Big Businesses’ Call for Climate Action: Strong Treaty, More Aid

October 20, 2011

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

A group of 285 large investors, representing more than $20 trillion in assets, urged world governments to forge a binding treaty at upcoming climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, and said global spending has not been nearly enough to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

The call came from a coalition of four green investment groups—representing the investment arms of banks HSBC and BNP Paribas, as well as of fashion company Hermes and the United Nations Environment Programme—aimed at limiting emissions and taxing them, arguing it will drive innovation, attract investment and create jobs. The call also hailed Australia’s recent move toward a carbon tax, saying it will be a boon for investors.

Meanwhile, another group of more than 175 companies called for Durban attendees to ensure $100 billion in annual climate aid to poor nations, as had been promised earlier.

No Big Bang

But Jos Delbeke, director general for climate action at the European Commission believes the long-running negotiations through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are unlikely to produce a “big bang”—that is, a breakthrough that would lead to the birth of a new climate treaty.

In preparation for the upcoming meeting, Japan has signaled it may step back from its own target of cutting CO2 emissions 25 percent by 2020—and it is bringing it up now to avoid giving the “wrong message to the international community,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Japan, Canada and Russia have said they won’t accept an extension of the Kyoto Protocol unless it binds all major economies—which is not the case under Kyoto—but other governments are seeking a way to extend the treaty even without those three countries.

Yomiuri Shimbun also reported Japan will argue the next legally binding climate agreement should wait until 2015, after the Kyoto Protocol lapses in 2012.

Door Closing

Meanwhile, International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol gave a sneak preview of the upcoming World Energy Outlook report, which will argue that without bold action, “the door may be closing” on limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Meeting the challenge will take about $38 trillion in spending on oil, gas and electricity infrastructure over the next 25 years.

According to a leaked version of the European Union’s Energy Roadmap 2050, in most scenarios—with differing amounts of efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear power—electricity prices will rise until about 2030, and then fall.

Already the high cost of energy is eating into consumers’ disposable income in the U.S., as well as in the U.K., where it is driving inflation up.

As a counter-measure, the U.K. is pursuing “serious intervention” in the energy market to increase competition and transparency, and the country’s Department of Energy and Climate Change hopes a new bill that came into effect on home energy efficiency will help fight rising bills.

Mixed Signals

A New York Times article asked “Where Did Global Warming Go?,” noting the topic has faded from Obama’s speeches and arguing the GOP has made climate change skepticism a requirement for electability.

However, Joseph Romm at Climate Progress pointed a finger at the New York Times and other major media outlets as part of the problem because there has been a major decline in the amount of climate coverage. Others, such as William Y. Brown of the Brookings Institution argued the New York Times piece is wrong to say Americans don’t trust scientists; rather they don’t like being lectured.

Green issues do appeal to voters, according to a study by Stanford University researchers, who found American politicians who took a pro-green stance were more likely to win. More specifically, Democrats who supported green issues won more often, and Republicans who took anti-green stances lost more often than if they kept silent on the topic.

Energy will also be a significant issue for GOP candidates, according to “energy and environment insiders” polled by the National Journal. Especially important, the insiders said, will be linking energy policy with job creation.

Luxury in a Smaller Package

Even in these hard economic times, luxury cars still have a market and automakers are rolling out new models that, while remaining plush and pricey, are shrinking, both in body and engine.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.


Worldwide Energy Shortages Triggered by Drought, Subsidies

July 7, 2011

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

As the summer heats up, energy shortages are striking around the world—including the oil-rich Middle East.

Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), stopped supplying gasoline to the other emirates, because the government can’t afford to continue subsidizing gasoline, which it currently sells at far below global market rates. Now a UAE company has hashed out a deal to turn fast-food fryer oil into biodiesel to fuel vehicles. In Iran, one of the world’s largest natural gas producers, many power plants have run out of natural gas, and are instead burning oil to keep the lights on.

Pakistan’s main export is textiles, but with power outages of 12 hours or more a day in many cities, the sector is ailing, forcing an estimated 400,000 people out of jobs. Many businesses in Pakistan are turning to diesel generators, but this is a major drain on the economy.

With only 19 of 54 nuclear reactors running, Japan is facing electricity shortages, and the government has instituted a 15 percent cut in electricity use by large users in eastern Japan. Temperatures are high in Japan, and the country may suffer the hottest summer on record, raising fears of heat stroke deaths.

South America’s second-largest economy, Argentina, is rationing natural gas through the cold months (it’s winter there). And Tanzania, east Africa’s second-largest economy, is facing indefinite power outages as a result of fuel shortages as well as drought—which has cut power output from the hydroelectric dams that supply more than half its power. Business leaders in the country have called on the government to work out emergency plans to save the economy from collapse.

End in Sight?

Power outages are likely to continue, says the International Energy Agency (IEA), because the world will find it difficult to raise the global investment of $16.6 trillion needed over the next 25 years to keep electricity production growing at 2 percent a year. But there are many ways countries can save energy in a hurry, according to a new IEA report drawing on case studies of nations that faced shortages.

As in Pakistan, many countries are falling back on diesel-fueled generators, the IEA points out—and this has been a boon for companies deploying generators and portable power plants, in particular to developing countries.

Many countries could face a similar problem as Tanzania, said a report by the New America Foundation, which indicates use of water in energy production is rising—both for fossil fuels, such as shale gas fracking, and for renewables. Another report, from the Institute for Development Studies, echoed similar concerns, saying climate change threatens the world’s electricity systems.

Attack of the Jellyfish

An unexpected complication at power plants—which may be related to greenhouse gases—have been plagues of jellyfish clogging up water pipes. In late June, jellyfish clogged a cooling pipe at a Japanese nuclear power plant—the first time that had happened in 14 years of operation. In Israel, jellyfish likewise clogged a cooling pipe at another power plant—requiring construction equipment to scoop up many dumpsters’ worth of the creatures.

Jellyfish numbers are likely booming in part because of overfishing, but also because of warming waters as well as ocean acidification, both caused by rising carbon dioxide levels.

The Long and Short of China’s Coal

A new study suggests pollution from China’s coal-fired power plants has stalled global warming—for the short run. It’s long been known burning coal produces sulfur dioxide, an aerosol that has a cooling effect, but which also contributes to acid rain, one reason the U.S. created the Clean Air Act requiring scrubbers on coal plants.

China’s coal consumption has more than doubled in the past decade, and the country is now responsible for about half the world’s annual coal use. Their coal plants are largely without scrubbers, although they’re now starting to install these.

French Fry Flights?

U.S. commercial flights can now use blends of biofuels made from plants and organic waste, after winning approval from a U.S. standards group. On June 29, Dutch airline KLM made the first commercial biofueled flight, from Amsterdam to Paris, and the airline plans to expand use of a 50-50 blend of jet fuel and HEFA—hydro-processed esters and fatty acids made from used cooking oil.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.