Sustainablog

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

23.10.09

Alternative Energy newsclips for 23 October 2009: Electric Cars -- you haven't finished hearing about them; Google and MSFT invest in wind farms, and Green Grid Energy Policy on Data CEntres

http://www.wbcsd.org/plugins/DocSearch/details.asp?type=DocDet&ObjectId=MzYxMDM

Toyota seeks a short-range plug-in hybrid for the long haul

ClimateWire, 16 October 2009 - Toyota Motor Corp. is on track to start testing the prototypes for its first crack at plug-in hybrid cars later this year, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

By Jan. 1, the company expects to release 500 plug-in versions of its Prius onto American, European and Japanese roads, said Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight. The cars will use lithium-ion batteries, not the nickel-metal hydride packages seen in Priuses today.

The pilot will kick off a three-year effort by the Japanese auto giant to get data on how these cars fare in the real world: how they're charged, how their batteries perform, and what sort of mileage they get. In recent years, Toyota has resisted pressure to develop a plug-in, even using commercials suggesting that plugging in hybrid vehicles is a bother.

Engineers will use the new plug-in data to design a more widely produced plug-in version of the Prius, but they don't intend to copycat other companies' plug-in efforts, said Tom Stricker, director of the energy and environmental research group for Toyota North America.

The Chevrolet Volt, which General Motors Co. has slated for release late next year, would get a range of 40 miles on all-electric power before firing up its gasoline engine. GM says it based the range on statistics showing that 75 percent of American commutes are less than 40 miles.

Early forecasts are that Toyota will aim for an all-electric range of 10 to 15 miles instead.

Batteries are the most expensive part of any electric-drive vehicle, Stricker said, and Toyota has decided that a 40-mile range is too much.

Trying to keep GM in the rearview mirror

"That might not be the right number if it costs you $15,000 a battery and nobody buys it," he said.

He pointed to research from Carnegie Mellon University suggesting that about half of U.S. miles driven are for trips shorter than 20 miles.

In its three-year pilot, Stricker said, Toyota will try to find a sweet spot -- a balance between all-electric range and the pricey batteries needed to power it.

"The key question for plug-ins, from a design perspective, is how much of an electric range is really necessary, and what will that cost," he said.

It's not a bad strategy, according to Andrew Frank, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Davis, whose students once built a plug-in SUV with a 50-mile all-electric range.

Lithium, the main ingredient in the batteries, is hard to come by. So "for the amount of lithium available today, you can build three times more Priuses that are plug compatible than Chevy Volts, since the battery packs are one-third the size. And you make money by selling cars and not batteries!!" Frank said in an e-mail.

Frank said the more cars Toyota sells, the more the price of its batteries will fall, enabling it to make cheaper, longer-lasting cars.

An 'oddly conservative' strategy?

The shorter all-electric range for the Prius means that under some conditions, it would use more gasoline than the Volt.

"From an environmental perspective, the more [electric] range the better," said Roland Hwang, transportation program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an e-mail.

He said Toyota's strategy on plug-ins "seems at first oddly conservative," and that the company risks "being seen as a technology and environmental laggard, and losing their current perceived pole position on environmentally friendly cars."

Toyota currently leads the U.S. clean car market with the Prius, a regular hybrid that sold almost 160,000 models last year. Including its Camry and Highlander models, the company sold more than 240,000 hybrids.

Automakers remain unsure which clean-car technology will catch fire with the public -- and through what channel. Major manufacturers are developing vehicles powered by batteries, fuel cells and biofuels, but costs remain high, thanks to technical hurdles.

Smaller companies such as Tesla and Fisker are angling for niche markets, with the eventual goal of reducing price and selling to the mass market.

Driving toward an uncertain market

Meanwhile, carmakers face uncertainty about future market conditions -- namely, the price of gasoline and a possible price on carbon emissions.

Toyota is moving toward low-range plug-ins because they make it easier to promise low cost and durability from the get-go, said Bruce Belzowski, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.

"They're just not convinced that they have the lithium-ion battery in the right spot to be able to do the things that GM says they wanted to do," he said. "Toyota is much more conservative when it comes to this."

The company knows it's walking the tightrope of public reputation, Belzowski said. Past examples show that a single, high-profile failure can be enough to sink an entire line of cars.

That's a lesson General Motors knows well -- in the 1980s, its efforts to market diesel engines floundered thanks to performance flaws (ClimateWire, June 22).

Instead of going with a smaller all-electric range, Belzowski said, GM will simply sell fewer Volts, improving the defects from year to year. "They're trying to manage the risk by not promising high volumes to start with," he said.

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Electric cars don't deserve halo yet: study

Reuters, 19 October 2009 - Electric cars will not be dramatically cleaner than autos powered by fossil fuels until they rely less on electricity produced from conventional coal-fired power plants, scientists said on Monday.

"For electric vehicles to become a major green alternative, the power fuel mix has to move away from coal, or cleaner coal technologies have to be developed," said Jared Cohon, the chair of a National Research Council report released on Monday called "Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use."

About half of U.S. power is generated by burning coal, which emits many times more of traditional pollutants, such as particulates and smog components, than natural gas, and about twice as much of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Nuclear and renewable power would have to generate a larger portion of U.S. power for electric cars to become much greener compared to gasoline-powered cars, Cohan, who is also president of Carnegie Mellon University, said in an interview.

Advances in coal burning, like capturing carbon at power plants for permanent burial underground, could also help electric cars become a cleaner alternative to vehicles powered by fossil fuels, he said.

Pollution from energy sources did $120 billion worth of damage to human health, agriculture and recreation in 2005, said the NRC report, which was requested by the U.S. Congress in 2005 and sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Electricity was responsible for more than half of the damage, the report said.

Electric cars have other benefits such as reducing imports of foreign oil. But they can also have hidden costs

Materials in electric car batteries are hard to produce, which adds to the energy it takes to make them. In fact, the health and environmental costs of making electric cars can be 20 percent greater than conventional cars, and manufacturing efficiencies will have to be achieved in order for the cars to become greener, the report said.

Emissions from operating and building electric cars in 2005 cost about 0.20 cents to 15 cents per vehicle mile traveled, it said. In comparison, gasoline-powered cars cost about 0.34 cents to 5.04 cents per vehicle mile traveled.

The report estimated that electric cars could still cost more than gasoline-powered cars to operate and manufacture in 2030 unless U.S. power production becomes cleaner.

Hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles with batteries that are charged by the driver hitting the brakes scored slightly better than both gasoline-powered cars and plug-in hybrid cars, which have batteries that are charged by the power grid. (Editing by Christian Wiessner)

http://planetark.org/wen/55141

Utilities Pledge To Be Ready For Plug-In Autos
Date: 22-Oct-09
Country:
 US
Author:
 Bernie Woodall

DETROIT - If electric cars plug in at rates hoped for by automakers in the coming years, there will be enough power to serve them, the biggest U.S. electric utilities industry group vowed on Wednesday.
The utilities have pledged to make sure the electricity is there on demand, to work with policy makers on tax rebates and customer financial incentives and to make it easy for consumers to charge up car batteries, according to the Edison Electric Institute.
Convincing Americans of the benefits of plugging in will be a big part of the utilities-automakers efforts, announced at a plug-in conference in Detroit. They will also try to convince consumers to charge up an electric vehicle's batteries at night when power is cheaper and easily available.
"Our industry acutely recognizes that now is the time to redouble our ongoing efforts to lay the groundwork for making plug-in electric transportation in this country a reality, not just a vision," said Anthony F. Earley, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Detroit-based DTE Energy, who is this year's chairman of the Edison Electric Institute.
One of the biggest hurdles in electrifying the U.S. vehicle fleet is the need for standardization in plugging in.
Ted Craver, chief executive of Edison International and its electric utility Southern California Edison, said utilities must work closely with public policy makers, private organizations, and automakers to make sure a charging infrastructure is in place as sales of plug-ins rise
Craver said in an interview with Reuters that utilities and suppliers of electrical equipment, along with automakers and their suppliers, must make components that are standard regardless of the type of battery is used in vehicles.
As electric vehicles (EVs) develop, they are expected to improve batteries, but keeping components standard from the start will help keeps costs down and facilitate EVs expansion, Craver said.
A report this week by PriceWaterhouseCoopers noted that the promise of electric vehicles depends on infrastructure development, environmental impact and government support.
It cited the need for more government assistance to make EVs more affordable, particularly in the next few years.
While U.S. President Barack Obama wants a million plug-in vehicles by 2015 in the United States alone, PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated that to be near 600,000 to 700,000 vehicles by 2015.
Craver said he considers public education the most important step in the early day electric vehicle expansion.
If the extra load by consumers driving plug-in hybrid and purely electric vehicles increases afternoon peak demand, then more power plants and powerlines will need to be constructed. Charging batteries at night will keep cut those capital costs.
Dallas-based Oncor, the biggest power delivery company in Texas, said on Wednesday its investment in wind energy will help power plug-in vehicles. Oncor and SCE each are installing "smart" meters that will give customers real-time pricing of power, proving to them that off-peak power demand cuts costs.
The EEI, Craver said, has gotten pledges of readiness from 20 CEOs in "early adopter" areas for plug-in vehicles.
Oncor is majority owned by Energy Future Holdings Corp, which is owned by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs.
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)


http://www.thegreengrid.org/~/media/WhitePapers/White%20Paper%2025%20-%20TGG%20Energy%20Policy%20Research%20For%20Data%20Centres_final_102109.ashx?lang=en

Google and Microsoft eye wind farm investments
By Ed Crooks
Published: October 22 2009 23:03 | Last updated: October 22 2009 23:03
Google and Microsoft are looking at possible investments in offshore wind farms in Britain, as part of their strategy to "green" their electricity use, a leading adviser to the energy industry has said.
Interest from large multinationals and other investors new to the offshore wind business is holding out a lifeline for an industry hit by a collapse in traditional sources of finance.


EDITOR'S CHOICE
Bing steals lead on Google with Twitter search - Oct-22
Google on song with music deal - Oct-22
Novera Energy rejects bid from Infinis - Oct-07
John Lynch, the head of power for Europe at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said he "would not be surprised" if information technology companies keen to cut their carbon dioxide emissions were to invest in European offshore wind "in the not too distant future".
Google and Microsoft both refused to comment on possible future investment plans, but a commitment to offshore wind would fit with their strategies to reduce the cost and environmental impact of their high levels of electricity consumption.
Google has invested tens of millions of dollars into renewable energy research in the US. Microsoft has been taking steps to cut its power consumption, for example by siting its new European "mega data centre" in Dublin, taking advantage of the cold climate to reduce the need for mechanical cooling.
Dominic Maclaine of New Power, an industry journal, said: "Data centre servers have significant power needs, and it is understandable that internet firms are increasingly keen to ensure that the power they buy is seen to be 'green'."
A huge expansion of offshore wind power will be essential if the government is to hit its target of generating about 30 per cent of Britain's electricity from renewable sources, but the financial crisis has raised doubts about whether developers will be able to raise the estimated £100bn of investment that is needed.
Mr Lynch, who is advising RWE of Germany on a planned offshore wind farm in Wales, estimated that traditional project finance from banks had dropped 50-80 per cent from its peak before the crash.
He argued that other investors would step in to fill that gap, including sovereign wealth funds from countries in the Middle East or Asia looking for assets in Europe, Chinese and other companies seeking to acquire expertise in offshore wind to take back to their home countries, and the European Investment Bank, as well as energy-hungry multinationals.
Companies such as Google and Microsoft would never finance the majority of a project that could cost £1bn or more, he said, but could take minority stakes.
Charles Anglin of the British Wind Energy Association said he expected the next big growth in the industry to be led by large electricity consumers.
"Companies with a big electricity bill will be looking to get into the business and supply themselves," he said.
However, the offshore wind industry is still in its infancy, and costs are much higher than for onshore wind.
Andy Cox, an energy partner at KPMG, said: "At a time when capital is in short supply and everyone is driving down costs, it could be some time before we see US multinationals invest in offshore wind in Europe."

http://www.thegreengrid.org/~/media/WhitePapers/White%20Paper%2025%20-%20TGG%20Energy%20Policy%20Research%20For%20Data%20Centres_final_102109.ashx?lang=en

THE GREEN GRID ENERGY POLICY RESEARCH FOR DATA CENTRES
FRANCE, GERMANY, THE NETHERLANDS
AND THE UNITED KINGDOM

Green Newsclips for 23 October 2009: Are you light green?, Green jobs in green building, Green planes for Southwest. And a speech by the Chairman of Nokia, WBCSD and Shell

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/10/21/light-green-consumers-differ-from-dark-green-consumers/

'Light Green' Consumers Differ from 'Dark Green' Consumers
While "light green" consumers make purchasing decisions based on impulse and curiosity, "dark green" consumers generally plan purchases in advance, according to a new survey from Grail Research.
Marketers would do well to pay attention to the light green consumers (above), who make up 89 percent of those that say they purchase "green" items. The dark green consumers, on the other hand, make up just 9 percent, according to "The Green Revolution" report (PDF).
One of the most illustrative differences has to with the key decision behind making a first green purchase.
About 39 percent of light green consumers say they simply happened to be at a store and noticed the product, and just 13 percent took action after hearing the product was available.
For dark green consumers (below), about 29 percent decided on the purchase after hearing the product was available, and 20 percent of them made a decision when they were at a store and noticed the product.

http://planetark.org/wen/55127

Green Building Materials Startup Expects Big 2010
Date: 21-Oct-09
Country:
 US
Author:
 Poornima Gupta

SAN FRANCISCO - Fast-growing Silicon Valley start-up Serious Materials, a firm that makes green construction materials, is expecting "tremendous" growth next year, aided by an improving U.S. economy and federal stimulus that backs retrofitting of buildings to save energy.
Serious Materials, which makes energy-saving windows, drywall and other products, also aims to officially open its factory in the Chicago area in the next two months.
The Sunnyvale, California-based company, that has attracted the attention of President Barack Obama, could nearly double its revenue next year, Chief Executive Kevin Surace told Reuters.
"We have substantial revenue and it's growing," Surace said, adding that the company could see revenue growth of between 40 percent and 100 percent in 2010. "It's not out of the question to double next year."
Surace declined to reveal the firm's revenue but said Serious Materials has up to $400 million of manufacturing capacity and is expecting an "outstanding" 2010.
"We think we are going to see tremendous growth," he said. "We are planning for it, we have staffed for it, we are ready for it."
Surace said he is receiving a lot of inquiries for the company's products.
Although the field is new, the green building materials sector is gaining attention and growing fast. Venture investments involved 45 deals worth about $350 million the past year, according to Cleantech Group LLC.
The use of green materials, such as better-insulating glass or low-energy light bulbs, can save more power and cut emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than some alternative energy technologies like solar or wind, according to experts.
Currently about 40 percent of U.S. energy use goes toward the heating, cooling and general operation of buildings.
Serious Materials says its insulated windows and glass can reduce heating and cooling energy costs and emissions up to 40 percent.
The company, founded in 2002, has so far raised more than $120 million in venture capital, including the $60 million it closed last month. It employs 300 people, Surace said.
Serious Materials is mainly expecting to gain business from retrofitting for buildings, an area that the U.S. government plans to support with programs such as easy financing.
Serious Materials is seeing some improvement in the U.S. economy but new construction is still down, Surace said.
"But retrofits continue to go up because of government incentives," he said. "We see the retrofit business continuing to grow, especially around large energy savings."
Surace also said the company is looking at acquisitions as a strategy to grow.
"We are not turning a profit at this time and we are not trying to," he said, adding that the company is focusing on expansion.
The company, which gained the attention earlier this year from the Obama administration when it reopened a closed manufacturing facility in the Chicago area and promised to hire laid off workers, is also getting ready to open that factory.
"We are just about the level where we are ready to produce at a regular basis," Surace said. "We will be really formally cranking in the next couple of months."
"We have got a couple of dozen workers back," he said, adding that he expects that number to grow to around a 100 by next year.

http://planetark.org/wen/55161

NYC Sees Economic Gold In Green Jobs
Date: 23-Oct-09
Country:
 US
Author:
 Joan Gralla


Photo Go to Article Rain pours as the largest privately owned solar roof in Manhattan was unveiled, atop 45 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, November 20, 2007.
Photo: Chip East

NEW YORK - Recession-stricken New York City plans to double its current green work force by creating over 13,000 new jobs in the next decade, partly by competing with London to become the new center for carbon trading, a city official said on Wednesday.
London, whose prominence as a financial capital rivals New York City and Tokyo, got an early lock in trading pollution credits by training lawyers, accountants and other experts "before the market even existed," Seth Pinsky, president of the Economic Development Corporation, told Reuters.
New York City's new boot camp in green finance will be run by the State University of New York's Levin Institute. It will be open to laid-off workers or future entrepreneurs, much like an already "booming" incubator for financial start-ups, Pinsky said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made his first fortune as a Wall Street bond trader before getting into politics, is expected to announce on Thursday this green job branch to his two-year-old PlaNYC program, which set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gases, planting 1 million trees and crowning skyscrapers with wind turbines.
The mayor's $7.5 million green jobs plan will call on Columbia University to help offer public school pupils "hands-on" learning in energy efficiency, according to Bloomberg, who is running as an independent candidate for a third term. His plan also will create an Urban Technology Innovation Center to tap academic research. Existing city and state funds and federal stimulus dollars will pay for it.
HARNESSING THE WIND AND RAYS
New York City residents and businesses spend about $15 billion a year on energy -- one of the biggest U.S. markets. The city will capitalize on its breezy coastlines by installing wind turbines at Hunts Point in The Bronx, for example, instead of beginning with the rooftop windmills critics said might prove unsafe. Solar projects are planned for the Brooklyn Army Terminal, which would produce enough power for 100 households for a year. More solar projects are planned in Long Island City.
The city is already testing turbines in the Hudson River off Roosevelt Island to take advantage of strong local tides.
New York City has 5 billion square feet of building stock -- more than any peer -- and building codes will be overhauled to encourage owners to add energy saving and other green technologies. Developers and building owners will be able to share their experiences at the new technology center.
Many U.S. cities and states also have green agendas and some seem to be following in Bloomberg's footsteps. New York City was the first large city to use energy-saving traffic lights, Pinsky's spokesman said.
Houston's Mayor Bill White, a Democrat, said on Wednesday that over half of his city's 2,425 traffic signals now have LED lights, which will save $190,626 a year.
Bloomberg has already launched an incubator for media entrepreneurs.
Fashion, bioscience and higher education are next.
"We've got great schools, but they tended in the past to be Ivory Tower places, which don't really connect with the real economy," Pinsky said. "We're trying to make that connection."
Europe's cap-and-trade program to cut greenhouse-gas emissions is more advanced than anything in this country. New York and nine of its Northeast neighbors already have a cap-and-trade market, but President Barack Obama's plan is still winding through Congress.
(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Jan Paschal)

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/10/23/green-building-retrofits-to-be-20-30-of-commercial-projects-by-2014/

'Green' Building Retrofits To Be 20-30% of Commercial Projects By 2014
Green building currently accounts for five to nine percent of the retrofit and renovation market activity by value, which equates to a $2 billion to $4 billion marketplace for major projects, according to a new report from McGraw-Hill Construction. By 2014, this share is projected to grow to 20-30 percent, making it a $10 billion to $15 billion market for major retrofit projects, according to the SmartMarket Report.
The report, Green Building Retrofit Renovation: Rapidly Expanding Market Opportunities Through Existing Buildings, profiles more than 20 projects that provide insight into the growing green building industry. Researchers say that market opinion and indicators suggest much higher levels of activity long-term for retrofits and renovations overall, which is expected to reach a tipping point in 10 to 15 years. At this time, half of all retrofits and renovations will be green, according to the report.
The report also reveals that owners and tenants with green retrofit experience are likely to do more green retrofit projects. Seventy percent of owners who have engaged in green retrofit or renovation activities are planning to continue to do so for over 15 percent of future projects and 24 percent will do so on over 60 percent of projects, according to the report.
Tenants, on the other hand, fall into two extremes: one-third are committed to green retrofits for over 60 percent of projects, while 17 percent are not yet committed.
Another finding shows that the downturn is encouraging the adoption of energy- and water-efficient practices in renovation projects. Sixty-two percent of owners expect to recoup their investments for energy-efficiency improvements within 10 years.
The most popular projects include energy-efficient lighting or natural lighting. Nearly all respondents (92 percent) also report installing more energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems, according to the repor

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/10/22/southwest-testing-green-plane/

Southwest Testing 'Green Plane'
If adopted, the new "green plane" undergoing tests by Southwest Airlines would save the company about $10 million a year in fuel costs, while reducing emissions.
The airline also is kicking off a more robust onboard recycling program Nov. 1.
The plane, which is a modified Boeing 737-700, features reduced weight, as well as environmentally friendly features, including the carpet and seat covers, as well as life vest pouches, according to a press release.
All combined, the new features amount to a weight savings of about five pounds per seat, or about 472 pounds per plane. The reduced weight equates to about 9,500 fewer gallons of jet fuel per plane, per year, according to China View.
The new plane features InterfaceFLOR carpet, which is installed in sections. Incorporating sectional carpet means that replacing the aisle carpeting, which currently is one piece of carpet, can be done only in sections that need replacing. The carpet sections are to be returned to Interface for recycling after use.
The plane also features two types of leather replacement seat covers that offer reduced weight and less environmental impact than traditional leather. The seats also feature a lighter weight foam fill from Garnier PURtec.
The plane's life vest pouch, meanwhile, weighs a pound less and creates more room under the seat.
Starting Nov. 1, Southwest Airlines is starting a co-mingled recycling program, which means more recyclable materials can be diverted from landfills. The new recycling program is the result of 18 months of testing.

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The time for "business as usual" is over

Speech given by Jorma Ollila, Chairman Royal Dutch Shell plc and Nokia, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., USA (15 October 2007)

In his speech given at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., WBCSD's incoming chairman, Jorma Ollila, said that continuing business as usual in the face of global climate change and population growth is not an option. By 2050 -- just 40 years -- the world will have 50 percent more people and 85 percent of them will live in developing countries. Business must have a constructive partnership with government and civil society because investment in the technology changes often is beyond the capacity of a single company or even a single country.

Thank you, Donna, for your kind introduction.

Good afternoon ladies and gentleman. It is a pleasure to be here today and I am most grateful to the National Press Club for making this opportunity happen.

My goal here today is to leave you with three messages:

First: The time for "business as usual" is overWe need big changes in industrial systems, business models, economic assumptions, market rules and governance frameworks to tackle the huge challenges facing us all at once. Business as usual just won't work anymore.

Second: Business is part of the solutionI emphasize "part" of the solution. We have technologies and the ability to innovate, we have capital and significant management know-how and hustle. But we lack a critical ingredient - a constructive collaboration with governments and civil society. No man, or business, is an island in today's connected world.

And Third: building a sustainability strategy into the rhythm of business, will determine the difference between the winners and losersI believe that only the companies that develop products and services that address global challenges such as energy supply and access, climate change, pressure on ecosystems, or water, will be around for the long haul.

I will come back to these three messages. I'd like to elaborate on them and share with you a few "proof points" and examples from the companies with which I am most familiar, as well as from the work being done at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

I'm pretty comfortable in front of you today wearing a few hats – drawing from my experience leading Nokia, my role as Chairman at Royal Dutch Shell and my most recently acquired "hat"- that of the Chairman of the World Business Council. I come from Finland, and those of you that know the place will realize that wearing a few "hats" is not that unusual…..as are extra socks, and lots of gloves and scarves, thick boots…so on.

Most of you are probably familiar with Shell and Nokia, whereas the World Business Council for Sustainable Development is probably less familiar – and the initials – "W" "B" "C" "S" "D"… hardly roll off the tongue with ease. Briefly:

  • We are a business organization of about 200 global companies; 
  • We've been around for quite a while – about 15 years; 
  • We have companies from 35 different countries representing the opinions of 25 different industry sectors; 
  • We are establishing a stronger presence in the US; 
  • And, we have a global network of almost 60 partner organizations located throughout the developing world;
So what do we do?

As a group of leading companies – we are committed to sustainable development through economic progress, ecological balance and social progress. Our mission is to:

  • Provide business leadership as a catalyst for change toward sustainable development and,
  • Support the business license to operate, to innovate and grow in a world increasingly shaped by sustainable development issues.
Sounds a bit vague? Allow me to share some examples and bring these concepts to life.

Let's start with some facts. We face an expanding world, both in terms of population and our appetite for energy – the drain on natural resources is huge and the effect on business, profound.

These assumptions underpin the business strategy of most leading companies and they provide the foundation for my 3 key messages.

Fact 1: The underlying growth story.

By 2050, the world is expected to have 50% more people. That's only 40 years from now (and looking around, many of you will hopefully still be here). In this world, 85% of the population will live in what we today call developing countries. Let me repeat that: 85% of people on earth will live in the developing world. As a third of the world's population lives on less than 2 US dollars a day -- and many suffer from malnutrition, have no access to health services, sanitation, electricity, safe drinking water, shelter or transportation -- the primary focus for these developing countries will be poverty alleviation and improving the quality of life for their populations.

Fact 2: The market growth story .

These emerging economies represent the growth markets for the future. Already accounting for more than half the world's gross domestic product, their economic weight will increase substantially over the coming years.

By 2050, a whopping 65-75% of global GDP will have shifted to developing countries.

Last month, we saw an acknowledgment of this political and market shift– moving from a "G8 world" (of the old industrialized countries) to a "G20 world" of tomorrow's leading economies. Right now, the European Union is the leading exporter of green technologies, with a global market share of 45%. The US stimulus package has an important "green component". However, China is investing heavily in its domestic capacity to build economies of scale – this will be the platform for the next phase of their export growth.

Fact 3: The city growth story.

Currently, about 50% of the world's population lives in cities – but there is a massive move afoot. People are becoming more urbanized – and – again, within 40 years, over 70% of us will live in cities – these megacities will be mostly in the developing world. I heard a statistic yesterday from a Goldman Sachs' report – In India, every minute, 30 Indian citizens migrate from the countryside to the megacities of the country. This trend is expected to continue indefinitely. And in most developing countries, migration to urban centers is connected with changing aspiration and consumption patterns, which is reflected in additional demand for food, water, houses, and jobs. These people will also need access to energy to better their lives.

These three growth trends present an amazing challenge, and a huge opportunity, for companies. It means an enormous growth in demand for infrastructure to provide energy, water, food, transport and other services that an urbanized and growing population will require.

However, and most significantly, more people, living in bigger cities with an improved quality of life cannot be allowed to mean more greenhouse gas emissions. Developing countries, which have least contributed to environmental degradation, are suffering most from the consequences of climate change and water scarcity – and will continue to do so. There is no longer - and there possibly never was – a choice between economic growth and environmental well-being. This move to a high-growth economy must be matched by a transition to a low carbon economy.

But, how are we going to make this transition? How will we tackle the challenges I have just identified?

This conveniently brings me back to my first message: the time for "business as usual" is overWe need big changes in systems, mind-sets and governance. I'll give you a few examples of where moving away from business as usual positions us better for addressing these challenges:

We need effective carbon markets and a price on carbon. I believe this to be one of the most cost-effective approaches in the policy-toolkit for tackling climate change. Carbon markets will enable incentives and funding to flow toward the development of low-carbon projects and the most promising solutions. Although carbon markets have started taking shape in many countries, today we are on the brink of a much broader reshaping of our energy markets as a number of new cap-and-trade systems come closer to implementation around the world.

Unfortunately, challenges remain. While the U.S. House passed a landmark climate bill earlier this year, prospects for legislation in the U.S. Senate are far from clear. As the world prepares for climate negotiations in Copenhagen, we must see American leadership backed by its own domestic actions on climate legislation.

Energy efficiency - what are we waiting for? The actions and investments that make the biggest and most immediate impact begin with energy efficiency. Most of the technologies we need to dramatically reduce our energy use already exist. One recent report found that investment in technology enabling smart grids, smart logistics, smart industry automation and smart buildings could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15% by 2020. One of the biggest "bangs-for-the-buck" is the energy efficiency of buildings. Buildings consume 50% of the world's energy – yet, even with existing technology, as the WBCSD Energy Efficiency in Buildings Project concluded, it is wholly feasible to reduce energy use in buildings by 50 percent by 2050.

Ecological footprint – all businesses impact on and are dependent on eco-systems and the services they provide – like fresh water, food, fiber and natural hazard protection. A recent UN study concluded, remarkably, that more than 60% of the world's ecosystems are degraded. This trend will continue with population growth and industrial development. Within the WBCSD, we are working in partnership with some of the world's leading NGOs and think-tanks – like your DC-based World Resources Institute. Our aim:

  • Decision tools that help companies do a better job managing their impacts and; 
  • Regulatory frameworks that leverage market forces for solutions.
At Shell, our business culture is firmly grounded in thinking about the future in ways that depart from business as usual. We use scenarios to help us think through plausible futures that are "business unusual". Shell's current scenarios are underscored by "3 Hard Truths" – similar in some ways to the 3 Facts we just discussed. Shell's Hard Truths":
  • Energy demand is increasing 
  • Current energy supplies will struggle to meet this demand. The age of easy oil is over and in a carbon-constrained world, we need to find alternatives. Historically, it has taken about 25 years for a new energy technology to gain 1% market penetration. 
  • Stress on the environment will rise. Climate change and energy security are in the news today, but we can't ignore the immense challenges of water and deforestation (1/5 th of worldwide emission) and biodiversity loss. 
  • These challenges require new thinking, new tools, new approaches: business as usual is not an option.
The next point I'd like to come back to is business is part of the solution. I said earlier that the emphasis was on "part" of the solution. I believe that when business offers solutions to problems, rather than excuses, people listen.

Business is an innovation engine - developing breakthrough technologies. We invest in getting these solutions deployed and diffused. Importantly and with no apologies, we make money for our shareholders, provide jobs for our employees, buy and sell along our value chain supporting other businesses in the communities in which we operate. But, and this is a BIG BUT….business cannot do this alone – we need to work in constructive collaboration with governments and civil society.

The size, scale and urgency of the challenges we face require new types of collaboration and partnerships. Business cannot succeed on its own, nor can governments be successful without input from the private sector. Concerted action is needed.

There are two areas where I think constructive collaboration can go a long way to solving the challenges we've laid out.

The first example is around investment in technology. For the most part, this simply can't be done as a "solo-player". The delivery of new, low-carbon technologies by 2020 is often beyond the financial and technical capacity of individual countries or businesses, and requires large-scale cooperation in the demonstration of key technologies. To harness the full capability of information technology in reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions, we need to encourage more cooperation and co-creation across different industries. Carbon capture and storage is an example of where a collaborate approach is vital.

New forms of public-private partnerships need to be defined where governments, R&D institutions, suppliers and potential technology users work together to organize, fund, screen, develop and demonstrate selected technologies in a shorter time frame.

The second area ripe for new collaboration is the international negotiations on climate change. We often hear governments say, "we need to talk to the private sector", but there are limited formal channels for discussions.

The WBCSD has worked to change this. We have followed international negotiations for more than 10 years and have contributed concrete options for governments to consider as they develop a new climate agreement.

The WBCSD submitted formal comments and input to the negotiating text that is being prepared for Copenhagen, providing a business voice. Alongside the member companies, we hold regular discussions with government negotiators, particularly on issues relating to technology transfer, financing and reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries. The negotiators have asked us to do more and become a formal source of input on technology issues.

This brings me to my third and final message: As I said when I started, only the companies that develop products and services that address global challenges around energy, climate change, development, ecosystems, water, mobility, buildings, urbanization and demographic shifts will be around for the long haul. Those that don't, I believe simply will not be around to talk about it.

Let me give a few examples, drawn from WBCSD member companies, that show you how these companies embed sustainability in product design, manufacturing operations, employee engagement and stakeholder partnerships.

Would anyone blame me for starting with examples from Shell and Nokia?

At Shell we are focused on what a new energy future means. Shell is involved in a number of carbon capture and storage demonstration projects that are an essential step towards the broader application of this promising technology. We are a leader in establishing sustainability standards for the production of today's biofuels. And we're at the forefront of research and development for advanced biofuels made from non-food sources.

Nokia was a market leader in product stewardship long before these environmental practices became mainstream. Now in addition to making mobile devices, it is increasingly providing mobile solutions. By offering everything from music to money in digital form, Nokia helps reduce the resources necessary to produce and transport the old physical versions.

Toyota is working on a wide range of vehicle and fuel technologies and the infrastructures to create an integrated approach to mobility and the environment.

Unileverbest known for Lipton Tea and Dove soap, has invested in technology and worked with local farmers to develop sustainable practices in the cultivation of palm oil, soy and other agricultural commodities. The result: better relations with the local community as well as higher crop yields.

Holcim, a Swiss cement company, has joined the US EPA Climate Leaders Partnership, a voluntary program that challenges companies to set an aggressive, corporate-wide GHG reduction goal, and to carry out an annual inventory of GHG emissions.

DuPonta pioneer on sustainable development, designs products that pass rigorous criteria for reducing the use of energy, water and materials and encourages the development of products based on the use of renewable resources.

Duke EnergyBecause the cleanest power plant is the one that is never built, Duke Energy believes energy efficiency should play a key role in reducing greenhouse gases. Its "save-a-watt" model is designed to help customers save energy and money and still earn a return for the company's investors.

And the story goes on and on.

I firmly agree with last month's Harvard Business Review article, which concluded:"There is no alternative to sustainable development…In the future, only companies that make sustainability a goal will achieve competitive advantage".

Business as usual simply won't work. We need new ways of dealing with the persistent challenges of old – poverty, infectious disease, and famine. But now, added to these are a long list of more complex problems coming in the future, such as climate change, consumption, growing and aging populations, entrenched values, and ecosystem degradation and collapse.

Solutions lie in the recognition from governments that they cannot create a sustainable future without close cooperation with business… and, the reverse holds true as well.

This is not a game where everybody will come out as equals. There will be winners and losers. At Shell and Nokia, and the broader membership of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, we are building sustainable development into our core thinking and business strategies.

Countries need to do this too. Those whose governments put short-term domestic issues ahead of pressing global demands will, in the end, be just that: short term. It is time for President Obama, and the other world leaders, to lead for the planet as well as their countries. Putting the needs of the Earth first is an excellent place to begin.

As crunch time looms for our climate, I remind them all that history has a habit of remembering those who take a stand.

In the spirit of partnership: long may we be remembered.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Carbon Newsclips for 23 October 2009: Optimism on US climate bill, while 20% fewer Americans believe in climate change; UK publishes global climate change map, while Insurers, Ericsson push for progress on a low-carbon future

http://planetark.org/wen/55140

U.S. Climate Bill Prospects
Date: 22-Oct-09
Country:
 US
Author:
 Richard Cowan


Energy Secretary Steven Chu answers reporters' questions during the 2009 Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, October 20, 2009.
Photo: Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration will press ahead with climate control legislation, despite difficult odds of passage before December's international summit on global warming.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Reuters Washington Summit that he was putting in long hours on climate issues and believes there was "a reasonably good possibility" that the U.S. Congress could deliver legislation reducing carbon dioxide emissions in time for the Copenhagen meeting.
"Look, I'm still going to be optimistic and say there is a chance that there will be a bill that the Senate and House have agreed upon that goes before the president before Copenhagen," Chu said.
But Senator John McCain, who wants to rejuvenate nuclear power in the United States to help reduce carbon pollution, said there's been no progress and he accused Democrats of being "beholden" to environmentalists who oppose an expansion of the industry.
"I'd like to see one concrete commitment on the part of the administration and Democrats," McCain told the Reuters Washington Summit on Wednesday.
Instead, the conservative Republican who unsuccessfully ran for president against Barack Obama last year, complained that Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository has been defunded and no plans were in the works for recycling spent fuel, while loan guarantees to build new plants were insufficient.
But Chu said an effort was being made to provide new government help for the nuclear industry, including possibly expanding the $18.5 billion loan guarantee program for expanding nuclear power generation.
Conservative Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain's, announced this month that he would work with leading Democrats to fashion a climate change bill he could vote for. Since then, Chu has followed up with him.
Scientists blame carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels for global warming and more severe storms and droughts. December's meeting in Copenhagen is an attempt to bring deep reductions in the world's carbon emissions, building on the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.
CAP AND TRADE
While enactment of a U.S. climate bill would boost the trust of developing nations in Washington's intentions in Copenhagen, it wasn't just McCain challenging Chu's optimism.
"I don't think we're going to have cap and trade" enacted this year, Senator Charles Grassley told the Reuters Washington Summit. He was referring to the mechanism Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress want to create to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Under cap and trade, a huge new system for trading an ever-declining number of carbon pollution permits would be created. Many Republicans and moderate Democrats in Congress fear the regime would result in higher energy prices. And some lawmakers fear the creation of a new Wall Street casino at a time when Americans are still angry over investor excesses that touched off the deep recession.
Instead of a domestic climate change bill, Grassley said there should be an international deal that would force developing countries like China and India to take carbon-reduction steps along with developed countries such as the United States.
"People of good faith say the U.S. ought to pass a bill to set a standard for the rest of the world and the rest of the world will follow along. But if the rest of the world doesn't follow Uncle Sam, we soon become Uncle Sucker," Grassley said, citing job-loss fears if manufacturers move factories abroad to get unrestricted amounts of cheaper fossil fuels.
Ethan Siegal of The Washington Exchange, a private firm that tracks Congress and the White House for institutional investors, saw Congress eventually taking a less ambitious course -- one that many experts say will not come close to effectively addressing climate change problems.
He predicted a "down-sized energy bill next year" that could be a combination of tax credits for alternative energy sources, more offshore oil drilling and steps to promote nuclear energy.
If Congress fails to enact a climate change bill by December, as is widely expected, Chu said the United States can still show up in Copenhagen and point to climate control progress made this year.
Besides passage of a climate bill by the House of Representatives, Chu mentioned the $80 billion included in an economic stimulus law for investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy, along with new rules forcing car companies to build more fuel-efficient autos.
"It's quite clear the United States is very serious about decreasing its carbon footprint," Chu said.
(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, editing by Anthony Boadle)

http://planetark.org/wen/55165

White House Encouraged By Climate Bill Progress
Date: 23-Oct-09
Country:
 US
Author:
 Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON - The White House is encouraged by progress on a climate change bill going through the Senate and is working to advance it even if it is not completed by a December deadline, a key aide to President Barack Obama said on Thursday.
Carol Browner, Obama's top adviser on climate and energy issues, told Reuters that White House officials were reaching out to Democratic and Republican senators in an aggressive push to move the bill forward.
"There have been some bipartisan conversations that we find very encouraging," Browner said in an interview.
"We are going to continue to do everything in our power to keep this moving."
Browner said if a law is not passed by the time U.N. talks on a global warming pact begin in December in Copenhagen, the United States would still have a strong position on the issue in the negotiations.
"Wherever we are in the process, we will be able to manage in Copenhagen," she said.
Browner assuaged concerns from some critics that the president did not support a role for nuclear energy in the bill. Republicans such as John McCain have pushed for nuclear to have a more prominent place in the legislation.
"It's something that we believe should be in a comprehensive energy package," Browner said.
(Editing by David Alexander)

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c24c8c6a-be65-11de-b4ab-00144feab49a.html

Insurers call for action on climate change
By Paul J Davies, Insurance Correspondent
Published: October 21 2009 20:46 | Last updated: October 21 2009 20:46


The insurance industry will on Thursday add its voice to calls for more action to halt climate change. The industry says big cuts in emissions by developed countries and funding for developing countries to tackle climate change are needed to avoid a "systemic risk to the global economy".
Andrew Torrance, chairman of ClimateWise, an industry lobby group, and chief executive of Allianz Insurance in the UK, will tell a United Nations summit in South Africa that inaction could leave people unable to get insurance.


EDITOR'S CHOICE
In depth: Copenhagen climate summit - Sep-21
Prudential considers separate Asia listing - Oct-20
Nish steps up as Standard Life chief - Oct-19
Aviva aims to raise €1.2bn from Delta float - Oct-19
China Great Wall in insurance venture - Oct-19
Hardy to unveil Bahrain joint venture - Oct-19
"Climate change must be tackled now if insurers are to continue to play their fullest role in managing climate risk," he will say. "If governments fail to act today, substantial markets may become uninsurable tomorrow."
The industry fears that climate change will leave it facing bigger losses from more extreme weather events. "The risks that we face tomorrow mean that we will have to hold more capital because bad loss years will be much worse," Mr Torrance told the FT.
ClimateWise, which is looking to increase pressure on governments attendingDecember's climate change conference in Copenhagen, wants the developed world to agree a 40 per cent cut in emissions by 2020 and to strike a deal on the size and structure of the financing package to help the developing world tackle climate change.
"A new international deal is ultimately in all of our interests and the costs of transition to a low climate-risk economy are manageable," Mr Torrance will say. "Delay is not an option."
Insurance losses related to weather could rise by 75 per cent over the next 30 years, according to Mr Torrance. The industry has already seen a 15-fold rise in weather-related claims over the past 30 years due to increases in the frequency and intensity of storms.
However, academic and industry studies have found that all the increase in losses seen by insurers is due to socio-economic factors such as increasing wealth and greater concentrations of people in coastal areas such as Florida.
There is also significant debate in scientific circles about the influence of global warming on weather patterns.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/oct/22/climate-change-us-pew-survey

Number of Americans who believe in climate change drops, survey shows
Only 57% of Americans feel that the planet's atmosphere is warming, a fall from 77% two years agoSuzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 22 October 2009 19.22 BST
Article history

View of the planet Earth from outer space.
The number of Americans who believe in global warming has plummeted, falling 20% in two years, a survey said today.
Only 57% of Americans believe there is solid scientific evidence that the Earth's atmosphere is warming, said the poll of 1,500 people by the Pew Research Centre for the People & the Press.
That is a fall of 77% from 2007. The number of people who believe thathuman activity is causing global warming also fell to just 36%.
The public uncertainty about the evidence behind global warming comes as the Senate prepares to begin debate next week on climate changelegislation. Yesterday, 18 scientific organisations wrote Congress to reaffirm the consensus behind global warming.
Michael Dimock, the associate director of the Pew Centre, said the economic crisis and the struggles over healthcare reform had squeezed out climate change and the environment as issues of concern. "The public is just not as focused on global warming and environmental [issues] as they have been in the past."
But James Hoggan,  a PR executive and author of Climate Cover-Up, blamed an intense lobbying campaign against global warming legislation now before the Senate. "I would say a big part of this problem is this campaign to mislead Americans about climate science," he said. "This is a very sophisticated group of people who know how to create doubt and confusion and they have done a very good job of it."
 
The decline was sharpest among independent voters and Republicans. Republicans in Congress have almost uniformly lined up against climate change legislation. There were also regional differences, with people in the mid-west and Rocky mountain states less inclined to see climate change as a serious problem.

But the perceived lack of concrete evidence for global warming did not necessarily hurt the prospects of voting on climate change legislation, Dimock said. Half of Americans polled remain in favour of putting limits and carbon emissions and making companies pay for their emissions -- the basics of the cap and trade bill now before the Senate.
A majority, 56%, also want America to join other countries in a global agreement on climate change.

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/government-launches-map-to-highlight-global-warming-threat-1807237.html

(UK) Government launches map to highlight global warming threat
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Thursday, 22 October 2009
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Foreign Secretary David Miliband at the launch of the map at the Science Museum
 ENLARGE


A nightmare in the not-very-distant future: the map below shows the enormous temperature rises which British scientists believe the planet may be experiencing in as a little as 50 years from now if global warming remains unchecked.
Released by the Government today, it illustrates a rise in global average temperature of four degrees Centigrade by 2060, and as such represents a dramatic acceleration of previous forecasts made as recently as 2007 by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The point of the map, launched by the Foreign Secretary David Miliband and the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, his brother Ed, is to show that a four-degree average temperature rise over the whole globe (which takes into account the seas as well as the land surface) equates to very much greater rises over the land alone, especially at higher latitudes – as one goes north or south towards the poles. The darker the colour, the higher the heat increase.
Related articles Thus, although Britain may see an average rise of three degrees – which itself would have very damaging consequences in terms of drought and extreme heatwaves – Siberia and northern Canada may experience an immense rise of 12 degrees or even more. Scientists believe this may trigger a climate "tipping point" – the melting of the permafrost under the northern tundras which, if it happened, would release large amounts of trapped methane gas, which in turn would boost global warming yet further.
Over the Arctic Ocean in the far north, the rise might be a colossal 15 or even 16 degrees, which would mean the complete disappearance of all the Arctic ice in summer and spell extinction for ice-dependent wildlife such as polar bears and walruses.

But wildlife is the least of it. The map shows rises of five degrees in Asia, seven degrees in Africa and parts of the US and eight degrees in the Amazon rainforest, all of which will have devastating consequences for some of the world's poorest people. Rises like this are likely to lead to maize and wheat yields falling by 40 per cent across the world, and rice yields in China, India, Banglasdesh and Indonesia falling by 30 per cent – all at a time when world population is expected to grow from 6.9 billion today to more than 9 billion people.
Water resources are likely to be severely affected by a 70 per cent reduction in run-off around the Mediterranean, southern Africa and large areas of South America, forest fires are likely to be much more dangerous everywhere and warming-induced sea-level rise will affect millions more people in low-lying nations such as Bangladesh.
The IPCC's latest forecast, issued in 2007, suggested an average rise of 1.8 to four degrees by 2100, but recently Hadley Centre scientists have revised both the extent and the timescale, suggesting that if global warming remains unchecked, a four-degree rise is now possible as early as 2060 – very much in the lifetime of people born today. This is because emissions of carbon dioxide are rising around the world far faster than was anticipated even a few years ago.
In essence, the map represents what researchers now think likely to happen if emissions are not controlled by the world community, which is meeting at Copenhagen in December to try to construct a new global climate treaty.
Speaking at the Science Museum, where the map was launched, the Foreign Secretary warned of a "high pressure" future of water and food shortages, mass migration and conflict if the world failed to tackle the problem. "The reason for publishing this map is that for many people, not only in our own country but around the world, the penny hasn't yet dropped that this climate change challenge is real, it's happening now," David Miliband said. The effects were not in "some far flung future" but 4C rises could happen in his children's lifetime, he said, adding: "And the penny hasn't dropped that Copenhagen is the chance to address the challenge – on a global scale."


http://www.ericsson.com/ericsson/corporate_responsibility/cr08_doc/wwf_ericsson_5step_plan.pdf


A five-step-plan for a low carbon urban development Understanding and implementing low carbon ICT/telecom solutions  that help  economic development while reducing carbon emissions

Kyoto Scorecard for the industrialised nations

Thanks to Brian Carter for this one. You can access the full-size graphic by pressing the Ctrl key while clicking on the image in the Word document.




Sweden is labelling foods wrt carbon emissions

Thanks to Colin for forwarding this on


19.10.09

Canada's Rivers Are At Risk

For a full version of the report, see the WWF link.

http://www.globe-net.com/news/listing.cfm?newsID=4785
http://www.wwf.ca/conservation/freshwater/riversatrisk.cfm

Canada's Rivers Are At Risk

October 15, 2009
Canada's most precious natural resource - fresh water - is in jeopardy due to the effects of climate change and growing water demand, according to a new WWF-Canada report released today called Canada's Rivers at Risk: Environmental Flows and Canada's Freshwater Future.
The report uses a scientific approach that focuses on the importance of water flow to examine the health of 10 Canadian rivers and reveals that some are dangerously close to drying up. It concludes that we must value our fresh water differently and take immediate action to protect it.
Evaluating the health of our rivers according to what scientist refer to as environmental flows reveals a truer, and more troubling, picture of Canada's freshwater future than the more traditional focus on raw quantities of water within our borders. It forces us to look at the scale that matters most when it comes to fresh water - the watershed. When we do, we find that growing more food, generating more electricity, quenching the thirst of expanding cities, and fuelling industry, are taking their toll on the nation's rivers.  
"The combined threats of climate change and growing demand for fresh water by cities, agriculture and industry are converging on Canada's rivers," says Tony Maas, Director, Fresh Water for WWF-Canada.
"Even seemingly remote northern waters like the Mackenzie are at risk. As temperatures rise, and industrial water withdrawals and interest in hydropower increase, we must start planning now to protect river flows to ensure water security for the communities and economies that depend on them."  
Emerging threats: The report shows that the overallstatus of these rivers is troubling, due to three primary threats:
1.   Climate change is altering the entire context of water management, resulting in changing precipitation patterns, increasing evaporation, melting glaciers, and causing droughts and floods to become more frequent and intense;
2.   Growing water demands by expanding industries, agriculture and urban growth, are drawing down rivers to sometimes dangerously low levels; and
3.   Growing demand for low-carbon energy is driving construction of new hydropower projects which can alter river flows and cause species and ecosystems to suffer.  
 


Required action: The report recommends two critical points of action for restoration and protection of river flows. First, the federal government must play a much stronger role in Canadian water stewardship. The Mackenzie River is emerging as a national priority for freshwater conservation.
The federal government can play a much stronger leadership role in protecting the waters of this vast watershed by facilitating implementation of the Mackenzie River Transboundary Water Agreement to ensure increasingly intensive development in upstream jurisdictions does not impair the health of the river, and the communities, downstream. 
Among the most urgent priorities for federal government leadership in the Mackenzie watershed is the is the development of an enforceable water management framework to secure environmental flows in the Athabasca River in the face of growing water withdrawals by industry.    
Second, to avoid irreparable damage, the report recommends there must be a long-term plan to keep rivers flowing for people and nature. This includes strong federal leadership to address climate change - both at the UN Climate Conference this December, as well as in implementing a credible, national action plan to reduce emissions and put strategies into place for adapting to a changing freshwater future across Canada  
"These issues are of a scope and scale that require national leadership on fresh water in Canada now," said Gerald Butts, President and CEO, WWF-Canada. "Water is our most important national resource. Our responsibility is to steward it wisely to ensure that future Canadians can benefit from it as we do today." 
River Summaries:   
Skeena River, BC - supports Canada's second largest wild salmon fishery (worth $110 million annually). Proposed development of mines, coal bed methane fields, oil and gas pipelines, and run-of-river hydropower projects could significantly affect the Skeena's natural flow and potentially compromise the watershed's incredible biodiversity and ecosystem functions.   
Mackenzie River, NWT, YK, BC, AL, SK - is one of the world's longest free flowing rivers and plays an important role in regulating ocean circulation and climate. The Mackenzie watershed has experienced greater temperature increases than anywhere else in Canada which further impacts flows, and growing interest in hydropower development is an emerging threat.  
Fraser River, BC - contributes to 80 per cent of the province's economic output and produces more salmon than any other river on earth. Its fishing industry is worth over $300 million annually. Major dams on the Fraser's tributaries, drainage for flood control, and withdrawals for agriculture and urban use have compromised flow within the watershed.  
Athabasca River, AL - provides the greatest direct inflow of water to the world's largest boreal freshwater delta - the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Together, the river and the delta support over 30 species of fish and more than a million migratory birds each year. The amount of water taken for development is projected to increase by at least 200 per cent by 2015.   
Nipigon River, ON - was once a turbulent river but now its flows are highly regulated. Only three meters of its original 95-metre vertical drop remains unharnessed by dams. However, it is a great example of what is possible in terms of restoring river health - even in the face of significant  threats. Operation of hydropower dams on the river have been improved to restore flows to more natural conditions, and the ecosystem and fish populations are showing strong signs of recovery.  
South Saskatchewan River, SK, AL - is Canada's most threatened river. Hundreds of dams exist throughout its watershed and 70% of the flow is withdrawn for agricultural and urban use. The water scarcity typical of the region's arid climate is expected to intensify under climate change, which experts describe as an emerging water crisis.  
Grand River, ON - is one of the most regulated rivers in Canada - more than 100 dams and control structures along the Grand and its tributaries have significantly altered the river's natural flow regime. Increased demand for water to supply growing cities is a growing threat.  
St. Lawrence River, QU - drains water from the world's largest freshwater ecosystem, the Great Lakes. Its natural flow has been drastically altered and is currently in a declining state due to numerous hydropower dams and the infrastructure developed to create the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is one of the world's busiest shipping corridors.  
Saint John River, NB, QU - is the longest river in Atlantic Canada. Hydropower dams on the river have dramatically altered river flows and contributed to the decline of the Atlantic salmon population that is now endangered. Downstream from the dams, river flows can fluctuate by as much as 91% over a 24-hour period; at times flows are reduced to the point that the riverbed almost dries up.   
Ottawa River, ON, QU - is severely fragmented by hydropower dams in both the Quebec and Ontario portions of its watershed, the Ottawa is one of the most regulated river systems in Canada. Its natural flow regimes have been dramatically altered, compromising habitat and the diversity and distribution of the river's fish and shoreline vegetation.   -   
The full report and an executive summary are available at www.wwf.ca/rivers

Carbon Newsclips: a month in the Economist

The Economist magazine has had a series of excellent articles on carbon managment and climate change over the past month.

Some interesting bits from around the world.

- Electronic tolling leads to healthier babies. Really!
- The US might get bipartisan support for a climate change bill, if that bill supports nuclear energy
- Britain's experience with GHG reduction highlights the pitfalls of policy -- and taxing carbon might be the best way forward
- The impact of climate change on crops is varied but alarming
- A few articles detail how the discussions ahead of Copenhagen are not going well
- The penultimate article, on the impacts of climate change on developing countries, is particularly disturbing in its implications
- The last article descibes a scientific article (attached) comparing GHG emissions across several major urban agglomerations around the world. Of particular interest to those interested in the "smart city" concept, as the conclusion points to the importance of policy and urban planning decisions.

Enjoy...
Jean-Francois


http://www.economist.com/sciencetechnology/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=14660588

Life toll
Oct 15th 2009 
From Economist.com



Not all unintended consequences are bad

FOR the weary traveller, the Art Deco arches at the entrance to the Lincoln tunnel in New Jersey signal that the joys of midtown Manhattan are just an $8 toll away. Before October 1997 getting through those arches took a lot longer than it does now. But then E-ZPass, an automatic toll-payment system used across America's north-east, was installed at some of the tunnel's toll lanes.

The adoption of E-ZPass is reckoned to have reduced delays at the tunnel and other toll booths by around 85%. This meant less time and fuel wasted while drivers waited, engines idling, to pay their tolls. But speedier passage through toll booths has also meant less local pollution. A study by Janet Currie and Reed Walker of Columbia University finds this has had unexpected benefits.

A lot of Americans live close to busy main roads. The researchers looked at medical data on all children born to women in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who lived within 2km of a highway during periods when most toll booths acquired E-ZPass. They found that almost 12% fewer babies with abnormally low birth-weights were born to women who lived within 2km of a toll booth after E-ZPass was introduced. There was no change for children born to mothers who lived further away from a toll booth. There was a similar effect on premature births.

By looking at the profiles of the women studied, the authors ruled out the possibility that richer or healthier people were moving into the homes in question. Reduced congestion, it seems, does a lot more than soothe ratty drivers. Those who signed up for E-ZPass inadvertently did a large number of children (and the American health-care system, which must deal with the consequences of poor child health) a favour. As tales of unintended consequences go, this is a happy one.



http://www.economist.com/opinion/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=14649098

Bad policy will boil the planet
Oct 15th 2009 
From The Economist print edition



Lessons from Britain about how to cut carbon, and how not to


Illustration by David Simonds


AS THE December Copenhagen conference on climate change approaches, the world's attention is focused on international negotiations. But they are not, ultimately, what will determine whether the planet boils or not. International agreements are helpful only in so far as they encourage individual countries to control their own emissions. What matters most is the domestic policies which those countries put in place, and their governments' success in implementing them.

That's why the report by Britain's Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is important. It shows how weak policy has been, and suggests ways of strengthening it (see article). Most of their ideas are good, and one of them is bad.


Careful, it's sensitive

Britain's headline figures are fairly impressive. Its greenhouse-gas emissions have fallen by 15% since 1990—comfortably inside its target under the Kyoto protocol—compared with a 2% drop in the EU as a whole and a 14% rise in America. Most of the decline in Britain, however, is the result not of a big policy effort but of the "dash for gas"—the move away from coal-fired power stations that followed the end of coal mining. The decline has now almost stopped. Emissions are falling by less than a percentage point a year, and the government has admitted that it will fail to meet a self-imposed target of a 20% reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions on 1990 levels by next year, even though the recession has cut economic activity. Policy, in other words, is not driving emissions reductions.

It was to change this that the government set up the CCC. Cutting carbon is politically sensitive because it involves pushing up energy prices. The CCC is independent enough to criticise the weakness of existing policy and come up with ideas for strengthening it.

There are three sorts of policies in place now to help cut carbon emissions—carbon pricing, regulations to encourage efficient use of energy and subsidies for renewable energy. None of these is having much effect in Britain. The carbon price, set by the European Emissions-Trading Scheme (ETS), is too low to make a lot of difference—not just because economies have been in recession but also because governments have resisted the European Commission's attempts to impose tighter emissions limits. Britain has become a little more energy efficient, year by year, but there's plenty of scope to push that further. Attempts to encourage renewable energy have had so little effect that its contribution to Britain's electricity supply increased from 1% in 1995 to only 1.3% in 2005. Among EU countries, only Luxembourg and Malta did worse over the period.

How to strengthen policy? The CCC has plenty of ideas. The best of them is to raise the carbon price. That is hard within an ETS controlled by the European Commission: the most Britain can do is argue against the countries (Italy and most of eastern Europe) that want looser emissions caps. But Britain could perfectly well introduce a carbon tax on top of the EU scheme, as France has done.

Another good idea is for the government to audit the housing stock and tell householders how to cut their emissions and their bills. Buildings waste a huge amount of energy, and since the market does a bad job of making them more efficient, some government intervention may be necessary. The committee's only really bad idea is feed-in tariffs—hefty subsidies to renewable energy—of a sort used in many European countries. They are less efficient than a carbon price and distort the market—witness Spain's solar feed-in tariff, which caused a boom in the industry, followed by a bust this year.

Governments regard subsidies as easier, politically, than taxing carbon. In the short term, they are right; but in the long term, bad policy will raise the costs of decarbonising the world economy, thus increasing the danger of a taxpayers' revolt—which would be the biggest political difficulty of all.

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The road to 60
Oct 15th 2009 | NEW YORK 
From The Economist print edition



Signs of bipartisanship on the climate-change bill

MANY commentators fear that Barack Obama's plans for a cap-and-trade bill have got fatally stuck in the Senate. Their calculations were shaken up over the weekend when Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, joined John Kerry, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat, to write an article headlined "Yes We Can (Pass Climate Change Legislation)" in the New York Times. Mr Kerry is the main author of the Senate's cap-and-trade bill. Mr Graham is no squishy moderate, but he is an occasional dealmaker. When he crosses the aisle, it tends to matter.

The part most likely to bring a few extra Republicans on board concerns nuclear power. The two call for streamlining regulations on new plant construction, and putting more money into research on handling waste. This sop to nuclear power is more likely than anything else to bring on board John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and a strong nuclear supporter. Green Democrats are wary of nuclear, but the edge of their worry has been dulled by the even greater worry over climate change. Barbara Boxer, the Democratic head of the environment committee, has admitted that she may not be able to hold the line against nuclear power.

The second main provision of the Kerry-Graham agreement is renewed offshore drilling for oil and gas. Many conservatives want to mitigate America's energy-security problems by looking to domestic fossil fuels. This has nothing to do with reducing carbon emissions, but it might help a bill that does contain carbon caps to pass.

The third announcement from Senators Kerry and Graham is that "we should consider a border tax" on goods from countries with lax environmental standards. This will cause righteous howls from the big developing countries, especially China and India, which note America's historical responsibility for the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If included in the final bill, it would make a deal at the climate summit in Copenhagen in December more difficult. But the weasel-word "should consider" may eventually mean giving the president a lot of discretion on whether to levy such "carbon tariffs". In other words, a classic fudge.

Will the Kerry-Graham intervention work? Besides Mr McCain, other Republicans with a history of sympathy to cap-and-trade, like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, could be persuaded by it to sign on. A strong nuclear commitment could tempt Georgia's Johnny Isakson and Tennessee's Lamar Alexander, both of whom have leant strongly against the bill in the past. The trick is getting Republicans on board to assure passage without alienating Democrats, of which the majority can afford to lose very few. Democratic senators from conservative coal states are particularly nervous. Getting to 60 votes, enough to defeat a filibuster, is still a tall order. For cap-and-trade, it may require greasing the wheels with giveaways to favoured industries, not to mention the dodgy carbon tariffs. The maths is still daunting. But the leap by Mr Graham, who voted against two earlier cap-and-trade bills, may well mean something.

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Errors of omission
Oct 5th 2009 
From Economist.com



Climate-change models must become even more complex

BUMBLEBEES cannot fly—or so physical models are said to have shown. That the insects routinely become airborne demonstrates the shortcomings of some theoretical accounts of the world. But one of the strengths of the scientific method is that, when presented with evidence that discredits their theories, scientists are forced to concede that their models are wrong and endeavour to learn from the failure. In science, observation always trumps theory, no matter how elegant the theory might be.

The same is true of theoretical models of climate change. Over the past decade there have been large variations in the projected increase in global temperatures and sea levels over the coming years. The range has been great because climatologists simply do not know exactly how different factors will influence one another. As data accumulate, the true picture will emerge.


Alamy


Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at the American space agency NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, reckons that models of climate change will have to become far more complex. Scientists tend to study individual components of climate change separately. In the real world, such factors interact not only with one another in complicated ways but also with social, economic and political factors that further compound the complexity. Writing in the October issue of Physics World, Dr Schmidt highlights how these interactions can produce surprising results.

For example, burning coal releases carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas that warms the planet), sulphur dioxide (which produces sulphate aerosols in the air that block the sun's radiation and hence reduce temperatures) and soot (which increases the solar radiation absorbed in the atmosphere and on land and thus warms the world). Modelling these interactions is tough, not least because they also have indirect effects by influencing cloud formation, for example.

Adding local conditions to the picture makes things more difficult still. In America and Europe, laws to protect air quality mean that, when coal is used to generate power, it produces relatively little sulphur dioxide or soot. If these places wish to reduced the impact that burning coal makes on the climate, they must either burn less coal or develop ways of sequestering the carbon dioxide so produced.

In India and China, by contrast, there are no such regulations. Coal is burned primarily in homes, at a lower-than-optimal temperature that produces not only carbon dioxide but also large quantities of sulphur dioxide and soot. Power stations burn coal at a higher temperature and produce less sulphur dioxide but also significantly less soot. So merely connecting villages to the electricity grid can shift the mixture of emissions, and thus the impact on the climate, even if the actual amount of coal consumed remains the same.

Models of the climate may thus have to become more comprehensive—embracing human, as well as physical factors—which means that they may also become more vague. Yet these models are still the best predictions of the future that science can muster. As Thomas Knutson of Princeton University and Robert Tuleya of the Old Dominion University, Virginia, wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Climate in December 2005, in response to the critical reception of their earlier study on the intensities of future hurricanes, "If we had observations of the future, we obviously would trust them more than models, but unfortunately observations of the future are not available at this time."

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Seasonally adjusted
Oct 1st 2009 
From The Economist print edition



Global warming will make it harder to feed the world in 2050

SINCE time immemorial, farmers have planted their crops according to the seasons. "That is what my forefathers have been doing," says Mohammad Ilisasuddin in Shibganj, in northern Bangladesh, but now "the weather does not seem right for what we have done traditionally." Seasonal planting is "useless", agrees Florence Madamu, a smallholder in Bulirehe, in western Uganda. "The sun is prolonged until the end of September and whenever it rains, it rains so heavily it destroys all our crops." Oxfam, a British charity, has compiled a litany of laments by poor farmers. John Magrath, a researcher, says they all say similar things: "moderate, temperate seasons are shrinking…rainy seasons are shorter and more violent…making it more difficult to grow crops [and] difficult for them to know when best to plant."

As the earth warms up, many have feared that farmers will pay a high price. But working out who will pay, how, and where is tricky. Higher temperatures might turn arid shrub lands into deserts while improving the growing season in colder steppes. Global warming could produce more evaporation from plants, and more rain, which would benefit some places, while hurting others. In theory extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should help plants grow faster, though whether this actually happens may also depend on the amount of nitrogen in the soil.

In the most comprehensive effort* so far to think these questions through, the International Food Policy Research Institute, a think-tank in Washington, DC, has reached some sobering conclusions. In parts of the developing world some crop yields in 2050 could be only half of their 2000 levels. Irrigation may not help: climate change will hit irrigated systems harder than rain-fed ones. And the hope that gainers from climate change will outweigh losers looks vain: the damage from higher temperatures and erratic rainfall will be too big.

In its forecast IFPRI started with the "A2 scenario" of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is the second-gloomiest of six IPCC scenarios (it assumes the world will be releasing roughly twice as much CO2 in 2050 as it does now) and says the oceans' surface temperature will rise by around 1.6°C by 2050.

However, this says nothing about the temperature and rainfall patterns that would result on farmland. To forecast those, IFPRI fed the IPCC assumptions into two climate-change models, one run by America's National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the other by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

These gave different descriptions of the world in 2050. NCAR thinks the climate would be hotter and wetter, with rainfall about 10% heavier than now. The CSIRO forecasts that there would be 2% more rain. There were big regional disparities, too: CSIRO forecast the sharpest increases in temperature in southern Africa; NCAR sees Russia and Canada heating up more. To take account of the differences IFPRI fed both forecasts into its own computer, which describes how every agricultural region and, in some places, practically every farm, responds to changes in temperature and rainfall.

The results varied less than the assumptions. In developing countries, IFPRI found, irrigated wheat in 2050 would yield 34% less than in 2000, using NCAR data; and 28% less going by CSIRO figures. For irrigated rice, the declines would be 19% and 14% (see chart). These falls are large but not unlikely: scientists in South Africa recently said the region could see a 50% fall in cereals productivity by 2080.




Bad though they are, the average declines hide even more disturbing variations. Latin America comes out of the exercise relatively well: the yields of its main crops are expected to fall by only a few percent. China's farming may also be more resilient than it sometimes appears. But South Asia, the world's most heavily populated region, looks vulnerable: IFPRI forecasts a possible 50% fall in its wheat yield in 2050 (one-sixth of all the world's wheat grows on the north Indian plain). In the Middle East the institute predicts yield declines of 47% for maize and 30% for rice.

As patterns of production shift, argues Jerry Nelson, the report's lead author, it becomes all the more important to liberalise farm trade, so that farming keeps pace with changing comparative advantage. But overall, he argues, the yield declines are so great that only another round of technological change—a new Green Revolution—would be enough to offset them. In principle, such a thing looks possible: the technology to double or triple many crop yields exists in laboratories. The problem is to get it into the fields. To that end, last week's G20 meeting in Pittsburgh promised to put more taxpayer money into farm research and other help for agriculture.

The ups and downs of diplomacy used to be compared to the cycle of the seasons. But as poor smallholders are finding out, the seasons are not what they were.

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Avoiding a crash at Copenhagen
Sep 24th 2009 
From The Economist print edition



How to get negotiations on the right track for a deal


Illustration by David Simonds


THE diplomatic process leading up to the climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December is gathering speed. Preparatory meetings are flashing by: the Major Economies Forum last week, the UN climate-change summit and the G20 this week, pre-Copenhagen negotiations in Bangkok next week. The people who run the world are burning carbon like never before to try to agree a successor treaty to the Kyoto protocol.

That so much energy is being focused on solving this most intractable of problems is a good thing. Unfortunately, much of it is misdirected. The Kyoto protocol was a flawed treaty, and if negotiators continue to follow its precepts too slavishly, the world risks ending up with a diplomatic train-wreck.


Stalled in the Senate

Over the past year things have been looking up for the effort to avert serious climate change. In America President Barack Obama is committed and the House of Representatives has passed the Waxman-Markey bill to curb emissions. In Japan the change of government has produced a pledge to reduce emissions by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020. And at the UN summit China's president, Hu Jintao, promised to cut the carbon intensity of China's economy by a "notable margin" by 2020.

But in recent months the political process in America has stalled. The administration's problem was always going to be the Senate, which decides whether to ratify international treaties, and doesn't much like doing so. The deal agreed upon at Kyoto, which required developed countries to bind themselves internationally to numerical targets, was anathema. The Senate had made it clear it would reject the Kyoto protocol well before George Bush had abandoned it.

The administration's plan was to get legislation in place before Copenhagen. But many senators do not much like the Waxman-Markey bill either, and it is unlikely to be passed before the summit, if at all. The administration therefore faces the prospect of going to Copenhagen without domestic legislation in place, and of either committing itself to a numerical target (acceptable to the foreigners but not the Senate) or failing to commit itself to one (more acceptable to the Senate but not to the foreigners). And a bust-up in Copenhagen would make it harder to get legislation passed next year.

There is an alternative: moving the negotiations onto a different diplomatic track. Kyoto's approach has not obviously paid off. Global carbon-dioxide emissions have grown by 25% since the protocol was adopted in 1997. That is partly because the treaty left out big emissions sources such as deforestation (see article), but also because potential participants were put off by the idea of internationally binding commitments.

Australia has proposed another route. All countries would come up with a "national schedule" of programmes, such as cap-and-trade and low-carbon regulations. Developed countries would also specify an amount by which they mean to reduce their emissions. These commitments would have the force of domestic law, but would not be subject to international sanctions. That's probably what Mr Obama meant when he spoke at the summit of the need for countries to "stand behind" their commitments. American legislators would find this more palatable; so would developing countries, which fear that internationally binding commitments could be used as justifications for imposing tariffs on them.

Opponents of this approach complain that unless the targets are internationally binding, and there is a compliance mechanism to enforce them, any global agreement will be toothless. Yet Kyoto, in truth, has no teeth. In theory, it has a compliance mechanism: countries that fail to meet their targets in one period will be expected to make even bigger cuts in the next. But it will not be enforced. At the last count, Canada had overshot its Kyoto target by 29%, and everybody knows it will not be punished. Nor are internationally binding targets necessary for getting countries to cut emissions. China, while resisting such targets, may have done more to curb emissions growth than any other country in recent years. And measures that have the force of domestic law are more likely to stick than those signed up to in a treaty under diplomatic pressure.

If America is prepared to commit itself to internationally binding targets, all well and good. But insisting that there is no alternative, as most of its negotiating partners do publicly, is dangerous. If its senators feel America is being pushed too far too fast, they will be less inclined to commit the country to emissions cuts; and, whatever Mr Obama's inclinations, promises that are not backed by lawmakers won't stick in the long run. There is not much time before Copenhagen, but there is enough to open up an alternative track.

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Fine words
Sep 24th 2009 | NEW YORK 
From The Economist print edition



But no specifics


Getty Images

Hu outdid Obama on avoiding targets

WITH just over 70 days to go until the global climate-change summit in Copenhagen this December, miserably little progress has been made. Green types had hoped that a big meeting this week in New York, scheduled around the UN General Assembly, might move things forward. Those hopes were more or less dashed.

A speech by Barack Obama on September 22nd acknowledged that America—which failed to ratify the Kyoto protocol limiting emissions of greenhouse gases by rich countries—has some catching up to do. He made clear the dangers of rapid climate change, urging the world to act "boldly, swiftly and together" to avert an "irreversible catastrophe". But he offered little that was either practical or specific.

To some extent Mr Obama was upstaged by China's president, Hu Jintao, who at least offered some details of the steps that his country is taking. He described how, from 2005 to 2010, the country has set itself targets for lowering energy intensity—the energy required to produce a unit of GDP. And he said China will go further in the coming years, by trying actually to cut the carbon emissions per dollar of GDP produced, for example by using more renewable and nuclear energy. But Mr Hu did not offer hard numbers either, only promising a reduction by a "notable amount". Since China's GDP is growing so rapidly, even if it cuts the carbon intensity of its economy, its overall emissions will probably continue to grow.

This is unlikely to be enough to convince sceptics in America's Congress who want China to commit to hard targets before—or at least at the same time as—America does. The cap-and-trade bill in Congress offers a target that many Europeans consider to be too feeble anyway—a 17% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2020. And even that is imperilled by almost total Republican opposition, and the nervousness of moderate Democrats in vulnerable electoral districts. Mr Obama could use his influence to try and push the bill though the Senate, where it is languishing. But he and Congress are both stuck in the mire of health-care reform, so the chances of progress in time for Copenhagen grow slighter by the day.

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Nice words
Sep 23rd 2009 | NEW YORK 
From Economist.com



Leaders offer little of substance at the latest climate change gathering in New York


AP/AFP


JUST over 70 days to go and there is miserably little progress yet. The outlook for the global summit on climate change to be held in Copenhagen in December is uncertain. The current version of the draft outcome document for the meeting is hundreds of pages long, with thousands of passages in brackets representing points of disagreement. Climate-watchers are steadily lowering their expectations. They had hoped that activities this week in New York, scheduled around the UN General Assembly, might move things forward. So far there is little to cheer.

speech by Barack Obama on Tuesday September 22nd was eagerly awaited. He acknowledged that America—which failed to ratify the Kyoto protocol, encouraging industrialised countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases—has some catching up to do. He made clear the dangers of rapid climate change, urging the world to act "boldly, swiftly and together" to avert an "irreversible catastrophe". But he offered little that was practical or specific, beyond noting that America would start measuring its greenhouse-gas emissions more exactly, to better assess what progress is being made. He struck an urgent tone but there was little punch to the speech. A spokesman for Oxfam, an aid agency, responded ruefully that someone had "switched the coffee to decaf at today's UN climate summit".

To some extent Mr Obama was upstaged by China's president, Hu Jintao, who at least offered some specific details of steps that his country is taking. He described how, in China's five-year economic plan from 2006-2010, the country has set itself targets of energy intensity—the energy required to produce a unit of GDP. Mr Hu says that China will go further in the coming years, by trying to cut the carbon emissions per dollar of GDP produced, for example by developing renewable and nuclear energy. "We will endeavour to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15% by 2020", he said. He also touted plans to extend an existing reforestation programme: 18%, or 175m hectares, of Chinese land is forested today; the government wants to see another 40m hectares added by 2020. China is now the world's biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, and its emissions are rising rapidly as its economy grows. Mr Hu wants to show the world that he is taking concerns about the climate seriously.

However the Chinese president did not offer hard targets on the main issue, carbon intensity, only promising a reduction by a "notable amount". As long as China continues to add coal-fired power at an alarming rate, Mr Hu's promises will not satisfy those who worry that global carbon emissions are growing too quickly. Nor is his speech likely to be enough to convince sceptics in America's Congress who want China to commit to hard targets before—or at least at the same time as—America does.

The cap-and-trade bill in Congress offers a target that many Europeans consider to be weak—a 17% reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2020. But even that is imperilled by almost total Republican opposition, and the nervousness of moderate Democrats in vulnerable electoral districts.

Whatever Mr Obama's personal commitment to doing something about climate change, he has a limited ability to enforce new policies. He has the power to do some things by executive decision, and has done so with efficiency standards on light bulbs and cars. And a 2007 court decision has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency can directly regulate greenhouse-gas emissions which are considered an "endangerment", a power that Mr Obama has threatened to use. But all sides in America agree that legislation would be more comprehensive than an executive order.

But the slow progress of the bill through Congress has foreign partners running out of patience with the excuse that the health-care bill must come first, or that Congress really is complex. America must move at the same time as other economies, rich and poor alike, a dilemma Scott Barrett, an economist at Columbia University, calls the "biggest collective-action problem in human history". The lack of pace of cap-and-trade in the Senate is an ominous sign.



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Last gasp for the forest
Sep 24th 2009 
From The Economist print edition



A new climate treaty could provide a highly effective way to reduce carbon emissions by paying people to not cut down forests

IN THE south-eastern corner of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, in the municipality of Novo Aripuanã, there is thick forest cover—for now. But as new, paved highways are driven into the trees, illegal loggers inevitably follow. At the current rate of deforestation, around one-third of the forest in Amazonas will have been lost by 2050, releasing a colossal 3.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Novo Aripuanã is the site of a novel response to this threat: the Juma Sustainable Development Reserve, an area of 600,000 hectares (1.2m acres) bordered by two highways. This is a nature reserve with an unusual twist: local people will be paid to prevent the trees from being cut down. Each family in the area has been issued with a debit card. Regular inspections will ensure that the trees are still standing: as long as they are, families will have 50 reais ($28) a month credited to their accounts.

These funds come from the rich world, where governments and companies that cannot reduce their own emissions cheaply are prepared to pay others to reduce emissions on their behalf (as "carbon offsets"). Not cutting down trees in endangered areas prevents emissions that would otherwise have occurred, which gives untouched forest huge financial value—and provides people who live in the forest with an incentive to preserve it.


Still Pictures


This idea is known as "avoided deforestation" or "reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation" (REDD). At the moment REDD is not so much a plan as a collection of proposals and some working schemes, like Juma. The fate of the forests in Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines (pictured above) and elsewhere around the world could hang on the success of this approach. But there will need to be substantial international commitments to reduce global emissions to create demand for the carbon offsets that REDD schemes can provide. This means a lot hangs on a deal being struck in December in Copenhagen, where countries will meet to negotiate a new climate treaty.


Burning problems

Amid concern that progress towards a new treaty is slipping, Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, hosted a summit in New York this week to encourage nations to agree to carbon-reducing policies. REDD was high on the agenda, and governments and the private sector were urged to start investing in such schemes. There has also been talk of wrapping up carbon offsets into "forest bonds" to interest pension funds.

Preventing deforestation is potentially one of the simplest ways to reduce global emissions. At the moment, carbon emissions from deforestation account for some 18% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, more than all the world's trains, cars, lorries, aeroplanes and ships combined. Reducing deforestation and land-degradation will be vital if temperature increases are to be kept to within safe levels (generally assumed to mean no more than about a 2°C increase). Some argue it would be a quicker and cheaper way of reducing emissions than many alternatives, such as weaning the world's vehicle fleet off fossil fuels, forcing people to cut back on energy use or switching to low-carbon forms of power generation, such as wind farms and nuclear power. All those things will be necessary too, but they will take a long time, will require new technologies and cause controversies of their own.

Paying people to not chop down trees looks easy by comparison. It does not depend on any elaborate or costly new technology and is likely to be able to garner the required political support. Achim Steiner, the head of the UN's environment programme, thinks avoided deforestation should be an easy thing to sell. As well as reducing carbon emissions, keeping forests standing also protects soil from erosion, improves the quality of water, helps regulate rainfall and ensures biodiversity. "How on earth can we not afford to make this work?" he asks.


Still Pictures

Learning in the forest

But if it is to work, REDD must address the failings of the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which forms part of the Kyoto protocol, the 1997 treaty that aims to curb greenhouse gases. Since 2006, the CDM has allowed developing countries to sell carbon offsets, known as credits, for adopting green technology: switching an entire village to energy-saving light bulbs, for example, or planting lots of trees. The CDM has been criticised, however, for allowing countries to sell credits even for dubious things like building dams. There are also concerns about enforcement. And the Kyoto rules do not allow countries to sell offsets from avoided-deforestation schemes. Planting new trees qualified, but refraining from cutting down existing ones did not.

REDD raises further concerns of its own. One of the main criticisms of it is that some rich countries might, in effect, outsource the tricky business of reducing carbon emissions to the developing world, by buying carbon offsets and continuing with business as usual at home. Some also wonder if the promised amount of carbon reduction could be so large. Gilberto Câmara, head of Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (which monitors deforestation from space), thinks that REDD's capacity to deliver global emissions cuts is being oversold. Based on his analysis of Brazil, which accounts for 40% of the world's deforestation, he says there is no way the world can cut 18% or so of emissions through avoided deforestation. This figure is based on outdated estimates of the rate of deforestation, which has fallen dramatically in Brazil in recent years, he says.

This highlights another problem with REDD: it is hard to say how much deforestation there would have been anyway. Benchmarking REDD schemes against existing data, which can be out of date with higher rates of attrition, would give an exaggerated impression of their effectiveness, overstating the volume of emissions that had been prevented and causing rich countries to pay too much.

Nicholas Stern, a British economist and author of a report for the British government which put avoided deforestation on the climate agenda in 2007, says the exact amount by which emissions can be reduced is not terribly important. "It actually doesn't matter whether it is 15% or 20%—the point is that it is big," he says. What if Dr Câmara is right and avoided deforestation can reduce emissions only by, say, 10%? "I suspect it is not that low, but 10% is still a big slice," says Lord Stern. "The point is to get the mechanisms going and the funding at a serious level."

A further difficulty is that countries that have already taken effective action to prevent deforestation, such as Costa Rica, will be unable to benefit from a REDD scheme; it would, paradoxically, end up rewarding the worst offenders, since they would have the greatest scope to mend their ways, and get paid to do so. Various proposals have been put forward to pay retrospective rewards to such well-behaved countries.

Provided these problems can be overcome, what would REDD cost? Again, hard and fast figures are difficult to come by. The cost of setting up and running REDD schemes is unclear, and successful efforts to reduce deforestation would probably drive up timber prices, which might then make it necessary to pay more to prevent deforestation. Estimates for the cost of halving the rate of deforestation (and therefore reducing global emissions by as much as 9%) range from $7 billion to $28 billion a year. These costs do not include the initial set-up process, during which appropriate enforcement mechanisms would need to be put in place in leafy-but-dodgy countries.

If avoided deforestation is to work on a global scale, it will need to involve Indonesia and Congo, countries where corruption and mass deforestation go hand in hand. So REDD projects will require reporting, auditing and monitoring mechanisms. The advent of low-cost satellite imagery will help, but all this will still be expensive.


Seeing the wood

Assuming world leaders cut emissions by 20-40% relative to 1990 levels, however, the scale of the investments required would be about right, according to the International Institute for Environment and Development. This British think-tank says the global carbon market will be worth $118 billion a year, so if 10% of the reduction in emissions was achieved by purchasing REDD offsets, forest-carbon credits will be worth $11.8 billion a year.

The world has rallied around the idea of REDD with remarkable speed. The UN, the World Bank and governments in several countries, including Australia, Britain and particularly Norway, have already stumped up around $800m over the past two years to get REDD projects going. Benoit Bosquet, head of the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, says early funding is important to allow organisers to get started in anticipation of a new global climate agreement.

Even if the world fails to reach a deal in Copenhagen, REDD schemes like the one in Juma will not grind to a halt. Many countries, notably America, are expected to rely heavily on the purchase of forest-carbon credits as part of their efforts to reduce emissions.

One way to do this is for governments and companies in particular countries to fund REDD projects in other countries directly. The drawback of this approach is that instead of bringing into being a truly international market for carbon credits, it looks rather more like traditional bilateral aid. Such projects would also be vulnerable to political manipulation. For example, if America started bilaterally financing REDD projects it is easy to imagine that the State Department would insist on having a say over which countries should receive funds and which should not. The result could be a kind of arboreal Washington consensus, with an approved set of tree-related economic-policy prescriptions

Another disadvantage is that different schemes will end up being subject to different rules, regulations and standards, so it will be difficult to compare them. If private-sector investors are to provide capital for REDD schemes, they would much prefer an international trading scheme where credits are fungible across the entire market. Abyd Karmali, head of carbon emissions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says such a scheme would set a harmonised standard for forest-carbon credits and might include rules for profit-sharing with indigenous communities or local landowners, monitoring and verifying credits and protecting biodiversity. Without such standards, he says, the result could be "sustainability arbitrage", where project developers and companies flock towards less sustainable schemes that offer cheaper credits.

There are also concerns about market-based schemes. Even though markets could provide much-needed finance for REDD schemes, many people are uncomfortable that they could also yield big profits for investors and landowners. In China, a market-based scheme to encourage companies to phase out a powerful greenhouse gas, HFC-23, produced such enormous windfall profits for some companies that the government felt it necessary to impose a 65% tax, with the proceeds invested in green development projects.

It seems likely, however, that REDD will start off as a series of funded projects, with a market in forest-carbon credits emerging in a few years' time, depending on what happens at the Copenhagen meeting. Many people expect that ultimately both approaches will co-exist.

However they end up working, REDD schemes will still face the question of how to distribute the money they produce. Governments could launch national initiatives to prevent deforestation, selling credits and directing the proceeds to the activities it believes are effective. One advantage of this country-level approach is that any "leakage" of deforestation (where a forest protected in one area shifts deforestation to another) would be easier to control. But governments will need to distribute some of the money on the ground—especially if the locals feel they have every right to cut down their trees.

In Juma, in addition to the payments made directly to local people, proceeds from the scheme also support investment in schools, hospitals, transport, communications and helping people find new, sustainable sources of income. All of this makes REDD look very much like traditional development aid. But Mr Karmali says he would not want to get involved with any REDD project that did not involve local communities and environmental groups. "We can't make the mistake of thinking we have all the answers," he says.


Watching carefully

Preventing deforestation does not simply involve close monitoring of forests themselves. Mr Bosquet of the World Bank thinks the forces driving deforestation "are mostly outside the forest sector and are the big challenge for REDD." Dr Câmara points out that in Brazil 90% of deforestation is illegal encroachment driven by the desire to make money from timber and agricultural products grown on cleared land, such as soyabeans. Rather than paying money to criminals, he says, international traders should refuse to buy timber, soyabeans and beef from deforested land. A number of schemes try to certify that products such as timber or palm oil have been produced without causing deforestation. But so far the results have been disappointing: European consumers are reluctant to pay premium prices for goods made from certified timber, for example.

Palm oil, much of which is produced on land that was once virgin rainforest in Indonesia, is a particular problem. According to a report by McKinsey, a consultancy, if the present rate of deforestation continues, Indonesia will lose 1.1m hectares of forest every year until 2030. A plan to certify palm oil seems unlikely to help. The idea that air travel has environmental consequences is now widely understood, but the environmental consequences of palm-oil-based toiletries are not. Even a big multinational such as Unilever says it can do little to insist that its suppliers do not use palm oil from deforested land, since the power in the market rests with the sellers.

Deforestation is an integrated and multidisciplinary problem, says Mr Bosquet. That means preventing it may involve adopting different strategies in different countries. In some parts of the world, such as Indonesia, this might mean launching efforts to increase agricultural productivity and the use of marginal land in order to reduce the pressure for forest conversion. In other parts of the world it might involve certification or helping people find alternative ways to earn a living.


AFP

Last one standing

Land tenure is another big flashpoint for REDD. There are fears that putting a value on forests will lead to land-grabs in areas where property rights are poorly defined and not well protected. In Africa, for example, governments claim ownership of 98% of the forest, but making REDD work will involve recognising the rights of those who live in the forest too. If that does not happen, there is every reason to fear large-scale corruption and human-rights abuses, because it will be far cheaper and quicker to clear people from the forests than to work out a sustainable way for them to stay.

Even though governments have yet to introduce legislation to govern the trade in forest-carbon credits, some private-sector investors have not been content to wait. This impatience brings risks. In Papua New Guinea, landowners have been hoodwinked into paying to get involved in non-existent deals that promised huge returns from "sky money". The local World Wildlife Fund office has even been asked by landowners how the carbon from burning trees will be captured and transported to the capital. International negotiators decry the behaviour of "carbon cowboys", but they have to recognise that private capital can move a lot faster than plodding national and international legislation.

Overshadowing all these discussions is the spectre of the CDM, which has been bedevilled by its lack of transparency and the difficulty of proving that its carbon offsets are genuine. REDD is a big idea that will work only if all these smaller problems are sorted out. It probably will help to prevent deforestation and to reduce carbon emissions, though perhaps by less than some people hope. But it has the potential to tackle such a big chunk of global emissions, and deliver so many other environmental benefits, that it is worth trying.


Making it work

There are risks for forest dwellers, who must rely on outsiders both to ensure that their rights are protected and to provide an alternative path for economic development. But although REDD poses risks, the alternative—in which deforestation continues as usual—presents even greater long-term environmental and economic dangers, because the world's poor will bear the brunt of climate change.

Doing nothing, in short, would be more dangerous than giving REDD a try. Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea's climate ambassador, says financial systems must begin to take account of environmental values "if our economies are to survive". Given that the basic principle of REDD is to establish a financial link between those who will benefit from preserving forests and those who must ensure the forests' survival, it is an economically sound idea. The question is whether the world has the determination to create a system that will work. Some, like the UN's Mr Steiner, say that it isn't rocket science. Others, though, wish it were that simple.

http://www.economist.com/businessfinance/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=14520464

Almost virtuous
Sep 24th 2009 
From The Economist print edition



The aviation industry is promising a greener tomorrow


Illustration by Peter Schrank


AS BOSS of British Airways, Willie Walsh has received more brickbats than bouquets lately. So he must have been delighted with the headlines he attracted this week. Addressing the United Nations climate-change meeting in New York on behalf of IATA, the trade body for airlines, Mr Walsh promised that by 2050 the industry would cut its carbon emissions to 50% of 2005 levels.

It would do so, he said, through technological innovation, more efficient operations and economic instruments, such as emissions trading. Given that the industry, which is already responsible for nearly 3% of global emissions, expects to grow by about 5% a year between now and then, it was a remarkable statement. How seriously should it be taken?

Quentin Browell, IATA's environment specialist, insists that the pledge to make deep cuts in emissions is both real and feasible: "We would not have made this commitment without undertaking a thorough assessment of whether it can work." Mr Browell claims that in the short term fuel efficiency is expected to improve by 25% by 2020, while new flying techniques and better air-traffic-control regimes could also produce large cuts in emissions. According to Mr Walsh, the industry is also ready to accept a $5 billion increase in annual costs as a result of being brought into a global emissions-trading scheme.

Apart from carbon offsets and efficiency gains, the industry is pinning its hopes on algae-based fuels as a substitute for today's kerosene-based ones. Mr Browell says these could eventually be responsible for cutting carbon emissions by up to 80%. He points to the success of several test flights using biofuels. The certification of such fuels for aviation next year should lead to a ramping up of production, he says.

But some scepticism is in order. Mr Walsh described the 50% cut by 2050 as an "aspiration". Bill Hemmings of Transport & Environment, a pressure group based in Brussels, points out that nobody has any idea whether biofuels can play the transformative role expected of them. In the meantime the industry seems to be arguing that it should be largely left alone for the next ten years. Although the embrace of a global emissions-trading scheme is welcome, Mr Hemmings warns that it should not be used as a tactic to delay the airlines' inclusion in the European one from 2012.

Critics of the aviation industry would like to see fuel-efficiency standards for new aircraft of the kind that are forcing rapid change in carmaking. Yet last week Airbus said it would not produce a successor to the A320, one of the workhorses of the skies, until 2024. Like St Augustine, the industry's motto appears to be "Make me virtuous, but not yet."

http://www.economist.com/world/international/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=14488619

Fewer feet, smaller footprint
Sep 21st 2009 
From Economist.com



Fewer people would mean lower greenhouse-gas emissions

FAMILY planning is five times cheaper than conventional green technologies in combating climate change. That is the claim made by Thomas Wire, a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics, and highlighted by British medics writing in the Lancet on September 19th.

Ever since Thomas Malthus, an English economist, published his essay on the principle of population in 1798, people have been concerned about population growth. Sir Julian Huxley, the first director-general of the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation when it was established in 1945, remarked that death control made birth control a moral imperative. Sir Julian went on to play a role in establishing what was then the World Wildlife Fund, a nature conservation agency, linking population growth to environmental degradation.


AFP

A stampede of tiny feet

According to Roger Short of the University of Melbourne, the world's population is 6.8 billion and is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050. Some 95% of this growth is occurring in developing countries. In apaper published on September 21st in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, he points out that fewer people would produce less climate-changing greenhouse gas.

A companion study published in the same issue by Malcolm Potts of the University of California, Berkeley, reckons that there are 80m unintended pregnancies every year. The vast majority of these result in babies. If women who wanted contraception were provided with it, 72% of these unintended pregancies would have been prevented, according to a report by the United Nations Population Fund called "Adding it Up: the Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare".

The study by Mr Wire was commissioned by the Optimum Population Trust, a British environmental charity. It examined the cost-effectiveness of providing global access to family planning between 2010 and 2050. Mr Wire totted up the cost of supplying contraception to women who wished either to delay their childbearing years or to end them artificially but who were not using contraception. He examined projections of population growth and of carbon-dioxide emissions made by the United Nations and concluded that reducing carbon emissions by one tonne would cost just $7 spent on family planning, as opposed to at least $32 spent on green technologies.

Mr Wire points out that if all women who wanted contraception were provided with it, it would prevent the release of 34 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2010 and 2050. Given the myriad of other reasons to limit human fertility (Dr Potts notes, for example, that slowing population growth is essential if poverty is to be eradicated), your correspondent cannot help but commend the report to mandarins meeting in Bangkok on September 28th to discuss the forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

http://www.economist.com/world/international/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=14447171

A bad climate for development
Sep 17th 2009 
From The Economist print edition



Poor countries' economic development will contribute to climate change. But they are already its greatest victims

IN LATE April Mostafa Rokonuzzaman, a farmer in south-western Bangladesh, gave an impassioned speech at a public meeting in his village, complaining that climate change, freakish hot spells and failed rains were ruining his vegetables. He didn't know the half of it. A month later Mr Rokonuzzaman was chest-deep in a flood that had swept away his house, farm and even the village where the meeting took place. Cyclone Aila (its effects pictured above) which caused the storm surge that breached the village's flood barriers, was itself a plausible example of how climate change is wreaking devastation in poor countries.

Most people in the West know that the poor world contributes to climate change, though the scale of its contribution still comes as a surprise. Poor and middle-income countries already account for just over half of total carbon emissions (see chart 1); Brazil produces more CO2 per head than Germany. The lifetime emissions from these countries' planned power stations would match the world's entire industrial pollution since 1850.

Less often realised, though, is that global warming does far more damage to poor countries than they do to the climate. In a report in 2006 Nicholas (now Lord) Stern calculated that a 2°C rise in global temperature cost about 1% of world GDP. But the World Bank, in its new World Development Report*, now says the cost to Africa will be more like 4% of GDP and to India, 5%. Even if environmental costs were distributed equally to every person on earth, developing countries would still bear 80% of the burden (because they account for 80% of world population). As it is, they bear an even greater share, though their citizens' carbon footprints are much smaller (see chart 2).

As December's Copenhagen summit on climate change draws near, poor countries are expressing alarm at the slow pace of negotiations to replace the Kyoto protocol. Agreed (partially) in 1997, this bound rich countries to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions by 5.2% from 1990 levels by 2012.

Counting the cost of global warming is hard because no one really knows how much to attribute to climate change and how much to other factors. But one indication of its rising costs is the number of people around the world affected by natural disasters. In 1981-85, fewer than 500m people required international disaster-assistance; in 2001-05, the number reached 1.5 billion. This includes 4% of the population of the poorest countries and over 7% in lower-middle-income countries (see chart 3).

In all, reckons the World Health Organisation, climate change caused a loss of 5.5m disability-adjusted life years (a measure of harm to human health) in 2000, most of it in Africa and Asia. Estimates by the Global Humanitarian Forum, a Swiss think-tank, and in a study in Comparative Quantification of Health Risks, a scientific journal, put the number of additional deaths attributable to climate change every year at 150,000. The indirect harm, through its impact on water supplies, crop yields and disease is hugely greater.

The poor are more vulnerable than the rich for several reasons. Flimsy housing, poor health and inadequate health care mean that natural disasters of all kinds hurt them more. When Hurricane Mitch swept through Honduras in 1998, for example, poor households lost 15-20% of their assets but the rich lost only 3%.

Global warming aggravates that. It also increases the chances of catching the life-threatening diseases that are more prevalent in poorer countries. In many places cities have been built just above a so-called "malaria line", above which malaria-bearing mosquitoes cannot survive (Nairobi is one example). Warmer weather allows the bugs to move into previously unaffected altitudes, spreading a disease that is already the biggest killer in Africa. By 2030 climate change may expose 90m more people to malaria in Africa alone. Similarly, meningitis outbreaks in Africa are strongly correlated with drought. Both are likely to increase. Diarrhoea is forecast to rise 5% by 2020 in poor countries because of climate change. Dengue fever has been expanding its range: its incidence doubled in parts of the Americas between 1995-97 and 2005-07. On one estimate, 60% of the world's population will be exposed to the disease by 2070.

Next, as Mr Rokonuzzaman's story showed, poor countries are particularly prone to flooding. Ten of the developing world's 15 largest cities are in low-lying coastal areas vulnerable to rising sea levels or coastal surges. They include Shanghai, Mumbai and Cairo. In South and East Asia the floodplains of great rivers have always been home to vast numbers of people and much economic activity. Climate change is overwhelming the social and other arrangements that in the past allowed countries and people to cope with floods. National budgets can ill afford the cost of improving defences. The Netherlands is also affected and is spending $100 per person a year on flood defences. In Bangladesh that sum is a quarter of the average person's annual income.

The biggest vulnerability is that the weather gravely affects developing countries' main economic activities—such as farming and tourism. Global warming dries out farmland. Since two-thirds of Africa is desert or arid, the continent is heavily exposed. One study predicts that by 2080 as much as a fifth of Africa's farmland will be severely stressed. And that is only one part of the problem.

Global warming also seems to be speeding up the earth's hydrologic cycle, causing both floods and droughts (more rains fall in shorter periods, with longer gaps between). In addition, by melting glaciers, global warming reduces nature's storage capacity. Two-thirds of the world's fresh water is stored in glaciers. Their melting leaves poor countries with less of a buffer to protect farmers against changing weather and rainfall patterns.

This kind of increasing unpredictability would be dire news at the best of times: hit by drought and flood, the land becomes less productive. It is compounded by another problem. The higher-yielding, pest-resistant seed varieties invented in the 1960s were designed to thrive in stable climes. Old-fashioned seeds are actually better at dealing with variable weather—but are now less widely used. Reinstituting their use will mean less food.

In India the gains from the Green Revolution are already shrinking because of local pollution, global warming and waning resistance to pests and disease. A study for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology forecast that yields of the main Indian crops would decline by a further 4.5-9% over the next 30 years because of climate change. A recent assessment based on a large number of studies of what might happen in the long run if carbon continues to be pumped into the atmosphere found that world farm production could fall by 16% by the 2080s, and possibly by as much as 21% in developing countries. Although the timescale makes such figures no more than educated guesses, there is not much doubt that climate change is undermining the gains from intensive farming in developing countries—at the very time when population growth and greater wealth mean the world will need to double food production over the next three or four decades. By 2050 the world will have to feed 2 billion to 3 billion more people and cope with the changing (water-hungry) diets of a richer population. Even without climate change, farm productivity would have to rise by 1% a year, which is a lot. With climate change, the rise will have to be 1.8%, says the bank.

If these myriad problems have a silver lining, it is that they give developing countries as big an interest in mitigating the impact of climate change as rich ones. As the World Bank says, climate-change policy is no longer a simple choice between growth and ecological well-being.


Sideways to Copenhagen

In principle that shift should make a climate-change deal in Copenhagen more likely, by increasing the number of countries that want an agreement. But two big problems remain. First, the poor countries want large amounts of money. To keep global warming down to an increase of 2°C, the World Bank calculates, would cost $140 billion to $675 billion a year in developing countries—dwarfing the $8 billion a year now flowing to them for climate-change mitigation. The $75 billion cost of adapting to global warming (as opposed to trying to stop it) similarly overwhelms the $1 billion a year available to them.

Second, poor countries see a climate-change deal in fundamentally different terms. For rich countries the problem is environmental: greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere and must be cut, preferably using the sort of binding targets recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. For developing countries the problem is one of fairness and history: rich countries are responsible for two-thirds of the carbon put into the atmosphere since 1850; to cut emissions in absolute terms now would perpetuate an unjust pattern. Poor countries therefore think emissions per head, not absolute emissions, should be the standard.

Moreover, targets set at national level have little effect in poor countries where public administration works badly. So rich and poor also disagree about the conditions attached to any money for mitigating or adapting to climate change. The rich see this as a sort of aid, designed for specific projects with measurable targets, requiring strict conditions. Poorer countries see the cash as no-strings compensation for a problem that is not of their making.

The cost of climate change gives developing countries a big interest in a deal at Copenhagen. But what sort of deal they want—and how hard they push for it—is another matter altogether.

http://www.economist.com/world/international/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=14535367
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es900213p

Urban metabolism
Sep 28th 2009 
From Economist.com



Cities can learn from comparing their carbon footprints

HOW and why do greenhouse-gas emissions differ between cities? Since more than half of the world's people now live in such metropolitan areas, that is an important question. If the worst could copy the habits of the best, climate change might be slowed significantly.

To address this question a team of researchers led by Christopher Kennedy of the University of Toronto has compared the emissions of ten conurbations. Four were in North America (Denver City and County, Los Angeles County, New York City and the Greater Toronto Area). Four were in Europe (Barcelona City, the Canton of Geneva, the Greater London Authority area and the Greater Prague Region). The other two were in Asia (Bangkok) and Africa (Cape Town).


Reuters

Denver in the springtime

Dr Kennedy and his colleagues tried to quantify the contributions of heating, transport and waste disposal, among other things, to the emission of greenhouse gases in each of these cities, and to calculate the emissions per person that resulted. They also included in their calculations some emissions that took place outside the city limits, such as those associated with the production of fuel that was consumed in the cities in question.

The results, which will be published in the October 1st issue of Environmental Science and Technology, showed that the total emissions of the ten chosen cities varied considerably, ranging from 4.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person in Barcelona to 21.5 tonnes in Denver. Other low emitters included Geneva and Prague; Los Angeles, Cape Town and Toronto were among the high emitters. The rest fell in between.

Given this variation, Dr Kennedy recommends that city mandarins compare building codes and other policies, to identify environmentally friendly practices. Of course Denver, with its snowy winters and warm but wet summers, cannot learn much from Barcelona, with its Mediterranean climate, because they are so dissimilar. But it might learn from Toronto, which emits 11.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person and is closer to Denver in climate and population density.

Meanwhile a separate piece of research published on September 28th in Environment and Urbanization concludes that, in contrast to a study your correspondent reported recently (see "Fewer feet, smaller footprint" September 21st), population growth itself does not drive the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions. David Satterthwaite of the International Institute for Environment and Development, a British think-tank, reckons that it is, rather, the growth in the number of consumers and in their levels of consumption that drives emissions growth. An obvious point, perhaps, but as advisers preparing to meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen can attest, even getting people to acknowledge the obvious can be an uphill struggle.


Carbon Newsclips for 19 October 2009: UK and France getting ever more serious about GHG cuts; while developing countries must lower GHGs after 2020. Meanwhile, most companies already measure their emissions

http://planetark.org/wen/55088

UK Climate Body Urges Govt To Step Up Emissions Cuts
Date: 19-Oct-09
Country:
 UK
Author:
 Nina Chestney

LONDON - Britain needs to accelerate its strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions to have any hope of meeting its carbon reduction commitments, Britain's chief climate change adviser said Monday.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which advises the British government on cutting emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, said the recession exaggerated its progress toward meeting its carbon budgets and could slow efforts to drive long-term cuts.
Britain and other countries have embarked on ambitious targets to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gases. World leaders will meet in Copenhagen in December to agree on a new deal to curb the effects of climate change.
"It is crucial (...) that government focuses its efforts on developing and implementing policies that will lead to deep emissions cuts in the next five years and beyond," the CCC said.
Adair Turner, the committee's chairman, will present the group's full report later Monday in central London.
Most of the emissions reductions in recent years have centred on gases other than one of the most dangerous -- carbon dioxide (CO2), the CCC said.
CO2 reductions averaged 0.6 percent a year from 2003 to 2007. This needs to increase to 2-3 percent a year to meet the government's carbon budgets, the committee said.
Although the recession depressed economic activity and emissions fell by 2 percent in 2008, this trend will not continue once economic growth resumes.
The recession also caused European Union industrial emissions to slump, which reduced the carbon price in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and has undermined incentives for investment in low-carbon technologies.
Finance available for investment in new wind generation capacity was also restricted. UK capacity needs to reach 23 gigawatts (GW) by 2020 to meet EU-wide targets.
ACTION NEEDED
To reduce uncertainty in the carbon market, ideally the EU needs to tighten its cap on emissions in the EU ETS beyond 2020 and introduce an auction reserve price, the Committee advised.
Britain can help underpin the price of CO2 by introducing a tax which adjusts according to fluctuations in the EU ETS.
To get wind capacity to 23 GW, Britain needs to consider loan guarantees to banks so that finance is available for wind projects over the next couple of years.
Currently, up to 7 GW of new wind power projects have gained planning permission but have not yet been built.
New investments to ease bottlenecks in Britain's electricity transmissions network are needed by 2011 so wind power construction can begin in 2012.
A national policy on nuclear power generation is needed by the Spring of 2010 to support proposals for nuclear new-builds going through the planning process.
Among the committee's recommendations on improving household energy efficiency, it advocated "whole house" energy audits with a follow-up package including installation and financing to help households reduce emissions.
In April the government announced all new coal-fired power generators need to apply the pioneering carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology within five years of 2020 and said it would support up to four demonstration projects.
Funding needs to be in place in the next two years for the four projects, with more funding by 2015 to support investments from 2018, the CCC advised.
(Additional reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Andy Bruce)

http://www.economist.com/world/europe/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=14460346

Taming the carbonivores
Hot air over a tentative carbon tax


AP

Tooled up for Copenhagen


FRANCE'S president, Nicolas Sarkozy, does not like to do things by halves. In characteristically grandiose fashion he described his plan to introduce a carbon tax as "the only choice that could guarantee…the future of our planet". If it goes ahead, France would be the first big country to adopt such a tax, which exists in Scandinavia. But the proposal has already run into fierce hostility, from consumers, opposition parties—and even greens.
Mr Sarkozy plans to bring in his carbon tax in January next year. It will be levied at a rate of €17 ($25) per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, a bit higher than Denmark's rate, though a lot less than Sweden's. This translates into roughly an extra four cents a litre of petrol at the pump. It will apply to the consumption of petrol, gas and coal, but not to electricity, on the ground that France generates 80% of its electricity from almost carbon-free nuclear power.
The idea is to try to discourage "carbonivorous" behaviour, rather than to fill depleted government coffers. So the tax is supposed to be fiscally neutral. The government says it will compensate households through an income-tax deduction, worth €112 per year for a family with two children living in a town. Country folk, lacking public transport, will get a bit more back. Those who do not pay income tax will get a "green cheque" instead. Companies will be compensated by the reform of municipal corporate tax.
Although the French have become increasingly green-minded, with plastic bags disappearing from supermarket checkouts and regular recycling collections, Mr Sarkozy's plans have prompted a political outcry. Ségolène Royal, the defeated Socialist presidential candidate, denounced the tax as "unfair" because it affects the rich and the poor alike. Greens, in contrast, grumbled that it was not bold enough. Greenpeace, an environmental lobby group, said "it would change absolutely nothing in terms of behaviour."
In truth, some of this hostility is due less to anti-greenery than to anti-Sarkozy posturing. Ever since a coalition of ecologists nearly beat the Socialists into third place at the European elections in June, French political parties have been wrangling over the environment, each claiming to be greener than the other. Mr Sarkozy himself is a relatively recent convert. A book that he wrote a year before the 2007 presidential election, intended as a draft manifesto, contained barely a word on the subject. By the time of his campaign, however, he had become a studied tree-hugger. Now, ahead of the international climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December, he wants to show that France is taking the lead.
Mr Sarkozy will probably get his carbon tax through parliament without too much difficulty. He has a large majority and public opinion may be less hostile than some of his critics suggest. When asked by CSA, a polling agency, if they wanted a carbon tax, 74% of respondents were against. However, when asked if they would back such a tax if it were fiscally neutral for households, 52% were in favour.
The harder question is whether France's carbon tax will live up to its billing. Mr Sarkozy says he will now push for a Europe-wide carbon tax on imports from countries that "do not respect any environmental or social rules". That leads some to suspect that his ultimate objective is to create a pretext for protectionism.
As it is, Mr Sarkozy's carbon tax has many exemptions. Heavy industry will not pay, on the ground that it is already contributing through Europe's cap-and-trade system. Fishermen and farmers, who anyway pay far less tax on fuel than ordinary French consumers, will get special compensation. Moreover, by not taxing electricity at all, the government is sending a somewhat mixed message about what constitutes good green behaviour. In many ways, Mr Sarkozy's new tax is more of a fuel tax than a real carbon tax.
As an incentive to change behaviour, the tax rate also looks too low. Who will keep the car in the garage just because of an extra four cents a litre on petrol? Sweden's carbon tax is levied at fully €108 per tonne of CO2, over six times the French rate. Earlier this year, an official carbon-tax commission, headed by Michel Rocard, a Socialist former prime minister, proposed a rate of €32, arguing that anything less would not change habits.
Mr Sarkozy says that he will increase the tax rate in time. Indeed, this is what Sweden did, having started in 1991 with a lower carbon-tax rate of €26. "The truth is that if you start too high, you'll never get it through," says Dieter Helm, an environmental economist at Oxford University in Britain. "You can always raise it later." Until then, a far greater incentive to reduce fuel consumption may turn out to be a quite separate plan—expected to be unveiled next week—for a generous cash subsidy to buy electric cars.

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Survey Finds a Majority of Corporate Respondents Measuring Their Carbon Footprints

SocialFunds.com, 7 October 2009 - Most corporate respondents to an EcoSecurities survey have undertaken energy efficiency, recycling, and waste management activities, and would purchase carbon offsets to support solar and wind power projects.

Over 300 global companies, including 31 carbon companies, responded to a survey published recently by EcoSecuritiesClimateBiz, and Baker & McKenzie, which sought to identify corporate trends in carbon management and offsetting. The survey, entitled Carbon Management and Offsetting Trends Survey Results 2009, is the second published by the organizations, and the first since the global economic crisis.

Despite the effects of the crisis, the number of respondents to the survey increased by more than 400% since its predecessor was published in early 2008, with a marked increase in participation of North American companies noted. And while budget concerns were cited by many companies as a motivation for delaying the purchase of carbon offsets, 60% of respondents reported that they measure their organizational carbon footprint, 44% have a defined carbon management strategy, and 32% report having such a plan in development. However, only 54% of North American companies measure their carbon footprint, compared to 92% of Australasian, and 62% of European, respondents. 

The primary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions strategies undertaken by respondents are those that have been described as the low-hanging fruit of such efforts: energy efficiency (cited by 85% of respondents), recycling initiatives (79%), and waste reduction activities (68%). 

Companies purchase carbon offsets to support projects such as renewable energy or reforestation. By doing so, companies can avoid, at least temporarily, having to reduce emissions from their own operations, which would be offset by their support for emissions reductions elsewhere. Offsets are measured in tons of CO2 equivalents (CO2e). Emissions reduction projects can be certified through such means as the 
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Companies often contract with specialized carbon companies to develop GHG mitigation strategies that include offsetting; EcoSecurities is one such carbon company. 

The practice of carbon offsetting has been widely embraced. Following the recent UN climate change meeting in New York, the organization purchased credits to offset emissions created by travel to and from the meeting. And the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, which passed the US House of Representatives in June, includes a provision for offset credits that cover 2 billion tons of emissions annually. 

But the practice is not without its detractors. Some have likened it to papal indulgences, because in effect the purchaser of carbon offsets is buying the right to continue polluting. The survey found the highest number of mixed or negative views of offsetting to be in the European Union, where, according to the survey, offsetting first came to prominence. The report notes that "European firms have borne witness to the failures and scandals surrounding offsets in the early days of the market before transparency and greater robustness became stronger requirements." 

Overall, the survey found that a majority of respondents have positive views of carbon offsetting. Environmental benefits were cited by 91% of respondents, carbon neutrality and marketing by 89%, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments by 79%. The most highly desired offset project types were solar and wind power, both of which were cited by more than 50% of respondents.


http://www.wbcsd.org/plugins/DocSearch/details.asp?type=DocDet&ObjectId=MzU5MjA

Major developing country emissions must peak by 2020 -IEA

Reuters, 6 October 2009 - Carbon emissions from a group of richer developing nations including Russia, China, Brazil and the Middle East must stop growing by 2020 to control global warming, the International Energy Agency said on Tuesday.

The estimate is far more ambitious than goals offered by emerging economies such as China in United Nations talks meant to agree a new climate pact in Copenhagen in December.

China -- the world's biggest carbon emitter -- on Monday accused rich nations of "killing" the present Kyoto Protocol by proposing more flexible strategies for cutting their own greenhouse gas emissions, at preparatory two-week climate talks in Bangkok.

Carbon emissions will fall by as much as 3 percent this year, following the economic crisis, aiding the effort to cut carbon, said the IEA, which is an energy adviser to 28 industrialised countries.

"This gives us a chance to make real progress towards a clean-energy future, but only if the right policies are put in place promptly," said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka in a statement.

The report, an early release from the IEA's annual World Energy Outlook, said $10 trillion extra energy investment would be needed from 2010-2030 to control carbon emissions, or between half and 1 percent of global economic output, but that could be almost entirely made up from fuel savings following efficiency gains.

"The investments the world has to make to shift to a low-carbon economy will pay off and result in lower energy bills, less air pollution and help keep climate change under control," said John Nordbo, WWF technology and climate change expert, speaking in Bangkok.

Limiting global warming to 2 degrees, which scientists say may avoid the most dangerous extreme weather and sea level rise, would require global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels to stop rising before 2020, the IEA report said.

Rich country emissions must fall steadily from 2007 levels. Other major economies classed as Brazil, China, the Middle East, Russia and South Africa, would have to stop emissions growth by 2020, the IEA said.

Global use of fossil fuels should peak before 2020 under a scenario to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, it said.

"Oil demand will increase much less in our (2 degrees) scenario," said Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist.

Energy Newsclips for 19 October 2009: Shutting down your servers, dimming the lights pay off

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/10/19/study-finds-nearly-servers-waste-25b-a-year/

Study Finds Servers Waste $25B a Year
One of the biggest causes of energy and information technology (IT) operational waste is millions of servers at the world's largest IT departments that don't do anything useful, according to a new global server study.
As a result, U.S. businesses will need to consider making energy-efficient changes, including the implementation of power-saving tools, in the face of several pending global climate change policies and initiatives, including the U.S. climate bill, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's data center initiative and global climate talks in Copenhagen, according to study researchers.
The study, conducted by Kelton Research and commissioned by 1E and theAlliance to Save Energy, reveals that 4.7 million servers globally are wasting $25 billion annually. According to 72 percent of survey respondents, 15 percent or more of their servers are not doing anything useful, and over eight in ten (83 percent) admit that they do not have an adequate understanding of server utilization.
Sumir Karayi, CEO, at 1E said (PDF) organizations need better information on server efficiency and more effective ongoing server energy management because savings from decommissioning non-productive servers cannot be ignored.
The survey also finds that 72 percent of server managers rely on CPU utilization as their measure of server efficiency, while 63 percent rely on manual checks, trial and error or wait until something is broken to find unused servers.
The study also indicates that 65 percent of respondents have virtualized unused servers and almost one in three (32 percent) state that they are actively seeking a solution to virtual server sprawl, a phenomenon where a disproportionate number of virtual servers have low or zero utilization, according to the report.
Forty-one percent of server managers are concerned about and a further 43 percent are using change control procedures or software to manage virtual server sprawl.
Another finding reveals that 75 percent of respondents believe their companies' mandates to deliver high levels of IT service internally interfere with measuring and improving server efficiency

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/10/16/intelligent-lighting-controls-deliver-roi-in-3-years/

Intelligent Lighting Controls Deliver ROI in 3 Years
More building owners and managers are considering intelligent lighting systems to cut energy use because lighting, on average, accounts for approximately one-quarter of a building's overall electricity use, rivaled only by HVAC and office equipment, according to Gary Meshberg, LEED, AP, and director of sales for Encelium Technologies.
State-of-the-art lighting systems reduce costs, demonstrate an overall commitment to being environmentally friendly, as well as contribute toward higher building values, higher tenant retention rates and overall end-user satisfaction, said Meshberg.
As an example, Encelium Technologies' Energy Control System (ECS) uses addressable networking technology in combination with advanced control hardware and software, which can be integrated with HVAC, security and irrigation systems.
ECS uses a universal I/O (input/output) module to connect to standard lighting components such as low-voltage non-dimming ballasts, and occupancy sensors or photo sensors for digital control capabilities. The system allows each person to control his or her own workspace light levels from their desktop computer, and provides facility managers with energy management capabilities.
Installation of an intelligent lighting system also provides a significant return on investment (ROI), said Meshberg. He cites the following example. ECS installations, which cost between $3.00 and $3.50 per square foot for existing space, are designed to reduce lighting-related energy costs by 50 to 75 percent, so the projected savings of 75 cents to $1.25 per square foot per year means that the installation cost is amortized in less than three years.
As an example, the Rogers Centre sports and entertainment complex in Toronto, with approximately 7,000 light fixtures, cut its energy use by 77 percent, or by 3,731,000 KWh annually, with an ECS installation, according to Meshberg. The complex also achieved a 39 percent reduction in energy demand and a savings of 76 percent for energy costs. This translates into a cost savings of about $300,000 per year for the complex.
Meshberg also said ECS installations ease the way for buildings to earn the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) certification, contributing up to 18 points needed for certification, as well as facilitate a building's compliance with ASHRAE 90.1, EPAct, Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations and various utility rebate programs.