9. Global News
Bush on Climate Change
Opening the Global Climate meeting he convened in Washington last Sept
(see Renew 171), with representatives from some major energy using countries,
President Bush said ‘we must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse
gas emissions, and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic
growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their
people... With the work we begin today, we can agree on a new approach
that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen energy security,
encourage economic growth and sustainable development, and advance negotiations
under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.’
It was widely seen as a diversion from the Kyoto programme (see below),
but the work programme Bush launched is due to lead to a meeting this
summer, with presumably some results to show. So maybe its worth looking
at what Bush expected.
The Bush work plan
At the launch meeting, Bush argued that ‘For many years those
who worried about climate change and those who worried about energy
security were on opposite ends of the debate. It was said that we faced
a choice between protecting the environment and producing enough energy.
Today we know better. These challenges share a common solution: technology.
By developing new low-emission technologies, we can meet the growing
demand for energy and at the same time reduce air pollution and greenhouse
gas emissions. As a result, our nations have an opportunity to leave
the debates of the past behind, and reach a consensus on the way forward.’
He added ‘No one country has all the answers, including mine.
The best way to tackle this problem is to think creatively and to learn
from other’s experiences and to come together on a way to achieve
the objectives we share. Together, our nations will pave the way for
a new international approach on greenhouse gas emissions. This new approach
must involve all the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gas
emissions, including developed and developing nations. We will set a
long-term goal for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. By setting
this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem. And by setting this goal,
we commit ourselves to doing something about it. By next summer, we
will convene a meeting of heads of state to finalize the goal and other
elements of this approach, including a strong and transparent system
for measuring our progress toward meeting the goal we set. This will
require concerted effort by all our nations. Only by doing the necessary
work this year will it be possible to reach a global consensus at the
UN. in 2009.’
Bush concluded ‘Each nation will design its own separate strategies
for making progress toward achieving this long-term goal. These strategies
will reflect each country’s different energy resources, different
stages of development, and different economic needs. There are many
policy tools that nations can use, including a variety of market mechanisms,
to create incentives for companies and consumers to invest in new low-emission
energy sources. We will also form working groups with leaders of different
sectors of our economies, which will discuss ways of sharing technology
and best practices. Each nation must decide for itself the right mix
of tools and technologies to achieve results that are measurable and
environmentally effective. While our strategies may be differentiated,
we share a common responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
while keeping our economies growing. The key to this effort will be
the advance of clean energy technologies.’
And he then indicated his favourites- ‘advanced clean coal technology’
and ‘clean safe nuclear power’, along with wind and solar
power and for vehicles ‘sustainable biofuels like cellulosic ethanol’,
He said that to make these technologies more widely available, especially
in the developing world he proposed ‘that we join together to
create a new international clean technology fund. This fund will be
supported by contributions from governments from around the world, and
it will help finance clean energy projects in the developing world.’
At the same time, he said ‘we also must promote global free trade
in energy technology. The most immediate and effective action we can
take is to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers on clean energy
goods and services.’ Lastly he said ‘we must also address
another major factor in climate change, which is deforestation’.
Quite an agenda. And all by voluntary means. We wonder what will emerge
later this year when the final meeting is held..
Bali Low US still opposes targets
Meanwhile the UNFCC programme grinds on, with the Bali meeting in Dec.
trying to set the agenda for a post-2012 Kyoto II. That has to be agreed
by 2009 to be workable, but progress was slow, despite Australia’s
shift. But at least a timetable was set.
It gets worse
‘We cannot waste any more time. The energy that we fail to collect
from the sun and wind today will not be there tomorrow- a lost opportunity
we can no longer afford.’ Jakob von Uexküll, founder of the
World Future Council
As carbon sinks fill, the US journal PNAS, says climate change could
be ‘stronger than expected and sooner than expected’. In
the journal Nature, Gwyn Prins from LSE and Steve Rayner from Oxford,
say forget Kyoto, ‘investment in energy R&D should be placed
on a wartime footing,’ to create clean energy options.
‘It seems reasonable to expect the world’s leading economies
and emitters to devote as much money to this challenge as they currently
spend on military research’. But not likely..
* The internet uses 9.4% of US electricity and 5.3% globally. Source:
estimate on slashdot.com
Biofuels ‘don’t raise food prices’
According to Achim Steiner, director of the UN Environment Program and
UN Under-Secretary General, the alleged link between biofuel production
and increased food prices is mere speculation and it is unlikely that
biofuels play a role. Far more important factors are bad harvests in
the major food producing regions, violent weather conditions induced
by climate change, and rapidly growing demand from China. While further
study is needed to understand the impact of biofuels on crop markets,
he said it was unlikely that biofuel crops are responsible for price
increases of tortilla flour in Mexico or of pasta in Italy- but, he
noted, some journalists and those with an anti-biofuel agenda have tried
to make a link.
Steiner added that ‘global price fluctuations in the grain markets
have always existed, although we are for some, like wheat, at historic
highs at the moment. It would be somewhat premature to say that pasta
costs more because there is biofuel grown in other parts of the world.
There are speculative assumptions at the moment. We are working together
with our colleagues in different institutions to assess whether that
linkage can really be made.’
But, increasingly violent weather did pose a real danger to crops and
to food supplies, particularly for the world’s poorest. This much
greater threat to the supply and price stability of food and agricultural
products comes from climate change and the expected increase in floods,
droughts and other crop-damaging weather. He felt that Biofuels, which
reduce carbon emissions offer an opportunity to mitigate this threat.
Other views: BBC News 24 on line 27th Oct reported that UN special rapporteur
on the 'right to food', Jean Ziegler, said he feared biofuels would
bring more hunger and called for a 5 year ban: diverting arable land
to the production of crops which are then burned for fuel was he said
a crime against humanity. And leading science journal Nature (11/10/07)
said ‘Biofuels need new technology, new agronomy and new politics
if they are not to do more harm than good’.
118 GW of Solar
The IEA’s new ‘Solar Heat Worldwide’ review says by
2006 there was 118GW(Th) of solar heat collector capacity in place.
China led with over 52 GW.
For comparison, wind was at 72GW. See:www.iea-shc.org/publications/downloads/
The prospects for Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) are also looking up.
says that ‘Parabolic trough and central receiver projects installed
in 2007 represent the beginning of the 5,800 MW pipeline CSP projects
planned to come on line by 2012’.