C40 Large Cities Climate Summit 2007
Mayors from some of the world's largest urban areas called on cities to unite and take the lead in tackling climate change, at the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit in New York.
"As cities produce three-fourths of the carbon emissions, we must act," said London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the head of the C40 large cities, describing climate change as the single biggest threat to the future of humanity. "Whatever the discussions within our governments, as cities we are not waiting," he told leaders from 46 of the world's most polluted cities, from Cairo to Shanghai and Los Angeles to Bangkok. Livingstone said the summit aimed to "create a critical mass that puts the world on the path to avoid a catastrophic climate change... We came to take decisive actions to reduce our own carbon emissions," he said.
Other topics up for discussion at the summit included beating traffic congestion, making water systems more efficient, adopting renewable energy sources, increasing recycling, reducing waste and improving mass transit.
Some 500 US mayors were also at the summit to show their objections to the policies of President George W. Bush, who has refused to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, which commits countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "Mayors took action because we have to, because the federal government was silent," said Douglas Palmer, head of the United States conference of Mayors.
Accelerating CO2 Emissions
Carbon emissions grew an alarming three times faster between 2000-2004 than in the 1990s worldwide, as wealthy and developing nations showed no progress in managing the greenhouse gas, a study has concluded.
Carbon emissions grew at a 3.1 percent annual rate between 2000-2004, compared to 1.1 percent per year in the previous decade, according to the study Global and Regional Drivers of Accelerating CO2 Emissions published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The rise is a reversal of a long-term trend toward greater energy efficiency and reduction in the use of carbon fuels, the researchers said. The accelerating rate of carbon dioxide emmissions is largely due to rising energy consumption and use of carbon to produce it, in tandem with increasing population and per-capita gross domestic product.
The accelaration of carbon emissions was biggest in countries with booming economies such as China, where the rise reflects the growth in per capita GDP. Countries from the global South contribute about 40 percent of total emissions, but they were responsible for a large majority of the growth in carbon dioxide emissions between 2000-2004, the study said.
European Citizens' Consultations
At an event in the European Parliament, three citizens who participated in the European Citizens' Consultations met with European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrφm, European Parliament Vice-President Gιrard Onesta and Belgian MEP Jean Luc Dehaene to hand over the final report, European Citizens' Perspectives on the Future of Europe.
Among the priorities for EU leaders put forward by the citizens during their national consultations, is the environmental and economic impact of Europe's energy use. The recommendations include:
- A strong EU should take on the role of the setter of standards and binding targets implemented by the Member States and supervised by the EU;
- The EU should promote the use of clean energies, in particular renewables which are affordable and reflect local natural conditions;
- The EU should help educate and raise awareness regarding the potential of individual responsibility to achieve a wiser, more aware and responsible use of energy and other environmental resources;
- There is a need for further research on environmental issues, with the EU playing a central role.
A feed-in tariff is a renewable energy law which obliges energy suppliers to buy electricity produced from renewable resources at a fixed price, usually over a fixed period. These legal guarantees ensure investment security, and the support of all viable renewable energy technologies. Householders can even use them to make domestic solar panels cost-effective, helping to speed ecological modernisation. Supporters argue that the feed-in model, if implemented effectively around the world, would greatly assist the energy revolution that is so desperately required; through CO2 reduction, market creation and development, job creation and improved energy security. It was recommended in the Stern Report as the best policy tool for the fastest, lowest-cost deployment of renewables, and Germany's world leadership in renewable energy is thanks largely to their exemplary version.
Feed-in Tariffs is a concise introduction to feed-in laws, presented in the context of other renewable energy policies, and examining the experience of countries that have implemented this model. The author argues that the policy should be implemented anywhere with a suitable national power grid infrastructure, and identifies variations on the policy for those areas without. Alternative models are examined, and their comparative advantages and disadvantages discussed, to provide policy makers with the information required to consider the implementation of feed-in tariffs, and to introduce the concept to renewable energy technology manufacturers, producers, investors and supporters.
New York Taxis Go Hybrid
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced plans to replace the city's 13,000 taxis with gas-electric hybrid vehicles.
Currently, there are just 375 hybrid vehicles circulating on the city's streets but this number should increase to 1,000 by October 2008 and a further 20% of the fleet will be replaced every year up to 2012. The city is also working on introducing hybrid buses, garbage trucks and cars, the mayor said.
The plan, which is expected to reduce the carbon emissions of New York City's taxicab and for-hire vehicle fleet by 50%, or 215,000 tonnes, during the next decade, is part of Bloomberg's wider sustainability strategy for the city, which includes a target of cutting carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.
The strategy could also include the introduction of a congestion charge similar to the London scheme for drivers entering some of the busiest parts of Manhattan, Bloomberg announced in April.
Shifting the entire taxi fleet to hybrids by 2012 appears an achievable goal as the lifespan of a New York City taxi is typically around three to five years. Furthermore, although hybrid vehicles are more expensive, it is expected that the increase in fuel efficiency could save taxi operators more than $10,000 per year.
EU Regrets Failure of UN CSD 15 to Agree on Text
The EU "deeply regrets" the failure of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UN CSD) to agree on its latest strategy text for delivering on sustainable development commitments made at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
The purpose of the UN CSD is to ensure follow-up and to guide the implementation of commitments made in Agenda 21. The UN CSD is composed of 53 UN member states and is open to participation from a range of NGOs and other Major Groups. It meets in thematic "cycles" that last two years and that are focused on various issues related to sustainable development, such as water, energy, desertification and waste.
The latest cycle of the UN CSD focused on climate, energy, air pollution and industrial development and concluded on 12 May. Parties were unable to reach an agreement. According to observers, in the final days of the UN CSD there was poor cooperation and an atmosphere of confrontation between delegates from industrialised countries and countries from the global South.
Speaking on behalf of the EU in a joint press release of 12 May, Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed their disappointment at the outcome of this UN CSD cycle.
The world has been waiting for the UN to take concrete steps to address issues such as poverty eradication through access to affordable and sustainable energy services, energy efficiency, renewable energies, climate change, air quality. The European Union has, therefore, worked tirelessly over the last two weeks to negotiate a meaningful agreement, said the German Federal Minister for the Environment, Sigmar Gabriel, representing the EU Presidency.
The challenges posed by climate change, energy security, and air pollution are now seen more clearly than five years ago. They require strengthened and more ambitious, international policy commitments. It is unfortunate that the CSD 15 was unable to deliver, said Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the Environment. The EU strongly supported time-bound targets for renewable energy, the integration of energy policies into national planning by 2010, a review arrangement for energy issues within in the UN CSD, an international agreement on energy efficiency, among others. The EU considers these as essential elements on the way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Analysing Our Energy Future
The report Analysing Our Energy Future: Some Pointers for Policy-Makers is a non-technical summary of the International Energy Agencys latest World Energy Outlook. It focuses on its Alternative Policy and Beyond the Alternative Policy Scenarios a deliberate choice aimed to spur action by underscoring the impacts on the future of the policy decisions made today. It is written in non-technical language to make it accessible to as wide an audience as possible.
The report highlights that early moves to shift towards a more sustainable energy system are more effective and cheaper compared to delayed action. It outlines some policy approaches that can bring about this shift and the time scales involved in it, noting that a delay of 10 years in implementing the Alternative Policy Scenario, for example, would push back the date of being on a sustainable path by several decades. It concludes that there is no sensible reason economic or otherwise to delay implementation.
Polar Ocean Soaking Up Less CO2
One of Earth's most important absorbers of carbon dioxide (CO2) is failing to soak up as much of the greenhouse gas as it was expected to, scientists say. The decline of Antarctica's Southern Ocean carbon "sink" - or reservoir - means that atmospheric CO2 levels may be higher in future than predicted. These carbon sinks are vital as they mop up excess CO2 from the atmosphere, slowing down global warming.
The study, Saturation of the Southern Ocean CO2 Sink Due to Recent Climate Change, is published in the journal Science.
This effect had been predicted by climate scientists, and is taken into account - to some extent - by climate models. But it appears to be happening 40 years ahead of schedule. It was assumed that, as human activities released more CO2 into the atmosphere, ocean sinks would keep pace, absorbing a comparable percentage of this greenhouse gas. The breakdown in efficiency of these sinks was an expected outcome, but not until the second half of the 21st Century.
Lead researcher Corinne Le Quere and colleagues collected atmospheric CO2 data from 11 stations in the Southern Ocean and 40 stations across the globe. Measurements of atmospheric CO2 allowed them to infer how much carbon dioxide was taken up by sinks. The team was then able to see how efficient they were in comparison to one another at absorbing CO2.
As CO2 is absorbed by the oceans, it makes them more acidic, harming populations of marine organisms such as coral. The latest study suggests that phenomenon will only get worse over the century. "The problem is that the extra CO2 from human emissions stays in the surface ocean and does not get removed to deep waters," said Dr Le Quere. "So the problem gets worse, because the biological organisms affected by ocean acidification live, of course, at the surface where there is sunlight."
IPCC Report: Mitigation of Climate Change
Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC has adopted the Summary for Policymakers of the third part of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).
"Mitigation of Climate Change" says that in order to keep global average temperatures from rising as much as 3.6 percent this century, the world must work together to stablize the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2015. By 2050, carbon dioxide emissions will have to drop by at least 50 percent from present levels to prevent severe changes in the global climate.
The report outlines broad suggestions for how governments should begin taking action. Among the sectors identified as most in need of a climate-friendly overhaul in the report are buildings and energy infrastructure. Between 1970 and 1990, the amount of emissions released by buildings worldwide has grown 26 percent, and the high energy use of buildings increases the indirect amount of emissions caused by the sector.
The report finds that by 2030, emissions can be reduced by 30 percent with an overall positive economic effect. Although significant financial and technological barriers exist to widespread implementation of energy efficient buildings, the reports' authors found multiple benefits to improving buildings' energy efficiency.
Lifestyle changes are among the recommendations urged by the panel. Changing consumption patterns to encourage resource conservation, especially energy efficiency, can "contribute to developing a low-carbon economy that is both equitable and sustainable," the report says.
Agricultural practices also figure prominently in solutions to the climate crisis. Sustainable agricultural practices, the report notes, can sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide in the soil and reduce vulnerability to climate change. The agriculture industry should also take steps to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions, which come primarily from livestock and the agricultural use of fertilizers, respectively.
The report ruled out geo-engineering solutions for the short term, saying options like sequestering CO2 in the ocean and physically blocking out sunlight are "largely speculative and unproven."
The report follows two previous reports issued by the IPCC earlier this year, which focused on the evidence for and potential impact of global warming. Although the report concludes by saying some gaps in knowledge of how best to implement these strategies still exist, especially in terms of developing countries, the steps laid out are readily applicable to developed countries and with further research can be refined for the developing world.
International Aviation and Marine Emissions
International aviation and shipping is projected to contribute significantly to international greenhouse gas emissions. These fast-growing international aviation and marine emissions are however not (yet) regulated by international policies under neither the UNFCCC nor its Kyoto Protocol.
Including international aviation and marine emissions in national/regional reduction targets is more cost-effective than excluding them, or regulating them via sector-specific policies. This is one of the main conclusions of a study by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency that analyses national/regional allocation options for including these so-called bunker emissions in a post-2012 climate mitigation regime.
Linking in with the festivities for the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, Green Week 2007 will look back at 50 years of European environmental policy and will look at the future.
Green Week will be reviewing past actions and identifying success and failures, and looking at the challenges we will face in the future. What have we achieved? Where could we do better? Which are the drivers for change? Do we need to adapt our lifestyle and how? How can innovation and technology help us?
Green Week will provide a unique opportunity for debate, exchange of experience and best practice among non-governmental organisations, businesses, various levels of government and the public.
Environmental Policy and Corporate Behaviour
For the last 30 years, analysis of the inner workings of the firm has been largely absent from economic assessments of environmental policy. Recent work has highlighted the importance of understanding a firms commercial motivations, decision-making procedures and organisational structure when designing and implementing public environmental policies. Environmental Policy and Corporate Behaviour responds to this need, investigating the many internal challenges faced by firms seeking to implement new policies and achieve significant and long-lasting environmental progress.
The authors provide an in-depth empirical analysis of an industrial survey undertaken in seven OECD countries (Japan, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Canada and the United States), spanning 4000 facilities in all manufacturing sectors, including small and medium-sized enterprises. They use their findings to illustrate the links between public (government) environmental policies and private (firm and facility) environmental management, investments, innovation and performance.
With a specific focus on the public policy implications of the empirical findings, the book provides a foundation upon which to formulate public and corporate policy in the environmental sphere. Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, the book will appeal to academics and policymakers with an interest in economics of the environment, as well as presenting business and management perspectives.
Organic Agriculture for Fossil-fuel Independence
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released a report encouraging countries to integrate organic agriculture objectives within national priorities. According to the FAO organic agriculture is no longer a phenomenon in developed countries only, as it is commercially practiced in 120 countries, representing 31 million hectares and a market of US$40 billion in 2006. These findings and recommendations are elucidated in the paper Organic Agriculture and Food Security. The FAO paper relies on the Codex Alimentarius Commission and all existing national regulations, to define organic agriculture as a holistic production management system that avoids use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms, minimizes pollution of air, soil and water, and optimizes the health and productivity of interdependent communities of plants, animals and people.
The paper illuminates the strongest feature of organic agriculture is its reliance on fossil-fuel independent and locally-available production assets; working with natural processes increases cost-effectiveness and resilience of agro-ecosystems to climatic stress. It also contends that by managing biodiversity in time (rotations) and space (mixed cropping), organic farmers use their labour and environmental services to intensify production in a sustainable way.
Conference on Societal Learning and Sustainability
Evolving towards a climate-friendly and sustainable society requires new habits of thinking and action. Thus, learning plays a major role for societal actors like companies, consumers, and political organisations. These will be faced with numerous questions like
- What is required for companies to evolve sustainably?
- How can they design their products more friendly for both climate and users?
- How can consumers arrive at insightful buying decisions?
- How can researchers induce and support such processes of learning and change?
The GELENA research group has addressed these questions during the past five years with a strong focus on climate protection as an example for sustainability. The researchers will present their results during a conference on 24 May 2007 at the Harnack-Haus in Berlin, and invite you to discuss with them.
The conference builds around three workshops on "Institutionalisation and Sustainability", "Organisational Learning and Sustainability", and on "Innovation and Consumer Integration". A concluding panel discussion focuses on the question "Does Knowledge Create Sustainability?"
UN Secretary General appoints Special Envoys for Climate Change
The first woman Prime Minister of Norway, the former President of Chile, and the President of the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly have been named Special Envoys for Climate Change by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has made the issue one of his top priorities.
Norwegian ex-Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland is the former Chair of the World Commission of Environment and Development, which is best known for developing the broad political concept of sustainable development and two decades ago published a landmark report, Our Common Future.
President Ricardo Lagos Escobar of Chile founded the Foundation for Democracy and Development, which works for sustainable development. Since April 2006, he has been serving as president of the Club de Madrid where he led the organization to increase its involvement in environmental issues.
Han Seung-soo, the former General Assembly President, currently heads the Korea Water Forum, which works towards sustainable water management in Asia. He served previously in numerous high-level government posts, including Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Minister of Trade and Industry, Chief of Staff to the President and Korean Ambassador to the United States.
The Special Envoys will solicit the views of national leaders, including those who are key actors in the climate change negotiations. The work of the Special Envoys will assist the Secretary-General in his consultations with Governments and other key stakeholders on how he might facilitate progress in the multilateral climate change negotiations within the UN.