1.1. UN hopes science review eases climate scepticism
30 August 2010, ABC News
A review due on Monday (US time) can help restore public faith in the United Nations panel of climate scientists and its finding that global warming is man made despite errors in a 2007 report, the UN’s environment chief said.
Achim Steiner also said extreme weather in 2010, such as floods in Pakistan or Russia’s heatwave, were a "stark warning" of the need to act to slow global warming, as outlined by the UN panel.
He said he would be surprised if the review, spurred by mistakes in a 2007 report such as an exaggeration of the thaw of Himalayan glaciers, called for any radical overhaul of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The InterAcademy Council, comprising science academies around the world, is due to hand its review and recommendations for the future of the IPCC to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York.
Mr Steiner, head of the Nairobi-based UN Environment Program (UNEP), said the report follows others in 2010 that have backed the core findings by the IPCC that it is at least 90 per cent certain that mankind is driving global warming.
"Hopefully the release will be a moment where the public can reflect and say that all these reviews have not pointed to any fundamental flaw in the work," Mr Steiner said.
He said he had not seen the IAC report and would only get a copy 30 minutes before its release. He said those who were sceptical that global warming is man made had seized on a few mistakes to challenge the entire IPCC.
"There is a climate of doubt and uncertainty that has been created," Mr Steiner said. "This is not justified".
The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel peace prize with US climate campaigner Al Gore.
The controversy about the IPCC, following a UN summit in Copenhagen in December that fell short of agreeing a new global climate treaty, "has slowed down momentum", Mr Steiner said.
"It has created uncertainty in an area where that is not needed.
"I suspect (the IAC) will make proposals for enhancing, strengthening, improving the process of working on climate reporting and the assessment.
"I’d be surprised, though I don’t know, if there are fundamental changes" to the way the IPCC works, he said.
The recommendations will be debated by governments at a meeting in South Korea in October.
Possible reforms include making the IPCC quicker at coming up with reports, perhaps focusing more on regional effects. The IPCC now focuses on assessments of the global climate every six or seven years.
He said he doubted the IAC would discuss leaders of the IPCC, led by chairman Rajendra Pachauri.
"It was not the council’s mandate to evaluate individuals," he said.
1.2. China, Japan willing to push forward climate talks
29 Augst 2010, DHgate.com
China and Japan are willing to push forward international climate change talks, based on respective responsibilities and capabilities of both countries, a senior Chinese official said at the sideline of the third China-Japan high-level economic dialogue.
Zhang Ping, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, told China Daily that he believed the forthcoming talks of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Cancun, Mexico in November and December should stick to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. The talks also need to be open and transparent, led by participating countries and achieved through consultation and consensus.
He said China and Japan regard energy-saving and environmental protection as very important areas and a growth engine of economic cooperation between both countries.
Vice-Premier Wang Qishan said on Saturday at the opening of the dialogue that bilateral trade between China and Japan has recovered and exceeded the level before the financial crisis.
The dialogue was chaired by Wang and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.
The dialogue, launched by Premier Wen Jiabao and then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, first convened in 2007 in Beijing and the second meeting was held in 2009 in Tokyo.
The two countries singed some agreements on energy-saving and environmental protection.
Both sides also agreed to hold the fifth China-Japan forum on energy-saving and environmental protection in late October in Tokyo to discuss to promote green economy and cooperation on low-carbon technologies, Zhang said.
He said both countries also agreed to strengthen cooperation of energy-conservation centers and promote pilot programs.
1.3. Probe Seeks Climate-Panel Changes
28 August 2010, The Wall Street Journal
A group investigating the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will recommend in a report Monday that the scientific organization beef up its capacity to ferret out errors in its scientific assessments, a member of the investigating body said.
But the group, appointed by the InterAcademy Council, a consortium of national scientific academies, won’t pass judgment in its report on the state of knowledge about global warming and its causes. It also won’t address whether IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri should resign—a step that some critics have called for and that the chairman has said he doesn’t intend to take.
The IPCC and the U.N. requested the probe in March, under mounting public pressure following the disclosure of a handful of errors in a roughly 3,000-page scientific report the IPCC published in 2007.
The IPCC is a sprawling organization in which thousands of scientists and other experts around the world volunteer their time to help write massive reports about every six years assessing climate science.
The reports influence government policies on energy and the environment across the globe.
The groups of scientists who produce each IPCC report disband once the report is published. And the IPCC, which was founded two decades ago, has only a few dozen paid staff members. That makes it difficult to look into alleged errors that later arise and to fix them, Mario Molina, a member of the InterAcademy Council panel, said in a recent interview.
The IPCC has "no permanent structure that could take care of the sort of questions that came up," he said, referring to the errors in the 2007 IPCC report. "That’s the sort of thing we are recommending."
Mr. Molina and others involved in producing the investigative panel’s report declined to provide The Wall Street Journal a copy of the document and the Journal couldn’t independently confirm its content.
Among the mistakes in the IPCC’s 2007 report was an erroneous projection that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. Early this year, the IPCC expressed "regret" for that claim, which IPCC officials say lacked scientific basis.
But IPCC officials have said those mistakes don’t impugn the main conclusion of the 2007 report: that climate change is "unequivocal" and "very likely" caused by human activity.
A spokesman for Mr. Pachauri said the IPCC chairman wouldn’t comment on the InterAcademy Council report until it is issued Monday.
In May, when Mr. Pachauri met with members of the Inter-Academy Council to answer questions, he endorsed beefing up the IPCC, particularly to respond more quickly to criticism.
"This is a body that is answerable to human society and is going to be called into question on a much more frequent basis in the future," he told them at the time. "But we’re not prepared for it," he said, saying the IPCC needs more staff trained in explaining the group’s work to the public.
The IPCC and the U.N. didn’t choose the members of the investigative panel, say officials of the Amsterdam-based InterAcademy Council.
The council’s board picked the 12-member panel from nominations submitted by scientific and engineering academies around the world. The panel is headed by economist and former Princeton University President Harold Shapiro.
Mr. Molina, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, helped to write the 2007 IPCC report—experience that the InterAcademy Council wanted reflected on the investigative panel.
Another panel member worked on an earlier IPCC report and a third member gave a presentation at a planning meeting for the IPCC’s next climate-science report, due out in phases in 2013 and 2014, an InterAcademy Council spokesman said.
The other members of the investigative panel haven’t worked with the IPCC, the spokesman said.
The InterAcademy Council report also will suggest one way to minimize errors in the first place: more caution in how scientists use non-peer-reviewed work in IPCC reports. And it will discuss ways the IPCC could more clearly address views that disagree with the conclusions of the majority of scientists working on an IPCC report.
Mr. Molina said he believes the IPCC’s reports "can certainly improve—be more robust, more explicit about opinions that are not the consensus of scientific society." But because of the IPCC’s minimal staff, he said, there has been "no possibility of doing this" so far.
Much of the current climate-science controversy began in November, when more than 1,000 emails hacked from a climate-research institute at the U.K.’s University of East Anglia were posted online.
They appeared to show scientists at the lab, some of whom were involved in writing IPCC reports, trying to squelch the views of researchers who challenged the conclusion that climate change is due mainly to human activity.
Since then, three investigations in the U.K. into the hacked emails have concluded that researchers at the institute didn’t skew science to inflate evidence of man-made global warming. But the investigations criticized the researchers for not being open enough with their data.
1.4. Six Caribbean countries endorse Copenhagen Accord
28 August 2010, Jamaica Observer
SIX Caribbean islands have now endorsed the controversial Copenhagen Accord, a key outcome of the 15th United Nations climate change conference held in Denmark last December.
They include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.
The six islands join some 131 other countries of the world, including small-island developing states the likes of the Maldives in endorsing the accord, a non-legally binding agreement that critics say is woefully inadequate if the planet is to win the battle against global climate change.
Climate change threatens rising sea levels and the loss of coastal livelihoods; increase in sea levels and the loss of certain marine species; as well as an increase in extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts.
Meanwhile, the accord, among other things, makes allowances for an increase in global temperatures to two degrees Celsius, while providing for fast-track funding for developing countries to adapt to climate change. The agreement, which critics add did not go far enough to safeguard the world’s most vulnerable to climate change, also makes provisions for developed countries to provide US$30 billion for the period 2010 to 2012 for adaptation and mitigation efforts in the developing world. Beyond that, developed countries committed to mobilising jointly US$100 billion annually by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries.
"This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance," the agreement noted.
Still, it is not without reservations that Caribbean countries have given their stamp of approval to the accord, which in the end was essentially decided on by a few countries, notably the US, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa.
"It is not that they (Caribbean countries) agree with the accord, but that there are things in the accord that the region can take advantage of," said Ulric Trotz, science adviser to the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre. "Our official position really is, accept the accord in the sense that you write to the UNFCCC, but at the same time you should mention reservations."
Caribbean countries have taken heed. Jamaica is just such an island, noting its reservations over the failure to realise a legally binding agreement with ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets from the developed world and a move toward limiting global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
"The ministry (of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade) wishes to convey the decision of the Government of Jamaica to associate itself with the… accord," said the island’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its March 30 letter to the UNFCCC secretariat on the matter. "In doing so, the Government of Jamaica wishes to underscore that it considers the accord a political document with no legal status under international law, and that its provisions do not replace or pre-empt negotiations towards a legally binding, ambitious and comprehensive agreement under the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the Bali Roadmap."
"In this regard, Jamaica reaffirms the UNFCCC as the primary inter-governmental process to address climate change and supports the two-track negotiating process within the framework of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Co-operative Action and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments by Annex 1 Parties (developed countries) under the Kyoto Protocol," it added.
Trotz said, in the interim, that they were some hopeful signs coming out of the accord and noted that it was on these that the region would build going into the climate change negotiations set for Mexico in November.
"The accord speaks (for example) to considering limiting global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius… That is a hopeful sign that they (developed countries) are willing to take that on," he said.
Trotz added that other hopeful signs were their commitment to providing new and additional funding for adaptation and mitigation and their recognition of the place of forests in any strategy to tackle climate change.
Trotz’s sentiments have been echoed by Jeffrey Spooner, the Group of Latin America and Caribbean representative on the Adaptation Fund Board, and one of Jamaica ‘s climate negotiators.
"It is a way forward," he said in a previous news report. "At least it has identified the importance of climate change and the importance of tackling it now. And to be honest, there is nothing to lose in associating ourselves."
He added that the fight to secure a legally binding agreement is "not over".
"There is a lot of work to be done still. But at least the accord has kind of set the stage. There are some countries who are totally opposed to the accord and as such it is going to be very difficult to negotiate anything to do with the accord," Spooner said.
2.1. NEW REPORT: Biofuels for Europe driving land grabbing in Africa
30 August 2010, FOEE
The amount of land being taken in Africa to meet Europe’s increasing demand for biofuels is underestimated and out of control, new investigations by Friends of the Earth reveal today.
The research, which looked at 11 African countries, found at least five million hectares of land – an area the size of Denmark – is being acquired by foreign companies to produce biofuels mainly for the European market.
The practice – known as land grabbing – is increasing and is dominated by European companies. However with official public information largely absent, current figures are likely to be only a snapshot and gross underestimates.
The report, ‘Africa: Up For Grabs’, reveals how local communities are having their land taken and there are few safeguards for local community land rights. Forests and natural vegetation are being cleared, and biofuels are competing with food crops for farmland.
Even more land will be required for biofuels if the European Union is to reach its target of 10% of transport fuels from renewable sources by 2020, according to the research.
Adrian Bebb, food and agriculture campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “Our research shows that Europe’s demand for biofuels is a major driver of land grabbing in Africa. Local communities are facing increasing hunger and food insecurity just so Europe can fuel its cars. The EU must urgently scrap its biofuel policy. Europe must invest instead in environmentally friendly agriculture and decrease the energy we use for transport.”
A leaked World Bank report on wider land grabbing corroborates this pattern, stating that ‘consultations with local communities were often weak… Conflicts were common, usually over land rights’. The World Bank has so far refused to release these controversial findings publicly.
In Tanzania, Madagascar and Ghana there have been protests following land-grabs by foreign companies.
Mariann Bassey, food and agriculture coordinator for Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria said: “The expansion of biofuels on our continent is transforming forests and natural vegetation into fuel crops, taking away food-growing farmland from communities, and creating conflicts with local people over land ownership. We want real investment in agriculture that allows us to produce food and not fuel for foreign cars."
This is just one example of Europe’s over use of the world’s resources. Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on the EU to start measuring and curbing its use of land, water, materials, and climate emissions around the world.
2.2. Merkel: Nuclear plants could run up to 2035
30 August 2010, EurActiv
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out in favour of extending the use of nuclear power plants in Germany in a television interview on 29 August, saying it would be reasonable if they could run another 10 to 15 years.
But she also warned against high expectations for the 17 nuclear power plants in Germany, which are currently scheduled to be shut down in 2021. Opinion polls show a majority of Germans opposed to extending the use of nuclear power.
Merkel said security was the highest priority.
She also said she wanted to give any measure to extend nuclear power a strong legal foundation – which is why she wants to find a way to extend nuclear power without needing approval from the upper house, or Bundesrat, where her centre-right coalition has no majority.
"From the point of view of energy experts an extension of more than 10 years is desirable," Merkel told ARD television. "From an expert point of view an [extension] period of 10 to 15 years is reasonable."
On Saturday Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle said German nuclear power plants should continue operating for a further 12 years beyond their scheduled shutdown date of 2021.
Bruederle, who has strongly backed extending nuclear power use beyond 2021, offered the target ahead of the publication of an energy development plan due at the end of September.
Germany has 17 nuclear plants, whose operators are embroiled in a scrap with Merkel’s government over a planned nuclear power tax the government hopes will contribute 2.3 billion euros ($2.93 billion) per year to an austerity programme.
The Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper had reported Merkel and top cabinet members had agreed to extend the use of nuclear power by 10 years.
Merkel denied that at a news conference on Friday, when the government received an experts’ report with four different scenarios that will form the basis for a decision about whether to extend the use of nuclear power and by how long.
Under a nuclear phase-out law passed by the former centre-left Social Democrat-Greens government of Gerhard Schroeder, all German nuclear plants are due to shut by 2021.
Merkel wants to extend their lifespans while forcing utilities to hand over more of their profits.
The biggest utilities, E.ON, RWE, Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg and Vattenfall have campaigned strongly against the nuclear fuel tax and pushed for a tax-deductible fixed charge instead.
Nuclear power providers had threatened to cut investments and possibly even shut down plants if the tax was implemented.
2.3. Consumers in dark as light bulb phase-out continues
25 August 2010, EurActiv
As the EU’s phase-out of energy-guzzling light bulbs prepares to move into a second phase in September, consumer organisations are calling for an education campaign and a better disposal system.
Consumer advocates fear high-tech terminology could be lost on consumers, leading to confusion as new product information requirements enter into force.
In 2009, the introduction new EU energy efficiency standards for light bulbs began the phase-out of traditional incandescent light bulbs, starting with 100 watt bulbs (EurActiv 19/03/10). This year, on 1 September, all 75 watt inefficient bulbs will gradually disappear from shop shelves as retailers will still be allowed to sell their existing stock.
The legislation will remove all inefficient incandescent and halogen light bulbs from the market and replace them with more efficient alternatives, such as improved incandescent bulbs with halogen technology or compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), for instance.
The European Commission estimated that more energy-efficient lamps will save an average household somewhere between €25 and €50 per year, taking into account the higher purchase price of the product.
Product information will also become mandatory on packaging as of September. Manufacturers will be required to print product information such as lifetime in hours, how many times the light bulb can be switched on and off, or warm-up time for the benefit of consumers.
European consumers’ organisation BEUC welcomed the continued efforts to help consumers make the switch to energy-saving lights. But it stressed that further efforts will be required to ensure that citizens can make educated choices according to reliable information.
"Both consumers and the environment will benefit from an increased usage of energy-saving light bulbs. However, as consumers are unfamiliar with terms such as Kelvin values or luminous flux, they can only take full advantage of this measure if they are helped to make informed choices based on reliable product information," said BEUC Director-General Monique Goyens.
The organisation also called for a better disposal system for fluorescent bulbs, expressing concerns about their mercury content. It argued that the mercury threshold could be lowered from the current 5mg to only 1-2mg with top notch technology.
Opponents of the phase-out have consistently pointed to higher contents of poisonous mercury than in traditional bulbs. But some studies have argued that the net emissions of mercury are in fact lower with CFLs than traditional light bulbs, as they reduce energy demand and consequently the amount of mercury released by power plants burning coal.
3.1. Is the EU about to trigger a major reform of international offsetting?
27 August 2010, Sandbag
Commissioner Connie Hedegaard stated on the 25th August 2010 that she has asked her department “to prepare a proposal for a measure to introduce further quality restrictions on the use of credits from industrial gas projects in the post-2012 EU ETS.” This is the strongest signal yet that the EU is gearing up to address the spiraling dispute about the quality of international offsets being used for compliance in the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS).
Much of this debate stems from the ongoing row about the legitimacy of HFC clean development mechanism (CDM) projects and their role within the EU ETS. This ongoing dispute has drawn in a wide range of stakeholder including environmental groups, the UN, the European Commission, financial institutions, project developers and the chemical industry itself. Tensions are running high. On one side are those who are seeking to protect vested interests – HFC projects have proven to be hugely profitable for all involved and many do not wish to see the gravy train come to an end. On the other are those who believe such cheap forms of emissions savings should be more properly regulated, leaving the market to fund projects which have clearer environmental and
It’s regrettable that the World Bank is currently on the side of the vested interests. It has tasked itself with contributing to efforts to combat climate change, which goes hand in hand with its missions to reduce poverty and improve living standards in the developing world.
However, the World Bank’s Umbrella Carbon Facility invests in two of the biggest HFC-23 projects. Such projects are currently under intense scrutiny, facing allegations of gaming, acting as a perverse incentive, holding back more cost effective regulation, generating vast windfall profits and flooding the market with cheap credits which prevents projects in the lease developed countries accessing the markets. HFC projects are contained within chemical installations and have no meaningful sustainable development benefits for the local area let alone improving living standards for those living near them.
Sandbag welcomes the move to by the Commission to set in place quality restrictions for all international offsets being used for compliance within the EU ETS. The removal of industrial gas credits from the EU ETS will have an overwhelmingly positive effect on the distribution and viability of CDM projects from not only Least Developed Countries (LDCs) but also from the most environmentally sound projects. HFC emissions will still remain a problem but we now know they are very cheap to solve, in particular via the Montreal Protocol. Therefore, in parallel, regulations must be swiftly introduced and removing the profit incentive will help to achieve this.
So far the EU ETS has seen 97 million HFC credits surrendered into the EU ETS (roughly 60% of all surrendered). These, originated from just 18 HFC projects, which account for only 0.8% of all CDM projects. There are more desirable CERs making it into the EU ETS, such as those from the lone Gold Standard project, La Esperanza Hydroelectric Project, which generated 1,676 credits for use in the EU ETS. Where it’s positive to see the inclusion of such projects, and praise is due to those surrendering these credits, including EDF’s Eggborough power station. Before we sing the praises of EDF too much, it’s worth bearing in mind of the 875,000 surrendered by Eggborough power station, only 38 were Gold standard CERs and 658,278 were HFC CERs.
The emissions trading trade body, IETA, recently suggested that ‘Africa is turning into a major source of premium Clean Development Mechanism projects.’ Sadly this is just speculation at this point. Although existing rule changes in the next phase of trading will, in theory, open up markets in least developed countries, Africa is currently home to only 3% of all CDM projects, with just over 80,000 CERs having entered the EU ETS to date, ironically from an energy efficiency project in a steel works and an industrial gas project.
The EU need to act quickly to ensure that not only credits from industrial gas projects are prevented from entering the EU ETS but a broader policy framework is put in place that is able to apply quality standards to all credits being used for compliance. This will provide much better value for money for EU citizens, spur investment in the most environmentally sound projects and also encourage investment to flow to those countries most in need.
As for whether these changes will scare of any future investment in the carbon market, as some are claiming, this appears an empty threat. Given the rates of return that have been generated so far it would be a very foolish investor who turned his back on this market completely – the challenge instead is to find the next low cost solution to climate change – something which the market has proven it is more than capable of achieving.
4.1. The Pricing of Progress: Intelligent road charging for a smarter, more competitive Europe
28/09/2010 – FOEE
A major international conference on the future of lorry charging to achieve a cleaner, smarter and more competitive Europe. For further information, and to register, click here: http://www.transportenvironment.org/conference
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