Thursday 5 March 2015

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What should be the EU’s stance energy and climate change? This covers topics such as energy security, deforestation and CO2 emissions.


Poland should phase out its ailing coal industry by 2035

Posted by on 02/03/15

Coal is the most polluting fossil energy. It emits roughly twice as much CO2 as gas. From a climate point of view mankind should therefore urgently get rid of coal. This will not be easy as coal is the cheapest fossil energy, which reflects its ample resources in major coal producing countries like Australia, South Africa, Russia, India,USA and Indonesia.

In the EU, Poland remains the single biggest coal producer, followed by Germany which is set to close its last coal mines by 2018, but still leaving it with highly polluting lignite.

For Poland closure of its coal plants, which still employ some 50,000 people, is not only a climate necessity but also an economic one, as most mines need to be subsidised by the government.

The new government has started a clean-up process by closing the biggest loss makers and combining the profitable mines in a single state-owned company. As the recent strikes have shown this requires political courage.

Still, Poland has an economic and ecological interest in closing all mines in the next 20 years and replacing them by wind energy and imported gas.

Considering its substantial wind power potential this should be doable. Poland will also be able to import wind power from other member states, especially through the future Baltic grid and rely on LNG imports from third countries, as the three Baltic countries have decided to do.

This energy mix will be cheaper and much more climate-friendly than the present one depending overwhelmingly on coal.

The price of coal-fired power is bound to rise in the EU, while technical progress will reduce the cost of wind power below that of coal.

Through such a long-term strategy Poland will be able to reduce its C02 emissions by 40% until 2030, as it will to have to in conformity with the EU energy and climate policy.

In the present political situation in Poland with a powerful coal lobby this scenario appears revolutionary. But by 2035 such an energy transformation should be quite realistic. In order to throw more light on the long-term energy perspectives, the Polish government should produce a “Green Book on Polish Energy Supply and Demand by 2035”.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 28/02/2015

Energy and climate: Can it be simply rethinking mainstream growth strategies?

Posted by on 26/02/15

This week could be a turning point for climate and energy policy in Europe. The Commissioner for Energy Union, Maros Sefcovic announced the strategy for Energy Union alongside a Climate communication from the European Commission on the ‘road to Paris’ and a Communication reporting on the electricity interconnection target of 10 percent.

According to the International Energy Agency, energy accounts for two thirds of global emissions so when we are talking about climate change, its effects and how to deal with this, energy policy is fundamental to these debates and inextricably linked. The announcements seem to put citizens first and aim to enhance solidarity in EU energy policy and incorporates the need for social dialogue, thereby ensuring a ‘Just Transition’. However the implementation of this will be the most difficult part. National Member States still show deep divisions on how we should go about renewing our energy policies. Yet it should not only be a question of security, which the crisis in Ukraine is currently highlighting but moreover on how not to harm our environment and the only planet we are living on and about how to build a sustainable future.

The fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published last year stating that humans are a cause of climate change was perhaps foreseen but nevertheless alarming. Yet the same report identified that the technology for a clean transition exists, but it needs to be harnessed.

The climate and energy decisions that Europe will make over the next 12 months, reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme for instance will shape how we use and generate energy for decades to come. They have huge implications for our fuel bills, the security of our energy supplies, our industrial opportunities, and global efforts to manage the risks posed by climate change. If our leaders take this emergency seriously, we can avoid being ‘locked-into’ fossil fuels for another several decades. Significant changes to the structure of some energy companies such as E.On illustrates their business awareness to move away from fossil fuels if they are to respect the climate agenda.

The reality is that we can do so much more in energy policy if we act together as Europeans. We have the political tools and a favourable geographical landscape to do so.  What is even more needed is a mutual commitment to climate change action and thus also to enhance our energy consumption and supply in line with sustainability in social and economic terms.

Last October, the EU Council decision on the EU 2030 climate and energy package, left many feeling very disappointed. Although the European Union is recognised for being a role-model on climate action, the emergence of new clean energy policies in the US and China and the bilateral agreement signed in November now means that an international climate change agreement is more likely to be reached at the UNFCCC summit in Paris this December. The EU has to step-up and show commitment to convince those leading countries that Copenhagen cannot be repeated.

The first priority for Energy Union needs to be energy efficiency. It is the fastest, cleanest and safest way to save energy. It’s a crucial way to meet our energy needs and has multiple benefits. Also a credible European energy strategy would encourage the continued growth of the renewables industry, given the potential for its proven, affordable clean technologies to generate new industrial opportunities and help reduce gas dependency.

The deep flaws in the Emissions Trading Scheme, Europe’s flagship scheme for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, require urgent reform. The Market Stability Reserve needs to take effect as soon as possible. It is perhaps unrealistic to say we need it be reformed before the UN climate summit in Paris this year but it is an issue that requires urgent action as the low carbon price is having a knock-on effect for other climate and energy issues.

Interconnection is also a vital part of renewing European cooperation and solidarity through linked energy supplies whilst lowering dependence on Russia and other third countries. Furthermore, investment is key to this. A discussion should be started for a ‘super-fund’ for energy investment.

At the moment, with funding spread out in separate budgets, its not easy to see the clear long-term investment set-out for our overall, long-term energy and climate goals. There are economic alternatives. The crisis proved this and FEPS, with many other progressive researchers have been publishing the findings on this and showing alternative policy solutions.

We need to seriously re-think our economic models and the way we think about ‘growth’. It should be clearly linked to our climate and environment with as the ‘circular economy’ or the ‘blue economy’ suggest. Europe’s industrial strategies need to not only have regards to ‘growth’ but to assess first how this impacts the environment.

Scientific research tells us that we have to change our approach concerning the way we produce and how we influence nature. The ‘anthropocene’  concept discussed in FEPS Queries magazine issue 5 is based on evidence that proves that human-driven impacts are now significant at the level of the Earth’s deep geological time (such as the changes in carbon and nitrogen cycles, global warming, sea level change etc.)

Without radical action to avoid a 4°c rise in global temperatures, more extreme heatwaves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea-level rises are likely.

Hopefully this week’s announcements will provide the turning point we urgently need towards a sustainable transition. COP 21 in December can be too if there is the political willingness to take urgent measures.

EU renewables shortfall to be put out to tender?

Posted by on 16/02/15

How can you make sure you hit an EU-wide binding target for renewable energy, if you don’t have binding targets at the national level?

It’s a problem Commission officials have struggled with since the 2030 climate and energy targets were agreed by EU leaders last October.

Heard in Europe hears tell that one renewable energy company has come up with a solution – putting the shortfall out to tender.

Imagine the EU doesn’t look like making the binding 27% of renewables across the Union because member states aren’t being forced to hit their non-binding national target of at least 27%.

In that case, a body – most likely the Commission – will open up the remaining percentage to bids from renewable companies across the EU.

It will select the best offers, and through that process make sure the EU meets its green commitments.

We understand that this idea is being looked at by officials, but our sources tell us “it is extremely early days”.

Indeed, no one at the Commission was prepared to go on the record about the plan at this stage.

Confidence in the Commission’s ability to fight climate change through market mechanisms remains shaky, following the failure of its EU’s Emissions Trading System.

ETS was meant to be a cornerstone of the fight against climate change. But the market for emissions allowances collapsed after a huge surplus of the permits was handed out.


Photograph courtesy of Russell Smith. Published under a Creative Commons license.

The emissions abyss (and the climate action the world can take now)

Posted by on 15/02/15

By Tasneem Essop, head of low carbon frameworks for WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative

While all eyes are focusing on the negotiations for a new climate agreement that will form the basis of the climate regime after 2020, it is critical that we do not lose sight of the need to increase our actions on climate in the current period up to 2020.

The issue of addressing pre-2020 ambition was placed on the agenda at COP 17 in Durban. But after three years of discussions, sharing ideas and listening to experts, we are yet to see any real concrete actions that can address the low level of ambition in this period.

Today, we’re launching a report, which is a compilation of views from WWF climate specialists around the world on how some key countries could help close the ‘gigatonne gap’ in emissions over the next five years.

The gap we’re witnessing, which is more of an abyss, is caused by low levels of climate commitments from governments in the current period.

At the moment the pre-2020 period does not seem to be on the political radar in most countries, despite the fact that the IPCC science says emissions must peak within this decade to keep average global warming below 2°C to limit dangerous climate change.

With current emission trends we are heading for a 3.6 to 4°C scenario.

For us, science and equity have to be at the heart of any climate agreement. In other words actions need to be based on scientific facts and requirements, but also carried out in a fair and people-focused way.

We know that many countries have already started taking actions on climate at a national level.
But we also know that these have not gone far enough. The proposals for closing the emissions gap go a long way in addressing economic and developmental challenges in many countries.

The arguments that action on climate will slow down growth or affect objectives to address poverty no longer hold water. There is enough evidence showing that climate action is good for jobs, health poverty eradication and economic growth. Governments can use this period up to 2020 to begin the just transition to a zero-carbon future.

Those countries that have the responsibility and capacity to do more should lead this transition as well as support others that can do much more if there is financial, technology and capacity building collaboration and support.

We need to see commitments at national level, as well as multilateral commitments – and crucially they need to be turned into concrete actions. Citizens and businesses around the world are ready to do their bit.

Now governments must act.

Climate action is urgent and the planet and its people cannot wait any longer.

We’ve asked 10 WWF colleagues from various countries to analyse and sum up what concrete things their governments could and should be doing now.

From scrapping coal-fi red power stations and increasing renewables to improving energy efficiency, strengthening emissions targets and addressing deforestation, you will see that there are plenty of ways governments around the world can limit their pre-2020 emissions – and urgently close the gigatonne gap.

Read the report here.

Tweet this and help us share the message!

What can countries like South Africa, Mexico and India do right now to cut their emissions? @climatewwf explains:

Our planet can’t wait for #climateaction that starts in 2020. What countries can do NOW (via @climatewwf):

China to challenge the World at Paris Climate Conference

Posted by on 11/02/15

In the last few years China, the biggest emitter of green house gases, has been revolutionising its energy sector in a way that deserves respect from the international community. At the Paris Climate Conference it is likely to impress the parties by the resolution, effectiveness and speed of its climate policy. It might even offer the paradigm for emerging countries that the EU has not been able to do.

This would represent a sharp turn-around of its position at the ineffective climate conferences organised by the UN during the last 20 years when China considered climate change and policy as the responsibility of industrial countries like USA and Europe.

Its new approach can be attributed to three main factors:

  • the rising political, economic, ecological and human costs of its almost complete dependence on fossil fuels, estimated by the World Bank at $ 300 billion annually;
  • the desire to loosen its dependency on the production and import of coal, oil and gas;
  • the ambition to maintain its leading position as the major export nation of renewableand nuclear technologies and, in the future, also of clean cars.

China is therefore likely to announce ambitious targets for Paris, both for the medium-term (2020-30) and long-term (2050), accompanied by measures for implementation.

In order to replace its excessive dependence from coal it will continue to expand its capacity of non-fossil energy, from hydro-power to wind, solar, biomass and nuclear.

To that end, it will introduce binding climate targets for the country and each province, ban all coal-fired installations in heavily polluted cities like Beijing, close thousands of wasteful power plants and industrial installations, introduce nation-wide emission trading as of 2016, building on EU experience while making it more effective through establishing higher and variable emission prices.

To curb emissions from the rapidly growing car park, China is on the point of introducing emission standards analogous to those applied by EU and USA. For 2020 it envisages to set fleet emissions at 117 g/km ( 5 litre/100 km). compared to 95 g/km by the EU.

Thanks to this programme, slower economic growth and a progressive departure from energy-intensive industries China appears well-set towards a decoupling of its economic development from coal consumption and C02 emissions. In 2014 its coal production has for the first time registered a small decline! It is therefore likely to achieve its target of de-carbonising 25 per cent of its energy supply by 2025.

Last not least China is once again trying to enhance its overall energy efficiency. 2015 its energy intensity, the amount of energy consumed per GDP unit, should be 16 per cent lower than in 2010.

In launching this broad programme China will shame major polluter countries like Australia, Japan, Russia, Canada and South Africa. Even more important, it should be able to “export” its policy to many emerging countries, something that neither EU nor USA have so far succeeded.

Thus the Paris Conference may against all odds produce more positive results than expected after the lacklustre outcome of the preceding meeting in Lima.

Brussels 12.02.2015 Eberhard Rhein


Where are the bunkers on the road to Paris?

Posted by on 09/02/15

This blogpost by Bill Hemmings and Andrew Murphy of T&E and Mark Lutes of Climate Action Network International was first published in Eco

In the final years of negotiations for the new climate agreement, it’s still not clear if it will include the fastest growing emissions sources — international aviation and shipping, also known as bunker fuels.

CO2 emissions from international shipping and aviation were about 950 megatonnes (MT) and 705MT respectively in 2012; combined they account for as much emissions as Germany, the sixth largest emitting country. When indirect effects are taken into account, the impact could already be approaching 10% of global climate forcing. In the almost two decades since the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) started discussing greenhouse gases, little concrete action has materialised and, scarily, these emissions are on course to double or even treble by 2030. If emissions from these sectors are not addressed effectively by 2050, bunker emissions could swell to account for a quarter of all emissions. Such high emissions from the international transport sector would make it all but impossible to limit aggregate global warming to less than 2ºC as it would place an impossible emission reduction burden on other sectors.

IMO and ICAO discussions have seen limited progress.

Carbon neutral growth from 2020 is the most ambitious goal that the aviation sector has proposed, allowing emissions to grow to 2020 and then offsetting growth beyond that. This is far short of what is required for a 2ºC pathway, and there is little assurance that even these goals would be implemented.

International shipping emissions are predicted to increase between 50% and 250% by 2050. The IMO suspended consideration of market-based measures in 2011, and the question of setting a global cap on shipping emissions is not on the IMO agenda. Efficiency regulations agreed for new ships will likely not have a significant impact for several decades, and the shipping industry is now fighting any new measures.

At COP 21, the UNFCCC should mandate the setting of robust and meaningful reduction targets, as well as the adoption of mitigation measures that will ensure these sectors begin to play a fair and equal role in addressing dangerous climate change. Eco welcomes the introduction of text in the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) yesterday which demands the setting of targets for emissions from these sectors consistent with staying below 2ºC.

John’s story & the expansion of palm oil trading

Posted by on 03/02/15
Anne van Schaik & Sam Lowe John Muya, a farmer in Kalangala, continues to fight for the return of his land. The overgrown foundations of an unfinished home, intended to house his family for generations, stands as a reminder of what was taken from him.

Resettlement process for Kosovo Power Project does not comply with international standards

Posted by on 03/02/15

A report published today analyses the process with which 7000 are to be resettled for the Kosovo lignite mine and concludes that the World Bank-financed process does not comply with the bank’s own standards and is plagued by a slew of other weaknesses.

by Dajana Berisha Executive director, Forum for Civic Initiatives, Kosovo; cross-posted from the Bankwatch blog

Download the report as pdf >>

Arguments against the World Bank-financed Kosovo Power Project (KPP) often highlight the costs and negative impacts of building the 600 MW Kosovo C coal-fired power plant while investments in energy efficiency would be more feasible as Kosovo still wastes a large amount of the electricity being produced. What may be less known internationally is that also resettlement is a problematic issue connected to the project.

The Government of Kosovo is currently preparing to involuntarily displace over 7000 people to make way for an open pit lignite mine as part of the Kosovo Power Project. [1] A report [2] commissioned by the Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID) and authored by Dr. Ted Downing, president of the International Network on Displacement and Resettlement (INDR) shows that the government’s preparations do not comply with international involuntary resettlement standards, including those of the OECD and the World Bank itself that are a precondition for the project to obtain international financing.

The World Bank management provided the Kosovo agencies with a noncompliant legal, policy, and institutional safeguarding scaffolding to guide the anticipated displacement. The Kosovo government willingly complied.

Multiple mistakes were and continue to be made, most importantly related to the requirement to prepare a full resettlement plan required by the World Bank’s Operational Policy on Involuntary Resettlement (OP 4.12). Such a resettlement plan can only in very limited situations be substituted with an abbreviated, resettlement policy framework. Yet this is precisely what has been prepared for the Kosovo Power Project.

In the report (pdf), KOSID points out that such a shortcut of a policy framework is not applicable and a resettlement plan for the entire displacement must be prepared.

Other shortcomings include:

  1. The preparations overestimated the institutional capacities of the government.
  2. The preparations fail to align the project with the international policy’s prime objectives of assuring involuntary resettlement is a development project, with livelihood restoration, benefit sharing, meaningful consultation and participation.
  3. Lacking focus on the primary objectives, the costs of involuntary resettlement are seriously miscalculated and underestimated, raising investment costs, thereby delaying the profitability phase of the overall KPP. Prudent applicants for the private concessionaire, financiers, government, civil sector and those threatened with displacement should request a recalculation of a fully compliant involuntary resettlement component for the lifespan of the project. These costs should be folded into a revision of the projects’ overall investment costs.
  4. The uncertain structure of the project financing also creates downstream, political risks for the government, potentially seeding a future exacerbation of existing civil discord and political unrest. Cost overruns to complete the resettlement will be paid through increases of electricity prices, not by the government or the private concessionaire, leading to future conflicts between Kosovo electricity consumers and those being displaced.

After millions of dollars in technical assistance, this analysis shows the proposed resettlement policy framework is little more than a weakly disguised cash compensation plan that closely follows the failed patterns of the former government-owned mining company.

In sum, the World Bank management and the Kosovo government are responsible for constructing an unreliable safeguard framework that will cause delays and added costs to the KPP project. Their poor decisions have increased, rather than decreased the financial, environmental, social and health risks for Kosovars, their government, investors and, foremost, those threatened with forced displacement.


1. The project envisages replacing the Kosovo A Power Station with a rehabilitated existing power plant (Kosovo B) and a new power plant (Kosovo C) as well as the development of a mine.

2. The report was presented today during a roundtable on resettlement organised by KOSID, unfortunately without the participation of World Bank representatives as a KOSID update on twitter noted:

Two mobility revolutions transport policy has had nothing to do with – yet

Posted by on 02/02/15

By Jos Dings, Transport & Environment’s director

What have been the two sustainable mobility revolutions of the past decade? Of course, that is an impossible question. I am sure that if you asked 10 different people you would get 10 different answers.

Some would say nothing much has happened. Others would say cleaner cars. Or ticketless public transport. Or high-speed rail. Or travel planning apps.

All these are fine answers, of course; but still I would go for two different developments. Both have grown roughly 20-fold over the past decade and are genuinely new ways of getting around.

They are e-bikes and car-sharing. E-bike sales are around 1.5 million units now, up from around 75,000 in 2005. Some eight million Europeans now own an e-bike, if you do the maths. The number of car-sharers stands at over two million, up from around 100,000 in 2005. In other words, both have gone from being niche to rather common. In progressive parts of countries like Germany and the Netherlands both are even approaching mainstream.

Are there many attributes common to both of these revolutions? Sure. Both developments enable lower car ownership and are a cheaper, more rational and more fit-for-purpose ways of getting around. More and more people realise that buying a car and then seeing that €20,000 in value crumble just by sitting on the kerb 96 per cent of the time does not make sense.

Both are perfect complements for intermodal journeys. If you arrive at a station and you have car-sharing and e-bikes at your disposal – as well as trams, buses, etc – you are perfectly set up, and another step away from needing to drive your car into an urban centre or even owning a car at all.

E-bikes and car-sharing are complementary options; if you are not willing or able to have a car, an e-bike serves many needs, but a car works for long distances, heavy loads, foul weather, rural destinations, or all four. I am an avid cyclist myself and don’t like to be overtaken by an e-bike, but you have to admit that in many circumstances – heat, hills, trips greater than five kilometres – for many people it is a more feasible alternative to a car than a regular bike.

And both booms have, I am almost sorry to say, not much to do with transport policy.

Both come primarily from huge leaps in technology and are helped by economic and cultural trends. E-bikes have simply become much better themselves. Car-sharing has boomed also because it has become so incredibly easy to manage with a smartphone. And the more shared cars there are around, the more attractive car-sharing becomes – a virtuous circle at work. The weak economy is a factor too; most without a job cannot afford to have a car. And let’s surely not forget the cultural change; you have to be quite old, uncool, or both, to still derive status from having a car.

So although transport policy has not done much to push both trends, can Brussels policymakers now do anything to support and accelerate them? Sure.

For one thing, since the economies of scale of car-sharing are so important, it would be great if you could easily switch between different schemes. Sign up for one, use more, or even all. Common standards and flexible billing arrangements are surely something policymakers can help happen.

One other, perhaps surprising, answer is pushing electrification much harder in all possible ways, including stretching CO2 standards for the car industry. Why? Because electric cars are very expensive to have, but very cheap to use. And that makes them perfect for sharing.

Third, e-bikes are simply not on the radar in Brussels; they should be taken much more seriously in all the R&D and demonstration projects it finances, just like small non-car electric vehicles such as e-mopeds, e-scooters or Renault Twizy-like vehicles. The type approval rules for these below-car vehicles leave quite a bit to be desired too.

Electrification is one of these rare cases in which trends in technology, energy, environment, mobility and culture can reinforce each other. It can enable lower carbon emissions and improved energy efficiency as well as more vehicle sharing and smaller vehicles.

The Commission has an excellent opportunity to push a cross-vehicle, cross-modal electrification of transport in its forthcoming strategy for its much-vaunted ‘energy union’. It should not waste it.

The Environmental-Industrial Complex Revisited

Posted by on 31/01/15
Five years ago, the world was on the brink of collapse from catastrophic climate change. As fear-mongers got rich, the Risk-Monger had a rich picking of ridiculous cases of abusive PR and scientific activism. The Environmental-Industrial Complex has evolved over these five years, but is showing no signs of weakening its hold on our media attention, fear levels or pocket-books.

Governments must hurry and tax ultra-cheap oil

Posted by on 25/01/15

International oil prices have declined to $ 50/barrel, levels not seen for years; but governments fail to neutralise these ultra-low prices by raising excise taxes. They seem to be much more interested in pleasing consumers than in seizing the opportunity for reducing their budget deficits and fighting climate change.

This is irresponsible! Have governments completely stopped being guided by long-term concerns. Are they no longer able to be flexible?

Why have we not heard calls from IEA or OCDE to resort to higher oil taxation?

Why does the UN in charge of the December Climate Conference in Paris remain silent? Should a rise or the introduction of excise taxes on gasoline, diesel and heating fuels not a be a simple “contribution” against climate change which it has invited all governments to submit before the Paris Climate Conference ?

Why has the EU Commission not recommended member states to raise their taxes ?

If it takes so long to decide on a simple excise tax, how long will it take governments to take more complex action against climate change?

In a rapidly changing world, governments must learn to act much faster than last century!

Brussels 25.01.2015 Eberhard Rhein

A plea for concrete climate action in Paris

Posted by on 22/01/15

In the 21st century the international community will increasingly have to cope with issues going beyond the scope of individual or groups of states.

These issues should be dealt with by UN; but the UN is handicapped by the absence of a proper political authority and the consensus required for all decisions.

In 2015, the international community will be bluntly tested on its ability to take long overdue decisions and implement these if it wants to successfully fight climate change. So far it has failed in its endeavours to fix clear objectives, let alone a fair burden sharing among the 195 countries of the international community. These have not been able to understand the urgency of finding an effective solution. For the last two decades that climate change has been on the international agenda no country really has felt responsible. This might go on indefinitely until climate change may have reached dimensions for effective action to come too late.

The 21st international climate conference (COP 21) to take place in Paris December 2015 will be the crucial test for the international community to start taking necessary action to avoid dramatic consequences for mankind.

Climate change is a particularly complex issue for the international community to decide and deliver.

Only some 20 countries are responsible for having damaged the global climate by emitting rising amounts of green house gases or destroying tropical forests. It would be enough for these countries to agree on taking concrete action to reduce their emissions by 80 per cent until 2050.

But the UN Secretary General, the authority competent to propose such a solution, does not dare to take an initiative. He is only too well aware that 180 mostly poor countries affected by but so far hardly responsible for climate change want exploit their numerical force to extract financial “concessions” from the “developed” countries that have been so far largely responsible for the accumulation of green house gases in the atmosphere.

The prospect of reducing the negotiation format in Paris to the core emitter countries is therefore highly unlikely.

The international community should therefore focus on quantifying global and individual objectives and actions for reducing emissions.

So far it has done no more than “agree” that the average global temperature should not rise by more than two centigrade above the pre-industrial levels at the end of the 19th century. The average temperature today is only about 0.9 centigrade higher than in1870. This might reassure many people. But the rise of temperature has kept accelerating in the last two decades. This trend is most likely to continue unabated as long as green house gas emissions continue to rise.

Humanity therefore better speed up its efforts to reduce emissions. To that end, it needs to define the correlation between temperature and the volume of green house gas emissions. Climatologists have done so by introducing the notion of “climate budget”, the volume of emissions the earth can support without devastating consequences. According to their findings Humanity has spent already about two thirds of its 1000 GT climate budget.

Distributing the remaining 350 GT among 200 countries and surveying their future emissions should therefore be the decisive step to be taken before and after the Paris Climate Conference next December.

These must be quantified. To that end, the climatologists from different parts of the earth having worked on climate budget should propose before the end of April the optimal path for reducing global emissions and its distribution among countries, in conformity with the “principle of common but differentiated responsibility and capability” in order to enable the “Working Group on the Durban Platform for Advanced Action” to prepare its draft text as agreed in Lima.

Most probably the time will be too short to introduce this change which would make negotiations substantive and lead to a meaningful agreement, as demanded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the COP 20 in Lima.

The failure of the first week of post-Lima negotiations in Bonn appears to confirm this pessimistic view.

To avoid this from happening Ban Ki-oom, assisted by the French host, must focus all its energy on the preparation of a meaningful text with substantive “contributions” annexed and announce that the plenary meeting in Paris will be deferred as long as the parties have not agreed to a succinct and credible document. The failure of the first post-Lima talks in Bonn early January, with Japan coming forward with ridiculous small contributions, proves the dire need for such an approach.

Brussels 15.01.2010 Eberhard Rhein


All aboard? Paris climate deal must address aviation and shipping

Posted by on 22/01/15

By Andrew Murphy, Transport & Environment’s aviation policy officer

The latest round of climate talks concluded in Lima last month with a sense that some of the basics have been agreed to set the foundations of a global agreement in Paris next year.

While the final outcome fell short of expectations, all parties seem to have accepted in principal the need to curb their emissions to keep an increase in global temperature below 2C.

However, the two international sectors, aviation and shipping – the emissions of which have not been allocated to parties – seem to be the exception. Together, international aviation and shipping emissions account for 5.3 per cent of global CO2 emissions – equivalent to being the sixth largest nation state CO2 emitter. A failure at Paris to recognise the need for these sectors to contribute to keeping within the 2 degree target would be remarkable.

Parties to the Kyoto Protocol were unable to reach agreement on how to address emissions from these sectors, and instead delegated responsibility to the UN agencies responsible – the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for shipping and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for aviation. Progress by both bodies since then has been painfully slow. ICAO is working to a 2016 target date to agree a global market-based measure (MBM) based on carbon neutral growth to take effect in 2020. The IMO has agreed a design efficiency standard for new ships but has no overall reduction target and is not even discussing one. In this regard, two developments at Lima may be significant.

The first is that countries re-iterated that by, March 2015, they all should ideally submit an INDC (Intended Nationally Defined Contribution) – which would include information on how each country will limit its greenhouse gas emissions. All 190 countries that are part of the UNFCCC process are encouraged to outline what action they will take. We can then compare these commitments – developed and developing – with what the ICAO and IMO has pledged to do.

The second is that the annex of the negotiation text for a new climate deal includes a reference to net zero emissions of carbon by 2050. This proposal was supported by many countries. It is uncertain if this reference will survive negotiations over the final text to be agreed in Paris, but it sends a clear signal to businesses and governments about the path we are on.

So far aviation and shipping commitments fall well short of complete decarbonisation by 2050: international shipping is expected to increase its emissions by up to 250 per cent by 2050, according to its own report released earlier this year. Discussions at the IMO on any MBM have been frozen for three years and the organisation and industry seem to think they have a licence to grow their emissions.

International aviation is growing three to four per cent per annum and could see its emissions increase 400 per cent between 2006 and 2050. The global MBM that ICAO is discussing will at best offset emissions above a 2020 baseline but whether such offsets represent real emissions reductions is a fundamental question hanging over the whole process. A major gap seems to be developing between the ambition of the UNFCCC and its 190 members on the one hand, and the IMO and ICAO on the other hand.

Though international aviation and shipping managed to escape serious attention in Peru, a number of states called for their inclusion by requiring the Paris agreement to cover all global GHG emissions. Member states in both ICAO and IMO should recognise that momentum is shifting behind a meaningful agreement in Paris and they should act to ensure the ambition of the aviation and shipping sectors matches that of the rest of the world.

The Real Value of Arctic Resources

Posted by on 18/01/15

By Nina Jensen, Secretary General of WWF-Norway

As the annual Arctic Frontiers meeting starts in Tromso Norway, much of the talk and media coverage will once again be centred on Arctic resources. This is usually code for oil and gas development in the Arctic, and the potential geopolitical conflict over the exploitation of these resources. This focus is entirely misguided.

The Arctic’s most significant renewable resources are ice and snow. The ice and snow in the Arctic reflect significant amounts of the sun’s energy. As we lose that reflective shield, the Arctic absorbs more solar energy. A warming Arctic warms the entire planet, causing billions of dollars’ worth of avoidable damage, displacing millions of people, and throwing natural systems into disarray. We continually undervalue the critical role of the Arctic is shielding us from wrenching change. Instead, we ironically look to it as a source of the very hydrocarbons that are melting away the Arctic shield.

Apart from the question of whether we should be developing hydrocarbon resources anywhere in the world, let us look at the question of specifically developing them in the Arctic, which in many cases means the offshore Arctic, under the ocean.

We know there are no proven effective methods of cleaning up oil spills in ice, especially in mobile ice. Even without ice, the effects of a spill in Arctic conditions will linger for decades. Oil from the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska still pollutes beaches, more than 25 years later. We know that drilling for oil in the offshore Arctic is extremely risky – just look at the mishaps that Shell has encountered in the last couple of years in its attempts to drill off the Alaskan Coast. So there is a high risk of mishap, and no proven effective method of cleaning up after such a mishap. No matter what the price of oil, $50 or $200 a barrel, is it worth the risk?

We do not need to make the same mistakes in the Arctic as we have made elsewhere. We can instead use the Arctic as a proving ground for greener, cleaner technologies. Tidal power, wind power, hydro power, all have potential in the Arctic. The Arctic, with its smaller population centres is ideal for smaller scale technologies to produce such renewable power.  Such local power generation can create local jobs, and make Arctic communities more self-sufficient, able to withstand the fluctuations in price of petroleum-based fuels that will eventually bankrupt them.

This message is not just coming from WWF. If you look at the US government plans for its chair of the Arctic Council starting later this year, it also recognizes the value of replacing fossil fuels with community-based renewable power sources – it also just put the valuable fishery of Bristol Bay off limits to oil and gas development. So it’s not just NGOs and Arctic peoples who are questioning the value of fossil fuels in the Arctic, versus the real value of the Arctic to the world – as a regulator of our global climate.



3 lessons learned from an 8-year battle for cleaner fuels in Europe

Posted by on 12/01/15

By Nusa Urbancic, Transport & Environment‘s energy programme manager.

We live in a world where governments struggle to address climate change. Scientific advice on what needs to be done to stop warming our planet is very clear: stop burning fossil fuels. Even the rather conservative International Energy Agency (IEA) agrees: we need to leave more than two-thirds of proven oil reserves in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. It would seem logical that we start with the dirtiest and costliest oil, euphemistically dubbed ‘unconventional oil’. But logic does not always guide political decisions – they are often more about power, influence and how many bucks someone has to oil the lobbying machine. The Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) – a EU law devised to reduce the carbon footprint of transport fuels – is the latest victim of the power of vested interests over science and the common good.

We have worked on the FQD from the start and have always seen it as a smart piece of legislation. This is a law that could have been a technology-neutral way of bringing cleaner fuels to market without picking winners. Policymakers would only have to ensure that the carbon footprint of different fuels was aligned with the best available evidence and then let the market decide which fuels are worth investing in and which ones should be left in the ground. The scientific advice was unquestionable: the knowledge available was robust enough to label the significant variations in the carbon intensity of different fossil fuel sources, including higher values for fuels such as coal-to-liquid, tar sands, oil shale and gas-to-liquid.

Once again, the call of the scientific community fell on deaf ears: following almost eight years of heavy-handed lobbying by Canadathe US and oil majors, in October 2014 the Commission re-tabled a diluted proposal that fails to discourage oil companies from using and investing in the world’s dirtiest oil.

The European Parliament tried hard but failed to veto the watered-down proposal. Now EU countries can finally implement a law that was enacted in 2009 – it’s noteworthy that this was the last unimplemented law of the 2008 Climate and Energy package proposed by the first Barroso Commission. The result is rather poor: emissions from ‘unconventional’ fuels will not be properly accounted for, while the other critical part of the law – how we account for indirect emissions from biofuels – is still being discussed by the Parliament and the Council. In a perfect world, the FQD would follow the best available science and enable fuel suppliers to make their choices based on the true environmental impacts of fuels. In practice, we will probably see some ‘unconventionals’ coming to Europe and loads of unsustainable biofuels to meet the FQD’s 6% reduction target.

We take three key lessons from the lobbying battle:

1. The technology-neutral approach failed due to the massive amount of lobbying

First and foremost, the passing of this law marks the failure of the technology-neutral approach, which used to be quite a holy grail for the Commission. The technology-neutral approach looks great in theory: politicians just set targets, do not pick winners, all that needs to happen is for the science to get the numbers right and the market will do the right thing. But real life works with imperfections. It was impressive to see the amount of ‘evidence’ that was fabricated by businesses and third countries, chiefly Canada, to muddy the scientific waters. In a nutshell, they argued that either unconventional oil values or ILUC values were not the “right ones” or that there are other sectors that are equally bad or, in some cases, worse (for example, Russian oil). The Commission, who should have been the guardian of science, failed to defend its own research and impact assessment and caved in to special interests. This makes it very difficult for the Commission to publicly defend its technology neutrality. We think that the Commission should learn from the oil industry’s utter refusal to clean up their products. Much more emphasis should be placed on electrification of transport in combination with renewable electricity sources, which are truly domestic and truly sustainable – a no-regret option.

2. Trade deals threaten environmental legislation

The FQD is the first casualty of negotiations of free trade agreements with Canada (CETA) and with the US (TTIP). These negotiations have given these countries and their respective oil industries additional venues to influence the outcome of the FQD. While Canada was very candid about its intentions, stating publicly that it will not hesitate to defend its interests in front of the WTO, US officials were much more subtle. They publicly said that they were only concerned about the transparency of the process, but we have the evidence that they played a much dirtier game behind the scenes, pushing for the FQD to be weakened. The Commission dropped the ball because of this pressure, and not because the original proposal would have been too costly or too difficult to implement. It clearly shows that much more public scrutiny is needed on how trade negotiations impact on the democratic right of countries to regulate.

3. More democratic decision-making is needed

The peculiarity of the comitology procedure and the immense power that it gives to the Commission made it very difficult for progressive member states and the Parliament to improve the proposal. Once the Commission decided to weaken the FQD, the only thing the other two institutions could do was to veto it – with the risk of never getting anything better out of the Commission. There is a case to make this process more democratic – after all we are deciding on the future of the planet and not just a small technical issue, as is often the case in comitology. The same conclusion could apply to the process that led the Commission to unilaterally scrap the decarbonisation target for fuels post-2020 in its communication on 2030 climate and energy framework. They first got rid of the target and then used this decision to argue for weaker implementing measures until 2020.

How to move ahead

Perhaps it is too early to proclaim technology neutrality as dead. It is now up to the new Commission to decide whether they will revive the FQD after 2020 or not. In any case, there are some no-regrets measures that they can and should take. These are: an aggressive push for the electrification of transport; tougher efficiency standards for all vehicles; and finalisation of the reform of the biofuels policy including the phase-out of high-ILUC biodiesel. On oil it is clear that demand should be curtailed – transport is Europe’s biggest client for oil companies – and that the most polluting unconventional oil should stay in the ground. Reporting trade names in the FQD is the first step in this direction, but it should be strengthened and made mandatory in a way that oil companies are accountable for what they place on the market. With the commitment of at least a 40% domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction by 2030, transport will have to cut its GHG emissions aggressively and there is no space for ever-dirtier fossil fuels in this equation.