Archive for the 'energy' Category

Climate Change Mitigation: Action for a better future.

by Karl-Heinz Florenz, German MEP and member of the Environment Committee

It has been said many times through the years that the young are our hope. However, in the race to secure scarce resources and protect our climate, time has run out – we cannot wait for future generations to find solutions to today’s problems. Unless sustainable solutions are found (and put in practice) soon, our children may have no raw materials with which to heat their homes or produce goods – their hopes now rest firmly in our hands. This is a weighty responsibility; but also a unique opportunity for this generation of leaders to be the architects of the future.

Ensuring we make the right choices is a complex task which involves balancing many factors. Furthermore, there is only a small window of opportunity remaining to make sure that we get things right. Scientific consensus tells us that we must cut global carbon emissions substantially by 2050 if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. A fundamental change needs to take place in our society; we need to evolve towards a “sustainable society”.

There is however cause for optimism. In Europe, we have already taken important steps towards meeting our ambitious carbon reduction targets and global powers like America and China have signaled their intention to engage in the challenge. Within this atmosphere of change, December’s Copenhagen summit will hopefully deliver a new international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Hopefully, the summit will also help to make clear that climate action is not only a necessity to ensure future development, but also an imperative to overcome the current economic and financial crisis.

Through determined action in this field, we will not only protect the climate and the environment and help to strengthen our economy, but also ensure a better and fairer future for all citizens.

The European Union must lead by example on this issue – having set the benchmark for others to follow with the 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions by 20% (and 30% within the framework of an international agreement). We cannot be seen to waver if we want to progress towards this future, however, action needs to be concerted and far-seeing. “Snapshot-policies” carry with them the risk to disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged communities amongst us.

It is important that all stakeholders work hard and considerately to avoid this occurring. While it is not the role or purpose of mitigation policy to address social inequality, good governance of the issue can provide many opportunities. It has the ability to create new jobs, reinvigorate economies and, in collaboration with other policy areas, lead the way to a better future that is less driven by inequalities. Creating long term gains, however, will require short term focus and right decisions now!

Advertisements

Path to Copenhagen Begins at Home

by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee

This week marks the beginning of the international climate conference in Copenhagen and the next phase in our efforts – both domestic and international – to address one of the greatest challenges facing our world: climate change.

We have much to accomplish in Copenhagen. Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. One country or region cannot solve it alone. While the U.S. and other developed countries – which, historically, have accounted for the overwhelming majority of carbon emissions – have significant emission reduction responsibilities in the near term, it is important that all countries take responsibility for their contribution to global carbon pollution, and act accordingly. The specific targets that China and India recently announced are certainly a good step, and I hope to see more commitment, especially in terms of measurement, reporting and verification at Copenhagen.

It is important to emphasize that any commitments we make in Copenhagen should not force our hand on domestic climate legislation. Rather, climate legislation should work in concert with an international agreement and emissions reduction goals stated in it. This approach will help us pass climate legislation in the Senate, and help get Senate support for a global agreement. Likewise, other countries’ policies should contribute to the solution by challenging themselves to address the problem by means that work best for them. We have learned many lessons from the Kyoto protocol, and the challenge facing us will require more solid footing to achieve the results necessary to ensure a secure future for all generations.

The path to Copenhagen begins here at home, with our innovations and strength leading the way. Whatever the U.S. policy ends up being, it is clear that there are actions that we can take right now that will start us down the path of combating climate change. It begins with the deployment of a broad range of new clean energy technologies. This includes renewable energy, nuclear, natural gas and coal with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, and an increase in the overall efficiency of our energy use.

I have been a long-time supporter of a federal renewable electricity standard (RES), which would require that a certain percentage of our electricity come from renewable energy resources. Wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources have great potential, but we – especially in the U.S. – are not fully utilizing their potential. The investments that we have long made researching these technologies are poised to pay off, and we need to develop the policies to assist in their rapid deployment.

We also need to invest in other, more mature clean energy technologies, like nuclear power and natural gas. Let me be clear – we will need an all-of-the-above approach to combat this challenge. There is no silver bullet, rather we need silver buckshot.

The case that human-induced climate change is real has been made, and it remains strong and compelling. Now it is upon us to decide what to do about it. Ultimately, we need climate policy that is right for the United States whether or not all of the scientific questions have been answered. Diversifying our energy sources, investing in energy efficiency and lowering our greenhouse gas pollution all make sense for reasons other than climate change. We need to produce more of our energy needs at home and lessen our dependence on oil from unstable regions of the world. We need to join in the rapidly growing clean energy economy that will put Americans back to work. We need to develop the cutting edge energy technologies and be the ones selling them to other countries. We need to ensure American families and businesses are getting the most bang for their energy buck – an energy efficient economy is a stronger economy. And we should be combating air pollution of all types, especially as we learn more about the dangers to public health and our environment.

Leadership in addressing climate change will translate into leadership in the clean energy economy, leading to new jobs and entirely new industries. I believe that you can be green and make green. Many other countries, including emerging economies like China, have recognized that the world is addressing the challenges of climate change with carbon-free energy development, and their economies are responding by taking the lead in the manufacture and deployment of those technologies.

The U.S. should be at the front of this charge, reinvigorating our economy, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and creating jobs.

We have an opportunity and obligation that is more important now than any previous generation. We have identified a vast global problem, but we also have the solution at hand. And this solution will help create jobs and reduce poverty across the globe if we use the climate challenge as an opportunity to lead the development of a new clean energy economy.

What we need is the collective political will to make this solution a reality. The resolve to address the climate challenge has been steadily increasing, and I believe the meeting in Copenhagen offers a great opportunity to take the next step in a global agreement. This is why I look forward to participating in the process in Copenhagen and to help arrive at a solution that works for all of us, both the global community and the United States.

Senator Mark Udall
December 7, 2009

Copenhagen: Chronicle of a failure.

by Carlos Martínez-Orgado, Presidente del Instituto para la Sostenibilidad de los Recursos (ISR)

In the coming days it will be held in the Danish capital, the thousand-times-announced Climate Summit. However, the main actors are carefully saying, “urbi et orbi”, there will be no meaningful results.

Indeed, we are currently witnessing the beginning of a cosmetic race for “making up the dead”, ensuring that no-one looks bad in the pictures from the Summit. Decision-makers are working to find a more meaningless agreement that avoids the absurdity of bringing thousands of people together to produce nothing.

Although the official experts have developed an accepted discourse around what is at stake and what needs to be done, in truth it is a simplistic and politically-correct version of the real situation. It is unlikely that it is even believed by those leaders who decide the fate of the world. Only this can explain the lack of interest in agreeing on measures that are defined as exceptionally urgent.

World citizens have accepted this discourse. But in the end, they do not believe it either, because obviously there is no pressure emerging from society demanding results. Politicians do not believe that the results of the Summit will in any way affect their electoral prospects. Moreover, the misinformation causes people to confuse a long-term process such as climate change with the vicissitudes of daily weather. Citizens believe that they can personally observe the effects of climate change and thus tries to explain that this week the weather is colder, warmer, wetter or drier than the previous week.

Thus, the European Union presents itself to the world as the leader in the fight against climate change. But its whole strategy is very shy and always looking askance at the other regions, so as not to endanger its short-term competitiveness.

Meanwhile, emerging countries do not want to pay the bill for what the rich countries have broken. This is the case in China and India, whose demographic weight is so important. Brazil seems to be the leader in setting a new path for these countries.

The United States and Russia, the two leading architects of the current situation, are a special case. Nothing was expected from the latter, but great expectations accompanied the election of Obama. The balloon has been deflated within ten months. Unfortunately the closest thing to a Republican President is a Democratic President. It seems that not even Obama is taking the issue seriously.

In these conditions, frustration reigns. We have been reduced to discussing changes in the proposition through improved efficiency.

Even so, it should still be possible to go slightly beyond Kyoto. Yet not even on this point is there agreement. But the great challenge of the future is to create a shift in demand, a complete paradigm shift, and re-engineer society.

But still, we must not lose sight of the paramount importance of securing the future. But it is also clear that the great pandemic that plagues the world is hunger, followed by lack of education and life prospects. Governments fall into the hysteria of the H1N1 virus but ignore these stubborn realities.

In short, to paraphrase Hemingway, after Copenhagen, “Do not ask for whom the bells tolls, it tolls for you.”

Climate Progress At Home And Around the World

By:  United States Senator John Kerry

There are two big questions that will determine the climate change debate in the United States and in the world: can China and the United States come to a meeting of the minds? And, can the United States bring policymakers together here at home to give meaning to America’s words about leading by example.

I believe the answer to both questions can be yes.

When Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, the distance traveled seemed greater than the 7,000 miles from Washington to Beijing. He was bridging the gap between two worlds that had been sealed off from one another for an entire generation.  Back then, a handshake between Nixon and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was enough to change the world. Today, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter and history’s biggest emitter, China and America, must change the world again – and nothing less than a transformation of the energy economy will suffice.  The question is, can we forge a partnership bold enough to prevent a climate catastrophe? With a preliminary political agreement on the agenda for December’s climate talks in Copenhagen looming, the US-China negotiations are an important test. Because other countries will take their cues from us, a successful global climate deal will depend on America and China signaling our seriousness now.

It is well known that China refuses to accept binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Less well known is that China is rapidly embracing clean energy solutions – in some cases outpacing the US. On my visit to China in May, I met with leaders who, until recently, had not been willing to entertain this discussion. Now they are unequivocal that China grasps the urgency and is ready to be a “positive, constructive” player in international climate change negotiations. President Obama’s announcement this November with the Chinese offers new promise for partnership.

Yes, we want more than promises from China – the world’s largest emitter must eventually accept binding reductions. But it would be a mistake to focus single-mindedly on what China has said it will not do. Even as we push China to go further, we must deepen our collaboration on what China can and will do now.

We are already cooperating on clean energy. An energy efficiency programme at two steel plants in Shandong, run in partnership with a US laboratory, grew into a China-wide programme covering a thousand enterprises. Stories such as this convinced the Chinese leadership to embrace a 10-year framework for US-China energy cooperation, and led to the agreement to build joint clean energy research centres, signed this month. Now we need to extend these partnerships to climate change.

And here at home in the United States? Yes, conventional wisdom suggests that the prospect of Congress passing a comprehensive climate change bill soon is rapidly approaching zero. But South Carolina’s Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and I  refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change. with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), we are also convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution. Our partnership represents a fresh attempt to find consensus that adheres to our core principles and leads to both a climate change solution and energy independence. It begins now, not months from now — with a road to 60 votes in the Senate.

First, we agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change. We will minimize the impact on major emitters through a market-based system that will provide both flexibility and time for big polluters to come into compliance without hindering global competitiveness or driving more jobs overseas.

Second, while we invest in renewable energy sources like wind and solar, we must also take advantage of nuclear power, our single largest contributor of emissions-free power. Nuclear power needs to be a core component of electricity generation if we are to meet our emission reduction targets. We need to jettison cumbersome regulations that have stalled the construction of nuclear plants in favor of a streamlined permit system that maintains vigorous safeguards while allowing utilities to secure financing for more plants. We must also do more to encourage serious investment in research and development to find solutions to our nuclear waste problem.

Third, climate change legislation is an opportunity to get serious about breaking our dependence on foreign oil. For too long, we have ignored potential energy sources off our coasts and underground. Even as we increase renewable electricity generation, we must recognize that for the foreseeable future we will continue to burn fossil fuels. To meet our environmental goals, we must do this as cleanly as possible. The United States should aim to become the Saudi Arabia of clean coal. For this reason, we need to provide new financial incentives for companies that develop carbon capture and sequestration technology.

In addition, we are committed to seeking compromise on additional onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration — work that was started by a bipartisan group in the Senate last Congress. Any exploration must be conducted in an environmentally sensitive manner and protect the rights and interests of our coastal states.

Fourth, we cannot sacrifice another job to competitors overseas. China and India are among the many countries investing heavily in clean-energy technologies that will produce millions of jobs. There is no reason we should surrender our marketplace to countries that do not accept environmental standards. For this reason, we should consider a border tax on items produced in countries that avoid these standards. This is consistent with our obligations under the World Trade Organization and creates strong incentives for other countries to adopt tough environmental protections.

Finally, we will develop a mechanism to protect businesses — and ultimately consumers — from increases in energy prices. The central element is the establishment of a floor and a ceiling for the cost of emission allowances. This will also safeguard important industries while they make the investments necessary to join the clean-energy era. We recognize there will be short-term transition costs associated with any climate change legislation, costs that can be eased. But we also believe strongly that the long-term gain will be enormous.

Failure to act comes with another cost. If Congress does not pass legislation dealing with climate change, the administration will use the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new regulations. Imposed regulations are likely to be tougher and they certainly will not include the job protections and investment incentives we are proposing. The message to those who have stalled for years is clear: killing a Senate bill is not success; indeed, given the threat of agency regulation, those who have been content to make the legislative process grind to a halt would later come running to Congress in a panic to secure the kinds of incentives and investments we can pass today. Industry needs the certainty that comes with Congressional action.

We are confident that a legitimate bipartisan effort at home can put America back in the lead again and can empower our negotiators to sit down at the table in Copenhagen in December and insist that the rest of the world join us in producing a new international agreement on global warming. We believe China can join us. That way, we will pass on to future generations a strong economy, a clean environment and an energy-independent nation.


About SHIFT

FD SHIFT is a global forum for public policy and public affairs perspectives.

FD SHIFT provides policymakers, industry leaders and stakeholders with a forum to share their analysis of the critical policy issues facing business and government across the globe. FD, one of the world’s most highly regarded consultancies in the communications industry, wants to help build substance and foster thought leadership in public policy debate.

To contribute your point of view, contact us at COP15@fd.com.

Follow Lawrence on Twitter … Live From Copenhagen!