Energy and Global Warming News for September 16: World Bank spends billions funding coal-fired power while warning of impending catastrophe; Australia beats out U.S. for lead in per capita CO2 emissions

World Bank spends billions on coal-fired power stations despite own warnings

The World Bank is spending billions of pounds subsidising new coal-fired power stations in developing countries despite claiming that burning fossil fuels exposes the poor to catastrophic climate change. The bank, which has a goal of reducing poverty and is funded by Britain and other developed countries, calls on all nations in a report today to “act differently on climate change”.

It says that the world must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, but it is funding several giant coal-burning plants that will each emit millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide a year for the next 40 to 50 years.

Britain is contributing £400million to a World Bank fund that claims to support “clean technology” but is financing coal power plants.

The bank’s World Development Report says: “Developing countries are disproportionately affected by climate change “” a crisis that is not of their making and for which they are the least prepared. Increasing access to energy and other services using high-carbon technologies will produce more greenhouse gases, hence more climate change.”

… The report says that unless the world acts now to cut carbon dioxide emissions it faces a 5C (9F) rise in global temperatures by the end of the century. “Such a drastic temperature shift would cause the possible dieback of the Amazon rainforest, complete loss of glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas, and rapid ocean acidification leading to death of coral reefs,” it says.

“The speed and magnitude of change could wipe out more than 50 per cent of species. Sea levels could rise by one metre this century, threatening 60 million people. Agricultural productivity would likely decline throughout the world and over three million additional people could die from malnutrition each year.”

The 260-page report advises against “locking the world into high-carbon infrastructure” but makes no mention of the bank’s plans to subsidise coal power plants in India, South Africa, Botswana and other developing countries.

Last year the bank and its partner, the Asian Development Bank, approved $850million in loans to finance a coal-fired plant in Gujarat, western India.

The Environmental Defence Fund, a US lobby group, said that the plant, the first of nine planned in India, would be one of the biggest new sources of greenhouse gases on Earth, emitting 26.7million tonnes of CO2 a year for the next 50 years.

The bank is also contributing $5billion towards South Africa’s power generation expansion plan, which includes six coal plants.


Australia is #1 — New World Leader in Global Warming Emissions

Australia now emits about 20.6 tons of CO2 per capita annually. The US is second at about 19.8 tons. China leads the world in total greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s per capita emissions are miniscule in comparison — 4.5 tons. Also, India, another developing nation leading the world in CO2 emissions (4th) and under pressure to curb its emissions only emits 1.16 tons per capita annually.This new information comes from Maplecroft, a world leader in global risk assesments.

Canada is the 3rd highest CO2 culprit (18.8 tons per capita), the Netherlands comes in 4th, and Saudi Arabia 5th.

In addition to being the leading emitter, Australia is also at “extreme risk” of problems due to climate change, according to Maplecroft. Of developed countries, only Belgium and the Netherlands are worse in estimated risk.

In climate change negotiations, especially in Copenhagen in December, these calculations put Australia and other developed nations under greater pressure. Brazil, India, China, and other developing countries with high total carbon emissions but low per capita carbon emissions are arguing, rightfully, that it is the onus of these higher per capita countries to limit and decrease carbon emissions.

Tackling Climate Change Could Earn Africa $1.5bn

Using Africa’s vast agricultural resources to help tackle climate change could earn the continent $1.5 billion (909.4 million pounds) a year, a World Bank head said on Tuesday. The region should also tap its underexploited renewable resources, particularly hydropower, to meet increasing energy demand and boost both growth and development.

The region should also tap its underexploited renewable resources, particularly hydropower, to meet increasing energy demand and boost both growth and development.

“It is essential that climate change be viewed as a major development opportunity for Africa given the anticipated increase in the energy requirements as growth accelerates,” the Bank’s managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told a public lecture at the London School of Economics.

“Agricultural carbon sequestration could generate annual revenues of close to $1.5 billion,” she said, adding that agricultural land management would need to be included in future climate pacts so Africa could benefit from the carbon market.

Groups Seek Billions in Climate Bill for Resource Adaptation

A coalition of nearly 600 conservation, outdoor and recreation groups is calling on the Senate to dedicate billions of dollars in a climate change bill to wildlife and natural resources threatened by global warming. The groups are delivering a letter to senators today asking for legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and dedicates 5 percent of the total allowance value to federal, state and tribal agencies to take actions needed to conserve natural resources. Although estimates remain difficult, 5 percent of allowances could be worth anywhere from $3 billion to $5 billion annually.

“Climate change poses an immediate and profound threat to the healthy natural systems that provide us with drinking water, flood protection, food, medicine, timber, recreational opportunities, scenic beauty, jobs, and numerous other services,” the groups wrote. “Local, state, federal, and tribal fish, wildlife and land managers are critically short of funding needed to effectively respond to the combination of these challenges.”

The more than 40 national groups that signed the letter include Defenders of Wildlife, the National Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Nature Conservancy. The remaining groups include regional and local conservation, outdoor, hunting and fishing, recreation and faith groups.

End dirty tricks on clean energy push

Those of us who have worked for years to promote the transition to a new clean energy economy were deeply saddened by the recent conservative attack on Van Jones, leading ultimately to his resignation from the Council on Environmental Quality.

But we were also deeply puzzled. Glenn Beck and leading conservatives have launched a full-court press against comprehensive climate and energy legislation using rhetoric worthy of the communist witch hunts of the 1950s. Their charges of creeping socialism would be laughable if they weren’t so dangerous. In truth, fixing America’s broken energy policy offers the most pro-market, pro-business agenda put forward in recent memory.

By painting the transition to a clean energy economy as a socialist plot, Beck has made clear that he fails to comprehend what leading venture capitalist John Doerr has called the “largest economic opportunity of the 21st century.” Beck also completely misunderstands the historic roles of government and the private sector in market transformation and economic recovery. Let’s be clear: Private capital investment will be the main engine driving growth in a low-carbon economy, and the vast majority of jobs will be created by businesses both large and small “” not by government.

It will be entrepreneurs who develop innovative technology to make energy without pollution. Local contractors will retrofit our homes. Utility companies will rewire the electric grid. And manufacturing firms will be the ones making energy-efficient appliances “” and making a profit when consumers buy them.

Calif. governor boosts state’s clean energy plan

California’s governor on Tuesday ordered that a third of the state’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2020, the same amount as a legislature plan but with promises to let power companies get more electricity from outside the state.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that his plan would help the state better meet its clean energy target by making it easier to import power. He also said the legislature’s alternative would have required solar thermal plants to clear more regulatory hurdles before they could be built.

The most populous state is also the biggest U.S. alternative energy market, and its environmental standards including car pollution rules and green building regulations are models for national and international policies.

The state aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming to 1990 levels by 2020, and the governor has also called for the state to reduce carbon emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

Experts Release Roadmap to Slash Cost of Carbon Controls, Slow Climate Change

The Clean Air Task Force (CATF) today released its report “Coal Without Carbon”, detailing federal policy recommendations to lower the price of reducing carbon emissions from coal, a leading cause of climate change. Study authors include scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, as well as private power developers and experts from CATF.

The report comes as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider groundbreaking climate change legislation. Controlling the costs of the nation`s CO2 strategy is central to the debate.

“Congress must address coal in climate change legislation,” said John Thompson, CATF director of the coal transition project. “Coal accounts for 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and worldwide coal use is expected to double in coming decades, even as we dramatically increase energy efficiency and non-fossil fuelenergy use. There can be no answer to the global warming problem unless coal emissions are cut.”

EU plans 30 cities to lead world on “smart” energy

Europe will select 30 cities to pioneer “smart” electricity grids and space-age insulation as it seeks to lead the global race for green technology, a draft European Union document shows. The windpower sector must shift offshore and strive to provide a fifth of EU electricity by 2020, said a draft of the European Commission’s long-awaited Strategic Energy Technology Plan.

The windpower sector must shift offshore and strive to provide a fifth of EU electricity by 2020 — ahead of industry goals — said a draft of the European Commission’s long-awaited Strategic Energy Technology Plan.

The so-called SET-Plan lays out the EU’s strategy for promoting hi-tech solutions to climate change to give European businesses a head start as the world switches to low-carbon energy.

Billions of euros will have to be poured into research to avoid falling behind the United States, which is pouring $777 million into energy research, the draft, obtained by Reuters ahead of the plan’s release next month, said. “Basic research is chronically underfunded in the EU,” the report said. “We need to stimulate and incentivize our best brains to push back the frontiers of science.”

The project envisages 25 to 30 “smart cities” — highly insulated cities that glean energy from their waste and the sun and wind overhead and channel it down to the electric cars, trams and buses in the streets below.

Businesses Stand to Profit From Adapting to Climate Change — Report

As climate change shifts agricultural patterns and alters coastlines, people globally must adapt. But within the need for adaptation lie business opportunities, a new report says. The report, released today by Oxfam America, highlights several areas of business that can benefit by addressing the adaptation challenges that climate change will bring.

For example, companies that make drip irrigation systems may benefit as drought increases in certain areas where agriculture depends largely on rainfall, said Jonathan Jacoby, senior policy adviser at Oxfam America. Companies specializing in disaster preparedness may also find their communication technologies in greater demand, as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of storms.

Heather McGray, an expert in climate change adaptation at the World Resources Institute, said that on the issue of climate change, businesses have so far focused primarily on mitigation — for example, developing technologies in clean energy and energy efficiency — rather than adaptation. The message that climate change adaptation poses business opportunities is “pretty new,” she said.

Coming to Dealers Soon: An Array of Electric Cars

The electric car is at the starting line, and the gun is about to sound. Now automakers must prove that the technology, and the market, are ready.

After years of talk and prototypes, some automobile makers believe the electric vehicle is about to become more than just a science experiment. The French company Renault will unveil a lineup at the Frankfurt motor show this week that includes a purely electric sedan, without a backup internal combustion engine. Renault says the vehicle will be in showrooms by 2011.

General Motors, which recently emerged from bankruptcy protection, is offering the Chevrolet Volt as one of its comeback cars. The Volt is an electric vehicle with a backup gasoline-run generator for longer trips.

BMW will be unveiling the Vision EfficientDynamics, a plug-in diesel-electric concept car.

And Volkswagen is adding an electric version to its Up concept car.

“This is not a false dawn,” said Paul Scott, vice president and a founder of Plug In America, a group that has long accused automakers of moving too slowly on electric cars. “This is the real thing.”

Doctors warn of ‘world catastrophe’

A failure to tackle climate change will lead to a “global health catastrophe”, leading doctors have warned. But taking steps to cut the world’s carbon emissions, such as eating less meat and switching to cleaner energy, will have benefits for people’s health, an editorial published in both the Lancet and British Medical Journal (BMJ) said.

And in a letter accompanying the editorial, medical chiefs in the UK, Ireland and around the world called on doctors to put pressure on politicians meeting in Copenhagen in December in a bid to secure a new global deal on cutting emissions.

The heads of the Royal Colleges said doctors should demand world leaders listen to the scientific evidence of climate change and implement strategies to tackle emissions that will benefit the health of people around the globe.

A failure to negotiate a strong deal could have “catastrophic” results, with those in poorest countries hit hardest by the impacts on health of drought and pressure on water resources, storms, floods and conflict.