This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.


Green newsclips, 2 July 2009

To Reach for Sustainability, Mind the Gap
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By Eric Riddleberger and Jeff Hitter, July 1, 2009
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Today, more than ever, organizations are focused on environmental and social responsibility as a strategic objective. IBM's 2009 survey of 224 business leadersworldwide shows that 60 percent believe corporate social responsibility has increased in importance over the past year. Only 6 percent say it is a lower priority. These responses defy the conventional wisdom that the new economic environment dilutes CSR focus.

To be sustainable, businesses are now embracing a relatively new objective: optimizing their operations to minimize environmental impact and improve social outcomes in a manner that also maximizes performance. More than two-thirds of organizations we surveyed focus on CSR as part of an integrated business strategy to grow new revenue streams and control costs.

As a result, they face an entirely new set of decisions. Can they cut down on waste without increasing the price of products? Do they need to rethink distribution options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impact of volatile energy prices? Should they segment products and services to meet a growing number of consumer sustainability concerns?

Challenges abound in addressing these issues, especially in accessing the information needed to meet these new strategic objectives. Overall, organizations have intensified efforts to collect information about their operations in areas from sustainable procurement to ethical labor standards. However, many are still missing -- by a wide margin -- the information they need to operate as a sustainable enterprise.

Organizations that outperform competitors have proven to be far better at casting a wide net for information across their ecosystems. They are also collecting information that is more relevant to understanding and meeting the performance challenges of operating in a sustainable manner. What's holding other organizations back? There are some very real obstacles.

The Optimization Gap

We surveyed leaders on three information areas related to sustainability: operations, supply chain and customers. Our results indicate that operational information needs to be more timely, supply chain information is still too insular and more customer information is needed.

Operational information: Growing but not always timely

Four in ten of the business leaders surveyed reported that over the last three years they have increased the amount of information they collect about their operations in each of eight sustainability areas we tracked: energy management, carbon management, waste management, water management, sustainable procurement, product composition, ethical labor standards and product lifecycle. Not surprisingly, the biggest increase in the amount of information collected is in energy, where just under two-thirds of respondents report increases. About half report increases in carbon, water and waste management; sustainable procurement; product composition; and ethical labor standards.

Nearly 60 percent of organizations are not collecting information about key operations and sustainability objectives on a frequent basis. Even in the high-profile area of GHG emissions management, for example, eight out of ten business leaders surveyed fall short. They may be able to use the information they have for an annual CSR report. But since they aren't evaluating the ongoing impact of actions on their GHG emissions, it's unlikely they can use the data to make their operations more sustainable.

Outperforming organizations in our survey were significantly more likely to collect timely information about their operations. For all companies, peer pressure and persistence may move those numbers up. The longer a company has been required by its business partners to adopt CSR standards, the more frequently it collects data.

Supply chain information: Still too insular

More than half of the business leaders surveyed said they consider the open sharing of information among stakeholders and business partners a high priority. However, the vast majority aren't collecting adequate information from their suppliers to support their CSR objectives. Outperforming organizations, on the other hand, are collecting more information from their suppliers in each of the eight categories we tracked as compared to their peers.

Three out of ten organizations surveyed aren't asking their suppliers for any information in any of the eight categories. Surprisingly, in the GHG and water categories, where cross-ecosystem "footprinting" is becoming more common, approximately eight out of ten aren't collecting information from their suppliers. And, despite a long history of brand-damaging scandals in the area of labor, six out of ten aren't collecting information on ethical labor from their suppliers.

Customer information: Improving but far to go

Consumer purchasing decisions are often influenced by perceptions of how socially and environmentally responsible an organization is. Yet overall in 2009, two-thirds of our survey respondents admit they don't understand their customers' CSR concerns well. This represents an 11 point improvement over the previous year and suggests organizations are making inroads fast. Nevertheless, nearly four in ten organizations reported that they have yet to conduct any research on the topic. Outperforming organizations were nearly twice as likely to understand their customers' needs well.

Across the entire sample, the shortfall in collecting information related to operations, supply chain and customers reveals an optimization gap. In addition, we found that outperforming organizations perform better in all three information categories, as do organizations that have focused for more than three years on integrating their CSR objectives to grow revenues and become more efficient. The approach to information and actions taken by these organizations suggest that the gap will narrow over time. The immediate challenge is to identify what information is needed and then aggregate and analyze it so it contributes to efficiency and growth objectives.

Insight, Engagement and Action

Today, every organization is a system of systems, much more bound up in complex, interdependent forces than the traditional business system of years past, with its clear-cut focus on profits. Given increasingly finite resources, businesses depend on balanced natural ecosystems for raw materials, water, energy and the physical health of their employees and customers. They depend on thriving community systems for labor, new sources of innovation and customers. Given the links among its systems, an enterprise committed to practicing sustainability considers both the immediate and far-reaching consequences of any action it takes.

While these dependencies obviously complicate the task of responsible business management, leaders of sustainable organizations are learning to understand and act on them. Mastering this complexity requires new levels of insight, new sources of information and new forms of collaboration. As a result, leaders in CSR are developing coalitions of business partners, NGOs and others to begin to address information gaps in areas ranging from labor to water standards. They're identifying leading practices and techniques to inform and educate stakeholders, such as customers and employees, more broadly.

Overall, most organizations know they need to engage their stakeholders in some way. However, proactive engagement with business partners and NGOs, at 55 and 44 percent respectively, is relatively low, given the benefits that can be achieved from collaboration.

Creating Leading Practices and Standards

Active industry participation now is one way to help ensure that the new practices and codes that emerge will make it easier, not more onerous, to operate a sustainable business. Moreover, industry coalitions are an excellent way to access and share a wider body of sustainability information. These groups can also help organizations make better use of their information by suggesting how, for example, the information can be deployed to change operations and innovate, as well as communicate progress to stakeholders.

For example, water is a topical issue, particularly in countries and regions facing scarcity of this vital resource. To address this need, 12 companies, including Coca-Cola, Diageo, Nestlé, Anheuser-Busch InBev and PepsiCo, have formed the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable to collect and share data and leading practices relating to water conservation and resource protection. Together, they established a common framework to exchange information on water reduction, reuse and stewardship, as well as drought preparedness.

Benchmarks and leading practices are important guides to use in setting objectives. The challenge lies in aligning these objectives across constituencies with diverse concerns and goals of their own. These stakeholders include employees, consumers, business partners, investors and NGOs, as well as regulatory bodies and governmental institutions.

Customers: Partners in Sustainability

Most organizations understand expectations for transparency with regard to CSR initiatives. Over one-half of the business leaders we surveyed consider the open sharing of information a high priority. However, until recently, organizations have tended to share information reactively -- in response to stakeholder demands. Those that expect to gain business advantage from CSR are developing new ways to inform and educate their stakeholders, whether they are customers, employees or partners.

For example, customer satisfaction may increase with conveniences like one-day delivery, but fully loaded transport reduces energy costs. One way to evaluate the options: make the customer part of the decision. Point-of-sale information on delivery options could provide them with a welcome opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint: "If you want to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent on the delivery of this television, click here and your package will arrive next week via hybrid carrier."

Results of our survey indicate that organizations placing a higher priority on transparency and those that have attained some maturity find it easier to execute. Clearly, once organizations start efforts to increase transparency, they gain needed experience and greater confidence in the value of sharing information both within their organization and with their stakeholders.

Engineered creatively, these collaborations can do more than inform customers; instead of simply sharing information, organizations are learning to construct a true exchange, where both the stakeholder and the organization gain knowledge to do something new.

Eric Riddleberger is global leader for IBM's business strategy consulting practice. Jeff Hitter is IBM's leader for corporate social responsibility consulting. This article is derived from their paper on IBM's 2009 global CSR Survey, "Leading a sustainable enterprise -- Leveraging insight and information to act," which can be found here:

ExxonMobil continuing to fund climate sceptic groups, records show
Records show ExxonMobil gave hundreds of thousands of pounds to lobby groups that have published 'misleading and inaccurate information' about climate change

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David Adam, environment correspondent, Wednesday 1 July 2009 16.51 BST
Article history
Exxon. Photograph: Donna Williams/AP
The world's largest oil company is continuing to fund lobby groups that question the reality of global warming, despite a public pledge to cut support for such climate change denial, a new analysis shows.
Company records show that ExxonMobil handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds to such lobby groups in 2008. These include the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas, which received $75,000 (£45,500), and the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, which received $50,000.
According to Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, at the London School of Economics, both the NCPA and the Heritage Foundation have published "misleading and inaccurate information about climate change."
On its website, the NCPA says: "NCPA scholars believe that while the causes and consequences of the earth's current warming trend is [sic] still unknown, the cost of actions to substantially reduce CO2 emissions would be quite high and result in economic decline, accelerated environmental destruction, and do little or nothing to prevent global warming regardless of its cause."
The Heritage Foundation published a "web memo" in December that said: "Growing scientific evidence casts doubt on whether global warming constitutes a threat, including the fact that 2008 is about to go into the books as a cooler year than 2007". Scientists, including those at the UK Met Office say that the apparent cooling is down to natural changes and does not alter the long-term warming trend.
In its 2008 corporate citizenship report, published last year, ExxonMobil said it would cut funds to several groups that "divert attention" from the need to find new sources of clean energy.
The NCPA and Heritage Foundation are included among groups funded by ExxonMobil, according to details of its "2008 Worldwide Contributions and Community Investments" published recently.
Ward said: "ExxonMobil has been briefing journalists for three years that they were going to stop funding these groups. The reality is that they are still doing it. If the world's largest oil company wants to fund climate change denial then it should be upfront about it, and not tell people it has stopped."
In 2006, Ward, then at the Royal Society, wrote to ExxonMobil to challenge the company's funding of such lobby groups. The move,revealed in the Guardian, prompted accusations of censorship and debate about whether experts should "police" the distribution of scientific information.
In an article on the Guardian website, Ward writes: "I have now written again to ExxonMobil to point out that these organisations publish misleading information about climate change on their websites, and to seek guidance on how to reconcile this fact with the pledge made by the company. I believe that the company should keep its promise by ending its financial support for lobby groups that mislead the public about climate change."
ExxonMobil said it annually reviews and adjusts its contributions to policy research groups. A spokesman said: "Only ExxonMobil speaks for ExxonMobil and our position on climate change is clear. We have the same concerns as people everywhere, and that is how to provide the world with the energy it needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We take the issue of climate change seriously and the risks warrant action."

Carbon Management in the news, 2 July 2009

Australia Joins Carbon Reduction Label Scheme
carbontrustAustralia is joining the UK in using the Carbon Trust's Carbon Reduction Label, touted as the world's first carbon label for consumer products.
The Carbon Trust, an organization backed by the UK government, has signed an agreement with Planet Ark, a leading Australian environmental organization, to establish its Carbon Reduction Label in Australia. The first products bearing the label will be available in 2010.
Planet Ark research director Paul Klymenko told The Australian that he targets 5 to 10 percent of supermarket goods carrying the label within five years.
In less than two years, the Carbon Trust's scheme has earned the support of more than 60 product manufacturers and more than 2,500 UK consumer products from food items to paving stones. Leading brands participating in the program include UK supermarket chain Tesco, Allied Bakeries' Kingsmill bread and PepsiCo's Walkers, Quakers and Tropicana.
Most recently, Tate & Lyle, the U.K.-based manufacturer of Splenda, said its cane sugar has a carbon footprint of 380 grams of CO2 per bag, after spending a year analyzing the lifecycle emissions of its sugar refining business, according to a press release.
To earn a carbon label, manufacturers must prove that they have measured a product's carbon footprint from production to disposal, using an internationally recognized methodology, and that they are committed to reducing it. Continued use of the Label requires proven cuts in the product's carbon footprint year-on-year, according to Carbon Trust.
In 2008, BSI British Standards, the Carbon Trust and Defra launched a new standard to help businesses assess the carbon footprint of their goods and services. The standard, called PAS 2050, measures the GHG emissions in goods and services throughout their entire life cycle, from sourcing raw materials, through to manufacture, distribution, use and disposal.
Earlier this year, the UK fashion retail market claimed the world's first carbon footprint label for clothing. Continental Clothing, working with Carbon Trust, launched the Carbon Reduction Label for textile products in March.
Sujeesh Krishnan, the Carbon Trust's U.S. Business Development Manager, told that The Carbon Trust also has a presence in China and the U.S., where it is working with companies such as Coca Cola and PepsiCo.
Krishnan said in the article that U.S. beverage and outdoor industries are working together to create sector guidance on product carbon footprint methodologies using PAS 2050.
In addition, AB19 in California would enact the Carbon Labeling Act of 2009, which would create a voluntary consumer product carbon footprint program that would be managed by the state's Air Resources Board, reports
Although not part of the Carbon Trust scheme, Japan's trade ministryannounced a uniform method of labeling carbon emissions last year that details each product's carbon footprint during manufacturing, distribution and disposal. About 30 Japanese companies voluntarily started carrying carbon footprint labels on food packaging and other products beginning in April 2009.

Yahoo! Abandons Carbon Offsets in Favor of Efficiency
By GreenerComputing Staff
June 30, 2009

Yahoo! today said it will no longer purchase carbon offsets for its operations, focusing its climate strategy on reducing the energy used by its data centers.
The move reverses the company's 
2007 announcement that it would invest in carbon-offset projects in order to become carbon neutral.

"Reducing our carbon footprint has always been a priority and we've decided to focus all our energy and investment on that philosophy," said David Filo, the company's co-founder and Chief Yahoo. "We believe creating highly-efficient data centers will have a greater long-term, direct impact on the environment and gives us the best opportunity to play a leadership role in addressing climate change."

a blog post, Filo also committed the company to reduce the carbon intensity of its data centers "by at least 40% by 2014," stating, "We'll get there through a combination of innovative data center design, improving how we utilize our servers, cloud computing, and locating our data centers in areas where cleaner energy is available."

Yahoo! also announced that it would build a state-of-the-art data center near Buffalo, N.Y. -- beating out sites in Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- that would take advantage of the region's hydropower and climate. Among other things, the data center will operate without any chillers, utilizing a natural cooling system supplied entirely by the cool air coming off Lake Erie. Chillers are among the most energy-intensive parts of a data center.

The Buffalo center has been dubbed the Yahoo Computing Coop, because "it looks like something chickens live in," says Filo.

"When we set the original goal around carbon, we were always looking for ways to reduce our footprint," Christina Page, Climate and Energy Strategy for Yahoo! Inc., told "Now, as we move more toward designing our own facilities, we have a real opportunity to set some goals. That's what makes the most sense as a strategy given what we've learned over the past two years. It wasn't a spotlight about offsets. It was how can we drive the industry around efficiency."

Data centers account for more than half of the company's carbon footprint, says Page, including its global office operations, employee commuting, and air travel.

sun sets on yahoo offsets

The new Buffalo data center is expected to have a high efficiency rating -- called PUE, or power usage effectiveness, in industry parlance -- of 1.1 or better, according to Page. To date, the most efficient data center, 
built by Google, has a PUE of 1.12.

Much of the new design, says Page, comes from data centers Yahoo! has built over the past two years, when it started constructing its own facilities instead of leasing them from others. A facility in Quincy, Wash., opened in late 2007 and the first built by Yahoo! from the ground up, similarly utilizes hydropower for electricity and is cooled using ambient air for most of the year. "It's been a great learning curve for us," says Page, noting that the Buffalo center "is the next generation."

It's also a leadership opportunity for the company. Electricity consumption from data centers have doubled over past five years and are expected to double again," says Page. "We have an opportunity to show the rest of the industry what's possible in terms of efficiency. In doing so, we'll have an impact well beyond our individual footprint." 

Windmill photo CC-licensed by Flickr user 

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U.S. Seen Backing Climate Target At G8
Date: 02-Jul-09
 Tim Heritage

U.S. Seen Backing Climate Target At G8 Photo: Francois Lenoir
Climate activists Lesley Butler and Rob Bell (R) sunbathe on the edge of a frozen fjord in the Norwegian Arctic town of Longyearbyen April 25, 2007.
Photo: Francois Lenoir

LONDON - The United States will agree to a goal to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius at next week's Group of Eight summit, a senior European official involved in preparing the meeting said on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama has promised to take far tougher action to slow global warming than his predecessor George W. Bush, aiming to cut U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
But Washington has not embraced a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) limit seen by the European Union and some vulnerable developing countries as the threshold beyond which climate change will reach danger levels.
"The United States are on board and I expect the 2 degrees will be in the G8 text," the official told Reuters.
"The importance of the 2 degrees target is reinforced in an unambiguous way in the latest draft G8 communique. There is a stronger reference and we have come a long way since May," he said, citing the latest draft text circulated last Friday.
The source, who asked not to be named, was comparing that with a previous draft text dated May 11, in which the U.S. delegation wrote that "any negotiation of numbers or figures should be undertaken in the context of the (U.N.) negotiations" on a new climate treaty.
"The 2 degrees may even be included in the MEF (17-member Major Economies Forum ) text. But at the moment, it is bracketed," the official said ahead of the July 8-10 meeting in Italy.
The MEF group includes major developing countries which don't want to back long-term climate goals before rich nations agree tough near-term action to limit their emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases.
MEF members, which account for 80 percent of global emissions, will hold a summit on the sidelines of the G8 summit.
Next week's climate summit is meant to help drive global agreement on a new U.N.-led climate pact in Copenhagen in December, to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
"The G8 will not try to crack the Copenhagen climate talks next week but will try to get momentum toward agreement," the official said.
Climate change threatens higher seas and more floods and droughts, and more warming threatens more dangerous effects. For example, the Amazon rainforest may die at 4 degrees or more warming, scientists say.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters on Wednesday that he was "starting to see movement" from Washington on a warming limit. Japan, Russia and Canada have opposed a 2 degrees target favored by European G8 nations Germany, Britain, France and Italy.
The latest MEF draft showed that major economies including the United States and China were considering setting a goal of halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The MEF draft also said developed countries support "an aspirational global goal" of reducing global emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050.
Last year, industrialized nations in the G8 agreed at a summit in Japan to a "vision" of halving world greenhouse gases by 2050, but developing countries including China, India and Brazil did not adopt that 2050 goal.

Swedish leader plans to use climate change miracle to cut greenhouse gases

David Charter in Stockholm
Sweden plans to use its "climate change miracle" to convince China and the United States to sign up to tough cuts in greenhouse gases at the Copenhagen summit to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish Prime Minister, said yesterday that his country, which takes over the EU presidency today, would present its own example of 50 per cent economic growth since 1990 combined with a 10 per cent cut in CO2 emissions to try to win over sceptics.
Mr Reinfeldt said that the Copenhagen agreement had to include all the developing countries that were effectively left out by Kyoto if it was to meet the goal of keeping global warming to no more than 2C (3.6F).
He said that Sweden would also try to lead Europe by example into adopting a tough CO2 tax regime based on his own model, which he boasted had the highest rates in the world.


Sweden to swap green plan for nuclear plants

UK to build thousands of wind turbines

The Swedish presidency has come at the right time to lead the EU into the Copenhagen process after picking up the reins from the Czech Republic under President Klaus, the author of a book on the myth of man-made global warming.
Since 1991 Swedes have paid 20p per litre in carbon tax for petrol, which has helped to cut emissions by 20 per cent, partly by encouraging public transport systems to switch to biogas. "You need to get the right price signals. We introduced a CO2 tax nearly 20 years ago and it is the highest in the world," Mr Reinfeldt said.
"It puts a price on carbon so consumers feel the cost effect of greenhouse gas and it makes it interesting to look for renewables. I have seen my friends throw out fossil-fuel-based heating and install geothermal, so the carbon tax is very smart and very effective."
Since the EU has no power to set domestic taxes, Sweden will have to sell its carbon tax to others by example. All of Sweden's electricity comes from hydroelectric or nuclear power, giving it a 20 per cent rate of renewable energy. "We have put our renewable target at 50 per cent for 2020, so we are preparing for a huge increase in wind power," he added.
Mr Reinfeldt is braced for tough talks with developing countries already arguing for financial aid from developed countries to go green.
"I came in as Prime Minister in 2006 when everyone was talking about climate change and watching Al Gore's film," he said. "It is a much tougher environment now and a lot of countries tend to negotiate as if the outcome should be to get more resources, not more mechanisms to alter the direction of the economy towards a low carbon economy. In Sweden we have shown you can have growth as well as cutting emissions and this is the discussion you have to have with the Chinese, who think we are trying to question their right to growth."
Sweden has signed an £84 million deal with China to develop wind power. Mr Reinfeldt has also held talks with Gordon Brown on the amount of aid the EU will offer to help the developing world to cut emissions.

India will reject greenhouse gas emission targets
Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:36pm EDT

By Matthias Williams

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will not sign up to targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but will instead focus on fighting poverty and boosting economic growth, the environment minister said Tuesday.

India is one of the world's biggest emitters alongside China, the U.S. and Russia, and the second most populous nation. But India's per capita emissions lag far behind rich countries and it feels the developed world should take the lead on tackling climate change.

"India cannot and will not take emission reduction targets because poverty eradication and social and economic development are first and over-riding priorities," a statement on behalf of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said.

A legally binding emission reduction target endangers India's energy conservation, food security and transport, he said.

India has laid out its stance ahead of the negotiation of a climate treaty in Copenhagen in December that will replace the expiring Kyoto pact.

Developing nations say rich countries should cut emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Developed nations say that target is out of reach when they are trying to stimulate recession-hit economies.

India's ruling Congress party secured a convincing election victory in May and is pushing an inclusive growth agenda to help lift hundreds of millions out of poverty.

While it backs market-based measures to promote energy efficiency, India still relies on coal-fired generation to underpin the growing economy.

Ramesh said India will not allow its per capita greenhouse emissions to exceed that of developed countries, and said this amounted to a voluntary cap.

Ramesh also said India would not accept a provision in a U.S. Congress bill which would impose trade penalties on countries who fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Scotland passes world's most ambitious climate bill

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Scotland passes world's most ambitious climate bill

By James Murray, BusinessGreen
GLOBE-Net (June 25, 2009) Nusiness Green - Businesses in Scotland can expect to face significantly more demanding carbon emissions targets than their counterparts in the rest of the UK, after the Scottish Parliament passed a climate bill that is far more stringent than that adopted by Westminster.

As with the UK bill, the Scottish legislation sets a target of cutting emissions 80 per cent by 2050, but that target includes emissions from international shipping and aviation, while the UK will not formally decide whether international emissions are included until 2012.

Moreover, the Scottish bill sets significantly more demanding medium-term targets, requiring a 42 per cent cut in emissions by 2020. In contrast, the UK's recently released carbon budgets require emissions to be cut by
34 per cent below 1990 levels by the later date of 2022.

Scotland's climate change minister Stewart Stevenson hailed the bill as the "most ambitious and comprehensive piece of climate change legislation anywhere in the world", adding that while challenging the targets would help to create tens of thousands of new jobs.

The bill was passed a week after the Scottish government released a wide-ranging new strategy designed to ensure the emission targets are met through a huge increase in renewable energy capacity, reductions in energy demand and the mass rollout of electric vehicles.

The strategy sets a goal of ensuring all of Scotland's electricity comes from low carbon sources such as renewables or carbon capture and storage plants by 2030, and outlines plans for a raft of new initiatives, including proposals for tighter building regulations, expanded insulation programmes and new efforts to promote adoption of low carbon vehicles.

Stevenson said the bill would deliver "clear economic benefits and help maintain a thriving economy".

"Harnessing the energy related opportunities presented by Scotland's natural capital can create tens of thousands of green jobs as we move to 2050," he added. "These are jobs for the future: jobs in our rapidly expanding renewables industry; in developing and applying clean fossil fuel technology; in energy efficiency and microgeneration; and in the developing sustainable transport industry."

Scotland is fast emerging as one of the UK's clean tech hubs and the government has consistently talked up the country as an ideal location for both wind and marines renewables. It also recently announced ambitious plans to halve the amount of construction waste sent to landfill by 2012 and establish a zero-waste strategy.

US Climate Bill - Compromises - But a step forward

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US Climate Bill - Compromises - But a step forward

It weighs in at over 190,000 words, spans over 1200 pages and will impact every household, business, industry and farm in the nation. Because it will fundamentally change the economics of energy in America, it has the power to create jobs, restructure industries and to launch a revolution in personal transportation.
It's the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 and its goal is "to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, and reduce global warming and transition to a clean energy economy."
It was passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives by the narrowest of margins - 219 to 212 - and even then only after furious last minute lobbying from special interest groups, long established energy giants, environmentalists and even the White House.
Groundbreaking in many respects, it will open the door to what many believe will be the most profound series of changes to the economy of the United States since the Second World War.
The key provisions of the bill are:
• Reducing greenhouse gases by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 through a cap-and-trade program that allows pollution permits to be bought and sold.

• Limiting emissions from major industrial sources, including power plants, factories, refineries and electricity and natural gas distributors. Emissions from agriculture would be excluded from the cap.

• Controlling carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and limiting six other greenhouse gases.

• Allowing companies to meet emission-limiting targets by investing in offset projects such as tree planting and forest protection.

• Requiring electric utilities to produce at least 12 percent of their power from renewable sources such wind and solar energy by 2020, and requiring as much as 8 percent in energy efficiency savings.

• Imposing tighter performance standards on new coal-fired power plants and providing $1 billion a year in development money for capturing carbon dioxide from such plants.

• Establishing standards that will require new buildings to be 30 percent more energy-efficient by 2012 and 50 percent more efficient by 2016.

• Protecting consumers from rising energy costs by giving rebates and credits to low-income households

Compromise was the key to getting House of Representative support for a nation-wide cap and trade system to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and quite likely more compromise will be required to get the bill through the U.S. Senate.

The Act shifted the cap and trade regime from one that anticipated 100 per cent auctioning to free allocation for coal-burning utilities, oil refineries, automakers and manufacturers in order to compete with China and India, countries with cheap power and labour.
Another key element for agricultural states was the authority given to the US Agriculture Department to run an offsets program that would pay farmers who used tilling techniques to keep carbon dioxide trapped in the soil.
Deals were being made constantly - sometimes in open debate on the floor of the House, an unprecedented but refreshingly transparent process, to fund initiatives in states with representatives that were hesitant to support the draft legislation.
U.S. President Barack Obama was not apologetic about the trade offs that were necessary to get the bill through the House. In a post-vote briefing for reporters he noted that once the policy framework was in place, transition measures could be accommodated to ensure that certain communities were not hit harder than others.
The overall thrust of the bill, he noted was to reduce carbon emissions and to stimulate clean energy production. Part of the reason why business was so supportive was because legislators who once opposed the measures were now in favour because of the flexibility built into the bill, he added.
"I think that when we look back 10 years from now, 15 years from now, we're going to say to ourselves this was a moment when we decided to take action, to strengthen our economy, create jobs, and improve our environment. And I think what seems controversial now is going to seem like common sense in hindsight."

U.S. President Barack Obama, commenting on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009

While the U.S. emission reduction targets were less than some had hoped, most environmental groups endorsed the legislation as a solid first step in shifting away from past reluctance by the U.S. to commit to fixed reduction targets.
The draft legislation provides a wide range of new powers, including authority to levy import duties on energy products from nations with emission reduction policies less stringent than those of the United States. Such measures were of concern to Canadian legislators.
President Obama has downplayed this issue, noting in his press briefing that "At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals."
Canada's environment minister, Jim Prentice, is in Washington this week meeting with his US counterparts and members of industry to try to advance the Clean Energy Dialogue on smart grid technology, carbon capture and storage, and energy research and development. The objective is to have something that the three North American leaders can announce when they meet in early August.
Certainly the Bill is as a bold step for America. It may well have far reaching consequences for Canada and the world in general once passed into law - which is still not a certainty. But as President Obama stated, it is "an extraordinary first step" in the transition to a clean energy economy for the world's largest consumer of fossil fuels and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after China.
There are several summaries of the draft legislation available for those who wish to pursue the matter further. For those with time and patience, the full 1200+ page draft bill is available here.

Alternative Energy Newsclips for July 2nd, 2009

UK Wind Boom Spikes Prices, Threatens Plants: Study
Date: 02-Jul-09
 Nigel Roddis

UK Wind Boom Spikes Prices, Threatens Plants: Study Photo: Nigel Roddis
An aerial view of a wind farm near Middlesbrough, northern England December 18, 2008.
Photo: Nigel Roddis

LONDON - The dramatic growth in wind turbines around the British Isles may lead to huge spikes in power prices by 2030 and threaten the viability of backup plants needed for calm periods, according to Poyry Energy Consulting.
Britain and Ireland have ambitious targets to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, with wind turbines expected to reduce most of the climate warming gasses from the power sector.
But the level of wind energy envisaged will lead to extreme price swings by 2030, with times of negative prices when the wind blows hard and spikes to almost 8,000 pounds per megawatt hour when the wind drops, according to a new study by Poyry.
The price volatility casts serious doubts on whether the current power market mechanisms will ensure investment in the plants needed as back up, with the UK market even less able to cope with the wind power boom than Ireland's.
"If significant wind energy is achieved ... we predict power stations which are built now will face much more uncertain revenues in the future," the report says.
"Uncertain to the point that plant may only operate for a few hours one year and then hundreds of hours the next year."
After studying extremes of low and high wind from 2000-2007, Poyry found output varied even annually by almost 25 percent in the Irish market and 13 percent in Britain.
Britain could need 35-45 gigawatts of wind turbines to be installed by 2030 to meet longer term emissions cut targets, while Ireland's wind power capacity could reach 8 gigawatts.
"Our worry at the outset of the study that the very dynamics of variable wind output would challenge the system operators, has moved to concern that the economic environment for thermal plant will be highly challenging," principal consultant James Cox said.
Using data for January 2000 to mode conditions in 2030, the study found electricity demand soared on frosty nights when there was almost no wind to turn turbines.
When winter temperatures rose in strong, relatively mild south-westerly winds there was less need for electricity but almost full wind generation output.
EDF Energy warned that keeping the lights on during cold, calm days in winter and keeping up with cooling demand on hot, still days in summer would require utilities to make huge investments in plants on shaky economic grounds.
"Keeping this backup plant available will be expensive and would have an impact on customers' bills," EDF Energy said.
"The result could potentially be a reduction in the security of supply standards we enjoy today."
The 8,000 pounds/MWh spike is nearly 10 times the highest levels in the UK power market seen in 2008.
For the full report click here: here%20Public%20Report%202_0.pdf

Clean Energy Investment Leaps In Second Quarter
Date: 02-Jul-09
 Gerard Wynn

Clean Energy Investment Leaps In Second Quarter Photo: Hazir Reka
A worker sits on the head of one of the three turbines that a Kosovo-German company is building in the hills of Goles, near Pristina airport May 12, 2009.
Photo: Hazir Reka

LONDON - Global investment in clean energy and climate-friendly technologies leapt in the last three months but full-year levels won't recover until 2010 or 2011, analysts said on Wednesday.
Falling energy demand and more expensive debt have hurt large renewable projects for example in wind and solar power. Recession has cut risk appetite, curbing funding for clean technology start-ups.
But global clean energy investment rebounded in the past three months, after a 44 percent collapse in the first quarter, and stimulus spending could spur a return to last year's funding levels in 2010, according to research group New Energy Finance.
"It's a big bounce back," said Michael Liebreich, NEF chief executive, referring to preliminary numbers to be published later this week or next.
"We've lost two years," he added, comparing similar figures in the second quarters of 2009 and 2007.
In addition to stimulus spending, bright spots for the sector included some return to bank lending, easing on margins above interest rates, a proposed U.S. climate bill and falling costs of components including solar-grade silicon and steel for wind turbines. Concerns include fears of a drawn out recession.
In rough calculations, Liebreich expected $62 billion stimulus funding for clean energy in 2010 in addition to about $90 billion from capital markets to return the sector to 2008 investment levels of $155 billion, or to beat that.
Governments worldwide plan to spend about $3 trillion in programs to boost flagging economies and a portion of that on green measures.
Some investors and analysts expect a longer dip. "Deal volumes will certainly be down this year and I suspect down in 2010 as well, over 2008 levels," said Tom Murley, head of renewables at private equity firm HgCapital.
Venture capital deals help smaller companies grow, and that sub-category of finance is down further than wider investment.
Total venture capital (VC) funding for the cleantech sector reached $1.2 billion in the last quarter, up 12 percent from the first three months of 2009 but down 44 percent from the same period last year, a bigger drop than in wider finance.
The biggest VC deals in Q2 were in the autos sector, including $100 million for lithium-ion company A123, which supplies batteries for electric cars, said Cleantech Group.
Some analysts have argued the VC finance model doesn't fit the cleantech sector, because many energy technologies in particular are very capital intensive and do not have the fast rollout preferred by this type of investor.
Share indices tracking climate-friendly firms are down 40 percent from 2007 partly as a result of recession and partly following a correction to perceived over-valuations.
(Editing by James Jukwey)

Climate bill spurs less green power than hoped
Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:32pm EDT

By Ayesha Rascoe - Analysis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The renewable energy mandate in the climate change bill approved by the House of Representatives last week does not go far enough for green power proponents, but the proposed national standard is likely as strong as it will get.

Aimed at combating global warming, the House bill requires at least 15 percent of electricity generated by utilities to come from sources such as wind and solar by 2020, up from 2007 levels of around 2.5 percent.

President Barack Obama and clean energy advocates have called for a much higher national renewable electricity target of 25 percent by 2025, but House Democrats softened the goal to appease lawmakers from coal-dependent states.

Displeased with the concessions, two dozen renewable energy companies and trade groups ratcheted up lobbying efforts two weeks ago to spur Congress to boost the green energy target.

But experts say green power advocates probably will not be able to squeeze any more out of lawmakers, who fear saddling voters with higher energy bills in a recession.

"I think the less aggressive proposals show a concern by legislators that rates could change and go up, and that this is not a good way to get votes in recession," said Christine Tezak, senior energy policy analyst at Robert W. Baird and Co.


Wind and solar producers still will benefit from the mandate if it becomes law, said Kevin Book, an energy analyst for ClearView Energy Partners.

"Despite appearances to the contrary, this is a positive for renewable energy because, like the Renewable Fuel Standard for biofuels, this is a real backstop," Book said.

Almost 30 states have already set targets for renewable energy production, and many exceed the House bill's proposed national standard.

While this may seem to make a watered-down national goal unnecessary, Book cautioned that many states already have altered their mandates when they became inconvenient.

"Even if the federal standard did nothing but hold states to their own targets, it would be considerably stronger than the status quo," Book said.

Even with a national mandate, renewable energy companies would face major hurdles, including competition from cheaper forms of power and lack of a modernized transmission grid.

"Targets below 25 percent by 2025 reflect a shade of realism regarding the scale of capital investment needed to hit such an unrealistic target," said Ken Medlock of the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston, Texas.


The House legislation tries to put a cost on greenhouse gas emissions by requiring major polluters to acquire permits.

But more than 85 percent of permits will be given away to industries. An Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the bill concluded permit prices will not be high enough in the short term to "drive a significant amount of additional low- or zero-carbon energy."

While the national standard would be an important symbolic move, it will not significantly increase pressure to boost use of renewable energy, said Rob Gramlich, senior vice president for public policy of the American Wind Energy Association.

The bill could weaken demand for wind power and other renewable sources by expanding the definition of renewable energy sources, and requiring that power providers reduce total energy use by 5 percent through efficiency gains, he said.

The House bill will not "deploy significant new renewable energy above what states are doing and (it won't) keep development going at current levels well into the future," Gramlich said.

AWEA supported passing the House legislation, but Gramlich said the group hopes to lobby the Senate to boost its target.

That will be no easy task. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently approved a comprehensive energy bill that would set a 15 percent renewable power goal, but states could meet up to a quarter of the mandate through energy efficiency measures.

Several Senators have said they hope to strengthen the standard before a full chamber vote, but it will be hard to gain support of lawmakers from states without many renewable resources, who worry their constituents will face higher electricity prices.

"Industry lobbyists are certainly trying to strengthen the mandates, but they're up against fundamentals," Book said. "The major obstacle the sector faces is the obligation to become cost-competitive on its own merits."

Both chambers will have to agree on a final version of the measure before it is signed into law.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by David Gregorio) home
250,000 jobs and £70bn revenue - the forecast for a thriving UK renewables sector
Study from the Carbon Trust warns that potential of renewables sector will only be realised if government invests in research and removes regulatory barriers
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent, Thursday 2 July 2009 00.05 BST
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Rain And High Winds Battering The UK
Waves crash over the harbour wall on the seafront at Porthcawl in Wales. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
The UK could benefit from 250,000 jobs and up to £70bn in revenue from offshore windand wave technologies by 2050, according to a study by the Carbon Trust. This potential will only be realised, however, if the government gives clear signals to industry, so that investors know where to put their money, rather than leaving new technologies to face the market alone.
The Carbon Trust, a government-backed agency that studies ways to promote low-carbon technologies, carried out economic analyses in six areas of low-carbon industry including offshore wind, wave, solid-state lighting and micro combined heat and power.
The studies, published today, looked at the current status and costs of the technology, how these would develop and what research and development costs there might be in the coming decades.
The studies for offshore wind and wave power showed these technologies could provide at least 15% of the total carbon savings required to meet the UK's 2050 CO2 reduction targets. "The UK's greenhouse gas targets mean that by 2050 We must reduce our emissions to just one-10th of today's levels, per unit of output," said John Beddington, the government's chief scientific adviser.
"This is a formidable challenge, requiring step changes in the rate at which we improve our energy efficiency and in low-carbon innovation.The Carbon Trust's proposals recognise the need for us to be smarter in focusing our investments, including to help businesses seize the economic opportunities of the transition."
According to the new analysis, published just a few weeks ahead of the forthcoming government white paper on energy, the UK could attract 45% of the global offshore windmarket by 2020, delivering £65bn of net economic value and 225,000 total jobs by 2050.
This would only happen with an investment of up to £600m into research, the removal of regulatory barriers and incentives to increase the deployment of the turbines. In the UK this means installing around 29GW of wind by 2020 and upwards of 40GW by 2050. A large part of the economic benefit would come from exporting technology developed here.
For wave, the outlook is more modest. Around a quarter of the world's wave technologies are being developed in the UK and the Carbon Trust said Britain should be the "natural owner" of the global market in this area. It could generate revenues worth £2bn per year by 2050 and up to 16,000 direct jobs.
"These technologies are not green 'nice to haves' but are critical to the economic recovery of the UK," said Tom Delay, the chief executive of the Carbon Trust. "To reap the significant rewards from their successful development we must prioritise and comprehensively back the technologies that offer the best chance of securing long-term carbon savings, jobs and revenue for Britain. Rather than following in the footsteps of others, this new analysis shows it is an economic no-brainer to be leading from the front."
In addition to the direct jobs in these in industries, there would be further benefits to the economy. "The UK's also very good at the secondary service industries - things like the financing of wind farms, the legal documents, environmental assessments," said Paul Arwas, a consultant who wrote the new Carbon Trust report. "Those jobs would be in addition - for offshore wind, it would be another 70,000 by 2050."
None of this will happen, though, without government support. Arwas said that when encouraging new industries, authorities tended to swing between two poles - either direct state funding or allowing markets to decide. "Either the governments didn't intervene at all or, if they did they did it by market mechanisms which are totally undifferentiated by technology. There you end up with a situation where, to take a footballing analogy, you've got the under 21s playing the under 12s."
Instead the Carbon Trust has proposed a new, semi-interventionist, model where the government chooses a family of technologies to invest in, for example wave power, and tells developers there will be subsidies or long-term help available to develop the sector as a whole but without backing individual technologies.
John Sauven, Greenpeace's executive director, welcomed the Carbon Trust's proposed approach. "Every country now needs a decarbonisation plan to help solve three of our greatest challenges - climate stability, energy security and economic prosperity. The UK has an enormous untapped supply of clean, green renewable energy and a world class engineering industry well placed to develop it."
Martin Rees, the president of the Royal Society, said the UK had little choice but to develop these new technologies, given the dwindling supplies of fossil fuels: "In the past we have let opportunities to capitalise on our scientific leadership slip through our fingers. The US and others are investing heavily in low carbon technologies; we must not fall behind and waste the scientific expertise that we have in the UK."

Canada ranks dead last among G8 on Climate Change issues

Well you might not agree with all the details... But the report is quite damning nonetheless.


BP shuts alternative energy HQ

BP shuts alternative energy HQ

• 'Beyond Petroleum' boast in doubt as clean energy boss quits 
• Renewables budget will be reduced by up to £550m this year

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Terry Macalister
The Guardian, Monday 29 June 2009
Article history
A sign at a BP petrol station is reflected in raindrops in London.
A sign at a BP petrol station is reflected in raindrops in London. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
BP has shut down its alternative energy headquarters in London, accepted the resignation of its clean energy boss and imposed budget cuts in moves likely to be seen by environmental critics as further signs of the oil group moving "back to petroleum".
But Tony Hayward, the group's chief executive, said BP remained as committed as ever to exploring new energy sources and the non-oil division would benefit from the extra focus of being brought back in house.
BP Alternative Energy was given its own headquarters in County Hall opposite the Houses of Parliament two years ago and its managing director, Vivienne Cox, oversaw a small division of 80 staff concentrating on wind and solar power.
But the 49-year-old Cox – BP's most senior female executive, who previously ran renewables as part of a larger gas and power division now dismantled by Hayward – is standing down tomorrow.
This comes alongside huge cuts in the alternative energy budget – from $1.4bn (£850m) last year to between $500m and $1bn this year, although spending is still roughly in line with original plans to invest $8bn by 2015.
The move back to BP's corporate headquarters at St James's Square in London's West End made sense, particularly when the group was sitting on spare office space due to earlier cutbacks, said Hayward.
"We are going through a major restructuring and bringing the alternative energy business headquarters into the head office seems a good idea to me.
"It saves money and brings it closer to home ... you could almost see it as a reinforcement [of our commitment to the business]," he said.
Cox was stepping down to spend more time with her children, Hayward added. "I know you would love to make a story out of all this," he said, "but it's quite hard work."
The reason for the departure of Cox is variously said by industry insiders to be caused by frustration over the business being downgraded in importance or because she really does intend to stay at home more with her young children. Cox had already reduced her working week down to three days and had publicly admitted the difficulty of combining different roles.
She will be replaced by another woman, her former deputy Katrina Landis, but the moves will worry those campaigning for more women in business, especially as Linda Cook, Shell's most senior female executive, has recently left her job too.
BP has gradually given up on plans to enter the UK wind industry and concentrated all its turbine activities on the US, where it can win tax breaks and get cheaper and easier access to land.
In April the company closed a range of solar power manufacturing plants in Spain and the US with the loss of 620 jobs and Hayward has publicly questioned whether solar would ever become competitive with fossil fuels, something that goes against the current thinking inside the renewables sector.
Hayward has also moved BP into more controversial oil areas, such as Canada's tar sands, creating an impression that he has given up on the objectives of his predecessor, Lord Browne, to take the company "Beyond Petroleum".