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Friday, February 20, 2009

Climate news in Europe, 02, 2009

Sorry for the delay, I had a tough week. I had to work. I guess I have to get used to the feeling of being busy :) Anyway, here's the today piece of European history.
Today:
  1. EU nations urged to speed up energy-saving measures
  2. EU pressures developing nations to cut emissions
  3. Airlines prepare for EU carbon trading scheme
  4. Call for 'carbon reserve' as CO2 prices hit record low
  5. World heading for 'water bankruptcy'
  6. Norway voices bold ambitions for offshore wind

EU nations urged to speed up energy-saving measures

27 January 2009

EU countries could make the most of their energy-saving potential by implementing best practices in fields like financial incentives and improving public awareness of energy efficiency, according to the results of a parliamentary project published on 26 January.

The National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAP), submitted by member states in 2007 in response to an EU directive on energy efficiency, initiated a mutual learning process.

The body, set up by MEPs to promote concrete measures for energy efficiency, identified lack of knowledge as a major obstacle to tapping into energy-saving potential. The full potential of efficiency (saving half of current consumption) can only be realised if member states provide their households, companies and authorities with specific information.

Furthermore, energy audits providing the data necessary to prompt investors to make energy-saving investments are considered crucial, particularly combined with financial incentives.

The public sector should step up as a role model, as it has done in the UK and the Netherlands, for example, where the central governments are aiming to use zero-carbon buildings by 2012, it continues.

Energy Efficiency Watch calls for a more prominent role for measures in sectors such as transport and construction. source

My comment: It's amazing to listen and listen the same song on and on again and not to see any effect from it. Energy efficiency can be so EASY if implemented on the most basic level-from households. I'm not saying that big projects and regulations shouldn't be created. But they are majorly underestimating the power of inertia. Inertia can be a good thing, if used the right way. Once you get into people's heads that energy efficiency means less bills for them, they will do it and they will require from producers to provide according goods. It's so easy. You just have to want to do it. But then, who will win from the ever-decreasing electricity bills. Not electricity companies for sure!

EU pressures developing nations to cut emissions

29 January 2009

The European Commission yesterday (28 January) presented proposals for a global agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, urging rapidly developing countries such as China and India to take on their fair share of responsibility in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Presenting the proposalPdf external in Brussels, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas made clear that the bulk of funding for developing countries will need to come from the private sector and the carbon market.

According to the EU executive, action by the developed economies of the OECD will not suffice on its own, because emissions in the developing world are growing rapidly and threaten to outweigh their efforts.

The EU is therefore proposing that developing countries - including China and India but with the exception of Africa's least-developed countries - should slow their emission growth by 15-30% below business-as-usual levels by 2020.

Dimas is proposing that developing countries adopt far-reaching low carbon strategies, using domestic resources and regulation, which can mobilise and shift private sector investment towards cleaner technologies. Public funding will be provided by the international community to cover investments that cannot be financed with domestic resources, explains the Commission. source

My comment: Oh yeah. I'm only worried that if they exclude Africa from the equation, everyone will rush to Africa to pollute. And while that might provide money for the poor population, I'm not sure that's a cost they should pay. In any such draft, it must be made crystal clear that companies should pay for their emissions, probably both where they produce and where they sell.

Airlines prepare for EU carbon trading scheme

2 February 2009

A directive incorporating aviation into the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) entered into force today (2 February), obliging member states to put in place appropriate legislation within a year.

All flights landing or taking off from EU airports will have to buy CO2 allowances under the bloc's cap-and-trade system under the new directive. Trading officially begins in 2012, while member states have a year to transpose the directive into national law.

Furthermore, each carrier operating flights to or from the EU will now have to submit a plan describing how it intends to monitor and report on emissions. source

My comment: I don't entirely get it what exactly entered in force, if the airlines will have to purchase their allowances from 2012, but I guess the idea is that from now on, member states should work on the national legislations. Of course, I support the inclusion of airlines in the scheme.

Call for 'carbon reserve' as CO2 prices hit record low

9 February 2009

The economic slump is threatening to derail the EU's nascent carbon market, with declining industrial demand reducing the price of CO2 emission allowances to record lows last week.

Mark Lewis, director of global carbon research at Deutsche Bank, proposed on Friday (6 February) to establish a reserve price for EU emissions allowances (EUAs) to avoid a price collapse in the third phase of the bloc's trading scheme, which starts in 2013.

Speaking in Brussels, Lewis argued that because allowances are bankable from one phase to another, such a reserve price for the next stage of the emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) would increase the value of allowances today, as buyers know that they will be worth more in the future.

EUA prices slumped to €9.99 per unit on 4 February, the lowest daily value so far for the current second phase.

Industrial emitters were selling their surplus allowances heavily at the beginning of the year to raise capital, believe Point Carbon.

As a result, the market has shrunk by a third since last November, according to Point Carbon's data. It estimated that the value of EUAs traded had fallen by 38%, from some €322 million a day in November to roughly €208 million in January.

By contrast, Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs did not consider low carbon prices to be a cause for concern.

However, according to Lewis, free allocation of allowances is a fundamental problem, ingrained in the third phase too, which is set to begin in 2013. This means the market price for carbon does not reflect supply and demand, he said.

According to Lewis, the EU ETS should have included better institutional arrangements in the first place, claiming that establishing a Carbon Central Bank would have increased confidence in the market. source

My comment: A Carbon Central Bank sounds cool. Or troubling. Or both. I think he has a point. At the moment, carbon offsets are too free to be valuable. And that wasn't the idea-what kind of incentive is something you receive for free. But then, if you can bank your allowances for later, and you obtain them freely anyway, then this could lead to a real disaster. Or a wonder for the people who would sell them later. But again, that wasn't the idea!

World heading for 'water bankruptcy'

6 February 2009

Sustained economic growth, human security and political stability over the next two decades depend on how water is managed, warns the World Economic Forum in a report urging governments and businesses to address consistent under-charging, waste and overuse of water.

Discussed last week at the forum's annual meeting in Davos, the report on managing future water needs argues that "we are now on the verge of water bankruptcy in many places, with no way of paying the debt back".

Many of the "regional water bubbles" are already bursting in parts of China, the Middle East, the southwestern US and India, and "more will follow", with serious consequences for regional economic and political stability, the report continues.

Climate change further adds to the urgent need to manage water efficiently, the report notes. In many parts of the world, glaciers act as "water banks". For example, melting glaciers in the Himalayas and Tibet alone will cause serious water supply problems for more than two billion people, it predicts.

Referring to a UN-sponsored 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment , the report underlines that 70 of the world's major rivers are "near [their] maximum extraction levels to supply water for irrigation systems and for reservoirs".

Meanwhile, growing global demand for food is set to place more pressure on water resources for agriculture.

Discussing the findings, Davos participants noted that while economic stimulus plans include huge investments in improving agriculture, infrastructure, clean energy and trade, politicians "unfortunately rarely invest in improving the resource on which those outcomes depend: water".

Most governments, they argue, fail to realise how "intimately" other policies are linked to water policy, or simply refuse to introduce water pricing policies by fear of losing elections. source

My comment: It really is hard to convince people that water can be a scarcity, especially on places where water was always abundant. But that will change, one way or another. But the term "water bankruptcy" is little too much for me.

Norway voices bold ambitions for offshore wind

3 February 2009

As the EU embarks on ambitious plans to boost its use of renewable energies, the oil-rich Nordic country is seeking to diversify its offering and swamp EU consumers with green electricity produced by large-scale offshore wind farms.

Speaking in January during a Brussels round table on renewable energy, Elisabeth Walaas, Norway's deputy foreign minister, said offshore wind had "huge potential for Norway".

According to wind mapping studies, the Nordic state ranks second only to Portugal in terms of offshore wind potential. The country already covers 60% of its overall needs with renewable energy, "which is three times as much as the EU's 2020 target". For renewable electricity, the share soars to 99%, thanks to the country's long-standing reliance on hydro power.

And with the EU’s 20% renewable objectives having to be met by 2020, Walaas believes Norway has "the potential to contribute" by exporting more of its green power to Europe.

Stubholt believes offshore wind will not only help meet European demand, but will also "decarbonise" the production of oil and gas, Norway's main export to the EU.

However, Deputy Foreign Minister Walaas said "technological challenges" specific to offshore wind remained, as the most promising areas are situated in deep waters and in areas where seas are particularly rough.

According to Sjur Bratland, an advisor at StatoilHydro, the Norwegian state-owned energy firm, the way forward is to develop floating windmills, a technology he says "can bring wind power into a new era".

Demonstration models have already been developed and the next stage will be to fit the technology onto medium and then large-scale wind farms that can operate in harsh natural environments. But bringing this kind of development could take up to ten years to achieve, Bratland explained.

Another challenge, Walaas pointed out, is that the current electricity grid infrastructure is "insufficient". There is an undersea cable linking Norway to the Netherlands , and more interconnections are being discussed with Denmark and the UK. But a fully-fledged offshore grid is not expected before 2020 at the earliest.

A 'supergrid' linking countries around the North Sea has been under discussion for some time. It is one of the priority projects highlighted by the European Commission in its recent proposal for an economic recovery plan (EurActiv 29/01/09). source

My comment: Hats down for Norway! I'm so happy to hear that at least someone is taking environmental problems seriously. And notice, they will only profit from their decisions to go for renewables. Wonderful. At least one good news!

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