All posts by Stephen Stretton

UK Targets “Not Enough To Prevent World Extinction”

UK Targets “Not Enough To Prevent World Extinction”

Stephen Stretton, Cambridge

1st August 2007

The current UK greenhouse gas targets are not enough to avoid a world
extinction on a scale last seen with the end of the dinosaurs.

Even if we hit the government’s target of reducing Carbon Dioxide
pollution, and most other countries adopt a similar approach – the
world could be committed to up to six degrees of climate change.

The impacts would include collapse of the Amazon rainforest and most
of the world’s fertile farmland turning to desert. Rising seas would
flood major cities such as London, New York, Shanghai and Calcutta. It
would lead to the extinction of most life on earth.

If the UK is to lead, it must lead much more strongly. Current targets
are simply not enough. We to avoid 2C of climate change based on
convergence to safe and fair equal per-capita emissions. This may mean
a 90% reduction in all greenhouse gases by 2030 in the UK.

Summary of Climate Bill Response: Not Enough

Full response to climate bill (pdf)

Continue reading UK Targets “Not Enough To Prevent World Extinction”

UK Energy White Paper, 23 May 2007.

DTI consultation on Energy White Paper, including on nuclear

Press Release at…

The Energy White Paper was launched on 23 May 2007. You can get a full
copy at…

Here is the DTI’s short summary of what the White Paper includes:

• A requirement for new meters to come with a real-time display from
2008 and a short term offer of free displays from energy suppliers for
households to 2010. In addition, the Government is encouraging the
introduction of smart meters, also with displays, in the household
sector and for small firms and expects everyone to have a smart meter
within 10 years, whilst requiring smart meters for all but the smallest
of businesses in the next five years.

• A consultation setting out how the energy efficiency of consumer
electronics will need to improve is published.

• A consultation to double energy suppliers’ current obligation to
deliver energy efficiency measures to customers through a new ‘Carbon
Emission Reduction Target’.

• A cap and trade ‘Carbon Reduction Commitment’ for large commercial
organisations such as banks, supermarkets and large local authorities.

• A ‘Distributed Generation’ Report is published including
simplification of energy market and licensing arrangements for localised
energy by the end of 2008 and clearer export tariffs from all six major
energy suppliers for microgenerators to sell excess electricity.

• Legislation to band the Renewables Obligation to benefit offshore
wind, wave, tidal and other emerging technologies. The cap on the amount
of co-firing generation qualifying for support will be removed.

• Publication of a Biomass Strategy as well as a response to ‘ Creating
Value from Renewable Materials’ – a 2 year progress report on the
Strategy for Non – Food Crops and Uses.

• Detail on the competition announced in the Budget to build the world’s
first end-to-end Carbon Capture and Storage plant, which will deliver at
least 300MW capacity, 90% CO2 saving, and be up and running between 2011
and 2014.

• Legislation to allow the storage of natural gas under the seabed and
unloading of Liquefied Natural Gas at sea.

• A three month deadline within which DTI will make consent decisions on
large scale energy projects, pending more radical reforms set out in the
Planning White Paper.

• A new energy market information and analysis service from this

• A Low Carbon Transport Innovation Strategy is published backed by
funding of £20m for public procurement of low carbon vehicles, an up to
£30m R&D ‘Innovation Platform’ and £5m additional funding for the Energy
Technologies Institute.

In addition, published alongside the White Paper, are:

• A new consultation on the Government’s preliminary view that it is in
the public interest to give private sector energy companies the option
of investing in new nuclear power stations. A 20 week public
consultation running until 10 October starts today.

• A related consultation setting out the proposed ‘Justification’ and
‘Strategic Siting Assessment’ processes for new nuclear power. A
‘pre-licensing’ process has separately been started by the Health and
Safety Executive. Work on all three of these facilitative actions will
be on a contingent basis alongside the main nuclear consultation. We
will review whether to continue with this work in the light of the main
consultation responses.

The Planning White Paper, published on Monday 21 May, has separately set
out proposals for a new consent regime for nationally significant energy
infrastructure. This will help reduce costs, delays and uncertainties
incurred by the private sector while also providing an appropriate
opportunity for the public to challenge development.

3. Nuclear consultation.

• The Government wants as many people as possible to take part in the
consultation and has designed the process to ensure we are listening to
the wider public as well as interested parties.

• We have set up an online consultation at and the website has been
designed to make it easy for people to take part. A copy of the
consultation document can be downloaded from the right hand side of this

• We will also be hosting a series of deliberative events across the UK.
They will enable us to understand the views of the public after they
have heard the key facts and arguments in the consultation.

• Discussion at the events will address the same key questions in the
consultation document. The public taking part in the deliberative events
will be recruited to be demographically representative of the UK
population. Recruitment will be through direct invitation of randomly
selected homes on selected electoral registers.

• In addition, over the next few months we want to meet with
representatives from NGOs, industry, local authorities and many other
organisations. These meetings will enable us to explore in more detail
the views of interested parties.

• Summaries of the events will be published on the DTI website when
available during the consultation.

4. In addition to the Energy White Paper, consultations and other
reports mentioned above, a number of analytical and consultants reports
are also published today. Copies can be found at…

A Pale Shade of Green

Energy policy
A pale shade of green
Jul 12th 2007
>From The Economist print edition
When it comes to climate change, the Democrats are proving almost as bad
as George Bush

SOON after the Democrats took control of Congress last year, its new
leaders promised to overhaul America’s energy policy. They vowed to
tackle climate change head-on, despite the president’s reluctance. No
longer, they said, would they meekly accept America’s reliance on
foreign despots for imports of oil. And something would be done to lower
the price of petrol (gasoline), they assured agitated drivers. Nancy
Pelosi, the new speaker of the House of Representatives, set up a
special committee to come up with a solution to the nation’s energy woes
by July 4th, so that America’s new political masters could declare
“energy independence” on the same day their forebears renounced the
colonial yoke.
But July 4th has come and gone, Ms Pelosi as yet has no energy bill and
America is still just as firmly yoked to expensive, dirty, imported
energy as ever. The price of oil is near the nominal record reached last
year, and petrol costs well over $3 a gallon. Not only have the
Democrats shelved any plan for limiting greenhouse emissions; they have
also embraced two of Mr Bush’s more pernicious ideas: using greenery as
an excuse to dole out subsidies to ungreen lobbies; and claiming a bogus
link between climate change and energy independence.

Give the Senate Democrats credit for one thing: they have passed an
energy bill that would require American cars to guzzle a bit less
petrol. That is no small achievement. It is the first time either
chamber has resolved to raise fuel-economy standards for a third of a
century. Sadly, however, the Senate’s energy bill weds sensible steps on
fuel economy and energy efficiency with all manner of less helpful,
populist measures, including new anti-price-gouging rules aimed at big
oil companies and hand-outs for farmers in the form of new incentives
for expensive (and ungreen) corn-based ethanol. It also empowers the
government to sue members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting
Countries for forming a cartel—a step that is not likely to increase
America’s access to oil.
The House has yet to pass a bill, but it will probably include most of
this tosh, as well as subsidies for the pet technologies of various
congressmen, perhaps including a particularly grubby fuel derived from
coal. Even if the House and the Senate can patch a bill together from
this mish-mash, the president may yet veto it. And rightly so: in its
lack of ambition and its embrace of boondoggles, the prospective bill
resembles the generally derided Energy Act which the oil-fired
Republicans pushed through in 2005.
The Democrats hold at least two suspect truths to be self-evident. Most
obviously, they think that politicians should micro-manage energy
policy, encouraging some technologies and neglecting others. That
ignores most of the lessons of economics, but it is decidedly well
grounded compared with the Democrats’ other verity: that slowing global
warming and reducing dependence on imported fuels go hand-in-hand. What
sense does it make to give preference to American ethanol over the
cheaper and more climate-friendly Brazilian sort? (Indeed, if you
embrace the goal of “energy security”, bigger imports of Brazilian
ethanol might help, by reducing America’s demand for oil from more
hostile lands.)
The Democrats’ leaders might calculate that it is worth dressing up an
energy bill with patriotic talk and weighing it down with subsidies in
order to buy political support for more contentious measures. If so,
they are wasting their bargaining chips. The boldest element of the
current bill, the toughening of fuel-economy standards, enjoys strong
support from the public, the president and leaders of both parties. Its
only determined opponents are American carmakers, and even they are
haggling not over the principle of more efficient vehicles, but over the
scope and ambition of the new standards.
Dick Cheney is rather proud of you
What about a bill limiting emissions of greenhouse gases? The Democrats
do not even plan to broach the subject until later in the year, after
their first energy bill has got through. That might be tantamount to
giving up. It will be hard to build momentum for a second law on much
the same subject. The most exercised lobbyists and legislators will have
run out of energy, so to speak. And to some cynical observers, that
would seem to suit the party’s upper ranks just fine: they would be
happy to keep global warming in reserve as an emotive issue with which
to rally supporters at the next election. The fact that so many
allegedly green groups are keeping mum about this merely shows that the
verdant left thinks getting Democrats elected is more important than the
That is a pity. It makes little sense to start work on the nitty-gritty
of cleaning up cars or power plants without setting an overall target
for emissions cuts. Furthermore, if Congress were to enact some sort of
overarching incentive for reduced emissions, such as a cap-and-trade
system or, better yet, a carbon tax, many of the measures it is now
contemplating would need no further prompting or payouts from
Global warming is the problem, after all, and fuel economy just one part
of the solution. A single shot does not constitute a revolution,
especially if you then run away.

China must come clean about its poisonous environment

When reading the article below bear in mind the findings of the PEW
Global Attitudes Survery published on 27th June 2007:
“Rising alarm about environmental problems registers across the board.
Thirty-seven per cent of Americans name the issue as the top global
threat, up 14% in five years. *In China, another big polluter, 70%
agree*. In Britain, the figure is 46%.”
(source: Guardian 28th June 2007)
Covering up bad news seems like a short-term existential necessity for
the Chinese authorities.

China must come clean about its poisonous environment

FT Published: July 3 2007 22:23 | Last updated: July 3 2007 22:23
Even in a China that is more capitalist than ever, the instinctive
official response to bad news is to suppress it with all the force
available to the nominally communist state. Beijing needs to accept that
in 2007 this kind of reaction is as futile and dangerous as it was in
2003, when the authorities kept secret the spread of the deadly Sars
virus. It is futile because the truth will out and dangerous because
secrecy delays the necessary remedial action.
So it is with the bowdlerising of a World Bank report on pollution in
China. As the Financial Times has reported, the original research found
that more than *750,000 Chinese die prematurely each year*
mainly from air pollution.
The State Environment Protection Agency and the health ministry told the
World Bank to cut this from the published report because it was, in the
words of an adviser involved in the study, “too sensitive and could
cause social unrest”. Chinese officials were probably worried by the
detailed breakdown of the worst places to live in China, which showed
the most toxic cities clustered in the north-western coal belt.
Residents of polluted cities do not need the World Bank to tell them the
air is filthy. They breathe the stuff every day. But Chinese officials
are right to be nervous. Environmental protests – rural and urban – have
proliferated in recent years as Chinese citizens become better educated
and more forceful in defence of their rights. In Xiamen, angry residents
have stalled plans to build a petrochemical plant seen as a source of
lethal pollution.
However, the correct response to the sort of grim news contained in the
World Bank report is not to suppress the truth but to tackle the
underlying problem. Reducing emissions from coal-fired power stations,
for example, is neither as expensive nor as difficult as businesses and
the provincial governments with which they collude often pretend.
Moreover, China can tie the essentially domestic crisis of urban air
pollution into solving the international problem of climate change.
Spewing out local air pollutants and carbon, the main global warming
gas, often go hand in hand. The same holds for modernising plants to
avoid either type of emissions. Many foreign companies are eager to fund
these clean-up projects in exchange for carbon credits valued at home.
In the meantime, these could help China solve its local air pollution
All of the above can only happen if Chinese leaders overcome their fear
of the facts and start telling the truth. They may find it easier than
they think and it would certainly produce better results.

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Senate votes for first rise in car fuel standard in 32 years

Senate votes for first rise in car fuel standard in 32 years

*Ed Pilkington in New York
Saturday June 23, 2007
The Guardian *

Democrats in the US Senate have taken a tentative step in the fight
against global warming by imposing the first increase in fuel efficiency
standards on car manufacturers in almost 20 years.
The Democratic majority fought off resistance from Republicans and
fierce lobbying from the big three Detroit-based car companies –
Chrysler, Ford and General Motors – to raise average fuel efficiency
benchmarks for all new cars to 35 miles per gallon (15km/litre) by 2020.
The existing standard of 27.5mpg has remained unchanged since 1989.
Article continues

Gas-guzzling four-wheel-drive cars, which have to meet an average of
22.2mpg, are for the first time covered by the same regulations as
passenger cars.
Harry Reid, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, said the provision,
which is in an energy bill making its way through Congress, “starts
America on a path toward reducing our reliance on oil”.
However, he lamented the fact that another important element of the bill
– a package of $32bn (

Crunch Time on Energy

Crunch Time on Energy
Published: June 19, 2007
The Senate will tell us this week whether it really wants to do
something about oil dependency and global warming or if it is just
fooling around.
The first week of debate on an energy bill, which the Senate majority
leader, Harry Reid, says he is determined to finish before the Fourth of
July recess, produced a few satisfying moments — mainly involving bad
ideas that were made to disappear. The days ahead will be more combative.
Here are important points of contention and some thoughts about how they
should be resolved in a way that moves this country toward a cleaner,
more sustainable energy future:
¶ Fuel Economy. The most effective energy efficiency policy ever adopted
by the federal government is the Corporate Average Fuel Economy
requirement of 1975. CAFE has saved billions of barrels of oil, but it
has not been improved for decades. The bill before the Senate would
bring fleetwide averages from roughly 25 miles per gallon to 35 miles
per gallon by 2020, hardly an impossible target. This proposal should be
approved, and a weaker compromise offered by industry allies should be
¶ Renewable Electricity. A provision championed by Senator Jeff
Bingaman, the leading Democratic spokesman on energy issues, would
require utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from wind, solar,
biomass and other clean-energy sources by 2020 — reducing demand for
fossil fuels as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Senior Republicans,
complaining about the one-size-fits-all approach, are threatening a
filibuster. Here again, though, the requirement does not seem insanely
onerous. The Senate approved a 10 percent requirement two years ago, and
the House is talking about 20 percent.
¶Coal-to-Liquids. A coalition of coal interests has been lobbying
furiously for subsidies to build a new generation of coal-to-liquid
power plants to produce diesel fuel. This could reduce our dependence on
foreign oil, although marginally and at great cost. It would also be a
disaster in terms of global warming unless ways are found to capture and
store the carbon dioxide emissions from the refining process. Without
such safeguards, coal-to-liquid plants cannot be allowed to proceed.
¶Renewable Fuels. Biofuels offer a far cleaner and more promising
approach to oil dependency than coal-to-liquids. The bill would
quintuple production, chiefly ethanol from sources other than corn. This
is a generally popular provision that must be amended to make sure that
the rush to ethanol does not destroy valuable forest and conservation lands.
Waiting in the wings is a tax bill that will eventually be married to
the energy bill. On the whole, the tax bill favors renewable and other
clean energy sources over the oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear
interests that received top billing in the 2005 plan. In fact, the
entire energy discussion this year is more forward-looking than it has
been for some time. It will be up to the leadership to keep it that way.

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