1.1 Europe, It’s time to lead!
European leaders are deciding our response to climate change NOW! Will they lead the fight to keep global warming below 2°C? Track their progress, and ask them if they are ready to lead…
More at: http://www.timetolead.eu/
1.2. EU urged to agree on climate before UN talks open
30 September 2008, Reuters AlertNet
WARSAW- The European Union must reach a consensus on climate policy if it wants to play a leading role in U.N.-led talks on a new pact to cut greenhouse gases, a Polish official said on Tuesday.
A package of climate measures proposed by the European Commission — the EU executive — aims, among other things, to cut carbon dioxide emissions by a fifth by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. However, it faces opposition from some member states and from the car industry.
France, holder of the rotating EU presidency, hopes to forge a compromise among the 27 member states by December when negotiators meet in Poznan, Poland, to discuss a new global deal on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
"For Poland, the current proposal is still more a threat than an opportunity, I think. If the EU wants to set an example in Poznan, it has to work out a consensus within the bloc first," Piotr Serafin, a deputy head of the Office of the Committee for European Integration, told a climate change panel organised by a pro EU think-tank on Tuesday.
"Only then will it be able to act as a role model on the world stage. Tension in the global negotiations will be between rich and poor. And you cannot force China or India into a deal. Europe must work out its own consensus in order to exert pressure on the global stage."
Poland fears ambitious EU goals for curbing emissions would result in energy price increases of up to 70 percent. With fellow ex-communist states Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, it has signed a statement calling for more debate on Brussels’ plans.
Some political analysts have seen the declaration of the five ex-communist countries as an attempt to build up a blocking minority in the EU that would force the Commission to seek a compromise on its plans.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in June Warsaw might try to block the plan if Warsaw’s demands were not met.
"It would be hard for me to imagine a situation in which the climate package — with all its long-term consequences — would be approved by one group outvoting the other," Serafin said. "Anyway, the target date set by the French presidency may turn out to be a bit too ambitious."
Poland, which derives about 95 percent of its electricity from coal, wants to delay Commission plans for the start of full auctioning of carbon dioxide emission permits in 2013.
At present, companies are granted some emission permits for free but in the future they will have to buy all permits, increasing their costs.
2.1 Financial crisis could dent nuclear plant growth
2 October 2008, AP
PARIS (AP) — Growth in the construction of new nuclear plants worldwide is at risk because of
the global financial crisis, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Wednesday, adding that short-term projects like oil drilling are more likely to go ahead.
During a visit to Paris, Bodman said the crisis could have an impact on the "nuclear renaissance" that is sweeping the industry as countries around the globe search for alternatives to fossil fuels.
Long-term projects like nuclear plant building "are the ones that are going to be the most difficult to finance," he told reporters. While Bodman said he is hopeful the financial crisis will be resolved, "long term projects are at risk, I would think."
The U.S. has 104 commercial reactors that supply about 20 percent of the country’s power. The U.S. Energy Department projects 45 percent growth in national electricity demand by 2030, meaning 35 to 50 new nuclear plants would be needed by then just to maintain nuclear’s share of the energy market.
A failure of the U.S. to resolve the ongoing financial crisis would have "a significant impact" on energy demand there, Bodman said on the sidelines of an international nuclear energy conference.
"That’s what the president has been saying, that’s what we’ve all been saying," Bodman said. "That’s what leads to the need to come up with a solution."
While long-term nuclear projects are at risk, short-term projects such as oil drilling shouldn’t be affected, Bodman said, because the industry is less reliant on bank borrowing.
"I would guess in large measure they would proceed. But again, I don’t want to forecast exactly what they do," Bodman said.
Bodman also said he expects U.S. oil refining capacity in the Gulf of Mexico to come back to pre-hurricane Ike and Gustav levels in four or five weeks.
"It’s been less rapid than I hoped it might be," Bodman said. "I thought it would be two or three weeks, it’s probably going to be four or five, that kind of time frame. It’s not going to be 10."
Hurricanes Gustav and Ike shut down nearly 100 percent of oil and natural gas production in the Gulf for several weeks.
Asked if he was worried about Russia’s expanding cooperation with the OPEC oil producing cartel, Bodman said "We don’t encourage that."
"Am I worried? I don’t lose a lot of sleep over it. But it’s not an encouraging position," Bodman said. Russia agreed earlier this month to sign a cooperation agreement with OPEC.
Bodman said he hoped Russia would focus more on encouraging companies from around the world to invest in its oil and gas industry but that it "seems to be more interested in OPEC and making deals with OPEC. That gives me some pause."
Russia is the second-largest oil and gas producer, just behind Saudi Arabia, making closer ties to OPEC — which dominates world oil production — potentially bad news for major fossil fuel consumers, including the U.S. and Europe.
2.2. Canada to Curb Tar Sands Exports?
30 September 2008, Green Inc.
Canada prides itself on its clean-and-green bona fides, and its ratification of the Kyoto protocol a few years back came in sharp contrast to the Bush administration’s dismissal of the agreement.
But the country’s rapid expansion of oil sands development, a great emitter of greenhouse gases, has strangely escaped much political debate — even though it is a major reason why Canada cannot meet its Kyoto targets.
That may be beginning to change in the current parliamentary election campaign to choose a prime minister on Oct. 14. The sharpest criticism has come predictably from Jack Layton, the leader of the social democratic New Democratic Party, who has suggested that further oil sands development should be halted until companies do more to restore lands and water polluted from oil sands mining operations.
Stephen Harper, the Conservative prime minister, is a supporter of oil sands development and is commonly criticized for not making global warming a priority. But he has come up with an oil sands proposal that is raising eyebrows in his home province of Alberta, the center of oil sands development.
He is proposing a ban on the export of bitumen, the raw tar-like substance that can be converted into synthetic fuel, to countries that do not have greenhouse gas emissions targets similar to Canada’s.
Canadian Conservatives say the proposal is not likely to have any impact on bitumen exports to the United States, but it could affect future business with China, which has long eyed Canadian oil sands as a plentiful source of energy for the future.
Environment Minister John Baird, a close ally of Mr. Harper’s, has suggested the proposal may affect plans to construct a major pipeline from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia to supply the Asian market.
3.1. EU ups efficiency standards for lights, televisions
29 September 2008, EurActiv
EU member states have endorsed two Commission proposals aimed at slashing the electricity consumption of electronic goods as part of the bloc’s efforts to reduce energy wastage.
The regulations, approved on 26 September by a special committee of national experts (regulatory committee), will apply to office, industrial and street lighting products as well as ‘set-top’ boxes that convert digital TV signals into analogue signals.
If approved by the Parliament later in the year, the Commission predicts that the two measures will lead to significant energy savings. The electricity consumption of lighting equipment should be reduced by 15%, leading to savings equivalent to the annual electricity use of Romania. TV boxes, meanwhile, would use nearly three times less power by 2014, the Commission said in a statement.
"These measures are concrete contributions to reaching the EU’s energy efficiency targets. Once they are in place, they will significantly reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions and foreign dependency in a cost-effective manner," said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
The regulations are part of the implementing measures set out in the 2005 Framework Directive on Eco-design requirements for Energy-using Products (EuP), which stipulates that energy-efficiency improvements should be adopted on a product-by-product basis by a special committee of national technical experts.
After being given the go-ahead by the Parliament, the Commission expects the regulations to be formally approved by member states in January 2009. Meanwhile, Brussels is expected to propose further EuP implementing measures on product groups such as lamps used in the domestic sector in the next few months.
4.1. Auction update: the price for emitting climate change-causing pollution
29 September 2008, Scientific American
The results of the first auction of global warming pollution in U.S. history are in: power plant owners are willing to pay just over $3 for every ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) they emit. More than 12 million allowances were sold for $3.07 last Thursday, bringing in $38 million for the renewable energy and energy efficiency programs of the six Northeastern states involved.
A second auction on December 17 will bring all 10 states into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (affectionately known as RGGI or "Reggie.") But already the 59 bidders in the auction—primarily energy companies but also financial speculators and environmentalists—were willing to buy four times more allowances than were actually on offer; bids came in for a total of 51,761,000 of allowances all told. (An allowance is a permit from the various state governments to emit one ton of carbon dioxide from a power plant.)
That’s good news for efforts to combat climate change (and perhaps even for the economy) though it remains to be seen how well RGGI will do at bringing down emissions in the region: the cap at present is 188 million tons of CO2 per year while actual emissions were just 164 million tons last year—leaving power plant owners with room to grow their globe-warming pollution. But, since climate change is a global problem, perhaps the best thing RGGI can do is serve as a trial run for a national cap-and-trade program or carbon tax.
4.2. France proposes phasing in CO2 curbs for cars
30 September 2008, Reuters, UK
BRUSSELS, Sept 30 (Reuters) – The European Union’s French presidency proposed on Tuesday watering down plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions from cars by phasing in limits up to 2015, with lower fines for narrowly missing the target.
The EU’s executive Commission has proposed cutting CO2 from cars by 18 percent to 130 grams per km by 2012, as part of an ambitious plan to lead the world in fighting climate change, with stiff fines for non-compliance.
A further 10 g would have to be achieved through improved tyres, gears and air-conditioning, the plan said.
However France, which holds the presidency until the end of this year, proposed that just 60 percent of each manufacturer’s fleet should have to meet the standard in 2012, rising to full compliance in 2015.
Up to 7 grams of the cut could be achieved through new technologies other than engine improvements, such as solar panels on roofs, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The French document also suggested a longer-term target of cutting car emissions to 95-110 g per km by 2020.
Auto making nations led by Germany, which specialises in powerful, heavy luxury vehicles such as Mercedes (DAIGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) and BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research), which emit the most greenhouse gases, have pressed for a softening of the Commission’s plan.
The big carmakers have argued that a rush to legislate puts jobs and export earnings at risk.
But the environment committee of the European Parliament, which shares the duty of drafting legislation with EU member states, rejected a similar swathe of changes last week, saying they were too soft on the auto industry.
Member states and parliament have to agree on the same rules for the legislation to be adopted.
The French proposal foresees a complex, graduated system of fines that would soften the penalty on manufacturers that narrowly miss their targets.
5.1. Car industry squares up to economic storm
30 September 2008, BBC News
The global car industry is gathering in Paris this week for its bi-annual jamboree that consists of a slew of press briefings, model launches and lavish events.
But although the parties are still large, the industry itself is dwindling – in more ways than one.
For the manufacturers, selling the biggest cars that used to bring in the most margin has become almost impossible.
During the first half of this year sales of large sports utility vehicles (SUVs) in Europe fell almost 45%, while sales of large cars and people carriers tumbled almost 30%, with executive saloons also suffering, according to Jato Dynamics.
Forecasts published by analysis firm Global Insight, ahead of the recent chaos on Wall Street and in the City, forecast a 6.1% fall in European car sales this year, with a further -albeit not quite as sharp – fall next year of 4.5%.
Dealers are finding it hard to raise finance for their customers, according to industry publication Automotive News Europe, amid mounting fears that Europe might slide into recession.
"There’s clearly a lot of nervousness about the 2009 numbers," says automotive industry analyst John Lawson of Citigroup.
It is not only sales and profits that have declined sharply in recent months, leading every carmaker here to look for ways to slash costs and trim their labour force.
Along with the shrinking size of the cars on offer, their fuel consumption and their CO2 emissions are also reduced – along with their prices and hence the manufacturers’ profit margins.
"Manufacturers with a lead in fuel efficiency will benefit. Whether they can translate that into an improvement in profits is the question," says automotive analyst Michael Tyndall of Nomura International.
But look beyond such gloomy chatter, of which there is plenty going around in the Big Croissant these days, and there are some truly striking new releases.
One notable trend is the growing line-up of small, yet luxurious, concept vehicles such as the Audi A1, the BMW X1 – a tiny SUV – and the Mini crossover.
The idea behind all three is that drivers should not have to compromise to downsize, while the manufacturers should not have to compromise with regards to their profit margins.
Kia is here with a display of no fewer than seven versions of its boxy Soul, and there will also be a new Mazda city car.
Toyota’s iQ, Hyundai’s i20, Nissan’s Pixo and Ford’s re-released Ka add to a line-up of even smaller cars entering this increasingly crowded but fast-growing segment of the automotive market.
But it is not the crowds that pose the biggest challenge for the automakers. Rather, they are faced with the eternal problem of making money from small cars.
This is made all the more difficult when the small models are brought to market at a time when the chaos on Wall Street and in Washington is whipping up waves of frugality among consumers.
So make no mistake; although many of the models will be branded as "green" in one form or another, every carmaker here knows full well that popular concerns are shifting swiftly from global warming to an international economic chill.
In such a climate, even the car industry’s insistence that emissions are coming down does little to bring back the buyers.
Though while it seems the consumers no longer care about green issues in the way they used to, the regulators in Brussels do.
And according to their yardstick, the cuts are too slow. In short, the car industry is on a steadfast course towards failure. Nobody but nobody expects the industry to be able to comply with anticipated European Union legislation.
Jos Dings of environment lobby group Transport & Environment (T&E) insists that "the slow response of most carmakers shows that the EU needs to keep up the pressure with challenging, long-term CO2 targets".
And that is exactly what the EU policy makers appear to be doing, in spite of hard lobbying by the automotive industry, which is desperate to have the goalposts moved.
Car manufacturers have worked hard to have the deadline pushed back, the requirements softened and the fines for non-compliance reduced from a proposed 95 euros per gram per kilometre (g/km) for each car.
Lawmakers in Brussels last week stuck to their guns and insisted on the timely introduction of legislation that will demand that CO2 emissions be cut to an average of 120g/km by 2012, from the current EU average of 158g/km.
Industry officials insist the tighter regulations will upset the fragile economics of an industry already in trouble.
As such it could see redundancies accelerated, they argue, eventually leading to tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost.
It is a paradox, some industry officials point out, that the vote in Brussels coincided with the passing of a $25bn (£14bn) support package for Detroit’s Big Three carmakers – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.
This was ostensibly to help them produce cars that emit less CO2, though rival firms see it as a protectionist bail-out package that discriminates against non-US carmakers.
Be that as it may, the stricter emission rules will nevertheless leave the automotive sector with no choice. Its search for less polluting engines must go on.
Much is still resting on ever-cleaner diesel engines, which have largely been pioneered by German and Japanese firms, though there is also a broader range of diesel-electric or petrol-electric hybrid models on display.
Hybrid pioneer Honda will unveil a model that aims to woo Toyota Prius customers, and there is an incredible array of light hybrids, where small and relatively unsophisticated batteries are used to store kinetic energy captured during braking.
The hydrogen story is also given a further push, with Suzuki making a splash with its fuel cell powered SX4-FCV.
Yet the strongest hint at what is set to drive the industry forward in the years to come lies in the battery technology showcased by a number of carmakers at the Paris show.
The production version of the Chevrolet Volt, first seen in the flesh at General Motors’ Centenary in September, will be on display at the Paris show.
The Volt is essentially an all-electric car designed to be plugged into the mains. Fully charged, the car’s lithium-ion batteries will give it a range of 40 miles.
That range is extended infinitely by its ultra-efficient petrol engine, which is not designed to propel the car forward as is the case in contemporary hybrids.
According to Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Controls Power Solutions, which produces batteries for the car industry, conventional engines are either being supplemented or increasingly replaced by electric power – whether it is generated in power stations or by internal combustion engines.
"Over the last three to six months, thanks to high fuel prices and the [tighter emissions] standards set in Europe, we’ve seen more energy and focus from the automakers than in the last three to five years combined," he tells BBC News.
Flagship models from BMW and Daimler are taking a lead in the luxury segment with the launch of a BMW 7 Series and a Mercedes S-class, both kitted out with ultra-efficient lithium-ion batteries during 2009.
Several carmakers are even testing all-electric versions of their current models, including the Smart and the Mini, with the promise that production models could be with us by 2010.
But sceptics remain.
"It’s easy to get caught up in talk of an electric car revolution," says Evert Geurtsen, co-founder of the electric car company Nice.
"However, we’d be very surprised if many of the all-electric sports cars, and other models that have been making headlines, hit showrooms within forecast time-frames."
6.1. Massive health benefits from stronger climate policies, shows new study
2 October 2008, WWF
Brussels, Belgium – Health savings of up to 25 billion euros could be achieved every year in Europe if the European Union immediately opted for stronger climate policies, says a new study published by health and environment NGOs.
The report, commissioned by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Climate Action Network Europe (CAN-E) and WWF, analyses the health benefits brought about by reduced climate pollution if the European Union increased without any delay its 2020 target for domestic greenhouse gas emission cuts from 20 to 30 per cent.
The findings show that raising the target to 30% in line with recommendations of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) would produce savings resulting from better health valued at between 6.5 and 25 billion euros per year.
The estimates are based on economic evaluations of loss of life and health, working days lost and hospital costs. The findings show reductions in hospital admissions of 8,000 per year and two million fewer work days lost per year by moving to the higher 30% target.
These health savings are over and above the benefits of the European Union’s existing scenario of a 20 per cent target. The report shows that raising the target to 30 per cent would increase the savings by 25 billion, or 48%, from 51 to 76 billion euros.
Génon Jensen, Executive Director of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) says: “Data clearly show that action to control global warming by reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions brings major benefits to health. This potential alone makes a case for immediately moving the European target to at least 30 per cent domestic cuts of greenhouse gases by 2020. The European Union should be showing leadership on this crucial determinant of our future.”
The European Commission’s impact assessment estimated that currently every year 369,000 people die prematurely due to air pollution, and that premature deaths, health care and medication associated with air pollution amount to 3-9 per cent of EU Gross Domestic Product.
“Until now the discussion on climate change has been all about costs to industry and the economy, while costs of climate pollution to the society have largely been neglected”, adds Delia Villagrasa, Senior Advisor to WWF.
“It is essential to see that measures to promote cleaner sources of energy and reduce fossil fuel consumption will not only contribute to control climate change but will also cut air pollution and improve quality of life for European citizens.”
With the current debate on the “EU climate and energy package”, a set of measures to cut greenhouse gases in Europe, the European Union has the opportunity to lead to way to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. NGOs call on the European Parliament to be ambitious and lift the bar for a 30 per cent cut of greenhouse gases by 2020.
“The report clearly demonstrates what scientists, economists, academics and NGOs have said before: action on climate change produces win-win-win scenarios. Tougher targets means a win for the planet, a win for European citizen’s health and a win for industry in reducing air pollution control cost,” stated Tomas Wyns ETS Policy Officer, Climate Action Network Europe.
7.1. European NGOs Discussing Sustainable Energy in Paris, France, October 13-15, 2008
Organised by INFORSE-Europe, CLER and Helio.
Date: October 13-15, 2008
Place: Montreuil – Paris, France
More at: http://www.inforse.org/europe/seminar08_France.htm
7.2. Stakeholder conference on post-2012 climate change agreement
The European Commission, DG Environment is organising a one-day stakeholder conference "Towards a comprehensive and ambitious post-2012 climate change agreement in Copenhagen" on 15 October 2008 in Brussels.
More at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/post_2012/reg.htm
7.3. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznañ, Poland – COP 14
The 14th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 14) will be held in conjunction with the 4th Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 4) in Poznañ, Poland, from 1 to 12 December 2008. The conference will also include the 29th sessions of the Convention’s two subsidiary bodies – SBSTA and SBI – as well as the 4th session of the AWG-LCA and the 2nd part of the 6th session of the AWG-KP.
More at: http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_14/items/4481.php
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