Canadians pull the plug on renewable energy scheme

Canadians pull the plug on renewable energy scheme

Canadian province cancels a successful project which rewarded people for generating renewable energy.

LONDON, 9 August, 2015 – The Canadian province of Nova Scotia, on the country’s Atlantic seaboard, has ended a programme which gave citizens an incentive to produce renewable energy.

The decision, which will initially mean lower prices for energy users, is at odds with widespread warnings that renewable energy must rapidly replace fossil fuels.

One Nova Scotian told the Climate News Network the government’s decision was a backwards step: “They have not only cut the legs out from under independent energy developers…they have stolen citizens’ right to access ownership of energy.”

The scheme is the Nova Scotia Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT), which was designed to encourage community-based, local renewable energy projects by guaranteeing a rate per kilowatt-hour for the energy the project fed into the province’s electrical grid. 

On 6 August the provincial government announced: This is the right time to bring COMFIT to a close; it has achieved its objectives. We are now at a point where the program could begin to have a negative impact on power rates. Nova Scotians have told us they want stability and affordability when it comes to power rates, and industry wants clarity on the future of the COMFIT program.

“The scheme benefitted small communities…The losers will be ordinary Nova Scotians

The announcement went on: “No new generation is needed to meet electricity demand, and adding capacity would negatively impact rates as Nova Scotians pay more for energy with small-scale, community-based projects than from other sources.

Andy MacCallum of Natural Forces, a company which develops renewable energy in eastern Canada, told the Network: “We’re disappointed. COMFIT was the previous provincial government’s programme: it’s a political decision: if the project continued then the opposition could accuse this government of forcing energy prices up in the short-term.

“But the scheme benefitted small communities, pulling in tens of millions of dollars in investments which without it would not have come here. The losers will be ordinary Nova Scotians.

COMFIT promoted the generation of electricity from wind, tidal, hydro and biomass resources. It was the world’s first feed-in tariff for locally-based renewable energy projects.

Lost exports

Canada is not the first country where a feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme has been ended. The UK, which has stopped supporting onshore wind and solar energy, in 2011 withdrew tax relief from some FITs, leading a number of the larger ones to close. 

But Nova Scotia does look set to lose more than it may hope to gain from closing COMFIT. Not only will small communities now not gain the investments which would have come to them. The entire province will lose the opportunity to generate the surplus electricity which it could then have profitably exported to its neighbours.

The other big loser will be the climate. Nova Scotia is still largely dependent on coal for its electricity, and the end of COMFIT means more dependence on that, or on hydropower.

In November world governments will assemble in Paris for this year’s UN climate summit, where they hope to reach an effective agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to prevent the global average temperature rising by more than 2°C over its pre-industrial level (it has just reached the 1°C mark). 

The International Energy Agency says US$36 trillion of global investment will be needed in clean energy by 2050 to meet the UN goal $1 trillion a year. Perhaps its message has not reached Nova Scotia. – Climate News Network

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Coal investment is the most urgent climate threat

Coal investment is the most urgent climate threat

Head of the OECD says wealthy countries should help poorer nations that cannot afford to replace coal with low-carbon alternatives.

LONDON, 5 July, 2015 − The future of coal has come under scrutiny from a perhaps unlikely source – the head of the organisation representing wealthy nations that relied on coal for 32% of electricity generation last year.

Angel Gurría, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said the scale of new investments in “unabated” coal-fired electricity generation − where greenhouse gases are emitted directly to the atmosphere − posed the most urgent threat to the Earth’s climate.

Speaking in London, he said governments should be sceptical about the benefits of coal for their citizens. They should rethink the role of coal in energy supply, and conduct a more rigorous evaluation of its true costs.

Environmental costs

With prices failing to fully account for the environmental, health and financial costs of coal, many of the coal plants being built today might have to be shut down before the end of their economic lifetimes.

The OECD, founded to stimulate economic progress and world trade, has 34 members drawn from the richest and most powerful industrialised countries.

But Gurría, in a passage that will hearten many developing countries in the approach to the UN climate change negotiations in Paris in November/December this year, said that if poorer nations could not afford low-carbon alternatives, then richer countries should find the money to close the cost gap.

“We have been in a process for over 20 years and, so far, the commitments simply don’t add up

Without new mitigation measures, coal generation is projected to emit more than 500 billion tonnes of CO2 between now and 2050 − eating up around half the remaining carbon budget that scientists say is consistent with keeping a global temperature rise below 2°C.

In any case, Dr Gurría said, countries’ contributions to emissions reductions after 2020 are not consistent with a 2°C pathway. He said the carbon clock was ticking and the Paris COP21 climate conference must give a clear and credible signal that governments are determined to go for a higher level of ambition.

“Calling something a process doesn’t guarantee an outcome,” he said. “We have been in a process for over 20 years and, so far, the commitments simply don’t add up.”

Continued investment in coal is one of many “misalignments” between climate goals and countries’ policies in other domains, Dr Gurría said.

Action undermined

A report by the OECD, its specialised Nuclear Energy Agency, the International Energy Agency and the International Transport Forum says policy misalignments undermine climate action in areas from tax to trade, electricity market regulation and land use.

The report says two-thirds of global energy investments still go into fossil fuels, 50% of agricultural subsidies in OECD countries harm the climate, and various tax provisions encourage fossil fuel production and use.

This “policy incoherence”, as the report describes it, limits the effectiveness of countries’ climate change efforts, and increases the cost of the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Dr Gurría urged governments to consider what needed to be done to resolve such misalignments, starting with a demand that each ministry should regularly report on which of its policies run counter to desirable climate results. − Climate News Network

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Pope calls for moral campaign on climate crisis

Pope calls for moral campaign on climate crisis

Hard-hitting message from the Vatican warns of the threat global warming poses to the world’s ecosystems − and to everyone on the planet.

LONDON, 17 June, 2015 – Pope Francis has challenged climate change deniers by declaring that the destruction of the ecosystem is a moral issue that has to be tackled, or there will be grave consequences for us all.

Pointing to human activity as the main cause for the increasing concentrations of climate-warming greenhouse gases, he praises ecological movements – and, in exceptionally strong language, rounds on those who are obstructing progress in the fight against climate change.

“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem to indifference, to convenient resignation or to blind faith in technical solutions,” the Pope says.

Meant for everyone

His message is contained in an encyclical, a document on Catholic teaching that is traditionally addressed to bishops. But, in this case, he says his words are aimed not only at an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics around the world − they are meant for everyone.

“Faced with the global deterioration of the environment, I want to address every person who inhabits the planet,” the Pope says.

The encyclical − entitled Laudato Si, or Be Praised, and nearly 200 pages long − is the first such document issued by the Vatican dealing specifically with the environment.

It was due to have been released tomorrow, but parts of a draft appeared early in the Italian magazine, L’Espresso − much to the annoyance of Vatican officials.

“Humanity is called to take note of the need
for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods
of production and consumption
to combat this warming”

Unlike many of his predecessors, Pope Francis has shown a desire, since he became pontiff in 2013, to enter into debate about economic and environmental matters, as well as spiritual issues.

“If we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us – never forget that,” he told a gathering in St. Peter’s Square, Rome, earlier this year.

The Pope says in the draft of the encyclical that the poor are trapped by environmental and financial degradation, and that the world’s resources cannot continue to be looted by humankind.

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” he says.

The impact of the Pope’s message is likely to be considerable. Although the number of church-going Catholics has dropped in Europe and many other parts of the industrialised world, the influence of the church is growing in many areas, particularly in Africa.

The encyclical is also likely to give added momentum to the need for a climate agreement at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris at the end of the year.

John Grim, who lectures in world religions at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University in the US, says the Pope’s teachings give a significant moral voice to climate change issues.

He says: “What we have lacked in many settings is the moral voice of religious leadership informing congregations, denominations and different religions of the depth of the science and the impact on human communities of widespread climate change.”

Repeated warnings

The encyclical is likely to attract criticism from sceptics seeking to deny that there is any such thing as climate change, and who in the past have accused the Pope of straying into areas he knows little about.

Conservatives in the US have branded the Pope’s repeated warnings about growing inequality as the talk of a communist and a Marxist.

In September, Pope Francis is due to go to New York to address the United Nations, and will also speak to the US Congress in Washington.

Vatican officials say the pontiff will continue to speak out on issues linked to poverty and climate change. – Climate News Network

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Africa’s advocates say fossil fuel subsidies must go

Africa’s advocates say fossil fuel subsidies must go

With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa still lacking access to electricity, the continent is being urged to take a leading role in crucial climate negotiations.

LONDON, 5 June, 2015 − Developed countries should rapidly end subsidies for fossil fuels, says a group established to argue for equitable and sustainable development for Africa.

The Africa Progress Panel (APP), chaired by the Nobel laureate and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, says the G20 countries should set a timetable for phasing out the payments, with a ban on exploration and production subsidies as soon as 2018.

“Many rich country governments tell us they want a climate deal, but at the same time billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money are subsidising the discovery of new coal, oil and gas reserves,” Mr Annan said. “They should be pricing carbon out of the market through taxation, not subsidising a climate catastrophe.”

The APP also urges African governments, investors, and international financial institutions to increase investment in energy significantly in order to unlock Africa’s potential as a global low-carbon superpower.

Poverty and inequality

The report, “Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities”, calls for a tenfold increase in power generation to provide all Africans with access to electricity by 2030. This, it says, “would reduce poverty and inequality, boost growth, and provide the climate leadership that is sorely missing at the international level”

The panel recognises recent improvements in the negotiating positions of the European Union, the US and China. But it says that current proposals still fall far short of a credible deal for limiting global warming to the internationally-agreed threshold of no more than 2˚C above pre-industrial levels.

It also condemns Australia, Canada, Japan and Russia for, as it puts it, effectively withdrawing from constructive engagement on climate.

“By hedging their bets and waiting for others to move first, some governments are playing poker with the planet and future generations’ lives,” Mr Annan said. “This is not a moment for prevarication, short-term self-interest, and constrained ambition, but for bold global leadership and decisive action.

“Countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa are emerging as front-runners in the global transition to low carbon energy. Africa is well positioned to expand the power generation needed to drive growth, deliver energy for all, and play a leadership role in the crucial climate change negotiations.”

“Some governments are playing poker with the planet and future generations’ lives”

Mr Annan said the panel categorically rejected the idea that Africa had to choose between growth and low-carbon development.

The report tells a stark story of what the continent’s energy poverty means. In sub-Saharan Africa, it says, 621 million people – more than half of Africa’s population – lack access to electricity, and the number is rising. Excluding South Africa, which generates half the region’s electricity, the whole of sub-Saharan Africa uses less electricity than Spain.

It would take the average Tanzanian eight years to use as much electricity as an average American consumes in a single month. And, over the course of one year, someone boiling a kettle twice a day in the UK uses five times more electricity than an Ethiopian consumes in a year.

The report urges African governments to use the region’s natural gas to provide domestic energy as well as exports, and to harness Africa’s vast, untapped renewable energy potential.

Energy infrastructure

It says corruption must be cut, utility governance made more transparent, regulations strengthened, and public spending on energy infrastructure increased.

It calls as well for strengthened international co-operation to close Africa’s energy sector financing gap, estimated to be US$55 billion annually to 2030. This includes US$35 billion for investments in plant, transmission and distribution, and US$20 billion for the costs of universal access.

A global connectivity fund, with a target of reaching an additional 600 million Africans by 2030, is needed to drive investment in on-grid and off-grid energy provision.

The report challenges African governments and their international partners to raise their ambitions for the United Nations climate summit in Paris in December.

It says 2015 is the year not only for a climate agreement, but for agreeing the Sustainable Development Goals and how to finance them. And it recalls Nelson Mandela’s words on the ending of apartheid: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Climate News Network

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Call for an end to ‘business as usual’ option on climate

Call for an end to ‘business as usual’ option on climate

UN special envoy urges a unified approach to global action on tackling the interlinked issues of climate change, sustainable development and human rights.

LONDON, 23 April, 2015 − Mary Robinson, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy on climate change, has warned that the whole issue of climate is much too important to be left to governments and their leaders.

Robinson, who was the first woman president of Ireland and is now head of the MRFCJ foundation promoting climate justice, said it is a battle for all of us − and that now is the time for action, not for the continuation of business as usual.

Speaking at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College, London, Robinson said that the UN conference on climate change in Paris at the end of this year must achieve concrete, ambitious results.


“Now is not the moment to manage expectations or get cold feet – 2015 is the moment to catalyse a transformation,” she said.

She also called for a more unified approach to global action on the interlinked issues of development, climate change and human rights.

“Till very recently,” she said, “climate change was thought of in terms of the science and the environment – not as a human rights and sustainable development issue. Now governments and the UN are changing their approach.”

“This is a serious moment – we must have funds to build a new kind of economy”

Many countries struggling to develop are having to spend enormous amounts on adaptation measures in relation to climate change, she said. It means that countries such as the Philippines − hit by typhoons and other disasters − are spending millions just to stand still.

“We have to change course,” Robinson argued. “This is a serious moment – we must have funds to build a new kind of economy.”

Robinson said that what she termed the “business as usual” model of development “has resulted in dangerous levels of pollution, caused climate change and biodiversity loss, and has failed to eradicate poverty and inequality”.

All countries, she said, should make a transition towards a zero-carbon economy − which is ultimately the key to long-term prosperity, but is a tremendous challenge, particularly for developing countries.

Alternative way

“No country has developed without fossil fuels to date, so co-operation is key to providing the technology, finance, skills and systems to create an alternative way of developing,” she said.

Robinson also expressed concern that the International Monetary Fund is still focusing on economic growth and not on climate change. It must alter its outlook, she said.

In her UN role, Robinson will be at the centre of a series of big international meetings on climate change and development issues this year.

A conference in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will urge countries to commit more funds to climate finance, and to institutions such as the Green Climate Fund.

In September, the UN General Assembly is due to adopt a post-2015 strategy for achieving various development goals around the world.

And in December, in Paris, a new global climate change agreement is due to be worked out, under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. − Climate News Network

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Climate helps to halve world wildlife in 40 years

Climate helps to halve world wildlife in 40 years

Conservation campaigners say the plight of much of the world’s wildlife seems “worse than ever” – and climate change is a growing cause of the damage.

LONDON, 30 September 2014 – Human pressure has halved the numbers of many of the Earth’s wild creatures in just four decades, the Worldwide Fund for Nature says.

While the main recorded threat to biodiversity comes from habitat loss and degradation, driven by unsustainable human consumption, it found, climate change is a growing concern.

It says in its Living Planet Report 2014 that vertebrate wildlife populations have declined by an average of just over half, with freshwater species suffering a 76% decline, almost double the average loss of land and ocean species.

In a foreword the director-general of WWF International, Marco Lambertini, writes: “This latest edition of the Living Planet Report is not for the faint-hearted.

“One key point that jumps out is that the Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has declined by 52% since 1970.

“Put another way, in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half.”

The Report is based on the Index, a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Industrial killing

WWF says the state of the world’s biodiversity “appears worse than ever.” But it is confident in the robustness of its findings: “This is a much bigger decrease than has been reported previously, as a result of a new methodology which aims to be more representative of global biodiversity.”

The authors calculated the decline by analysing 10,000 different populations of 3,000 vertebrates. This data was then, for the first time, used to create a representative Living Planet Index, reflecting the state of all 45,000 known vertebrates. The consequences, it shows, can be drastic.

Last week conservationists said that elephant poaching was now happening on an unprecedented and “industrialised” scale in Mozambique, after 22 of the animals were killed for their tusks in the first two weeks of September. Numbers of some marine turtles are estimated to have dropped by 80%.

Professor Ken Norris, director of science at the ZSL, said: “The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.”

There is wide disagreement about the number of species on Earth. In 2007, when the total was estimated by many scientists at around 1.5 m (it is now thought to be 8.7 m) the number of vertebrate species was put at about 60,000 in the IUCN Red List.

WWF says too that humans are using more resources than the Earth can continue to provide, felling trees more quickly than they can regrow, for example, catching fish faster than they can reproduce, emptying rivers and aquifers –   and emitting too much carbon for natural systems to absorb.

Boundaries crossed

The Report devotes a section to the idea of the Ecological Footprint, the sum of the ecological services that people demand which compete for space. For more than 40 years, it says, humanity’s demand on nature has exceeded what the planet can replenish, principally through climate change.

“Carbon from burning fossil fuels has been the dominant component of humanity’s Ecological Footprint for more than half a century, and remains on an upward trend. In 1961, carbon was 36% of our total Footprint; by 2010, it comprised 53%”, the Report says.

WWF urges respect for “planetary boundaries” beyond which humanity will “enter a danger zone where abrupt negative changes are likely to occur.”

It says “three planetary boundaries appear to have already been transgressed: biodiversity loss, and changes to the climate and nitrogen cycle, with already visible impacts on the well-being of human health and our demands on food, water and energy.”

The Report argues for the diversion of investment away from the causes of environmental problems and towards solutions, and for “ecologically informed” choices about how we manage resources.

Next year world leaders are due to conclude two critical global agreements: the post-2015 development framework, which will include Sustainable Development Goals intended to be met by all countries by 2030; and a UN treaty leading to effective action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. – Climate News Network

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Forest peoples urge land rights action

Forest peoples urge land rights action

There’s plenty of talk at the United Nations and in the corridors of international conferences on making land rights a realiy for forest people. But campaigners say there’s not much action to match.

LONDON, 23 February – Forest people’s groups say many governments are failing to protect their right to their ancestral lands, and argue that this neglect is damaging efforts to slow climate change.

Their argument is supported by campaigners. Research by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) says the pace of provision of new legal protection for indigenous communities has fallen, despite an increase in professions of support by industry, governments and international initiatives like REDD+ and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

RRI says fewer new laws have been passed to protect indigenous land rights since 2008 than in the six preceding years, and the legislation that has been enacted is weaker.

Previous RRI research into 12 emerging market countries found that at least one out of every three hectares licensed for natural resource development overlaps with indigenous community land. When private companies acquire land and resources without first checking who lives there, it says, they expose themselves and their investors to substantial risk, as some level of conflict or business disruption often results.

The ownership of almost half the developing world’s rural, forest and dryland areas is contested, according to RRI, directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of over two billion people. They often have no formal title to the lands on which they live and depend, and can seldom legally defend their rights.

Better stewards

An RRI report, Lots of Words, Little Action: Will the private sector tip the scales for community land rights?, examines how land rights and attempts to mitigate climate change through REDD are linked.

One of its findings is that REDD+ initiatives are not yet translating into globally significant increases in the area under the ownership and control of indigenous peoples and local communities. Meanwhile, it says, the global forest area covered by industrial concessions is large and growing.

Global climate change efforts have a key role to play in securing the land rights of indigenous people and rural communities, it says. And when they are secured, that means less deforestation and more climate change mitigation.

Indigenous communities, it is argued, are unlikely to over-exploit forest resources. Their understanding of the forests as the place on which they depend encourages them to resist deforestation and the piecemeal exploitation and destruction of their fauna and flora.

Indonesia is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, chiefly because of deforestation for palm oil and other natural resource extraction. One group, the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), says those it represents claim 40 million hectares of the country’s rainforests. If they are given stronger rights over their lands, AMAN says, they will help the country to fight deforestation and reduce climate change.

Wide regional variations

The head of AMAN, Abdon Nababan, is urging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyon to formally implement a May 2013 Constitutional Court decision which declared unconstitutional a line in the country’s 1999 Forestry Law stating that customary forests are state forest. The Indonesian Government controls 96% of the country’s forests.

The RRI report also highlights a number of regional differences:

  • In Latin America, communities own or control more than 39% of forests, a direct contrast with sub-Saharan Africa where less than 6% of forests are controlled by communities.
  • Of the recorded progress seen in Africa since 2002, 89% comes from the implementation of Tanzania’s Village Land Act (1999) and Forest Act (2002).
  • Only two African countries in the study – Liberia and Mozambique – have statutory frameworks that recognize community ownership of land.
  • Governments of the countries of the Congo Basin, which contains the world’s second largest rainforest, claim legal control of more than 99% of forest land.
  • By 2013, all 12 Asian countries surveyed had implemented some form of community tenure regime, but these laws affect less than 4% of forestland in seven of the nations.

One of  RRI’s campaigns seeks to double by 2018 the amount of land recognized worldwide as owned or controlled by indigenous peoples and local communities. Another effort is focused on REDD+, which RRI describes as “the world’s leading initiative to support forest conservation”.

REDD+ promises to respect the rights of indigenous people and local communities to protect forests and to sell the carbon they contain as offsets to polluters seeking to meet emissions targets.

The United Nations is leading the negotiations for new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended to guide economic development and poverty reduction for the next 15 years. But RRI is concerned that no specific target for land rights has yet been set for the SDGs. - Climate News Network

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Green Climate Fund ‘can power poor’

Green Climate Fund 'can power poor'

EMBARGOED until 0001 GMT on Monday 28 October
A new funding idea for developing countries could provide the renewable electricity output equivalent of 100 new coal plants by 2020.

LONDON, 28 October – A vast programme of financing solar, wind and other renewable electricity technologies for developing countries using the UN’s new Green Climate Fund is proposed today.

The Fund is currently being set up by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to “provide support to developing countries to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions” as well as to help them to adapt to global warming.

The report by the World Future Council says providing feed-in tariffs for developing countries so that they can finance setting up large-scale renewable systems and feed electricity to their grids is the best way forward for the fund.

Feed-in tariffs provide the owners of small or large-scale wind and solar arrays with a guaranteed price for electricity over 20 years, so the investor is certain to get a return on their capital. The scheme has worked in developed countries like Germany and Italy to rapidly boost renewable output.

Pilot projects

If the same system was introduced into developing countries, the report says, it would be an important step in keeping the world’s temperature from exceeding a 2°C increase over pre-industrial levels, the limit set by politicians as the threshold of  unacceptably dangerous climate change.

Although the Green Climate Fund is still not operational, the report says that a one billion euro fund should be made available as soon as possible for pilot projects in three countries to test the feed-in tariff scheme.

These would be for three classes of countries, starting with one of the least developed states and two that are more advanced but still in need of power.  That would test how the scheme would work and who would benefit most from it, and would eliminate some of the teething problems.  Depending on the technology chosen, this money could fund between one and three megawatts of clean power.

That way any glitches could be discovered and then corrected when a much larger amount of funding became available.  Hundreds of wind, solar, energy-efficient biomass and small hydropower projects could then be financed in the same way.


Axel Michaelowa and Stephan Hoch say in the report, Fit for Renewables?, that their scheme needs tight controls to make sure that money is not wasted.

Although they do not mention the criticism of the Convention’s Clean Development Mechanism, where carbon credits have been claimed for dubious projects, they do not want another UNFCCC scheme designed to help developing countries to fall into disrepute.

They acknowledge that one of the problems of getting feed-in tariffs right is that the price of renewables, particularly solar, is falling all the time. If the support price is set too high there is a massive uptake and the country concerned is locked into paying too high a price for electricity. If the price is cut too quickly then the industry judders to a halt and many are thrown out of work, a situation that occurred in the United Kingdom.

An added problem in developing countries is making sure that the national or local grid can take up and use the electricity generated. Some developed countries have already had difficulties with this, so sorting out the grid must be part of any financing package, the report says.

The authors say the Green Climate Fund needs to look at all these aspects and develop a transparent system that prevents overfunding of schemes and builds trust, so that industrialised countries provide sufficient money.

The report envisages 100 gigawatts of electricity being funded in this way by 2020 – the equivalent of the output of 100 large-scale coal-fired power plants. This would cost 1.3 billion euros a year to fund, sustained over two decades. – Climate News Network

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Energy investors pile on the pressure

Energy investors pile on the pressure

Fossil fuel companies are feeling the heat from investors concerned that moves towards a global low-carbon economy could leave many of their assets worthless.

LONDON, 25 October – In recent days a group of 70 investment managers from around the world – controlling funds worth a total of more than US$3 trillion – have launched the first ever coordinated campaign aimed at making the large energy and power companies disclose how they assess the risks of climate change.

Under what is called the Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) initiative, the investors have sent letters to 40 of the world’s major oil and gas, coal and electric power companies requesting detailed responses to questions about the financial risks posed to corporate accounts by climate change. The companies have been asked to provide answers before the next annual round of shareholder meetings begins early next year.

The CAR campaign follows on from a number of other initiatives, with increasing numbers of shareholders around the world demanding more corporate disclosure on the impact on company revenues posed by climate change.

The CAR investors, mainly based in the US and Europe, include California’s two largest public pension funds and the UK-based Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, one of Europe’s largest asset management companies.

“We would like to understand (the company’s) reserve exposure to the risks associated with current and probably future policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050”, says the investors’ letter.

“We would also like to understand what options there are for (the company) to manage these risks by, for example, reducing carbon intensity of its assets, divesting its more carbon-intensive assets, diversifying its business by investing in lower carbon energy sources or returning capital to shareholders.”

Radical cutbacks required

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other international bodies say that in order to limit the rise in global average temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial levels by 2050 there must be a radical cut-back in the use of fossil fuels. This means that a large portion of fossil fuels already discovered – and which are listed as assets on the books of the corporate energy giants – must stay in the ground.

“As long-term investors, we see the world moving toward a low-carbon future in which fossil fuel reserves that companies continue to develop may actually become a liability, which could take a toll on shareholder value”, says Jack Ehnes, the head of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the second largest public pension fund in the US, managing assets of $172 bn.

According to a recent report produced by the Carbon Tracker group and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment the world’s 200 largest publicly quoted fossil fuel companies spent an estimated total of $674 bn in 2012 on finding and developing new reserves of fossil fuels – some of which may never be used, becoming what are termed “stranded assets”.

“Companies must plan properly for the risk of falling demand by stress-testing new investments to minimize the risk our clients’ capital is wasted on non-performing projects”, says Craig Mackenzie, head of sustainability at Scottish Widows Investment Partnership.

The CAR campaign is being coordinated by the Carbon Tracker group and Ceres, a US-based organisation which lobbies for more sustainable business practices.

“Fossil fuel companies are the biggest sources of carbon pollution by far, which means they are also uniquely positioned to lead the world in responding to global climate risks”, says Mindy Lubber, the Ceres president. – Climate News Network

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CO2 is vital asset for planet’s future

CO2 is vital asset for planet’s future

Scientists urged to revise attitudes towards carbon dioxide and see it not as a threat to the planet but as a valuable and sustainable resource to help combat climate change

STRASBOURG, 15 October − Don’t think of carbon dioxide as a menace to the planetary climate − think of it as a precious renewable resource. That’s the message issued to scientists this week from two conferences looking at key issues related to climate change

According to Jacques Amouroux, a chemical engineer at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, carbon dioxide recaptured could be set to work again. Turned back into fuel, it could be used as a form of energy storage; it could be deployed in the manufacture of plastics; and it could be pumped underground to recover even more oil, or force more shale gas to the surface,

There are already experimental projects to exploit captured carbon dioxide. The world is not likely soon to stop producing increasing quantities of the greenhouse gas, so science and industry should look for new ways of using the stuff again, and again, Prof. Amouroux told young researchers attending the Fourth World Materials Summit in Strasbourg, France.

His point is that carbon dioxide might be the end point in the fuel cycle, but it is the beginning of the life cycle. Just as life catalyses carbon dioxide very efficiently into lignins, cellulose, starches and sugars, so there are industrial catalysis systems to turn surplus carbon dioxide back into fuel, or into some other resource, and keep it out of the atmosphere.

“We are carbon; life is only from carbon,” Amouroux said. “Carbon gives us life, carbon gives us food, carbon storage gives us energy. Carbon is the key to our future. It is not a waste. It gives us wood, it gives us sugar, it gives us the cereal. Without carbon dioxide, it is impossible to have any kind of food on the surface of this earth.”

The summit was organised by the European Materials Research Society to address world challenges, and these include sustainable energy and climate change.

Catastrophic consequences

Amouroux is not proposing a business-as-usual scenario in which the world goes on burning fossil fuel because it is not concerned about climate change − a problem with catastrophic consequences in the form of flood, drought, heat wave and destructive windstorms.

But he argues that, inexorably, the energy-hungry developing world will go on developing by burning oil, gas and coal. It remains the most immediate and most available resource for most people. Renewables in 2010 provided less than 20% of the world’s energy, and fossil fuels the remaining 80%.

So the challenge is for the developed world – which uses more than seven times as much energy per capita as the poorer nations − to find and exploit new ways of increasing the efficiency of energy use, and to find economically attractive ways to exploit captured carbon dioxide without adding to the burden in the atmosphere.

Amouroux sees carbon dioxide first as a way of storing the energy generated off-peak by renewable resources: carbon dioxide and water could be turned into methane to serve as a battery into which to store wind, wave or solar energy when demand is low. He also sees liquid carbon dioxide as a supercritical solvent that could be used to recover residual oil in all-but-spent oil fields. And he envisages it as the basis for a feedstock for polyurethane and other hydrocarbon-based products.

Two steel plants in China are converting carbon dioxide into ethanol; a business has invested millions in making methanol from waste CO2 in Iceland; and there are programmes in both Germany and Japan to use renewable energy to convert the greenhouse gas into methane as a form of energy storage. It is, said Amouroux, an opportunity for a new industrial revolution.

“Europe can no longer afford to look
at CO2 as waste to be disposed of”

 Paul Brown adds:

LONDON, 15 October − Meanwhile, another conference this week in Essen, Germany, discussed carbon dioxide as a useful resource and a business opportunity, looking in depth at the latest technology using CO2 as a feedstock for the chemical industry and for making plastics.

Dr. Gernot Klotz, executive director for research and innovation at the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), stressed the need for a change in our mentality towards CO2 . He told delegates: “Europe can no longer afford to look at CO2 as waste to be disposed of − for example, by burying it underground. We must recognise CO2 as a renewable resource for the future.”

The new plan is CO2 utilisation − recycling CO2 as an everlasting raw material and carbon source in a circular economy. Instead of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), these new technologies are called Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU).

As well as the possible uses mentioned above, CO2 could be used as an enabler for artificial photosynthesis. A potential use for waste gases from power stations is to breed algae that are rich in oils and can be turned into bio-fuel.

Abundant resource

Dr Klotz, who is also a board member of the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (SusChem), said carbon dioxide was the only renewable resource Europe had in abundance, and it could play a vital role in ensuring Europe’s future as a competitive economy.

Scientists believe that carbon dioxide will become a vital resource when fossil fuels begin to run out.

The chemical industry needs a constant supply of carbon atoms for their production cycles, and carbon dioxide captured to stop it reaching the atmosphere could meet that need. Preventing the carbon dioxide causing climate change would mean repeatedly recycling it, rather than “wasting it” by venting it into the atmosphere.

The scientists point out that life on Earth has thrived successfully for 3 billion years − relying only on carbon dioxide in combination with water and solar energy to keep life going. − Climate News Network

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