Monday 28 July 2014

Currently browsing 'Climate & Environment'

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

 

Europäisches Kartell

Posted by on 24/07/14

“Die EU-Kommission setzt auf Energieverschwendung” – das vernichtende Urteil der DENEF(Deutsche Unternehmensinitiative Energie-Effizienz) ist berechtigt… Statt um 40% will die Kommission den Energieverbrauch bis 2030 lediglich um 30% senken, und das nicht einmal für alle Mitgliedsstaaten verbindlich… Dass die EU-Kommission in derselben Sitzung die Reform des deutschen EEG durchwinkt, ist mehr als nur ein Zufall. Denn beide Entscheidungen hängen eng miteinander zusammen und sind getragen von demselben rückwärtsgewandten Geist.

Im Interesse des alten nuklear-fossilen Energiekartells und der eng mit ihm verbunden energie-intensiven Industrie werden die für die gesamte Gesellschaft so wichtigen und übergeordneten Ziele einer vernünftigen Energiepolitik über Bord geworfen, vom Klimaschutz über die Verringerung der Abhängigkeit von Energie-Importen bis hin zur Senkung der stetig wachsenden Kosten für die EU-Energie-Importe…

Dabei war Deutschland auf einem guten Weg: Mit der Energiewende wurde vorgemacht, wie Effizienz, Ausbau der Erneuerbaren und Reduzierung des CO2-Ausstoßes wirtschaftlich zu schaffen sind. Doch Gabriel und Oettinger praktizieren offenbar auch auf EU-Ebene und in Sachen Energie die Große Koalition: Der deutsche Energieminister hebelt das EEG aus und sorgt für weiterhin großzügige Strompreisrabatte, ausgerechnet für die größten Stromfresser, und Oettinger sorgt dafür, dass der Druck zur Energie-Effizienz aus Brüssel nicht zu groß wird.

Das Ergebnis: Mit den niedrigsten Industriestrompreisen seit 2005 sinkt die Bereitschaft der Unternehmen für Investitionen in Energie-Effizienzmaßnahmen nahezu auf Null – und nebenbei freuen sich RWE., E.ON & Co., weil gerade diese Stromfresser zu ihren wichtigsten Kunden zählen.

So schließt sich der Kreis: Energiepolitik hat eben leider auch im Jahr 2014, auch in Zeiten von Klimawandel, Energiewende, Ukraine-Krise und schwindenden Ölreserven nur begrenzt etwas mit Vernunft, dafür aber umso mehr mit Interessen, Macht und Geld zu tun.

City of Zagreb still playing with fire

Posted by on 20/07/14

Seasoned Bankwatch-watchers may recall our successful four-year campaign to stop the EBRD from financing a waste incinerator just outside Zagreb. Between 2005 and 2008, we supported Zelena akcija/Friends of the Earth Croatia and local group UZOR to prevent the City of Zagreb from building a huge 385 000 tonnes per year waste incinerator in Resnik on the outskirts of Croatia’s capital.

The reasons against the project were clear: the low levels of recycling and composting in Zagreb, the lack of facilities to safely dispose of the bottom ash, fly ash and filter residues, the inflexibility of such a large facility and poor previous experience with environmental enforcement in Croatia.

Whether for these or other reasons, the EBRD and later the EIB wisely avoided financing the project, with the Mayor of Zagreb confirming in late 2008 that the project would not go ahead.

Since then however, the City of Zagreb seems intent on passing a waste management plan that includes almost exactly the same measures, in spite of Zelena akcija’s best efforts to promote alternatives. The city is again holding a public consultation for a plan that looks eerily similar to the previous.

Even though Croatia must recycle 50 percent of its waste by 2020 as per EU targets and Zagreb has almost a quarter of the country’s population, the city’s new draft waste plan still has the incinerator project as its centrepiece, now – incomprehensibly – with a capacity of 400 000 tonnes per year.

This in spite of the fact that Zagreb’s annual residual waste actually dropped to around 270 000 tonnes per year for the years 2009-2013, all with a very low percentage of recycling and no serious efforts to reduce the production of waste. So imagine what would happen if Zagreb’s authorities really made an effort on recycling, composting and waste reduction.

The proposed waste management plan foresees no less than EUR 360 million for the construction of the incinerator and an ash landfill, 35 times less money for recycling and separated collection, and zero for waste reduction measures. The costs of the incinerator alone total 83 per cent of the entire budget to implement the plan, turning the waste hierarchy on its head.

The only city-wide recycling measures include an increased number of recycling containers, which enable recycling only of a few materials and have long proven to be of limited use when people must walk further to use them and have no economic incentive to do so.

The need to treat waste sludge from Zagreb’s controversial wastewater treatment plant is often cited as a reason for the incinerator, but no alternative treatments are covered in the waste management plan, nor is there an explanation of what will happen once the backlog of sludge is burned and Zagreb does not produce enough other waste to fill it. Importing other people’s waste seems like the only outcome if the burner is built.

The incinerator would create around 100 000 tonnes of ash, but there have so far been no realistic proposals of where this could be landfilled, as all suggested locations have been met unsurprisingly with fierce local resistance. It is also unclear where the hazardous fractions of the waste eg. the filter residues, would be disposed of and how much this would cost, but considering that Croatia has no suitable facilities it can be expected that this could incur considerable costs and as well raise ethical questions about leaving other countries to bear the consequences of Croatia’s waste.

The frustrating thing is that the alternatives – waste prevention, recycling, composting and mechanical biological treatment with anaerobic digestion – are available and functioning in many cities, but the City of Zagreb refuses to see this. We must move quickly beyond this impasse and agree on a waste management plan we can all live with. And that means that the City of Zagreb will have to open its ears and start listening rather than blundering blindly on with its plans.

The question here is where the international financial institutions stand. A meeting with EBRD representatives in Zagreb in May 2013 showed that the bank is aware of the imperative of solving Zagreb’s waste problem and is interested in supporting the city’s efforts. But will it silently follow the City of Zagreb’s increasingly absurd plans or help it finally develop a waste management system we can be proud of?

27% ≠ 27% ≠ a good idea

Posted by on 17/07/14

By Adam White, Research Coordinator at WWF European Policy Office’s Climate and Energy Unit

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.

- Aristotle

When it comes to European targets for greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, every percentage point is closely modelled and examined.  The esoteric target of 27% renewable energy is the product of European Commission analysis on contributions to reach the (inadequate) 40% emissions cut by 2030.

A separate review of Energy Efficiency, still in draft form, looked at energy savings of up to 40%, as called for by Parliament and NGOs, and while it did examine 28%, 30 and 35%, found greater benefits to the higher end.

Unfortunately, such dedicated number gazing sometimes clashes with politics, or circumstance, or – as in the case of the 2030 energy efficiency target – both.

The higher energy efficiency numbers are intimidating to a Commission that’s afraid of doing battle with difficult Member States, and contradict its earlier 2030 framework review (the one done prior to the recognition by all concerned that efficiency is crucial to energy security).

Never fear, because some Commissioners have cooked up a solution: simply ‘match’ the efficiency target to the renewables target – 27%/27%. Neat and parallel (and more than an echo of Commissioner Oettinger’s earlier 30/30/30 rhetoric).  Sadly, it is just not as simple as that.  However similar the numbers seem on paper – in reality they mean very different things.

The renewables target applies to the share of final energy use – the proportion of renewable energy we get when we switch on lights.  On the other hand, the efficiency target applies to cuts in primary energy use below a baseline projection – so it reflects the reduction in the amount of fuel used in the EU compared to expectations absent the applicable policy.

These are completely different notions. 27% in no way equals 27%.

The renewable energy target and the efficiency target interact in complex ways.  You can reduce the EU’s consumption of fuel, and therefore help to meet the efficiency target, by increasing renewable energy.  This is because renewable energy technologies convert their energy inputs (sun, wind) more efficiently than traditional power plants convert coal and gas into electricity.  The converse is also true, you can help meet the renewables target by boosting efficiency, since the less total energy you use, the easier it is for a higher proportion of that total to be met by renewables.

These are all considerations that the number crunchers pay close attention to, but which their bosses seem willing to overlook in the interests of symmetry and expediency.  And like a heart bypass candidate who can’t resist another double cheese hamburger, the Commission has decided to ignore the consequences of their bad decision: a 27% energy efficiency target actually represents a slowdown of current efforts, and would put in jeopardy the improved health and billions of euros saved every year that efficiency delivers.

Interesting how a Commission which is almost 70% male, and 100% white is apparently only interested in equality when it comes to plucking numbers out of the air.

 

EU deploys innovative finance tools to improve energy efficiency

Posted by on 16/07/14

Ambitious energy efficiency targets will require significant investment from the private sector. Public authorities are learning fast from innovative financing mechanisms the EU is putting in place to achieve this.

Energy efficiency has traditionally been viewed as a public good financed by public sector grants. But the public purse can only do so much and the pressure is mounting.

Now, with rising energy prices and an increasingly urgent climate agenda, European energy legislation is driving ambitious targets including: renovation of public buildings; energy efficiency obligations for energy suppliers; and overall demand-side reduction.

Growing investment opportunity

Across all sectors, global energy efficiency investments totalled $300 billion in 2011 – a substantial and growing market opportunity for investors.

It is estimated that urban areas are responsible for 70% – 80% of energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in Europe. For this reason, various EU initiatives are encouraging towns and cities to take the lead in the fight against climate change.

To reach the EU’s 20:20:20 target (20% of EU energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020; a 20% improvement in energy efficiency; and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990), the required annual investment in the buildings sector alone is estimated at €65-100 billion ($89-136 billion) between 2011 and 2020.

Public authorities are generally called upon to lead investments. Across Europe, over 300 regions and 150,000 municipalities account for two-thirds (€178.9 billion in 2011) of the total public investment expenditure and have major powers in key sectors such as education, the environment, transport and economic development.

Grant support for public authorities in any Member State seeking to launch sustainable energy investments is available under the Intelligent Energy Europe programme (launched in 2003 and now subsumed into the EU’s €80 billion research and innovation programme Horizon 2020).

Ambitious leverage goals

Grants amounting to €148 million are disbursed via the European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) facility (administered by the European Investment Bank, Germany’s KfW, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Council of Europe Development Bank) and the Mobilising Local Energy Investments (MLEI) facility –administered by the European Commission’s agency for small and medium-sized enterprises (EASME).

This grant support is conditional on projects achieving a minimum leverage (EU grant to total investment) of 1:20 and 1:15, respectively. So far, €81.2 million has been provided to 56 projects.

Achieving this leverage requires local and regional authorities to negotiate a steep learning curve. New kinds of partnerships with financial institutions will be crucial to scaling up sustainable energy investment programmes, and combining public and private funding.

Building renovation is essential

Thorough renovation of buildings involves long payback periods but is essential to achieve the maximum savings potential – and reach the EU objective of reducing buildings’ energy consumption by 80 % by 2050. In support of this goal, the Commission is designing new ‘off the shelf’ financial instruments, including renovation loans, aimed at combining public and private money to finance investment in energy efficiency or renewables.

“It’s going to take a historic level of public-private cooperation to meet the EU’s 2020 targets,” said a recent report from the Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG), which includes high level representatives of the European Commission’s DG Energy, UNEP Finance Initiative, financial institutions and investment funds.

In its first report released in April, the group concluded that, in order to attract private capital such as pension funds, insurance or real estate trust funds, the energy efficiency investment market “needs to transform” – to become more predictable, well-understood and standardised.

According to Paul Hodson, head of the energy efficiency unit at DG Energy: “Energy efficiency is today at the crossroads. Either it will become a mainstream investment area, or we risk losing the vast potential to invest into measures that not only contribute to the fight against climate change, but also bring economic benefits.”

The Commission is now undertaking a review of energy efficiency policy, he notes. “We are convinced that this will help to transform the market as needed – and as called for by market participants.”

 

From 2014 to 2020, another pot of EU public money – upwards of €37 billion earmarked for the ‘transition to a low-carbon economy’ – is available through the European Structural and Investment funds. The Commission is pushing Member States to replace grants with revolving loans or guarantee funds (for residential retrofit) and energy performance contracts for public and commercial buildings.

Optimal strategies for developing the energy efficiency investment market are under discussion within EEFIG but, as coordinator Peter Sweatman points out: “We’re working with 51 people representing 30 institutions to deliver a consensus view on financing energy efficiency. We have our work cut out for us.”

A plea for a pragmatic approach to global climate policy

Posted by on 14/07/14

During the last 50 years global energy demand has risen at an unprecedented pace and is expected to continue rising further in the wake of growing world population and prosperity.

These trends are not sustainable. The energy resources (coal, oil, gas, uranium) are finite and burning them is bound to accelerate climate change to a point of no return destroying the basis of human livelihood.

Climate scientists and almost all governments on earth share this basic assessment. But while scientists urge for action to be taken politicians are wavering in the face of powerful fossil energy lobbies and industry pressing for low energy prices.

Fortunately, tenuous signs for a change are appearing in the two most polluting countries, China and USA, on which the success of any international action hinges.

China has placed the fight against energy waste, air pollution and climate change among the top priorities of its Five Year Plan 2011-15. It is determined to increase its overall energy efficiency; and it envisages stepping up research and pilot projects for carbon capture and storage which is vital for continuing to burn coal with which it is amply endowed. But though the government is to be congratulated for finally acknowledging the seriousness of climate change its actions continue to fall far short of what is needed. Chinese green house gas emissions will therefore keep rising for at least 20 more years.

USA, the second biggest emitter of GHG has made great strides under the Obama Administration, thanks to circumventing a hostile Congress by executive action in the form of technical standards. CO2 emissions have begun to fall from exorbitant levels of 17 tons/per capita, due to increasing switch from coal to gas as the major fuel in power generation and stringent fuel consumption standards for passenger cars.

Driven by concerns about their security of supply, both countries will press for higher energy efficiency, in particular in buildings, and more power generation through renewables – wind, sun, hydro and biomass. But neither is ambitious enough and postulate largely C02 free energy by the middle of the century.

Only the EU, the third biggest energy consumer and CO2 emitter, can so far boast of an established record against climate change. Until 2020 its CO2 emissions will be down by 20 per cent over 1990; and it is set to reduce them by 80-95 per cent until the middle of the century. No other country has so far announced similar ambitions. But with a share of only some 12 per cent of global emissions it does not carry enough weight for preserving the climate.

Both USA and EU owe their relative success to the setting of medium and long-term targets and taking concrete measures. That distinguishes their approach from the UN-directed efforts which continue to lack precision of the targets and fail to prescribe concrete measures. Moreover, there is no political drive without which policies cannot be conceived and implemented. This is normal for assemblies grouping some 200 states with totally different levels of energy consumption and representing fundamentally different views on the future.

In order to achieve a positive outcome from the decisive Paris Climate Conference in November 2015 participant countries need to change the modus operandi of their future negotiations. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon might have made a beginning by calling a restricted high-level meeting of heads of government from the main polluter countries at the margin of the September 2014 General Assembly.

To ensure a successful result in Paris the leaders of the countries responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions must agree on a cooperative strategy to keep global temperatures within a two degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial levels.

A group of climate and energy research institutes from 15 major emitter countries has translated the “two centigrade target” into the necessary reductions of green house gas emissions. The result will come as a shock for policy makers: average per capita green house gas emissions must not exceed 1.6 ton by the middle of the century. Only the poor, mostly African, countries can still indulge in rising emissions. Most other countries including EU, Japan, China and Russia will need to reduce them by around three quarters and some 20 countries like United Arab Emirates Canada, Australia, USA with very high per capita emissions by even 90 per cent until 2050.

This will be a huge challenge for every country and Humanity. It is therefore crucial to provide for an equitable burden sharing among Humanity, which per capita green house emissions, reflect better than any other yardstick.

At the Paris conference, the parties should focus on two conclusions:

  • All countries will reduce their green house gas emissions by 2050 to 1.6 tons per capita by 2050.
  • Countries emitting already more than seven tons per capita will present their strategy for implementation to the UN Secretary General for approval before 2020. Countries with per capita emissions of less than one ton can wait with presenting their climate strategy until 2030 or until exceeding a level of emissions of more than one ton.

The UN Secretary General will appoint a special representative for the preparations.

This procedure will replace the annual climate conferences, from which the necessary policy changes cannot emerge, due to increasing level of bureaucratisation, too many participants and lack of political commitment.

Future climate policy will be more differentiated by countries, and the UN should be empowered to fix policy guidelines and monitor implementation.

The following guidelines might inspire national and global policy makers:

  • All countries subsidising fossil fuels must phase these out by 2020. That process has started under the pressure from IEA and others.
  • All countries will have to invest heavily in much higher energy efficiency:
    • Thanks to perfect thermal insulation buildings must become autonomous from fossil energy.
    • The internal combustion engine must be replaced by battery-propelled electric engines, fed from renewable sources.
  • All countries must step up their recycling efforts, following the lead the by European Union
  • To slow down population growth and global energy demand developing countries must take appropriate measures and thereby contribute to the fight against climate change.
  • Countries with large forest areas must preserve these, which is vital for stabilising global environment and climate.
  • Countries in the solar belt must fully exploit their solar potential for electricity generation.
  • Countries like China, Russia, Australia and Canada that want to continue exploiting their huge coal or gas reserves must invest in carbon capture and storage.
  • Countries situated along the Seas must exploit their wind power potential and develop technologies for “harvesting” wave energies.

The World Bank, in conjunction with regional Development Banks must become the global financing and technical assistance agent for implementing the challenging structural changes towards a non-fossil society. To that end it should be in charge of managing the $ 100 billion annual International Climate Fund that the developed countries have pledged to establish by 2020.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 12/7/2014

Serbian government props up almighty coal

Posted by on 02/07/14

A new report by the Belgrade-based NGO CRTA shows that the Serbian government is supporting the Kostolac coal power plant and mines with loan guarantees and potentially VAT exemptions. Propping up the already dominant coal sector, however, will likely further increase Serbia’s vulnerability to extreme weather events. Increasing Serbia’s energy efficiency and renewables generation would be the wiser choice.

by Pippa Gallop, cross-posted from the Bankwatch blog

Since 2006 when the Energy Community was founded and its member countries committed to adhere to EU legislation on state aid, the Serbian government has provided several forms of support for the Kostolac lignite power plant and mines company, part of state company Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), and is now planning to provide further support by approving loan guarantees in the National Assembly for the construction of the 350 MW Kostolac unit B3.

  • A project that is currently being undertaken by China’s CMEC is the reconstruction of existing blocks B1 and B2 at the Kostolac power plant. It was the Serbian government, not EPS, who signed a contract for a USD 293 million loan (85 percent of the project value) from the China ExIm Bank.
  • Since part of the project consists of transportation infrastructure – a landing dock on the Danube and railway infrastructure – it is also possible that a clause from an annex (pdf) to the 2009 Serbia-China agreement will be applied, exempting the import and supply of goods and services for the project from VAT and customs duties.
  • What is still coming up is the construction of a new 350 MW unit at Kostolac B and expand the Drmno lignite mine, for which the Serbian government in November 2013 signed a contract with CMEC. The project depends on financing from the China ExIm Bank and unnamed commercial banks, and on a state guarantee from the Serbian government for these loans. The 2014 Serbian state budget allocates two guarantees for the project – USD 107 million for un-named commercial banks and USD 608 million for the China Exim Bank.

The state support for Kostolac outlined in the new report (pdf) is just one example of how Serbian state authorities are systematically propping up an already almighty coal industry. If plans for a new energy strategy for Serbia are anything to go by (discussions are ongoing about the blueprint for the energy sector for the period 2015-2025), Serbian authorities also plan to continue with this kind of support for the dirtiest of fossil fuels into the next decade.

On a path prone to disaster

Serbia, as a member of the Energy Community, has committed to abide by the EU’s complex rules on subsidies and it is not yet clear whether the support outlined above is in line with these. But in any case, as a candidate country for EU accession and a member of the Energy Community, Serbia needs to increase its energy efficiency and reach a renewable energy target of 27 percent by 2020. This implies a decrease in the percentage of coal in the energy mix.

But these are not the only reasons to pursue such a path. Serbia, like all of south east Europe, is vulnerable to natural disasters, including those exacerbated by climate change such as floods, heat waves, cold waves, droughts and forest fires. This May’s tragic floods – which claimed at least 51 lives and led to the evacuation of nearly 30,000 people from flooded towns and villages in Serbia alone – propelled the issue into the global headlines, but extreme weather events have been increasing in frequency for years already.

Among others, between 2000 and 2010 eight serious flood events affected 51 290 people and killed four (pdf), while a 2012 drought led to the loss of 45 percent of Serbia’s maize crop (pdf).

With each disaster costing huge amounts of money to clear up, Serbia, like other countries in the region, needs to be quicker in recognising its self-interest in slowing climate change and making its infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events.

In this respect, lignite power stations are problematic in both cause and effect. On one hand, coal is the biggest contributor to climate change (IEA, pdf). At the same time, coal power plants are vulnerable to extreme weather, as the recent Serbian floods showed, in which two pits of the Kolubara open cast lignite mines were completely flooded – with estimated costs of EUR 100 million – and electricity generation was cut by 40 percent at the height of the floods. While a mammoth effort to stop the Kostolac B plant from being flooded was ultimately successful, here too it was a close shave and could easily have resulted in generation capacity being shut down.

At the other end of the scale, coal power generation is also extremely water-intensive and – like hydropower and nuclear – vulnerable to drought. Some countries have started to recognise this problem (pdf) however in south east Europe the discussion so far on drought has centred almost exclusively on hydropower.

The positive flip-side is that non-hydropower renewable energy is both a climate change mitigation tool and an adaptation one, since it is decentralised and with the exception of biomass has no CO2 emissions during operation, and energy efficiency measures are better still. Yet Serbia, along with its neighbours, consistently treats these as a side salad rather than the main dish.

After the recent floods it is high time for Serbia to think again about its energy strategy – a new one of which is currently in its draft stages – and avoid tragedies recurring again in the future. But as money often ends up being the defining factor in what goes ahead and what doesn’t, CRTA’s new report (pdf) gives every reason to re-think state support for the coal sector whether or not Serbia opens up its draft energy strategy for discussion again.

France is getting serious modernising its Energy Sector

Posted by on 23/06/14

With the presentation on June 18th of a comprehensive energy transition programme the French energy minister has started to fulfil promises made during the 2012 Presidential election campaign.

The programme is a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion on European energy and climate policy beyond 2020 and the preparation for the decisive international climate conference in Paris in the fall of 2015.

France wants to create a new “energy model” for the post-fossil era that should make it less dependent on fossil energy imports, create jobs and help develop new energy technologies. Energy efficiency and renewable energies enter the forefront, nuclear power loses its predominance.

Its overriding objective is to reduce energy consumption by half until 2050, an ambitious objective.

To that end, it defines energy targets and some 50 specific actions addressing energy efficiency, transport, renewable energies and administrative procedures.

Nuclear power will continue to remain the main pillar of French electricity supply, though its share in power generation is set to fall from 75% presently to 50% by 2025.

France is thus proceeding differently from Germany which – somewhat too hastily – envisages to shut down its last reactor by 2022. An adequate French nuclear capacity might supply Germany with electricity in periods without sunshine or wind and avoid it from having to install extra gas fired power plants for this eventuality. One more reason for the rapid completion of the single power and gas market!

In order to halve its energy consumption France intends to launch a campaign for more energy efficiency, especially in buildings, which account for 44% of C02 emissions (123 million tons). Many French citizens face high heating costs due to insufficient thermal insulation: while average households have to shoulder an annual bill of € 900, those with good insulation pay only € 250 and badly insulated houses as much as € 2500. The government therefore wants to renovate 0.5 million apartments annually in order to reduce the energy consumption of housing by half until 2050.

It will offer significant fiscal incentives and loan facilities to facilitate the necessary investments. It will also step up training for some 25.000 energy specialists annually, set up demonstration buildings that achieve a positive energy balance through the combination of perfect insulation and solar energy installations. Municipalities will provide one-stop desks to advise citizens about fiscal advantages and credit facilities.

Transport accounting for 27% of CO2 emissions and most of the oil consumption is the s second major axis of the programme.

Here France is much more ambitious than Germany, which has focused on “green electricity”. By 2030 the transport sector should obtain 15% (7% in 2012) of its fuel from renewable sources, above all biofuels and green electricity. The government will grant premiums for the purchase of e-vehicles indefinitely .

In addition, it will continue encouraging the use of bicycles as an alternative to cars, most of which are used for trips of less than two km.

Recycling will be the most innovate chapter of the new energy model. The more material, from metals to paper, is being recycled the less energy will be necessary. France already recycles some 50% of all materials. But it wants to do even better and progress toward the “circular economy” which will become the paradigm of the future.

To implement this ambitious programme the French bureaucracy will have to simplify and accelerate its procedures. This is the last and not least important aspect of the programme.

But first of all a legislative proposal needs to be presented to stake holders, civil society and, of course, parliament, for an intensive nation-wide debate, which should last until October/November. Implementation, which is crucial, will not start before the beginning of 2015.

If everything proceeds according to schedule, France can proudly present its comprehensive approach toward energy and climate to its EU partners and the international climate conference in Paris in November 2015 for inspiration.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 22/6/2014

Big plans for a small country: Montenegro’s draft energy strategy

Posted by on 16/06/14

Montenegro’s new draft energy strategy needs cutting down to size if environmental and economic damage is to be avoided.

by Pippa Gallop, cross-posted from the Bankwatch blog

Looking at the Montenegro government’s draft White Paper on the country’s Energy Development Strategy until 2030, due to be approved on June 19, you would never think that this is a country of around 650 000 people that plans to join the EU within six years.

Why? One reason is that the amount of planned electricity generation infrastructure is reminiscent of a bigger country. Three new major projects are planned to be carried out simultaneously during the next few years – the Pljevlja II coal power plant (220-250 MW) and Moraca (238 MW) and Komarnica (168 MW) hydropower plants – which seems ambitious to say the least, especially considering that the last tender for Moraca hydropower cascade failed in 2011 when not a single investor applied.

Why does Montenegro need so much electricity? The short answer is that it doesn’t. For decades Montenegro’s electricity demand has been largely dictated by the Podgorica Aluminium Factory – KAP – which has at times used around 40 percent of the country’s electricity. But the company has been in long-term decline and has been bankrupt since last year. Undeterred, the government’s draft White Paper sees the factory working at half capacity during the coming years.

Another driver for the ambitious plans is economic growth – notoriously hard to predict – which the White Paper puts at 3.7 percent from 2010 until 2015. But so far Montenegro’s annual GDP growth hasn’t hit that figure even once since 2010, let alone averaged it, and according to the EBRD’s (pdf) and the World Bank’s current forecasts it doesn’t look like it will do so by 2015 either.

Even that electricity that Montenegro does use could be reduced significantly if more attention was paid to residential energy efficiency and stopping wasteful practices such as using electricity for heating, yet the government is not pursuing this potential with anything like the zeal it reserves for new large infrastructure.

In addition to overestimating domestic demand, the Montenegro government is set on positioning the country as an ‘energy hub’ with spare electricity to export to its Balkan neighbours and Italy. This might be fine if it had a vast supply of clean energy sources to export environmentally benign electricity from, but this is not the case. The Moraca and Komarnica dams are both highly controversial due to their impacts on protected natural areas, and one of the planned sources of electricity for export is none other than the Pljevlja II lignite power plant. The town of Pljevlja is already choking from years of lignite pollution and its inhabitants can hardly be expected to be thrilled at the prospect of a new lignite plant that will export the electricity and leave the pollution behind.

The existing power plant in Pljevlia.

Much of the draft strategy also overlooks EU rules and obligations, even though decisions taken now will only just be being implemented when Montenegro joins the EU, assuming it manages to enter by 2020 as planned. Montenegro has adopted a renewable energy target of 33 percent by 2020 as part of its Energy Community obligations, but it names Moraca and Komarnica as important for achieving it, even though the same document says they will be ready in 2021 and 2022 respectively. The strategy foresees an increase in greenhouse gas emissions until 2030, in a period when the EU as a whole plans to decrease its emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels. And the Industrial Emissions Directive, which should play a decisive role in decisions about the planned and existing Pljevlja power plant units, is treated as something hardly worth mentioning.

In short, the draft strategy is outdated before it has even been approved. Rather than rushing ahead with it, the Government should scale down its ambitions to something more achievable and befitting of an ecological state.

Find out more: New website for coal campaigners

Because of some investors’ undiminished appetite for financing coal power, Bankwatch created an interactive toolkit that explains how to contact the investors behind a project, which policies guide their decisions and how best to influence them.

KINGSOFCOAL.ORG

UNEP: Corrupt, conflicted and woefully incompetent

Posted by on 12/06/14
When disgraced former EEA head, Jacqueline McGlade was appointed the chief scientist to UNEP, the Risk-Monger could only find one answer to this corrupt, conflicted and incompetent organisation: Shut it down.

Finland’s new climate change act – Will it deliver?

Posted by on 04/06/14

By Jason Anderson, Head of EU Climate and Energy Policy, WWF European Policy Office

For years it would have been hard to call Finland the most enthusiastic of European countries when it comes to climate action. Not that they made a habit of causing trouble, but they were by and large content to be carried along by the general trends. But today they’ll announce a new climate change act that is expected to put into law a long-term mitigation target of 80 percent emissions reduction by 2050 (they appear to have forgotten the EU range ’80 to 95%’ for the moment, but this is a good starting point).​

Among other features, the external expert panel established in 2011 is expected to have a legally established position under the new Act. This kind of external assessment is essential to policy formation. An independent committee features in the implementation UK Climate Change Act, and European Commission President Barroso’s own science adviser spoke longingly of a similar arrangement for the EU when reflecting on how the EC basically produces made-to-order analyses to fit political stances.

The timing is also fortuitous, arriving on the first of two days of ministerial meetings at the UNFCCC negotiations in Bonn, and hot on the heels of a string of announcements from Mexico, the US, and (not yet officially) China. So, we look forward to seeing what Finland releases today and hope it will live up to its potential.

 

Damned if they do: EU and US politicians grapple with commitments on climate

Posted by on 02/06/14

By Jason Anderson, Head of EU Climate and Energy Policy, WWF European Policy Office

Today the Obama administration will come out with a draft rule on power plants that represents its latest attempt to make headway reducing greenhouse gas emissions despite the failure of Congress to take action (indeed, despite the histrionic antipathy towards action among many of them).

Inevitably, it will get blasted by those forces married to fossil fuels who enjoy the sound of their own rhetoric on economics and liberty, which is best enjoyed with the oceans rising up around your ankles. But with midterm elections coming up and climate not top of US politicians’ priority list, political support isn’t guaranteed even among many Democrats.

In other words, Obama is walking into a minefield. Which raises the question, if politicians are risk-averse and sensitive to election outcomes, why would he be doing this? Is it possible there’s some meat on this bone?

EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard would’ve liked to have had the same benefit of the doubt when announcing the EU’s 2030 plan in January. Environmentalists jumped on its inadequacy. In reply, Hedegaard said that it was easy to be an observer but hard to be a politician, and invited the NGOs to go soak our heads. She claimed that the 40% target was a position requiring serious political effort, and that a more ambitious proposal would have no chance of overcoming political opposition.

Be that as it may, the differences between the US and EU situation are informative. In the US case, climate action has been hard to come by, with the last president spending eight years basically working in the opposite direction entirely. Meanwhile, the current president gets little credit for any reductions in emissions, with most people ascribing that entirely to the rush for shale gas.

In fact, according to the US government’s 2014 climate action report, the effect of current policy and trends, including increased use of natural gas, would be to see US emissions drop 5.3% compared to 2005 levels in 2020[1]. However, they have a commitment of reducing by 17%. Bearing in mind the US GDP is rising and its population grows by more than a million people per year, new policy will have to make significant efforts to close the gap, of which the power plant rule is the most important element.

In Europe, meanwhile, GHG emissions were basically stable from 1990-2004, aside from the post-1990 implosion in Eastern countries. A shift from coal to gas played an important a role initially in keeping emissions low, but, as the US is also now finding, that shift only gets you so far before much more is needed. It is no coincidence that the year the Kyoto Protocol went into force, 2005, is when EU emissions clearly took a permanent downward path – concern about the failure to dent emissions in the previous years led to serious efforts at new policy lest we completely miss our Kyoto targets.

But Europe overcompensated – we let countries and companies buy overseas offset credit to temper costs of compliance. Together with the economic downturn the result is that the EU can now either significantly increase emissions to 2020, or hold excess credits over to the following period thereby reducing real effort to 2030. The combination of policy already in place and excess credits carried over could mean that the additional effort from 2020 to 2030 resulting from the current EU debates is negligible.

Solutions to the EU’s problem include adding an approach being pursued, ironically, in both the US and Canada – an emissions performance standard for power plants, which focuses minds on the problem at hand (emissions) and not on the theoretical solution (movement of overabundant paper credits, often of dubious provenance). An EPS will play an important role in the post-2020 target Obama has promised to deliver before the UN deadline in March 2015 (cue jeering from the domestic better-dead-than-green coalition).

So, the historic bad guys are trying to make up for lost time while the historic good guys are resting on their laurels. In both cases politicians trying to get something done are lightning rods for criticism from all sides – old-fashioned industry (and their friends in government) emboldened by the death of peak oil and smelling blood around climate action, and everyone else, who worry that the outcome of the political process is generally to pitch beach umbrellas in the face of a tsunami.

But neither should we expect government to build solid fortifications on shifting sand. Whatever the deficiencies, arguably we’re finally starting to see what looks like a the foundation of real climate action – China, the EU and the US are lining up behind new efforts, along with dozens of other significant economies, right in the run-up to a new big global agreement. If politicians make the calculation that they can’t push as far as we want, then that’s an indication we’ve got more work to do on all fronts.


MEP Ulrike Lunacek on saving the planet and embracing European solidarity

Posted by on 22/05/14

— This is the second and final part of my exclusive interview with Greens/EFA Vice President and MEP Ulrike Lunacek.  —

Lunacek, aside from being the Vice President of the Greens/EFA group in the European parliament, was the lead candidate of the Austrian Green Party for the 2009 EP election and the current frontrunner for this year’s EP election.

She is from Krems, Lower Austria and attended high school in Vienna and Boone, IA. She studied interpreting (English and Spanish) at the University of Innsbruck and became engaged in social work and other freelancing professions in interpreting and journalism.

She was a member of the Austrian parliament from 1999 to 2009 and was the Greens’ spokeswoman on foreign and development policy as well as equality for LGBT persons. She was the vice-chair of the Green Parliamentary Club in Austria in 2008 and in 2009 she was nominated frontrunner for that year’s EP election.

Below is the continuation of a lengthened exclusive interview with her. Click here to read the first part.

 

Tell us about the party’s vision of the 2030 Climate Protection Plan, since one of the things that makes the Greens a unique party is their genuine determination to protect Earth.

It’s an imperative that the EU should be the leading power in saving the planet, but what would it take for the EU to adopt a common European energy and environmental policy?

What feasible and affordable solutions are there to combat environmental challenges such as climate change?

“To stop climate change an energy transition is necessary: away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources. Europe does not only need ambitious climate targets, but a Green Investment Pact for Sustainable Development. The focus of such a pact must be on the energy policy, resource efficiency and a green economy. This pact is the largest employment opportunity that Europe has. And “Out of oil and gas” does not only make sense in an ecologically context, but also as far as human rights and foreign policy are concerned – see Crimean crisis!

Regarding the energy sector the continuation of subsidies for nuclear energy is another big issue. Instead of investing in sustainable forms of energy, nuclear power might celebrate a comeback and governments try to make it socially acceptable. The same is true for coal and shale gas. Due to the devastating effects that these forms of energy have on our environment, we Greens reject all investments in this area.

We need three binding climate targets. That is the only way we can protect the environment and strengthen the European economy. The target for renewable energy in 2020 has resulted in a positive development in the renewables industry in the EU. We must hold on to this successful strategy. However, the 30% target for 2030 is not enough. A mandatory 45 % target would be ambitious and achievable. In addition, we also need a binding target for energy saving of 40%.

Concerning the emission reductions the 40 % reduction target, which is required both by the EU Commission as well as by the majority of Parliament cannot solve our problems. We need to be much more ambitious if we want to achieve the two-degree climate target.”

What is your message to the populist parties that are currently gaining popularity?

More specifically, what is your message to Eurosceptics in and out of the Europe who claim that the European project is disintegrating due to the Union’s crisis handling?

Do you believe that we are still undergoing a continental recession or are we slowly recovering from its aftermath?

“I would tell them that the European Parliament has more competences and is hence more powerful i.e. important than ever. Apart from foreign affairs and tax issues, where it can make political statements that shape public opinion and decisions (e.g. Financial Transaction Tax, mandate for US-EU Free Trade Agreement), it is a full-fledged party in the decision-making process and therefore on a level playing field with the Council. Unlike the Council, the Commission or any other EU institution the Parliament possesses democratic legitimacy and its constitution can be influenced directly by EU citizens. Since a huge part of national law is affected by or directly comes from Brussels, waiving the right to vote in the European Parliament elections therefore means giving away one’s voice in national politics as well.

And: every vote counts! Sometimes there is only one vote difference regarding certain decisions in the EP. This consequence has to be made clear. In addition people have to know that using EP elections as protest votes has negative effects for their home country. In general MEPs from extremely nationalist parties have difficulties founding groups in the EP and therefore they have no or only little political influence and cannot make a difference for EU citizens. As far as Austria is concerned 5 out of 19 MEPs are non-attached members, which reduces their influence.

As far as the crisis is concerned, not the European Union, but the member states are the problem. They are not willing to give away power and therefore try to solve the EU’s problems at short notice convened summits. They are using “sticking plasters” and try to solve the most urgent issues but do not have a master plan.

Furthermore they are not willing to spend more money fighting youth unemployment etc. We have to show people that being on one’s own cannot be the solution in a globalised world, where crisis or climate changes do not respect borders. And we have to remind them of all the advantages of the EU we take for granted, like studying or working abroad, open boarders or a strong, Europe-wide currency.”

 

#ReclaimEurope and #VoteGreen this #EP2014! ;-)

 

Legitimizing EU Democracy and Advocating for a Federal Europe

Posted by on 21/05/14

— This is the first of two parts of my exclusive interview with Greens/EFA Vice President and MEP Ulrike Lunacek. —

This year’s European parliamentary election will commence in less than 24 hours with the Netherlands and the United Kingdom among the first nations out of 28 to vote first. Most of the member states will be voting at the weekend. This election is the 8th parliamentary election since the first polls in 1979 and the first election after the Lisbon Treaty entered into force.

Below is a lengthy exclusive interview with MEP Ulrike Lunacek, the Spitzenkandidatin for the Austrian Greens and the Vice President of the Greens/EFA group.

The whole interview goes in-depth into one of the Greens’ advocacies for Europe, such as on legitimizing EU democracy, further continental integration resulting to a federal EU, reforming Europe’s institutional structure, combating climate change and saving the planet, surviving economic crises and debunking Eurosceptics.

 

It’s a fact that the EU is suffering from a democratic deficit; the lack of transparency, the massive bureaucracy and corruption within the institutions undermine the EU’s credibility as a true leader of the world.

So what measures would the party undertake in legitimizing democracy within the EU?

Would it be abolishing some of the institutions or establishing a European constitution or something else?

“The “massive bureaucracy” is not a fact but a common stereotype. The EU, a Union of more than 500 million people, has around 45.000 officials working in the different institutions. In comparison the Austrian federal state employs 133.000 people.

Notwithstanding the above, you are right stating that the EU is suffering from a democratic deficit: The EP does not have full legislative rights and the Council is still executive at national level and legislative at EU level. I support a federal Europe – the United States of Europe, which have to have a different, more democratic structure but also different policies, aiming at social justice and ecological sustainability, among other things. Therefore a major revision of the EU treaties can no longer be avoided. As Greens/EFA group we demand that the Parliament starts (this is foreseen and possible under the Lisbon Treaty) the process for a new Convention, with broad involvement of parliamentarians and civil society.

As far as the institutions are concerned, the establishment of a bi-cameral system at European level is needed, under which the federal, regional principle co-exists with that of the nation states, and within which the Council is re-modelled into a form of second chamber of representatives of national governments and which, together with the European Parliament, comprises the legislature.”

Conservatives often argue that having a strict control on immigration is what’s needed right now. They argue that having liberal immigration and asylum policies and keeping the door open have been proven to be an irresponsible approach and that it is contrary to the citizens’ interests. What’s your response to this?

Why is further EU expansion vital and what’s the true vision of the Greens regarding a genuinely integrated Europe?

“The asylum policy of the European Union as a whole is in need of reform. First and foremost the Dublin-II-Regulation has to be repealed and asylum seekers must be fairly distributed among all EU Member States. Furthermore a Europe-wide regulation should give asylum seekers the opportunity for self-preservation with legal work. The result would be a win-win-situation: potentials and capabilities would be used and asylum seekers would be self-sufficient.

Apart from the question of asylum I am strongly in favor of further EU expansion. In late 2013 the Commission featured EU enlargement reports, which show that despite the rampant enlargement fatigue we constantly achieve concrete progress especially as far as the countries of the Western Balkans are concerned. For me, the EU enlargement is not a one-way street, but stability in the Western Balkans is in the mutual interest of the European Union and the candidate countries. Without the involvement of the entire Western Balkans, the European peace project is not completed. At the same time, EU governments are in need of strong arguments towards their citizens regarding further enlargement. Any progress in the accession process depends on the fulfillment of the criteria by the candidate countries. In this context the decisive factors are of course the implementation of the rule of law, judicial reform and the fight against corruption.”

As a staunch advocate of further European integration, your party’s vision of a “United States of Europe” is admirable, but the question remains: how achievable is a federal Europe in 10-15 years and how can the EU make it doable?

And what would a federal EU look like and what would it accomplish compared to the EU we have now?

“The United States of Europe might be a remote vision, but you have to have a concrete goal to take the first step. It is not that important whether we achieve this goal within the next 10 or 15 years, but it is important that we go in this direction. The principles that underpin my vision of Europe are to oppose the current tendency of increasingly resorting to intergovernmentalism in European decision making which amounts to nothing more than bargaining between narrowly defined national interests. I strongly believe that the only real way forward is by making decisions based on the common interests of the European Union and its citizens. The steps that have to be taken in order to make this vision come true, are:

  • Establishment of a bi-cameral system at European level under which the federal, regional principle co-exists with that of the nation states, and within which the Council is re-modelled into a form of second chamber of representatives of national governments and which, together with the European Parliament, comprises the legislature.
  • Introduction of the full right of initiative for the European Parliament to enable it to propose legislation.
  • Introduction of European electoral lists for elections to a proportion of the seats in the European Parliament, with the leading candidates on the list running concurrently for election to the top positions within in the European Commission, thus campaigning for European voters’ support.
  • Election to the Commission through the European Parliament: The Commission should be elected directly by the European Parliament. The practice of governments nominating national politicians or granting them politically-motivated ‘promotions’ to the Commission must cease.
  • Shoring up of direct democracy through accessible European Citizens’ Initiatives, and introduction of Europe-wide referenda on European issues. European citizens should be able to determine their future in a united Europe themselves. However, this should not be achieved via national referenda where domestic party-politics and power games reign, but rather through Europe-wide ones: far-reaching steps towards integration should be determined via a double-majority mechanism, with proposals requiring a majority of both EU citizens and EU Member States to be in favour.
  • A Green New Deal and social rights that really deserve that name. I am convinced that the European Union must take a decisive step towards a federal structure, starting with a community method in social justice and in economic governance, with common fiscal policies and a larger budget that makes the desperately needed investment in education, in an ecological paradigm change towards an ecologically sustainable economy with renewables and energy efficiency possible.

Therefore a major revision of the EU treaties can no longer be avoided. As Greens/EFA group we demand that the Parliament starts (this is foreseen and possible under the Lisbon Treaty) the process for a new Convention, with broad involvement of parliamentarians and civil society.”

#ReclaimEurope and #VoteGreen this #EP2014! ;-)

 

Is nuclear fusion an alternative to renewable energy?

Posted by on 20/05/14

At the risk of destroying the basis of human civilisation Humanity must find ways and means for phasing out the use of fossil fuels before the end of the century. The EU aims at reaching that objective already for 2050.

Renewable energies – wind, sun, waves and tides – can do the job provided Humanity imposes substantial cuts on its energy consumption, which should be possible through a substantial increase of energy efficiency.

Renewable energies have benefited from rapid technological progress lowering production costs and making them almost competitive with fossil energies. But they continue to suffer from their inherent handicap of intermittence which can only be neutralised by big investments in energy storage.

The focus on energy efficiency and renewable energies has overshadowed the parallel effort to develop thermonuclear fusion for the generation of electricity which has been going on for more than 70 years

Copying the sun has made it possible to produce the hydrogen bomb. Why should it not alsobe possible to tame thermonuclear energy for the generation of electricity!

What appears simple in scientific terms poses huge engineering challenges. How to imitate the sun that contains the plasma by temperatures of 15 million degrees and very powerful gravitational pressures?

The basic answer lies in compressing deuterium and tritium hydrogen isotopes into helium through electromagnetism and much higher temperatures than in the sun,

For decades scientists have attempted to generate electricity this way.

In 1997 physicists at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy have succeeded to generate 16 MW, but with an a input of 24 MW.

It is only in February 2014 that US scientists have, for the first time, been able to obtain a slightly positive yield.

The most ambitious international scientific programme for peaceful nuclear fusion ever launched, the “International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor” (ITER) grouping USA, EU, Japan, Korea, India, China and Russia aims at generating fusion energy by 2028. It is extremely complex, due to diverging interests among the participants. In the fall of 2013 it was on the verge of breaking up when the US Senate refused to attribute additional financing after delays and cost- overruns, though the costs of €15 billion are only 10 times the cost of building one 500 MW off-shore wind park kin the North Sea.

Nobody is certain that by 2028 the gigantic machine will effectively generate more electricity than it consumes. But physicists will, in any case, be able to draw fertile lessons from their 15-year long cooperation.

And one day before the end of the century, they will most probably succeed.

When they do thermonuclear energy might become a crucial component of the future energy mix and contribute to the fight against climate change. The ultimate test will, however, not be the technical feasibility of a fusion reactor but the cost of generating thermonuclear electricity compared to much simpler and safer technologies.

Whatever the outcome of that research, thermonuclear fusion is unlikely to ever replace cost-effective technologies like wind, sun and waves.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 16/5/2014

The Sane Fringe

Posted by on 19/05/14

By Jason Anderson, Head of EU Climate and Energy Policy, WWF European Policy Office

My colleague Nick Molho, Head of Climate & Energy Policy at WWF UK, recently published an opinion piece about shale gas on the Economist website which approaches the issue with unimpeachable logic for both sides of the debate.

It is a fitting rebuttal to a skewed report by the House of Lords, which ignored the evidence on climate change that Nick delivered and wrote him off as an ‘activist’. This made me stop and think for a moment. Aren’t activists the guys refusing to come down from trees and such? Nick is a lawyer with years of experience in the energy field and speaks in paragraphs with footnotes dangling off every sentence. A more reasonable and fact-based person would be harder to find.

Upon reflection though, maybe this is what the world has come to: people of goodwill and good education, who forgo high-paying careers, and with no vested interest work for the public good, making every effort to back their statements with analysis and reasoned argument, are “activists,” like a kind of lunatic fringe.

In the last few days, after banging my head up against the solid rock face of political and industrial intransigence on climate action, I relaxed after hours by learning more about how systemic these problems are in other fields. I saw the film “Inside job”, about the financial crisis, which outlines both the spectacular greed and cynicism of investment bankers, and the astonishing control they have over government. Thinking that I’d scraped the bottom of the barrel, I turned to the film “Food, Inc.”, about industrial scale agriculture and its consequences. After hearing the story of the mother whose 2 1/2-year-old son died 12 days after eating a hamburger infected with E. coli, and how US politicians refused for years to put in place even the most basic measures to prevent similar tragedies, I began to think that these phenomena of climate change, financial crisis and food crisis can’t possibly be separate and coincidental. And of course there are examples from many other fields; the list is depressingly long.

So who is dictating the terms of the debate? Aren’t the ones who either cause or condone these conditions the lunatic fringe?

Last week my office boycotted an event hosting Exxon, who were promoting their 2040 forecast, an exercise that prominent rationalist Bill McKibben called “consummate arrogance”. We decided not to sit alongside Exxon and allow them to continue to pull the wool over the eyes of policymakers and the public (read our related blog post). Theirs is not a reasoned discussion on how to solve climate change and promote energy security and prosperity, but rather a sophisticated approach to lobbying. The intention is simply to wend their way into the public discourse as a source of ‘impartial’ information, making them appear to be a trusted partner in a conversation about the public good. That’s a sham we don’t want to be a part of, since they clearly are basing their strategies on a complete failure to tackle climate change, as the new report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative shows.

Of course, fossil fuel companies have done very well with their approach to lobbying and perhaps not uncoincidentally global emissions march upwards, which is frustrating, particularly given it continues to make a mess of my annual Key Performance Indicators. But I guess it’s silly to air that kind of personal frustration. After all, the world continues to struggle with frighteningly basic challenges like avoiding mortality from diarrhea or treating people who have a different skin colour with simple respect.

I don’t know if there’s a simple answer – perhaps all you do need is love, or perhaps we can all just get along, or maybe it is simply the case that sometimes lacking easy answers the only course of action is to get up every morning, put your trousers on one leg at a time, do what your conscience tells you is right and hope for the best.

And if my resolve ever flags, I can look back on the remarkable life and career of my former colleague Marc Pallemaerts, who tragically passed away two weeks ago. The tributes have come in from far and wide, sketching the portrait of a man with great drive and intelligence, who combined a keen intellect with dogged determination never to let the convenient or expedient get in the way of the correct. As one of the architects of the Aarhus convention he fought for the tools that allow the public access to information and to justice on environmental matters. As the leader of the EU delegation to the Bonn and Marrakech conferences of the UNFCCC, he helped prevent international climate policy from dying at the hands of the Bush administration. He’s also the man who would put aside whatever he was doing (in whichever language he happened to be publishing in) to answer any question kindly and thoroughly, an oracle of fact and insight. As well as an activist. Which makes me proud, and determined.

 

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