Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Big firms lack climate change plans

Here is a story about the lack of 'climate change planning' by many BIG Australian firms. Why do I find this a suprise? Well I don't really. I know smart firms are already doing major things to reduce their emissions and environmental damage because they realise the money that can be saved (e.g. from energy savings or reduced wastage) and the benefits from a positive 'green image' in the marketplace. I felt that many firms could lift their game, but was suprised that 78% of large firms had not taken ANY action on climate change.

Sounds like there is still plenty of low-lying fruit to be picked if they haven't done anything. Perhaps many still see climate change as a 'cost' rather than an opportunity to save money, get an advantage over their competitors (e.g. making 'greener' products than their competitors) or better plan for the future of their business by ensuring that they don't fall behind because of poor outdated methods, products or services. Increasingly people want to do the right thing (although this means very different things to many people such as buying the new 'greener' BMW or becoming a vegetarian or reducing consumption of unnessessary items or buying local products) and they want businees to also do the right thing. The world is changing faster than ever before and it is critical that businesses doesn't get left behind. The biggest mistake they could make would be to go into their shells and try and ignore the coming greening of business.

Anyway, here is the story . . .

January 30, 2008

LESS than 3 per cent of major Australian firms have implemented a climate change plan even though the Federal Government intends to bring in new carbon emission laws by 2010, a survey shows.

Less than one in five firms see climate change as a present risk.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of CEOs and chief financial officers of 303 Australian companies with a turnover of more than $150 million, found that 67 per cent of firms were unsure about their compliance obligations on climate change.

Some 78 per cent of firms polled had not taken any action and 98 per cent had not implemented a strategic response to address climate change risks.

Only 8 per cent believed that climate change posed a present risk to their business.

"The main conclusion from the survey is that while Australian business leaders are aware of climate change as an issue and are keen to know more about how to how to respond, they are not ready for a carbon-constrained economy,'' the report compiled in November said.

"Some 15 per cent thought climate change would be a risk in 12 months while 29 per cent of respondents saw it as a risk in 2012".

More here:

Scotland plans 80% emissions reduction by 2050

Here is a news-story on Scotland setting an 80% reduction target by 2050. This is good to see and hopefully other natins will follow their lead on this.

SNP Targets 80% Emissions Reduction By 2050
29 January, 2008

The SNP government today launched its ambitious plans to tackle climate change with the publication of the Scottish Climate Change Bill Consultation.

The proposal for a statutory target to reduce Scottish "emissions" (either carbon dioxide or a basket of 6 greenhouse gases) by 80 per cent by 2050 is one of the key components of the consultation.

It also includes a proposal for an annual report on progress in achieving government targets; creating a framework of carbon budgets for Scottish emissions to set out a pathway towards the 2050 target; and publishing "transparent, robust and independent advice on when, and to what level, cuts in emissions should be made."

Launching the consultation John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth said:

"The Scottish Government is determined to play a leading role in action on climate change. We are proposing to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and we expect others to follow. That is the scale of the challenge that confronts us."

Scotland produces only 0.15% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, a proportion that will fall as large developing countries continue to industrialise, the report notes.

"The actions we take today can bring clear and tangible benefits to Scotland now and in the future. Moving towards a low carbon economy can create new jobs and improve local environments as part of our drive to generate sustainable economic growth."


Flannery's plan: buy forests to help environment

Katharine Murphy, Canberra
January 30, 2008
The Age

AUSTRALIANS could buy a stake in the protection of endangered tropical forests under a groundbreaking scheme being devised by former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery.

Professor Flannery outlined his proposal yesterday in a private meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's hand-picked climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut.

Professor Flannery — Australia's most prominent environmental campaigner — wants to set up an internet-based carbon market with a pilot scheme to be run in Papua New Guinea.

In a paper prepared for Professor Garnaut, Professor Flannery says 20% of global carbon emissions come from the wholesale destruction of tropical forests, so preservation must be part of any effective response to climate change.

His scheme envisages that households and businesses would be able to secure the protection of forests and the replanting of trees through an auction scheme.

Buyers would identify vulnerable forest lands online, using internet technology like Google Earth, and then make bids to secure its protection through a site like e-Bay.

If the bid is accepted by the village, the funds would be held in trust by a non-government organisation until the agreed protection of biodiversity or carbon sequestration has been delivered.

"The purpose of this paper is to outline a practical way to establish a pilot scheme in PNG, which has the potential to guide the development of a tropical forest carbon market worldwide," Professor Flannery says in his paper to the Garnaut Climate Change Review.

Industry and environmentalists are now jockeying in an effort to influence the outcome of Professor Garnaut's review, which will deliver its interim report in June. The review is examining the impact of climate change on the Australian economy and will recommend policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Before yesterday's meeting with Professor Garnaut, Professor Flannery had outlined his forests proposal to federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett and PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare during a meeting late last year.

He told The Age yesterday that he believed his proposal could help deal with some of the problems associated with reforestation schemes in the developing world because it recognised that villagers, not governments, were owners of the forest land.

The scheme would recognise "Mabo-like" principles of land ownership, he said. Sir Michael had expressed interest in PNG, which has clan-based land tenure, being the location for a pilot scheme. "The key thing is you have to buy from the owner," Professor Flannery said.

Households and businesses would buy biodiversity protection in the first instance, followed by carbon sequestration.

Heavy polluters are already seeking access to schemes to help offset their carbon dioxide emissions. Forests are natural carbon dioxide "sinks", which can be used to offset greenhouse emissions.

"My view is you would buy that right for one year," he said. Regular re-auctioning would be an important means of safeguarding progress and keeping villages accountable under the scheme.
Professor Flannery says the scheme would require participation by at least 50 villages. Governments would need to put appropriate regulations in place.

Significant funding would also be required for technology upgrades for remote villages. In a document prepared for Professor Garnaut, Professor Flannery identifies the previous government's $200 million global forests initiative as a source of support.


Japan Committed To Cut Greenhouse Gas By Half

Vittorio Hernandez
AHN News Writer
January 29, 2008

Tokyo, Japan (AHN) - Tokyo is determined to do its share in combating global warming, with or without joint international efforts, by pledging a 50 percent reduction on its greenhouse gas.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told the Diet Tuesday, "If other countries cannot join efforts to halve global greenhouse gas emissions, advanced countries, including Japan, will be required to achieve bigger targets."

Fukuda's commitment mirrors his predecessor's pledge to similarly reduce Japan's greenhouse gas emissions by half in 2050 from current levels.

To achieve it, Fukuda suggested picking 10 model Japanese cities that will create a low-carbon society through the development of new traffic systems and pushing for the greater use of biomass resources. These cities will receive financial assistance from the federal government.

In his speech recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Fukuda pushed for a global target of increasing energy efficiency by 30 percent by 2020.


World's big polluters meet in Hawaii over climate

Sun Jan 27, 2008
By Deborah Zabarenko,
Environment Correspondent (Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The world's biggest greenhouse gas-polluting countries are sending delegates to Hawaii this week for a U.S.-hosted meeting aimed at curbing climate change without stalling economic growth.

The two-day gathering, which starts on Wednesday in Honolulu, is meant to spur U.N. negotiations for an international climate agreement by 2009, so a pact will be ready when the current carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

The Bush administration rejects the Kyoto plan, saying it unfairly exempts developing countries from cutting back on emissions, and could cost U.S. jobs. Instead, Washington favors voluntary measures and "aspirational goals" to limit climate change, aided by easier transfer of environmental technology.

In addition to the United States, by many counts the biggest emitter of climate-warming carbon dioxide, the conference is expecting representatives from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

The United Nations and the European Union will also be represented.

This is the second time this group has convened -- the first time was in Washington in September -- and there has been some skepticism among environmentalists about the effectiveness of this process.

"The question back in September was, 'Does the fact that they're launching this process indicate some change in the position of this administration?"' said Angela Anderson of the non-partisan Pew Environment Group.

The answer, Anderson said in a telephone interview, is no: "There has been no change in position whatsoever in this White House. They were hoping to sell their position to the rest of the world and that's not working."

James Connaughton, the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, played down expectations for the Hawaii meeting.

"I think these will be iterative discussions, which the initial goal will be to lay out a variety of options without holding any country to a particular proposal," Connaughton told reporters at a briefing on Friday. "... We're trying to do this in a collaborative way, rather than in the more classic 'You bring your number, I bring my number, and we start kicking them around."'
President George W. Bush drew criticism at the September meeting for his opposition to the mandatory limits on carbon emissions specified by the Kyoto agreement and supported by every other major industrialized country.

The criticism continued in December at a global climate meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where U.S. representatives -- including Connaughton -- were booed for opposing demands by poor nations for the rich to do more to help them fight climate change.

Back in Washington, the Democratic-controlled Congress last week grilled Connaughton and another top Bush administration official, Stephen Johnson, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, over two hot-button issues: EPA's rejection of a push by California and 15 other states to set higher standards than the U.S. government for vehicle emissions, and the administration's overall policy on climate change.

Another environmental case drawing unwelcome attention is the U.S. government's delay in deciding whether polar bears should be classified as threatened by climate change as their icy habitat melts. The postponed deadline for issuing this decision is February 9 -- three days after an expected sale of oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea off the Alaskan coast, where thousands of polar bears live.

The Hawaii meeting begins two days after Bush's final State of the Union address. Connaughton declined to say whether Bush would discuss greenhouse emissions in this major speech, but said climate change was "among the items at the top of the agenda" in presidential discussions with world leaders.

"World leaders and the president are very, very engaged, and I think you'll see that continued engagement all the way through this year," Connaughton said. Bush leaves office on January 20, 2009.


Monday, January 28, 2008

'Feebate' helps environment with market forces

Mercury News Editorial
28th Jan 2008

California's path-breaking effort to cut global warming emissions from cars is stalled by an epic battle between the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That's all the more reason California legislators should pass an innovative law that would go just as far in fighting climate change caused by vehicles.

AB 493 would establish a "feebate" system encouraging consumers to buy clean, fuel-efficient cars. Consumers purchasing high-emissions gas guzzlers would pay surcharges, while those buying fuel-sipping, low-emissions vehicles would get rebates.

The legislation, by Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, D-Los Altos, is likely to come up again for a vote in the Assembly this week, after failing to advance in June. The vote was 35 to 35, with 10 Democrats from Southern California abstaining. This time, the Assembly should pass it so it can move to the Senate.

The measure represents a creative, market-based approach to fighting climate change. It encourages consumers to make socially responsible purchasing decisions. It would help force car companies to produce more fuel-efficient, cleaner cars. And it would make a big difference without requiring taxes or costing the government money.

Starting with the 2011 model year, consumers buying new cars, pickups, minivans and sport-utility vehicles would receive rebates or pay surcharges of $100 to $2,500, depending on the amount of emissions. A Toyota Prius hybrid would come with a $2,500 rebate, while a Hummer would come with a $2,500 surcharge. The fees would pay for the rebates.

Car-makers and dealers have opposed the bill, saying it isn't necessary and would limit consumer choice.

But the measure has been carefully crafted, and preserves choice and flexibility. Among all vehicles sold in 2006, 24 percent would have fallen in the middle, without a fee or rebate, while 41 percent would have received a rebate, and 35 percent would have been subject to a surcharge, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the bill's sponsor. The measure also exempts vehicles purchased by businesses with less than 25 employees, the poorest consumers, and operators of emergency vehicles.

Most important, the bill would let California move ahead in reducing global warming even as it battles the EPA over tough new state standards for tailpipe emissions. That court fight could take years, delaying implementation of a 2002 state law that would cut greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles 28 percent by 2016.

But the feebate legislation is ready to go and could cut emissions 27 percent by 2016.

California must reduce emissions sharply and quickly to meet the targets of AB 32, its landmark global warming law. So when lawmakers again consider AB 493, they should vote to give California another tool to combat global warming.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

EU puts carbon trading at heart of climate change battle

Ian Traynor in Brussels,
Patrick Wintour
The Guardian,
January 23, 2008

The European commission will tell member states today what they have to do to meet its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth by 2020.

Legislative proposals from Brussels, being unveiled today, will extend and improve the world's first carbon trading scheme as the central element of the package to fight climate change.

The proposals will also increase the EU's power over member countries in trying to set a high price for carbon, and so promote energy efficiency, renewables and other low carbon forms of energy production. The measures set a mandatory target for a fifth of European energy to come from renewable sources, and for biofuels to supply 10% of all road fuel, both by 2020. The overall targets were agreed last year, but today's draft directives put flesh on the bones of the world's most ambitious climate change action plan and dictate what each member country and European industries have to do to make it a reality.

The energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, said yesterday that Britain would be told to increase its energy from renewables by a factor of seven, meaning that up to 40 % of electricity generation in Britain should be from renewable sources by 2020. "We will meet our share of the European target, there's no doubt about that," he told the BBC.

The commitment to biofuels supplying 10% of all transport fuel is contentious, with analysts arguing that this is a counterproductive way to combat climate change, with the rush to manufacturing motor fuel from plants doing more damage than good.

Discussions were continuing last night over the final figures for national contributions to the 20% reduction in greenhouse gases. It is thought that Britain would have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by about 20%, although in November the prime minister, in his climate change bill, proposed cuts of about 30% by 2020.

Poorer countries among the new EU members in eastern Europe will be allowed to increase their greenhouse gas emissions since their economic development would be held back by being forced to make swingeing cuts in emissions. At the heart of the package, expected to provide more than 60% of the reductions, is the world's first carbon trading scheme which is to be extended to new sectors. The scheme is currently confined to power generators and refineries, but will be expanded to cover airlines and industries such as cement, steel and paper.

The commission says the climate change package is a bargain, estimating its cost at 0.6% per cent of Europe's economic ouput. José Manuel Barroso, the commission's president, says the scheme will result in savings of €50bn (£37bn) as a result of less oil and gas imports in Europe.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Climate Change "great threat to humanity"

January 21, 2008

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says climate change is fundamentally altering the global humanitarian agenda.
In response, the Geneva-based agency is launching an appeal worth SFr 326 million ($292 million) for 2008 and 2009. Approximately 75 per cent of the budget will be dedicated to disaster preparedness and health care initiatives that are community-based.

The Federation states global weather patterns are contributing to an increase in disasters, affecting water supplies, impacting global harvests, and contributing to the rise in incidence of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

"There is no doubt in my mind that climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humanity today," says Markku Niskala, the 186-nation organisation's secretary general.

Much of the budget will be directed towards small island states, in delta regions and across Africa, where shifting patterns of weather, rainfall and temperature are expected to be most acute.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lifestyle changes can curb climate change: IPPC chief

16 Jan 2008

PARIS (AFP) — Don't eat meat, ride a bike, and be a frugal shopper -- that's how you can help brake global warming, the head of the United Nation's Nobel Prize-winning scientific panel on climate change said Tuesday.

The 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued last year, highlights "the importance of lifestyle changes," said Rajendra Pachauri at a press conference in Paris.

"This is something that the IPCC was afraid to say earlier, but now we have said it."

A vegetarian, the Indian economist made a plea for people around the world to tame their carnivorous impulses.

"Please eat less meat -- meat is a very carbon intensive commodity," he said, adding that consuming large quantities was also bad for one's health.

Studies have shown that producing one kilo (2.2 pounds) of meat causes the emissions equivalent of 36.4 kilos of carbon dioxide.

In addition, raising and transporting that slab of beef, lamb or pork requires the same amount of energy as lighting a 100-watt bulb for nearly three weeks.

In listing ways that individuals can contribute to the fight against global warming, Pachauri praised the system of communal, subscriber-access bikes in Paris and other French cities as a "wonderful development."

"Instead of jumping in a car to go 500 meters, if we use a bike or walk it will make an enormous difference," he told journalists at a press conference.

Another lifestyle change that can help, he continued, was not buying things "simply because they are available." He urged consumers to only purchase what they really need.

Since the Nobel was awarded in October to the IPCC and the former US vice president Al Gore, Pachauri has criss-crossed the globe sounding the alarm on the dangers of global warming.

"The picture is quite grim -- if the human race does not do anything, climate change will have serious impacts," he warned Tuesday.

At the same time, however, he said he was encouraged by the outcome of UN-brokered climate change negotiations in Bali last month, and by the prospect of a new administration in Washington.

"The final statement clearly mentions deep cuts in emissions in greenhouse gases. I don't think people can run away from that terminology," he said.

The Bali meeting set the framework for a global agreement on how to reduce the output of carbon dioxide and other gases generated by human activity that are driving climate change.

Pachauri also sees cause for optimism in the fact that, for the first time since the world's nations began meeting over the issue of global warming in 1994, "nobody questioned the findings of the IPCC."

"The science has clearly become the basis for action on climate change," he said.

In 2007, the IPCC issued a massive report the size of three phone books on the reality and risks of climate change, its 4th assessment in 18 years.

Pachauri said it was too late for Washington to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the sole international treaty mandating cuts in CO2 emissions.

The United States is the only industrialised country not to have made such commitments.

But he remained hopeful the US -- under a new administration -- would be a "core signatory" of any new agreement.

"With the change that is taking place politically in the US, the chances of that happening are certainly much better than was the case a few months ago," he said.

At 67, Pachauri said he has not yet decided whether to take on a second five-year mandate as IPCC head. Elections take place in September.

On the one hand, he said, the experience he has acquired would serve him well.

But the advantage of retiring, he said with a smile, is that his carbon footprint -- the amount of C02 emissions generated by all this travels -- would be greatly reduced.