Archive | December 4th, 2009

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Energy, Negawatts and Smart Grids

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

By Julio Godoy

BERLIN (IPS/TerraViva) – Electricity is indispensable to modern life, but its generation is responsible for 40 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming and climate change.

While wind and solar energy are carbon free, they are heavily dependent on weather conditions. No wind blowing or no sun shining means no electricity – and this simple equation becomes more apparent as the use of wind turbines and solar power plants grows. Continue Reading

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Missing Gender Dimension

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

Sabina Zaccaro interviews IUCN gender advisor Lorena Aguilar Revelo

Lorena Aguilar Revelo. Credit: U.N.

Lorena Aguilar Revelo. Credit: U.N.

ROME  (IPS/TerraViva) Women are known to be innovators when it comes to responding to climate change. The question is how to ensure that the role of women and gender equality are reflected in climate change agreements.

Women in poor countries will be the most affected by climate change effects, according to the 2009 State of the World Population report, released last month by the United Nations Population Fund. This is because women comprise the majority of the world’s farmers, have access to fewer income-earning opportunities, and have limited or no access to technology. Continue Reading

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Hunger Strikers in “Moral Call to Climate Action”

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

By Liza Jansen

Anna Keenan, one of the hunger strikers,  has a tattoo on her neck that reads "climate  justice". Credit: Robert van Woorden

Anna Keenan, one of the hunger strikers, has a tattoo on her neck that reads "climate justice". Credit: Robert van Woorden

UNITED NATIONS (IPS/TerraViva) Hoping to emotionally engage world leaders and ordinary citizens, hundreds of people from around the globe have entered their fourth week of fasting in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference.

“I am doing the Climate Justice Fast (CJF) because all the other forms of activism – while very necessary – are clearly not working fast enough,” Anna Keenan, one of the organisers of the fast, told IPS. Continue Reading

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Q&A: “Copenhagen Should Target the Developed World”

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

Andrea Bordé interviews DJIMON HOUNSOU, U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Climate Change

Actor Djimon Hounsou opens the U.N.Summit on Climate Change in September 2009 with a quote from the late astronomer Carl Sagan.

Actor Djimon Hounsou opens the U.N.Summit on Climate Change in September 2009 with a quote from the late astronomer Carl Sagan. Credit: UN Photo/Marco Castro

UNITED NATIONS (IPS/TerraViva) -  Although a professional actor by trade, Djimon Hounsou takes his role as a U.N. goodwill ambassador for climate change seriously, and hopes to see a strong mandate reached in Copenhagen that puts the spotlight on developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Terraviva spoke with Hounsou about his hopes for what will come out of the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

He believes that developed countries should take responsibility for their share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is currently above 60 percent, but he also hopes to see developing countries launch their own initiatives to combat climate change. Continue Reading

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OIL: A Market Psychology of Fear?

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

Oil_well_public_domainDec7_By Chris Arsenault

VANCOUVER  (IPS/TerraViva) With or without a binding deal at the climate talks in Copenhagen, it seems the world may have to cut its oil consumption, as emerging geological and economic trends limit the availability and affordability of petroleum.
Back in the 1970s, Saudi Arabia’s flamboyant oil minister Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani articulated what has become conventional wisdom for policymakers around the planet: ”The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”

Today, an increasing chorus of voices is challenging that prediction. While the world isn’t running out of oil in any absolute sense, a daunting picture of the availability and thus affordability of supply compared with expected demand increases is beginning to emerge.

“In 2015, the world’s consumption of oil will likely be closing in on 100 million barrels per day, roughly 22 percent higher than the current level – which is a relatively high annual growth for the oil industry,” states a briefing marked “confidential” from Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), obtained by TerraViva through a Freedom of Information Request.

The censored briefings, created in collaboration with other Canadian government agencies, paint a troubling picture of future energy security that has recently been corroborated by other sources.

In 2005, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Paris-based multinational information centre created after the 1973 energy crisis, predicted that world oil production could rise to 120 million barrels per day by 2030, up from 85 million bpd in 2008.

The IEA “was forced to reduce” its predictions on possible world supply “to 116 million and then 105 million last year,” according to a senior official in the organisation, who spoke with the Guardian newspaper in early November on the condition of anonymity.

The U.S. Department of Energy, through its International Energy Outlook (IEO), has also been quietly scaling down its numbers on possible supply. In 2007, the agency predicted that the world would be able to pump 107.2 million barrels per day in 2030. In summer 2009, it drastically reduced its supply predictions to 93.1 million barrels per day.

In its latest forecast, released Nov. 10, the IEA predicted that world oil supply would hit 105 million barrels per day by 2030. Even with those figures, which many analysts, including some inside the IEA, consider overly optimistic, there is likely to be a shortfall of some 11 million barrels per day by 2030.

“Every year we lose four million barrels a day [of production due to depletion],” said Jeff Rubin, the former chief economist with CIBC World Markets.

“Over the next five years, we are going to have to find 20 million barrels a day of new production, just so that we can [continue to] consume what we consume today,” Rubin told TerraViva in June.

Rubin is a believer in the peak oil theory – the idea that oil production will reach a maximum point and then fall fairly sharply as demand outpaces possible supply.

Gasoline and transportation oil can be manufactured from coal and other petroleum sources, meaning the world will not run out in any absolute sense, but the costs – both economic and environmental – will be far higher than conventional crude.

“Groups and individuals speaking out about forthcoming world oil supply challenges are frequently stereotyped as a fringe element with little knowledge about the oil industry,” said the Sweden-based Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas in a Nov. 24 news release. “But their warnings are increasingly supported by some surprising allies: senior petroleum industry officials, consultants and analysts.”

Christophe de Margerie, CEO of Total SA, Europe’s third largest oil company, believes the world will never be able to produce more than 89 million barrels per day.

ConocoPhillips’ chief executive Jim Mulva told a conference in London last month that he doubted producers would be able to meet long-term oil demand. Both oil executives challenged IEA predictions.

The senior IEA official who blew the whistle on the organisation’s tendency to overstate supply says the group is manipulating data in order to placate financial markets.

“Many inside the organisation (IEA) believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90 million to 95 million barrels a day would be impossible, but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further,” a senior IEA official told the Guardian.

According to the confidential RCMP documents, “[censored]… a market psychology of fear will continue to place a ‘geopolitical premium’ on crude oil, keeping prices for oil products higher than market fundamentals alone would dictate.”

It is this fear that the IEA is trying to placate. However, many believe a binding deal at Copenhagen seems like a more reasonable approach to reduce oil dependency than the current policy of fudging the numbers.

(END/2009)

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CHINA/INDIA: ‘Business as Usual’ for Carbon Emission Targets

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

Analysis by Darryl D’Monte *

MUMBAI, India (IPS/TerraViva) – China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, has stolen a march over the rest of Asia in unilaterally declaring its carbon intensity cuts a day after President Barack Obama did late last month for the U.S.

The U.S. has proposed a 17 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2020 -less than one-seventh of what the European Union has committed. India, the fifth largest emitter, was forced to fall in line, so as not to be seen as recalcitrant.

Both China and India have toed the U.S. line in citing their voluntary reductions from 2005 levels, whereas the Kyoto Protocol regime has stipulated emission cuts from 1990. This puts China’s offer of reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 and India’s 20 to 25 percent in a different perspective.

Since emissions have been rising in these two giant economies between 1990 and 2005, the reductions are not so ambitious and do not deviate that much from business as usual.

China has also taken the lead in cobbling together a new BASIC coalition—consisting of Brazil, South Africa, India and China. The four have listed their “non-negotiable” demands: no legally binding cuts, unsupported mitigation actions, international monitoring of unsupported mitigation actions and use of climate as a trade barrier. They threaten to walk out of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen if industrialised countries browbeat them.

Reportedly, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao summoned India’s Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, who was in Beijing in late November, to an unscheduled meeting and told him that China planned to lead the developing world in presenting a united front against the West. He was literally given a night to read the BASIC draft and sign on the dotted line.

This is a far cry from the precursor to Copenhagen, the U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, when India represented G77 developing countries (now increased to 130). India’s Environment Minister at the time, Kamal Nath, baited the U.S., led by President George Bush, Sr. The White House was so incensed that it admonished then Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, who had to tone down his rhetoric at the summit.

India has tied itself in knots on its stand on climate. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to abide by the two degrees Celsius cap on rise in global temperatures at the Group of Eight wealthiest nations meetings in Italy in July.

Indian negotiators criticised him for compromising India’s future growth prospects. Subsequently, Ramesh wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, leaked to the media, suggesting India offer voluntary cuts in emissions and subject these to international verification. This triggered a political furore in India, prompting him to retract his letter. China, by contrast, is consistent in its policy.

“India is a leader of the developing world,” says Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi. “It should campaign for the voice of the marginalised and victims of climate change.”

She adds: “India should avoid sitting at the high table with polluters (rich countries). Therefore, we have to put pressure on the North to take effective emission cuts. That will be a real leadership role.”

On Dec. 3, when India announced its policy, Qin Gang, the spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that China and India were developing countries and victims of climate change. China understood the Indian situation on climate change and would support India’s adaptation and mitigation plan that was based on its own national situation and capacity.

However, there are vast differences between the two countries. Between 1990 and 2005, per capita energy use increased by half in China – three times more than in India. Jairam himself has referred to China’s carbon intensity – the amount of carbon emitted per 1,000 U.S. dollars of GDP – 2.8 tonnes as against India’s one tonne.

As Huo Weiya of the independent online publication ´Chinadialogue´in Beijing observes: “Three decades of economic growth have given the Chinese citizenry ample material desires; a lifestyle has by now taken root that hopes to keep up with the rich, particularly to keep up with the Americans.”

Some Chinese and Indian experts are uneasy about their countries unilaterally offering carbon intensity cuts. Qi Jianguo, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that the targets would put “great pressure” on China’s development.

Before India announced its policy, Sunita Narain, who is also a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, warned: “There needs to be a proper deliberative process if India needs a carbon or energy intensity number. That has still not been done. It must not make a laughing stock of itself by announcing new numbers every day; it should stick to its own 20 percent by 2020 domestic commitment.”

She alleged that India’s changing position reflected U.S. interests, not its own. “It is clearly at the behest of the U.S. president. It will derail the multilateral negotiations,” she said.

* Darryl D’Monte, President of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists.

(END/2009)

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Investing in Climate Prosperity

Posted on 04 December 2009 by editor

By Hazel Henderson *Claudius_tren1

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA (TerraViva/IPS) The world’s giant pension and institutional funds (university and foundation endowments) are seeing the light on climate issues.

As governments wrangle over how to cap carbon and other pollutants, how much it will cost, and who should pay, private investors in North America, Europe, China, India, Japan, and Brazil have been quietly investing in the solution: shifting to low-carbon, cleaner, renewable energy and smarter, more efficient infrastructure and transportation. Continue Reading

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