Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scottish parliament agrees tougher 42% target to cut emissions

Campaigners say 'hugely significant' vote to cut emissions by 42% by 2020 sets new 'moral' standard for the rest of the industrialised world

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent

Scotland has set itself the world's most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets after the Scottish parliament voted today to cut the nation's CO2 emissions by 42% by 2020.

In a rare show of unity, all political parties at Holyrood unanimously agreed to fix the target as part of a radical climate change bill which also requires the Scottish government to set legally binding annual cuts in emissions from 2012.

The measures are tougher than the 34% target set in the UK government's climate change act last year, which has no statutory annual targets. In common with UK government aspirations, the new act also commits Scotland to an 80% reduction on 1990 levels by 2050.

The campaign coalition Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, which claims its 60 member organisations represent two million people, said this "hugely significant" vote set a new "moral" standard for the rest of the industrialised world.

It comes the day after the US stated that a 40% cut by 2020 was "not on the cards": developing nations have demanded this level of cut from rich nations.

Kim Carstensen, head of WWF International's global climate initiative, said: "At least one nation is prepared to aim for climate legislation that follows the science. Scotland made the first step to show others that it can be done. We now need others to follow."

However, the new measures are already under intense scrutiny. The act allows ministers to reduce the target later this year if the UK government's advisory panel on climate change says it is unrealistic, or the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December fails to agree on a global deal to replace Kyoto.

Environment groups are critical of the Scottish government's refusal to abandon road, bridge and airport expansion programmes, its plans for a new coal-fired power station, and its unwillingness to tackle directly increasing car use.

Furthermore, Scottish ministers only directly control about 30% of Scotland's total annual emissions of 68m tonnes of CO2 – which only equates to a 700th of the world's emissions. Most significant policies are controlled in Brussels and London, critics point out.

About 40% is covered by the European Union carbon emissions trading agreement, while the UK government has policy responsibilities for a further 30% of Scotland's emissions. That includes fuel taxation, low emission vehicles, VAT on energy efficiency and air taxes.

The Committee on Climate Change, the panel set up to advise Gordon Brown's government, has warned Salmond that Scotland is effectively jumping the gun by setting a 42% target in advance of a deal at Copenhagen.

In a letter to Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish climate change minister, the committee's chief executive, David Kennedy, said it believes Scotland should follow the UK strategy of waiting until the Copenhagen conference.

If a deal is reached, it should follow the UK government's lead and only then set a 42% target.

The Scottish government had also increased the pressure on itself by including emissions from international aviation and shipping in its target, Kennedy wrote, even though it has no control over policy for these sectors.

"I would therefore consider that an appropriate Scottish 2020 target could be set slightly below 34% to account for different treatments of international aviation under UK and Scottish approaches."

Despite these criticisms, the chairman of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, Mike Robinson, said the significance of the all-party consensus could not be underestimated.

"It means Scotland's climate change bill has the toughest target of any industrialised nation in the world and will be held up as an example, ahead of the climate talks in Copenhagen in December, of what can and should be done," he said.

"This is a moral commitment and we hope other developed nations will hear this call for action and follow Scotland's lead."

Although on renewable energy the Scottish National party is very likely to surpass its ambitious targets to deliver half of Scotland's electricity from renewables by 2020, ministers have failed to embark on any politically unpopular measures to combat car use or the growth in short-haul aviation.

It has authorised a second road bridge over the Firth of Forth and abandoned bridge tolls, paid to extend the M74 motorway, supports a new ring road around Aberdeen and dualing the A9 and wants a major new coal-fired power station.

Its most ambitious emissions-reduction policies, such as using carbon capture for all fossil fuel power stations, using marine energy, and a wholesale switch to green transport, either have targets set at 2030 or are largely UK-government controlled. The SNP has also completely ruled out any new nuclear power stations.

Climate chairman seeks early emissions deal

Michelle Grattan

The Age, July 1, 2009

MAL Washer, chairman of the Coalition backbench climate change committee, has added to the pressure for an early emissions trading deal, saying ideally legislation should be passed when Parliament resumes in August.

His comment follows a weekend hint by Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull that he might consider a deal then if the Government was willing to accept amendments.

The Opposition's current policy is that the vote on the Government's scheme should wait until after the Copenhagen climate conference is held in December.

Dr Washer said the Coalition needed to be part of the low-emissions economy and the country would be best off with a bipartisan approach.

But the legislation before Parliament was not satisfactory and should be amended, he said, although he had differences with the Coalition about the form the changes should take. The Coalition thought there should be better compensation for "dirty" industries, while he believed stronger price signals needed to be sent to the polluters.

Dr Washer said the main reason to get the legislation through soon was a political one: that the Coalition would not want to go to a double dissolution election on the emissions trading issue. This could happen if the legislation is rejected twice.

It is clear Mr Turnbull wants to avoid a double dissolution. He has pointed out that if the Government won, it would get its scheme through without change.

Dr Washer said that if a deal could not be cut in time for the vote that is scheduled when Parliament resumes in mid-August, he hoped the Government would allow a little more time before pressing for a vote.

If it wasn't possible to pass the scheme before Copenhagen, he said he hoped agreement could be reached on a bipartisan set of principles.

However, the Opposition's stance on the possibility of an early deal has been confused by varying statements from Mr Turnbull and his spokesman on emissions trading, Andrew Robb.

Asked on Sunday whether he would have a position by August, Mr Turnbull said the Opposition had a range of criticisms but "we will be able to present amendments and, hopefully, the Government will accept them. If the Government doesn't accept them, then, of course, we'll have to work out what happens next."

But Mr Robb insisted that Mr Turnbull "did not put a time frame on it". He said he had spoken with Mr Turnbull since his remarks "and I'm very clear on what was in his head".

India will reject emissions targets

ABC News Online, 1 July 2009


India will not sign up to targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but will instead focus on fighting poverty and boosting economic growth, the country's environment minister says.

India is one of the world's biggest emitters alongside China, the US and Russia, and the second most populous nation.

But India's per capita emissions lag far behind rich countries and it feels the developed world should take the lead on tackling climate change.

"India cannot and will not take emission reduction targets because poverty eradication and social and economic development are first and overriding priorities," a statement on behalf of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said.

A legally binding emission reduction target endangers India's energy conservation, food security and transport, he said.

Mr Ramesh said India would not allow its per capita greenhouse emissions to exceed that of developed countries, and said this amounted to a voluntary cap.

Mr Ramesh also said India would not accept a provision in a US Congress bill which would impose trade penalties on countries that failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

India has laid out its stance ahead of the negotiation of a climate treaty in Copenhagen in December that will replace the expiring Kyoto pact.

Developing nations say rich countries should cut emissions by at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Developed nations say that target is out of reach when they are trying to stimulate recession-hit economies.

India's ruling Congress party secured a convincing election victory in May and is pushing an inclusive growth agenda to help lift hundreds of millions out of poverty.

While it backs market-based measures to promote energy efficiency, India still relies on coal-fired generation to underpin the growing economy.

- Reuters

Climate-conscious Sweden takes reins at EU

By Europe correspondent Emma Alberici

ABC News Online, 1 July 2009


Sweden has taken over the presidency of the European Union and is expected to put climate change at the top of its agenda.

The Czech President and former EU chief spoke at a major conference of climate change deniers.

But with the passing of the leadership baton to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, tackling global warming is again expected to be a top priority in Brussels.

Sweden's king famously switches off the lights at the royal palace at night.

Forty-three per cent of his country's energy needs comes from renewables - the highest share of renewable energy use in Europe.

Sweden also tops the list of countries that have done the most to save the planet.

It has exceeded its Kyoto protocol target by cutting emissions by 9 per cent.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Coalition considers emissions trading deal

Michelle Grattan

The Age, June 29, 2009

THE Opposition has flagged it may consider a deal on the Government's emissions trading scheme when it comes to a Senate vote in August, as the Age/Nielsen poll shows overwhelming support for the scheme.

Only 25 per cent oppose it, while 65 per cent back the scheme, on which a vote was deferred last week. Of those opposed, the main reasons were that Australia should not go it alone, it would damage the economy, climate change is not caused by human activity and the emissions reduction targets should be larger.

Labor voters (79 per cent) and Green voters (74 per cent) are more in favour than Coalition supporters (46 per cent). Women are more likely to back the scheme than men, and those over 55 are less likely to support the scheme than younger voters.

The Opposition's policy has been that a Senate vote should wait until after the December Copenhagen conference. But the passage late Friday of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill through the US House of Representatives — it still has to pass the US Senate — is increasing the heat on Mr Turnbull to try to cut a deal early.

Mr Turnbull said that over the winter parliamentary recess Frontier Economics was being commissioned to do a detailed study of the sectoral and regional impacts and compare it with different approaches.

The Opposition has joined with independent senator Nick Xenophon to commission this study.

"Given that Mr Rudd is not prepared to do the sensible thing and postpone the completion of the scheme until next year, until after the Americans have finalised their position enough in Copenhagen, it will enable us to come back with amendments that we would propose to the legislation" he told the Ten Network.

Mr Turnbull suggested possible amendments the Opposition would present include more support for coal mining and carbon capture in soil and trees.

Asked whether he would have a position by August, he said the Opposition had a range of criticisms but "we will be able to present amendments and hopefully the Government will accept them. If the Government doesn't accept them, then, of course, we'll have to work out what happens next".

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the US development was "good news for the world".

"To those who are delaying action in the Australian Parliament, look at what is happening in the United States," he said. "And rather than voting not to vote, which is what the Liberals have done here, let's get on with the business of acting and getting things done".

The Minerals Council of Australia's chief executive Mitch Hooke said the design of the US legislation "highlights the need for substantial changes" to Australia's proposed emissions trading scheme.

He said the US scheme would auction between 15 and 18 per cent of permits in the first decade. In contrast, the Australian scheme would auction between 70 and 75 per cent of permits from day one.

The Australian Conservation Foundation's executive director Don Henry agreed that Australia could learn from the US, but for different reasons. "It's a little more comprehensive in that it includes stronger energy efficiency and fuel efficiency measures as well," he said.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

What the US Energy Bill Really Means for CO2 Emissions


Time, Saturday, Jun. 27, 2009

With a razor-thin margin of just seven votes, the House of Representatives on Friday evening passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act — the first bill to put a fixed and declining cap on U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. Republicans and Democrats in the House spent much of the day sparring in sharp language over the bill, which will reduce U.S. carbon emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% below by 2050. In the end, the vote of 219 to 212 included more than 40 Democrats who broke ranks with their party's leadership to vote against the bill. Republicans savaged the bill as an economy-killing energy tax — one member even called for a moment of silence for the Americans who would lose their jobs because of the bill — and some left-wing environmental groups, including Greenpeace, withdrew their support because they believed the bill's compromises made it far too weak.

But the bill's passage is a palpable victory for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama — who both made a last-minute push to snap wavering Democrats back in line — and a landmark for the environmental movement. "The American Clean Energy and Security Act is the most important environmental and energy legislation in our nation's history," said Fred Krupp, the president of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). "Today's vote is a huge achievement for the country and the climate."

That the bill — also known as Waxman-Markey after its co-sponsors, the Democratic Congressmen Henry Waxman and Edward Markey — is historic is obvious, as it marks the first successful attempt by Congress to address climate change at a national level. But as the bill moves to the Senate, where the virtual requirement for 60 votes means that passage will be even more difficult, it's far less clear that Waxman-Markey is strong enough to meet the long-term threat of global warming. The sheer difficulty of the negotiations that produced this 1,300-page bill — and the fact that despite weeks of compromises, it barely passed — demonstrates that Waxman-Markey might be as good as the greens can get. But it might not be good enough for a warming planet. "This won't get us to where we need to go," says Michael Shellenberger, the president of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy think tank that has been critical of Waxman-Markey.

First of all, it's important to understand what the climate-change bill does and doesn't do. The bill includes a raft of energy-efficiency provisions and a renewable-energy standard that will require 20% of all U.S. electricity to come from alternative sources by 2020. Chiefly, though, Waxman-Markey puts a cap on almost all of the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by the U.S. economy — everything from utilities to industry to transportation — setting a limit on how much carbon the country can produce. Industries are issued allowances each year that give them the right to emit a certain amount of carbon; they have to reduce their emissions to meet the cap, or buy allowances from other companies if they exceed the cap. (Companies will also have the option to buy carbon offsets, which involve investing in projects that reduce carbon, like tree-planting.) The idea is that cap and trade gives you more bang for your climate buck. "This bill produces carbon reductions in an affordable way," says Steve Cochran, who directs the EDF's national climate campaign.

The bill's opponents — Congressional Republicans, along with the oil industry and the National Association of Manufacturers, among others — say cap and trade amounts to a massive tax on U.S. energy, which mostly still comes from carbon-intensive fossil fuels like coal. That's partially true — the whole point behind cap and trade is to raise the cost of emitting carbon and drive investment in energy efficiency and renewable power. "No matter how you doctor it or tailor it, it is a tax," said Representative Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican.

But critics have vastly overstated the likely cost. In fact, they're all but lying. During the House debate, Republican whip Eric Cantor, using numbers from an American Petroleum Institute study, said that the bill would eventually cost more than $3,000 per family per year — but those numbers assume that billions of tons worth of inexpensive carbon offsets won't be available under the bill, which would significantly inflate the overall cost. That's not going to happen. A more reliable study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecast that the bill would cost the average U.S. household $175 in higher energy costs annually by 2020 — and other studies estimate that the energy-efficiency provisions in the bill might even save Americans money over time. "The emission reductions in the bill can clearly be achieved at a tiny cost to the economy," says Nathaniel Keohane, the EDF's director of economic policy and analysis.

True, no economic forecast of 15 years into the future is ironclad, but there are enough safety valves and offsets in Waxman-Markey to ensure the cost will be manageable. But that's the problem. To keep conservative Democrats on board — especially those in the coal-heavy Midwest and Southeast — Waxman and Markey allowed the bill to be watered down considerably, loosening the overall carbon cap and scaling back the renewable-energy standard. When the powerful farm lobby balked at the bill, it was changed to allow farmers to sell offsets from agriculture, such as no-till farming, which leaves carbon in the soil. Worse, oversight of the agricultural offsets was taken away from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and given to the Department of Agriculture, which isn't exactly a neutral party.

As a result, the bill will achieve most of its stated carbon cuts through offsets and through improving energy efficiency, rather than encouraging the growth of low-carbon renewable electricity. Energy efficiency is an important low-hanging fruit, and the bill will significantly slow the growth of U.S. electricity consumption over time. But carbon offsets are dicey, and may not actually provide the emissions reductions they claim to. (Studies have called into question the quality of the offsets run under the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol system.) And a new EPA analysis of the bill forecast that the total amount of renewable energy generation under Waxman-Markey would actually be less than the renewable energy that would have been produced without the bill. (The share of renewables in the total U.S. electricity market will be larger under the bill, because total electricity use will have dropped.) Instead of investment flowing to new solar and wind companies, to electric cars and public transit, that money is likely to go to foreign offsets and farmers. "It should be a key goal to see renewable energy get picked up under this bill, but it's not happening," says Shellenberger. "That's pretty demoralizing."

The bill's defenders, which include almost all mainstream environmental groups, say that it doesn't matter where the emissions cuts come from, as long as they're legitimate and the carbon goes down. "This bill will give us lots of ways to get to where we need to go on emissions reductions," says Keohane. But over the long run, we need to cut carbon out of our energy supply — and that means vastly increasing the role of renewables like solar and wind, along with low-carbon sources like nuclear and even coal with carbon capture. That will require plenty of hard scientific research to bring down the price of renewables — they have to be competitive not just in the U.S., but in countries like India and China, which will emit the vast majority of new carbon emissions in the future. "This legislation will finally make clean energy the profitable energy," said President Obama before the bill's passage — but that doesn't seem to be the case.

At the very least the bill's passage will help American negotiators at the upcoming U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen, where the world will try to put together a successor to the expiring Kyoto Protocol. Speaking with Obama at the White House today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the bill represented a "sea change" for the U.S., so long a world pariah on climate change. "I would not have thought it possible a year ago," she added. But the bill's emissions cuts still fall far short of what the European Union has proposed, and are even further away from the massive short-term cuts major developing countries have demanded. "In terms of what the U.S. will take on as a target, one year doesn't make up for the last eight years, so we'll have to wait and see," says Shyam Saran, India's envoy on climate change. "This is not our responsibility."

Despite its many flaws, Waxman-Markey remains a legislative achievement, and even doubtful environmentalists hope to be able to strengthen it in the future if it becomes law — especially if Americans come to realize that cap and trade isn't the end of the economy. "No one looking at this three months ago would have estimated that we'd end up here," says Cochran. But if this is the most that is politically possible in America, we're in trouble, because climate change demands far more. "We are at an extraordinary moment, with a historic opportunity to confront one of the world's most serious challenges," said former Vice President Al Gore after the bill passed. "Our actions now will be remembered by this generation and all those to follow." He's right — which is why the battle has just begun.

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Growth of global carbon emissions halved in 2008, say Dutch researchers

Recession and oil price main drivers behind fall in consumption as developing world emissions rise above 50% for first time

The growth of global carbon dioxide emissions fell by half in 2008, according to data released today. The global recession and high oil prices played a major role in reducing the rate of emissions. But measures to tackle global warming by cutting emissions such as renewable energy were only partly responsible. The data from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) also show that, for the first time, CO2 emissions from the developing world account for more than half of the global total.

Analysis from the NEAA draws on fossil fuel consumption figures published last week by BP. It shows that the rise in the world's emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production in 2008 was just 1.7%, compared with 3.3% in 2007.

The slowdown in emissions growth was caused primarily by a 0.6% fall in the consumption of oil – the first decline in global oil use since 1992. This trend was unevenly distributed around the world. In China oil use continued to rise, but at only 3%, down from an average of 8% since 2001. In the US, oil consumption fell by a massive 7%.

The falling global demand reflects high prices for oil in the first half of 2008 and the economic slowdown in the second half of the year. Increasing biofuel production also helped displace a substantial volume of fossil-fuel petrol and diesel.

Jos Olivier, the NEAA researcher responsible for the new data, acknowledged that the environmental benefits of biofuels would look "less favourable" in a broader analysis considering the impact of all greenhouses gases, rather than CO2 alone. Furthermore, the data does not take into account the CO2 released by deforestation, which accounts for almost 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions and takes place overwhelmingly in the developing world.

Increasing renewable energy capacity and improving energy efficiency in many countries will also have contributed to the reduced rise in CO2 emissions. Olivier said: "The impact of energy and climate policy is hard to distinguish from those of fuel prices and the recession, but policies encouraging renewable electricity generation will have helped avoid around 500 million tonnes of CO2 from fossil-fuel power stations."

Coal consumption continued to creep up at a slower rate than in previous years, but the rise in the consumption of natural gas remained unchanged.

It is too early to determine whether the recession will lead to global emissions flattening off entirely this year. But policymakers are likely to be particularly struck by the second revelation in the NEAA analysis.

In 2008, the developing-world accounted for 50.3% of CO2 emissions, exceeding developed nations and international travel combined for the first time. With crucial UN climate negotiations over a successor to the Kyoto protocol now less than six months away, this new data will provide useful ammunition for those arguing for binding emissions targets for all nations.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In Close Vote, House Passes Climate Bill

Measure Aims to Change Energy Use

Washington Post Staff Writers 
Saturday, June 27, 2009

The House narrowly passed an ambitious climate bill yesterday that would establish national limits on greenhouse gases, create a complex trading system for emission permits and provide incentives to alter how individuals and corporations use energy.

The bill passed 219 to 212 after a furious lobbying push by the White House and party leaders won over farm-state Democrats who had complained that it was too costly, and liberals who wondered if it was too watered down to work. Even after that effort, 44 Democrats voted against the legislation.

The bill, if it became law, would lead to vast changes in the ways energy is made, sold and used in the United States -- putting new costs over time on electricity from fossil fuels and directing new billions to "clean" power from sources such as the wind and the sun.

It would require U.S. emissions to decline 17 percent by 2020. To make that happen, the bill would create an economy that trades in greenhouse gases. Polluters would be required to buy "credits" to cover their emissions; Midwestern farmers, among others, could sell "offsets" for things they didn't emit; and Wall Street could turn those commodities into a new market.

Delaying the vote,  Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) spoke for about an hour, reading long sections of a 300-page amendment unveiled at 3 a.m. yesterday.

When the bill finally passed, with eight Republicans voting yes, supporters praised it as a major milestone in the fight to slow climate change. Earlier attempts to cap emissions had stalled in Congress; this bill's surprisingly swift passage in the House marked a political victory for President Obama and Democratic leaders.

Obama had made the bill one of his two major domestic priorities, along with health-care reform. And this week he stepped in, lobbying some undecided lawmakers, playing down the costs to consumers and promoting the measure as a "jobs bill" that would create opportunities in the renewable-energy and energy-efficiency sectors.

One of the bill's co-sponsors,  Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), said: "The American people wanted change in our energy and climate policy. And this is the change that the people are overwhelmingly asking for." He called it "the most important energy and environment bill in the history of our country."

The drive to regulate greenhouse gases now moves to the Senate, where passing climate legislation could prove more difficult.

House conservatives blasted the more than 1,300-page bill, saying it would add crushing costs to energy and ship millions of jobs to countries such as China that do not have climate regulations. They also said there was a lack of clarity in the bill's provision to create carbon offsets, certificates in which companies in the United States and overseas could claim credit for avoiding emissions or taking them out of the air.

"In the midst of the worst recession in a generation, this administration and this majority in Congress are prepared to pass a national energy tax," said Rep.  Mike Pence (R-Ind.).

The heart of the bill is a "cap" that would lower greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 83 percent below those levels by 2050. It would enforce the cap by requiring many sources of such pollution, including power plants, factories and oil refineries, to amass buyable, sellable credits equal to their emissions.

The bill's co-sponsors, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman  Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Markey, rejected Obama's proposal to auction all emission allowances and use most of the revenues for tax cuts. Instead the measure would give away 85 percent of the annual emission allowances to consumers, coal-intensive manufacturers and utilities, as well as a variety of clean-energy interests, such as biofuel developers and superconductor makers. Most of those free allowances would be phased out in 10 to 20 years.

That set off a lobbying feeding frenzy, with 880 business and interest groups registered to lobby on the bill.

Agriculture Committee Chairman  Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) won concessions giving the Agriculture Department, instead of the Environmental Protection Agency, the authority to run a program that would give offsets to farmers who use tilling techniques that would keep carbon dioxide trapped in the soil.

For many environmental groups and liberal Democrats, these compromises made yesterday's victory somewhat sour. But many said they hoped the bill could be made stronger in the Senate.

"The bill still requires the first comprehensive, national limits on global warming pollution that get tighter every year," said Daniel Lashof, of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He added that the bill's Democratic advocates "are the strongest environmental champions one can hope to have. People aren't happy about all the compromises, but you have to give them the benefit of the doubt."

Yesterday's 5 1/2 -hour floor debate featured Democratic leaders who called the bill a historic move against global warming, and Republicans who said its costs would pitch the country into economic ruin. Eight Republicans supported the legislation, a small number but a better show of GOP support than Obama received on key items such as the $787 billion stimulus bill and a $106 billion war-funding bill.

There were moments of unrehearsed drama: Liberal  Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), who in the morning issued a release saying he opposed the bill because it was "too weak" and moved "billions from the public to polluters," took the floor in the afternoon to say he had changed his mind.

"I believe there is still some hope to make improvements once it gets out of the House," Doggett said. "Better to have a seat at the table to try to influence the change that is needed in this legislation."

Republicans also ridiculed Waxman's deal-making in pursuit of votes. "If you haven't made your deal yet, come on down to the floor,"  Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.) said. He sarcastically complimented Waxman for cutting deals in public. "It's unprecedented, but at least it's transparent," he said.

In one such instance, Democratic leaders signaled support for a $50 million national hurricane center in the central Florida district of freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D), who originally held out support for the legislation. Grayson voted for the measure.

And then came the fili-Boehner.

House tradition allows the speaker, the majority leader and the minority leader to ignore the usual time limits on floor speeches. So, at the end of four hours of debate, Boehner opened a binder containing the 300-page amendment.

"Don't you think the American people expect us to understand what's in this bill before we vote on it?" Boehner said, to cheers from Republicans.

He read numerous passages -- highlighting items such as credits for Fannie Mae-financed efficiency measures and plans for grants to study consumer behavior on energy use -- and offered critiques. Then,  Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), who was presiding over the chamber on her final day before moving to a State Department post, said his time had expired.

This is not the climate for selfishness

A MAKE-or-break moment for our planet is now only six months away. In Copenhagen this December, the world will try to find a deal on climate change — and we have to succeed. Whether we do so cannot be left until the winter, and cannot be left to politicians alone. As part of our contribution and to open up debate, the British Government is publishing our suggestions for what the deal should include.

In some negotiations, the Government's position can seem like a state secret. We're taking the opposite approach — sending it to schools, putting it online, discussing it as much as we can — because these climate change talks are not like any other negotiations in recent history. More than any other, they will affect everybody's lives. And, more than any other negotiations, governments might be the ones to sign the deal, but governments and people together will need to deliver it.

In making our case within Britain and to the world, we are guided by the science, experience and ethics. The science tells us that the consequences of half-hearted action would be catastrophic: we must be ambitious. I have spoken to people in China who are battling the desert as climate change makes their village an oasis in a growing sea of sand. We know that the proportion of very dry land across the world has doubled since the 1970s, and half-hearted action could mean water shortages affecting between 75 and 220 million more people in Africa by 2020.

So, to be ambitious, the test we set for the deal is whether we can limit climate change to two degrees, the threshold for the worst tipping points and irreversible damages. That means turning around the growth in global greenhouse gas emissions in this coming decade, not later. They must start to shrink instead of grow, and keep on shrinking to reach at most half of their 1990 levels by 2050. In Britain, we have already cut emissions by almost a quarter compared to 1990. We have already written our commitments into law to cut emissions further. National "carbon budgets" will cut emissions by a third of their 1990 level by 2020, and at least 80 per cent by 2050, and we are confronting the choices this commitment implies. Earlier this year, for example, I announced new proposals to forbid any new coal-fired power stations that don't capture and store a substantial proportion of their carbon dioxide.

We hope other countries will increase their ambition too. Many already have, but the truth is that the offers currently on the table are not enough. Even if developed countries cut their emissions to zero today, the world would still breach two degrees unless developing countries also move from high-carbon growth to low-carbon growth. So an ambitious climate deal will have to involve action from everyone.

Experience, meanwhile, teaches us a separate lesson: that the deal must be not just be ambitious, but effective. Kyoto, the first climate change agreement, achieved many things, but no one could claim that all countries lived up to their commitments. Not all the emission cuts that were promised were achieved. Not all the flows of finance to help the poorest countries ever reached their shores. Not all the actions that were taken were done so in the most effective way.

So to be effective, the agreement at Copenhagen — what some have called Kyoto II — needs robust monitoring and checking of what countries are doing. It needs to be effective in how cuts are achieved, by linking carbon markets between developed countries, so that each dollar of spending finds the place where it can have the biggest possible impact on emissions. For developing countries, a full carbon market will not be possible straight away, but sector-by-sector trading systems can still mean we get more effective action, and more flows of finance to where it is needed.

And that brings up the third source of our lessons for the kind of deal we need: ethics, and the obligations that rich countries owe to the poorest. At the core of the debate is a fundamental moral question, concerning whether we see ourselves as neighbours and fellow people to citizens of other countries, and whether we care about the legacy we leave to our children. It is a question about whether we choose to preserve or break the bond that says the earth is held in trust by each generation for the next, and accept our ability to transform the lives of others.

In the document Britain is publishing today, we want to live up to that moral challenge, so the deal we are looking for must be not just ambitious and effective but fair. The global downturn has made budgets tight for many countries, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a deep commitment to getting the right, fair finance to deal with climate change — not instead of existing overseas aid, but with it.

This week, he urged countries to work on a global figure of about $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries with new financial mechanisms to make it possible.

And we have seen, in the past six months, how debate can be transformed. President Barack Obama has changed the game. China has upped its ambition and made it clear it wants to find a deal. In the six months that follow, we have even further to travel and our need to speed up is urgent. The make-or-break moment is upon us. With a deal that is ambitious, effective, and fair, dangerous climate change can be stopped; with action by governments and citizens in every country, that deal can be found.

Ed Miliband is the British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Miliband: 2020 is year of no return for emissions

Minister's stark warning in run-up to crucial climate change summit

By Mike McCarthy, Environment Editor

The Independent, Friday, 26 June 2009


The world's emissions of the greenhouse gases causing global warming should peak in 2020 and then start to decline, the British Government is proposing in the run-up to the global climate conference taking place at Copenhagen in December.

Emissions from developed nations such as Britain and the US should reach their highest point even earlier, by 2015, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, suggested to other countries in a meeting in Mexico this week, in the first move to make the crucial issue of a "carbon peak" an official target of the Copenhagen agreement.

Emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide have been rising at a far faster rate than was predicted even a decade ago, and research published by the UK Met Office last year showed that the point at which they begin to decline as a whole is absolutely vital in bringing rising temperatures under control.

A few years' delay in the peak can mean the world is committed to a significantly higher rise than would otherwise be the case, and computer simulations by the Met Office Hadley Centre indicate that for every ten years the peak is postponed, another half degree of temperature increase becomes unavoidable.

Hitherto, the issue of the "global peak" has largely remained a theoretical one, but this week Mr Miliband and British officials put it on the table at a meeting in Mexico of the Major Economies Forum on Climate and Energy (MEF), a new, pre-Copenhagen high-level discussion group which has been convened by the US President Barack Obama.

The MEF meetings will culminate in a world leaders' summit on climate change which will take place alongside the G8 meeting in Italy in July, and which will be a critical moment in the push towards a Copenhagen climate deal.

Yesterday Mr Miliband said the issue of a global peak in emissions had so far been "significantly under-emphasised". If it could be agreed, it would "irreversibly break the trend towards rising emissions," he said, adding: "It would show that something had changed. We are arguing very strongly for a 2020 global peak."

Dr Vicky Pope, the Hadley Centre's head of climate change advice, said yesterday: "Even if emissions peak in the next ten years and then decline rapidly, temperatures are still likely to rise to around two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Every 10-year delay in starting reductions will result in a further 0.5 degree increase in the most likely temperature rise, so the need for action is urgent."

The Hadley Centre's simulations last year indicated a most likely two degree rise with a 2015 peak (and world carbon emissions subsequently declining at three per cent a year to 2050), a 2.5 degree rise with a 2025 peak and a similar decline, and a three degree rise with a 2030 peak. In each case the temperature rise is a best guess - a 50-50 chance - and there are possibilities that it could be lower, or indeed, significantly higher.

All countries, including the UK, must be more ambitious in commitments to cut greenhouse gases, Mr Miliband said, ahead of the launch today of the Government's own manifesto on what needs to be achieved in Copenhagen.

Greater public pressure would play a part in ensuring the politics of negotiating a new deal catches up with the science of what needs to be done, he said. From today the Government is distributing pamphlets setting out the importance of Copenhagen, which will be sent to public bodies such as schools and hospitals, and launching a website www.ActOnCopenhagen.gov.uk.

Britain demands more from world on emissions

Adam Morton

The Age, June 27, 2009

EMBATTLED British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has broken ranks in global talks on climate change to call for the creation of a $US100 billion ($A124 billion) a year fund to help the world's poor deal with what lies ahead.

In a speech in London overnight, Mr Brown outlined an ambitious blueprint for a new international climate deal, due to be signed in Copenhagen in December.

The centrepiece was a fund, to start in 2013 and worth at least $US100 billion by 2020, to cut greenhouse gas emissions and help the most vulnerable adapt to locked-in climate change.

It is the first proposal from a major power on how the world should pay for the extraordinary costs of fighting climate change. A finance plan is crucial to convince developing nations to sign on to a climate treaty.

"If we are to achieve an agreement in Copenhagen I believe we must move the debate from a stand-off over hypothetical figures to active negotiation," Mr Brown said.

He said the money should be used to cut emissions where it would be cheapest.

"This will mean that, overall, developing countries will get back more than they put in," he said. "I commit the UK now to paying its fair share of the global total."

The fund would require national governments to commit new money on top of existing aid programs, but would also be drawn from auctioning carbon permits and charges imposed on aviation and shipping.

Mr Brown's speech accompanied the release of a manifesto, The Road to Copenhagen, which called for:

-A global emissions cut to 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. This would require developed nations, including Australia, to set binding reduction targets of at least 80 per cent by mid-century.

-Rich countries to collectively cut emissions by 25-40 per cent by 2020. Informed estimates suggest current targets add up to a cut of 10-22 per cent.

-Developing countries to take action relative to how quickly they are escaping poverty. Research suggests that by 2020 their total emissions need to be 15-30 per cent lower than current projections.

-Logging in the tropics to be cut by at least 50 per cent by 2020, and reduction of global forests to end by 2030.

-Creation of a global carbon market, with rich nations linking emissions trading schemes by 2015. Major developing countries such as China would consider joining smaller trading schemes that could, for example, link national electricity industries.

British Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said there needed to be "greater ambition from all countries in the next six months". He said the British Government had set up a climate "war room" to work on the treaty.

Climate Institute policy director Erwin Jackson said Britain was the first major emitter to come up with a finance plan.

"It is critical that Australia joins with the UK in putting on the table a plan to unlock trillions of dollars of public and private investment," he said.

The British call came as the US House of Representatives prepared to vote on a climate bill strongly backed by President Barack Obama. The next major international climate meeting is next month, when the leaders of the world's 17 biggest economies meet in Italy.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will arrive with a bipartisan commitment to cut emissions by 5-25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, but no agreement on how to meet the target. Debate on the Government's emissions trading scheme was this week deferred until August.

Arnold Schwarzenegger backs Scottish climate change laws

Daily Record, Jun 25 2009 
By Magnus Gardham

FILM star turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger last night backed Scotland's crackdown on pollution.
It came as MSPs unanimously backed a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 in Scotland.
The Terminator star, who is now governor of California, said: "Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution.
"California has set aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets, but we need the help of the world to tackle the most pressing environmental issue of our time.
"Scotland's ambitious and comprehensive targets encourage other nations to step up to the plate as we look toward an international agreement in Copenhagen, and it sends a message to the world that we must act now and must act swiftly."
The Holyrood decision will mean a race towards electric cars, more wind and wave power and a massive programme to insulate Scotland's draughty homes to save energy.
The target will also have an impact on farming, as methane produced by flatulent cows is one of the causes of global warming.
More trees will have to be planted across large swathes of countryside to soak up CO2 and other gases.
The drive will continue for decades, as Scotland tries to meet an even more ambitious long-term target to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
The plan follows dire warnings about changes to Scotland's weather by 2080.
By then, Met Office experts believe warmer, wetter winters will make snow covered mountains a thing of the past.
The new target, set out in Holyrood's climate change Bill, followed a U-turn by the SNP government, who originally wanted a 34 per cent cut.
But they agreed the tougher target under pressure from Labour, Lib Dem and Green MSPs.
Labour environment spokeswoman Sarah Boyack said: "The Scottish government's challenge now is to translate this Bill into action and to give leadership to the implementation of the new policies and opportunities."
The targets are based on levels of greenhouse gas emissions in 1990.
They have already come down by 18 per cent since then, so Scotland is already nearly half way towards achieving the new target.
And in the run-up to yesterday's historic debate, campaigners voiced fears the plans were not tough enough.
The ambitious new goal will be downgraded if countries fail to agree new worldwide climate goals at the summit in Copenhagen later this year.
And no formal sanctions will be imposed on ministers if Scotland cannot reach the target by 2020.
But last night campaign group Stop Climate Chaos hailed the move as a "hugely significant example" for other countries to follow.
Chairman Mike Robinson said: "It means Scotland's climate change Bill has the toughest target of any industrialised nation in the world.
"It will be held up as an example, ahead of the climate talks in Copenhagen in December, of what can and should be done."
Richard Dixon, head of the WWF in Scotland, said: "Scotland may be a small nation, but it has proved today that it is prepared to stand up and be counted.
"This new law sets a benchmark that every industrialised country will need to live up to."
More than 100 members of the public were given a chance to lobby constituency MSPs on the new law. One woman come all the way from Ullapool in Wester Ross to attend.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Carbon scheme vote put off until August

ABC News Online, Posted Thu Jun 25

The Coalition and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon have combined to delay the vote on the Government's carbon trading scheme until August.

The Government had wanted its legislation for the scheme to be passed by today, arguing that business needed certainty on how the scheme would operate.

But the Coalition and all crossbench senators have refused to support it.

The Opposition and Senator Xenophon have passed a motion which commits the Senate to a vote in the first week of August sittings.

They have also commissioned economic modelling on alternative schemes to be undertaken and completed before the August vote.

Senator Xenophon says an August vote cannot be avoided.

"The Emissions Trading Scheme legislation will be dealt with in that week, come what may, and that's a commitment the Coalition's made, it's something the Government has signed on to," he said.

"It's not their preferred course but it means we'll have some certainty as to where we're going with this legislation, but it's important we have the facts."

Opposition emissions trading spokesman Andrew Robb says more information must be given on how the scheme will impact Australians.

"People haven't got the foggiest idea what impact it will have on emissions itself - this information needs to be on the table," he said.

But the Greens say the move to delay the vote on an emissions trading scheme is pointless and cowardly.

Greens Senator Christine Milne says the delay will not change the outcome and the scheme will be defeated in August.

"To run away until August is ridiculous because no-one will be changing their mind in that time," she said.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says the Coalition now has a firm deadline to make up its minds about the Government's emissions trading scheme.

"The benefit in this motion from Senator Xenophon is that it actually brings down the bar, brings down the bar on your filibuster and your delay," Senator Wong said.

She says Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull has to take a stand.

"What Mr Turnbull should do today is to come out and do two things. First he confirms he supports the CPRS, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, coming to a vote in August ... and the second thing he will need to do is go away and get a position," she said.