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Global News Roundup: UN Shipping Agency Sets Efficiency & Carbon Standards; China Plans Pilot Emissions Trading Scheme

By Energy Interns  

"Global News Roundup: UN Shipping Agency Sets Efficiency & Carbon Standards; China Plans Pilot Emissions Trading Scheme"

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A round-up of recent international climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.

UN Shipping Agency Adopts New Rules on Emissions

The U.N. agency regulating international shipping decided Friday that new cargo and transport vessels must meet energy efficiency standards and cut carbon pollution.

The decision by a powerful committee of the International Maritime Organization attacks a growing source of greenhouse gases and is the first measure on climate change to apply equally to countries regardless of whether they are from the industrial or developing world.

About 50,000 cargo ships carry 90 per cent of world trade, and most ships are powered by heavily polluting oil known as bunker fuels. The IMO says shipping was responsible for 2.7 percent of global carbon emissions in 2007, but that would double or even triple by mid-century if no action is taken.

But some countries were concerned that the universal application of the shipping rules undermined a cardinal principle of climate change negotiations that assigns greater responsibility to the wealthy countries whose industries created the global warming problem in the first place.

Under the new rules, ships contracted in the first five years after 2015 would have to improve fuel efficiency by 10 percent, and the standard would be tightened every subsequent five years. By 2030, a 30 percent reduction rate would be set for most types of ships, based on the average of those built between 1999 to 2009.

EEDI decision: How will Europe respond?

The big question now emanating from the IMO’s landmark MEPC 62 meeting to make energy efficiency standards mandatory in shipping is what the reaction of the European Union will be, and whether global mandatory EEDI will be enough to ward off Brussels’ own action to cut shipping emissions. The answer as can best be judged at this stage is probably ‘No’.

The European Commission is in the process of developing a regulatory proposal to cover emissions from international shipping in its region. It says progress has been too slow on a global regulation from IMO or the UN climate convention (UNFCCC).

The Commission has plainly stated before that if such steps are not taken at a global level by the end of 2011 then it will finalise a proposal in early 2012 and aim to have it take effect possibly as soon as 2013. In keeping with its own action, Brussels wants to see more extensive market-based measures (MBMs), that is, a bunker levy or emissions trading, applied to shipping. Early indications are that not much has changed in Brussels’ view following MEPC 62.

While Connie Hedegaard, the European climate commissioner, welcomed the IMO decision as “a very positive and important first step for a truly global, binding measure to reduce CO2 emissions,” further elaboration from Brussels suggested it might not be enough. A spokesman for Ms Hedegaard said the IMO decision “does not mean that the Commission will not propose anything for maritime next year. We are looking at the options on how the maritime sector can further contribute to the emissions reduction efforts. Bringing shipping into the ETS is only one of the options”.

Carbon tax wins support of largest union

Australia’s largest blue collar union has thrown its weight behind the carbon tax but has told the government it must do more to sell its plans.

The Australian Workers Union’s (AWU) executive committee voted unanimously to support the carbon tax on Monday, saying there would be no excuse for any jobs to be lost under the regime.

The AWU, which represents more than 130,000 workers in the steel, manufacturing, construction and resources industries, made its decision to support the tax after a week of meetings with industry and members.

“The compensation levels for emission-intensive, trade-exposed industries are what we and most in the industry were asking for as we entered into these negotiations,” Mr Howes said.

Mr Howes was adamant there was “no excuse” for businesses to lay off workers under the tax.

Instead, he issued a warning that if AWU employers used it as a reason to cut jobs they would be named and shamed.

China plans carbon-trading pilot scheme

China will introduce a pilot scheme for carbon emissions trading and gradually develop a national market as the world’s largest polluter seeks to reduce emissions and save energy, state media said.

China will promote the market’s development through “punitive” electricity tariffs on power-intensive industries and other new policies, Xie Zhenhua, a top climate official, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying on Sunday.

The report gave no timetable or other specifics on how the system would work.

Faced with severe pollution, a predicted surge in urbanisation and a struggle to ensure adequate energy supplies to fuel its rapid growth, China has outlined plans to reduce carbon emissions in its latest five-year economic plan.

As part of the carbon-trading push, China will promote development of green technologies and products through means such as preferential taxation policies, Xie, a vice minister with China’s top economic planning agency, was quoted saying.

China has pledged to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent by the end of 2020 — essentially a pledge to slow emissions growth, but not a cut.

Species Placed in Simulator of Earth’s Future Climate

A team of biologists have undertaken an unprecedented experiment to see how species native to the Amazon rainforest will fare in changing climates by subjecting them to conditions that mimic the hotter, more polluted world that may be on its way.

An international team of 200 scientists, working in partnership with Brazil’s National Institute for Amazon Research (INPA) have collected hundreds of plants, insects, fish, and other animals native to the Amazon to expose them to future climate scenarios — in a project called Adapta. The species will be housed in three separate, environmentally controlled rooms which will simulate conditions projected for 25, 50, and 100 years into the future, respectively.

According to the report, special machines will pump carbon dioxide into the testing facilities and the thermostat will be raised to reflect future climate projections outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The team of scientists will observe how these species, sampled from one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet, will adapt.

U.N. CO2 panel to review, not halt, coal plant support

A U.N. panel that oversees a $1.5 billion trade in carbon offsets has rejected advice to suspend support for new coal plants, proposing a review instead, its chairman Martin Hession said on Friday.

The panel, called the executive board, manages a trade in carbon offsets where rich countries pay for developing country projects to cut greenhouse gas emissions on their behalf.

A related U.N. body had alerted the board to possible over-compensation of new coal plants, which are paid for emissions cuts below a baseline set by the latest coal power technologies.

The clean development mechanism (CDM) operates under a complex rulebook where the board is only meant to approve projects that would not have been feasible without CDM support, which has left some room for interpretation and dispute.

Critics say that some projects from dams through to wind farms and super-efficient coal plants are profitable on their own and so should not qualify.

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