1.1. Can Obama rev up climate talks?
28 March 2009, AFP
UN talks on delivering a historic deal on climate change resume in Bonn on Sunday with many hoping that US President Barack Obama’s untested negotiators can breathe life into a troubled process.
Some 190 nations will launch a marathon of meetings designed to culminate in Copenhagen in December with a new pact for curbing greenhouse gases beyond 2012, when provisions under the Kyoto Protocol expire.
"The real negotiations are beginning here in Bonn this weekend," the UN’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, told AFP.
Obama’s climate team, headed by Todd Stern, is scheduled to make a statement Sunday at the start of the 11-day meeting.
"I hope they will set out the main principles that will guide the United States," said de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
With less than nine months left to complete an accord of extraordinary complexity, a kind of consensus has coalesced around a target for 2050.
The goal is either for halving emissions compared with a benchmark year, or pegging temperature increases below 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times, according to a UN text unveiled last week.
But there remains deep disagreement on how to divvy up the burden between rich and emerging economies and what stepping-stone targets should be set along the way.
Industrialised nations are prepared to take on the larger burden, but want China, India, Brazil and other major carbon polluters also to make commitments of some kind.
These countries, in turn, say they first want to see money on the table to help them develop clean technology and adapt to climate change already underway.
The European Union (EU) has taken the lead on reducing carbon pollution, promising to slash emissions by 20 percent compared to 1900 levels by 2020, and by 30 percent if other industrialised countries follow suit.
By 2050, it will deepen the cuts to 80 percent.
On the election trail, Obama vowed to match the EU’s mid-century objectives, but offered a more modest goal for 2020 of simply returning the US to 1990 level emissions.
This is a cut of around 14 percent of current emissions, but still far short of what the EU is proposing and what many scientists say is necessary from the world’s biggest polluter after China.
In Europe, there is intense relief at the end of the era of former president George W. Bush, who abandoned Kyoto and opposed binding targets for the US.
Despite warm feelings for Obama and fear that criticising him could undermine his domestic position, the EU is also worried that his 2020 goal is just too modest.
"We are going to tell them that we don’t agree, that we think that this is not enough," said a European negotiator, who argued that Japan, Canada and other industrialised countries may well take their cues from Washington.
Alden Meyer, a climate expert at the Boston-based Union of Concerted Scientists, agrees there has been some critical "blowback" from European nations looking for stronger US efforts.
But he thinks Washington may be ready to close the gap on the short-term targets, at least part way.
One reason for Obama’s caution, though, is to avoid getting too far ahead of climate and energy legislation taking shape in the US Congress.
"What we must avoid — and the Obama administration recognizes this — is a repeat of the Kyoto situation where the US brought home an international agreement and Congress would not ratify it," said Jennifer Haverkamp, the top climate expert at the US advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund.
In 1997, the US Senate voted 95-to-0 in a non-binding resolution to reject the new climate treaty as it did not impose commitments on developing countries.
Last week, China’s chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua linked progress in UN climate talks to progress on a US law.
Democratic Congressman Edward Markey, Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, said his committee intended to introduce a draft climate and energy bill next week.
"By the end of May, we will have produced a piece of legislation voted on by the (House) Energy and Commerce Committee," he told journalists Thursday in a telephone news conference.
"This is the beginning of the real process," Markey said, referring to the Bonn meeting.
"Bonn is an opportunity to demonstrate that there no longer is a unilateral disdain of the UN global warming negotiation process."
2.1. Publication of Verified Emissions data for the year 2008
Under the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), the deadline for installations to submit verified emissions data for the year 2008 is 31 March 2009. The Community Independent Transaction Log ("CITL") will grant unlimited public access to verified emissions data for 2008 as soon as the total amount of recorded 2008 verified emissions exceeds 80% of the total amount of 2007 verified emissions.
The Central Administrator of the CITL will calculate this ratio every day from 1 April 2009. As soon as the 80% threshold is reached, DG Environment will place an announcement on its website: (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/emission/citl_en.htm) before 10:00 Central European Summer Time (CEST) and grant unlimited ‘real time’ access to the data in the CITL at 15:00 CEST.
Please note that initially the data will be released per installation and aggregate verified emissions data will be made available to the public in the form of a press release on 15 May 2009.
Please note that, due to extension and increased harmonisation of the scope of the EU ETS between 2007 and 2008, aggregate emissions data and, in some cases, installation-level emissions data are not directly comparable in terms of their coverage, and access to the data is granted subject to the following disclaimer:
The installation-level verified emissions data for 2008 available through the Community Independent Transaction Log has been provided electronically by installations and may be subject to significant corrections by Member State authorities. In addition, the data is incomplete and will be completed only at a later stage and should therefore be considered as "work in progress". The Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to the use, accuracy or completeness of this data. Please also note the general disclaimer which applies for all information on the European Commission’s website at: http://europa.eu/geninfo/legal_notices_en.htm.
2.2. Leading global corporations announce 50 million tons of emissions reductions
26 March 2009, WWF
Some of the world’s leading companies and most recognizable brands gathered on Capitol Hill in Washington today to announce that cutting greenhouse emissions makes business sense.
The companies, all partners in WWF’s Climate Savers Program, announced an estimated 50 million tons of voluntary emissions reductions by 2010 since the program’s inception in 1999.
The independently estimated reductions are equivalent to the annual emissions of Switzerland.
Companies in the WWF Climate Savers Programme include The Coca-Cola Company, Catalyst, The Collins Companies, Elopak, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Hewlett-Packard, Lafarge, Johnson & Johnson, JohnsonDiversey, Nike, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, Novo Nordisk, Polaroid, Sagawa Express, Sofidel Group, Sony, Spitsbergen Travel, Tetra Pak, Xanterra Parks and Resorts.
Senior executives from a dozen of the companies will tell attendees of a Capitol Hill briefing hosted by the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that climate protection and profitability can go hand-in-hand. While the businesses’ reductions are impactful, the current climate emergency also demands the implementation of comprehensive climate policies at both national and international levels .
"These 21 Climate Savers companies have proven that greenhouse gas reductions and strong economic performance are not an either/or proposition,” said WWF-US President Carter Roberts.
“This is a critical moment to communicate this message to policymakers because voluntary action will not be enough to achieve the carbon dioxide reductions needed to protect the planet from the ravages of climate change. A global challenge like this calls for both domestic legislation and a strong international treaty.”
“Environmental protection and sustainable business performance are inextricably linked,” said Muhtar Kent, President and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. “Governments, NGOs and businesses have unique roles, but we must work more closely together to address climate change. A key part of our role is to drive the Coca-Cola system to achieve and surpass the targets we have established in partnership with WWF and Climate Savers."
WWF works closely with Climate Savers companies to develop action plans to achieve aggressive emission reduction targets. Overall, the companies say these efforts are resulting in greater operational efficiency and significant cost reductions.
As Climate Savers marking its 10-year anniversary, some member companies, such as Lafarge, and Johnson & Johnson are currently surpassing their targets. WWF also announced that Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Elopak would become the newest members, with both companies setting ambitious emissions targets:
• Fairmont Hotels & Resorts signed an agreement with WWF to cut its emissions by 20 percent below its 2006 levels by 2013.
• Elopak, a leading beverage packaging company with customers in 100 countries, will reduce CO2 emissions 15% from 2008 levels by 2011.
As an additional effort, WWF officials said it will organize a contingent of Climate Savers companies to attend upcoming international climate talks in Copenhagen in support of a treaty.
Many Climate Savers companies have previously offered public support for a declaration calling for action to limit the global average temperature increase to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, and have affirmed an Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change report’s conclusion that global emissions must be reduced to half of 2000 levels by the middle of the 21st century. The companies also declared that they would widen the scope of reduction activities by partnering with other businesses and champion best practice by sharing their methods with more sectors and in more regions around the world.
Ecofys has been the verifier for various emission inventories of WWF Climate Savers companies.
2.3. EPA finds greenhouse gases endanger health
24 March 2009, Reuters
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that climate-warming greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, pose a danger to human health and welfare, a White House website showed on Monday.
EPA’s proposed "endangerment finding," sent to the Obama administration on Friday, could pave the way for U.S. limits on emissions that spur climate change.
The substance of the proposal was not immediately made public, but the White House Office of Management and Budget showed EPA sent a proposed rule for an "Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act."
An endangerment finding is essential for the U.S. government to regulate climate-warming emissions like carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.
The environment agency had no comment on the endangerment finding, but such a finding is only sent to the White House when the EPA determines that human health and welfare are threatened.
"I think it’s historic news," said Frank O’Donnell of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. "It is going to set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution."
Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat who heads the House climate change committee, also offered praise while slamming the Bush administration’s record.
"This finding will officially end the era of denial on global warming," Markey said in a statement. "Instead of allowing political interference in scientific and legal decisions, as was the case in the previous administration, the Obama administration is letting the sun shine in on the dangerous realities of global warming."
William Kovacs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was wary of the possible changes. "They’re playing a very dangerous game with the way they’re moving forward. The regulated community, if carbon dioxide is regulated, swells from about 15,000 to 1.5 million entities. That’s the risk."
EPA’s move could spur Congress to cap carbon emissions, said Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs repeated President Barack Obama’s support for a market-based system to limit carbon emissions and allow companies that emit more than the limit to trade allowances with those that emit less. Congressional Democrats also favor this kind of cap-and-trade plan to cut emissions.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has the authority to make these regulations if human health is threatened by global warming pollution, but no regulations went forward during the Bush administration.
Carbon dioxide, one of several so-called greenhouse gases that spur global warming, is emitted by natural and industrial sources, including fossil-fueled vehicles, coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.
An internal EPA document made public last year showed the agency’s scientists believed greenhouse pollution posed a health threat, but no official finding was ever accepted by the Bush White House.
On March 10, the EPA proposed a comprehensive U.S. system for reporting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, a step toward regulating pollutants that spur climate change.
2.4. Australia wants forest CO2 trade in Copenhagen pact
27 March 2009, Reuters
Australia has submitted a proposal to U.N. climate negotiators that outlines a scheme to use carbon credits to protect rain forests, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said on Friday.
The submission will be circulated to negotiators meeting next week in Bonn, Germany, to discuss a new U.N. climate treaty that world leaders hope to agree to in Copenhagen in December 2009.
"We think a post-2012 agreement will need to include forests in some way," Wong told Reuters in an interview in New York after addressing U.N. diplomats at the International Peace Institute, a think tank devoted to peace and security.
"Currently too many developing nations have an economic imperative to cut down forests. What we need to put in place is a mechanism that means instead of an economic imperative to cut down forests, we have an economic imperative to protect them."
The United Nations has backed a scheme called REDD, or reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation, in which developing nations such as Brazil and Indonesia could potentially earn billions of dollars from selling carbon credits in return for saving their forests.
But the scheme is in its infancy and regulations are needed to guide how REDD projects will work, to credibly monitor how much carbon they will save and sequester and set out how money from selling the credits will flow to local communities.
Wong said deforestation and forest degradation account for around 18 to 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
"What Australia is putting forward is a proposal for a forest carbon market mechanism that essentially will try to provide this economic incentive," she said
She said there was much work to be done on negotiating the details before the Copenhagen summit, and there would have to be public sector financing, especially in the early stages.
Wong said the economic downturn must not derail strong action on climate change because when world economies emerge from the downturn, "climate change will still be there."
"We can’t keep delaying, deferring and avoiding action on climate change," she said.
Wong has presented draft legislation for a cap-and-trade system targeting emissions cuts of between 5 and 15 percent of 2000 levels by 2020, with the higher amount dependent on a broader global U.N. climate pact being agreed in Copenhagen.
But the legislation faces a tough passage in Australia’s Senate.
The center-left government controls the lower house but needs the support of the opposition conservatives, or the backing of five Green senators and two independents, to pass laws through the upper house.
Climate change action was a central part of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s election campaign and the gridlock in parliament has led to speculation of an early election.
The Greens have said they will not accept a reduction of less than 40 percent in emissions.
Wong said a 15 percent emissions cut would already be "challenging," though achievable, given Australia’s huge reliance on cheap coal for power and other industries.
"We’re not in the business of putting targets on the table that we don’t think we can achieve," she said.
Asked whether the planned July 2010 start of the cap-and-trade system could slip if the legislation is not passed quickly, Wong said that was in the hands of the Senate.
"If they’re prepared to block legislation which will ensure Australia commences to reduce its emissions, all they’ll be doing is pushing the problem off into future years," she said.
Wong said it was vital for the United States and other developed countries to show leadership and a willingness to cut their emissions in order to build trust before Copenhagen.
3.1. Electric avenues: Battery-powered cars take over the roads
29 March 2009, The Independent
‘The future has not been cancelled," quipped BP chief executive Tony Hayward in a bullish presentation about the company’s prospects recently. But one thing the company has been forced to cancel, or at least postpone, is a reception to celebrate its centenary at the British Museum this week – shelved because BP feared disruption by climate campaigners gathering for the G20 summit.
A century on from the founding of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, this may be the least of BP’s worries. Because along with the recession, the collapse of the oil price and the struggle to maintain output in the face of global oil depletion, BP and its peers face the rapid resurgence of an ancient rival: the electric car.
Invented in the 1830s, the electric car predated the internal combustion engine and the oil industry by decades, and dominated the car market into the early 20th century. It was only in the second decade that electric cars were overtaken by petrol and diesel models with superior range. But today a combination of factors – climate change, oil-price volatility and improving battery technology – are coalescing to make a powerful case for the electric vehicle once again. Mass-market models will be launched from later this year, the charging infrastructure is being rolled out, and electricity companies around the world are manoeuvring to claim a slice of the new automotive energy market.
Since about half the world’s oil production is turned into petrol and diesel, any shift to electric vehicles could ultimately cost the oil industry a vast chunk of its earnings. According to Dale Vince, chief executive of the wind generator Ecotricity, Britain’s cars could be powered by fewer than 5,000 wind turbines, and we are on the verge of a rapid shift to transport powered by renewable electricity. "The oil companies are dinosaurs," he says, "and the comet is coming."
It is a dra- matic turnaround, according to Chris Paine, the director of the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, which told the story of GM’s withdrawal of its EV1 model in the 1990s amid allegations of oil-industry lobbying and corporate chicanery. Today most major car manufacturers are developing battery-powered vehicles, GM is preparing to launch its Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, and Paine is making a sequel: The Revenge of the Electric Car. "It’s totally different now we’ve had the shock of $150 oil, and the automakers are staring out at thousands of unsold gas-guzzlers. I am convinced the electric car will have its revenge."
Until recently the only models available have been niche vehicles such as the tiny G-Wiz commuter car or the Tesla Roadster, but a slew of mass- market models will start to appear this year. The first to arrive in Britain will be Mitsubishi’s iMiEV, a four-door with a range of 100 miles on a single charge from a three-pin domestic socket. The cars will be relatively expensive to start with, at about £20,000, but the company says the price will come down as sales grow, and will be offset by min-uscule running costs. Lance Bradley, the new managing director of Mitsubishi UK, points out that the petrol needed to drive 10,000 miles per year costs about £1,000, whereas the electricity to drive the iMiEV the same distance would cost just £40, and electric motors require virtually no maintenance.
The iMiEV will be the first of many. In 2010 Vauxhall will launch the Voltera, the British version of the Chevy Volt, and Think will unveil an all-electric four-seater. In 2011 Renault will launch three electric cars including a large saloon and a van. New models are also due from Smart, Toyota, Nissan and Subaru. Thierry Koskas, director of Renault’s electric-vehicle programme, predicts that within five years electric cars could take 10 per cent of global car sales, even on current battery technology. With further improvements in range, he says that number "could easily double or triple". The consultancy AT Kearney predicts battery and hybrid technology will take 50 per cent market share by 2020, assuming oil rises to $200 per barrel.
As climate-change forecasts become ever more alarming, the renaissance of the electric car is supported by a growing consensus that it is the only technology remotely capable of delivering zero-carbon private transport. According to Gary Kendall, director of climate change at SustainAbility, a London-based consultancy, and author of a report called Plugged In: The End of the Oil Age, biofuels will continue to rely on fossil fuel and fertiliser and so will not cut emissions enough, while producing hydrogen cleanly is far too energy-intensive. However, electric motors are so efficient, they would roughly halve car emissions, even if run on UK grid electricity that is heavily reliant on coal and natural gas. "Electric vehicles are the best way to cut car emissions quickly," Kendall concludes, "and combined with zero-carbon electricity generation, they are the only realistic way to eliminate car emissions altogether."
For that to happen would require a network of charging points, which is already starting to be rolled out in Europe and Japan. The Brighton-based company Elektromotive has developed a recharger that looks like a futuristic parking meter, and the firm is working with local authorities, such as Westminster City Council, and power companies, such as EDF Energy, to install them at on-street parking bays and shopping centres. London has 40 such "Elektrobays", with another 60 being installed in the next two months. The company expects to have installed 300 around Britain by the end of the year, and managing director Calvey Taylor-Haw predicts that in 10 years "every street will have one". Elektromotive has also installed rechargers in Germany and Sweden, where it is working with power firms to integrate billing systems, so that wherever the customer recharges a car, the cost will appear on their domestic electricity bill.
A range of 100 miles would more than cover most people’s daily travel needs, but would be awkward for longer trips. Better Place, a $200m (£140m) start-up founded in 2007 by a former software executive, Shai Agassi, plans to solve this problem by building a network of battery exchange stations powered by renewable electricity. Motorists would drive in and have depleted batteries replaced with freshly charged ones in an automatic process. In a business model adapted from the mobile phone industry, the batteries would be owned by the network, and motorists would be billed for the number of kilometres they drive. The company plans to launch its network in Israel in 2011, followed by Denmark, Australia, Can-ada, Hawaii and California, and is in talks with a dozen other countries.
The Better Place mission statement is extraordinarily ambitious, promising "a world living free from oil", but business development executive Josh Steinmann says it could all happen much faster than people think. "I don’t think we are that far from it because all the technologies exist. The challenge is to persuade people there is another way. Within 10 years we can make a tremendous impact."
The Better Place model relies on a series of deals with renewable generators around the world, and a similar alliance was forged in France last October between Renault and EDF, which plan to create "a large scale zero emission individual transport and travel system". EDF generates almost all its power from low-carbon nuclear and hydro, and already runs a fleet of 1,500 electric vehicles. Renault and EDF are working with the French government, local authorities and Peugeot to develop a recharging infrastructure for Paris, and aim to produce a strategic plan by June. "This is a massive opportunity for electricity firms," says Steinmann. "They stand to address an entirely new market."
Another reason power companies will increasingly want to supply electricity for vehicles is that it could help solve the problem of balancing supply and demand as the proportion of wind generation grows. In Denmark, where wind penetration has reached 20 per cent, the country sometimes has to export power to its neighbours for next to nothing because the wind is blowing but domestic demand is too low, usually at night. Electric vehicles recharging overnight would create a new market for that power, which is why DONG Energy, Denmark’s biggest electricity generator, decided to invest in a €€103m (£96m) joint venture with Better Place. According to Torben Holm, who devised the DONG strategy, other power companies round the world will face similar pressures as wind penetration rises, and are likely to follow suit. Meanwhile, the firm hopes a fifth of Denmark’s passenger cars will be electric by 2020. "It’s very ambitious", says Holm, "but achievable."
While new players circle the transport energy market, the oil companies seem determined to stick overwhelmingly to oil and gas. ExxonMobil has never had any truck with renewables, and Shell recently outraged climate campaigners by announcing it will invest no more in wind and solar following the slump in the oil price. Meanwhile BP, which the company claims stands for "Beyond Petroleum", invested just $1.4bn in its Alternative Energy business last year, against total investment of almost $31bn.
A BP spokesman pointed out that the company is the largest wind generator in the US, and will have invested $8bn in renewables by 2015. He said the shift to electric cars would be "a decade-long process – if it goes that way". And if it did, BP would still be involved in supplying the energy through gas-fired generation using carbon capture and storage (CCS). BP is currently considering two CCS projects overseas, but has abandoned its original project at Peterhead in Scotland, and pulled out of a government-funded competition to build a pilot plant.
Some analysts argue the problem for the oil industry is not so much that it is investing too little in renewables but too much in oil and gas. BP recently made much of the fact that it added reserves equivalent to 121 per cent of its production in 2008. But Gary Kendall of SustainAbility, which counts the world’s three biggest listed oil companies among its clients, says the industry’s resource base of hundreds of billions of barrels risks becoming a vast stranded asset. "Climate change means we can’t afford to burn all of this stuff, so at some point they will have to walk away from it with massive write-downs." And the electric car could precipitate that crisis surprisingly quickly, he adds: "Twenty years ago nobody had a mobile phone, but nowadays, who doesn’t?"
The future may not have been cancelled for BP and its peers, but if they don’t reinvent themselves soon, it could be very much smaller.
4.1. WWF position on the European Neighbourhood Policy and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) mid-term review
The ENPI Regulation and related programming documents include a number of references to environmental protection, integration and civil society participation in environmental activities. WWF has been following the implementation of such commitments in the field and has identified a number of gaps and proposals for improvement.
WWF sees the mid-term review of ENPI regulation and programming documents as a major opportunity for the European Community to honor these commitments.
This paper describes the main issues at stake, and provides some key recommendations to be considered in the context of the Mid-Term review process.
More at: http://www.panda.org/what_we_do/policy/wwf_europe_environment/?160381/WWF-position-on-the-European-Neighbourhood-Policy-and-Partnership-Instrument-mid-term-review
5.1. Seventh session of the AWG-KP and fifth session of the AWG-LCA
29 March-08 April 2009,Bonn, Germany
The provisional agendas for the seventh session of the AWG-KP and the fifth session of the AWG-LCA are now available online.
More at: http://unfccc.int/2860.php
5.2. BIKETOUR 2009
The 2009 Biketour – the project for everyone interested in do-it-yourself ("diy") environmentalism, culture, nature, community life and the art of travelling without engines – the exact opposite of an all-inclusive flight to the beach.
Moving all our stuff by sheer pedal power, we will create an eco-mobile community building up strong connections between participants coming from different cultures and groups, as well as between ourselves and our hosts.
Beginning of July 2009 we will start cycling from Macedonia to Croatia, crossing Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We plan to start our tour on the Belgrade-Skopje train(!), and we will reach the MuM festival in Croatia, 28th of August.
More at: http://www.ecotopiabiketour.net/
5.3. 5th International Congress for South-East Europe
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Sources, 6 – 8 April 2009, NDK, Sofia, Bulgaria
More at: http://www.viaexpo.com/congress-ee-vei/eng/congress.php
Disclaimer: We do not guarantee for the accuracy, reliability or content of information. For help or questions, contact: [email protected]