Monday, April 24, 2006

This is why the environment needs to be on the political agenda...what a mess.

The ODPM's plans for building 200,000 homes in the Thames Gateway have been widely derided. In this article, Ed Howker investigates the proposals and sheds light on some of the serious concerns that loom over another of Prescott and Cooper's seemingly doomed policies :

There are no tall trees on Tilbury Marshes to the east of London. The sea salt in the soil prevents them from growing. But here, on the edge of the capital more than anywhere else, you get a real feel for the peculiar beauty of the Thames's great flood plain.

Tilbury Marshes, where Queen Elizabeth I declared she "had the body of a weak and feeble woman but the heart and stomach of a king", is now earmarked by developers as part of the Thames Gateway project - the massive development of land on both sides of the Thames, roughly 43 miles long and 20 miles wide, stretching from London's Docklands to Southend in Essex in the north and to Sheerness in Kent to the south.

It is across this enormous area, which includes parts of three administrative "regions" and 15 local authorities, that John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, is making perhaps the boldest physical statement of the Labour government. If all goes to plan, then perhaps 200,000 homes will be built in this area over the next 20 years.

The plan was conceived in the early 1990s by the Tories' Michael Heseltine. It was developed by New Labour as a way to address the national housing shortfall of at least 40,000 homes a year and cater for the pressure from people who want homes in the south-east. It is fraught with environmental contradictions.

The area is prone to flooding, yet desperately short of drinking water; it is close to London, yet a million miles away in culture from the metropolis; it contains great swaths of brownfield sites, yet has some of the finest wetlands in Britain. Now a "national priority for urban regeneration", and the "greatest piece of town planning Britain has ever seen", about 1.6 million people live there today, but perhaps twice that many will in just 15 years' time.

Travel across it, however, and there is little evidence on the ground that anything much is happening at all, let alone that the equivalent of a city the size of Leeds is being planned. There are plenty of brochures listing developers' and quangos' intentions, but building work is isolated. And as the project develops, it appears to be becoming ever more complex, ambitious and, some would say, incoherent.

Even the few facts released are complex. Under current, official, government plans, 120,000 homes are to be built in the area by 2016. But that figure does not account for other ad hoc developments sanctioned by local authorities or ones suggested by the three regional assemblies. The South East of England regional assembly, for instance, says it is planning 28,900 new homes every year until 2026 - nearly 600,000 in total - but it is impossible to say how many will be in the Gateway area. One study, by the London School of Economics, suggests 200,000 homes could be built in the area. Wrong profile

Few people, moreover, have any idea about what is going on. A study last year by the Institute for Public Policy Research found that "very few participants had heard of the Thames Gateway". In the past six months, the project's profile has grown for all the wrong reasons. In October, the London assembly declared the capital was at "serious risk" of flooding, and that this would increase as a result of the Gateway homes being built on the flood plain.

Then the pressure group Transport 2000 found that £432m-worth of roads were to be built in the area. If the proposed £450m Thames Gateway bridge, now the subject of a long public inquiry, is included, then perhaps £1bn is planned to build roads in the areas - despite the government's commitment to reducing traffic and climate change emissions.

To add to Prescott's woes, the Commons environmental audit committee last week lambasted the plans for sustainable housing. Talking about plans for the south-east as a whole, but clearly including the Gateway, the MPs accused Prescott's Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) of "a complete lack of urgency in considering the environmental impact" and predicted that people would be moving into the area without schools, hospitals or transport. "The need to build homes is seen as an absolute imperative and is used by government to sweep aside . . . concerns about the environmental impact," said the report.

The confusion over sustainable homes was identified by Robert Napier, head of the WWF. Last year, he walked out of an ODPM housing steering group "in despair" at what he thought was the government's failure to encourage more energy-efficient homes in the Gateway.

Now the attacks are getting personal. Consultants Hornagold and Hills found this year that only 13% of all the stakeholders in the project believed Prescott to be an effective leader for the Gateway. And a report by Lord (Richard) Rogers' Urban Taskforce has suggested the plans suffered from a "lack of vision".

It is highly confusing for people living there, many of whom feel excluded from the decision-making process and are suspicious about any benefits it may bring.

Anne Power, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, and one of the authors of the report A Framework for Housing in the London Thames Gateway, says the low-density developments planned for the Gateway could make conditions worse in east London. While no one can guarantee that 180,000 jobs will be created, she says, the wrong sort of development might lead to people leaving London.

"The East End will just get poorer if low-density housing is built throughout the Gateway," she says. "Low-density housing has huge costs for future generations. It is an inefficient use of land, and you encourage middle-class migration, with greater commuting times and more car use."

Environment groups say the Gateway has the potential for huge harm, because it is situated on the flood plain, has little access to fresh water, and because the ODPM has missed the chance to demand sustainable housing. The Environment Agency has stated £80bn of property could be damaged by floods in the Gateway and that massive investment is needed. However, Chris Burnham, a policy adviser at the agency, says: "Flood risk is being addressed. Local authorities must ensure that vulnerable developments are not placed in higher risk areas."

Meanwhile, fresh water supplies are a problem, too. Plans for a desalination facility in Beckton were rejected by London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, last year. Thames Water has already exploded plans to build 30,000 homes in Harlow, further north, by explaining that there simply wasn't sufficient capacity to support them.

"The government came up with figures for jobs and housing without any strategic environmental overview," says Jennifer Bates, London campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "Rather than testing if the growth would deliver on social goals or could be accommodated within environmental constraints, it has been a case of 'make it up as we go along'." Piecemeal development

Bates' view is echoed by politicians such as Andrew MacKinlay, Labour MP for Thurrock in the heart of the development zone. "Three years have passed since the Gateway plans were first suggested, but development in my area remains piecemeal," he says. "We need transport, environment, health and education infrastructure. There doesn't seem to have been much joined-up government."

Yvette Cooper, the housing and planning minister, is adamant that all these concerns will be addressed. "We are maximising the environmental opportunities the Gateway provides," she says. "Already 89% of the development is being built on previously used land. We are investing in infrastructure and have already invested £6bn in transport, health and education projects - for example, on local train services on the Channel Tunnel rail link line, and on the joint campus facilities for the universities at Medway. We are also increasing the energy efficiency in new homes by 40%."

Last month, there was belated recognition that the whole plan was in danger of coming off the rails. Fifteen million pounds of public transport funding was made available for Dartford, and plans were announced to improve the energy efficiency of new housing. Last week, a further £15m was rustled up for transport to support new homes.

The formation of a new panel of ministers and quango chiefs to oversee the London part of the regeneration was also announced. They will meet quarterly to discuss progress to assign priorities and "to chart progress" on delivery.

But as critics point out, while getting the individuals who manage the Gateway around the table will help, it may take more than one meeting every 12 weeks to bring the project under control.

Now the green vote matters: Climate Change on the Political Agenda

As a party political issue, the environment has been a slow grower. The fact that two prime ministers-in-waiting are currently raising the political heat over global warming shows how far the topic has travelled up the agenda.

Indeed, the battle for the green vote between the new adversaries intensifies today, with David Cameron revealing he would replace the controversial climate-change levy, the government's prized pollution tax on business, with a new "carbon levy".

In a speech in Oslo following a trip to see Arctic glaciers off Norway, the Tory leader will urge people to embrace change in the way they lead their lives as well as technological innovation to create a greener world.

His words follow a keynote address from Gordon Brown at the UN in New York, in which he defended the climate-change levy, saying it was "central" to the government's approach to cutting CO2 emissions. Over the next five years, it would lower such pollution by six million tonnes, one third of Britain's total carbon reductions by 2010.

"What the levy shows is that by targeting the marginal use of energy, we can provide real market incentives to energy efficiency," he said.

The chancellor also argued that developed countries' economic and environmental objectives increasingly reinforced each other, saying: "We must match growth and justice with environmental care."

Whether the respective words of Mr Cameron and Mr Brown are political hot air or genuine attempts to tackle one of the greatest challenges will ultimately be decided at the ballot box.
But the green agenda has certainly come a long way from relative obscurity.

Back in 1986, the Green party won its first council seat in Stroud. Now it has 70 across England and is hoping to top 100 on May 4. It has seven MSPs, two MEPs and two London assembly members. In Scotland, the Greens are hoping the heavy emphasis on matters environmental will boost their chances at next year's Holyrood elections and see them win their first local-government seats north of the border.

Not surprisingly, George Baxter, their spokesman, views the Tories' new green creed as a cynical attempt to grab votes. Lumping Labour, the LibDems and Tories together as "the grey parties" for their lack of genuine commitment to the environment, he dismissed Mr Cameron's newly acquired emerald sheen as mere glossy packaging. "It's just rhetoric."
Rhetoric or not, the green agenda falls conveniently into the middle of Mr Cameron's brand of modern Conservatism – compassion and quality of life, the elements that will dominate Tory policy in the years ahead.

The Tory leader's declaration of wanting to lead a "new green revolution in Britain" has raised questions about whether he is sincere or is adopting a green veneer to bag votes; his party's slogan for the May 4 elections is "vote blue, go green".

A poll earlier this year confirmed voters were increasingly prepared to make sacrifices to sustain the environment. Around 63% of respondents approved of a green tax to discourage behaviour harmful to the environment.

For the most part, Mr Cameron has avoided detailed policies, saying they are still under review. But he has argued that without economic "green growth", the measures to tackle climate change cannot be afforded.

Guy Thompson, director of the Green Alliance, a leading environmental think tank, described the Tory leader's new-found focus as "useful" in raising the political stakes but insisted the jury was out on new green Conservatism: "We will be looking for solid policy commitments and hope Cameron is not using his party's policy review to buy 18 months of policy-free space."
He said the "acid test" of the Tories' new commitment to the environment would be their position on the government's energy review – and specifically on nuclear power.

Mr Thompson said it would certainly put "green water" between the Conservatives and Labour if Mr Cameron decided his party would be opposed to a new generation of nuclear power stations.

As for Labour, he added Mr Brown had had a "blind spot" on the environment, which was "something he is having to turn around".

Yesterday, as Mr Cameron gazed at melting icebergs off Norway, the chancellor was in New York telling world leaders climate change needed a global solution. Over the next 48 hours, he will explain how Britain will invest in a new institute for research into alternative sources of energy and will call for an £11bn facility to diversify developing countries' energy supply.
Just to underline the party-political dash for the green vote, a source close to Mr Brown highlighted that while the Tory would-be PM was seeking photo opportunities next to icebergs, the chancellor was telling it like it is to a tough American audience. "Which is the more statesmanlike action?" he asked.

Since it came to power, New Labour has increasingly raised green issues but its actions have failed to satisfy campaigners. While Tony Blair's government will meet the 12.5% Kyoto target on reducing emissions by 2010, it is set to miss its own of 20%, achieving a cut of 15-18%.
In 2004, Professor Sir David King, the government's chief scientist, said the threat to the planet of global warming was worse than from terrorism. Last week, he warned the Earth's temperature was likely to rise by at least 3C, putting 400 million people at risk of hunger and leaving up to three billion without adequate water supplies.

But while the environment will be the stuff of domestic politics in elections to come, expert and non-expert alike realise only by concerted worldwide action can the planet's climate be saved.
America, the world's largest polluter, is relying heavily on new technology to produce the solution; neither George W Bush nor the US Congress is willing to jeopardise Americans' standard of living.

As it develops at breakneck speed, the new kid on the economic block, China, is setting tough targets on limiting energy consumption and reducing pollution. But it has missed them year on year.

Every day, 1000 new cars are estimated to hit the streets of Beijing. There are currently three million private cars in the capital. By 2020, estimates suggest China will have 140 million – more than the US.

David Cameron announces green transport plans.

Guardian Unlimited
David Cameron visited a Surrey airfield to test-drive low-emission vehicles this afternoon as he announced a "radical agenda for greener cars" and said Conservative councils would make it easier for people to walk or cycle on short journeys.

The Conservative leader wants to cut the carbon emitted by the average car from 170g a kilometre now to 100g for new cars by 2022 and for all cars by 2030.

"As I saw for myself in the Arctic, the problem is truly global in scale," Mr Cameron said today. "But the solutions are often local. In Oslo, I saw one part of the solution. In fact I not only saw it, I drove it - a Greenpeace car made from recycled plastic, with an electric engine."

Mr Cameron has already announced his intention to switch his government car from a Vauxhall Omega (276g) to a hybrid Lexus (186g). The much cheaper Toyota Prius (104g) also on offer was deemed too small for Mr Cameron's official entourage, though critics pointed out yesterday that the Prince of Wales drives one.

"He talks the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk," the transport secretary, Alistair Darling, said yesterday, accusing Mr Cameron of preferring "legroom over the environment".

"It still produces too much carbon, but it's a move in the right direction," the Conservative leader said today. "To help tackle climate change, we must be for greener cars, not anti-car. Today, many families want to become greener, and they're looking for more options to go green. We should help them."

The Tory leader said he would launch a new initiative to improve urban public transport later this week. He added that Conservative councils were "determined to make streets and public spaces safer and greener" and make it easier for people to walk and cycle. "We walk less than almost any other Western country bar Greece," he said. "And our cycling rate is 40% below the EU average."

Transport accounts for just over one-quarter of the UK's carbon emissions, a figure that is forecast to rise by one-third over the next generation unless cars become less polluting. Hybrid cars reduce carbon emissions by switching from petrol to electric power when it is more efficient. Only a few small cars currently emit less than 100g a kilometre, but Tory strategists said technological innovation made the party's goal "challenging but efficient".

Mr Cameron said a Conservative government would offer "significant incentives" to buyers of low-emission cars and manufacturers researching hybrids, biofuels and new generation diesel. "I want Britain to be at the forefront of international efforts to build a new generation of motor vehicles that are much less environmentally damaging," he said.

Hybrid cars are already exempt from the London congestion charge. Discounted road tax and parking or exemptions from tolls and other road charges could be used to persuade motorists to switch. But Mr Cameron did not say whether he would increase excise duty for polluting vehicles and added that a road-building programme was still necessary because "some extra road capacity" was needed.

A spokesman for Greenpeace welcomed Mr Cameron's announcement. "It's quite clear that he's seizing the agenda from the government," said Simon Reddy. "It's excellent that he's speaking out."

However, Mr Reddy said Greenpeace wanted to see mandatory targets for manufacturers rather than merely incentives to produce greener cars. The Conservatives should also tax airline fuel and passengers to reduce emissions from aviation, he said. Mr Cameron has refused to say whether he supports a "green" tax on aviation.

Last week, the Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who promised to give up his 20-year-old Jaguar during the leadership campaign, said he had put it up for sale and would be travelling by Underground to some of his local election appointments.

More on the tories and climate change here.


David Cameron Goes for Green Vote

LONDON - In a bid to boost his "green" credentials, Conservative leader David Cameron pledged on Friday to scrap the tax on British industry's use of energy and replace it with a more efficient system.

Cameron, who has made the environment a priority since he took over last December, said he would drop the Climate Change Levy in favour of a tariff which focuses on carbon emissions rather than energy use.

The 39-year-old was speaking in Norway, where he has travelled to witness first-hand the effects of global warming. Critics have called the trip a stunt and nothing more than an expensive photo opportunity.

"Tackling climate change is a key part of my ambition for the Conservative Party to lead a new green revolution," Cameron said.

"I want to recapture climate change from the pessimists. Of course it presents huge challenges. Of course the issues are complex. Of course it will require us to change.

"But when I think about climate change and our response to it, I don't think of doom and gloom, costs and sacrifice. I think of a cleaner, greener world for our children to enjoy and inherit."

Cameron added that his party must not be afraid of using the tax system and market mechanisms to encourage clean new technologies.

The Conservative party has always objected to the Climate Change Levy since it was introduced in 2001, prompting the Labour party to say their opponents were not ready to make the difficult decisions about how to safeguard the environment.

"It is not enough to draft a speech on the back of a fag packet on a dog-sleigh to Norway," the Guardian newspaper quoted a source from Chancellor Gordon Brown's circle as saying.

Cameron, who became the Conservatives' fifth leader in eight years following three election defeats to the Labour party, has focused on issues such as the environment rather than traditional Tory issues like crime and immigration in a bid to change the party's image.

But critics argue that after four months in the job, his announcements are still thin on detail.

There is a review of recent tory posturing on climate change here.


Friday, April 21, 2006

David Cameron outlines carbon tax plan

This is quite interesting for us in the UK. Our govornment have performed fairly miserably in terms of serious climate policies at the domestic level, despite strong words internationally. The conservatives, traditionally the right wing, free market foes of environmentalists have picked up on climate change in a big way, progress looks like the only way now. Lets hope something comes of this bipartisan agreement on the necessity of action.

The tax system could be used to encourage environmentally friendly behaviour, David Cameron has said.

In a key note speech on global warming, made during a visit to Norway, the Conservative leader also spelled out his plans for an alternative to the climate change levy.

He called for both local initiatives and action on a global scale in order to prevent climate change having a major impact on the planet.

And he said that the time has come for "a new green revolution".
"Tackling climate change will require genuinely fresh thinking," Cameron argued.
"We must not be afraid of using the tax system and market mechanisms to encourage investment in, and take up of, clean new technologies which will transform the way we do business, create new markets, and reduce our impact on the planet.

"We must make sure that the various methods we use amount to a coherent whole, ensuring the carbon is priced effectively.

"It isn't the job of government to pick technologies. It isn't the job of government to tell people how to live their lives.

"It is the job of government to set a rational framework within which producers and consumers recognise the environmental cost of carbon because it comes home to them as an actual money-cost."

He said that a system of 'carbon pricing' covering the entire British economy is one policy option to be looked at by Conservative policy task forces.
The Tory chief pledged that "the overall effect of the framework" will be fiscally neutral.

"Activities which produce more carbon emission will cost more, those that produce fewer emissions will cost less. And the net effect will be neutral,"
he said.

He renewed calls for the government's climate change levy to be scrapped.

"The climate change levy is a tax on energy consumed by business,"

he said.
"It fails to make sufficient distinction between energy produced from low carbon sources and energy produced from high carbon sources.

"The climate change levy should therefore be replaced by a carbon levy which better distinguishes between high and low carbon production of energy, and which retains fiscal neutrality.

"I have asked our quality of life policy group and those involved in our energy review to recommend what form the new carbon levy should take, as part of a package of measures to price carbon and to deliver lower carbon emissions across the economy.

"In particular, I have asked the group to consider whether the carbon levy should operate as a business tax (like the climate change levy) or as a market mechanism, in which low carbon energy production and business use is encouraged through tradeable credits."
Cameron added:

"Tackling climate change is a key part of my ambition for the Conservative Party to lead a new green revolution.

"I want to recapture climate change from the pessimists. Of course it presents huge challenges. Of course the issues are complex. Of course it will require us to change.

"But when I think about climate change and our response to it, I don’t think of doom and gloom, costs and sacrifice.

"I think of a cleaner, greener world for our children to enjoy and inherit.
"I think of the almost unlimited power of innovation, the new technologies, the new products and services, and the progress they can bring for our planet and all mankind.
"And I think of the exciting possibilities that may seem a distant dream today - changing the way we live to improve our quality of life.
"We've all got to get positive about climate change."


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

China yet again embareses the federal govornmenent of the US

BEIJING, March 29 -- China proposes to reduce emissions by millions of tons over the next 20 years in an effort to help reduce global warming through energy-saving technologies.

Minister of Construction Wang Guangtao said yesterday China will lessen its greenhouse emissions by 846 million tons annually if all new buildings were installed with energy-saving technologies. The construction sector takes up nearly 40 per cent of China's total energy consumption.

By 2020, China's per capita living space will be double what it is now, as 30 billion square metres of housing will have been constructed.

"If all of the national energy-saving standards have been fully implemented by 2020, China will be greatly contributing towards curbing global warming," said Wang.

At yesterday's opening ceremony of an international exhibition and forum on green and smart buildings in Beijing, Wang did not link the proposed emission cuts to the international cleaner development mechanism (CDM) projects currently under the framework of the UN's Kyoto Protocol.

Vice-Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing said the potential emission reduction could bring "many business opportunities" for domestic real estate developers, who are allowed to trade the reduced emission quota to developed countries.

Under CDM, developed countries can carry out emission-reduction projects in developing countries through financial and technical co-operation, and this would count towards their emission targets.

Wang said China has already set "year-to-year targets" in its national energy-saving campaign in real estate development.

By 2010, all new buildings should be 50 per cent more energy efficient than 2005 and 65 per cent more efficient by 2020.

The government plans to save 20 per cent of energy by 2010 on the basis of 2005 consumption.

Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan yesterday said the campaign was crucial because the country continued to face shortages of resources. "If we don't take action now the situation will become worse," said Zeng.

To make the buildings more energy efficient, Qiu said environmental impact evaluations would be carried out during construction and when choosing what materials and machinery to install.

The exhibition included innovative ideas such as using solar cookers in kitchens, setting-up smart wind power generators above buildings and letting intelligent systems control heating or cooling.

Statistics show only 15 per cent of China's new buildings since 2000 can be called environmentally friendly, and this may be due to the extra cost associated with more environmentally friendly buildings.

"The extra cost is the major reason why the market is slow to react to the campaign," said Zhang Jun, a Beijing-based real estate developer.

To encourage the promotion of energy-saving buildings, Zhang said the government should put in place an economic incentive mechanism, for example, preferential tax reductions on such buildings.

Japanese Solar Market to Grow 30-40% a Year until FY2008

Driven by a strong demand in Germany and other European countries, the Japanese solar industry is expected to grow 30 to 40 percent a year, with a focus on exports. Annual market demand for Japan's photovoltaic equipment industry in fiscal 2008 will be 2,350,050 kilowatts (367 percent of the 2004 level) based on the shipment in terms of power generation capacity, according to a report by Yano Research Institute Ltd. As part of the firm's extensive study on new energy system markets, this 2005 report on solar photovoltaics was compiled based on interviews with manufacturers in the relevant fields, statistics, questionnaires and other data collected between April and June 2005.

The total capacity of the photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules shipped in fiscal 2004 including exports was estimated at 640,136 kilowatts. The market for residential solar power systems, the primary applications of photovoltaics, reached 359.5 billion yen (about U.S.$3.07 billion) in fiscal 2004, with 58,600 units installed, the report said. Of all the residential systems installed in fiscal 2004, 80.6 percent were for existing homes.

The report predicts that PV systems for existing homes will continue to lead the market. In fiscal 2008, the number of units installed is projected to reach 147,600 (252 percent of the 2004 level), which will be worth 698.9 billion yen (about U.S.$5.97 billion), or 194 percent of the 2004 level. Specifically, 457.5 billion yen (about U.S.$3.91 billion) is for new homes and 241.3 billion yen (about U.S.$2.06 billion) for existing homes, both of which will represent 185 percent and 215 percent of the 2004 levels, respectively.

The use of PV systems in the public sector was also surveyed through questionnaires sent to municipal governments. Of 242 respondents, 55.6 percent answered that they had "already installed one or more PV systems," while 23.2 percent replied that they "are considering the introduction of new or additional PV systems." When asked about the purpose of new/additional installation (multiple choices allowed), by far the largest number of respondents (91.4 percent) cited "environmental education and awareness promotion," followed by "reduction in carbon dioxide emissions" (74.1 percent) and "energy savings" (63.8 percent). The intended installation sites were "school buildings" (51.7 percent), "municipal office buildings" (22.4 percent), "street lights" (10.3 percent) and others. These results show that the installation of PV systems on educational facilities is most likely to increase in the public sector.

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BP and DuPont Receive Top Scores in First-Ever Ranking of 100 Global Companies on Climate Change Strategies

BOSTON - After years of inaction, a growing number of leading U.S. companies are confronting the business challenges from global warming, recognizing that greenhouse gas limits are inevitable and that they cannot risk falling behind their international competitors in developing climate-friendly technologies. Some U.S. companies, such as General Electric, are catching up and joining DuPont and Alcoa in leading their industries. But many others are still largely ignoring the climate issue with 'business as usual' strategies that may be putting their companies and shareholders at risk.

These are among the key findings of a first-ever report issued today by the Ceres investor coalition that analyzes how 100 leading companies are addressing the growing financial risks and opportunities from climate change-whether from expanding greenhouse gas regulations, direct physical impacts or surging demand for climate-friendly technologies. Altogether, 76 U.S. companies and 24 non-U.S. companies in 10 business sectors are profiled in the report.

"More U.S. companies realize that climate change is an enormous business issue that they need to manage immediately," said Mindy S. Lubber, president at Ceres, which published the report Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection. "Investor pressure, expanding greenhouse gas limits and surging global demand for clean-energy products are compelling U.S. businesses to act, although many others still fail to recognize the enormity of this issue. Ultimately, management and board members at all 100 of these companies need to make climate a top governance priority."

The report uses a "Climate Governance Checklist" to evaluate how major industrial corporations are addressing climate change in five broad areas: board oversight, management performance, public disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions accounting and strategic planning. The report took nine months to complete and uses data from securities filings, company reports, company websites, third-party questionnaires and direct company communications.

Using a 100-point scoring system, the report ranked the largest companies in the oil/gas, electric power, auto, chemical, industrial equipment, mining/metals, coal, food products, forest products and air transportation sectors, with operations in the United States. The scoring system gave most credit to companies with a sustained commitment to controlling greenhouse gas emissions, disclosing data and strategies, supporting regulatory actions, and taking practical, near-term steps to find lasting solutions to climate change.

Among the industry sector leaders and laggards:
Sector Leaders Laggards
Oil/Gas BP (90 points*) ExxonMobil (35)
Chemical DuPont (85**) PPG (21)
Metals/Mining Alcan (77) & Alcoa (74) Newmont (24)
Electric Power AEP & Cinergy (both 73) Sempra Energy (24)
Auto Toyota (65) Nissan (33)

* Top score among the 100 companies
**Top score among 76 U.S. companies

Over two-dozen institutional investors requested the Ceres report, prepared by the Investor Responsibility Research Center, as part of an action plan announced at the Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk last May at the United Nations. The investors are part of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), an alliance of U.S. institutional investors coordinated by Ceres that collectively manage about $3 trillion in assets.

"This report is extremely valuable because it provides investors with an unprecedented window into how companies most affected by climate risk are responding at the board level, through CEO leadership, and in strategic planning," said Connecticut State Treasurer Denise L. Nappier, whose $22 billion investment fund is among 50 institutional investors in INCR. "While strong climate governance practices are not yet the norm at U.S. companies, this report plainly illustrates that there are industry leaders showing the way."

Foreign companies such as BP, Toyota, Alcan, Unilever and Rio Tinto had the highest scores in five of the nine sectors that included both U.S. and non-U.S. firms. American companies - DuPont, General Electric, International Paper and United Parcel Service - led in the other four sectors. (In the electric power sector, only American companies were analyzed.)

The report's overall results are encouraging. In 2003, Ceres released a report on 20 companies showing that major U.S. businesses were doing little to address climate challenge. By contrast, this report shows that leading companies in many key industries are now tackling the issue at the highest level, with boards conducting strategic assessments and management setting performance goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing new climate-friendly products.

DuPont, the leading scorer among U.S. firms has reduced its GHG emissions 72 percent since 1990 and developed forward-thinking commercial products such as energy-efficient building materials, components for solar, wind and fuel cell systems and next-generation refrigerants with low global warming potential.

The report also shows, however, that dozens of U.S. businesses in various climate vulnerable sectors - including leading electric power and oil companies - are still largely dismissing the issue or failing to articulate clear strategies to meet the challenge. Low climate governance scores also were prevalent among entire sectors, including: coal companies, which are especially vulnerable to greenhouse gas regulations; food and forest product companies, which are vulnerable to natural resource impacts from climate change; and airlines, one of the fastest growing sources of CO2 emissions.

"I commend the companies that have willingly accepted the risks and opportunities that climate change presents. America must be a leader in climate friendly technologies," said California State Treasurer Phil Angelides, a co-founder of INCR and board member at two of the nation's largest public pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, which collectively manage more than $300 billion in assets. "These findings - that a growing number of leading U.S. businesses are focusing on global warming - should be a wake up call to investors: we need to continue to press poor-performing companies to clean up their act."

Douglas Cogan, principal author of today's report and the 2003 report, says he sees important progress by U.S. companies that are beginning to build climate change into their governance practices and strategic planning. In the past two years, Cogan cited such as examples as:
General Electric's launch of 'ecoimagination', a plan to double investments in climate-friendly technologies and reach $20 billion in annual sales by 2010.
Ford Motor's announcement that it will boost production of hybrid vehicles tenfold by 2010.
Chevron's decision to add renewable technologies into its energy portfolio and set targets to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.
American Electric Power's decision to build the nation's first commercial-scale coal gasification power plant, a "clean coal" technology that is says is the "right investment" given foreseeable greenhouse gas regulations in the U.S.
These companies join others, like DuPont and Alcoa that have had climate change governance strategies in place for more than a decade.

Lubber, of Ceres, also cited BP, the top-scoring company overall, which has set long-term greenhouse gas reduction targets and is planning to invest $8 billion in solar, wind, hydrogen and other clean-energy technologies in the next decade. "BP understands and is promoting the fact that all companies must work to reduce their carbon footprint, starting with fossil fuels," she said.

Still, Cogan acknowledges that the challenge ahead for all companies, including BP and other leaders, is enormous, given that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced substantially below current levels to stop rising global temperatures. Businesses that are most successful in implementing climate change strategies, Cogan said, will be those that look beyond short-term thinking and the gridlock that currently grips Washington on this issue.

"Typically, CEOs and boards look out only three to five years when making investment decisions - about as long as they serve in their leadership roles," Cogan said. "But the assets they put into place last much longer. Building a new conventional coal plant or a new engine factory for SUVs might make sense under 'business as usual' thinking, but what will happen to these facilities in five or 10 years, when they're still not fully depreciated but facing carbon emission constraints?"

Investors offered specific recommendations for how board members, company executives, investors and Wall Street analysts should use the report:

Board members should raise the report's findings with management and set guidance to improve company practices.

Company executives should benchmark their performance against their industry peers, and take steps outlined in the report to manage climate risks and opportunities and improve their governance scores.

Investors should go through a similar benchmarking exercise-especially in high-risk sectors such as electric power, oil/gas, coal and the auto industry-and urge companies to raise their performance level.

Wall Street analysts should use the information as a basis for rewarding companies that are responding to these challenges, and assigning greater risk to those that are not.


European Plant Diversity is Threatened by Climate Change

Human-induced climate and atmospheric changes are affecting a wide variety of forms of life. Being able to build models predicting the effects of climate change is of crucial importance to enable environment policy makers to engage adapted actions to reduce greenhouse gas emmissions.

European Commission 16.03.2006.

An international team involving researchers from France, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom has recently developed predictions on the potential effects of climate change on a sample of 1,350 plants, representative of the European plant species, for the period 2051-2080. To build their predictions, the authors used four of the scenarios proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), namely scenarios A1, A2, B1, and B2. These scenarios differ on their assumptions on the evolution of technology and economic and population growths. The authors also assessed three climate models relating species distributions to bioclimatic variables. However, only the most consensual model was considered for each scenario.

The authors used two hypotheses concerning the potential migration of plant species across Europe to find a more suitable climatic area for their survival: no migration and universal migration. The “no migration” hypothesis was used to estimate the potential number of species losses after the disappearance of their climatic niche. In contrast, the “universal migration” hypothesis was used to estimate the potential gains and turnovers of plant species following climate changes.

The results of this study led to great variations in predictions of plant species losses across scenarios. However, the authors estimate that more than half of the European plant species could be vulnerable or threatened by 2080. The authors also suggest that plant species losses and turnovers correlate two climatic key factors: temperature and moisture conditions.

Within a single scenario, authors report great variations across regions. The obtained results suggest that plants in mountainous regions are the most vulnerable. In contrast, plants in the Mediterranean and the Pannonian regions seem to be the most resistant to the effects of climate change. The authors also identified a transition zone including the Boreal and Pannonian regions where great species mixing is expected to occur between 2051 and 2080.

This study has considered the potential consequences of different climate change scenarios on the survival of European plant species. Its conclusions indicate that plant species are unevenly but substantially threatened by climate change. Continuing the ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gases emissions could mitigate the climate change detrimental effects on the conservation of biodiversity.

Source: Thuiller W. et al. (2005) « Climate change threats to plant diversity in Europe », Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102(23):8245-8250.

Prince Albert of Monaco Takes Pole Position Against Global Warming

(Newswire Today) — Guildford United Kingdom, 2006-03-11 - Less than a year after succeeding to the throne, Prince Albert of Monaco is swapping the luxury of his palace for the wilds of the North Pole to highlight global warming.

More used to Grand Prix cars than dog sleighs, Monaco’s Prince Albert’s forthcoming trek to the North Pole has been greeted with surprise by many.

But the Prince is fairly accustomed to the cold, in contrast to the Mediterranean warmth of Monaco where he became ruler last July following the passing of his father Prince Rainier, who had ruled the tax haven for over 50 years.

Albert represented Monaco at the last five Winter Olympic Games in their Bobsleigh team. And he is going to face some cold and hostile conditions on his seven day trip to bring to the attention of fellow world leaders the environmental damage to the arctic regions that global warming is having.

Speaking at a recent news conference in Monaco, Albert explained his thinking behind the trip to assembled journalists.

‘If in our modest way, by this action we are able to bring environmental problems to the forefront and force some leaders to take stronger actions, this expedition will have achieved its objectives’.

Environmentalists have welcomed Albert’s expedition, and his image in the world’s media is changing from that of a playboy millionaire to a responsible leader.

In 2002 47 year old Prince Albert agreed to a DNA test to show whether he was the father to a boy born to a former air hostess he had had a relationship with, and more recently has been linked by the press with 28 year old South African swimming champion Charlene Wittstock.

But one of the first actions he took after succeeding to the throne was to sign the Kyoto Protocol, taking Monaco outside of the small group of countries that had failed to ratify the treaty, designed to reduce the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

Monaco Grand Prix

The Monaco Prince Albert inherited from his father is now the world’s best known tax haven, and the ultimate European destination for luxury hotels, including the Hotel de Paris, frequently quoted in guides as among the top ten in the world.

One local on-line travel guide comment that Prince Albert’s interest in the world’s environment sets a different agenda than that of his father, who transformed the principality in his reign into an economically safe country for the world’s wealthy to live and invest.

Residents of the principality enjoy a zero rated income tax.

As well as being a tax haven, Monaco hosts the best known Formula 1 Grand Prix of the year around the streets of Monte Carlo and Fontvieille in May. Over recent years Monaco has also become a destination of choice for the super-rich in September, when it hosts the Monaco Yacht Show.

And while the Grand Prix and Yacht Show fill the hotels in Monte Carlo and Monaco each year, and on an everyday basis every second car seems to be an Aston Martin or Ferrari, locals hope that Prince Albert doesn’t look too close to home when it comes to his concern for the environment. Cancelling the Monaco Grand Prix in 2007 to show his concern for the environment would certainly grab world headlines, but might not be a popular decision among his subjects.

Locals feel that there is little danger of this though – Albert is after all the son of Hollywood star Grace Kelly, and future media appearances could just as well be in celebrity magazines as environmental campaign ones.


NASA Survey Confirms Climate Warming Impact on Polar Ice Sheets

In the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken of the massive ice sheets covering both Greenland and Antarctica, NASA scientists confirm climate warming is changing how much water remains locked in Earth's largest storehouses of ice and snow.

"If the trends we're seeing continue and climate warming continues as predicted, the polar ice sheets could change dramatically," said survey lead author Jay Zwally of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "The Greenland ice sheet could be facing an irreversible decline by the end of the century."

Other recent studies have shown increasing losses of ice in parts of these sheets. This new survey is the first to inventory the losses of ice and the addition of new snow on both in a consistent and comprehensive way throughout an entire decade.

The survey shows there was a net loss of ice from the combined polar ice sheets between 1992 and 2002 and a corresponding rise in sea level. The survey documented for the first time extensive thinning of the West Antarctic ice shelves, an increase in snowfall in the interior of Greenland and thinning at the edges. All are signs of a warming climate predicted by computer models.

The survey combines new satellite mapping of the height of the ice sheets from two European Space Agency satellites. It also used previous NASA airborne mapping of the edges of the Greenland ice sheets to determine how fast the thickness is changing. Researchers used nine years of elevation mapping over much of Antarctica and 10.5 years of data over Greenland from the European Remote-sensing Satellites 1 and 2. The survey pinpointed where the ice sheets were thinning and where they were growing.

In Greenland, the survey saw large ice losses along the southeastern coast and a large increase in ice thickness at higher elevations in the interior due to relatively high rates of snowfall. This study suggests there was a slight gain in the total mass of frozen water in the ice sheet over the decade studied, contrary to previous assessments.

According to Zwally, this situation may have changed in just the past few years. Last month NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., reported a speed up of ice flow into the sea from several Greenland glaciers. That study included observations through 2005; Zwally's survey concluded with 2002 data.

"The melting of ice at the edges of the ice sheet is also increasing, which causes the ice to flow faster," Zwally said. "A race is going on in Greenland between these competing forces of snow build-up in the interior and ice loss on the edges. But we don't know how long they will be approximately in balance with each other or if that balance has already tipped in favor of the recently accelerating outflow from glaciers."

The situation was very different in Antarctica. The ice sheets had a major net loss of ice due to outflow from West Antarctica. These losses, which may have been going on for decades, outweighed the gains in snow and ice seen in the East Antarctic ice sheet and parts of West Antarctica. Also thinning were the ice shelves around West Antarctica, where temperatures have been increasing. The floating ice shelves are vulnerable to climate change. Some ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula have totally disintegrated in recent years, allowing the ice from the land to move into the ocean faster.

When the scientists added up the gains and losses of ice from the Greenland and Antarctic sheets, there was a net loss of ice to the sea. The Greenland ice sheet annually gained approximately 11 billion tons of water, while Antarctica lost about 31 billion tons per year. The 20 billion net tons added to the oceans is equivalent to the amount of fresh water annually used in homes, businesses and farming in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

"The study indicates that the contribution of the ice sheets to sea-level rise during the decade studied was much smaller than expected, just two percent of the recent increase of nearly three millimeters (0.12 inches) a year," Zwally said. "Current estimates of the other major sources of sea-level rise - expansion of the ocean by warming temperatures and runoff from low-latitude glaciers - do not make up the difference, so we have a mystery on our hands as to where the water is coming from. Continuing research using NASA satellites and other data will narrow the uncertainties in this important issue and help solve the mystery."

The survey was published this week in the Journal of Glaciology ( For more information about the research and images on the Web, visit:


Forecast shows Africa to face river crisis

Africa's rivers face dramatic disruption that will leave a quarter of the continent severely short of water by the end of the century, according to a global warming study published on Friday.

In the first detailed assessment of climate change on the continent's waterways researchers found that watercourses on the continent are highly sensitive to shifts in rainfall patterns. Even modest decreases in rain in western Africa will see rivers lose as much as 80% of their water, triggering a surge of what the scientists call "water refugees".

Maarten de Wit, a climate expert at the University of Cape Town who led the study, said the redrawing of Africa's waterways will pose serious political problems as people displaced by droughts are forced into other countries to be near water.

"In those areas where people have little water as it is, it's going to have a devastating effect," he said. "If you're already walking 5km to the nearest stream to get water it's going to mean walking 30km or moving your whole household.

The study, which appears in the journal Science on Friday, is the first to identify how Africa's rivers will respond to climate change over the century. The extent to which slight changes in rainfall could impact on rivers had never been realised.

The researchers used a computer to divide the continent into 1 000km wide squares and worked out the total length of streams and rivers in each block. They used climate change models to calculate the expected changes in rainfall across the continent and the effect they would have on river levels. The scientists found that in 75% of the countries, those that received between 400mm and 1 000mm of rain a year, shifts in rainfall caused larger than expected rises or falls in river levels. In Harare a 10% drop in rainfall is expected to lead to an 81% drop in fresh water from rivers, a situation the scientists believe will be mirrored in Madagascar, eastern Zambia and Angola.

South Africa, which is experiencing a prolonged drought, can expect far less water from the Orange river. A 10% fall in rain over Johannesburg and Bloemfontein will lead to a 70% drop in river levels.

The study predicts rain will increase over East Africa. Climate change is expected to bring 10% more rain to Tanzania before the end of the century, boosting water course levels by 136%, while Somalia faces a 20% rise in rainfall, leading to more than a 1 000% increase in the water it receives from waterways. However, increased rainfall could lead to more standing water, more mosquitoes, and widespread malaria. - Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006


Former US Vice President Al Gore has expressed his belief that tackling climate change presents the global community with an opportunity to unite around a shared moral purpose. Mr Gore was addressing an audience of business leaders and opinion formers brought together by The Climate Group on the climate change crisis facing the planet.

At the start of his presentation, Mr Gore explained that in Chinese, the word crisis is represented by 2 characters, one meaning danger, one meaning opportunity. His dramatic multi-media presentation addressed both these in the context of global warming.

Images and animation of the earth from space, of glacial retreat and shattering ice, of projected sea level rise and the shut down of the gulf stream were beamed onto the vast screen of London’s Imax cinema as the former Vice President explained the indisputable correlation between C02 and rising temperatures.

But Mr Gore did not dwell simply on the impacts. He was clear that, as well as the economic opportunities associated with moving to a low carbon economy, action on this issue would present a much greater opportunity still – the chance to find a shared moral purpose. According to Mr Gore, “this is a rare opportunity that few generations experience. As we rise to the challenge of climate change the moral clarity and vision we develop will enable us to identify other problems masquerading as political problems that are in fact moral imperatives. The opportunity is there for us to transform the way we go about our lives.”

Mr Gore’s presentation was given to a select audience of opinion formers, business leaders and company representatives gathered together by The Climate Group. However, his message, and his mesmerising presentation, will soon be accessible on a much broader scale with the forthcoming release of the movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

This film, a surprise hit at the Sundance Film Festival, intercuts the multimedia lecture with searching interview footage with the former Vice President. For more information on the movie and release dates click here.

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There is an amazing amount of bullshit with regards climate change comming out of Australia, it beats event the USA at times, this therefore is a great piece of news from my point of view.

South Australian Premier Mike Rann will introduce legislation after parliament opens on April 27 to mandate long term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“This will be the first Government in Australia to ensure that it will be a requirement of law that we reduce greenhouse gases by 60 per cent by 2050,” Premier Rann said.

“The best way to make sure we reduce the flow of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is to legislate to make it happen.

“Anyone who believes that climate change is not a very real and present danger is kidding themselves and this Government will not walk away from its responsibilities to do all we can to combat it.”

The new greenhouse gas legislation will:
> Set a target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.
> Set up a voluntary carbon offset program for business and government.
> Trigger annual reporting by the Minister for Environment on progress with combating climate change.

The Premier, who recently assumed the role of Minister for Climate Change said he wanted the State to be second only to Denmark in the amount of wind generation it has in place.

“We now have 51 per cent of the nation's wind power capacity, with a $1 billion investment in wind power, and more than 45 per cent of Australia’s grid-connected solar power.

“Given that we will likely reach our target of sourcing 15 per cent of electricity from renewable energy by the end of this year, we have increased our goal to 20 per cent - within a decade.

“We intend to make 50 per cent of State Government cars more environmentally friendly fuels by 2010 – stopping more than 2000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, and saving $3.7 million in fuel every year.

“Our schools and public buildings are being fitted with solar power.”

Eminent climate change expert Californian-based Professor Stephen Schneider has just arrived in Adelaide as the State’s latest Thinker in Residence.

Premier Rann said Prof Schneider will provide advice on the development of the Government’s Climate Change legislation and will help finalise and implement the Government’s draft Greenhouse Strategy.

“We want Prof Schneider to help position South Australia as a leader in climate change prevention.”

The Premier also announced the Government will establish a Climate Change and Sustainability Research Centre at Adelaide University, with annual funding of $250,000.

“The unit’s work will link in with the CSIRO’s research, and will focus on how South Australia can adapt to the changes in weather patterns and go even further with renewable energy and sustainable technologies,” Mr Rann said.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

California Bill Calls for Cuts in Emissions

California may become the first state to impose limits on the emissions of all greenhouse gases, under legislation introduced yesterday in the State Assembly.

The bill requires that emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming be reduced by 145 million tons, or 25 percent less than the current forecast, by 2020. That would bring the emissions back to the 1990 level.

The gases in question are produced when fossil fuels are burned, whether in motor vehicles, power plants or other industrial facilities. Many scientists have linked the growing concentration of these gases in the atmosphere to an observed increase in surface temperatures.
The bill, which was introduced by the Assembly speaker, Fabian Núñez, Democrat of Los Angeles, also requires the California Air Resources Board to set up a mandatory emissions reporting and tracking system to ensure compliance with the limits, which many of the state's business leaders have opposed.

The legislation could have more than a statewide impact, because California has traditionally led the nation in pollution-control efforts. Standards and rules established by the air control board have often been emulated by other states.

"As California goes, so goes the rest of the world," said Fran Pavley, a Democratic Assembly member and a co-sponsor of the bill. "As California leads and innovates, we believe that Congress and other states will also implement economywide clean energy standards."
The sponsors of the bill said its emissions limits were in line with goals established last summer by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, in an executive order.

"The speaker said this bill was his top legislative priority this year," said Craig Noble, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group that is supporting the bill. "The governor has said he wants to reduce emissions. That means we have a very good chance of getting a first law in the nation to set statewide limits on emissions."
That could mean a greater reliance on solar and wind-generated energy. Mr. Schwarzenegger also has been promoting the use of hydrogen as an automotive fuel.


ExxonMobil says it recognises the risks of climate change

Oil and gas giant ExxonMobil says it recognises the risks of climate change
but gas fired power and technological advances hold the answer, not renewable resources or carbon trading schemes.

ExxonMobil Australia chairman Mark Nolan says the company does not believe climate change has been conclusively scientifically proven, but it is still taking the risk seriously.

"Our position is that the science is uncertain but given that it is uncertain
there is a risk,"
he says

"We treat the climate change issue very seriously and I
would say that we certainly do a lot to address it."

Mr Nolan told an American Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne that carbon trading schemes did not address the problem in the long term and the company had put this view to the Australian government.

"In talking to the government here, frankly, we are
trying to dissuade them away from that - our focus as a company has always been on the role of technology,"
he said.

Mr Nolan applauded the creation this year of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, made up of the US, Australia, China, India, Japan and Korea, which he said was focussed on finding technological solutions to climate change.

ExxonMobil has forecast that by 2030 global energy demand will increase 50 per cent to 334 million barrels per day of oil equivalent (mbdoe) from current levels of 205 mbdoe.

It says renewable energy will not play a big role and by 2030 will account for only one per cent of Australian demand.

But ExxonMobil forecasts the contribution of gas in Australia will double by 2030 when it will account for 40 per cent of energy needs.

Mr Nolan said tax imbalances were discouraging gas fired power generation, with offshore gas in Victoria taxed by the Commonwealth at more than 15 times the rate of the state tax for coal.

"The biggest near term opportunity for greenhouse gas
reductions in Australia can be achieved without high cost carbon taxes emission trading schemes but simply by levelling the playing field from a tax point of view and encouraging more gas in base load power generation,"
he said

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tokyo Renewable Energy Strategy: Bordering on the Impressive

Initially i wasnt to interested in this as renewable enrgy stratageis come along all the time and the targets are usually pretty lame as they are the first generation...real tough goals are something that can be added after the framework is set up, thats my way of thinking about most these policies. However, this strategy is notable for its breadth, it is 20% renewables by 2020, but 20% of primary energy, not just electricity! That is not usuall as far as i can see, including transport in that, as i think they do is vital for measurablke progress. (After re-reading the article i hope they are clear that 'energy' is not synonomous with 'electricity', 'primary energy' would have made me more confidant, as would any reference to transport)

Bureau of Environment
Tokyo Metropolitan Government

Tokyo Renewable Energy Strategy

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) has carried out innovative projects, including the installation of wind generators in the Tokyo waterfront area, equipping a water treatment plant with one of Japan's largest solar generators, and utilizing exhaust heat and sludge from sewage treatment plants.

Renewable energy use and energy efficiency are the keys to measure to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Also, as a city facing the risk of periodic
earthquakes, an effective integration of energy policy and disaster preparedness/mitigation policy is needed. Furthermore, growing renewable energy market can create new business opportunities.

Therefore, TMG formulated its “Renewable Energy Strategy” to go beyond the level of on-going pilot projects and increase renewable energy use in Tokyo.

Outline of the Strategy

The present situation of renewable energy in Tokyo

● Renewable energy supplies about 2.7%of Tokyo's total energy demand.
● Power and heat from waste incineration plants, and solar light and heat are major sources of renewable energy in Tokyo.
The proposition of an ambitious use target
TMG proposes to increase the proportion of renewable energy use out of Tokyo's total energy consumption to aim at around 20 percent by 2020. Here, TMG opens discussion and will set the final target in the TMG Environmental Basic Plan expected to revise in 2008(FY).
● This target is proposed from the view point of being in line with other advanced countries and regions on renewable energy use to avoid serious future effects of global warming.
● Energy use should be reexamined, with the reduction of energy consumption being the major premise.
● Not only can renewable sources be established within Tokyo, but the tremendous purchasing power can also be utilized, thereby boosting levels of renewable energy within Japan as a whole.

Policy directions

● Create demand―Demand-pull policies
● Utilize the character of the natural energy in housing
● Enhancing local energy choice
Policy measures and model projects toward the target
To achieve the target, TMG starts to consider the introduction of effective policy measures, such as information dissemination system on renewable energies and policy measures to promote certain introduction of renewable energy use.
In addition to these policy studies, the TMG will launch pilot projects toward the widespread use of renewable energy. Through these projects TMG can experiment with new uses of renewable energy and methods of collaboration among various entities. These pilot projects will examine the links between demand and policies, ways to increase added value, and ways to create other advantages.

For example:
● Enhancing “Green Purchase” to promote renewable energy use among business, power suppliers and governments
● Promoting citizen-based investment schemes, corporate sponsorship for the installation of renewable energy.
● Promoting design of low energy and comfortable housing with the use of renewable energy.
● Promoting project of solar heat in housing

Western Prairies Face Impending Water Crisis

The Canadian prairies are facing an unprecedented water crisis due to a combination of climate warming, increase in human activity and historic drought, says new research by the University of Alberta's Dr. David Schindler, one of the world's leading environmental scientists.

"The western prairies are worse than other areas of Canada," said Schindler, co-author of a paper published in the journal "Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences," early online edition. "One of the referees on this paper said,
'wow, this is like looking out the window of a locomotive 10 seconds
before the train crashes.' It is a very dire situation".

Although most global studies rank Canada among the top five countries in terms of per-capita water supply, those rankings can be deceptive, argue Schindler and Dr. Bill Donahue, who co-authored the paper. Canada's western prairie provinces (WPP), for example, have an area of 2 million kms that lie in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains and as a result, are the driest large area of southern Canada.

Little research has been done on the cumulative effects of climate warming, drought and human activity on water shortages. Schindler and Donahue found that the biggest threat was a combined one, made up of several ingredients. First, there is now considerable evidence that the 20th century, when settlers arrived, was the wettest century for at least a couple of millenia. What we think of as normal was not normal in the long-term. "Most earlier centuries had one or more prolonged droughts, some of 10-40 years," said Schindler. "So we should probably not expect a second wet century in a row."

Climate warming is a second factor that will exacerbate any droughts. This new research shows that there is already a decline in glaciers that supply water to our rivers, snowpacks are dwindling and there is higher precipitation evaporation. The western prairies have already warmed by two to four degrees and this is expected to double by mid-century, the researchers argue in the paper.

Our rapidly growing population also means we are using more water for industry and agriculture, both of which are increasing as well. Some rivers--the Bow and Oldman in southern Alberta--are already oversubscribed, says Schindler.

Making it worse, we are destroying the features of our watersheds that protect these rivers, he said.
"We drain or fill wetlands and destroy our riparian forests--all of the
features that could help our landscape to retain the water it does get."

One reason this dismal situation has been underestimated is that previous analyses have considered total annual flow, which has declined only slightly for most rivers. Schindler and Donahue looked at summer--May to August--flows. This is the period when human demand is at the highest for irrigation, agriculture and municipalities and when coldwater fisheries are vulnerable to high temperature and low oxygen.

Although reducing greenhouse emissions would have the greatest effects several decades from now, it would have little short-term impact, says Schindler. "We cannot replace the glaciers so our only alternative is to get very serious about water conservation and protection of the watersheds that supply our water," he said. For example, it is imperative to use less water for agriculture through drought resistant crops or incentives for water conservation and to consider reusing water and low-flow devices as ways to conserve our supply. We should also consider if and where we want population and industry to increase, said Schindler.

"As we show, the less water available to dilute pollutants, the more water quality problems we will see," said Schindler, adding parts of the southwest United States are currently experience water crises for the same reasons. "I don't think we want to face the same problems Los Angeles or Phoenix has, but they will come unless we start protecting our water."

Bold steps urged on global warming

Many scientists say the world is moving closer to the point at which it will not be able to avert global warming disasters such as drastic climate upheavals and severe rises in sea levels.

There is still time, but stopping or delaying them will require bold changes by both individuals and the government, according to several climate scientists.

Either way, temperatures will rise for decades to come because the chief gas that causes global warming lingers in the atmosphere for about a century.

''We certainly aren't going to stop that 18-wheeler that's rolling down the hill. In the short term, I'm not sure that anyone can stop it," said John Walsh, director of the Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

''The big payoff is going to be for our children," said Tim Barnett, a senior scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

''Together, if we take a concentrated action as a people, we might be able to slow it down enough to avoid these surprises," Barnett added.

Nearly two dozen computer models agree that by 2100, the average yearly global temperature will be 3 to 6 degrees higher than now, said Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Even if today the world suddenly stops producing greenhouse gases, temperatures will rise 1 degree by 2050, the organization said.

A British conference with an aim, it said, of ''avoiding dangerous climate change" concluded last year that a rise of just 3 degrees would probably lead to some catastrophic events, especially the melting of Greenland's polar ice.

A study in the journal Science last month said that the melting, which is happening faster than originally thought, could trigger a 1- to 3-foot rise in global ocean levels.

Stephen Schneider of Stanford University put the odds of a massive Greenland melt at 50-50.

But the chief scientist for the nonprofit ecological group Environmental Defense, Bill Chameides, expressed more hope.
''There's a certain amount of warming that's inevitable, but that doesn't mean that we can't avoid the really dangerous
he said.

Those dangerous things include multicentury melts of polar ice sheets and an accompanying major sea-level rise, abrupt climate change from a dramatic slowing of the ocean current systems, and the permanent loss of glacier-fed ancient water supplies for China, India, and parts of South America.

Despite what scientists say, 70 percent of Americans think it is possible to reduce the effects of global warming, and 59 percent say their individual actions can help, according to a poll commissioned by Environmental Defense as part of its public service campaign.

Climate scientists find themselves trying to balance calculations that lead to scientific despair with public hope.

It takes decades to stabilize emissions of greenhouse gases -- which are spewed by power plants, cars, and factories -- and another half-century after that to slow revved-up ocean warming, so ''you're stuck with say 100 years of warming," Barnett said.

''I believe we are past the point of no return," he said. ''What does the point of no return mean? To me, it means we've reached a point where we are seeing the impacts of global warming . . . The question is: How much worse is it going to get? That is a case in which we can control our destiny -- if we act now."

Both Barnett and Walsh said the question they get most from the public is: What can I do personally about global warming? They tell people to drive less and to drive fuel-efficient cars, and to be more vigilant about heating their homes.

But those efforts alone ''are not going to change us from an irreversible course to a reversible one," Walsh said.

Individual action ''gets you 10, 20, 50 percent of the way," Schneider said.

Many scientists who have long been skeptics of global warming now acknowledge that Earth is getting hotter and that some of the heat is caused by people. Even so, this minority of scientists, such as John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, say that the warming is ''not on this dangerous trajectory."

But Environmental Defense is spending about $1.5 million over three years on public service ads to drive home to the public that warming is on a dangerous track and that individuals can and should do something about it.

The ads, released in late March, are being run for free nationwide, said Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense's executive director.

''We expect at least $100 million worth of time and space over the next two years, so it is a big deal," Krupp said. ''When we are successful in making an issue that every American feels responsible to act on, that in itself can reduce emissions."

Anglican bishops call for serious action on climate change

Anglican bishops call for serious, concerted efforts to grapple with climate change.

Anglican bishops in New Zealand and Fiji have added their voices to
scientists’ pleas for serious moves to be made to tackle the threat of
climate change.

The bishops have issued a statement endorsing last week’s Wellington
conference on climate change, saying that the phenomenon is “a real and
present danger to the future of this planet.”

“Our country,” the bishops say, “needs to be managed and cared for as a
part of God’s creation. Ethics and the environment are closely linked.”

The Anglican bishops say the urgency of confronting the crisis requires
“governments, local governments, businesses and faith communities to
work together…”

One of the bishops who signed the statement, The Rt Rev David Moxon,
Bishop of Waikato, acknowledges that some people may question whether
Christian leaders should involve themselves with such issues.

But the obligation for Christians is clear and inescapable: “God’s
world,” he says, “needs God’s people to act for the redeeming of God’s

The Anglican Church’s Social Justice Commissioner, The Rev Dr Anthony
Dancer, agrees:
“As we prepare to celebrate Easter, Christians recall that through Christ the whole of creation is reconciled or restored to God, and that this places a moral or ethical imperative upon us. "

“To continue to live in a relationship to creation which is distorted,
to subject ourselves to all manner of structures and systems which
cause us to utilize the planet in a way which destroys it, is
completely contrary to the Gospel.

“At the very least,” Dr Dancer says,
“we’re called to be good stewards of that which is given to us. Committing ourselves to carbon neutrality – managing and offsetting our carbon emissions – is an important first step for the Church to take.

“The reality of climate change is without dispute. It’s a reality that
we cannot afford to ignore.

“The time to act,” he says, “has been with us for some time. We need to
make brave decisions, bold decisions, and be willing to stick our necks

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