a second straight year of decline due to weakness in the global economy, preliminary data showed.
The slide was in line with market expectations as emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fuel, which account for about 90 percent of greenhouse gase emissions, fell 5.6 percent to 1.075 billion tonnes during the same period, according to preliminary data released last month.
Tokyo’s goal under the Kyoto Protocol is to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1.186 billion tonnes a year on average over the five years to March 2013, down 6 percent from 1990/1991 levels.
Japan saw its greenhouse gas emissions peaking at a record 1.374 billion tonnes in the financial year ending March 2008, up 9 percent from 1.261 billion tonnes in 1990/1991.
The government is expected to release final emissions data for the past financial year in April.
3.3. U.S. issues timetable for carbon emissions cuts
23 December 2010, Reuters
U.S. environmental regulators released a plan on Thursday for the nation’s power plants and refineries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, pressing ahead with the Obama administration’s strategy of tackling the pollution in the absence of federal climate legislation.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it would propose so-called performance standards on greenhouse gas emissions on both new and existing plants beginning in July for power plants and for oil refineries by December. The fossil fuel plants emit about 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases.
The plan resulted from an agreement with states, including California and New York, and environmental groups that had sued the agency to regulate emissions of gases blamed for warming the planet.
The standards, the specifics of which have not been established, are also the latest stage of President Barack Obama’s effort to drive U.S. policy to combat global warming.
The strategy stems from the EPA’s ruling a year ago that greenhouses gases were a threaten human health and welfare, which has come under fire from industry groups and Republicans in Congress.
The new rules will come on top of regulations starting on January 2 that require the biggest polluters to get permits for emitting greenhouse gases.
"This is about taking a look at what technologies are available that can cost-effectively achieve reductions in greenhouse gases … it’s not establishing a tonnage (of emissions) that should be emitted or shouldn’t be emitted," said Gina McCarthy, an EPA assistant administrator on air and radiation.
McCarthy said there were no specifics on the proposed rules and that the timeline was not a first move in setting up a cap-and-trade market on emissions.
The performance standards will be finalized in May 2012 for power plants, and November that year for refineries. New and existing plants can choose available technologies to reduce emissions.
Separately, the EPA said it will issue greenhouse gas permits for Texas, which had refused to adopt rules on emissions. EPA also said it will issue permits in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, and Wyoming until state or local agencies are ready to do the job themselves.
The performance standards would add jobs to the economy because they would require many of the hundreds of big fossil fuel plants across the country to adopt new technologies to make their plants more efficient, McCarthy said.
The standards may also require utilities to switch to cleaner fuels, such as from coal to natural gas, but McCarthy said it was also too early to estimate how many aging coal plants might be pushed into retirement.
But Republicans, set to take over the House of Representatives and seats in the Senate in January, have vowed to stop or postpone the EPA from regulating the gases, saying it will harm the economy.
And refiners complained the standards would harm their businesses. "Regulations can’t create technology that doesn’t exist or change the laws of physics and economics, so the only way to comply with EPA’s proposals would be to inflict massive increases in energy costs and massive increases in unemployment on families across our nation," said Charles Drevna, the president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association said in a release.
But environmentalists applauded the move, saying it will help give power plants certainty to invest in cleaner technologies.
"EPA’s commitment to address the dangerous, climate-disrupting pollution from power plants through common- sense national standards will provide important environmental protections and will create economic certainty for vibrant new investments," said Fred Krupp, the president of the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the groups that the EPA settled with.
3.4. Brussels gets tough with carbon crime
24 December 2010, EurActiv
The European Commission is preparing tighter regulation for the European carbon market in a bid to clamp down on insider dealing, fraud and manipulation within the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Earlier this month, the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol estimated that around five billion euros of ETS monies had been lost to criminals in the previous 18 months.
They estimated that in some countries, up to 90% of the market’s volume had been a sham.
In a statement, Connie Hedegaard, EU Climate Action Commissioner explained that "the market has reached a size which makes it a potential target of fraudulent practices".
"As the market matures and grows further, it is critical that it continues to be subject to appropriate and effective regulatory oversight," she argued.
New measures in sight in 2011
The EU executive singled out the behaviour of ‘spot markets’ as a particular area of concern.
Spot trading is the practice of selling currencies, units or contracts for immediate or near-immediate delivery. Although it may have represented as much as 20-25% of the entire 2009 trading volume in the European carbon market, it has not been regulated by the EU.
Another Commission proposal suggested classifying all of the ETS’s exotic-sounding mechanisms – emissions allowances, certified emission reduction credits (CERs) and Emissions Reduction Units (ERUs) – as "financial instruments". This would bring them under the oversight of existing financial markets legislation.
A detailed study and internet-based stakeholder consultation will now be launched by the Commission early in 2011. New legislative measures could follow before the end of the year.
The ETS is a "cap and trade" system that allows participants to buy and sell allowances to pollute. Valued at 28 billion euros in 2007, it applies to over 10,000 installations which collectively account for close to half of the EU’s CO2 emissions.
Since 2009, the ETS has experienced VAT fraud, cybercrime, and even the recycling of its certified emission reduction (CER) credits by a member state, when Hungary resold CERs that had already been used.
Just one week before the Commission announcement, the energy news agency ICIS Heren reported that 1.6 million EU allowances had been stolen from a Romanian account. Holcim, the robbed cement company, said they had retrieved 0.6 million of the allowances.
In Britain too, several emissions registries were reported to have closed abruptly over the weekend of the 11-12 December, after their respective national security agencies warned that they were under threat of an attack.
The UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) said it was working "with a range of national and international partners to share information and raise awareness of potential criminal threats to the ETS."
One of the biggest ETS "carousel" frauds was revealed in 2009. It involved conmen buying carbon credits in one country without VAT, selling them in another country with VAT added, and then disappearing without paying tax.
3.5. Maldives’ sustainability success requires emissions action post-Cancun: WWF
22 December 2010, Minivan news
The impacts of climate change talks concluded earlier this month in Cancun, Mexico, which have been praised by President Mohamed Nasheed for supporting the Maldives’ own sustainable commitments, remain as yet “too vague” to discuss in terms of success, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has said.
Martin Hiller, who heads Climate Policy Communications and Campaigns for the WWF environmental NGO, told Minivan News that despite the “positive” outcomes from the Cancun talks in terms of encouraging “cohesion” between nations, it remained too early to assess any long term impacts upon sustainable initiatives.
“Success will be when emission reductions are happening, and so far they are not yet,” he said. “Success will be when adaptation action is happening, and is financed. [Climate change talks in] Durban next year needs to result in concrete commitments.”
The Cancun talks have aimed, alongside other initiatives, to secure emissions reductions from every developed and developing nation, while also raising US$100 billion in funding each year to aid sustainability initiatives based on low-carbon developments for smaller economies from 2020.
Although conceding last week that Cancun alone would not be enough to aid national commitments on becoming carbon neutral by 2020, the President’s Office said it believed the talks “anchored” Nasheed’s green commitments as outlined under the Copenhagen Accord.
Despite not yet having outlined a “masterplan” for how the Maldives can actually begin to meet it aims of being completely carbon neutral in less than a decade, Nasheed said last month that failure to meet these goals would be a “disaster” for the nation and wider global arguments for developing sustainable economies.
Hiller agreed that “the Maldives had promised something and it now needed to deliver”.
However, he claimed that beyond domestic sustainability initiatives that will required by every nation, groups like the WWF are trying to establish an international system that better supports carbon neutral efforts made by nations like the Maldives – not just in terms of finance, “but technology transfer, logistical support and training.”
“In the end, we are looking at a huge transformation on this planet – either we manage that transformation ourselves and have a possibility to say what it should look like, or temperatures get out of hand, and nature will react and change the world according to the laws of physics and biology,” he added.
In considering the Maldives’ commitments on trying to develop into a low carbon economy, Hiller said he believed that it will be vital to find a “holistic” national sustainability strategy. He said such a strategy could then be used to adopt a wide selection of sustainable intiatives beyond one particular focus, helping to ensure a greater likelihood of sustainable efficiency in both cost and output.
Ultimately, Hiller claimed that the Maldives and its president had become “important players” in publicising and representing sustainable commitments like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
He added that this importance could be seen particularly in the way the country has acted as a leader in the cause of Small Island States and all other countries perceived as being vulnerable to the potential impacts of climate change.
“The Maldives have an important role to play in the multilateral politics around climate change. They are definitely a figurehead,” Hiller added. “I’d also want to watch the progress of [the] country’s low carbon development, as this will help all us others to learn.”
However, not everyone has been convinced that the potential impacts of climate change on rising sea levels within low lying nations like the Maldives are a vital issue to address, at least in terms of business sensibilities.
Andrew Harrison, who was recently appointed CEO of GMR Male’ International Airport, said that at least from the viewpoint of insurance companies, the risk of sea levels increasing to a point that disrupted operations at the site were not even considered in its premiums.
“When we became involved in the bid process, we engaged three leading companies who are at the forefront of analysing geophysical activity, climate change and the impact rising sea levels,” he said. “Insurers are notorious for considering even unimaginable risks, so I can tell you that if no insurance company considers this in any of their policies for the Maldives, we think that the risk is pretty low.”
Speaking to Minivan News last month, environmental organisation Greenpeace said it believed the Maldives acted more as a symbol than a practical demonstration of how national development and fighting climate change can be mutually exclusive.
Wendel Trio, Climate Policy and Global Deal Coordinator for Greenpeace International, believed that the Maldives can nonetheless play an iconic role in promoting the potential benefits of adopting alternate energy programmes.
In looking specifically at the Maldives, the Greenpeace spokesperson accepted that the country is somewhat limited by its size in the role it can have as an advocate for more sustainable business and lifestyles.
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