The International Institute for Sustainable Development (iisd) presents
10 - 25 July, 2003
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38) INSURERS, REINSURERS PREDICT CATASTROPHIC LOSSES IN GLOBAL WARMING, Vanguard (Lagos), July 23, 2003
Russia has moved a step closer to ratifying the 1997 Kyoto Protocol following the conclusion by an ad hoc government team investigating the possible effects of the pact on the country that the agreement would be free from economic and political risks, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Monday.
Russian government sources said the team of officials, which is coordinating Moscow's stance toward the pact by listening to the input from all relevant ministries and agencies, has conveyed its conclusion to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian leader is now expected to ask the Russian parliament as early as September to began deliberations on the climate change accord with a view to ratifying it, the sources said. The pact, formally called the Kyoto Protocol to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, was adopted by an international conference in Kyoto in 1997.
However, the United States, the country that emits the largest amount of carbon dioxide, withdrew from the treaty in 2001. Despite the absence of the United States, the Russian conclusion favoring ratification is certain to give new momentum to enable the pact, which Japan ratified in June last year, to enter into force.
The team's findings consists of two main conclusions. The first, referring to the 12-year period of First Joint Fulfillment of agreements from 2008, says it will be possible for Russia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels without encountering particular burdens.
The conclusion is based on projections compiled by the Russian Energy Ministry and the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring.
The second, prepared by the Russian Foreign Ministry, says that even if Russia ratifies the 1997 protocol, it would remain obliged to comply with the greenhouse gas emissions accord only during the first Joint Fulfillment period--12 years--from 2008. Further joint international action to combat global warming would require another round of ratification, a statement favoring the ratification of the pact, according to the sources.
Two conditions must be met for the Kyoto Protocol to enter into force. First, at least 55 countries must ratify it, and second, their combined volume of greenhouse gases must account for 55 percent of such emissions from industrialized countries.
The withdrawal of the United States-- which emits about 36.1 percent of greenhouse gases throughout the world--means that the pact could not have entered into force without ratification by Russia, which has a global share of 17.4 percent of emissions.
As we await the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol, the EU must be thinking ahead to approaches that build on Kyoto and that will engage the USA and the industrialising developing countries in a collective effort. This was stated by minister for rural affairs and the environment, George Pullicino while addressing an informal EU meeting for environment and energy ministers which was held over the weekend at Montecatini Terme, in Italy. Also present for the meeting was the minister for resources and infrastructure, Ninu Zammit.
Mr Pullicino said that the EU has much to be proud of on the issue of climate change strategy, and is committed to a clean and secure energy future and to creating the technological and economic opportunities that will get us there. He said that the member states forming the EU are committed to implement the Kyoto targets, even before the protocol enters into force, and the necessary mechanisms are being established.
These political choices by one of the world’s leading economic powers will influence the path of the global energy economy and the global strategy on climate change. Yet we need a multilateral strategy, to ensure competitiveness in trade and effectiveness in combating climate change.
Mr Pullicino said that it is everyone’s hope that the Russian Federation will soon ratify the Kyoto Protocol and exhorting Moscow, while criticising Washington, is not an adequate policy stance. He said that if the Protocol enters into force, it will be necessary, by 2005 at the latest, to launch negotiations on the second commitment period, starting in 2013. So, there is definitely need for new thinking, leading to a new intergovernmental initiative, aimed at engaging the USA and developing countries in the next phase of emission limitation. We cannot wait for the USA to take the lead in proposing a multilateral initiative. Nor can we expect the big developing country emitters to move off their waiting position before a positive signal is forthcoming from Washington.
So it is up to the EU, with like-minded members of the G8 group, like Japan and Canada, to stimulate forward thinking, seeking also to engage other OECD members that are not bound by Kyoto commitments as is the case of Mexico and the Republic of Korea.
Mr Pullicino said that in building on Kyoto, the EU needs to address the concerns of the US with the cost and timeframe of limiting emissions. “We need to reassure developing countries that we will back their sustainable development while they make their necessary contribution to emission limitation.
We also need to maintain a broad approach to climate strategy that promotes emission limitation and also includes adaptation and sequestration, as well as the acceleration of technological innovation, particularly in automotive technology.”
The minister said that Malta was the originator of the climate change item on the UN General Assembly’s agenda in 1988. He added that Malta would be happy to contribute once again to promoting new thinking, this time in our new position within the EU.
He said that Malta’s energy budget, like those of other arid Mediterranean countries, includes the need to desalinate water and cool buildings, and the country would benefit greatly, and so would the global climate, if these demands could be met from renewable sources.
Mr Pullicino said that Malta is seeking cooperation in these areas from other EU members and is willing to cooperate in testing new technologies.
Rome, July 19, Itar-Tass/ACSNA/IRNA -- EU ministers for the environment and energy called on Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol so that it can come into effect in 2008. "The protocol cannot enter into force because Russia has not signed it," Italian Minister of Productive Activities Antonio Marzano said. He is taking part in a meeting of EU environment and energy ministers currently under way in the Italian town of Montecatini.
Meanwhile, on July 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov discussed preparations for ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Earlier, the Russian president reiterated that Russia is seeking to ratify the Kyoto Protocol although 'there are some problems at an expert level'.
Putin said it is necessary to take into account Russia's possibilities of restoring the environment due to its vast territories and the great amount of forests that improve the situation on the planet. At the same time, Putin said the government 'has been instructed to prepare resolutions on the ratification of the protocol'.
"Not only those favor the ratification but also those criticize the document must be listened by the government," the Russian president said. A year ago Putin told the government members, "We can say the ratification process has begun." But Putin warned that it takes years to ratify the Kyoto Protocol because 'it is necessary to take into account all remarks in order to avoid any negative consequences for the economy'.
The protocol was signed in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 1997 as part of the Kyoto Change Climate Conference. It envisions tough restrictions on gas emissions to the atmosphere. Under the protocol, developed countries should reduce gas emissions by 5.2 percent from 2008 to 2012 as compared to the 1990-year level.
MONTECATINI TERME, Italy (Reuters) - The European Union on Friday challenged Russia to quickly ratify the Kyoto Protocol fighting climate change -- a move crucial for the landmark environmental pact to come into force. Although 110 countries have already ratified the protocol, a complex weighting system means that the signature of Russia, which accounts for 17 percent of emissions, would tip the balance toward implementation. "I think it would be very, very welcomed by all the 110 countries that have ratified to see it (Russian ratification) happening as soon as possible," EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom told Reuters in an interview in Italy where she was attending a meeting of EU environment and energy ministers. "There is an expert conference in Moscow in September and we hope that by that time they will give us the all-clear," she said, referring to an ecological summit on the treaty's future.
The Kyoto Protocol aims to cut global emissions of gases many scientists say are responsible for climate change. The pact suffered a major blow when the United States, the world's top polluter, pulled out in 2001.
Russia's economy ministry said earlier this month that the protocol would not harm Russian interests and that ratification was a political question awaiting a nod from the Kremlin.
The European Parliament has this month adopted a bill creating the world's first international emissions trading market, which lets firms trade the right to pollute. The law is the centerpiece of the EU's efforts to meet its commitments under Kyoto.
(AGI) - Montecatini Terme, Italy, July 18 - The Kyoto protocol will be considered "condemned" if Russia doesn't ratify it, said environment minister Altero Matteoli on the side of an EU summit in Montecatini Terme. "We have already taken the necessary steps for Moscow to ratify this important act, and we will take even more". An upcoming occasion will be the Environment Conference planned for September in Moscow. However - added Matteoli - we also have to consider the fact that in addition to ratification we need the concrete application of what has been agreed on, "we need the countries to feel and be obliged to apply the ruled, otherwise it would be as if we hadn't done anything at all". The Minister also said that European businesses "must be in the position to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Kyoto protocol".
British Prime Minister Tony Blair told U.S. lawmakers they cannot ignore the problem of world climate change. Mr. Blair said in his speech to Congress Thursday that climate change, deforestation, and the draining of natural resources will stop world economic growth, especially in developing nations.
The prime minster said the world has to go beyond the Kyoto treaty and look toward science and technology to fight environmental problems. President Bush angered environmentalists and many other governments when he pulled the United States out of the Kyoto treaty in 2001. Mr. Bush said the 1997 pact drastically cutting carbon dioxide emissions to curb global warming is economically destructive. The president said voluntary cuts by industry can also work in meeting the same goals.
TOKYO — A Japanese government advisory body called Tuesday for participation by the United States and developing countries in international efforts to curb global warming. The call was made in a report compiled by the global environment subcommittee of the Industrial Structure Council, an advisory body to the minister of economy, trade and industry. (Kyodo News).
Switzerland on Wednesday became the 111th state to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse emissions, the Swiss office for the environment, forests and countryside said. The Swiss mission to the United Nations in New York has now deposited the ratification document for the 1997 agreement, it said.
Under the protocol Switzerland, like the members of the European Union, is to commit itself to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by eight percent from 1990 levels.
MOSCOW - Russia's economy ministry said last week that the Kyoto Protocol would not harm Russian interests and that ratification of the landmark environmental pact was a political question awaiting a nod from the Kremlin. Members of the State Duma lower house of parliament said the treaty, which aims to cut global emissions of climate-changing gases, would only go through when President Vladimir Putin gave deputies the word. "Ratification does not carry any special risks for the Russian Federation. We are not against it," Deputy Economy Minister Mukhamed Tsikanov, who is responsible for ecological issues, told Reuters. "The Duma will vote on it, and there is of course a risk that it will not be ratified. But that is because we are a democratic country," he said in an interview.
The Duma, which is dominated by pro-Kremlin parties, is on summer recess and returns to session in early September, giving it only a month to ratify the treaty before an ecological summit in Moscow aimed at discussing the treaty's future. Under the Kyoto Protocol's complex weighting system, its system of emission quotas would only come into force when nations accounting for 55 percent of emissions ratified it.
The United States, the world's largest polluter, pulled out of the treaty in 2001, and it can only be implemented if Russia, which accounts for 17 percent of emissions, approves it. Most Russian parliamentarians support the protocol, said Robert Nigmatulin, chairman of a State Duma lower house of a parliament committee that advises on ecological issues. "I am in favour of it, and I think most deputies are in favour of it," the Duma deputy said. "The treaty has to be ratified by the Duma, but it is the president that will decide."
Putin has not committed himself to a timescale to ratify the treaty, although his latest comments were interpreted as being broadly in favour of ratification. "If everything that was written in the Kyoto Protocol came into effect, it would not solve the problem," he told students in Kaliningrad last week. "(But) it is true, as my European colleagues say, that it is a step in the right direction." Russian emission levels, primarily of carbon dioxide, were assigned before the post-Soviet economic meltdown. Hence, it has substantial spare capacity which it could sell to other polluters, although Tsikanov was worried that without the United States, Russia might have trouble finding as big a market as it was originally counting on. "The most we will emit is 2.2 billion tonnes of emissions a year in 2008-2012," he said. "In those four years, we will have some three billion tonnes of quotas unused." "The Kyoto countries will need about one billion tonnes by our reckoning, that is a maximum. And these quotas could also be bought in other places, like Ukraine, or Kazakhstan or Africa." He said the revenues from quota sales were crucial for modernisation, and cutting Russian dependence on oil and gas, which account for more than half of budget revenues.
Ten states in the Northeast, led by New York, have agreed to begin talks about creating what would be the first market-based compact in the nation intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
The idea, announced yesterday in Albany by Gov. George E. Pataki, is to curb emissions by creating a regional market in which power plants can buy and sell carbon dioxide credits among themselves as each state works toward reaching the target, or cap. Scientists consider carbon dioxide to be a major greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change. Some environmentalists said the potential impact of the plan was huge but uncertain, because no details had been worked out, especially concerning how restrictive the caps would be and how many of the states expressing interest would ultimately participate.
Others expressed deep disappointment with the announcement because the timetable of the multistate talks does not call for an agreement until April 2005. It could be years after that before the rules and, in some states, laws take effect to actually begin reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. "I think it's a step forward," said Ashok Gupta, the director of the air and energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national conservation group based in New York. "We're hopeful that this will be the precursor to a national cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide." The process, begun by Mr. Pataki in April with a letter to 10 governors in New England and Middle Atlantic states, has some potential political wrinkles. Aides to Mr. Pataki, a Republican, said yesterday that the policies were farsighted and ambitious but not in conflict with the policies of President Bush. The Bush administration has been criticized by scientists who say it has failed to pay attention to global warming.
Within the initial group of states — Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York — there are also political divisions, with four Democratic governors and six Republicans. And several of the states responded with letters that expressed only lukewarm enthusiasm for Mr. Pataki's idea because they were moving ahead on ambitious reductions in power plant emissions on their own. The response letter from Gov. James E. McGreevey of New Jersey, for example, called Mr. Pataki's plan modest in focusing only on carbon dioxide and not on other power plant pollutants, like mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which Mr. McGreevey, a Democrat, said the state was working to reduce through its own power plant rules. "To the extent your proposal advances those initiatives, I am pleased to join and support," Mr. McGreevey wrote.
The central dynamic of the plan, and the great unanswered question of its environmental impact, revolve around the mixture of restriction, from the emissions caps, and voluntary incentives, in the trading system.
Power plants that keep their emissions under the cap would qualify for credits that they could then sell, and dirtier plants would have to buy credits to meet their cap obligations. The idea is that developers and plant owners would have more financial incentive to build and operate clean, efficient plants, and modernize dirtier plants through cleaner fuels or new equipment.
The Cabinet is split over the proposed introduction of carbon taxes amid concerns it will damage the economy, writes Liam Reid. Proposals by the Minister for the Environment, Mr Cullen, for significant levels of green taxes on fossil fuels have met resistance from the Minister for Finance, Mr McCreevy, and other Government colleagues They are concerned that a high carbon tax could damage the competitiveness of Irish industry and lead to a public backlash. At Wednesday's Cabinet meeting, Ministers agreed to start a formal consultation process on the introduction of carbon taxes, which Mr McCreevy has agreed to in principle. In December's budget he said he intended to introduce carbon taxes from the end of 2004.
According to a Cabinet source, attempts to find a consensus between Ministers and social partners on the tax have proved fruitless to date, and the consultation process is an attempt to find common ground. "There's a bit of concern about a public and industry backlash on the taxes," said the source. "There's quite a bit of confusion on the issue in general, so the consultation process was seen as the best way to gauge opinion and get some form of consensus. "The Minister for Finance knows the taxes have to be introduced sooner or later, and he'll have to make tough decisions on it, but the consultation process pushes it down the road a bit." Mr Cullen, however, is adamant that carbon taxes are a vital tool in his bid to reduce Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions. He has warned Mr McCreevy and other colleagues that Ireland will face fines and levies of up to €4 billion if it fails to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
Under the agreement Ireland is legally committed to greenhouse gas emissions of no higher than 13 per cent above 1990 levels. By 2001 emissions were at 31 per cent above 1990 levels, and were the fifth highest in the world on a per capita basis. Mr Cullen has proposed a carbon tax level of a minimum of €7.50 per tonne of greenhouse gases across the board on all fossil fuels, rising to €20 over a four-year period. Last year his officials made a detailed submission to the Government's tax strategy group on the phased introduction of the €20 tax. Mr Cullen is still pressing for the tax to be introduced in this way, claiming the effect on industrial competitiveness would be minimal.
However, Mr McCreevy has been warned by industry and by officials within his Department that proposals put forward by the Department of the Environment could damage competitiveness. His concerns about the effect on the economy last year saw him going against a recommendation from the Tax Strategy Group that a carbon tax be introduced this year. Mr McCreevy's concerns are shared by the Tánaiste, Ms Harney. Her Department vehemently opposed the Department of the Environment's proposals to the Tax Strategy Group last year, and it is understood this opposition has not changed. She has asked that carbon tax levels be brought in at a low rate, with an advance warning of two years before they are introduced.
Yesterday Mr Cullen refused to be drawn on the divisions within Government on how to proceed with the tax. However, he reiterated his belief that the taxes, when introduced, would not damage the competitiveness of the economy. "My view is that we can decouple [energy taxes and economic growth] going forward," he said. Industry, however, would "have to bear some of the pain" in relation to the taxes. Mr Cullen made his comments at the publication of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency, which predicts more extreme weather conditions in Ireland because of global warming. The research predicts that winter rainfall in this country will increase by 10 per cent, but summers will be significantly hotter and drier in the south and east of the country.
The Kyoto Protocol committing most of the world's developed nations to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions will not save low-lying Pacific atolls from rising seas, says a senior American climate bureaucrat, Harlan Watson. Sea level rises because of global warming would not be averted quickly enough for some low-lying populations because a lag-effect would mean warming would continue even after emissions reduced, said Dr Watson, the United States Government's senior climate negotiator. "If everybody stopped emitting tomorrow or today, the thermal inertia in the system would continue, and the sea level's going to continue to rise at some rate," he said.
But Dr Watson – who was in Wellington heading a delegation to consolidate USA-NZ co-operation under a bilateral climate change partnership – said it was still not clear how much of the emissions would be man-made, from industry and agriculture, and how much was due to natural processes such as volcanic activity.
There was no possibility of the United States changing its mind and signing the Kyoto Protocol during the first commitment period from 2008-2012, he said. It objected to developing countries being excused from reducing their emissions, and the huge economic cost if the United States were required to cut its emissions 30 per cent over a decade. Asked whether the United States felt a moral liability, in light of it being the biggest user of fossil fuels producing greenhouse gases, Dr Watson said it was spending money globally on activities which could help low-lying countries to adapt or mitigate damage.
But he also said there was a fundamental issue involved, which was that at present the United States' own greenhouse gas emissions were tied to its economic performance. "I don't see. . . the United States trashing its economy to meet a Kyoto goal," he said. "How does it help the world if the United States is poor? Where is the developing world going to sell its products? Dr Watson, a special representative of the Department of State, said New Zealand and the United States had similar aims, but wanted to reach them by different routes. "There are many views. New Zealand is one of the many countries that believe Kyoto's the right way to start, and go – Australia and the United States are not. "But we are all committed to a longterm. . . trying to do the best we can."
The United States was spending huge amounts of money in climate change science and technology areas, and engaging businesses and communities in voluntary programmes to reduce emissions. Dr Watson met the Government's minister in charge of work on climate change, Pete Hodgson, government officials and scientists from the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), Landcare Research, CRL Energy Ltd, Massey and Victoria universities, and the Geological and Nuclear Sciences institute.
The deal signed today set up new projects in nine areas: climate change science; technology development; greenhouse gas accounting in forestry and agriculture; engagement with business; co-operation with developing countries; climate change research in Antarctica; and public education initiatives.
The US delegation included representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation, and the departments of state and energy. It was also accompanied by representatives of a consortium for agricultural soils mitigation of greenhouse gases (CASMGS), nine US universities and a national laboratory investigating the use of farmland to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate experts and environmentalists yesterday called for synchronisation of political efforts at local and international levels and adaptation measures to offset the impacts of global climate change. The climate change is now a global phenomenon and it would affect the developing countries like Bangladesh badly, although the developed countries create this problem, they said at a lecture session on 'Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh'. Bangladesh have to come up with solutions of her own, as the developed nations find out solution for them only, the experts said.
Forum of Environmental Journalists of Bangladesh (FEJB) organised the lecture, first of a series, to mark its 20th founding anniversary. FEJB Chairman Quamrul Islam Chowdhury presided. Dr. Saleemul Huq, chairman of Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), emphasised on long-term strategy to cope with the adverse effects of climate change, particularly sea level rise. He said that the green house effect is causing the global warming that leads to rise of the sea level, threatening to submerge vast coastal areas throughout the world. ANH Akhtar Hussain, chief engineer, Bangladesh Water Development Board, said the country has weather forecasting system not the climate forecasting system. He called for installing climate forecasting system for effective disaster management and policy planning.
Dr. A Atiq Rahman, executive director of BCAS, warned that 20 to 25 million people of Bangladesh will become victims of climate change if adaptation measures are not taken immediately. He said that although the developed countries are responsible for this hazard, they are avoiding their responsibilities.
Deputy secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest Dr. Mahfuzul Haque also spoke.
SACRAMENTO - California, where some environmentally conscious residents drive the freeways in electric cars or live in trees to frustrate loggers, may be assuming a new role as the nation's port of entry for tough European environmental laws. Environmentalists throughout California, increasingly enthralled by their European counterparts and easily linked to their politics through the Internet, are studying restrictive new European Union policies on chemicals, food and water and air pollution. Rebuffed at home by Bush administration resistance to major environmental programs, many hope to absorb European ideas into California, then leverage the state's clout and size to drive them onto the national stage.
"Over and over again, we keep looking at things Europe is doing and saying, 'Why is the U.S. lagging?' " said William Walker, head of the West Coast office of the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C., group that monitors issues from U.S. farm subsidies to pollution. Already, in a California where last year the Green Party won 11.5 percent of the vote in one legislative race, a politically powerful environmental movement has driven two key European Union environmental reforms through the Legislature, in both cases making California the nation's first state to adopt them.
San Francisco also recently became the nation's first city to adopt what Europe calls the "precautionary principle." Widely criticized by the Bush administration, the principle dictates that approvals for everything from new chemicals to genetically enhanced food should err on the side of caution, even when current available science indicates its apparent safety. Such enthusiasm for European ideas in a state considered more liberal than the nation as a whole, with its beeping street crosswalks for the blind and signs on buildings warning pregnant women of cancer-causing chemicals, has caught the eyes of lobbyists who often duel with the environmental movement. "Clearly, a lot of the hot and heavy action is happening in Europe," said Peter O'Toole, representing a chemical manufacturing group, the Bromine Science and Environmental Forum, which opened a Brussels office in 1997 - and recently opened another in Washington, D.C. "Now it seems California is picking up on it."
European officials, including Brussels-based Lone Mikkelsen, spokesperson for European Union environment commissioner Margot Wallstroem, said they're pleased "if EU policies can inspire policies in other parts of the world." The newest example passed the state Senate last week, and is almost sure to be signed by Gov. Gray Davis, a measure to outlaw two chemical flame retardants known to accumulate in the blood of mothers and their newborns. The ban on the chemicals, a group known as PBDEs which remain in the environment for years, begins in 2008. A European Union ban on the fire retardants begins next summer.
Minutes after their bill passed the state Senate, backers boasted about the "California effect" of the fire retardant bill, saying a ban on manufacturing, distribution and sale of the chemicals in the Golden State will force chemical companies nationally to find alternatives. Last year, the Legislature and Davis followed the European lead when they moved to curb greenhouse gas emissions from cars starting in 2009, despite vigorous opposition from automakers. A 1998 European Union directive forces automakers to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent by 2008. Leaders in both Europe and California are critics of the Bush Administration's decision not to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set targets to reduce greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming.
Describing the joint European-California actions on auto emissions, Karla Schoeters, director of Brussels-based Climate Action Network Europe, said, "Together, with our American colleagues, we indeed hope that this is a back door to the Bush Administration." Schoeters also said California's emissions law helps soften a widely shared European "negative image of the U.S.," by showing that at least some American states actively support the Kyoto Protocol. Experts view California and Europe as ideologically similar, both dominated by liberal Democratic and labor parties and increasingly influenced by environmentalist Greens. But European Green Party strength in European parliaments and "mad cow" scares have driven environmental policies, once considered backward, "ahead of the U.S.," said Thomas Ilgen, faculty member of the European Union Center of California and political science professor at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. As a result, he said environmentalists now view Europeans as "a kind of ally" to shape more restrictive environmental policies in California and the United States. "In some ways groups can probably make a bigger impact at the state level than they've has been able to make at the national level, certainly in the context of the current administration," Ilgen said.
Among California's hopefuls looking to Europe, Bob Scowcroft, head of Santa Cruz-based Organic Farming Research Foundation, lamented low U.S. government support for organic farming in contrast to a German "action plan to have 20 percent of its land and or economy be organic." The Environmental Working Group's Walker said California environmentalists love the status of their European colleagues as "a legitimate voice at the table. In the U.S. we say sometimes we're the rabble clinging to the gates, trying to get the White House to hear us."
WASHINGTON, DC, July 24, 2003 (ENS) - The Bush administration today released a 10 year research strategy for developing knowledge of climate change and its potential impacts on the environment and human lives. The strategic plan builds on the expertise of 13 federal departments and agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Critics say the comprehensive study should not replace action to curb U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. "We have strong evidence of global warming and high degree of consistency," said Dr. Warren Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, who is involved in creating and carrying out the research plan.
"There is uncertainty over exactly how much it is going to warm over next 100 years." "One of the aspects we will be looking at carefully," Washington said, "is what happening in the North Atlantic as the sea ice and glaciers melt and add fresh water to ocean circulation, and may change the transport of warm water in the Gulf Stream." It is the potential for effects like this to trigger abrupt changes in the global climate that scientists will be studying, he told reporters today.
The plan emerged from months of consultations by federal experts, independent scientists, nongovernmental organizations, members of the general public and international specialists who make up the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), a joint federal program of President George W. Bush's Committee on Climate Change Science and Technology Integration. The CCSP strategic plan’s vision is “a nation and the global community empowered with the science based knowledge to manage the risks and opportunities of change in the climate and related environmental systems.”
The plan outlines five scientific goals aimed at addressing key questions and uncertainties:
But environmentalists say no matter how many scientific puzzles are solved, if the politicians do not integrate these solutions into their policymaking, climate change cannot be curbed. Dr. Daniel Lashof, science director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said today, "We should learn as much as possible about global warming. The question is, what happens in the White House when the coal and oil companies don't like the results.
The Bush administration has a history of sweeping science under the rug when it undermined their political agenda. That's what happened last month when the White House suppressed global warming findings in a major EPA report."
Dr. Ari Patrinos, director of the U.S. Energy Department's Office of Science's biological and environmental research division, told reporters today, "We will not be dabbling into policy. At the same time, we're not just throwing information over the wall and hoping it will stick somewhere useful. It will be more of a dialogue that may translate into useful policy." Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, has called for a Senate hearing to investigate reports of federal agencies manipulating science to support Bush administration policies. In a July 15 letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and Ranking Member Jim Jeffords, a Vermont Independent, Lieberman said, "Given the skepticism surrounding the veracity of the Administration's statements on environmental issues, I believe that any hearing on this issue must be held under oath."
In his letter, Lieberman quoted Jeremy Symons, a former EPA climate policy adviser, who wrote in the "Washington Post" on July 13, "What began with the Bush administration exercising its discretion over policy choices on global warming has devolved into attempts to suppress scientific information. These efforts jeopardize the credibility of federal agencies and the information they provide to Congress and the public."
The need to limit global warming is urgent, according to two experts from the Harvard Medical School and Duke University speaking for the nonprofit Civil Society Institute, who expressed their concern earlier this month that droughts fueled by unchecked global warming would touch off more wildfires and a rise in related public health problems. "The rise of U.S. wildfires is turning global warming into a real and direct health threat for American adults and children," said Paul Epstein, MD, associate director, Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. "The chief concern has to be that global warming, if left unchecked, will mean more intense weather extremes, including drought. The resulting, and worsening, wildfire problems in the United States could well mean a steadily increasing toll in the related health problems."
Professor William Schlesinger, dean of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, said that due in large part to global warming, the stage is now set for wildfires to rage out of control to an extent not seen before. "Global warming is causing much of the world's water to evaporate, leaving dry vulnerable forests." Research under the U.S. Climate Change Science Program is sponsored by 13 federal agencies - the Agency for International Development, the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, State, and Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Scientists from these agencies will undertake programs in climate modelling, atmosphere radiation measurement, atmospheric science, the terrestrial carbon cycle, the ocean carbon cycle, and ecosystem research program, and finally will produce an integrated assessment, according to Dr. Raymond Orbach, the Energy Department's director of the Office of Science. The EPA's participation in the climate research effort is headed by Dr. Paul Gilman, who serves in the dual roles of EPA science advisor and assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development. "This plan will support scientific discovery and excellence," Dr. Gilman said. "The partnerships will produce high quality, science based knowledge that we will use as the platform for policies that protect the Earth's environment."
The NRDC's Lashof says the pursuit of knowledge should not be a reason to avoid action. "We know enough to know that's its time to start fixing the problem," he said. "Scientists agree that heat-trapping carbon pollution is causing global warming. They say that if we don't take sensible action soon, it will be too late. Research should not be an excuse to put off solutions." Schlesinger says the problem of global warming is urgent. "The most important thing for the public to understand about this is that our nation needs to curb its emissions of carbon dioxide. We are altering the climate of the planet to a point never before seen." With about five percent of the world's population, the United States emits some 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases. Under the administration of President Bush, the United States has backed out of the Kyoto Protocol originally signed under President Bill Clinton. President Bush says U.S. participation in the international agreement to limit the emission of six greenhouse gases would be too costly for the good of the U.S. economy.
While the President did not comment today on the release of the climate research plan, he made his views on the issue clear in June 2001, saying, "I've asked my advisors to consider approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including those that tap the power of markets, help realize the promise of technology and ensure the widest possible global participation." "Our actions should be measured as we learn more from science and build on it," President Bush said. "Our approach must be flexible to adjust to new information and take advantage of new technology. We must always act to ensure continued economic growth and prosperity for our citizens and for citizens throughout the world."
Bush Team To Call For More
Climate Studies, Groups Say, Planet Ark, July 25, 2003;
Bush plan on warming shifts
focus from fuels, Associated Press, July 25, 2003;
White House says global warming
needs more study, CNN, July 24, 2003;
Taking On Global Climate Change, Planned Study Is Decried as Stalling, Washington Post, July 24, 2003; Internet: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37478-2003Jul23.html
Feds Wants More Research on
Global Warming, Associated Press, July 23, 2003;
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) moved closer to its goal of making greenhouse gases tradable commodities this fall by hiring IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) to provide its trading platform, CCX said on Thursday. CCX, the first exchange of its kind in the United States, aims to cut its member's emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide by four percent by 2006. Scientists believe greenhouse gases, released by burning fossil fuels, cause climate change by trapping the sun's heat in the atmosphere. CCX said it will begin continuous electronic trading of greenhouse gas emission allowances and offsets on Friday October 10, 2003.
The news came on the same day the Bush administration was set to release a new report on global warming.
The Bush administration plans to delay action on global warming in favor of more study, according to an excerpt of a report circulated by U.S. environmental groups. Atlanta-based ICE, which owns Europe's energy trading market, the International Petroleum Exchange, is an electronic venue for trading 600 energy and metals commodities. "The ability to use ICE's trading platform in this private label arrangement allows CCX to benefit from ICE's proven leadership in electronic trading technology," said CCX Chairman and CEO Richard L. Sandor in a statement. CCX currently has 14 members, ranging from the City of Chicago to Ohio-based American Electric Power (nyse: AEP - news - people), the largest carbon dioxide emitter in the United States. CCX officials are hopeful they will attract more members and extend the program beyond 2006.
Most industrial nations, with the exception of the United States -- the world's largest polluter -- have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, penned in 1997. Kyoto requires signatories to reduce gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2012. The plan allows companies that cut emissions more than they initially pledged to sell credits to firms unable to meet required reductions. Companies trading on CCX also can earn credits for emission reductions programs, such as reforestation projects. Currently, U.S. companies are not required to cap their greenhouse gas emissions. Britain, Denmark, Japan and the European Union have already boosted emissions trading, as companies that curb emissions of greenhouse gases try to cash in. The European Union has a plan to cap a trade 45 percent of its greenhouse emissions which is targeted to begin in 2005.
Governments of Bulgaria, Denmark signed Thursday a friendship memorandum upon the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Bulgaria, Denmark ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 and got the opportunity for "jointly implementation". The memorandum lets the two countries join efforts to limit environmental damages. This move will extend even further Bulgaria-Denmark mutual aid in protecting the environment, Bulgaria's Environment Minister Dolores Arsenova said Thursday after signing the memorandum.
AMSTERDAM - Royal Dutch/Shell SHEL.L RD.AS has entered the European wind energy market by buying 40 percent of a wind park in northeast Spain, the Anglo-Dutch energy giant said yesterday. Shell said in a statement that it bought the stake in the La Muela Wind Park from TXU Europe Energy Trading BV in a deal that "marks the beginning of commercial-scale wind operations in Europe for the Royal Dutch/Shell group of companies". La Muela has a total capacity of 99 megawatts, Shell said.
Shell already owns four wind parks in the United States, and announced separately yesterday that it would build a fifth -- its biggest to date -- in Texas. The 160-megawatt Brazos wind farm in Texas will be constructed in a 50-50 joint venture with Padoma Wind Power and is due to be completed by the end of this year, Shell said. Shell WindEnergy currently operates in the United States and Europe -- where it already participated in two experimental projects in Britain and Germany -- but is looking at emerging markets for possible future expansion, Shell spokesman Simon Buerk told Reuters. "We're keeping a watching brief on emerging markets for future entry," Buerk said.
The European Commission today adopted a new initiative to combat climate change globally. The proposal for a new Directive will allow European companies to carry out emissions-curbing projects around the world and convert the credits earned into emissions allowances under the European Union emissions trading scheme. The proposal builds on the so-called market-based flexible mechanisms "Joint Implementation" and the "Clean Development Mechanism" envisaged by the Kyoto Protocol. Their aim is to reach the global emissions reduction targets in a cost-effective way while transfering advanced technology to other industrialised and developing countries. "Today's proposal and the emissions trading system just adopted by the Council and the European Parliament are evidence of our strong commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and to the Kyoto Protocol", said Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. "They will allow emissions to be reduced cost-effectively, and they reinforce the importance of the Kyoto Protocol as the key multilateral instrument for tackling climate change. This initiative will also support the entry onto force of the Kyoto Protocol because it will show to others the benefits that can be gained from its ratification and that reductions of greenhouse gas emissions can be delivered in a cost-effective way."
JOINT IMPLEMENTATION AND THE CLEAN DEVELOPMENT MECHANISM
Joint Implementation (JI) and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) are mechanisms created by the Kyoto Protocol to enable governments to meet part of their greenhouse gas reduction commitments by developing emissions reduction projects in other countries. JI projects are to be undertaken in countries that have quantitative emissions reductions targets under the Kyoto protocol, i.e. industrialised countries. CDM projects are to be hosted by developing countries, which have no quantitative targets. JI and CDM will transfer environmentally sound technologies to the host countries, which will assist them in reaching their sustainable development objectives. The third market-based flexible mechanism envisaged by the Kyoto Protocol is emissions trading between countries. The idea behind all three mechanisms is that greenhouse gas emissions are a global problem and that part of the necessary reductions can be achieved where costs are lowest. The application of these mechanisms will begin in 2008 provided that the Kyoto Protocol will have, as expected, entered into force by then.
EU EMISSIONS TRADING SYSTEM
Building on the flexible mechanisms under Kyoto and aware of the urgency to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the EU has decided to introduce an internal emissions trading system from 2005 onward, which limits carbon dioxide emissions from a broad range of industries, such as power generation, and places them within a regulatory framework. The large carbon dioxide emitters will be allocated allowances on an annual basis through national allocation plans and required to matchkeep their emissions with their holdings of in the limits set by the allowances. If they reduce emissions to a level below their limits, they can sell the excess allowances to other companies or keep them for future use. Vice versa, companies that exceed their limits can invest in abatement technology or buy allowances on the market to match their emissions, whichever is the cheaper. In this way, the EU scheme will allow emissions reductions to take place at minimum cost to the economy.
LINKING JI AND CDM TO EMISSIONS TRADING
Today's proposal will in addition allow for reductions to be achieved through emissions-reducing projects carried out anywhere in the world. The projects need to result in real, measurable and long-term climate change benefits, which will be verified according to the Kyoto Protocol. Based on these verifications, Member States will be free to convert such credits into allowances under the EU emissions trading scheme so that they can be traded within the scheme. The proposal will enable the Commission to ensure that the EU's emission targets will not exclusively be met by cutting emissions through projects. It envisages the triggering of a review once JI and CDM project credits equivalent to 6% of the total quantity of allowances issued for the 2008-2012 trading period enter the emissions trading scheme. If triggered, this review will consider placing a limit on the credits that can be converted during the remainder of the trading period. The introduction of such a quantitative limit would be done through the committee carrying out tasks in relation to the EU's emissions trading scheme, where the Member States are represented.
The proposal excludes nuclear projects in line with the Kyoto Protocol's rules and "carbon sinks." Carbon sinks - forests to soak up CO2 - have been a contentious issue at international level because they do not bring technology transfer, they are inherently temporary and reversible, and uncertainty remains about the effects of emission removal by carbon sinks. International negotiations on what types of forestry projects might be acceptable to governments have not yet been completed. The European Climate Change Programme (ECCP), launched by the European Commission in March 2000 to identify and develop with all the relevant stakeholders measures that will help the EU meet its Kyoto target, has identified the measures proposed today as being particularly cost-effective. It is expected that the measures will reduce the annual compliance costs for participants in the EU emissions trading scheme by approximately 25%.
For more information and the full text of the Commission's proposal, see the Commission's "Climate" website at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/docum/index.htm
Green light for worldwide emissions trading, EU Observer July 24, 2003; Internet: http://www.euobserver.com/index.phtml?aid=12222
Europe Adopts Climate Emissions
Trading Law, ENS, July 22, 2003; Internet:
Institute of Physics
High temperature superconductor (HTS) devices could help the EU reduce its CO2 emissions by up to 52 million tonnes, equivalent to 65 per cent of its Kyoto Protocol commitment. Teemu Hartikainen, Jorma Lehtonen and Risto Mikkonen from Tampere University of Technology, Finland have worked out how much European GHG emissions would be reduced if these devices were introduced. Their findings are published today (23 July) in the Institute of Physics journal Superconductor Science and Technology.
Using HTS in motors improves their efficiency so machines use up less electrical energy, thus reducing the GHG emissions from electricity production. HTS devices can approximately halve power losses, as superconducting materials – unlike conventional devices – have practically no resistance, which is the property which causes energy to be wasted as excess heat. However, superconductors need to be kept cold so use up energy in refrigeration.
Risto Mikkonen and his team wanted to find out the efficiency level and power range that would be necessary for HTS devices to be competitive against conventional devices. Energy production is the biggest source of GHG emissions, so they focussed on this. They studied what would happen to GHS emissions from the Finnish electric power grid if all the existing conventional transformers, generators and synchronous motors (which deliver large amounts of steady power) in Finland were replaced by HTS ones, taking into consideration the production and consumption of electricity.“To find out how competitive superconducting devices would be, we worked out their break-even power, using generally accepted economical and technological estimates, and carried out our GHG emission analysis,” says Teemu Hartikainen.
The break-even power is the minimum power needed for the devices to become commercially viable. Working at their calculated break-even power for HTS devices on the Finnish electric power grid, emissions could go down by the equivalent of 0.8 to 1.55 million tonnes of CO2 per year – which is one to two per cent of Finland’s total GHG emissions. Expanding the results to the whole of the EU, the reduction would be equivalent of 27 to 53 million tonnes of CO2, which is 33 to 65 per cent of the EU’s Kyoto commitment (to reduce GHG emissions by eight per cent from 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012).
The team used a market penetration model based on the write-off rate of present machinery, and calculated that it would take at least 20 years to achieve just half of this reduction potential. HTS devices are promising not only for environmental reasons but also are commercially attractive. Compared to their conventional counterparts, they are less sensitive to load variations, they are more stable, smaller, lighter and less noisy. These features would be especially useful for moving systems, like those on boats, trains or aeroplanes.“Our results will interest device manufactures who are constantly seeking new developments in the electric power sector,” said the head of superconductivity unit at Tampere University of Technology, Risto Mikkonen. “Superconducting devices could help the EU reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases. Although it will take some time to introduce this new technology, the environmental benefits could accelerate its commercialisation.”
BRUSSELS, July 23 (Reuters) - European firms could save as much as 700 million euros while meeting European Union goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions if they cut pollution in developing countries, the European Commission said on Wednesday. The EU executive adopted a proposal that would let companies count reductions in carbon dioxide emissions in developing states towards the overall EU target. Companies within Europe can trade credits -- a firm emitting less than its permitted carbon dioxide output can sell the surplus to another firm from 2005. Under the proposal, EU companies would be able to do it globally starting in 2008. This would be cheaper than forcing them to make all the cuts in emissions produced by sites located in the 15-member bloc but would still help in the overall drive to stop global warming, the Commission said. "Global warming is a global problem so it does not matter where the emission reduction takes place," a senior Commission official told a news conference.
EU governments and the European Parliament will discuss the proposal in the autumn but green groups were already up in arms. Many plants in the oil refining, smelting, steel, cement, ceramics, glass and paper sectors will need special permits to emit carbon dioxide gas from 2005 onwards as the EU seeks to implement the Kyoto Protocol and stop global warming. Many scientists see greenhouse gases as a contributor to rising temperatures on the planet and consequent higher sea levels which threaten low-lying countries. Environmental lobby group Climate Action Network (CAN) criticised the new scheme, saying it would let European firms off the hook from cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the EU.
"It's a false economy," said CAN energy specialist Rob Bradley. Bradley said EU firms could exploit monitoring loopholes in the scheme, for example by carrying out a planned upgrade of an oil pipeline in a developing state to save money and counting it as a specific measure to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"We fear a lot of projects that were going to happen anyway in developing countries will get credited," he said. Bradley said he was also disappointed that a cap on the amount of carbon credits that the EU could buy from developing countries was left out of the Commission final draft. But EU employers confederation UNICE welcomed the omission. "There has been progress on this issue but there is still a lot of uncertainty for business," said UNICE Director of Industrial Affairs, Daniel Cloquet.
The climate change levy is a major increase to business costs despite government claims it is "fiscally neutral", according to the Federation of Small Businesses. It found 88pc of the small companies that pay the levy are worse off. This is despite claims that any revenue raised is recycled through discounts via employers' National Insurance contributions. John Holbrow, of the federation, said that organisations "with large workforces and low energy use, such as local authorities and big businesses" are the winners because they have more staff eligible for the discount. All pubs, hotels and restaurants surveyed, whatever their size, are net losers.
Mr Holbrow added: "The climate change levy discriminates against smaller firms and is particularly hitting manufacturers and hoteliers who are already struggling." Most managers do not know why it was introduced so the policy effects will not be realised. That reinforces the impression it is a stealth tax and makes it unlikely the levy will produce more efficient use of energy, he added. Mr Holbrow concluded: "The climate change levy is an excise duty presented as a environmental initiative. It is a costly failure and should be scrapped." The levy is imposed on energy - electricity, coal, gas and liquid petroleum gas - for non-domestic users.
Energy efficiency needs to become an integral part of our nation's psyche. Like we have achieved with smoking in public places, certain energy wasteful practices need to be seen as antisocial and even illegal! Visionary words from the South African Minister of Minerals and Energy, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the launch of the SADC region's Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, (REEEP), in Magaliesberg on 20 July. Coinciding with National Energy Efficiency Week, the REEEP is set against a background where 80% of people in Africa do not have access to reliable electricity. 'A big challenge for Africa is that the private sector and governments work together to take greater responsibility for this access, and that we do so through the transfer of skills and not merely the transfer of technology, which creates dependencies,' adds the Minister. 'Partnerships are essential in achieving sustainable development, and we need to ensure that energy contributes to this development.' 'We're racing against time in so many ways, to ensure that energy is accessible, clean, affordable, reliable and secure, and the REEEP's action- and outcomes-based approach will help achieve our targets.'
REEEP, a global initiative launched by the British government at last year's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, provides an open and flexible framework within which partners can take joint actions to promote the uptake of sustainable energy. In welcoming the Minister, the British High Commissioner, Ann Grant, emphasized the temporary housing of the secretariat and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's role in supporting the REEEP initiative following non-committal talks and discussions at the WSSD. Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is among those participating in the two-day event at the Mount Grace Country Hotel, Magaliesberg, South Africa, co-ordinated by Cape Town based AGAMA Energy. The Minister will be joined by senior representatives from energy and environmental ministries, electricity regulators, NGOs, the private sector, and financing organisations, from Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa, as well as representatives from AGAMA Energy, Minerals and Energy Policy Unit and the REEEP secretariat.
This is the sixth in a series of regional REEEP meetings taking place in Nairobi, Accra, Manila, Johannesburg, New Delhi, Campos de Jordao, Beijing, Washington and London. Speaking before the Magaliesberg meeting, the head of the REEEP Secretariat, Dr Amal-Lee Amin, said the REEEP would promote development in Southern Africa. 'The REEEP's overriding objective is to accelerate the global uptake of sustainable energy sources and technologies in order to deliver key development goals. The meeting in Magaliesberg will build on the success of our launch meetings in London, Washington, Kiev, Nairobi, Accra, and Budapest,"' said Dr. Amin. 'It's almost a year since the REEEP was launched in South Africa. Now is the time to take stock and commit to work programmes in Southern Africa and other regions that form our partnership,' she said.
Mr Glynn Morris, Chief Executive of AGAMA Energy and facilitator of the REEEP meeting, said the REEEP's international members and know-how would boost sustainable energy in the Southern African region. 'The REEEP can make a significant contribution through drawing the region together in capacity-building, market research and awareness-raising, establishing blueprints and demonstration projects for sustainable energy, and championing the benefits of regional trade in sustainable energy,' he said.
For more information please visit www.REEEP.org
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry released an interim report Friday on global warming, calling for a new framework that covers the majority of ozone-depleting greenhouse gas emissions. The new framework is expected to be launched after the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Because the United States, which accounts for 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, has withdrawn from the Kyoto pact, it covers only one-third of total emissions, the report states. With developing countries, which are not covered by the Kyoto pact, expected to produce half of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, the report urges the U.S. and developing countries to join the new framework.
In pulling out of the Kyoto accord, Washington said that joining would harm its economy, citing the fact that developing nations are not covered by it. Australia also said it would not ratify the pact. Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries are required to cut their greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by an average of 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2012. If Russia ratifies the treaty, it will come into effect.
The report also calls for the involvement of a variety of sectors in the new framework, including nongovernmental organizations and industrial circles. The interim report was approved Friday by the global environment committee in the Industrial Structure Council, an advisory panel to the industry minister.
Cities to get funds Municipal governments will receive part of the revenue from a carbon-emission tax to help them reduce global warming, according to an Environment Ministry draft designed to introduce the new levy in 2005.
The funds will be used to encourage households to build energy-saving homes and replace electric appliances with eco-friendly ones, and to spread the use of fuel-cell vehicles, the draft says. The ministry is to submit the draft to a task force under the Central Environment Council, which advises the environment minister, on July 25. The task force is expected to flesh out the draft. The planned tax is aimed at taxing oil and other fossil fuels based on their carbon content. Municipal governments are already required by law to take steps to combat global warming, but at their own expense. The draft says the tax will target crude oil importers and producers of petroleum products in a similar manner to conventional petroleum and gasoline taxes. Petroleum products used in making synthetic fibers may be exempt from the new tax, as the process emits no carbon dioxide. The burden on steelmakers and cement companies may be alleviated in light of their diminishing competitive edge in the international arena. The ministry estimates that a tax of at least 3,400 yen per ton of carbon is necessary for Japan to attain its commitment under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to cut 6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the 1990 level in the period between 2008 and 2012.
MONTECATINI, Italy, July 18, 2003 (ENS) - Energy and environment ministers from the 15 European Union member states and 10 accession countries kicked off a three day joint session in Montecatini today. The informal council is organized by the European Union's Italian presidency which assumed the reins of power for a six month period on July 1. The meeting takes place as Italy is gripped by drought and an energy crisis, and Europe is parched by a heatwave attributed to climate change by the World Meteorological Organization. In a paper prepared for the meeting the Italian presidency sets out challenges for integrating energy and environmental policies. The ministers will also debate the implications of liberalization of energy and environmental markets.
Senior EU policy makers underlined the gravity of the policy challenge facing Europe and the world in their opening remarks. Both EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and the European Environment Agency's new chief Jacqueline McGlade pointed out that most member states are moving away rather than towards their Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limitation targets. The protocol, an agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), requires 37 industrialized countries to reduce their emission of six greenhouse gases during the first five year committment period 2008 to 2012. The EU and all member states have ratified the protocol, which requires that each country cut its emissions by eight percent. The main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is produced by the combustion of coal, oil and gas to produce electricity and to power vehicles.
The annual emissions inventory released in May by the European Environment Agency shows that EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2001 increased for the second consecutive year, moving the EU further away from meeting its commitment to achieve a substantial emissions cut by the 2008-2012 period.
At this week's meeting, the ministers are preparing for the next meeting of UNFCCC Parties to be held in Milan, Italy December 1 through 12. Their discussions will cover climate and energy policy beyond 2012, when the current Kyoto Protocol committment period ends. According to an observer present at the talks, Wallstrom called for the European Union to set a target of boosting renewable energy to 25 percent of energy consumption by 2020. This is more than twice the European Union's current target of 12 percent to be achieved by 2010 under a renewable energy law passed in 2001. Renewable sources of power, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy, do not emit greenhouse gases. German environment minister Juergen Trittin called for robust action to counter the threat of global warming, according to the source. In particular, Trittin called for international agreement to aim to limit any rise in average world temperatures to no more than two degrees Celsius.
The Italian Presidency, too, has proposed that long term climate and energy policy should stick to the goal of limiting climate change below a two degree Celsius increase in temperature. But WWF, the conservation organization, warns that permitting such a two degree increase would mean "more frequent and intense extreme weather events such as droughts and floods and 50 to 120 million more people at risk from hunger."
"We must stay well below a two degree increase in temperature to prevent serious damage," said Germana Canzi, WWF climate and energy policy officer. The WWF supports Wallstrom's objective that 25 percent of all energy should be derived from renewable sources by 2020, and in addition supports a one percent annual reduction in energy consumption within the European Union. The potential in Europe for energy savings throgh energy efficiency is "enormous," the WWF says. “There is no effective EU wide policy to boost energy conservation,” said Stephan Singer, head of WWF’s European Climate and Energy Policy Unit. “Energy conservation is perhaps the most widely overlooked policy in the EU," he said June 25 as the WWF released its policy paper calling for an annual increase in energy efficiency. To help reduce Europe’s dependency on fuel imports as well as limit climate change, the WWF proposes legally binding product standards, including reduction of stand-by losses of electrical appliances, which consume up to 13 percent of all household electricity use in Europe. In addition, the group proposes mandatory efficiency standards for all electric appliances in households, offices, and industry.
Local councils have received help in preparing for climate change in a new publication launched by Defra, this week. Climate change and communities – how prepared are you?, published by the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP), advises councils of action to take to safeguard council assets from change in climate and aims to help authorities cope with these changes. Environment Minister Elliot Morley said: “It is vital that Chief Executives realise how their councils could be affected, and that staff know how to act to minimise the risk to council assets and services. There are also actions which can be taken to cut back emissions at local level to help us meet our national and international targets.”
The booklet is aimed at council executives. It asks questions to help councils decide their level of preparedness for future variations to climate. For example: ‘Do you know what impact climate change could have on your area?’; ‘Can you identify and assess the risks from climate change to your services?’; and ‘Does your Emergency Planning service take into account climate change?’. It also presents a table subdivided into columns of ‘local authority service’, ‘potential impacts of climate change’, and ‘examples of possible adaptation responses’. The services covered in the table include green space management, watercourse management, waste services and business support. Camden Council, where the publication was launched have already started to implement measures to minimize future effects of climate change. Amongst these are: a target to use 10% renewable electricity by 2010, a solar hot water scheme, a green buildings guide and sustainable transport measures. Camden Council Environment Policy and Projects Team Manager, Quentin Given, told edie: “Although Camden is already doing a lot to tackle the climate change issue, the new guidance will enable their borough to address these impacts in a systematic way.”
A new support coalition has been set up to aid those who have suffered because of climate change and wish to sue the organisations responsible for it. The Climate Justice Programme (CJP), an international collaboration, says it has the support of 70 environmental organisations, lawyers, academics and individuals from 29 countries. Its aim is to make climate change litigation more accessible and to use the law as an instrument to protect countries and people from those who contribute to the changing of climate.
Peter Roderick, co-director of the CJP, told edie: “We are a collaboration of groups who support the use of the law to combat climate change – what governments and industry presently do is woefully inadequate.”
“The world faces serious consequences if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut drastically, and citizens need to put as much pressure as possible on governments and industry to bring this about,” he said. The coalition cites various laws which could be used to bring cases against offending organisations. For example, under international law it is illegal for one state to harm another state, and the prohibition of human rights violations under domestic and international law.
“Some cases have already started against President Bush in the US, and we will support other human rights cases that come up,” said Mr Roderick. “We want to enforce director duties and make them accountable for these crimes – we also want poorer countries to be able to use the law for justice.” Amongst those who support this new collaboration are the American Society of International Law - Wildlife Interest Group, the New Economics Foundation, United Kingdom, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Roda Verheyen, another co-director of the CJP, said: “The science of climate change has developed in legally significant ways. We now need to take the science to the courts so that greenhouse gas emissions cannot continue with impunity.”
WASHINGTON, DC, July 16, 2003 (ENS) - A new fund that will reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and at the same time use carbon finance as a development tool to benefit the least developed countries was set in motion on Tuesday. The Community Development Carbon Fund will support initiatives in fields such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and solid waste to energy conversion. The fund will provide financial support to small-scale greenhouse gas reduction projects in the least developed countries and to poor communities in developing countries. These communities will get development dollars, and participants in the fund will receive carbon emission reduction credits for reductions in carbon emissions.
The World Bank created the Community Development Carbon Fund (CDCF) in collaboration with the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat and the International Emissions Trading Association.
At a media briefing at its Washington headquarters Tuesday, the World Bank announced commitments to the fund of US$35 million from both public and private sector participants, as part of a US $100 million package. So far, contributors include the governments of Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands, Japanese companies such as Daiwa Securities SMBC, Idemitsu Kosan, Nippon Oil, and Okinawa Electric, BASF of Germany, and ENDESA of Spain. A number of other companies and governments are expected to announce their participation over the next several weeks, the World Bank said. “The threat that climate change poses to people’s efforts to move out of poverty is of particular concern to the World Bank,” said Ian Johnson, World Bank vice president for sustainable development.
“Payments for environmental services through innovative funds like the Community Fund, open new possibilities for environmentally responsible development," Johnson said. "We are demonstrating that dealing with global issues like climate change can have profound positive impact at the community level.”
The new fund will operate through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement to limit the emission of greenhouse gases responsible for global climate warming.
Eggert Voscherau, vice chairman of the BASF Board of Executive Directors and the chemicals manufacturing company's industrial relations director, said BASF will benefit from using the new fund and so will poor communities. "By participating in the CDCF, we want to emphasize our stance on sustainable development and the mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time, we can help improve quality of life in some poorer parts of the world.”
“Italy looks forward to working together with the World Bank and other participants in this innovative partnership,” said Corrado Clini, director general of the Ministry for the Environment and Territory of Italy. “It will allow Italy to reduce the costs of achieving its Kyoto [Protocol] commitments, while at the same time promoting the protection of the global environment.”
The Clean Development Mechanism, one of three flexibility mechanisms of the protocol, allows the 37 industrialized countries governed by the protocol to meet some of their greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments through projects in the developing world. The Kyoto Protocol is poised to enter into force once the Russian Federation ratifies it, bringing the total of the industrialized group’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to over 55 percent of that group's emissions in 1990, a trigger for the protocol to take effect.
After remaining silent for months on the question of whether or not Russia will ratify, the Russian leadership today indicated that ratification is just around the corner. Today in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed preparations for ratification of the protocol with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, RIA Novosti reported. Recent carbon market research done by the World Bank shows that although the market for carbon emissions more than doubled in the last year, only 13 percent of direct private sector carbon emission reduction investment went to developing countries, and none to the least developed countries.
“Countries like mine will be hardest hit by climate change, and yet these same countries have until now, been bypassed by the carbon market,” said Emily Ojoo Massawa, climate change coordinator of enabling activities in the National Environment Management Authority of Kenya.
The CDCF will link private investors with community development projects, so that there are equitable benefits under the Kyoto Protocol, benefits that also go to the poorest of the poor,” Massawa said. A project proposed for Kenya would reduce CO2 emissions and raise tea growers’ income, by switching from fuel oil for tea drying, to biomass fuels. Some 80 million liters of fuel oil would be replaced by wood fuel annually, adding to the growers’ profits by reducing their energy bills by 66 percent a year, and avoiding 240,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually from being pumped into the atmosphere.
The effect this switch would have on Kenya's dwindling forests was not mentioned by the World Bank. But the bank intends to create another new fund to provide carbon finance to demonstrate and test projects that sequester or remove greenhouse gases in forest and agricultural ecosystems. The BioCarbon Fund, expected to be operational sometime this fall, will aim to deliver cost effective emission reductions while promoting environmental benefits, such as the conservation of biodiversity, the reduction of poverty and opportunities for adaptation to climate change. Since 2000, the World Bank Group, through its Prototype Carbon Fund, has pioneered the development of project based flexibility mechanisms to generate potential greenhouse gas emission reduction credits.
Supporting Poor Communities
Under the Kyoto Protocol, New Community Carbon Fund Launched, World Bank,
Tuesday, 15 July 2003: Solar power holds great potential as a source of clean, renewable energy for Africa, but turning that potential into reality requires effective marketing and financing of solar photovoltaic (PV) — solar panel — installations, combined with viable business models. Experts from 15 solar programmes in 13 countries took part in a workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, recently that focused on these elements for success. They included energy ministry officials, programme managers, local PV dealers, representatives of donor agencies —the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UNDP— and consulting companies. They considered three business models for marketing solar power systems: cash sales to customers, the consumer credit model, and fee for service — used for a large scale 'utility' approach, usually involving subsidies. They also looked at variations and hybrids of these models.
No single best model emerged, nor did participants single out a preferred way to finance solar power installations or ways to develop markets for solar power. They concluded that careful analysis is needed to find the most suitable model for each situation. In Nambia, for example, the Government launched its solar programme in 1996 and has built up an adequate track record, "but it still falls short of a nationwide roll-out of solar energy technologies under a rural electrification programme," reported Robert Schultz of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Bureau in Windhoek. He thanked UNDP for expertise in dealing with key issues for a successful programme. Benon Bena, representing Uganda's Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, described a pilot PV rural electrification project funded by UNDP and GEF that worked with six local companies, trained technicians, arranged local financing and carried out a promotion campaign. The companies have installed 2,300 solar units in rural homes in the past three years, and the project has helped strengthen private sector capacity in solar power.
"Given that implementing PV projects in Africa is far more complex than in industrialized countries, we must consider the country context, look closely at both successes and mistakes, and avoid approaches that simply focus on the technology," said Gernot Laganda of the UNDP South Africa Environment Unit.
The workshop agreed to set up an online PV network for interaction and communication. A publication on business models and financing mechanisms and a CD-ROM with all workshop presentations, background material and project descriptions will be produced. Participants came from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The UNDP Energy and Environment team that implements GEF-funded projects organized the workshop, part of its "knowledge management" approach that links experts and people working in the field.
NEW DELHI: The US which has chosen to keep out of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change is trying its best to get the rest of the world to join its efforts to introduce clean technologies. Among the attractions are: the world’s first clean coal plant with zero emissions, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, electrical vehicles and so on.
At the just concluded discussions held in Delhi between the representatives of the two countries, the head of the US delegation, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, International Environment and Scientific Affairs, John Turner has stressed the need to “renew” the science and technology co-operation agreement which was terminated in 1998. Mr Turner said that discussions were on to frame an umbrella S&T agreement to intensify co-operation in the prevention, control and elimination of infectious diseases and in developing and commercialising cleaner and more efficient energy technologies with special stress on intellectual property rights.
He claimed that the US now had agreements with a number of countries that represent 80% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the world. One such project was the White House Plan to build the world’s first zero-emissions power plant. US President George Bush has announced that the US will sponsor a $1 billion, 10-year demonstration project to create the world’s first coal-based, zero emissions electricity and hydrogen power plant. According to Mr Turner India is signatory to this 15 nation initiative.
China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa and the EU have also joined in. “That does not mean these countries agree with our stance on Kyoto,” he clarified. Mr Turner made it clear that the US was opposed to the Kyoto Protocol as it imposes commitments on the developed world, and not the developing countries. “We believe that GHG emissions are a global threat and have to be tackled collaboratively and co-operatively through a long term strategy of technology advances which will prove more beneficial.”
The two sides have agreed to pursue the S&T co-operation under the India US Science and Technology Forum, the Global Issues Forum as well as the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.
BRUSSELS – One of the first decisions taken by Belgium’s incoming coalition government has been to raise petrol and diesel fuel prices, which it says will help meet the Kyoto protocol requirements on gas emissions. The government argues the measure will discourage the excessive use of motor vehicles and, in turn, aid Belgium in attaining Kyoto goals on decreasing climate-changing gas emissions. The decision was immediately criticised by motoring organisation VTB-VAB, who claimed the increase of excise duties on petrol and diesel would have no environmental impact and was nothing but a masked tax rise. The organisation is appealing to the government to instead make car engines cleaner in order to meet environmental criteria set forward by the Kyoto protocol.
The Inuit Circumpolar Conference has decided to launch a legal action on global warming that, if successful, could break new ground in international law. After meeting in Nome, Alaska, late last month, ICC's executive council authorized the development of a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The petition will ask the commission to declare that "human-induced climate change infringes upon the environmental, subsistence, and other human rights of Inuit." Sheila Watt-Cloutier, ICC's chair, said her organization's executive council is doing this to draw attention to man-made global warming, and the threat that it poses to the Inuit homeland and the Inuit way of life. "What other recourse do we have, the Inuit of the world, if our governments are not going to act as urgently as we want them to? A tangible example here is that the U.S. is not signing on to the Kyoto Accord, and Russia either. So what other recourse do Inuit have? As elected people we really have to be looking for ways that we can propel our issues forward and raise awareness of what's happening in the Arctic," Watt-Cloutier said.
Computer models generated by climate change experts have predicted that most of the permanent ice in the Arctic Ocean will disappear between 2050 and 2070, and that most of the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer. The ICC believes this will prevent Inuit from exercising their harvesting rights, and will open up the Northwest Passage to commercial ships carrying cargo, minerals, and oil and gas, creating new environmental threats to American, Canadian and Greenlandic offshore areas. But Watt-Cloutier says Inuit are getting increasingly frustrated in their efforts to get this message across to decision-makers in the world's capitals. "When you're only 150,000 Inuit, it's not an easy task when you're up against millions who want to keep the status quo," Watt-Cloutier said.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, is an arms-length body that operates under the Organization of American States. Since 1965, the commission has processed about 12,000 human rights cases, many of them involving allegations of mass murder, torture and arbitrary imprisonment made by victims of state terror in countries like Argentina, El Salvador and Guatemala. The body has also dealt with land rights cases brought forward by indigenous peoples throughout the Americas.
The commission may also refer cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a sister organization based in San José, Costa Rica. Watt-Cloutier said that while in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, she discussed the idea of a human rights-based petition with lawyers at the Centre for International Environmental Law. "They were very open about this, and they said these issues merit bringing a petition to the Inter-American Commission to claim that kind of a connection to human rights, and that the connections are very strong there."
She said the ICC approached the issue with caution at first, because relations between Inuit and environmental groups have not always been friendly. "Our board has always been cautious about who we deal with on these issues," Watt-Cloutier said. "We're cautious when lawyers say they're looking for a client, because we don't want to be used without agreeing to be used, per se, where there is mutual use of each other's agendas." They're also getting support from Lloyd Axworthy, a former foreign affairs minister in Jean Chrétien's government who was a strong backer of the eight-nation Arctic Council. Axworthy has told ICC that he will provide political and fundraising support to help them with the petition. "He was keen on helping us in this area," Watt-Cloutier said. Another ally is James Anaya, an aboriginal lawyer who works at the University of Arizona's college of law. "He [Anaya] feels that it would really be breaking new ground, he really felt that, and that it warrants moving ahead," she said. Watt-Cloutier said the initiative could change as ICC moves ahead with it. "It could be that this will shift. You know, it's not in cement. But the whole process of this human rights petition is to be able to put us on the political map."
NEW DELHI: In an indication of how successfully the US is undermining an internationally-negotiated agreement on checking climate change, visiting US Assistant Secretary of State John Turner on Friday said his country now has agreements with nations which account for 80 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The US itself contributes nearly a fourth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions believed to be leading to global warming, with potentially devastating effects for small and developing countries.
On Friday, Turner said these agreements did not mean that all countries agreed with the US rejection of the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol, if it comes into force after the mandatory Russian ratification, would force developed countries to accept their historical responsibilities for emissions and take on reduction targets.
For the US, the agreements (on clean-up efforts) represent the kind of cooperative effort it wants as it seeks ``more collaborative global involvement based on better science and an approach which accommodates economic growth''.
The US wants all countries, including developing countries like China and India, to take on the task of checking climate change. So, is this the death knell for the long-suffering Protocol? Probably, though Indian officials suggest bilateral agreements will not undermine India's multilateral stand. It may not but environmentalists do fear agreements with different countries will kill the hard-fought Protocol.
The world would have an opportunity to assess the US and Kyoto Protocol pathways, said Turner as he outlined a series of initiatives with India on water, energy, science and technology and ``creative'' financial mechanisms. In its ``partnership'' with India outside the Protocol, the two countries are joining hands with 13 others to start work on what would be the world's first zero-emission coal plant. The details have not been worked out yet and it has not been decided where such a plant would be located. On board the project are China, Russia, Brazil, the European Union, Australia and Japan.
There is an acceptance that coal will continue to be the mainstay for decades; ``it will be a century-long challenge to break the energy fossil-fuel cycle,'' said Turner. The specific technologies they are looking at are clean coal and carbon sequestration, hydrogen and energy efficiency. India has pitched in on clean coal and carbon sequestration. Internationally, two sequestration options have been talked of ^ one being to capture carbon, compress it, transport it and store it, another being to use forests to soak it in. On hydrogen, too, India may join hands with the US.
Many of the world's largest companies are doing a poor job of preparing for the business impact of global warming, according to a report issued by a coalition of investor, environmental and public interest groups.
Most of the 20 corporate giants discussed, including leaders in the oil, auto and utility industries, are also failing to disclose to investors enough about the financial risks they face from climate change, according to the report, which was prepared by the Investor Responsibility Research Center in Washington and released Wednesday.
None of the companies have produced dollar estimates of the potential costs or benefits of projected results of climate change, like more extreme weather, or of the financial impact of changing regulations on carbon emissions, the report said. And eight companies made no mention of climate change in filings last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission. "We are not talking about issues that are 50 years out," said Mindy Luber, executive director of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, which commissioned the study. "We are seeing inadequate board reviews in many, many companies." .
The study rated the companies in 14 categories covering the oversight of climate-change issues by corporate boards and progress in setting explicit performance goals as well as disclosure. Two foreign oil companies, BP and Royal Dutch/Shell, were the only ones in the survey credited with activity in all 14 categories on the checklist. The worst performers, including ExxonMobil and General Electric, have reported just four of the practices the report identified as prudent. The companies were allowed to review the parts of the report describing them before publication, but did not necessarily accept its conclusions. ExxonMobil, for example, said that it was "adequately addressing the potential risks of climate change" and that its shareholders demonstrated their satisfaction by voting down a resolution at this year's annual meeting requesting that the board prepare a report on the subject.
Because of global warming the sea level along the coast of Guangdong Province in south China is rising at 1 cm each year. It could rise 30 cm by 2030 and pose a threat to flood the region and islands covering an area of 1000-square kilometers strong in the Pearl River Delta, from which many as millions of people may need to be emigrated for resettlement. This is a conclusion from "the impact of rising sea level on Guangdong coastal economy and solutions", a key program of the province by the local academy of sciences.
How big on earth the impact would be? Chief scientist of the program Huang Zhenguo told reporter that "our estimation is that the sea level may rise 30 cm by the year 2030, this may seem insignificant to ordinary people but actually its impact is quite serious". According to calculation from the National Marine Data and Information Service (NMDIS), when the sea level rises 30 cm, it could inundate an area of 1154 square kilometers of costal regions and islands at its highest tidemark. This will cause a direct economic loss high as 133.2 billion yuan, forcing a population of 996.4 thousand to relocate. If the sea level rises one meter the feared flooded area could be as large as 6520 square kilometers, part of the region may face the danger of being completely wiped out by the ocean and disappearing forever from the map! Studies show that those face the biggest danger are Guangzhou City, Doumen County and Foshan City.
The country would become prone to drought and its farming would be seriously affected. Sea levels would rise, leaving low-lying areas vulnerable to flooding. Environment minister Martin Cullen described the predictions as ``stark`` and warned the consequences would be significant if nothing was done. Mr Cullen said the Environmental Protection Agency`s findings showed that climate change in Ireland was likely to be consistent with that of the United Kingdom. He said: ``We are now beginning to get an absolute consistency in what the consequences are of not changing our ways both at a national level and globally.``
The report warned that summers would warm up by 2% in the Irish midlands, while winter temperatures would rise by 1.5 degrees. Winter rainfall would increase by 10% but would fall by as much as 40% in the summer on parts of the south and east coast. It said the changes could be felt almost immediately but would become more acute by the middle of the century. Mr Cullen agreed that the findings were alarming.
The report set out in a ``very straightforward and sometimes stark way`` the consequences of not making changes to environmental policy. ``Ireland could become a very, very different country, a country that would be prone to drought, to massive flooding. It would seriously affect our farming,`` he told Irish radio.
He said the government was taking the issue very seriously and had duties to reduce emissions as a signatory to the Kyoto protocol. The minister said he believed carbon taxes were an essential instrument in meeting environmental targets and were likely to be introduced in around 18 months. ``What we want to do is shift people from using highly damaging energies, heavy fuels like oils and coals, away from that and into for instance wind energy, into using gas a lot more,`` he said. If changes were not made the country would face huge fines by 2012. He added: ``So the incentive is there for us now to make these changes so that we play our part with our European partners and indeed in the global economy.`` The Environmental Protection Agency is an independent body set up by the government in 1994 to monitor Ireland`s environment and advise on new policies and strategies.
OSLO (Reuters) - With the world sweltering through one of the hottest years on record, some icy bastions have been getting frostier in defiance of global warming. The rare cool spots, also from Canada to China, cause headaches for policy makers seeking to impose expensive measures to curb emissions from cars and factories blamed for blanketing the globe and driving up temperatures. "We are disrupting the entire climate system," said Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the U.N.'s main panel on climate change. "It's not as though there is going to be a uniform warming of the entire planet." He said that signs of global warming are overwhelming, from a heat wave in India this year with temperatures up to 120 Fahrenheit that killed 1,500 people, to prolonged drought in Australia. "There are also many of these (cooling anomalies). But merely to cite one as evidence that there is no warming is not rational," he told Reuters of lingering skepticism to the broad consensus that human pollution is warming the planet.
And experts say that apparent anomalies, such as the growth of glaciers in Norway in the 1990s, can often be explained by a wider picture of global warming because of increased snowfall. "When the oceans get warmer, you get more evaporation so you create more clouds. Then you can have more precipitation and in some areas it can be in the form of snow," said Josefino Comiso, a senior scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He said that his research, for instance, indicated that snow was getting deeper over higher parts of Greenland. Ice and snow in some regions of Antarctica was also getting thicker. "Some climate models suggest these effects," he said.
In other areas, global warming seems to be catching up with some of the icy exceptions. The Briksdal glacier in west Norway, for instance, has receded about 426 feet since a peak in 2000 when it was splintering birch trees on ground that had been free of ice for decades. "It's shrunk a lot, though in the middle of the 17th century is was 1.5 km (one mile) longer than now," said Frode Briksdal, a glacier guide whose family has long lived in the area. Climate experts say that recent hotter summers are melting the ice despite more snowfall in winter that is adding to the overall mass of the glaciers.
The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says that 1998 was the hottest year since records began in 1860, followed by 2002 and 2001. It says the rise in global average surface temperatures since 1900 exceeds 0.6 Celsius. So far this year, temperatures have also been high in many regions. The WMO says that average surface temperatures in May were the second highest on record. June temperatures in Switzerland, for instance, were the hottest in 250 years. But some question the view of Pachauri's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that human activity is driving global warming. Many skeptics point out experts were predicting a new Ice Age in the 1970s after a long cold spell. "There is an idea among the public that the 'science is settled'," said James Schlesinger, a Republican and former U.S. Energy Secretary. "We are in danger of prematurely embracing certitudes."
Schlesinger said in a recent speech that the IPCC focused too narrowly on factors like human emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide, volcanoes and an 11-year sunspot cycle. He said it played down other possible factors like long-term variations in solar activity. President Bush has pulled out of the international Kyoto pact, which aims to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by at least five percent by 2008-12, arguing it is too costly and unfairly excludes developing countries. Jon Ove Hagen, professor of glaciology at Oslo University, said most glaciers from Alaska to the Himalayas were melting. "By contrast, in 100 years' time one expects that the Antarctic ice will increase in volume because of more snow," he said. Lynn Rosentrater, Arctic climate scientist at the WWF environmental group, said sea levels were expected to rise this century more because water in the oceans would expand with higher temperatures. Secondarily, melting glaciers in Alaska, Canada and Scandinavia would add to water in the oceans. Among anomalies in climate change, she said that a cooling over northeastern Canada in recent years also "now seems to be stabilizing and now looking more toward warming."
Against the backdrop of increasing meteorological forecasts that the weather condition is going to get increasingly worse, both local and international insurance operators have predicted more losses to the market as a result of the expected catastrophic events. Apart from the January 27, 2002 explosion in Nigeria, September 11, 2002 in US, floods, earthquakes and erosions, insurance practitioners worldwide say more natural disasters such as the recent floods in India, could spring up as a result of the change in the weather just as they advised their clients to be cautious about the forecasts. Managing Director of Continental Reinsurance Plc, Mr Adeyemo Adejumo envisioned that insurance industry worldwide cannot run away from settling claims on major catastrophes that would affect their clients arising from environmental change.
Adejumo said such contingencies are the more reason why insurance and reinsurance companies should at all times be prepared to meet their obligations to the insured when such disasters occurred. Director-General of the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), Mr Ezekiel Chiejina in his contribution, stated that catastrophes could come in two forms natural and man-made as he recalled the January 27, 2002 explosion which he said, compelled the sector to spend N458million on claims, out of the of N685,014,885.61 adjusted claims paid to 223 claimants. Before the adjustment was made, Chiejina disclosed that insurance companies, particularly, members of the NIA, had reported claims of 311 involving N2.5billion from 12 textile manufacturers; 7 pharmaceuticals, among others.
In the same vein, Munich Re and Swiss Re also foresaw an increase and severity in major catastrophes that would result in increase in insured losses. The two international reinsurers predicted that El-nino was likely to peak in Europe before the end of this year. Munich Re for instance, relayed that the catastrophe that had happen in the last one decade could not be compare with those that had occurred in 1960s. The reinsurer said the number of natural disasters in recent times was 2.6 times larger. MunichRe in its review of 2002 major catastrophe, put insured losses at nearly $13billion, compared to $11.5billion in 2001 while economic losses recorded was $55billion in the year under review against $35billion estimated in 2001.
Meanwhile, Swiss Re sigma study of natural catastrophe and man-made disasters in 2002 predicted that climate change would produce what it called, "an increasing number of extreme weather events" mainly arising from heavy rainfall Swiss Re said," the increasing number of floods are consistent with developments that Climatologists expect to find in a warmer climate" Insured losses following such disasters, the reinsurer noted, had risen over the past 30 years because of the "increase in insured values, their concentration in highly exposed areas and their susceptibility to external influences" Swiss Re in its 2002 accounts disclosed that natural disasters cost non-life insurer $13.5billion, though this figure it stated, was below the $35billion recorded in 2001and slightly less than the annual average recorded between 1978 - 2001. It revealed that storm losses in 2002 stood at $6.7billion; man-made losses was $2.1billion while floods cost insurers $3.2billion as a result of severe flooding in Europe.
Wednesday, 23 July 2003: UNDP participated in a recent UN interagency assessment of a devastating flood in Argentina's northern provinces that estimates the damages at about US$1 billion. The flood, which struck after heavy rains in April, hit hardest in Santa Fe City, where surging waters from the Salado river drove up to 100,000 people from their homes and almost totally inundated the city. The devastation affects one of Argentina's poorest regions at a time when the country is coping with a crippling economic crisis that limits the Government's ability to provide support for reconstruction. The assessment, carried out at the request of Carlos Reutemann, Governor of Santa Fe province, estimates that the damage amounts to 12 per cent of the province's GDP. It puts the impact on the province on par with the effects of the earthquake that struck El Salvador in 2001 and the "El Niño" ocean current on Latin America's climate.
The hardest hit economic sectors are agriculture, dairy farming and livestock. Impoverished neighbourhoods and communities bore the brunt of damage to homes and infrastructure. The interagency group included representatives from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, UNDP, UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization. "This type of catastrophe can happen again because the area is vulnerable and the economically-disadvantaged population is not prepared," said Albina Lara, UNDP environment and development officer, at a forum at the UN Information Centre in Buenos Aires on the impact of the flood. Contingency plans are needed to reduce vulnerability, she said. "We need to promote a culture of prevention, with collection and management of relevant data and zoning regulations for the city and riverbanks." Lessons learned in Santa Fe can help improve the management of future environmental crises, said Ms. Lara.
The interagency group, in cooperation with provincial and municipal authorities in Santa Fe, has proposed a reconstruction project that includes $4 million for home repairs and $15 million for building new homes. The project also includes steps to create jobs, a fund to rehabilitate commercial and industrial facilities, and short, medium and long term plans for renovating the city's public and private infrastructure.
Mountain guide Victor Saunders and his companion Craig Higgins had reached the Solvay bivouac hut on the Matterhorn's Hornli ridge last week when their balmy morning climb turned into a nightmare.
'An enormous avalanche hurtled down the mountain's east face,' said Saunders, one of Britain's leading climbers. 'I have never seen so much rock falling at one time.' The pair survived by cowering under an overhang as a rain of boulders ricocheted past them. It would have been a remarkable enough incident on its own. But within a couple of hours, another massive rockfall thundered down the Matterhorn - this time from its north face. 'Even then we still did not realise what kind of a day we were going to have,' said Saunders, for a mere hour later, distant thunder and billowing dust betrayed the triggering of yet another avalanche.
In the end more than 70 climbers had to be hauled from the slopes of the Matterhorn, in Switzerland, on Monday - one of the biggest mass rescues in mountaineering history - as rockfalls battered its ridges and valleys. Those climbing its slopes could have been forgiven for thinking the crown jewel of the Alps had started falling apart under their feet.
And they would not have been far wrong - for scientists now believe global warming is melting the Alps, threatening widespread devastation over the next two decades. The great mountain range's icy crust of permafrost, which holds its stone pillars and rockfaces together, and into which its cable car stations and pylons are rooted, is disappearing. Already several recent Alpine disasters, including the avalanches which killed more than 50 people at the Austrian resort of Galtur four years ago, are being blamed on the melting of permafrost.
And in future, things are likely to get much worse - as scientists will point out tomorrow at the opening, in Zurich, of the International Permafrost Association conference. Held every four years, the meeting provides climatologists, civil engineers, and geologists with a chance to exchange research data about the icy layers that coat the ground in the world's coldest regions. Rarely has a scientific meeting been so timely. 'I am quite sure what happened on the Matterhorn last week was the result of the Alps losing its permafrost,' said civil engineer Professor Michael Davies of Dundee University, and a conference organiser. 'We have found that the ground temperature in the Alps around the Matterhorn has risen considerably over the past decade. The ice that holds mountain slopes and rock faces together is simply disappearing. At this rate, it will vanish completely - with profound consequences.'
Part of the problem, engineers and geologists have discovered, is that air temperature increases - the result of climate change - are being magnified fivefold underground. A test borehole, dug in Murtel in southern Switzerland, has revealed that frozen sub-surface soils has warmed by more than a degree Celsius since 1990. In addition to general air temperature rises that are heating up the ground, increased evaporation caused by warmer summers is also triggering thicker falls of snow which insulate the soil and keep it warm in winter. The trouble is not just that ice is disappearing, however. Research by Davies - to be outlined this week at the Zurich conference - has discovered that ice as it warms, but before it actually melts, may actually be more unstable than ice that is turning into water. The key to this work has been Davies's work with a seven-metre centrifuge in his laboratory. 'When you spin things round very quickly, you create very powerful gravitational fields, and when you place objects in these fields the effects of gravity are speeded up,' he said. 'We have built model slopes and peaks and put them in our centrifuge to study what happens when soil and rock is warmed up and the permafrost, which holds the ground together, is degraded. Essentially, we are simulating landslides.'
The aim is to find out how to spot early signs of the imminent collapse of buildings and valleys, he said. 'Cracks and strains, the first evidence that cable stations and other buildings are under threat, may be easy to spot. This gives engineers an opportunity to put things right.' That is the theory. The abrupt disintegration of the Matterhorn last week reveals how tricky life in the Alps - one of the world's top tourist destinations - is going to be. As Davies said: 'We are going to see a lot more of this sort of devastation.' It is not an issue that worries Victor Saunders too much at present, however. He is merely grateful he got off the Matterhorn alive.
In the end, he and Higgins had to be clipped to the end of a 100-foot wire cable trailed by a rescue helicopter. Then they were flown from the mountain, hanging like 'a cargo of fragile china dolls,' he said.
Guides at the mountain resort of Zermatt are now mending the fixed ropes damaged by the avalanches in the hope that they will be able to keep the Matterhorn open for the rest of the climbing season.
URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Ill.—The gadgets that rise above a central Illinois soybean field are helping scientists predict what changes in Earth's atmosphere are likely to do to crop yields. Rings of tubes emit ozone and carbon dioxide, both of which are expected to increase in the atmosphere in coming years. The gases hang over the crops before dissipating, allowing scientists to mimic predicted atmospheric changes.
"The crop is seeing the atmospheric condition we predict for 50 years from today," said Stephen P. Long, a University of Illinois professor of plant and biological sciences who heads the research known as soyFACE.
Scientists predict that Earth's atmosphere will contain 50 percent more carbon dioxide in 2050 than it did in 1900. While more carbon dioxide in the air contributes to global warming, it also increases the photosynthesis of plants, raising the potential for higher crop yield. The Illinois experiment is testing how the rising levels of carbon dioxide and ozone will change agriculture. It uses technology known as Free-Air Concentration Enrichment to test the effect changes in the gases have on corn and soybeans, which together cover more than 150 million acres of land in the United States.
"It is possible that those changes could have a significant impact on all crops," said Kraig Wagenecht, executive director of the Illinois Council for Food and Agricultural Research, which provides most of the money for the project. "If we can anticipate what those changes are going to be... then we can today start various breeding programs that can adapt to those changes." Now in their third year of work, soyFACE researchers have learned that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide raise yields in soybeans by up to 17 percent, while ozone, a major component of smog, lowers crop yield as much as 20 percent, Long said. They've also found that plants under increased carbon dioxide return less water to the atmosphere, a factor that could contribute to global warming. "If we can understand how to adapt plants to take better advantage of carbon dioxide in the future, it might give us better yields today," Long said.
The research also could allow better predictions of the world's food supply, he said. "The atmospheric change that is happening now is already having a significant effect on the quality and reliability of our crops and if we don't do anything about it, it is also going to affect our competitiveness" in world markets, Long said. The project is located on 80 acres just south of the university's Urbana-Champaign campus. Researchers have laid out 16 plots in the field: Four with elevated carbon dioxide, four with elevated ozone, four with higher levels of both gases and four control plots where nothing is changed. Sensors inside each gas ring monitor wind speed and direction, and send the information to a computer that controls the gas flow, Long said.
The rings use about a ton of carbon dioxide or about a pound of ozone per day, but it is diluted quickly so concentrations are close to normal within about 300 feet of a particular ring. While the technology is used in other experiments around the world, soyFACE is the only one that investigates the effect of changing atmospheric conditions on crops in an open-air environment, Long said. "We're getting answers that could never have been speculated on before," said Ruth A. Reck, the director of the National Institute for Global Environmental Change, based at the University of California-Davis. Reck's institute is not involved in the Illinois experiments, which she said take a "vitally important" look into the future. "We're testing the metabolism of this whole ecosystem," she said. "It's a different scale than biologists have been able to do before."
BEIJING-Its status as both a developing nation and a rising industrial power give China the unique advantage of being able to lure foreign technological assistance. A key advantage China enjoys is the so-called clean development mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. The mechanism exempts developing countries that have signed on to Kyoto from obligations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. At the same time, however, China can still seek technical assistance from developed countries, which stand to gain emissions-trading credits for helping cut emissions in the developing world.
One beneficiary of this arrangement-besides the environment, that is-is Capital Iron and Steel Co., better known as Shougang Group, which operates one of China's biggest steel and iron plants 20 kilometers west of Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.
Air pollution at the plant first became an issue when China was pursuing its bid to host the 2008 Olympics.
The plant produces its own coke, a fuel that burns at the high temperatures required for steelmaking, by heating regular coal without burning it. The coke, which can be as hot as 1,000 degrees, must then be cooled. When the red-hot coke was splashed with water outdoors, huge plumes of soot and dust were spread over Beijing. The answer was a 10-story-tall cooling system installed in 2001, with the help of Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). Nippon Steel Corp. also provided on-site assistance to local technicians during the construction work. ``Japan generously offered us many years of experience and technology,'' said Teng Kun, a senior engineer for coke processing at the Shougang Group. ``I think it's the most advanced facility of its kind in China.''
The technical assistance does more than reduce pollution. Japan's main priority in the facility is in another project there, to build a thermal power system that will generate power from the heat of the coke. The project is aimed at serving the plant's in-house electricity needs and, on a larger scale, helping reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a main culprit of global warming. The new generation system is expected to cut the plant's demand for outside electricity by the equivalent of 110,000 tons of power plant emissions a year.
When China ratified the Kyoto Protocol last August, some observers saw the move as a subtle form of pressure on Washington to return to the Kyoto fold. But Beijing also had another important motive-to use CDM to get technological assistance for industrial projects. ``CDM gives China an additional impetus for development,'' said Tsinghua University professor Liu Deshun, an environmental issues specialist.
In a reflection of Tokyo's high level of interest in providing that assistance, the government-affiliated NEDO has already conducted feasibility studies on as many as 50 Chinese projects for CDM deals in the past five years. ``China is a huge country and we're seeing a lot of room for cutting CO2 emissions,'' said Takaji Kigasawa, chief of NEDO's Beijing office. China has 50 steelworks that each produce at least 500,000 tons of steel a year. These plants are said to spend 50 percent more energy than their Japanese counterparts to produce the same amount of steel. International rules for CDM are still being worked out, including standards for measuring emissions cuts and an approval process for CDM arrangements. Beijing is already trying to establish its own internal rules for CDM, and has launched a group encompassing many government divisions that is tasked with coordinating policy on CDM. It plans to finalize its rules by the end of this year. China also signed a CDM agreement with the Netherlands last year to build a wind power station in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. There are joint feasibility studies under way for similar deals with Canada, Germany and Italy, sources said. ``It's like everybody is in line for their turn to come,'' a Japanese government official said.
Mature trees might not offset global warming by mopping up excess carbon dioxide, suggests a forest study in Switzerland. They may already have all the carbon dioxide that they need. If the phenomenon is widespread, it could be a setback to those hoping that existing and newly planted forests will buffer mounting CO2 levels.
Whether these carbon sinks will work is much debated because of its relevance to the Kyoto Protocol, in which countries compensate for their greenhouse-gas emissions by planting forests. Günter Hoch of the University of Basel, Switzerland, and his colleagues tested the assumption that current CO2 levels limit plants' photosynthesis and growth. During spring's furious budding, for instance, deciduous trees were thought to rely heavily on carbon reservoirs of sugars, starches and fats because atmospheric CO2 is insufficient.
Trees in a 100-year-old forest near Basel use only an average of 33-45% of their carbon stores during the year, the group found1. The team measured the carbon content of leaves and wood from the 30-metre-tall trees over three years. The finding suggests that, in this forest at least, trees are already amply supplied with CO2 and are unlikely to absorb much more if levels rise in future. "The trees are growing fat at the current CO2 concentrations," says Hoch. "It's very nice work," says Richard Norby, who studies forests' response to climate change at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. But he believes that trees can still swallow extra CO2, even if they are not currently running down their supplies - just as we can eat excess food even if we are full or fat.
The prevailing scientific view is that existing woodland will compensate for rising CO2 levels to some degree, but by how much remains uncertain. One study, on trees grown in artificially high carbon dioxide concentrations, hinted that they may not soak up much excess gas - limited supplies of other nutrients, particularly nitrogen, seem to curb any growth spurt2.
Experiments are already under way in Basel to explore whether artificially boosting carbon dioxide will spur extra growth there - Hoch believes that space above or below the ground could restrict the trees' growth. Newly planted forests are also expected to take up some extra CO2, but it is not clear how much or for how long. "It's naïve to think they'll solve the problem, but it won't hurt the situation," says Norby.
Hoch's study is one of the most comprehensive analyses of back-up carbon stores in trees. The team looked at leaves, branches and trunks in ten species, including deciduous oak, beech and maple plus evergreens spruce, fir and pine. Deciduous species store sufficient carbon to replace all of their leaves at least four times over, the researchers calculate. Evergreens stockpile enough for only half a new set of needles. Deciduous trees may need a bigger reservoir in case they lose leaves to hungry insects, Hoch suggests.
Forest researcher Ram Oren of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, is not yet convinced that trees use such excess carbon stores - some may be effectively inaccessible because they are difficult to shunt from trunk tissue to buds, he points out. Hoch is testing this possibility.
1. Hoch, G., Richter, A. & Korner, Ch. Non-structural carbon compounds in temperate forest trees. Plant, Cell and Environment 26, 1067 - 1081, (2003). |Article|
2. Oren, R. et al. Soil fertility limits carbon sequestration by forest ecosystems in a CO2-enriched atmosphere. Nature, 411, 469 - 472, (2003). |Article|
Record heat in India, severe flooding in Sri Lanka, and an unprecedented number of tornados in the US -- all extreme weather events the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has recently linked to escalating global warming. The extraordinary climatic activity in May and June this year in these three regions has left nearly 1,750 people dead. In China this summer, record flooding has killed 569 people so far, while in India and Bangladesh, 4.4 million have been rendered homeless. As world temperatures continue to shoot up, death tolls and increased devastation from violent weather could skyrocket as well, the WMO says. "Record extremes in weather and climate events continue to occur around the world," the world's weather bureau reported in an unusual July 2 statement. "In recent years, the number of such extremes has been increasing."
The UK's Independent newspaper described the WMO's report as "startling" and "astonishing" in an editorial earlier this month, noting the UN body never issues such statements mid-year. "The unprecedented warning takes its force and significance from the fact that it is not coming from Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, but from an impeccably respected UN organization that is not given to hyperbole," the Independent notes. The WMO says global average land and sea surface temperatures in May this year were the second highest since records began in 1880. Considering land temperatures only, May was the warmest month ever recorded. Scientists predict over the next 100 years, global average temperatures will surge between 1.4?C to 5.8?C -- an increase that threatens the existence of life on the planet, some say.
Despite back-pedaling by the US and fence walking by Russia, most of the world and its scientists acknowledge that human activity is widely to blame for the rising mercury, and are ready to take action to minimize it. Since the early 1990s, the burning of fossil fuels has been fingered as the main cause of greenhouse gas (GHG) increases in the atmosphere. The consumption of coal, oil, and natural gas is releasing the carbon stored in these fossil fuels at an unprecedented rate, a UN Environmental Program fact sheet states. Global annual emissions amount to more than 23 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, up 30 percent since 1800. The gases create an invisible "greenhouse" encompassing the earth's atmosphere, locking heat inside and warming the planet. The seriousness of the effects of fossil-fuel consumption is witnessed in resounding international agreement to tackle the problem. So far, 110 industrialized nations have ratified or acceded the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which would legally bind nations to meet specific greenhouse gas-reduction targets.
However, after the world's number one GHG polluter, the US, shunned the Protocol for a "voluntary" reduction approach, international action to combat the growing danger is in jeopardy. Ratification by Russia would bring the Kyoto agreement into effect, but the government of Vladimir Putin continues to stall citing economic concerns. While heatwaves, floods, drought, and desertification increase in number and intensity, the current climate chaos could be just the tip of the iceberg. "However severe these currently-unfolding climate change impacts might seem, they are -- like the canary in the coal mine -- just the first whispers of the holocaust that lies ahead if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," says global warming author Mark Lynas. "Climate change is an issue of basic human survival."
Lynas underscores the work of paleontologist Michael Benton from Bristol University. Benton, author of When Life Nearly Died, says 95 percent of life on earth was wiped out after a series of volcanic eruptions in Siberia during the Permian period 251 million years ago. The volcanic event spewed massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, initiating a greenhouse cycle that warmed the earth's temperature by 6 Celsius -- the same high-end figure predicted by WMO scientists by the end of the 21st century. The latest climatological research, however, says the earth may heat up even more than WMO scientists estimate. A June meeting in Berlin of atmospheric researchers -- using a computer model they say is more accurate than the WMO's -- led to predictions of a 7?C to 10?C upper-limit jump by 2100. Another factor to contemplate, Lynas says, is the rapidity of the current carbon dioxide explosion into the atmosphere. "The rise in greenhouse gases, which triggered the end-Permian mass extinction, took place over many thousands of years," he says. "The current rise is happening in decades."
So what can be done? Lynas suggests for starters the Kyoto Protocol must be implemented immediately. In a decade, "equal per-person emissions rights" should be legislated around the world, as proposed by the Global Commons Institute in London. Ultimately, the world must shift from a fossil fuel-based economy, to one driven by clean energy sources, he says. "The old mindset which demands an oil-based economy must be left behind, not just because it sparks wars and terrorism in the short term, but because the very future of life on Earth depends on it as well."
The tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu is pleading for a large-scale exemption from Australia's tough immigration laws. Tuvalu wants to move its entire population of about 12,000 to Australia to escape an increasingly precarious existence on the coral atolls it inhabits. The islanders fear the combination of global warming and cyclones will swamp their low-lying homeland and, with strong connections to Australia, they want to come here.
KERRY O'BRIEN: The tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu is pleading for a large-scale exemption from Australia's tough immigration laws. Tuvalu wants to move its entire population of about 12,000 to Australia to escape an increasingly precarious existence on the coral atolls it inhabits. The islanders fear the combination of global warming and cyclones will swamp their low-lying homeland and, with strong connections to Australia, they want to come here. And while the Federal Government has promised help in the event of a disaster, it's not throwing out any lifelines yet.
NATASHA JOHNSON: Golden sunsets and beautiful beaches -- Tuvalu looks every bit a piece of paradise. But its 12,000 residents live in constant fear of the massive expanse of ocean that surrounds them.
Their home measures a mere 26 square kilometres across nine isolated atolls in the middle of the Pacific.
The highest point is just 5m above sea level, meaning they feel decidedly vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change.
REVEREND TOFIGA FALANI, TUVALU CONGREGATIONAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH: Global warming has become a major day-to-day conversation in our life back at home.So we have been threatened, and our people are so anxious to know, if we are going definitely to be sunk, to sink down, how are we going to survive? Where else can we live?
NATASHA JOHNSON: Reverend Tofiga Falani is the president of the Tuvaluan Congregational Church, of which 97 per cent of Tuvaluans are members. It's a sister church of the Australian Uniting Church and he's in Melbourne to attend the National Assembly and raise the plight of his nation.
REVEREND TOFIGA FALANI: We are asking our bigger brother Australia, "Please give us an open door so that our people may be evacuated to this land."
NATASHA JOHNSON: The Uniting Church has taken up the cause and outgoing president James Haire met with the Tuvaluan PM earlier this year, who asked him to lobby the Australian Government on their behalf.
PROFESSOR JAMES HAIRE, OUTGOING PRESIDENT, UNITING CHURCH: I believe that Australia has three obligations. One, we are the largest polluter in this part of the world. Two, we are the largest land mass close to the area. And, thirdly, there is this long tradition that you rescue those in peril at sea, and you could argue that this is that kind of situation.
NATASHA JOHNSON: They're seeking a graduated migration program, giving special consideration to Tuvaluans.
PROFESSOR JAMES HAIRE: We should increase the number of AusAID scholarships available to the population of Tuvalu. We should be generous in our application of the rules about expert migrants to this country, migrants with a particular degree of expertise, and allow a greater number of people of Tuvalu in.
GARY HARDGRAVE, ACTING IMMIGRATION MINISTER: There is no immediate crisis. This is not something that is going to happen this week or next week. Australia is not in the business of refashioning its migration policy because of something that might be happening 20, 30, 50, 100 or 200 years from now.
NATASHA JOHNSON: While there's broad scientific consensus that sea levels are rising and predictions they'll continue to rise at an accelerated rate over the next century, there's debate about whether Tuvalu will be drowned and, if so, when. But it does face more immediate risk from cyclones in the region, which, it's feared, are increasing in frequency and intensity because of global warming.
DR JOHN CHURCH, RESEARCH SCIENTIST, CSIRO: Extreme events associated with cyclones, for example, are causing higher than average surges. There was a cyclone which passed relatively closely to Tuvalu in 2002. However, that occurred at a period of neap tides and so, although it caused coastal erosion, didn't have as much impact as it would have had if it had occurred at the time of high spring tides.
NATASHA JOHNSON: Reverend Falani says that storm surges are already causing significant environmental impact, flooding inland pools and contaminating crops with salt water.
REVEREND TOFIGA FALANI: One of our small islets have been washed out, totally washed out, disappeared, because of the continuing cyclones in our area. So we used to have it in our maps before, but now, if you try to look for the islet, it's totally disappeared, away, no more.
NATASHA JOHNSON: Melbourne and Brisbane have the largest Tuvaluan communities outside Tuvalu.
They've joined the campaign to save family members and friends at home. An Australian resident, Tito Tapungao, has just returned from four years teaching in Tuvalu and is deeply worried about the fate of his sister and her children still there.
TITO TAPUNGAO: Would the Australian public rather see the Tuvaluans standing on the rocks of the coral reef with the sea to their waist? I don't think anybody would like to see that time when it comes.
NATASHA JOHNSON: The Australian Government says it's committed $31 million to Pacific nations to combat global warming and will coordinate a rescue and repatriation program with the US and New Zealand should disaster strike.
PROFESSOR JAMES HAIRE: Just cannot wait around, loll around waiting until we pick up the bodies out of the ocean. We have to take some action now.
GARY HARDGRAVE: What we don't want to see happen, of course, is anybody hurt by any of those sorts of matters, such as cyclones or inundation. That's why we've been working with Pacific island states, putting money into programs to deal with the facts as they arise to try and get some kind of accurate forecast.
At this stage, to create a specific visa class for Tuvaluans to come to Australia means that we'd have to introduce a discriminatory migration policy, which would be completely contrary to the way Australia's been working its migration policy for decades.
REVEREND TOFIGA FALANI: I only wish if the Government of Australia start right now to bring our people -- don't wait until the last moment when maybe the last boat comes to rescue our people they've all gone down. So the sooner the better.
NATASHA JOHNSON: Reverend Falani returns to Tuvalu in a few days and says he'll continue to pray for a change in Australian policy before the rising of the tide.
Chris de Freitas is an associate professor in geography and environmental science at Auckland University.
It's official and the news is not good: New Zealand is falling behind in its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to meet targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to combat global warming that this country signed last December. A report released this month by the Ministry of Economic Development shows that greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector grew by 33 per cent between 1990 and last year. Under the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand is obliged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2012 at the latest, or suffer the consequences. The report provides even more bad news: the energy sector's carbon dioxide emissions grew by 2.7 per cent from 2001 to last year, up from the average annual growth of 2.4 per cent since 1990.
International comparisons in the report show New Zealand had the second-highest percentage increase of carbon dioxide emissions among the 23 OECD countries for the period from 1990 to 2000. A similar report prepared by the European Environment Agency shows the European Union is in the same boat. Greenhouse gas emissions have risen in the EU for the second year running. In the most recent estimate, emissions in 2001 were 1 per cent greater than in 2000. The EU, as a whole, is committed to reducing emissions by 8 per cent on their 1990 levels by 2012. On present trends, it appears to stand almost no chance of meeting the target.
According to BBC News Online, the prominent British global warming sceptic Professor Philip Stott commented: "One of the most galling things about the whole climate change debate has been European duplicity. While lecturing everybody else, especially America, on the morality of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it has been abundantly clear from the start that most European countries didn't have a snowflake in hell's chance of meeting their own Kyoto targets."
One wonders if the same could be said of New Zealand. The situation is somewhat surprising in that the EU was expected to meet its target more easily than the other OECD countries that are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol. In particular, the big three - Britain, Germany and France - were expecting declines in emissions that began in 1990 to continue. Germany is the EU's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, it obtained a large credit for closing inefficient plants in the former East Germany, resulting in a relatively rapid 44 per cent drop-off in greenhouse emissions in the 1990s. But Germany's emissions rose 1 per cent between 2000 and 2001, indicating that this period of industry revamping was over. France has held its ground because it gets most of its electric power from nuclear plants, which produce no carbon dioxide. But the EU's case suffered several setbacks.
For Britain, the past decade has been a harrowing period of ups and downs. Carbon dioxide emissions there fell in the 1990s when utilities switched from coal to natural gas. This was not related to climate change, but natural gas produces less carbon dioxide. Britain thought it could exploit this trend. But emissions rose as power suppliers switched to coal generation after a steep rise in natural gas prices. One must ask if this is the route New Zealand will be forced to take. For the smaller economies of the EU there are lessons for New Zealand.
The European Environment Agency report shows that Ireland, Spain and Portugal are the worst offenders, but Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Austria, Finland and Denmark all fell short of the targets.
For some, the targets are quite modest. Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland are committed only to holding increased emissions to a set level, but all four countries have exceeded targets. Annual emissions in Spain rose by 32 per cent instead of 15 per cent, and in Ireland by 31 per cent rather than 13 per cent. The result is the EU is moving further away from meeting its commitment. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the New Zealand Government promised to stabilise emissions at 1990 levels by 2000.
Instead, emissions have gone the other way. By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand has undertaken to reverse this trend. This means reducing emissions by about 33 per cent from the business-as-usual level by 2012. If overall energy demand continues to grow annually, the target reductions of carbon emissions required by Kyoto will increase through time. Thus, to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand will have to give up at least one-third of its energy use. This cannot happen in the economy as we know it. The infrastructure for emission sources lasts a long time after initial investment and will influence the emissions profile for some time. Then there is the problem of methane. Agriculture, the backbone of our economy, is responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions. More than half our total emissions come from this sector. The recent report shows that methane levels rose by 41 per cent between 1990 and last year.
If Kyoto is, as some suggest, one small step along a long trail, New Zealand is not even close to making that step.
Michael Grubb is visiting professor of climate change and energy policy at Imperial College, London, and associate director of policy at the UK Carbon Trust. Yuri Safonov is a research fellow, the Higher School of Economics, Moscow
When Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin opened the Russia-UK energy conference last month, one vital issue was conspicuous by its absence from the agenda. The Kyoto protocol, the treaty designed to tackle the threat of climate change and to stimulate clean energy investment globally, is now entirely in the Russian president's hands. It can come into force only if and when Russia ratifies it; without that, it fails. Yet 10 months after Mr Putin himself confirmed Moscow would do so, the Kremlin still refuses to hand the treaty on to the Duma for approval. On this critical matter, the two leaders had not a word to say. Under Kyoto - the culmination of 10 years of global negotiations - the world's governments agreed an initial round of emission targets for greenhouse gases, together with market-oriented mechanisms for trading emission allowances and emission credits granted for clean energy investment.
The agreement provides for subsequent rounds of negotiations to impose ever tighter controls. The US rejection of Kyoto in 2001 was a blow but it was not fatal. Kyoto has now been ratified by 110 countries, including the European Union and many of its prospective members in central Europe, Japan, Canada and most developing countries. But with the US out, the treaty cannot enter into force without Russia - and the world is waiting. Russia's prevarication is surprising, because the country stands to profit directly from Kyoto: its emissions declined rapidly with the demise of the Soviet Union and it now has surplus emission allowances to sell. The Russian Ministry of Energy is looking to Kyoto to help finance modernisation of its desperately inefficient energy system. Russia's two biggest energy companies - Gazprom and RAO UESR - have confirmed their support for Kyoto. Indeed, the government has stated that it accepts the political and economic arguments for ratification.
The delay could prove costly for Russia. The main buyers of emission allowances under Kyoto - the EU, Japan and Canada - are already developing their strategies. Some central European countries, which, like Russia, have surplus emission allowances, have already sold some to a Japanese trading house, using the revenues to improve ageing power stations. Ukraine, which is in the final stages of ratification, could do likewise. The market is beginning to slip away from Russia. At the Russia-UK conference, Russia presented itself as a reformed character, a country "ready for business" along the lines of its western counterparts. The apparent lack of interest in Kyoto may suggest that this is only skin-deep: that Russia has not understood that regulation in areas such as the environment is an essential part of the package. Yet if that were true, pressure from the UK and German governments should have made the international stakes plain enough. Besides, the Russian government has stated that it accepts the political and economic arguments for ratification.
So why is Russia dragging its feet? Conspiracy theorists have noted several trips by senior US administration officials to Moscow. Over the past two years, the US has moved from initial indifference (or incredulity) about the rest of the world moving ahead without it, to recognition that if Kyoto enters into force, the momentum for global efforts to tackle climate change will be unstoppable and the US will ultimately have to compromise with it. Certainly there is antagonism between different Russian ministries, and within ministries, that could be exploited. Another - more likely - possibility is that Russia is simply hoping to secure concessions in other areas, such as accession to the World Trade Organisation and the status of Kaliningrad. Whatever the reason, the Kremlin should stop delaying. At stake is not just a few billion dollars of foreign investment to help clean up Russia's energy system but also whether the international community can uphold a painstakingly negotiated agreement to tackle a grave global threat. Is Russia willing to back that endeavour - and, by extension, the role of the UN in dealing with global problems? By the time Tony next meets Vladimir, there should be answers, not silence.