Good news: A green revolution is not expensive

Fear that it will be costly for consumers to address climate change is largely unfounded, a new modeling exercise conducted for the magazine New Scientist suggests.

Radical cuts to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions will cause barely noticeable increases in the price of food, drink and most other goods by 2050, indicates a model developed by Cambridge researchers for the magazine New Scientist.

“These results show that the global project to fight climate change is doable … It’s not such a big ask as people are making out,” says Alex Bowen, a climate policy expert at the London School of Economics, according to the magazine.

At current prices, going low-carbon is forecast to add around five pence to the price of a loaf of bread or a pint of beer. The price of household appliances such as washing machines rises by a few pounds, New Scientist reports.

According to the model, overall food prices will increase by one percent, electronics by two percent, and electricity by 15 percent. However, it would be a lot more expensive to travel by air, unless a low-carbon alternative to jet fuel is found. A return flight from London to New York would jump from £350 to around £840 – or what corresponds to an increase of 140 percent.

India unveils target to slow carbon emissions

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told Parliament the country plans to reduce by 20 percent to 25 percent the ratio of pollution to production compared with 2005 levels.

India will significantly slow the growth of its climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions over the next decade as its economy keeps expanding, an official said Thursday ahead of world climate change talks.

However, the developing country will not accept a binding emissions reduction target, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said.

Ramesh told Parliament the country plans to reduce by 20 percent to 25 percent the ratio of pollution to production compared with 2005 levels. The announcement comes just days before world leaders are set gather in Denmark to discuss a new climate pact.

As one of the world’s largest populations with a fast-growing economy, India has been under pressure to bring its own emissions-reduction plan to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen following pledges by the US and China — the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming — to reduce their own pollution.

India ranks fifth in world carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for 4.7 percent of the world’s emissions, according to Ramesh.

To reach its objective, the Indian government will introduce mandatory fuel efficiency standards in 2011, enforce building codes for greater energy efficiency, and deploy cleaner technology in coal-fired power plants, Ramesh said.

India had previously announced a plan to build a massive 20,000 megawatt solar energy facility by 2022.

I found this article in “The Daily Star ” online. I hope our “new” government takes the initiative and speaks up in Copenhagen….

BEIRUT: With the Copenhagen summit on climate change less than a month away, environmental activists warned Lebanon’s new government on Sunday that it cannot sit by while larger nations debate global warming policy. With high levels of air and sea pollution, water mismanagement and electricity demand outstripping supply, Lebanon can hardly claim to be a world leader on environmental issues.

In spite of past administrations failing to seriously address the country’s checkered environmental record, Wael Hmaidan from environmental NGO IndyACT, told The Daily Star that Lebanon needed dynamic and decisive action by its politicians.

“We all know that the planet is negotiating a new agreement on climate change. Lebanon so far has been outside these negotiations,” he said. “Like the rest of the world, Lebanon will be devastated by climate change. Even though it is a small country with very little political power, Lebanon can make a difference.

“We have a problem with energy and this is also an environmentally linked problem. At this stage we need to reduce our CO2 emissions and we will not have an economy if we don’t have a secure source of energy,” he added.

The prospect of going into coal-fired production has been raised by some in Lebanon – a huge mistake, according to Hamaidan.

“Coal produces more CO2 than anything else and coal [usage] will prevent Lebanon getting any assistance in the international energy sector.

“The best alternative for Lebanon at the moment is to go into natural gas,” said Hmaidan, which produces 40 percent less CO2 than coal. “This way Lebanon will be reducing its emissions. Renewable energy needs to be introduced to Lebanon over the years, but gas can be deployed immediately and in significant amounts.

Garabed Kazanjian, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace in Lebanon, agreed that renewable energy needed to be implemented bit by bit.

“Overall, there should be a government initiative to gradually convert the national energy plan towards the use of a sustainable energy source,” he told The Daily Star. “In a region considered as the well of oil and everlasting nuclear disputes, Lebanon has the potential to become the pioneer in the solar sector.”

Water supply in Lebanon has long been a divisive topic and Kazanjian said that plans mooted for the construction of damns were not a viable way to tackle shortages.

“As a solution to water problems, we can build reservoirs to trap rainwater, and use according to our needs,” he said.

Lebanon produces approximately 1.4 million tons of solid waste every year, of which only eight percent is recycled. Many villages and towns simply tip refuse in local dumps, posing health risks as well as environmental damages.

The most obvious example of this is Sidon’s dump, parts of which were strewn this month over miles of coastline following heavy storms.

“The Sidon dump is a disgrace to the Lebanese government and a health hazard to the population, in addition to a source of toxic discharge to the marine life in its vicinity,” said Kazanjian. The Lebanese government must, in the earliest possible occasion, officially close down the waste dump.

“There are available funds for such a project. All that is lacking is the political decision.”

More generally, the new administration must educate the population as to the benefits of recycling if Lebanon is ever to curb its ever-increasing waste pile, according to Kazanjian.

“Efforts should be made to increase public awareness on daily activities, such as diminishing the use of plastic bags, encouraging the use of public transportation, and the use of solar power as a source of energy,” he said.

Time for action is short and with issues such as national security and the perilous state of the economy up for discussion, Lebanon’s new government may have more pressing needs to attend to.

Not so, said Hmaidan: “If we don’t work on climate change there is no need to work on anything else.”

Mexico ready to round off Copenhagen process
Next month’s global climate change conference in the Danish capital should yield a concrete base that will allow for a definitive treaty to be agreed within a year, Mexico’s top climate change diplomat says.

World leaders will probably not be able to draw up a new global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol at December’s UN climate conference in Copenhagen.

However, Mexico’s top climate change diplomat believes the meeting will yield significant results including an accord to cap rising temperatures and pledges for billions of dollars to help poor countries cope with climate change.

“What is important is that in Copenhagen we say what it is we want, and afterward the ‘how.’ If we decide what the goal is, the terms of the negotiations that follow will be easier,” says Luis Alfonso de Alba according to Reuters.

Denmark has proposed that the world delay a final legal agreement until 2010. Instead, countries should try to reach a “binding” political deal at the December meeting.

According to de Alba, the Copenhagen agreement must at least include a commitment to prevent the earth’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) and a binding commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2050, with at least 80 percent of the reduction coming from developed nation.

If these targets are agreed, negotiators should be able to arrive at a final binding treaty by the end of 2010 at a meeting that Mexico is likely to host, he says.

“What is most probable is that this work finishes in Mexico. What is clear is that it must not end after Mexico. It ends either before or at the Mexico meeting.”

China sets target to cut carbon intensity
World’s largest polluter decouples economic growth from growth in greenhouse gas emissions in new plan. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will take part in the Copenhagen climate conference.

China announced plans Thursday to cut its carbon emissions by up to 45 percent as measured against its economic output – a target aimed at keeping its surging growth while still reining in pollution.

According to the State Council announcement, China pledges to cut carbon intensity – carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product – by 40 to 45 percent by 2020, compared with 2005 levels.

The goal does not mean that China will cut its total carbon emissions by 2020. Given the expected growth in its economy, its global warming emissions should increase over the next decade – but at a much slower pace than if China had made no changes.

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases believed to cause global warning.

India, the world’s fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has proposed a similar policy to link emissions to growth in gross domestic product.

China’s State Council said the improvements would come through better research and development, clean coal technology, advanced nuclear energy and better transportation systems. Tax laws and regulations will also be changed to encourage energy efficiency.

China announced earlier that Premier Wen Jiabao will take part in the Copenhagen conference.

Despite setting a target on carbon emissions, China is not expected to accept an international treaty that sets a binding target for it.

Yu Jie, head of policy and research programs for The Climate Group China, a non-governmental group, describes China’s 45 percent target as “quite aggressive”.

Leader of WWF Global Climate Initiative, Kim Carstensen, says that “a 40-45 percent reduction in China’s carbon intensity from business as usual projections is far from trivial.”

“Given the size of China’s economy, the decoupling of China’s economic growth from growth in emissions is one of the most important factors that will determine whether the world can get on course to keep temperature rise below two degrees Celsius,” says Carstensen.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer says in a comment that “the US commitment to specific, mid-term emission cut targets and China’s commitment to specific action on energy efficiency can unlock two of the last doors to a comprehensive agreement” in Copenhagen.

Connie Hedegaard, Danish Minister for the UN climate conference says that “it is new and very encouraging that China comes forward internationally”.

“Now it is clear to the world: The Copenhagen deadline works. One by one, governments from all over the world are delivering before the climate conference next month. This is good news. However, we must analyse more carefully what the new Chinese announcement translates to when it comes a percentage for deviation from business as usual,” she says.

Africa faces changing climate
Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga calls for sober negotiations during the UN climate conference.

Climate change effects are already wrecking lives in Africa, AFP writes in a report from the continent.

Currently, around 23 million people face starvation across east Africa as failed rainy seasons have reduced crops, livestock and devastated livelihoods. Experts say the east African drought is the worst in decades.

The agency lists other recent changes reported by scientists. A US study revealed that snow caps on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, are rapidly melting and could vanish completely in 20 years mainly due to climate change.

Climate change is blamed for altering the border between Uganda and the DR Congo. The border is marked by a river that is changing its course over the years reportedly due to melting ice caps in the mountains. And rising sea temperatures off South Africa’s coast have disrupted the annual sardine migration, which leads to smaller numbers of sardines, scientists say.

The African continent emits four percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions but consequences of global warming appear harsh here. That is the reason why African nations want developed countries to commit to huge emissions cuts and provide billions of dollars in funding for developing countries to adapt to climate change.

However, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, head of an African Union panel representing the continent at the UN climate conference in December, is not expecting firm decisions at the Copenhagen conference, reports the AFP.

Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga calls for sober negotiations.

“We really should not go to Copenhagen and play the hard ball and the blame game,” he tells AFP.

“This issue is so crucial that it requires full cooperation because if the North does not cooperate with the South it means all of us are going to be victims. All of us are going to be losers.”

IEA praises Obama emissions goal
The head of the International Energy Agency on Thursday applauded President Barack Obama’s plans to commit the US to significant greenhouse gas reductions at next month’s Copenhagen climate summit.

Despite heated opposition in Congress, the president will present a US pledge to cut emissions by 17 percent over the next decade on the way to reducing heat-trapping pollution by 80 percent by mid-century, the White House said Wednesday.

The 17 percent figure is in line with IEA’s objective of limiting the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent and keeping the global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius, said Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka.

“Such a commitment is quite positive, and it will make a contribution to our debate and discussion in Copenhagen,” Tanaka told reporters at the Japan National Press Club.

The IEA, which serves as a policy adviser to 28 mostly industrialized oil-consuming nations, estimates that global emissions may actually decline this year – possibly by three percent – because of the financial downturn.

Tanaka said the recession has given the world a “window of opportunity” at Copenhagen.

But without a change in government policies, consumption will rebound. The IEA estimates that by 2030, energy demand will be 40 percent higher than in 2007.