Emissions have peaked! (Shame NGOs don’t call for them to do so til 2017…)

If you missed it earlier in the week, the FT’s Fiona Harvey has been given a preview of the next World Energy Outlook, which the International Energy Agency will publish in November.  Findings:

The recession has resulted in an unparalleled fall in greenhouse gas emissions, providing a “unique opportunity” to move the world away from highcarbon growth, an International Energy Agency study has found.

In the first big study of the impact of the recession on climate change, the IEA found that CO 2 emissions from burning fossil fuels had undergone “a significant decline” this year – further than in any year in the past 40. The fall will exceed the drop in the 1981 recession that followed the oil crisis. Falling industrial output is largely responsible for the plunge in CO 2 , but other factors have played a role, including the shelving of plans for new coal-fired power stations owing to falling demand and lack of financing.

For the first time, government policies to cut emissions have also had a significant impact. The IEA estimates that about a quarter of the reduction is the result of regulation, an “unprecedented” proportion. Three initiatives had a particular effect: Europe’s target to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020; US car emission standards; and China’s energy efficiency policies.

All of which brings us back to David’s prescient suggestion back in March this year that civil society “should declare 2009 the year of peak emissions and challenge the world’s governments to develop a concrete plan to ensure they are never allowed to rise again”. 

Given IEA’s data, it’s clear that’s exactly what NGOs should have done. In fact, though, the TckTckTck campaign’s policy position – their only policy position, in fact – is that emissions should peak in… 2017.

Er, thanks guys. Great agenda setting there. Don’t call us – we’ll call you.

Climate – Europe’s many voices

Today, Ban-Ki Moon, worried by fading prospects for a climate deal at Copenhagen, will try and knock heads (of state) together at his Summit on Climate Change. Here’s the list of speakers:

H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
H.E. Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
H.E. Mr. Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Republic of Maldives
H.E. Mr. Hu Jintao, President of the Peoples Republic of China
H.E. Mr. Yukio Hatoyama, Prime Minister of Japan
H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda
H.E. Mr. Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden
H.E. Mr. Óscar Arias Sánchez, President of Costa Rica
H.E. Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France
Professor Wangari Muta Maathai, Founder, Green Belt Movement, Kenya (Civil Society)
Ms. Yugratna Srivastava, Asia-Pacific UNEP/TUNZA Junior-Board representative, India, age 13 (Youth)
H.E. Mr. Tillman Joseph Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada
H.E. Mr. Ahmad Babiker Nahar , Minister of Environment and Urban Development of Sudan
H.E. Mr. Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark

It’s a pretty standard list – major powers (check), regional balance (check), soon-to-be-submerged-island-state (check), boffin (check), civil society (check), token youth (check). But then you hit the European problem. The Swedes hold the Presidency and thus speak for the EU. Rasmussen is there because he’s going to shoulder a lot of the blame if Copenhagen fails to deliver. But how on earth has Nicolas Sarkozy managed to clamber onto the platform?

It beggars belief that, just when Europeans most need to speak with a single voice, the French president is – once again – giving his ego free rein. Or have I missed something?

Why Obama should put a climate-sceptical Senator on the Copenhagen delegation

With Senate climate legislation set to be introduced within a week, it’s gradually sinking in fully around the rest of the world that however loved-up we may all feel about President Obama and however welcome his commitment on climate change may be, it’s going to be the Senate that really determines the US’s negotiating position in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit. Which means, as the FT’s Edward Luce observed last week, that

Unless something miraculous happens on Capitol Hill, Mr Obama is almost certain to undershoot expectations at the climate change summit in Denmark.

While the Waxman / Markey bill that passed the House wasn’t exactly great – only a 17% emissions cut by 2020, against 2005 rather than 1990 levels, and with 85% of permits given away for free – things look even worse in the upper house:

The Senate is very unlikely to pass an equivalent bill between now and December. Against the likes of Mr Kerry and Ms Boxer are a growing caucus of centrist Democrats, from states such as Virginia, Nebraska and Michigan, which have either strong coal-based manufacturing or agricultural lobbies. Most ominously for supporters of the bill was the ascension last week of Blanche Lincoln, the embattled Democratic senator from Arkansas, to head the Senate agricultural committee. Ms Lincoln, who is facing a re-election battle next year, has described the House cap and trade bill as a “complete non-starter”.

So here’s an idea.

First, the Administration should identify a Senator who who’s firmly in the ‘no’ camp on climate change, but who also commands the respect of  both sides of the House as an experienced, thoughtful statesman of manifest personal integrity. Someone like, say, Robert Byrd (D, West Virginia) – who also has the distinction, incidentally, of having co-drafted the 1997 Byrd Hagel Resolution that effectively ruled out US participation in Kyoto.

Then, President Obama should invite that Senator to be a full member of the US negotiating team at Copenhagen. Continue reading

Great Moments in Public Health

Killing Egypt's pigs

When swine flu first hit, Egypt killed its pigs. All of them. Now this senseless decision has left Cairo with a major public health problem on its hands.

The pigs used to eat tons of organic waste. Now the pigs are gone and the rotting food piles up on the streets of middle-class neighborhoods like Heliopolis and in the poor streets of communities like Imbaba.

Ramadan Hediya, 35, who makes deliveries for a supermarket, lives in Madinat el Salam, a low-income community on the outskirts of Cairo.

“The whole area is trash,” Mr. Hediya said. “All the pathways are full of trash. When you open up your window to breathe, you find garbage heaps on the ground.”

The pigs belonged to the city’s traditional waste collectors, Christians who lost their animals and their livelihoods. “They killed the pigs, let them clean the city,” says one. “Everything used to go to the pigs, now there are no pigs, so it goes to the administration.”

Update: It doesn’t make me feel any better about this story to see that the pigs seem to have been buried alive.

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I’m also reminded of the 4 million or so cows the UK ended up slaughtering and burning during the BSE crisis, because we couldn’t be bothered to maintain basic standards of animal husbandry.

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