E – news update 31 March 2008

CLIMATE

1.1. "Kyoto II" climate talks open in Bangkok
31 March 2008, Reuters
BANGKOK (Reuters) – The first formal talks in the long process of drawing up a replacement for the Kyoto climate change pact opened in Thailand on Monday with appeals to a common human purpose to defeat global warming.
"The world is waiting for a solution that is long-term and economically viable," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said in a video address to the 1,000 delegates from 190 nations gathered in Bangkok.
The week-long meeting stems from a breakthrough agreement in Bali last year to start negotiations to replace Kyoto, which only binds 37 rich nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of five percent from 1990 levels by 2012.
U.N. climate experts want the new pact to impose curbs on all countries, although there is wide disagreement about how to share the burden between rich nations led by the United States and developing countries such as China and India.
No major decisions are likely from the Bangkok talks, which are intended mainly to establish a timetable for more rounds of talks culminating in a United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen at the end of next year.
"We see this as very much a process-oriented meeting," chief U.S. climate negotiator Harland Watson told reporters before the opening ceremony.
However, environmental groups are keeping a close eye on Bangkok for signs of sustained commitment by rich and poor countries alike to minimizing global warming by curbing emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
"It’s the first test of whether the goodwill and good intentions that were present in Bali are still there when they get down to the hard negotiations," said Angela Anderson of the Washington-based Pew Environment Group.
Although the negotiations are likely to be tough and tortuous, a series of U.N. climate change reports last year highlighted the need to curb global warming.
One report in particular said it was more than 90 percent certain that human actions — mainly burning fossil fuels — were to blame for changes to the weather system that will bring more heatwaves, droughts, storms and rising seas.
One major issue to be tackled is the reluctance of big developing nations such as India and China to agree to any measures that might curb their rapid industrialization.
Negotiators will also have to work out how to deal with the United States — the only rich nation not to have signed up to Kyoto — given that President George W. Bush will be leaving the White House after November’s election.
Bush pulled the United States out of Kyoto in 2001, saying the pact would hurt the economy and was unfair since it excluded big developing nations from committing to emissions cuts.
The White House has since moderated its stance by saying it would accept emissions targets if all other big emitters do as well based on their individual circumstances.
This has tempered criticism, but green groups and many poorer nations say they don’t expect much progress on a replacement climate pact until a new U.S. administration takes office in January 2009. All three main presidential candidates are greener than Bush and back a cap-and-trade system to encourage business to curb carbon emissions.
The United Nations wants the new treaty to be in place by the end of 2009 to give companies and investors as much advance knowledge as possible of coming changes, and national parliaments time to ratify it before 2012, when Kyoto expires.
Link: http://uk.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUKBKK14531120080331

1.2. Gore’s Message To Climate Change Skeptics
27 March 2008, CBS news
Tells 60 Minutes That Doubting Global Warming Is Man-Made Is Akin To Believing Earth Is Flat
Self-avowed "P.R. agent for the planet" Al Gore says those who still doubt that global warming is caused by man – among them, Vice President Dick Cheney – are acting like the fringe groups who think the 1969 moon landing never really happened, or who once believed the world is flat.
The former vice president and former presidential candidate talks to 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl in an interview to be broadcast this Sunday, March 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Confronted by Stahl with the fact some prominent people, including the nation’s vice president, are not convinced that global warming is man-made, Gore responds: "You’re talking about Dick Cheney. I think that those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view, they’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat,” says Gore. "That demeans them a little bit, but it’s not that far off," he tells Stahl.
Gore’s campaign to make the world more aware of man’s role in global warming won him the Nobel Peace Prize last year. He donated the $750,000 prize money to The Alliance for Climate Protection, the non-profit he started to help him on his quest. He and his wife, Tipper, tell Stahl they not only matched the Nobel money with their own, but they are also donating to the organization the significant profits from his book and Oscar-winning documentary film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth." The funds will help The Alliance for Climate Protection execute a new $300 million ad campaign on global warming set to start next week.
Some of the ads will feature unlikely alliances to drive home the message that people of all stripes are concerned about global warming. These include the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Pat Robertson, Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks, and Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich.
Stahl also visits the Gore’s Nashville home, recently refitted with touches that include roof solar panels that make it more environmentally friendly. She asks him his feelings on the Supreme Court ruling that handed his opponent, George W. Bush, the electoral votes of Florida and the presidency.
Stahl also asks Gore, an uncommitted superdelegate of the Democratic Party, who he supports for this party’s nomination.
Link: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/03/27/60minutes/main3974389.shtml

1.3. Global climate talks in Bangkok to set stage for future pact
29 March 2008, AFP
BANGKOK (AFP) — World climate negotiators will next week stake out their starting positions as talks begin in Bangkok on a landmark pact designed to save the Earth from the worst ravages of global warming.
Meeting for the first time since marathon talks in December on the Indonesian island of Bali, members of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will try to thrash out differences that almost derailed their last gathering.
The five-day meeting, beginning on Monday in Bangkok, aims to set out a detailed work plan that should lead to the most ambitious treaty yet for reining in greenhouse gas emissions and battling global warming.
"I hope that Bangkok is a very practical meeting, that is focused on what it is supposed to focus on, which is to agree a work programme for the next year and a half," UNFCCC head Yvo de Boer told AFP by phone from Switzerland.
Nations have until late 2009 to wrestle with the nitty-gritty of any new deal, giving them time to ratify it before their commitments on slashing harmful emissions under the existing Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012.
John Hay, the UNFCCC’s spokesman, said that Bali saw countries, including the United States — which never ratified the Kyoto deal — agree to launch the new negotiations.
Now in Bangkok, nations should produce a specific plan "outlining who does what, when and why," he said. "Generally the mood is quite constructive, much more constructive than it was at Bali."
Talks in Bali almost fell apart as nations fought over who was historically responsible for climate change, who should foot the bill, and whether both rich and poor nations should have binding targets on cutting carbon emissions.
Europe and developing countries want rich nations to set a binding target to cut emissions by between 25 to 40 percent by 2020 compared with their 1990 levels, but under US pressure the final Bali Roadmap did not include explicit goals.
"It is of course a reality that there are vastly differing interests at stake in all of this and some dramatically different positions amongst countries," de Boer said.
"Those differences of views and differences of interests will make it even more challenging."
The crucial question of emissions will likely dominate negotiations leading up to the final December 2009 meeting in Copenhagen, but activists warned that no agreement on the issue would come out of the Bangkok talks.
"There are no great breakthroughs to be expected, because the countries are wrestling for their starting positions," said Martin Hiller, spokesman of conservation group WWF.
Angela Anderson, director of the global warming programme with the US-based Pew Environment Group, said she expected positive momentum in Bangkok, but warned that individual interests would be on the climate brokers’ minds.
"They are out of the dialogue process and into negotiating, so countries tend to lay down some stronger markers at the beginning," she told AFP.
"You’re going to see some tough positions floated, probably some pretty serious reaction."
During the Bangkok talks, the United States would likely keep domestic industry interests in mind, Anderson said, but as the Bush administration’s days come to an end, negotiators will also be considering what legacy they want to leave behind.
The United States, the only major industrialised nation to reject Kyoto, has become increasingly isolated in its climate stance. Its reputation as an environmental pariah peaked in Bali when US delegates were booed during the closing hours of the conference.
The UNFCCC currently has 192 member nations. Government negotiators from at least 150 countries are expected to come to Bangkok.
Global scientists last year delivered their starkest warning yet — that without action, global warming could have an irreversible impact on the world, bringing hunger, floods, drought and the extinction of many plants and animals.
"The Bangkok talks will be the first test to see if the governments in Bali negotiated in earnest," WWF’s climate policy coordinator Kathrin Gutmann said in a statement.
Link: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jz5_Rk8gmvmxCNq4-kc4WPLidCzw

1.4. Gore’s Message To Climate Change Skeptics
27 March 2008, CBS news
(CBS) Self-avowed "P.R. agent for the planet" Al Gore says those who still doubt that global warming is caused by man – among them, Vice President Dick Cheney – are acting like the fringe groups who think the 1969 moon landing never really happened, or who once believed the world is flat.
The former vice president and former presidential candidate talks to 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl in an interview to be broadcast this Sunday, March 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Confronted by Stahl with the fact some prominent people, including the nation’s vice president, are not convinced that global warming is man-made, Gore responds: "You’re talking about Dick Cheney. I think that those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view, they’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat,” says Gore. "That demeans them a little bit, but it’s not that far off," he tells Stahl.
Gore’s campaign to make the world more aware of man’s role in global warming won him the Nobel Peace Prize last year. He donated the $750,000 prize money to The Alliance for Climate Protection, the non-profit he started to help him on his quest. He and his wife, Tipper, tell Stahl they not only matched the Nobel money with their own, but they are also donating to the organization the significant profits from his book and Oscar-winning documentary film about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth." The funds will help The Alliance for Climate Protection execute a new $300 million ad campaign on global warming set to start next week.
Some of the ads will feature unlikely alliances to drive home the message that people of all stripes are concerned about global warming. These include the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Pat Robertson, Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks, and Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich.
Stahl also visits the Gore’s Nashville home, recently refitted with touches that include roof solar panels that make it more environmentally friendly. She asks him his feelings on the Supreme Court ruling that handed his opponent, George W. Bush, the electoral votes of Florida and the presidency.
Stahl also asks Gore, an uncommitted superdelegate of the Democratic Party, who he supports for his party’s nomination.
Link:http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/03/27/60minutes/main3974389.shtml?source=mostpop_story

1.5. Climate change now a UN human rights issue
29 March 2008, AFP
GENEVA (AFP) — Climate change is now officially a human rights issue, as the UN Human Rights Council on Friday passed a resolution on the subject, recognising that the world’s poor are particularly vulnerable.
The council also gave the green light for a study into the impact of climate change on human rights, describing climate change as a "global problem .. that requires a global solution".
The resolution, submitted by the Maldives and passed without a vote, also noted that the poor tend to have limited resources to cope with the impact of global warming.
The country’s Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid told AFP that climate change "violates all human rights" — from the basic to the fundamental.
"In the case of Maldives, the right to life itself," he said.
The island state is among the world’s most vulnerable states to global warming, as it risks being submerged by rising sea waters.
Shahid said Maldives appreciated various forums which have already been discussing the climate change issue.
"But the very important aspect of the human dimension is sometimes lost. Scientific and economic issues have all been taken into account," he said, adding that the country wanted to use the resolution to highlight the human dimension of the problem.
When introducing the resolution in Geneva, Maldives’ representative told delegates that the debate on the subject had so far tended to focus on physical effects, while the "phenomenon on human beings" had been largely overlooked.
"It is time to highlight the human face of climate change," he said.
Supporting the resolution, Sri Lanka’s representative called it "timely" and said because of climate change, even "the right to life is under threat".
The council’s resolution acknowledged findings by the landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which said the evidence of a human role in the warming of the planet was now "unequivocal", and that the situation could be irreversible.
It also cited those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change: low-lying and small island states; countries with low-lying coastal, arid and semi-arid areas or areas prone to floods, drought, and desertification; and developing countries with fragile mountainous ecosystems.
Greenpeace political adviser Daniel Mittler welcomed the resolution, saying that it "points to the right direction".
"We have always maintained that climate change is way more than an environment issue, it is a security issue, an economic issue – in fact it is the most important economic issue of our time, and indeed a human rights issue.
"It has a direct impact on people’s lives, the ability of people to lead decent livelihoods. For example, Africans who can’t farm as they used to or Alaskans who can no longer maintain their traditional lifestyle due to climate change effects."
However, he pointed out that the study proposed by the council is to be conducted "within existing resources", and said that more should be done to ensure that a thorough study be done.
"It’s so ironical, if climate change is such a key issue, then countries should put more resources behind it," said Mittler.
Link: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gqg3m1Zm4lqTW8xT9pGTkTUaPZBw

1.6. EU says more momentum needed for UN climate change agreement
28 March 2008, Forbes
BRUSSELS (Thomson Financial) – The European Commission said more momentum is needed in formal negotiations for a new United Nations (UN) climate change agreement.
Negotiations are due to start on March 31 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The new agreement is intended to take effect once the Kyoto Protocol’s targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions from developed countries have expired in 2012.
The talks will involve all 192 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the US.
They will also bring together the 178 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in order to draw up future emission targets for developed countries.
The commission said it would like to see a ‘comprehensive decision reached on a detailed and substantive work plan that addresses the central issues of the future agreement’s objective (or ‘shared vision’), reduction of emissions, adaptation to climate change, technology transfer and finance’.
The Bangkok talks are the first of four negotiating sessions to be held this year.
The next will be in June in Bonn, Germany, the third at the end of August at a venue yet to be decided and the fourth during the Poznan conference in December.
Link: http://www.forbes.com/markets/feeds/afx/2008/03/28/afx4825903.html

ENERGY

2.1 U.N.’s Pachauri urges caution in biofuel use
26 March 2008, Guardian.co.uk
BRUSSELS, March 26 (Reuters) – The world must take care when developing biofuels to avoid perverse environmental effects and higher food prices, Nobel Peace Prize winner and climate change scientist Rajendra Pachauri said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the European Parliament, he questioned whether the United States’ policy of converting corn (maize) into ethanol for use as a transport fuel would reduce the emission of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Controversy has grown over using food crops to make biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels. Some environmentalists and politicians say it has raised food prices, distorted government budgets and led to deforestation in southeast Asia and Brazil.
"We should be very, very careful about coming up with biofuel solutions that have major impact on production of food grains and may have an implication for overall food security," Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told a news conference.
"Questions do arise about what is being done in North America, for instance to convert corn into sugar then into biofuels, into ethanol," he said.
The United States is the world’s biggest producer of biofuels, derived mostly from corn.
"Several questions have arisen on even the emissions implication of that route, and the fact that this has clearly raised prices of corn," said Pachauri, whose panel shared the Nobel prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore last year.
Scientists say some kinds of biofuel generate as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as the fossil fuels they replace.
Supporters, however, say that biofuels are the only renewable alternative to fossil fuels and do generally result in greenhouse gas emission savings.
Pachauri, in Brussels for talks with European Union lawmakers, said it was crucial to look at other ways of producing biofuels, including investing strongly in research and development to convert cellulosic material into liquid fuels, as well as using agricultural residues.
EU leaders pledged last year to increase the share of biofuels used in transport, but concern that this is pushing up food prices has led the bloc to say it may reconsider its strategy.
Earlier this month EU leaders pledged to pass laws within 12 months to implement ambitious goals for combating climate change, including slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and increasing the share of renewable energy.
Pachauri commended the 27-nation bloc’s efforts, saying it had taken a much needed leadership role on climate change.
Asked if countries applying strict emissions curbs to fight climate change should tax imports from countries which do not, Pachauri said he hoped this would not be necessary.
The outcome of a U.N. conference in Copenhagen next year meant to adopt a new climate change treaty would be instrumental in that regard, he said.
Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/feedarticle?id=7413123

CONFERENCES

3.1. "Local climate protection crosses borders"
International Annual Conference of the Climate Alliance,
1 – 4 April 2008 in Aachen (DE) and Heerlen (NL)
Local politicians and experts from whole Europe meet from 1 to 4 April 2008 to address the cross- order significance of local authorities in climate protection and to demand a stronger political and financial support of the European as well as the national level. The conferees will discuss goals and strategies in climate protection together with Frans Timmermans, state secretary for European affairs in the Dutch foreign ministry, Michael Müller, state secretary in the German environmental ministry, and Katarina Dobranovic of the DG energy and transport of the European Union.
With the Covenant of Mayors, in which the signing cities and municipalities commit themselves – the same as the members of the Climate Alliance – to step beyond the targets of the EU in reducing the CO2 emissions through energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies, the European Commission recognised the importance of local authorities for climate protection. A resolution that should be adopted by the General Assembly of the Climate Alliance deals with the use of fuels from biomass. The resolution demands to consider social, ecological and economic effects of the use of biomass in Europe and the countries in the South. Although biomass – beside wind, sun and eothermal power – is regarded as hope for the future by searching alternatives to fossil energies, the indigenous partners of the Climate Alliance have already warned 2004 of an endangering of fragile ecosystems and sustainable used living spaces.
The workshops deal with the applied implementation of climate protection measures. The following topics will be offered: `Climate protection and local economy´, `Adaptation to climate change´, Energy efficient public procurement´, `Retrofitting of existing buildings´, `Energy alternatives in transport´ and `Energy bridges between North and South´.
The Mayor of Aachen Dr. Jürgen Linden and his colleague of Heerlen Toine Gresel represent together cross-border the host Climate Alliance cities of Aachen and Heerlen during the conference and will welcome the 200 expected participants. The conference is supported by Stadtwerke Aachen AG.
Please find further information and the program at:
http://www.climatealliance.org/aktuell/mv2008-uebersicht.htm

3.2. Bangkok Climate Change Talks 2008
Three months after the landmark agreement on a road map towards strengthened international action on climate change reached in Bali, Indonesia, the next round of negotiations shifts to the neighbouring country of Thailand and its capital, Bangkok. The talks will take place from 31 March to 4 April 2008 at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
More info at: http://unfccc.int/meetings/intersessional/awg-lca_1_and_awg-kp_5/items/4288.php

3.3. Forum on Climate Change and Science & Technology Innovation
Beijing, China, 24-25 April 2008
The Forum on Climate Change and Science & Technology Innovation will be held on 24-25 April 2008 in Beijing, China. It is expected that more than 200 participants will be attending the Forum, including government officials, experts and scientists from developing and developed countries, and representatives from international organizations and multinational companies.
More at: http://www.acca21.org.cn/climatechange/index.html

3.4. European Patent Forum 2008, 6/7 May 2008, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Inventing a cleaner future: Climate change and the opportunties for IP
The drastic changes in world climate can no longer be ignored and the need to find intelligent solutions to mitigate the effects is obvious. That is why the European Patent Forum 2008 is dedicated to finding answers to the question:
How can the fields of patenting and intellectual property support innovations that benefit the environment and counteract climate change?
More info at: http://www.epo.org/about-us/events/epf2008.html

3.5. BioPower Generation Forum 2008
9-10 April 2008, Brussels
Delivering efficient, cost effective power generation from biomass Interest is growing in the upcoming BioPower Generation Summit, taking place in Brussels from 9-10 April. v This exciting event provides a forum for leading utilities, policy makers, financiers and solution providers and be fully updated on the business opportunities in large scale biomass production.
Link: http://www.greenpowerconferences.com/emarketing/biopower08/biopower08_broc-EM3.pdf
and http://www.greenpowerconferences.com/renewablesmarkets/biopower_generation.html

3.6. Regional workshops in February to June 2008
— Ljubljana, Slovenia on 11 April for Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia
More at: http://www.futures-e.org/futures-e_regional%20workshop_agenda_Ljubljana
— London, UK on 25 April for Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK
— Rome, Italy in May for Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain
— Berlin, Germany in June for Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands

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