1.1. Countries looking to US leadership on climate
4 December 2008, Green
Countries around the world are looking to Barack Obama for leadership in reaching a global climate treaty next year, but no nation will be able to singlehandedly deliver a final agreement, a senior U.N. official said Thursday.
Robert Orr, assistant secretary-general for policy coordination and strategic planning, said the president-elect’s comments on the need to address climate change have raised "a lot of hope" _ particularly at a time when some governments are talking about delaying their efforts to curb emissions, partly because of the economic crisis.
"The fact that the United States seems to be visibly moving in the other direction is a very hopeful sign for the negotiation," Orr told a news conference.
Representatives from 190 countries are meeting in the Polish city of Poznan from Dec. 1-12 to work toward an ambitious new treaty that hopefully will be adopted at a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. It would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
The United States rejected the Kyoto protocol, which requires 37 countries to slash emissions of heat-trapping gases by an average 5 percent from 1990 levels. Washington argued that Kyoto would harm American business while failing to require similar cuts by China, India and other emerging economies.
Obama, however, has promised to establish annual targets to reduce U.S. emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, cutting them by another 80 percent by 2050.
He also has promised to invest $15 billion each year to support private-sector efforts toward clean energy, arguing that tackling climate change can create millions of new jobs as the U.S. invests in technologies to promote solar and wind power, biofuels and cleaner coal-fired plants.
"It’s safe to say that anyone involved in this negotiation looks to the U.S. for some real leadership on this," Orr said. "With that said, I don’t think any single country, however important _ as everyone will recognize the United States is, is going to turn around or deliver a negotiation singlehandedly."
He stressed that especially with the major players _ including the United States which is one of the world’s main polluters _ there must be "real action" both internationally and nationally.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agrees that climate change should be at the top of the global agenda in 2009 and is encouraged by the signs from the incoming U.S. administration and Congress, he said.
"Climate change will be center stage throughout 2009," Orr said, because governments, individuals and corporations are beginning to understand "the direct linkage" between tackling the climate issue and the economic recovery.
Janos Pasztor, director of the secretary-general’s climate change support team, said Ban will attend the Poznan talks next week and is also planning to hold a climate change summit in New York in September 2009.
He said Ban is concerned about reports that a number of European Union countries are "backsliding" on commitments to cut emissions because they don’t want to hamstring industry during the current economic crisis.
"He has written to EU leaders and encouraged them to remain in the lead," Pasztor said.
The secretary-general wants to see ambitious emission reductions by developed countries, measurable actions by developing countries, and technological support to enable developing countries to reduce emissions, he said.
"We need nothing less than a revolution to pave the way for the low carbon emissions economy of the future _ including massive investments by the public as well as the private sectors in alternative energy systems, a global green new deal, (and) innovative financing from public and private sources," Pasztor said.
1.2. China, India Want More Commitment From Obama on Climate Change
4 December 2008, Bloomberg.com
China and India, the developing nations with the highest carbon-dioxide emissions, want U.S. President- elect Barack Obama to demonstrate more commitment in tackling climate change, delegates at United Nations talks in Poland said.
Obama has pledged to bring U.S. output of greenhouse-gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. That’s still above the limit the world’s biggest economy would have been required to meet by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol, a global warming treaty the U.S. never ratified. It’s also short of a European Union pledge to cut the gases 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.
“We don’t think it’s ambitious enough,” Su Wei, China’s lead negotiator at the Dec. 1-12 climate-change talks in Poznan, Poland, said late yesterday in an interview. “We hope there will be movement.”
Delegates from 190 nations have gathered in Poznan, halfway between Warsaw and Berlin, at the midpoint of a two-year negotiation that aims to produce a treaty to fight global warming in Copenhagen next December. Analysts say agreement between China and the U.S. is crucial to the success of the talks.
“The U.S. and China are the two largest emitters in the world, and they have to come together for the negotiations to work,” Alden Meyer, director of policy at the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said today in an interview in Poznan. “It’s important to have countries saying what they expect the U.S. to do, but the main consideration for Obama will be what Congress will accept.”
Obama’s position on climate change is still “something positive” compared with the stance of President George W. Bush, Su said. Bush, who never endorsed the existing climate protection treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, set a goal on April 16 for the U.S. to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
Obama may do more than he’s stated once he takes office, said J. M. Mauskar, who’s leading India’s negotiators during the first week of the UN talks.
“A candidate for a particular post, what he says and what he does, and that same candidate, what he does when he occupies the post, these are two different things,” Mauskar said late yesterday in an interview. “President Obama may change his mind and say well we can do much more. I hope so.”
Kyoto sets targets for 37 nations that expire in 2012. Countries in Poznan are discussing new targets for parties to that treaty, and also what action might be taken by the U.S. and large developing countries such as China and India in a new pact.
Under Kyoto, the U.S. would have been required to cut emissions by an average 7 percent in the 2008-2012 measurement period compared with 1990 levels. Instead, they were 14 percent above 1990 levels in 2006, according to the most recent UN data. China and India, as developing countries, weren’t set targets under Kyoto, and reject goals until the developed world first has led the way.
Two Centuries of Smoke
“The current climate-change issue was caused by the excessive emissions by the industrialized nations in the process over 200 years of industrialization,” Su said. “They should bear the responsibility to address that problem.”
China released 5.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels in 2006, according to the International Energy Agency. That was second to the U.S., which emitted 5.7 billion tons. India had the fourth-highest emissions, at 1.25 billion, behind Russia and just ahead of Japan.
Combustion of carbon-based fossil fuels is the largest contributor of manmade greenhouse gases.
1.3. EU set to fail climate test
4 December 2008, WWF
European leadership on climate change continued to melt away today as EU Environment Ministers meeting in Brussels appeared unable to inject positive momentum into negotiations on Europe’s flagship response to climate change – the climate and energy package.
Environmental campaign groups – Climate Action Network Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace and WWF – installed giant blocks of ice outside the meeting to symbolise the impacts of climate change, and will project messages onto the Council building urging Ministers to show leadership.
Negotiations between the European Parliament and Council continue, but EU Heads of State and Government have effectively decreed that they alone will decide on the final laws, leaving room for a radical weakening of the legislation at next week’s EU leaders’ summit.
CAN Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace and WWF expressed their outrage at the blatant disregard for the EU decision-making process, and took this as a sign that European leaders are preparing the ground to renege on their promises of global climate leadership.
Environmental NGOs call on the European Parliament to bring its political weight to bear on Council and defend its position on the climate legislation. At today’s plenary session, Members of the European Parliament underlined the importance of the positions they voted to support in October, such as the earmarking of auctioning revenues for climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, limiting access to offset credits and the need for penalties for those countries that do not achieve their targets.
These positions reflect the two key tests that environmental groups have set for the climate and energy package: whether the EU’s 2020 domestic reduction target is consistent with the challenge to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, and whether it will provide sufficient and binding financial support for developing countries to cut their emissions and adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
At present, there is no consensus between European leaders about whether they will stick to the commitment they made just 20 months ago to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 in the framework of an international agreement. Even a weaker 20% target is now being undermined, as it will be reached mostly through the purchasing of external carbon credits from other countries.
EU climate “leadership” was further questioned during international climate negotiations in Poznan this week, as the EU appeared unable to commit to deliver financial support to developing countries, in spite of the billions of euros which its Member States should receive from the sales of pollution permits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
On renewable energy, where progress had been adequate so far, the Council is now threatening to backtrack by asking for review clauses which undermine the 20% renewables target and hamper security of investments needed to foster new technologies, which are good for the environment and for job creation.
2.1. Future supply concerns grow as oil becomes cheaper
1 December 2008, EurActiv
Large energy projects for oil, gas and renewables are facing a "double whammy" of falling oil prices and tightening financing conditions, raising concerns about future supplies once demand start to pick up again, experts have warned.
"Currently, oil prices are falling for fundamental reasons" linked to the economic recession and its effects on supply and demand, said Jan Stuart, a global oil economist at UBS Securities.
Crude oil prices fell in the United States last week as demand for fuel weakened and inventories rose after a series of bad economic reports. Consumer spending for durable goods was at its lowest in seven years, according the US Department of Commerce.
"In the near term, there is no fundamental support for oil prices," Stuart said. "It means, I think, that oil prices will keep on sliding" and get "closer to a floor" in the second quarter of 2009. Due to the deepening economic recession, average prices next year will be "no more than $60," Stuart predicted.
Stuart was speaking at an eventexternal organised by the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI) in Brussels last week (25 November).
‘Non-conventional’ oil projects hitting a brick wall
As a result of falling prices, Stuart warned that some of the more expensive oil development projects, such as "non-conventional oils" and deep-water drilling, would become too costly.
$60 a barrel, Stuart said, "is not enough to spur investments" by companies and ensure an adequate rate of return on new projects, citing Total’s "ultra-deep oil" project in Angola as an example. "If you think that Total is going to do that for a 12.5% internal rate of return, you are dreaming. Those projects need a much higher internal rate of return." Projects such as Alberta’s oil sands, which are being developed by Shell, "need $85 or more," Stuart explained.
In the longer term, he warned, oil companies will be hitting a "brick wall". "You hit that wall not because you’re running out of oil but mostly because of ‘above-ground factors’" such as oil markets and politics, he said.
No credit crunch for energy firms?
"There are links" between the financial crisis and energy investments, said Jan Horst Keppler, professor of economics at Parish-Dauphine University in Paris and a senior associate at IFRI’s energy programme.
But unlike Stuart, Keppler said he was optimistic about energy firms’ capacity to attract funding, even in the currently tight market conditions. "I think the energy sector will not be constrained by more difficult conditions in the financial sector," Keppler said, pointing out that "the energy sector traditionally has very good access to financing".
This, he said, is due to a variety of reasons: "The companies are of very large size, they are usually well diversified, they are very professionally managed [and] have a stable cash flow". Besides, energy remains "a basic necessity", with relatively small demand variations due to price rises, Keppler pointed out. In addition, energy development projects usually are decided on "very long timeframes and bankers know that," he said.
Keppler was equally upbeat about "the positive role" that sovereign wealth funds can play in financing large energy projects.
And he pointed out that, despite the downturn, the prices of gas, coal, electricity and CO2 had remained high. "We’re not yet in a low-price environment in the energy sector," Keppler said, "at least not in Europe".
"So the direct impact of the financial crisis on energy investments I think is limited."
Long-term investment cycles and lack of governance
However, Keppler admitted that the economic slump presented risks for energy investment. Among these are the "long lag" between the short-term formation of expectations on the market and investment decisions, and their eventual impact on prices. "Everybody decides to invest which means that in five years’ time, prices will be low. If prices are low, nobody will invest and prices will be high."
Oil prices were as low as $10 a barrel in 1998 and climbed back to a peak of $147 in July this year, Keppler pointed out. They have since fallen sharply, hovering around $50 a barrel end of November.
A second risk for energy investment, Keppler continued, comes from the "lack of governance" shown by both oil producing and consuming nations.
In producing countries, Keppler said the "not-in-my-backyard phenomenon" was hindering the implementation of new large-scale energy projects.
In Europe, Keppler said it was the "lack of priorities" and countries’ "inability to get their energy policy defined" which acted as "a source of uncertainty" and "a big barrier to investment", particularly in the electricity sector. "At the European level, very clearly, it is the electricity sector that will have the greatest constraints in the next five to ten years."
3.1. EU fails to guarantee emissions savings from biofuels
4 December 2008, T&E
The EU has agreed on the conditions for a massive increase in biofuel sales in Europe but has failed to guarantee that any greenhouse gas savings will be achieved as a result.
The so-called ‘sustainability criteria’ that form part of two new laws on renewable energy and fuel quality in Europe were agreed late last night in discussions between the European Parliament, member state representatives and the Commission.
The fundamental issue of indirect land use change (ILUC) was postponed with no legally-binding guarantee of it being accounted for in the future.
Increased demand for land, and displacement of existing agricultural production can lead to, for example, conversion of forests for agricultural use, resulting in substantial greenhouse gas emissions. The consequences of ILUC can be the most important factor in assessing a biofuel’s environmental impact. The result could be biofuels sold in Europe that actually create more greenhouse gas emissions over their production lifecycle than conventional sources of petrol and diesel.
Nusa Urbancic of T&E said: "This week the EU has taken two steps forwards and two steps back. Last night it agreed criteria for a massive boost to biofuels worldwide, with no guarantees whatsoever of genuine emissions savings. Earlier this week it failed to deliver a strong new car fuel efficiency law that would have guaranteed emissions reductions. These two laws together will mean inefficient cars running on potentially harmful biofuels: the exact opposite of what was needed."
For the second time in a week the European Parliament’s more pro-environment position has been savaged by member states when negotiations entered the final stages.
The European Parliament’s industry committee had proposed a ‘correction factor’ that would have meant indirect land use change would be accounted for after 2011, and would have given a major incentive for the EU to develop a methodology to take account of it. But the correction factor was kicked out of the final agreement leaving only a call for the European Commission to report on the issue in the future.
The European Commission has in recent months played down the findings of numerous scientific studies that have warned of the importance of accounting for ILUC.
Earlier in the week, the strong line taken by the European Parliament’s environment committee was largely destroyed by member states in final negotiations on Europe’s car CO2 emissions law. Short term targets, deadlines and penalties were all weakened relative to the Parliament’s position, along with a number of loopholes that effectively postponed genuine improvements in car fuel efficiency for another decade.
3.2. Cement sector can cut 90% of projected emissions
2 December 2008, WWF
The global cement industry can avoid up to 90% of emissions projected under a frozen technology scenario, according to a new WWF report.
A blueprint for a climate friendly cement industry says that the highly energy intensive industry, responsible for 8% of global emissions, has the tools available to reduce its carbon footprint while continuing its forecast growth.
“Cement companies do not suffer from a shortage of options to reduce their climate impact,” said Oliver Rapf, Head of WWF’s Climate Business Engagement Unit.
“The solutions proposed in WWF’s new report can help the industry move in the right direction, setting targets and taking action that will lead to deep cuts in emissions quickly.”
The report finds reduction potentials through a more efficient use of cement and by increasing the amount of additives and substitutes. Large energy efficiency potentials have been found both to conserve thermal and electrical energy in the production process.
As vital as the setting of technical directions and standards for industry is to have a supporting policy framework from governments of both industrialised and developing countries.
“There is a booming global demand for construction materials and nowhere is this more visible than in emerging economies”, said Dongmei Chen, Director of WWF China’s Climate Change and Energy Programme.
“Our report proves that it is possible to disassociate economic growth from increased greenhouse gas emissions. This is a valuable lesson for industry and politics, especially when discussing development in emerging economies like China.”
WWF announced the findings on the eve of discussions about sectoral approaches for greenhouse gas reductions, taking place at the UN climate talks in Poznan this month.
"Reducing emissions in major polluting sectors like cement is about technology action and policy regulation which creates strong incentives in developing countries", said Damien Demailly, Energy Officer at WWF-France. “We need leadership by industrialized countries and a proactive approach by industry to tap the massive reduction potentials revealed by WWF’s analysis.”
4.1. Still arguing over the basics in Poznan
8 December 2008, thestar.com
The Climate Convention talks in Poland made slow progress last week, with the issues causing the impasse becoming more clear. The talks continue for another week.
AFTER one week, and with another week to go, the global talks at the old Polish town of Poznan have enabled many countries to explain their positions and explore possible solutions.
This has been useful. But it has failed so far to break the impasse on how much action to take to cut emissions of Greenhouse Gases that cause climate change, nor on the extent of actions that different countries should take.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking away, with more signs of the seriousness of the climate crisis.
A few prominent scientists recently concluded that it is no longer enough to limit the concentration of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million (ppm), but that 350 ppm is a more realistic target if we are to avoid disastrous climatic effects.
One problem is that the present concentration, at around 370 ppm, has already passed that danger level. Not only does the world need to cut emissions, but the sinks (such as forests) that absorb emissions from the atmosphere have to be expanded, too.
In Poznan, the developing countries continue to argue that the developed countries have to commit to drastically cut their emissions, and that so far they have not even implemented their present commitments.
While they have also agreed to take their own actions, the developing countries are not prepared to take binding targets, arguing that it is the richer countries that have to act first as they are historically responsible for most of the emissions, and that they, the developing countries, need some “environmental space” to grow their economies.
It is no secret that some developed countries such as the US, Japan and Australia want some developing countries to also join them in taking binding commitments to cut emissions.
Implicit in their approach is that this must be agreed to, otherwise there may be no overall agreement. A global climate deal is scheduled by the end of 2009.
In Poznan last week, Japan caused ripples by proposing that the definition of developed and developing countries be changed, and that some developing countries should be re-classified as “Annex I parties” to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The list of parties in Annex I (which are obliged to reduce their emissions by specified percentages) comprises developed countries. Japan’s proposal is that some developing countries have to “graduate” to join the Annex I category. Its graduation criteria include GNP per capita and share of global emissions.
Countries named previously have included Singapore and South Korea, and it is well known that many developed countries like the US want to include China.
However, for the G77 and China (the umbrella group of developing countries), any attempt at differentiating the developing countries is taboo, and will poison the atmosphere in the climate talks.
Last week, the group said it rejected any proposal directed towards differentiating between non-Annex I parties, such as amendments to the Convention or any of its Annexes with a view to establishing new categories of countries to undertake mitigation commitments.
China added that any attempt to revise the Convention or redefine developed and developing countries and its sub-divisions is “not constructive, but destructive”. Singapore said the per capita GNP criterion is inappropriate.
At another session, the chair of the working group tasked with reaching a global deal by 2009 said the countries cannot continue with “business as usual” in providing finance and technology to developing countries for their climate action.
Luis Machado of Brazil said the existing framework under the Convention had not worked and there was need to think of something else.
The G77 and China reminded the meeting that it had submitted two proposals on reforming and upgrading the finance and technology structures under the Convention, and asked for responses.
The group had proposed setting up a multilateral climate fund under the UNFCCC with multiple windows for technology, mitigation, adaptation and so on. It also wants a new Technology Council to make policies on technology and to implement technology transfer.
Many developed countries spoke, but their response to the G77 and China was at best lukewarm. There was no clear indication that they would agree to the creation of the two new bodies.
Japan even linked progress on the finance issue to its own proposal on graduating some developing countries to developed countries, who would then be required to also contribute to the funding.
The finance and technology issues are critical because the Convention (in its Article 4.7) says that the extent to which developing countries can take climate actions depends on the extent to which the developed countries meet their commitments to provide finance and technology to the developing countries.
So far, 15 years after the Convention was set up, little funding has been made available, and hardly any technology has been transferred.
At the climate talks, the developing countries are pressing the developed countries to get serious on this, while most of the latter are behaving like they want to wriggle out of the Article 4.7 bargain.
These are some of the issues at the heart of the impasse in the climate talks. The Poznan meeting continues this week, and a breakthrough is not yet in sight, although there are still hopes of some progress.
4.2. EU agrees low carbon fuel standard
3 December 2008, T&E
The future market for environmentally damaging, carbon intensive sources of oil, such as tar sands and oil shale, has been dealt a blow by the European Union.
Last month, representatives of the European Parliament and member states hammered out a deal on a revised ‘fuel quality directive’ that includes a legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuel production.
The CO2 target has the potential to cut demand in Europe for the most carbon-intensive oil production methods such as extraction of oil from tar sands and oil shale. California has adopted similar legislation.
A low carbon fuel standard in American and Europe would effectively create a secondary ‘sub-prime’ market for high carbon oil worldwide and would severely impact on the economic viability of such sources, which are expensive as well as extremely environmentally damaging to extract.
Importantly, the new law also obliges the oil industry to reduce so-called flaring and venting, two widespread practices causing unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions. And it contains specific incentives for electrification of transport – more use of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.
In principle this law makes quantitative targets for biofuels and other forms of alternative transport fuel superfluous. T&E has always argued its best to promote alternative fuels on their climate performance, rather than prescribe their volumes.
The future effect of the law in ‘decarbonising’ transport fuel crucially hangs on the way in which the carbon savings of biofuels are calculated. Both the fuel quality directive and a parallel EU demand that 10% of transport fuel comes from renewable sources (mostly biofuels) by 2020 refer to sustainability criteria that have not yet been agreed.
Throughout 2008, a long list of influential organisations and scientists have drawn attention to the impacts of additional land being required for other purposes, when existing agricultural land is converted to grow raw materials for biofuels. So-called ‘indirect land use change’ means many biofuels have an overall greater carbon impact than fuels derived from crude oil. So far the EU has refused to recognise the problem, and is pushing ahead with a target that doesn’t account for indirect land use change, or allows huge exemptions for existing facilities or so-called ‘second generation biofuels’ – regardless of their real carbon impacts.
4.3. Compromise cars legislation is dead-end for environment
2 December 2008, FOE Europe
Commenting on the agreement reached last night by European decision-makers on a new regulation on cars and CO2, Jeroen Verhoeven, car efficiency campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:
“This is a profoundly wrong outcome on a vital piece of climate legislation. Instead of making the car industry put its foot down and speed up progress in making smarter cars that use less fuel, European politicians have decided to let it continue to coast along at its own pace for a few more years with a regulation riddled with delays, loopholes and concessions. Self-interested industry lobbying, supported by a few key countries, has won the day and the interests of the planet and its people have clearly come a very poor second."
An opinion poll conducted in five EU countries for Friends of the Earth Europe showed overwhelming support among citizens for measures to force carmakers to reduce the fuel consumption of the cars they produce by 25 per cent without delay. The poll probed close to 5000 people in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. An overwhelming majority (87 per cent) stated that measures to reduce the fuel consumption of new cars by a quarter – equivalent to 120g CO2/km – should be introduced urgently.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "It is scary to see how far removed European politicians are from the electorate. European citizens are crying out for more efficient cars, which would be good news for their wallets as well as the environment. But politicians have ignored public opinion and rushed full speed into a
dead-end compromise deal. A tough regulation, delivering the greener cars that people want and need, could have put the European car industry ahead of the game. But what we have got is business as usual.”
The compromise agreed yesterday which sets a 130g C02/km target for 2015 and a 95g target by 2020 is not very likely to deliver these goals due to the weak penalties for companies which do not respecting the limits, as well as a multitude of loopholes . Friends of the Earth Europe had called for 120g CO2/km by 2012 and 80g CO2/km by 2020.
5.1. Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) is seeking a Fundraiser
full time, working in the FoEE office in Brussels
Friends of the Earth campaigns for sustainable and just societies and for the protection of the environment. It unites more than 30 national organisations with thousands of local groups and is part of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth International. Please see www.foeeurope.org for more information.
More info at: http://www.foeeurope.org/job/fundraiser_Nov08.html
6.1. EU energy [R]evolution report
2 December 2008, Greenpeace
A Greenpeace-commissioned report presented today demonstrates how Europe can significantly reduce its emissions while strengthening its economy, if EU leaders boost the ambition of the climate and energy legislative package which they are due to finalise over the coming days.
Download document at: http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/EU-energy-revolution-report
6.2. Analysis of the EU standard on car emissions
1 December 2008, Greenpeace
The EU’s first standard on CO2 emissions from passenger cars has beed devised to never reach its stated objective of an average 130 grams CO2 per kilometre from new cars.
Download document at: http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/EU-standard-on-car-emissions
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