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


Alternative Energy & Energy management Newsclips for March 30, 2010: Czechs, Brazil, Cisco, Microsoft; is diesel better than electric?

Oil reserves 'exaggerated by one third'
The world's oil reserves have been exaggerated by up to a third, according to Sir David King, the Government's former chief scientist, who has warned of shortages and price spikes within years.
By Rowena Mason, City Reporter (Energy)
Published: 9:51PM GMT 22 Mar 2010

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Worker at an oil pump - Oil reserves 'exaggerated by one third'

Worker at an oil pump - Oil reserves 'exaggerated by one third'

The scientist and researchers from Oxford University argue that official figures are inflated because member countries of the oil cartel, OPEC, over-reported reserves in the 1980s when competing for global market share.
Their new research argues that estimates of conventional reserves should be downgraded from 1,150bn to 1,350bn barrels to between 850bn and 900bn barrels and claims that demand may outstrip supply as early as 2014. The researchers claim it is an open secret that OPEC is likely to have inflated its reserves, but that the International Energy Agency (IEA), BP, the Energy Information Administration and World Oil do not take this into account in their statistics.

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"It is necessary to investigate ambiguities and sources of error that are broadly acknowledged but not taken into account in public data due to political sensitivities," the researchers said. The paper also raises concerns that public statistics have started to incorporate non-conventional reserves such as the Canadian tar sands, where oil and gas are much more difficult to extract and may never be economically attractive to develop.
Sir David said that although the IEA was doing a good job of warning that more investment in oil and gas exploration is needed, governments need to pay more attention to independent research.
"The IEA functions through fees that are paid into it by member companies and has to keep its clients happy," he said. "We're not operating under that basis. This is objective analysis. We're not sitting on any oil fields. It's critically important that reserves have been overstated, and if you take this into account, we're talking supply not meeting demand in 2014-2015."
The concept of "peak oil" has gained traction in recent years, although energy companies such as BP and Shell insist that production will be able to keep pace with growing Asian energy needs.
Sir David said he was "very concerned" that Western governments were not taking the concept of "peak oil" – where demand outstrips production – seriously enough, while China is throwing all its efforts into grabbing as many energy resources as possible.
Sir Richard Branson , founder of the Virgin Group, and Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish & Southern Energy, are members of the Peak Oil Industry Taskforce, which is trying to raise awareness of potential shortages in the coming decade.
Dr Oliver Inderwildi, who co-wrote the paper with Sir David and Nick Owen for Oxford University's Smith School, believes radical measures such as switching freight transport to airships could become common in future.
"The belief that alternative fuels such as biofuels could mitigate oil supply shortages and eventually replace fossil fuels is a pie in the sky. Instead of relying on those silver bullet solutions, we have to make better use of the remaining resources by improving efficiency."

Brazil To Invest $57 Billion In Electricity By 2013
Date: 17-Mar-10
 Denise Luna

Brazil To Invest $57 Billion In Electricity By 2013 Photo: Paulo Whitaker
Labourers install power lines at the construction site of the Octavio Frias de Oliveira Bridge in Sao Paulo February 20, 2008.
Photo: Paulo Whitaker

Brazil is expected to invest 100 billion reais ($57 billion) in its electricity sector from 2010 to 2013, of which the BNDES national development bank will finance 60 percent, the bank's energy department manager Alexandre Esposito said.
The Brazilian government has been acutely aware of the importance of expanding capacity in its electric energy sector since it had to ration energy in 2001-2002, which sent the economy into recession.
With the slow pace of bringing new large hydroelectric projects online, the government has put considerable effort in keeping investments in expansion moving given the expected surge in demand from the fast growing economy.
The upcoming 11,200 megawatt Belo Monte hydroelectric project planned for the Xingu River in the Amazon is expected to absorb 12 billion reais in financing from the bank.
The total cost of the project, which has taken over two decades to make it to auction and is due to go on the block by May, is valued by the government at nearly 20 billion reais.
From 2003 to 2009, the BNDES financed 60.7 billion reais in energy generation, transmission and distribution, the bulk of the 105 billion reais of total investments in the sector.
In 2009 alone, the bank provided credit for 15.5 billion reais for the sector, versus 16.7 billion reais in 2008.
The BNDES is still actively seeking to exit its 49.99 percent stake in Brasiliana, the holding company that controls AES Eletropaulo and AES Tiete. The stake has been on the market since before the global financial crisis worsened in 2008.
AES has first rights to buy the bank's share of Brasiliana but it also has "drag along rights" which permit it to any buyer to purchase 100 percent of Brasiliana.
"If we exit, the bank will earn a nice profit, but it depends on the time of the sale. If AES doesn't buy the stake, it will have to do a drag along," he said, adding that this would make it more difficult to find a buyer.
Esposito said that the recent return of AES' interest in investing in Brazil, which has weathered the global financial crisis superbly and whose economy is expected to grow 6 percent in 2010, was a surprise.
Analysts have been forecasting increased activity in mergers and acquisitions in Brazil's energy sector.
"AES went from a seller of assets to a buyer," he said.

Czechs Seek To Temper Solar Investment Boom
Date: 17-Mar-10
 Michael Kahn and Jan Korselt

The Czech Republic does not spring to mind as one of Europe's hot spots, yet an over-used subsidy scheme has created a bonanza for solar power that has ignited fears of a spike in energy prices and grid instability.
Lawmakers are now gearing up to cut the country's generous solar incentives, which investors say is needed to cool off the boom that made the Czechs the third-largest builders of solar capacity behind Germany and Italy last year.
This year, new projects will dwarf those of last year before cuts in feed-in tariffs -- which are currently up to 469 euros per megawatt hour -- push some investors further south to sunnier places than the central Euroepan Czech Republic, such as Bulgaria, investors said.
The generous tariffs have, together with falling prices of solar panels, led to a spike in returns in parts of the sector to around 30 percent per year.
"The Czech Republic is overheated at the moment," Peter Richards of private equity firm 3TS Capital Partners, told a recent renewables conference in Prague.
"It is likely a race to connect to the grid in 2010. It was quite easy to be a developer in 2008 and 2009 but those days are gone because of government regulation and uncertainty."
Feed-in tariffs -- prices utilities must pay to generators of renewable energy -- will be the solar sector's lifeblood until grid parity, the point at which renewables cost the same as fossil fuel-based power, is reached.
Under current law, the regulator can cut the feed-in tariff by 5 percent annually for new plants, and has to guarantee that tariff for 20 years.
The lower house of parliament will on Wednesday cast a final vote on a proposal that would give regulators the freedom to make bigger cuts when investor returns hit a certain level, or another that would raise the limit on cuts for new projects to 25 percent every year.
"Right now, we have a market that is probably not functioning in a very rational way," said Michael White, managing partner at Prague-based Enercap, which invests in renewables in the region.
"You have a lot of people viewing the solar market as a way to lock in high yield without debt."
The country had registered photovoltaic plants with a combined capacity of 490 megawatts at the beginning of March, compared to 54 megawatts in January 2009, but industry officials have said the figure could rise to 1,000-2,000 megawatts this year.
Global solar stocks plunged in January when it emerged the government in Germany -- the world's largest solar market -- planned to make additional cuts to the tariffs, arguing the industry was overly subsidized and needed to become competitive faster.
On Monday, however, Germany's ruling coalition agreed to delay the cuts in solar power incentives by two months.
The Czech photovoltaic association has called for the reduction to be around 15 percent, warning that anything more could cripple the industry.
Enercap's White believes investors can still make money with a steeper cut.
The current rate in the Czech Republic is 12.25 crowns per kilowatt hour (0.481 euro). This compares to the recenty reset German tariff of EUR 0.39/kWh.
"A 25 percent reduction in the Czech tariff would be at EUR 0.36/kWh, so still above the German tariff but with similar irradiation, should provide a return for investors which is deemed attractive as panel prices are still declining," he said.
Daniel Kunz, chief executive at solar company Energy 21, said the key for investors was for lawmakers to provide a visible regulatory landscape in which to operate.
Apart from the new legislation, Czech investments may be hampered by system operators who say the grid will become overburdened by the erratic output from solar plants and threatened to block new projects.
"Regulatory risk has increased in the past few months," Adam Schwartzman, an investment officer at the International Finance Corporation, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank told a recent conference. "We will see significant pushback over high tariffs in coming years."
(Editing by Amanda Cooper)

Cisco's EnergyWise Additions Make Green a No-Brainer
By Matthew Wheeland
Published March 17, 2010
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Tags: Computers & GadgetsEnergy EfficiencyMore...

SAN JOSE, CA — Green business practices often make sense from a cost savings perspective, from a social responsibility perspective, and from a stakeholder engagement perspective. But there often remains the obstacle of actually implementing a new solution, and that obstacle can be insurmountable without the proper incentives.

Cisco today is announcing a slew of hardware and software additions to its year-old "Borderless Networks" platform, focused on energy management, network security, and video streaming capabilities across a company.

But the innovation that may have the biggest impact is one that will make it practically automatic for thousands of companies to upgrade to sophisticated energy management tools. For free.

new EnergyWise Orchestrator platform, an energy management platform that lets the IT department manage the energy used by any device connected to the network -- from servers to PCs to wireless routers. And, according to Inbar Lasser-Raab, Cisco's senior director of network solutions, that platform is available to almost any company that bought a Cisco switch in the last five years.

In an interview today, Lasser-Raab explained that companies that have purchased Cisco fixed switches that are still covered under the maintenance contract can download the Orchestrator software for free and begin using the energy management tools right away.

There benefits to the EnergyWise Orchestrator are significant; by enabling centralized, policy-based control over both power-over-ethernet (PoE) as well as PCs, companies can save as much as 30 percent on their energy bills right away.

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Lasser-Raab said that, depending on which analysts' figures you look at, Cisco has about 50 percent market share for fixed switches, so the Orchestrator rollout could have potentially huge energy savings.

As a generic example, Cisco offered a county government office building with 10,000 PCs. Without any energy management software in place, the organization will pay $770,000 a year to its energy company. By using EnergyWise to turn those PCs off at night, it will save $280,000 a year, and by including non-PC assets in its energy management policies, it will save an additional $150,000 a year.

More specifically, the Zurich airport in Switzerland has been using the Borderless Access platform across the site, and has cut its power consumption by as much as 50 percent, while still allowing internet access to staff, partners, maintenance crew, and airline passengers.

Cisco has also created an 
EnergyWise Business Value Calculator to allow companies to estimate their savings and ROI for a network upgrade.

With more and more companies adopting building energy management as a cost-saving and emissions-reducing measure, Cisco's EnergyWise is a step toward a unified tool for managing the entire facility's energy use. And Lasser-Raab said that Cisco is in discussions with 
Schneider Electric to bring the two firms' technologies together for a deeper level of building energy management.

In addition to the EnergyWise Orchestrator launch, Cisco today is releasing a number of new hardware devices, including new fixed switches in its Catalyst line, a new Integrated Services router, and new software for its ASR router series. 

The new hardware is designed with energy efficiency in mind, and Cisco expects the devices to save as much as 50 percent of the energy used by previous generations of hardware.

"Every time we roll out new products, we're putting a lot of empahsis on power usage and our own footprint," Lasser-Raab said in an interview yesterday. "EnergyWise can elevate that to a whole new level."

Full details about today's announcements are online at

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Microsoft Puts Its Weight Behind IT's Energy-Saving Potential
By Marc Gunther
Created 2010-03-16 11:04

Much conversation around the greening of information technology is, frankly, boring. Energy-efficient data centers, PCs that sleep automatically, cloud computing that uses server capacity more efficiently -- all important, to be sure, but dull.

What's more intriguing are the ways IT is being used to attack big environmental problems.

IBM has gotten lots of attention, and rightfully so, for its Smarter Planet campaign, in which data is used to help unclog traffic congestion or develop new types of biodegradable, biocompatible plastics.Google has its power meter, which helps consumers manage energy consumption, and RechargeIT, an effort to speed the adoption of electric cars. Not to be outdone, Microsoft has developed several consumer-friendly services that use the power of data to save energy and preserve the environment.

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Hohm helps homeowners save energy and money. Bing maps with real-time traffic information help commuters avoid fuel-wasting traffic congestion. Eye on Earth, currently available only in Europe, provides gives citizens air and water quality information they can use to protect their health, and to become more politically active.

04-21Bernard_lg"This is about the democratization of information," says Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmental strategist (pictured at right). The company is taking data that was previously unavailable, or available only to specialists or insiders, repackaging and distributing it. "We're one of a very small number of companies that can have a massive impact," he says.

Rob, who became MSFT's first environmental strategist in 2007, oversees, coordinates and promotes a slew of activities inside and outside of the company, from the compostable plates in the company cafeteria to fieldwork by researchers who analyze the decline of salmon in the Russian River basin. He spoke last year at FORTUNE's Brainstorm Green conference and we met again last month at GreenBiz's State of Green Business forum in San Francisco.


Hohm was introduced last June. Using analytical tools licensed from the the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy, the online application enables consumers to understand their energy costs, save money and reduce pollution. The software is easy to use in the sense that it's intuitive. It's time-consuming, though, most people have to enter their energy bills manually, and answer nearly 200 (!) questions that, if you're like me, require some research. (Do you know the square footage of your house, or what year it was built? I don't.)

I confess that I gave up about halfway through the signup process, mostly because I'm already well aware of simple ways to cut my energy costs, like plugging leaks around windows where the wind seems to whips into our house in winter. I've been meaning to caulk for months, but for some reason the job never rises to the top of my to-do list.

06-24niagara_homepage_lgIf, however, you are a customer of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Seattle City Light or Xcel Energy in places where those utilities have signed on as partners, the software will take less time to set up, automatically import your bills and help you track your costs. Hohm is likely to get more useful and "smarter" over time, as more utilities sign up, more users input data and smart meters help customers better understand and manage their energy usage. (Think about how much more useful Quicken or Turbo Tax is once you can import data from your bank or mutual funds.) You can read more here at theHohm blog.

LARGEBing traffic maps, meanwhile, make it easier and quicker to plan your morning commute. While other online maps incorporate traffic data, Microsoft says that its technology, called Clearflow, which took four years for its research labs to develop, uses machine-learning techniques to reflect the adaptations drivers make as congestion spills from freeways onto city streets. The New York Times covered the innovation in this blogpost; what's significant is that without the sophisticated software, drivers would be left to their own devices to navigate clogged traffic, wasting time and fuel in the process. Google, by the way, has just added bike routes to its maps.

Eye on Earth is explicitly a green product, developed by MSFT in cooperation with the European Environment Agency. It provides official, real-time data on air and water quality for hundreds of locations across Europe, as well as user-generated ratings, which don't always match. (The EU said today that air quality in Copenhagen was "good," but 66 local people rated it moderate and some called it "smelly" and "irritating.") Bernard says Eye on Earth visualizes existing information in a way that makes it user-friendly. "You take a bunch of data that's hidden in spreadsheets that probably five people in the world could understand, and democratize it," he says. "It encourages citizen action."

None of these are world-changing technologies, but they all reflect the can-do spirit of the IT industry in general and Microsoft in particular. It's no stretch to believe that the people who gave use the PC and Internet revolutions over the last couple of decades will drive the clean energy/climate revolution that we so badly need now.

Eye on Earth

Electric cars 'no greener than diesel', study claims, 2 March 2010 - Switching from diesel to electric cars will not dent transport's carbon footprint over the next 15 years as long as Europe's electricity supply remains based on fossil fuels, according to Danish analysis.

The study, prepared for the Danish Petroleum Industry Association by consultancy Ea Energy Analyses, compared the CO2 emissions of cars using different engine technologies from petrol and diesel to hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars.

It found that carbon emissions per kilometre barely differed between the different cars when considering the full 'well-to-wheel' energy production cycle, a trend that they expect to continue until 2025.

According to the analysis, CO2 emissions from hybrids and electric cars are similar, while diesel cars emit 8% more carbon. Emissions from petrol cars, on the other hand, are around 35% higher due to less efficient use of energy compared to diesel, they said.

The study demonstrates that while electric cars have the lowest 'tail-pipe' emissions, they cannot attain the same travel ranges or top speeds as conventional cars. An electric car that could cover a similar distance with one charge would in fact produce more CO2 emissions than diesel vehicles, as it is heavier and requires more energy, it says.

The main difference between the CO2 emissions of different types of cars thus lies not in the amount but the fact that electric cars produce emissions indirectly in the power stations generating the electricity, while conventional cars spew them out directly through their exhaust pipes, it states.

In the long term, the EU is aiming to raise the share of renewable energies in its energy mix by providing clean electricity for electric cars, the report points out. It estimates that by 2015 around 5% of the electricity supplied to electric vehicles will be based on renewable energy, a figure which could rise to 15% by 2025.

"There is a long-term probability that, after 2020, electric cars and plug-in hybrid cars in combination with investments in the electricity system will become important elements in the efforts to reduce CO2 emissions," the report stated.

EU seeks common strategy

Released in September 2009, the report was originally intended to contribute to a domestic debate on taxing electric cars, but the issues it addresses have gained wider interest since an EU-wide debate on electric cars was kick-started by the Spanish EU Presidency.

Competitiveness ministers, meeting in Brussels yesterday (1 March), requested the European Commission to present an action plan for clean and energy-efficient vehicles, including fully electric cars and plug-in hybrids. The EU executive said it would propose a European strategy on clean and energy-efficient cars in time for the May meeting of competitiveness ministers, followed by an action plan.

The plan should encourage the development of battery-charging infrastructure in Europe and spur technological development in batteries, the conclusions of the meeting said. They also stressed the importance of standardisation for green cars, especially in the field of vehicle safety.

The Commission is currently working on adopting a harmonised type-approval system for pure electric and hybrid vehicles.

The ministers also raised the issue of power sources used to fuel electric vehicles. They called for further work on building smart grids and promoting the use of renewable energy to be carried out by member states.

Renewables investment to breach $200bn in 2010?

Environmental Finance, 18 March 2010 - New investment in clean energy is set to recover to at least $175 billion-200 billion this year, according to projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

But while the analysis firm is forecasting that current policies will drive $200 billion of investments in physical clean energy generating assets by 2030 (not including initial public offerings, mergers and acquisitions, etc), this is far below the $500 billion/year it says will be needed by that date to avoid dangerous climate change.

Yesterday, BNEF published revised historical figures to reflect revisions to its methodology. It found that $162 billion was invested in 2009 across the financing spectrum, from corporate R&D and venture capital through to asset financing. This figure was down 6.4% from the revised 2008 figure of $173 billion. 

Speaking to reporters before the start of a BNEF conference in London yesterday, CEO Michael Liebreich said that investment this year "could be as high as 2008 … given that [government] stimulus money is now coming through at the project level".

While he gave a range of $175 billion-200 billion, he added that "if our past record is anything to go by, I'm more likely to be surprised on the upside."

However, a long-term projection from a new economic model built by BNEF forecasts that investments in renewable energy generating assets will only reach $150 billion by 2020 and $200 billion by 2030, based on existing policies and measures, up from $90 billion in 2009. This would mean that renewables account for 22% of the world's installed power generation base by 2020, up from 13% today, and 31% by 2030.

"These figures must increase significantly in order to avert the worst effects of climate change and achieve an average of 2 t CO2 [tonnes of carbon dioxide] per head by 2050," the company says – namely to $230 billion by 2020 and $500 billion by 2030.

Guy Turner, director of carbon markets at BNEF, said that a global carbon price of $65/tCO2 by 2013, rising to $100/t by 2030, would be sufficient to drive this increased level of investment. "We would get there – we've got the technology, all we need is the willpower," he said.

However, current carbon prices in Europe are at around $15/t, and the US and China – the world's two largest emitters – appear extremely reluctant to begin putting a price on carbon. Nonetheless, Turner insisted that the price on carbon is "affordable – $100/t won't destroy our way of life".

Liebreich said he was unfazed by the failure of the Copenhagen conference to make much progress on securing a post-2012 international climate change deal. "The focus on Copenhagen and Mexico [where UN climate talks will continue, in December], is a distraction, compared with what's actually happening on the ground," with national and regional legislation and policies to support low-carbon investment.

"We'll be negotiating on climate for the next 50 years," he said, noting that "whole other areas of global policy-making", around tariffs and trade, and national and international product standards, are likely to become more important in promoting low-carbon technologies and emission reductions.
 Thinking Long-Term:Climate Change and the Oil and Gas Industry

Electric charge is a leap of faith

Financial Times, 9 March 2010 - Volkswagen, a long-time sceptic about hybrid and electric cars, has officially shifted gears.

At last week's Geneva motor show – where nearly every leading carmaker showcased a planned or experimental hybrid or battery-powered model – the German carmaker said it planned an "unprecedented" drive into electric vehicles.

Martin Winterkorn, the chief executive, said the group aimed to increase the cars' share in its portfolio from zero to 3 per cent of its total sales by 2018.

In a preview of forthcoming models, VW's Seat brand rolled a sleek, sporty all-electric "concept" vehicle, the IBE, down a catwalk. Porsche showed the 918 Spyder, a hybrid petrol-electric concept car that it said could shift from petrol mode on the highway to hybrid driving in the city, delivering 78 miles per gallon.

Elsewhere in Geneva, VW's luxury competitor Daimler announced a partnership with China's BYD to build a battery-powered vehicle for the world's largest car market under a new brand.

And Nick Reilly, General Motors' European boss, drove the carmaker's forthcoming electric Ampera from Opel's headquarters near Frankfurt to Geneva, where the mud-spattered prototype took a place on the show floor.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Renault and Nissan, rebuffed VW's bid for leadership in battery-powered cars, saying the Franco-Japanese alliance would have enough capacity to produce about half a million electric cars and batteries by 2013-2014.

Mr Ghosn predicted a shortage of manufacturing capacity for both plug-in cars and the batteries needed to power them within two years.

"From everything I'm seeing, in 2011 or 2012 we're going to have to rush to build capacity for both batteries and for cars," he said.

Mr Ghosn has predicted that zero-emission cars – primarily electric vehicles – will capture a tenth of the world market by 2020.

But most industry analysts and some carmakers – including those planning plug-in models themselves – predict smaller sales for electric cars and hybrids, which rely on a combination of a large battery and a combustion engine.

While most predict a long-term shift to electrification, they say the cars' higher initial cost and the lack of widely available recharging infrastructure will limit demand initially.

"Ten years down the road, more than 90 per cent of cars will be the conventional cars that we have now," said Al Bedwell, an automotive technology expert with JD Power, the consultancy. "Ten per cent will be hybrids or electric vehicles."

Within that figure, all-electric vehicles would account for just 3 per cent, Mr Bedwell said.

National and local governments around the world are investing or pledging billions of dollars in charging points and tax breaks to promote electric cars, which are not yet widely available, and have not proven they will find a significant market.

The uncertainty surrounding demand makes carmakers' forthcoming electric models – not to mention the billions of dollars being invested in lithium-ion batteries expected to power them – largely a leap of faith.

Early motoring press reviews of pioneering all-electric models such as Tesla Motors' electric roadster or BMW's prototype Mini E have mostly praised the cars, but dwelled at length on the anxiety caused to drivers by the lack of public places to recharge them.

Even hybrids, which have been on the road for more than a decade, are still selling modestly except in countries like the Netherlands and Japan that offer generous incentives to people who buy them.

In Geneva Takanobu Ito, Honda's chief executive, said the carmaker, whose flagship Insight hybrid has sold poorly in the US, had been able to sell hybrids in Japan largely because of scrapping and "eco-car" incentives.

He said he was not expecting high sales for a planned all-electric model, which he said Honda was developing to meet California's legislation requiring zero-emission vehicles.

"Pure battery-electric vehicles will be a rather small figure: under optimistic criteria, for Europe less than 5 per cent in 2020," said Wolfgang Bernhart, a partner with Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. "On a global scale, the figure will be even lower."

The doubts are not deterring Renault and Nissan, which have made leadership in electric vehicles a central plank of their corporate strategy.

The two carmakers are planning eight electric vehicles over the next four years, the biggest line-up of any major carmaking group.

At a dinner with reporters in Geneva, Patrick Pelata, Renault's chief operating officer, dwelt primarily on the carmaker's electrification plans, devoting relatively little time to other questions about the company's current products and markets during one of the most challenging times in its history.

In order to lower the prices of its electric cars, Renault and Nissan plan to lease the batteries to customers, and recycle them as energy-storage units after their natural life in vehicles comes to an end.

The group claims that this – coupled with generous tax subsidies for zero-emissions cars in countries such as France – will allow it to offer its plug-in cars at prices comparable to similarly sized diesel models.

Far from a looming bubble and bear market for electric cars and their batteries, Renault fears the opposite: a global competitive rush to develop them. "The biggest strategic fear is that the Chinese or Indian auto industry will take a shortcut" in the new technology, Mr Pelata said.

CSR newsclips for March 30, 2010: Is corporate responsiblity dead? ...or does it lead to better financial performance?

Corporate Social Responsibility Is Dead
March 12, 2010

Why business must be included in the global conversation about reducing our impact on the planet
GLOBE-Net (March 12, 2010) - That's the opinion of one of Britain's top advisors to corporations,  Tony Manwaring, chief executive officer of non-profit "think and do tank" Tomorrow's Company.
"There is still a strong case for business doing 'good works', but there are now far more fundamental reasons for understanding why business success goes hand in hand with social and environmental issues" says Manwaring.  "This is not the old CSR (corporate social responsibility) agenda," he says. "Our view is that the old CSR agenda is pretty much dead, especially for large global businesses."
Manwaring and Tomorrow's Company - which provides information and advice to many of the world's leading companies - believe that business can and must be a force for good.
"This is not about business doing good. This is not about business looking good. This is about business being successful."
Our view is that successful businesses will also be good as a result," he says. And businesses are starting to realize that. "I think that there are more bigger businesses that get it. They're still in a minority, but a growing minority."
Those global businesses with timelines in the decades, rather than years, have been the quickest to pick it up. Manwaring says that while money can still be made from short-term exploitation of the natural world and its resources, businesses that aim to make money over decades - rather than just a few years - down the road realize the importance of developing new technologies and products that will be able to thrive in a zero-carbon world: the key strategic challenge is when to 'jump the curve', from carbon to post-carbon based business models.
Businesses that want to do "good" need help - although, not necessarily financial assistance. "If you want to change big complex things, what you don't do is throw money at things," he says. "What you do, is win the battle of hearts and minds and create a new mindset."
Indeed, there are huge savings to be realized from driving down waste and reducing carbon and water impacts - this is the compelling case for new models of business success for businesses large and small.
Looking ahead, we then have to start to ask - and answer - a rare question. "What will the world look like in a post-carbon future? "  From which it follows: "What kind of world do we want to live in?  Which businesses will succeed and which will fall?  And what will be the new relationship between business, society and the environment which will result."
It's not how much carbon there is in the atmosphere. That's important, but that's not what drives business and it's not want motivates consumers.
It is, very simply, what does the world of tomorrow look like?  How are we going to work, and how are we going to live?" asks Manwaring. "The question is hardly being asked, but it should be - by leaders of business and society alike."
He stresses that business must be included in the global conversation about the environment and how to reduce our impact on the planet. Business, he says, has the greatest capacity to create a vision for a post-carbon world. But there is a huge disconnect between the business community and society reinforcing the vacuum in thinking about the future.
"You need a very different relationship between business, civil society and government. Many believe (incorrectly) that the business voice was very silent and muted in Copenhagen. I think that belief stems from a lack of recognition in the broader civil society about the role business can play on these broader global issues."
In fact, he notes, the business voice in Copenhagen was quite clear and quite direct. Leaders from major corporations spoke eloquently about the need for a strong and enforceable regime to manage the climate change agenda, to create the new level playing fields which would give the confidence needed for investing in new business models and innovation we need to bring rapidly to market.
Business leaders need certainty in order to make the major investment decisions that will be needed to deal effectively with climate change, he notes. "After all, most of the investment dollars needed to deal with the perils of global warming will come from the private sector," he says.
"Copenhagen was just a very small part of the solution; an important part of the solution, but you need a different governance and a different vision of the future and a different set of relationships between the key actors in our society and our world in order to have any real hope of addressing climate change."
Manwaring is a big supporter of events like the upcoming GLOBE conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, which brings business executives and government leaders together to try and answer exactly the questions that he says need to be answered. He will be bringing that message personally to Vancouver during the GLOBE Conference, taking place March 24-26, 2010.
"I think the opportunity to understand what is possible and what is happening at the new frontiers of business - to then put that in a different kind of mindset and think about your business and the opportunity of your business within that new set of possibilities is where GLOBE really stands out and is really important."

RESEARCH INSIGHT: Une promotion interne efficace de la responsabilité sociale des entreprises permet d'attirer et de conserver les meilleurs employés


Les entreprises doivent promouvoir leurs programmes de responsabilité sociale des entreprises (RSE) à l'interne afin d'attirer et de conserver les meilleurs employés. Selon cette étude, peu de entreprises comprennent comment tirer parti de la RSE pour renforcer l'engagement des employés. Pour assurer leur succès, les entreprises devraient créer des stratégies de responsabilité sociale en collaboration avec les employés, informer ces derniers de leurs initiatives de RSE, répondre à leurs besoins et encourager leur identification à l'entreprise. 


• Les initiatives de RSE humanise les entreprises, révèle leurs « bonnes valeurs » et illustre leur contribution à la société 
• De nombreuses entreprises, dont Cisco Systems, GE et IBM, considèrent que l'engagement des employés à l'égard de la RSE constitue une stratégie cruciale pour attirer et conserver des employés talentueux.

Faits Saillants et Conclusions

• Les entreprises ne communiquent pas de façon claire et systématique les détails et l'étendue de leurs initiatives de RSE ; seuls 37 % des employés interrogés avaient connaissance des programmes de RSE de leur entreprise.
• Le succès de la promotion de la RSE repose sur la satisfaction des besoins des employés, tels que : concilier la vie professionnelle et personnelle à l'aide de la RSE, ressentir un lien avec son entreprise et saisir les occasions de se dépasser. 
• Le fait de répondre aux besoins de ses employés bénéficie à l'entreprise puisqu'elle augmente ainsi leur loyauté, leur productivité et leur engagement.
• 71 % des entreprises interrogées ont répondu que les pratiques de RSE étaient élaborées et gérées au niveau du président et chef de la direction, cependant les employés souhaitent jouer un plus grand rôle pour contribuer à la valeur créée par la RSE.

Implications pour les Gestionnaires 

1) Rapprocher les employés des initiatives de RSE. Informer les employés de façon constante, concrète et cohérente sur les initiatives de RSE, y compris sur les particularités, les motivations et les succès des programmes.
2) Illustrer comment la RSE peut bénéficier aux entreprises en s'adressant aux employés. Examiner les activités de RSE afin de voir de quelle manière elles s'inscrivent au sein de l'entreprise et de quelle façon elles peuvent répondre aux besoins des employés. L'influence des activités de RSE sur l'absentéisme, la productivité ainsi que l'engagement et le sentiment d'appartenance des employés à l'égard de l'entreprise devrait être déterminée à l'aide d'indicateurs. 
3) Comprendre les besoins des employés et y répondre. Cibler des programmes de RSE spécifiquement pour répondre aux besoins des segments d'employés ayant la plus grande valeur.
4) Renforcer le sentiment d'appartenance des employés. Surveiller de façon info
rmelle à quelle fréquence les employés utilisent le terme « nous » pour décrire l'entreprise afin de mesurer leur degré d'identification envers l'entreprise. 
5) Faire collaborer les employés à la création de valeur au titre de la RSE. Faire participer les employés à la planification, à la conception et à la mise en ouvre des initiatives de RSE.

Implications pour les Chercheurs 

Les recherches futures pourront étudier les meilleures façons de cerner les différents besoins de divers segments d'employés.


Une étude en deux parties a évalué quand, comment et pourquoi les employés réagissent aux programmes de RSE. La première phase comportait des entrevues approfondies et des groupes de discussion qui regroupaient des employés de grandes entreprises de biens de consommation. Cette phase a été suivie par un sondage général auprès des employés ayant obtenu plus de 10 000 répondants. La deuxième phase comportait des entrevues suivies de deux sondages en ligne effectués auprès de 481 répondants travaillant au sein d'entreprises des secteurs de la fabrication, du commerce de détail et des services.

Bhattacharya, C.B., Sen, S. et Korschun D. 2008. Using Corporate Social Responsibility to Win the War for Talent. MIT Sloan Management Review, 49(2): 37-44.

Sommaire par

Lauren Rakowski & The Network Team

CSR in innovative companies improves customer satisfaction, which leads to better financial performance
Executive Summary
This study investigates whether CSR improves long-term financial performance by satisfying customers. It finds returns on CSR can be positive or negative depending on a firm's innovation and product quality. Firms with CSR initiatives have higher financial returns when they produce high quality and innovative products. Yet, in firms that are not innovative, CSR initiatives may actually lower market value. Managers can leverage CSR for higher market returns by aligning strategy with CSR initiatives and maintaining product quality and innovation.
CSR has been shown to benefit firms by increasing customer goodwill and employee commitment. Up to 90% of Fortune 500companies engage in CSR, but the connection between CSR and market value is not well defined. This study looks at how customer satisfaction provides the link between CSR and market value. It also analyzes how innovation and product quality influence this relationship.
When firms are innovative and have good product quality, CSR improves customer satisfaction, increasing financial returns. A firm's CSR, coupled with innovation and quality, make customers feel connected to it, which leads to customer loyalty. For a company with a market value of roughly $48 billion, a modest increase in CSR ratings resulted in about $17 million more average profits in subsequent years.
When firms are not innovative, CSR decreases customer satisfaction, hurting financial returns. Market value may fall because customers won't buy products that cannot keep up with their needs. When firms that are not innovative use resources to engage in CSR (rather than product improvement) customers see these firms as manipulative. Lack of innovation also signals that firms are not competitive, outweighing positive benefits of CSR and leading investors to doubt the firm's future performance.
Implications for Managers
·   Generate high quality and innovative technologies, products and services. Doing so will meet changing customer needs and help customers feel connected to your company, leading CSR to improve financial performance. For example, Starbucks' superior brand equity and its successful CSR initiatives with the charity CARE are in part due to its superior product quality, innovative skills and ability to sustain customer satisfaction. 
·   Integrate CSR with your business strategy beyond corporate philanthropy. Top firms such as United Parcel Service, Alcoa and Verizon Communications invest in a host of employee related initiatives such as education and safety. These firms have employee volunteer programs that are visible to local communities, which capture favourable attention from customers.  These initiatives help employees feel pride in the firm which improves customer satisfaction and market value.
Implications for Researchers
This study extends previous research by uncovering that customer satisfaction partially mediates the relationship between CSR and improved financial performance. Future can explain why firms with CSR but low innovation have decreased market value. For example, do firms with low corporate abilities invest in less influential CSR initiatives, like cash donations, which reduce customer satisfaction and returns?
This study used longitudinal data to find the link between CSR and firm market value. Data were taken on Fortune 500 companies from 2001-2004 using COMPUSTAT, FAMA, ACSI, CMR and CRSP. Market value was measured with Tobin's q and stock returns.
Luo, Xueming, & Bhattacharya, C.B. (2006). Corporate Social Responsibility, Customer Satisfaction, and Market Value. Journal of Marketing, 70(4): 1-18.
Summarized by
Lauren Rakowski & The Network Team
 Business sustainability is often defined as managing the triple bottom line – a process by which firms manage their financial, social, and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. These three impacts are sometimes referred to as profits, people, and planet

Green Newsclips for March 30, 2010: The dawn of the Anthropocene Epoch, the economic value of nature, legal responsibility for climate change, and an (excellent) Economist briefing on the science of climate change

Economic value of nature 'still invisible', says UN, 8 March 2010 - A United Nations initiative is making massive calculations in an attempt to put a price on nature services such as soil, forest or fresh water in a drive to convince policymakers to implement the 'polluter pays' principle to protect nature, said Pavan Sukhdev, who leads the initiative.

"Unfortunately our current economic systems are not geared to defending or preserving anything that does not carry economic value," Pavan deplored.

As a result, he says, "society destroys nature," adding that it does not necessarily have to be that way.

For example, when forests are cut down, the cost downstream may amount to billions of euros as deforestation leads to flooding. Biodiversity loss thus leads to losses in the economy, which then raises the interest of policymakers.

The UN initiative is trying to demonstrate and capture the value nature delivers to society before economic losses can occur, Pavan explained. But he denied that the aim of the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is to put a price tag on nature.

Making value of nature visible

Rather, the initiative strives to make the value of nature visible by calculating the cost of alternatives for nature's various 'services'.

"In other terms, if you don't have clean air, fresh water or bee-based pollination, for example, how much do you need to spend on alternatives?" Pavan asked. According to him, the value of nutrients and fresh water flowing into farmers' fields can be established by calculating the cost of alternatives, such as nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium-based fertilisers and purpose-built irrigation systems.

"We are going through massive calculations to establish these values," he said.

Sparking policy changes

Sometimes the mere recognition of value can push policymakers to make policy changes and action is not necessarily always the consequence of massive losses suffered, Pavan said, pointing to the EU's  Natura 2000 network of protected site as an example.

However, sometimes you need to capture the value and "reward the benefits of conservation and ecosystem services," he said.

The change in corporate behaviour that is being sought with carbon markets, for example, "is basically a way of recognising that public bad can be converted into private bad by forcing laws to change and then you capture the value of that through the market," he explained.

Poor depend most on nature

"Lack of nature first and most importantly affects the poor," Pavan added. He said that in India for example, 480 million people - some 44% of the India's 1.1 billion people – depend on ecosystem services for their food, livelihoods and freshwater supplies.

"And when the pressures of business and society destroy nature, a few people may make private profits, but mostly you are depriving the poor of their wealth," he said.

Polluter to pay

Asked how and who should pay for damage and the restoration of nature, Pavan said one could start by asking who benefited from its destruction.

"Clearly, the poor did not benefit, so there must have been some private profiteer who destroyed the forest for timber and benefited from it or a property developer who converted the forest," and they should pay, he concluded.

Nature should be compensated via pricing and taxes, but also rules must make sure that the poor are not deprived of it, Pavan stressed.

For 15 years, he said, Costa Rica has been applying a 3% 'pollution tax' on private transport and uses the money to pay farmers to preserve forests on their land.

As a result, biodiversity is being conserved, soil quality is improving and freshwater absorbed by forests is released gradually during the year. All this has led to improved land productivity and increased agricultural yields, making even poor farmers richer, Pavan said.

The net result is that Costa Rica now has a GDP per capita four times higher than when it began applying payments for environmental services (PES) 15 years ago – and poor have got richer. "That is what development is. In a poor country, biodiversity policy and development policy are one," Pavan stressed.

The first in a series of TEEB reports, published in November, said that charges, compensation mechanisms and tradable permits are all possible fiscal reforms to achieve 'full cost recovery' for the destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Dawn of the Anthropocene Epoch? Earth Has Entered New Age of Geological Time, Experts Say


Scientists contend that recent human activity, including stunning population growth, sprawling megacities and increased use of fossil fuels, have changed the planet to such an extent that we are entering what they call the Anthropocene (New Man) Epoch. (Credit: iStockphoto)

ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2010) — Geologists from the University of Leicester are among four scientists- including a Nobel prize-winner -- who suggest that Earth has entered a new age of geological time.

The Age of Aquarius? Not quite -- It's the Anthropocene Epoch, say the scientists writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

And they add that the dawning of this new epoch may include the sixth largest mass extinction in Earth's history.

Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams from the University of Leicester Department of Geology; Will Steffen, Director of the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute and Paul Crutzen the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist of Mainz University provide evidence for the scale of global change in their commentary in the American Chemical Society's' bi-weekly journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The scientists propose that, in just two centuries, humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes to our world that we actually might be ushering in a new geological time interval, and alter the planet for millions of years.

Zalasiewicz, Williams, Steffen and Crutzen contend that recent human activity, including stunning population growth, sprawling megacities and increased use of fossil fuels, have changed the planet to such an extent that we are entering what they call the Anthropocene (New Man) Epoch.

First proposed by Crutzen more than a decade ago, the term Anthropocene has provoked controversy. However, as more potential consequences of human activity -- such as global climate change and sharp increases in plant and animal extinctions -- have emerged, Crutzen's term has gained support. Currently, the worldwide geological community is formally considering whether the Anthropocene should join the Jurassic, Cambrian and other more familiar units on the Geological Time Scale.

The scientists note that getting that formal designation will likely be contentious. But they conclude, "However these debates will unfold, the Anthropocene represents a new phase in the history of both humankind and of the Earth, when natural forces and human forces became intertwined, so that the fate of one determines the fate of the other. Geologically, this is a remarkable episode in the history of this planet."

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Adapted from materials provided by University of Leicester, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:
1.        Zalasiewicz et al. The new world of the AnthropoceneEnvironmental Science & Technology, 2010; 100225131929071 DOI: 10.1021/es903118j's-to-blame-for-climate-change-will-the-supreme-court-review/

Who's To Blame For Climate Change: Will the Supreme Court Review?
Posted By Environmental Leader On March 29, 2010 @ 6:23 am In ClimateGuest ColumnPolicy & LawStrategy & Leadership | 1 Comment
dettman, ehrich, kleibacker lee2In the last month, two federal courts of appeal have ruled on much-watched petitions for rehearing in climate change lawsuits. The decisions have set up a possible showdown on the viability of nuisance claims premised on damages allegedly caused by the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

In Connecticut v. American Electric Power, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected on March 5 requests both for rehearing by the original panel and for en banc review by the entire panel of circuit judges. The original panel's September 2009 decision resurrected lawsuits brought by New York City, several states, and private land trusts against electric utilities that allegedly emit 10 percent of America's man-made greenhouse gases. Premising their federal common law suit on alleged harms resulting from climate change, the plaintiffs seek an injunction forcing the utilities to cap and then reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Second Circuit's decision came on the heels of a decision just a week earlier in the case of Comer v. Murphy Oil Co. There, the Fifth Circuit reached the opposite conclusion by vacating its original decision and agreeing to rehear that matter en banc. In the October 2009 Comer decision, the Fifth Circuit allowed a putative class of Gulf Coast residents and property owners to proceed with a suit against energy, fossil fuel, and chemical companies for Hurricane Katrina damage. Instead of an injunction, the Comer plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, contending that the defendants' combined greenhouse gas emissions increased global surface air and water temperatures, thus raising sea levels, thus compounding the storm, thus destroying plaintiffs' property. The original three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit agreed with much of the Second Circuit's American Electric Power decision. However, the Fifth Circuit's decision to vacate its decision and rehear the case by the full panel of judges presents the distinct possibility that the Katrina claims will be dismissed, which could create a circuit court split. The en banc argument is set for the week of May 24, and the parties were ordered to file supplemental briefing.

The Second Circuit's rehearing denial in American Electric Power started running a 90-day clock within which the defendants may petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Second Circuit has already agreed to stay the return of the case to the district court (called a mandate), indicating that the defendants will indeed seek the Supreme Court's discretionary review.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, a third greenhouse gas nuisance suit, Native Village of Kivalina v. Exxonmobil Corp., is currently being briefed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Expressly disagreeing with the Second Circuit's reasoning in American Electric Power, the Northern District of California in September 2009 dismissed the plaintiffs' federal nuisance claims for costs of future relocation that plaintiffs assert will be necessitated by global warming. "It is illogical to conclude," the district court held, "that the mere contribution of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is sufficient to establish that a plaintiff's injury is fairly traceable to a defendant's conduct." The Alaskan native village is asking the Ninth Circuit to overturn that dismissal.

Jonathan W. Dettmann, Delmar R. Ehrich and Krisann Kleibacker Lee are members of the environmental and litigation groups at Faegre & Benson LLP [1], an international law firm headquartered in Minneapolis. They can be reached via email respectively at, and, or via phone at 612.766.7000.

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Canada Needs Policy Fix For Green Growth, Studies
Date: 26-Mar-10
 Susan Taylor

Canada needs a clear, sustained climate policy to help its nascent green energy sector cash in on a rapidly growing global market for climate-friendly technologies, two reports said on Thursday.
Governments must set stable policy and incentives, invest in research and remove trade barriers to make Canada an attractive play to develop, sell and adopt green technology, the Conference Board of Canada said.
It noted that the Climate Change Business Journal estimates the sector's size at over US$600 billion in 2008, and said some observers forecast it will become the world's third-largest in a decade.
Canada ranked fourteenth among countries exporting green technology in 2008, with exports valued at about C$4 billion, the Conference Board said.
That 2 percent market share trailed Italy, France, Britain, Mexico, Belgium and Denmark. Germany was the top exporter, followed by China, the United States and Japan.
The value of Canadian green exports declined by 2 percent annually, on average, between 2002 and 2008, after adjusting for inflation, the report said.
Another study of 160 companies by a government agency that backs clean technology said the picture at home was more promising. The sector grew at an annual rate of 47 percent during the recession of 2008-09.
It is set to grow 117 percent between 2010 and 2012, said Sustainable Development Technology Canada.
SDTC operates two funds worth a combined C$1.5 billion ($1.47 billion) to support projects addressing climate change and demonstration-scale renewable fuel facilities.
Its report sets out a game plan for Canada to establish 20 C$100 million cleantech companies by 2020.
Canadian companies urgently need better access to capital, improved policy and more effective management of individual companies, it recommends.
"The Canadian cleantech industry has plenty of potential to build globally-competitive companies," said Celine Back, partner at advisory firm Russell Mitchell Group, which co-authored the SDTC report.
"Yet, a thriving Canadian cleantech industry will depend on more than just technological innovation; we will need to become world-class marketers and business managers too."
The study found that 86 percent of Canadian clean technology companies have revenue below C$5 million.

Spin, science and climate change
Action on climate is justified, not because the science is certain, but precisely because it is not
Mar 18th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

CLIMATE-change legislation, dormant for six months, is showing signs of life again in Washington, DC. This week senators and industrial groups have been discussing a compromise bill to introduce mandatory controls on carbon (see article). Yet although green activists around the world have been waiting for 20 years for American action, nobody is cheering. Even if discussion ever turns into legislation, it will be a pale shadow of what was once hoped for.
The mess at Copenhagen is one reason. So much effort went into the event, with so little result. The recession is another. However much bosses may care about the planet, they usually mind more about their bottom line, and when times are hard they are unwilling to incur new costs. The bilious argument over American health care has not helped: this is not a good time for any bill that needs bipartisan support. Even the northern hemisphere's cold winter has hurt. When two feet of snow lies on the ground, the threat from warming seems far off. But climate science is also responsible. A series of controversies over the past year have provided heavy ammunition to those who doubt the seriousness of the problem.
Three questions arise from this. How bad is the science? Should policy be changed? And what can be done to ensure such confusion does not happen again? Behind all three lies a common story. The problem lies not with the science itself, but with the way the science has been used by politicians to imply certainty when, as often with science, no certainty exists.
What went wrong and what did not
When governments started thinking seriously about climate change they took the sensible step of establishing, in 1989, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was designed to get scientists to work out what was happening to the climate, and to get governments to sign off on the scientists' conclusions. It has done the job of basic science pretty well. There have been occasional complaints both that it has overstated the extent of the problem, and that it has understated it. Its reports trawl through all recent climate science. The wide range of the outcomes it predicts—from a mildly warming global temperature increase of 1.1°C by the end of the century to a hellish 6.4°C—illustrate the uncertainties it is dealing with.
But the ambiguities of science sit uncomfortably with the demands of politics. Politicians, and the voters who elect them, are more comfortable with certainty. So "six months to save the planet" is more likely to garner support than "there is a high probability—though not by any means a certainty—that serious climate change could damage the biosphere, depending on levels of economic growth, population growth and innovation." Politics, like journalism, tends to simplify and exaggerate. Hence the advertisements that the British government has been running, using nursery rhymes: "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. There was none as extreme weather due to climate change had caused a drought."
Such an approach may, in the short term, have encouraged some voters to support measures to combat climate change. But implying that Britain's children face some sort of Saharan future is wrong, and dangerous. This week Britain's Advertising Standards Authority slapped the government for its infantile advertisements. And there has been worse.
In November, shortly before the Copenhagen climate summit, a stash of e-mails from and to various researchers at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia somehow found its way onto the web. They revealed an unwillingness to share data which broke the spirit, if not the letter, of Britain's Freedom of Information act, an aggressive attitude to the peer review of papers by opponents and an apparent willingness to hedge science in the face of politics. Around the same time it emerged that the most recent IPCC report had claimed that the Himalayan glaciers were going to disappear by 2035, instead of 2350. The panel's initial unwillingness to address this mistake, and the discovery of further problems with its work, raised troubling questions about its procedures.
How bad is this? Sceptics point out that each mistake has tended to exaggerate the extent of climate change. The notion that the scientific establishment has suppressed evidence to the contrary has provided plenty of non-expert politicians with an excuse not to spend money reducing carbon. So the scientists' shameful mistakes have certainly changed perceptions. They have not, however, changed the science itself.
As our briefing explains in detail, most research supports the idea that warming is man-made. Sources of doubt that have seemed plausible in the past, such as a mismatch between temperatures measured by satellites and temperatures measured at the surface, and doubts about the additional warming that can be put down to water vapour, have been in large part resolved, though more work is needed. If records of temperature across the past 1,000 years are not reliable, it matters little to the overall story. If there are problems with the warming as measured by weather stations on land, there are also more reliable data from ships and satellites.
Insuring against catastrophe
Plenty of uncertainty remains; but that argues for, not against, action. If it were known that global warming would be limited to 2°C, the world might decide to live with that. But the range of possible outcomes is huge, with catastrophe one possibility, and the costs of averting climate change are comparatively small. Just as a householder pays a small premium to protect himself against disaster, the world should do the same.
This newspaper sees no reason to alter its views on that. Where there is plainly an urgent need for change is the way in which governments use science to make their case. The IPCC has suffered from the perception that it is a tool of politicians. The greater the distance that can be created between it and them, the better. And rather than feeding voters infantile advertisements peddling childish certainties, politicians should treat voters like grown-ups. With climate change you do not need to invent things; the truth, even with all those uncertainties and caveats, is scary enough.

The clouds of unknowing
There are lots of uncertainties in climate science. But that does not mean it is fundamentally wrong
Mar 18th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

FOR anyone who thinks that climate science must be unimpeachable to be useful, the past few months have been a depressing time. A large stash of e-mails from and to investigators at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia provided more than enough evidence for concern about the way some climate science is done. That the picture they painted, when seen in the round—or as much of the round as the incomplete selection available allows—was not as alarming as the most damning quotes taken out of context is little comfort. They offered plenty of grounds for both shame and blame.
At about the same time, glaciologists pointed out that a statement concerning Himalayan glaciers in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was wrong. This led to the discovery of other poorly worded or poorly sourced claims made by the IPCC, which seeks to create a scientific consensus for the world's politicians, and to more general worries about the panel's partiality, transparency and leadership. Taken together, and buttressed by previous criticisms, these two revelations have raised levels of scepticism about the consensus on climate change to new heights.
Increased antsiness about action on climate change can also be traced to the recession, the unedifying spectacle of last December's climate-change summit in Copenhagen, the political realities of the American Senate and an abnormally cold winter in much of the northern hemisphere. The new doubts about the science, though, are clearly also a part of that story. Should they be?
In any complex scientific picture of the world there will be gaps, misperceptions and mistakes. Whether your impression is dominated by the whole or the holes will depend on your attitude to the project at hand. You might say that some see a jigsaw where others see a house of cards. Jigsaw types have in mind an overall picture and are open to bits being taken out, moved around or abandoned should they not fit. Those who see houses of cards think that if any piece is removed, the whole lot falls down. When it comes to climate, academic scientists are jigsaw types, dissenters from their view house-of-cards-ists.
The defenders of the consensus tend to stress the general consilience of their efforts—the way that data, theory and modelling back each other up. Doubters see this as a thoroughgoing version of "confirmation bias", the tendency people have to select the evidence that agrees with their original outlook. But although there is undoubtedly some degree of that (the errors in the IPCC, such as they are, all make the problem look worse, not better) there is still genuine power to the way different arguments and datasets in climate science tend to reinforce each other.
The doubters tend to focus on specific bits of empirical evidence, not on the whole picture. This is worthwhile—facts do need to be well grounded—but it can make the doubts seem more fundamental than they are. People often assume that data are simple, graspable and trustworthy, whereas theory is complex, recondite and slippery, and so give the former priority. In the case of climate change, as in much of science, the reverse is at least as fair a picture. Data are vexatious; theory is quite straightforward. Constructing a set of data that tells you about the temperature of the Earth over time is much harder than putting together the basic theoretical story of how the temperature should be changing, given what else is known about the universe in general.
Absorb and reflect
The most relevant part of that universal what-else is the requirement laid down by thermodynamics that, for a planet at a constant temperature, the amount of energy absorbed as sunlight and the amount emitted back to space in the longer wavelengths of the infra-red must be the same. In the case of the Earth, the amount of sunlight absorbed is 239 watts per square metre. According to the laws of thermodynamics, a simple body emitting energy at that rate should have a temperature of about –18ºC. You do not need a comprehensive set of surface-temperature data to notice that this is not the average temperature at which humanity goes about its business. The discrepancy is due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which absorb and re-emit infra-red radiation, and thus keep the lower atmosphere, and the surface, warm (see the diagram below). The radiation that gets out to the cosmos comes mostly from above the bulk of the greenhouse gases, where the air temperature is indeed around –18ºC.

Adding to those greenhouse gases in the atmosphere makes it harder still for the energy to get out. As a result, the surface and the lower atmosphere warm up. This changes the average temperature, the way energy moves from the planet's surface to the atmosphere above it and the way that energy flows from equator to poles, thus changing the patterns of the weather.
No one doubts that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, good at absorbing infra-red radiation. It is also well established that human activity is putting more of it into the atmosphere than natural processes can currently remove. Measurements made since the 1950s show the level of carbon dioxide rising year on year, from 316 parts per million (ppm) in 1959 to 387ppm in 2009. Less direct records show that the rise began about 1750, and that the level was stable at around 280ppm for about 10,000 years before that. This fits with human history: in the middle of the 18th century people started to burn fossil fuels in order to power industrial machinery. Analysis of carbon isotopes, among other things, shows that the carbon dioxide from industry accounts for most of the build-up in the atmosphere.
The serious disagreements start when discussion turns to the level of warming associated with that rise in carbon dioxide. For various reasons, scientists would not expect temperatures simply to rise in step with the carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases). The climate is a noisy thing, with ups and downs of its own that can make trends hard to detect. What's more, the oceans can absorb a great deal of heat—and there is evidence that they have done so—and in storing heat away, they add inertia to the system. This means that the atmosphere will warm more slowly than a given level of greenhouse gas would lead you to expect.
There are three records of land-surface temperature put together from thermometer readings in common use by climatologists, one of which is compiled at the Climatic Research Unit of e-mail infamy. They all show warming, and, within academia, their reliability is widely accepted. Various industrious bloggers are not so convinced. They think that adjustments made to the raw data introduce a warming bias. They also think the effects of urbanisation have confused the data because towns, which are sources of heat, have grown up near weather stations. Anthony Watts, a retired weather forecaster who blogs on climate, has set up a site,, where volunteers can help record the actual sites of weather instruments used to provide climate data, showing whether they are situated close to asphalt or affected by sources of bias.
Those who compile the data are aware of this urban heat-island effect, and try in various ways to compensate for it. Their efforts may be insufficient, but various lines of evidence suggest that any errors it is inserting are not too bad. The heat-island effect is likely to be strongest on still nights, for example, yet trends from data recorded on still nights are not that different from those from windy ones. And the temperature of waters at the surface of the seas shows similar trends to that on land over the past century, as does the record of air temperature over the oceans as measured at night (see chart 1).

A recent analysis by Matthew Menne and his colleagues at America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, argued that trends calculated from climate stations that found to be poorly sited and from those it found well sited were more or less indistinguishable. Mr Watts has problems with that analysis, and promises a thorough study of the project's findings later.
There is undoubtedly room for improvement in the surface-temperature record—not least because, at the moment, it provides only monthly mean temperatures, and there are other things people would like to know about. (When worrying about future heatwaves, for example, hot days and nights, not hot months, are the figures of most interest.) In February Britain's Met (ie, meteorological) Office called for the creation of a new set of temperature databases compiled in rigorously transparent ways and open to analysis and interpretation by all and sundry. Such an initiative would serve science well, help restore the credibility of land-surface records, and demonstrate an openness on the part of climate science which has not always been evident in the past.
Simplify and amplify
For many, the facts that an increase in carbon dioxide should produce warming, and that warming is observed in a number of different indicators and measurements, add up to aprimafacie case for accepting that greenhouse gases are warming the Earth and that the higher levels of greenhouse gases that business as usual would bring over the course of this century would warm it a lot further.
The warming caused by a given increase in carbon dioxide can be calculated on the basis of laboratory measurements which show how much infra-red radiation at which specific wavelengths carbon dioxide molecules absorb. This sort of work shows that if you double the carbon dioxide level you get about 1ºC of warming. So the shift from the pre-industrial 280ppm to 560ppm, a level which on current trends might be reached around 2070, makes the world a degree warmer. If the level were to double again, to 1,100ppm, which seems unlikely, you would get another degree.
The amount of warming expected for a doubling of carbon dioxide has become known as the "climate sensitivity"—and a climate sensitivity of one degree would be small enough to end most climate-related worries. But carbon dioxide's direct effect is not the only thing to worry about. Several types of feedback can amplify its effect. The most important involve water vapour, which is now quite well understood, and clouds, which are not. It is on these areas that academic doubters tend to focus.
As carbon dioxide warms the air it also moistens it, and because water vapour is a powerful greenhouse gas, that will provide further warming. Other things people do—such as clearing land for farms, and irrigating them—also change water vapour levels, and these can be significant on a regional level. But the effects are not as large.
Climate doubters raise various questions about water vapour, some trivial, some serious. A trivial one is to argue that because water vapour is such a powerful greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide is unimportant. But this ignores the fact that the level of water vapour depends on temperature. A higher level of carbon dioxide, by contrast, governs temperature, and can endure for centuries.
A more serious doubting point has to do with the manner of the moistening. In the 1990s Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pointed out that there were ways in which moistening might not greatly enhance warming. The subsequent two decades have seen much observational and theoretical work aimed at this problem. New satellites can now track water vapour in the atmosphere far better than before (see chart 2). As a result preliminary estimates based on simplifications have been shown to be reasonably robust, with water-vapour feedbacks increasing the warming to be expected from a doubling of carbon dioxide from 1ºC without water vapour to about 1.7ºC. Dr Lindzen agrees that for parts of the atmosphere without clouds this is probably about right.

This moistening offers a helpful way to see what sort of climate change is going on. When water vapour condenses into cloud droplets it gives up energy and warms the surrounding air. This means that in a world where greenhouse warming is wetting the atmosphere, the lower parts of the atmosphere should warm at a greater rate than the surface, most notably in the tropics. At the same time, in an effect that does not depend on water vapour, an increase in carbon dioxide will cause the upper stratosphere to cool. This pattern of warming down below and cooling up on top is expected from greenhouse warming, but would not be expected if something other than the greenhouse effect was warming the world: a hotter sun would heat the stratosphere more, not less.
During the 1990s this was a point on which doubters laid considerable weight, because satellite measurements did not show the warming in the lower atmosphere that theory would predict. Over the past ten years, though, this picture has changed. To begin with, only one team was turning data from the relevant instruments that have flown on weather satellites since the 1970s into a temperature record resolved by altitude. Now others have joined them, and identified errors in the way that the calculations (which are complex and depend on a number of finicky details) were carried out. Though different teams still get different amounts and rates of warming in the lower atmosphere, there is no longer any denying that warming is seen. Stratospheric cooling is complicated by the effects of ozone depletion, but those do not seem large enough to account for the degree of cooling that has been seen there, further strengthening the case for warming by the greenhouse effect and not some other form of climate perturbation.
On top of the effect of water vapour, though, the clouds that form from it provide a further and greater source of uncertainty. On the one hand, the droplets of water of which these are made also have a strong greenhouse effect. On the other, water vapour is transparent, whereas clouds reflect light. In particular, they reflect sunlight back into space, stopping it from being absorbed by the Earth. Clouds can thus have a marked cooling effect and also a marked warming effect. Which will grow more in a greenhouse world?
Model maze
It is at this point that detailed computer models of the climate need to be called into play. These models slice the atmosphere and oceans into stacks of three-dimensional cells. The state of the air (temperature, pressure, etc) within each cell is continuously updated on the basis of what its state used to be, what is going on in adjacent cells and the greenhousing and other properties of its contents.
These models are phenomenally complex. They are also gross oversimplifications. The size of the cells stops them from explicitly capturing processes that take place at scales smaller than a hundred kilometres or so, which includes the processes that create clouds.
Despite their limitations, climate models do capture various aspects of the real world's climate: seasons, trade winds, monsoons and the like. They also put clouds in the places where they are seen. When used to explore the effect of an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases on the climate these models, which have been developed by different teams, all predict more warming than greenhouse gases and water-vapour feedback can supply unaided. The models assessed for the IPCC's fourth report had sensitivities ranging from 2.1ºC to 4.4ºC. The IPCC estimated that if clouds were not included, the range would be more like 1.7ºC to 2.1ºC. So in all the models clouds amplify warming, and in some the amplification is large.
However, there are so far no compelling data on how clouds are affecting warming in fact, as opposed to in models. Ray Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist at the University of Chicago who generally has a strong way with sceptics, is happy to agree that there might be processes by which clouds rein in, rather than exaggerate, greenhouse-warming effects, but adds that, so far, few have been suggested in any way that makes sense.
Dr Lindzen and a colleague suggested a plausible mechanism in 2001. They proposed that tropical clouds in an atmosphere with more greenhouse gas might dry out neighbouring parts of the sky, making them more transparent to outgoing infra-red. The evidence Dr Lindzen brought to bear in support of this was criticised in ways convincing enough to discourage other scientists from taking the idea further. A subsequent paper by Dr Lindzen on observations that would be compatible with his ideas about low sensitivity has also suffered significant criticisms, and he accepts many of them. But having taken them on board has not, he thinks, invalidated his line of research.
Arguments based on past climates also suggest that sensitivity is unlikely to be low. Much of the cooling during the ice ages was maintained by the presence of a large northern hemisphere ice cap reflecting away a lot of sunlight, but carbon dioxide levels were lower, too. To account for all of the cooling, especially in the southern hemisphere, is most easily done with a sensitivity of temperature to carbon dioxide higher than Dr Lindzen would have it.
Before the ice age, the Earth had a little more carbon dioxide and was a good bit warmer than today—which suggests a fairly high sensitivity. More recently, the dip in global temperatures after the eruption of Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, which inserted a layer of sunlight-diffusing sulphur particles into the stratosphere, also bolsters the case for a sensitivity near the centre of the model range—although sensitivity to a transient event and the warming that follows a slow doubling of carbon dioxide are not exactly the same sort of thing.
Logs and blogs
Moving into data from the past, though, brings the argument to one of the areas that blog-based doubters have chosen as a preferred battleground: the temperature record of the past millennium, as construed from natural records that are both sensitive to temperature and capable of precise dating. Tree rings are the obvious, and most controversial, example. Their best known use has been in a reconstruction of temperatures over the past millennium published in Nature in 1998 and widely known as the hockey stick, because it was mostly flat but had a blade sticking up at the 20th-century end. Stephen McIntyre, a retired Canadian mining consultant, was struck by the very clear message of this graph and delved into the science behind it, a process that left him and followers of his blog, Climate Audit, intensely sceptical about its value.
In 2006 a review by America's National Research Council endorsed points Mr McIntyre and his colleagues made on some methods used to make the hockey stick, and on doubts over a specific set of tree rings. Despite this it sided with the hockey stick's overall conclusion, which did little to stem the criticism. The fact that tree-ring records do not capture recent warming adds to the scepticism about the value of such records.
For many of Mr McIntyre's fans (though it is not, he says, his central concern) the important thing about this work is that the hockey stick seemed to abolish the "medieval warm period". This is a time when temperatures are held to have been as high as or higher than today's—a warmth associated with the Norse settlement of Greenland and vineyards in England. Many climate scientists suspect this phenomenon was given undue prominence by climatologists of earlier generations with an unduly Eurocentric view of the world. There is evidence for cooling at the time in parts of the Pacific.
Doubters for the most part are big fans of the medieval warm period, and see in the climate scientists' arguments an attempt to rewrite history so as to maximise the drama of today's warming and minimise the possibility that natural variation might explain the 20th-century record. The possibility of more climatic variability, though, does not, in itself, mean that greenhouse warming is not happening too. And if the medieval warmth were due to some external factor, such as a slightly brighter sun, that would suggest that the climate was indeed quite sensitive.
Looking at the more recent record, logged as it has been by thermometers, you might hope it could shed light on which of the climate models is closest to being right, and thus what the sensitivity actually is. Unfortunately, other confounding factors make this difficult. Greenhouse gases are not the only climatically active ingredients that industry, farming and land clearance add to the atmosphere. There are also aerosols—particles of pollution floating in the wind. Some aerosols cool the atmosphere. Other, sootier, ones warm it. The aggregate effect, globally, is thought to be a cooling, possibly a quite strong one. But the overall history of aerosols, which are mostly short-lived, is nothing like as well known as that of greenhouse gases, and it is unlikely that any of the models are properly capturing their chemistry or their effects on clouds.
Taking aerosols into account, climate models do a pretty good job of emulating the climate trends of the 20th century. This seems odd, since the models have different sensitivities. In practice, it appears that the way the aerosols are dealt with in the models and the sensitivity of those models tend to go hand in hand; sensitive models also have strong cooling aerosol effects.

Reto Knutti of ETH Zurich, an expert on climate sensitivity, sees this as evidence that, consciously or unconsciously, aerosols are used as counterweights to sensitivity to ensure that the trends look right. This is not evidence of dishonesty, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. Since the models need to be able to capture the 20th century, putting them together in such a way that they end up doing so makes sense. But it does mean that looking at how well various models match the 20th century does not give a good indication of the climate's actual sensitivity to greenhouse gas.
Adding the uncertainties about sensitivity to uncertainties about how much greenhouse gas will be emitted, the IPCC expects the temperature to have increased by 1.1ºC to 6.4ºC over the course of the 21st century. That low figure would sit fairly well with the sort of picture that doubters think science is ignoring or covering up. In this account, the climate has natural fluctuations larger in scale and longer in duration (such as that of the medieval warm period) than climate science normally allows, and the Earth's recent warming is caused mostly by such a fluctuation, the effects of which have been exaggerated by a contaminated surface-temperature record. Greenhouse warming has been comparatively minor, this argument would continue, because the Earth's sensitivity to increased levels of carbon dioxide is lower than that seen in models, which have an inbuilt bias towards high sensitivities. As a result subsequent warming, even if emissions continue full bore, will be muted too.
It seems unlikely that the errors, misprisions and sloppiness in a number of different types of climate science might all favour such a minimised effect. That said, the doubters tend to assume that climate scientists are not acting in good faith, and so are happy to believe exactly that. Climategate and the IPCC's problems have reinforced this position.
Using the IPCC's assessment of probabilities, the sensitivity to a doubling of carbon dioxide of less than 1.5ºC in such a scenario has perhaps one chance in ten of being correct. But if the IPCC were underestimating things by a factor of five or so, that would still leave only a 50:50 chance of such a desirable outcome. The fact that the uncertainties allow you to construct a relatively benign future does not allow you to ignore futures in which climate change is large, and in some of which it is very dangerous indeed. The doubters are right that uncertainties are rife in climate science. They are wrong when they present that as a reason for inaction.

Carbon Newsclips for March 30, 2010: CERs in Europe, reducing emissions in the US and Japan, emissions imports, and a link to a webcast on the EPA GHG reporting rule

EU Puts Stop to Reuse of CERs
Posted By Environmental Leader On March 19, 2010 @ 8:08 am In Carbon Finance & OffsetsCarbon Offsets/RECsEuropePolicy & Law | No Comments
halt - handTo restore confidence to the emissions trading markets in the wake of a trading scandal [1], the European Union has amended rules under its Emissions Trading Scheme to halt the recycling of certified emission credits (CERs).

After it was revealed that the Hungarian government sold 2 million previously used CERs, markets were roiled and trading stopped on two exchanges.

Since the scandal, Hungary and the BlueNext exchange, where the recycled credits were sold, have been working together to identify [2] those CERs and prevent their reentry into the market, according to NASDAQ.

Hungary's environment minister issued a release stating that it was "likely that an intermediate market player transacted the CERs within the EU ETS knowingly."

Indeed, without identifying any companies involved, Hungarian Energy Power said the recycled credits in question ended up in the hands of one of the "biggest trading houses [3]" in Europe, after being routed through a London-based trading company, reports Business Week.

The EU has its own type of certified emissions credits, called European Union allowances (EUAs), which it self-regulates. CERs are sold under the mantle of the United Nations, but are acceptable for use under the EU's Emissions Trading System, so long as they are surrendered for compliance after their first use.

In the case of this scandal, the second-hand credits re-entered the ETS.

In response, the EU closed a loophole [4] that previously had allowed different companies to surrender the same carbon permits for compliance, according to the Interactive Investor.

Starting March 19, the EU said it would suspend the process for surrendering CERs until new rules are applied later this year.

There is one exception [5], according to LSE – the period from April 19 to May 1.

"'This allows for an appropriate time period for the surrender of allowances or credits by operators for compliance with 2009 emissions by the 30 April 2010 deadline, while protecting the integrity of the European carbon markets,' the commission said, in a statement.

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Strategies for Transparent Corporate Climate Policy Communications
Posted By Environmental Leader On March 18, 2010 @ 8:02 am In ChartsClimateFinance & ReportingReporting | No Comments
ClimatePolicyEngagementAlthough climate reporting has focused on two primary issues — greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and efforts to reduce them, and the risks and opportunities created by climate change, a third issue is emerging — engagement in climate policy [1] (PDF), according to a new report from BSR.

The report finds that companies need to transparently communicate all climate policy efforts, particularly as more investors demand to see that they are creating value; customers judge them by their leadership roles, and watchdog groups look for inconsistencies between their stated climate goals and policies.

The BSR report, "Communicating on Climate Policy Engagement: A Guide to Sustainability Reporting [2]" (PDF), focuses on this third emerging issue and offers guidelines on how businesses can communicate to customers, investors, and the public on their climate policy engagement efforts. The report also provides best practices from leading firms committed to sustainability including Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, and Unilever.

BSR recommends that companies take three key approaches to reporting: be explicit and clear about goals and objectives to solve climate change, be straightforward about the company's policy and answer difficult questions before they are asked, and use diverse reporting channels including Websites, sustainability reports and the CDP questionnaire to communicate your company's consistent message.

By communicating transparently about climate-change efforts, companies can meet commitments to stakeholders and position themselves as leaders in climate progress, says BSR.

Stakeholders also include regulatory agencies and reporting initiatives that are also asking for more transparency. As an example, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued new climate change disclosure guidance [3] in February, which requires businesses to report on how climate change will impact their businesses.

Another reason to beef up disclosures is a potential loss of revenues. A recent survey of Carbon Disclosure Project members shows that more than half would stop doing business with suppliers that don't manage their carbon [4].

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Simple Steps To Reducing U.S. Emissions by a Billion Tons
Posted By Environmental Leader On March 16, 2010 @ 8:19 am In Carbon FootprintChartsEmissionsPeoplePredictionsStrategy & Leadership | 1 Comment
c2In an effort to get households and businesses to reduce their environmental impact, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Garrison Institute have instituted an education campaign called Simple Steps [1].

Based on the report, "Simple and Inexpensive Actions Could Reduce Global Warming Emissions by One Billion Tons [2]" (PDF), the education campaign is a blueprint for reducing U.S. emissions by 15 percent, or about a billion tons.

The biggest opportunity for reducing emissions is in addressing household energy (45 percent), followed by transportation (22 percent), diet and food waste (17 percent) and recycling and responsible consumption (16 percent).

As one example, if every American who travels by plane three times a year or more were to fly once less per year, about 55 million metric tons of emissions could be averted.

Consuming paper and plastics more responsibly – by using double-sided printing, reducing catalog subscriptions and buying less bottled water – cold help shave another 60 million metric tons of emissions.

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Japan to set ambitious climate targets: reports

Point Carbon, 22 March 2010 - Japan will set ambitious nuclear and other targets in a new energy plan to fight climate change.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Meti) has compiled a draft of the new Basic Energy Plan, which will serve as guidelines for the nation's energy policies through 2030, some Japanese media reports said at the weekend. 

According to the reports, the draft shows a clear shift of focus in Japanese energy policy from ensuring stable crude oil supplies to combating global warming. 

The draft specifically calls for building at least 14 new nuclear reactors in the country and boosting the current slumped operation rate of Japanese nuclear power plants to 90 per cent by 2030. 

The nuclear power plant operation rate stood at only 65.7 per cent over the first 11 months of fiscal 2009, which started in April 2009, according to Point Carbon calculations based on monthly industry association reports. 

Japan is the world's third-biggest nuclear power generator after the US and France with 54 reactors. 

An increase of only 1 percentage point in the operation rate of Japanese nuclear power plants is estimated to cut the nation's annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by around 3 million tonnes. 

Green cars 

The draft also sets other ambitious targets toward 2030, including making all new vehicles sold by that year to be environmentally-friendly vehicles, such as electric cars and gas-electric hybrid cars. 

The draft also calls for replacing lighting fixtures at all households with high-efficiency bulbs and introducing high-efficiency hot-water heaters at 90 per cent of households by 2030. 

The government's plans mark the first time in three years that the Basic Energy Plan has been revised. 

The original plan was adopted in October 2003 and has so far been revised once. 

Meti plans to have the new plan approved at a cabinet meeting by the end of June.

White House finalizing rules to cut car emissions

Reuters, 11 March 2010 - The White House is finalizing rules on the first U.S. greenhouse gas emission standard for automobiles, which would raise average fuel economy 42 percent by 2016 in a bid to slash oil imports and fight climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department sent the final rules this week to the White House's Office of Management and Budget, according to a notice posted on the OMB website.

The higher mileage requirements will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 900 million metric tons and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of vehicles built during the 2012-2016 model years, according to the EPA.

The projected savings over the life of the plan amounts to about four months of current fuel consumption in the United States, the biggest petroleum consumer, with demand at close to 19 million barrels per day.

The rules would aid the Obama administration's efforts to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, especially if Congress fails to pass legislation to fight global warming.

The vehicle emissions standards will be phased in starting with the 2012 model year, raising fuel economy to an average 35.5 miles per gallon by the time the 2016 models are ready -- up 42 percent from the current 25 miles per gallon.

Lower U.S. gasoline consumption could make more crude supplies available in the world market, which in turn could put downward pressure on oil prices.

Phil Flynn, an analyst with PFGBest Research in Chicago, said the new standards will definitely lower U.S. oil demand, but that could be offset with higher fuel use in other countries.

"We can save it here, but are these cars going to be marketable in China, where all the demand growth is going to come from?" he asked.

The rules follow an EPA finding that greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles contribute to air pollution, a danger to public health.

The EPA has come under attack from many U.S. lawmakers and industries for working independently on regulations that would slash greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, oil refineries and factories. Legislation is pending in Congress to stop the EPA from issuing broader emissions-cutting regulations.

Many accuse the EPA to trying to get around Congress, where legislation that would cap and then slowly reduce U.S. emissions blamed for global warming has been bogged down. As lawmakers deal with a massive healthcare bill and financial reform, it becomes more unlikely Congress will be able to approve a final climate change bill this year.

But automakers support the separate vehicle regulations because it would create the first national standard for controlling car and truck emissions, instead of having state-by-state regulation.

Many new vehicles, especially hybrid cars, already meet or exceed the planned standards.

The government must notify automakers by March 31 of the higher fuel efficiency for the 2012 model years.

To meet the new standard, the sticker price on a car or truck would rise by an average $1,300 in 2016 compared to current vehicle costs, the EPA said. However, a driver would save about $2,800 over the life of a vehicle through fuel costs.

Study raises question of emission 'imports'

Greenwire, 9 March 2010 - While China has taken on the mantle of world's largest carbon dioxide emitter, almost one-quarter of these emissions is generated during the production of goods and services meant for export, often to the wealthy world, according to a new study.

Some 8 percent of China's emissions is solely due to U.S. exports, and countries like Austria, France and Britain "import" about a third of their CO2 emissions this way, said researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .

These "hidden" emissions give wealthy countries an ethical reason to lead the effort on limiting climate change, said Steve Davis, the study's lead scientist.

"We expected to find this net flow from developing countries to the developed world," Davis said. "But what stood out was how much of the global flow is accounted for by bilateral trade between China and the U.S."

Debate continues about the fairness of CO2 pricing that would penalize one country for goods consumed in another. While this burden may seem unfair, the producing countries also reap the jobs and income provided by manufacturing, others say. But the report does make clear the limits of country-based emission measures, said Dieter Helm, an energy policy professor at Oxford University.

"What all these exercises show is that production-based figures are highly misleading and in particular flatter Europe and the U.S.," Helm said.

"What the authors fail to conclude is that the Kyoto-based approach" -- which uses production-based emissions for its calculations -- "is fatally flawed, and that the case for border carbon taxes is very considerable," he added (Richard Black, BBC News, March 9).
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