Low-carbon technology ‘will not mean big bill rises’

Claims that the costs of wind farms and other low-carbon technology will lead to sharp rises in fuel bills are wrong, government advisers say.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says increases in bills over the past few years have been largely due to higher wholesale gas costs.

Members said their “best estimate” was that green policies would add £110 to bills per household in 2020.

It emerged recently that an estimated 1.5m people are in fuel debt in the UK.

The combined gas and electricity bill for typical households could go up from £1,060 in 2010 to £1,250 in 2020, according to analysis by the committee.

But further energy efficiency measures – such as loft and wall cavity insulation – could see the projected 2020 bill fall to £1,085 per household, it said.

CCC chief executive David Kennedy said the committee had analysed the impact of investing in technology including offshore and onshore wind, nuclear and carbon capture and storage.

Mr Kennedy said the cost of this investment was “significantly” outweighed by the benefits – including a reduced reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Looking back, the CCC said an analysis of the average dual fuel energy bills showed an increase of £455 over the six years 2004 to 2010.

However, 80% of this rise was unrelated to low-carbon measures and the biggest contributor was rising gas prices, which added around £290 to bills.

Mr Kennedy said that some people had claimed that energy bills were “through the roof at the moment” because of investment in green energy – but the committee’s analysis showed this “clearly” was not the case.

A second claim that investment in low-carbon technology over the next decade would drive bills to “astronomical levels” was also untrue, he said.

CCC chairman Lord Adair Turner said: “Over the next decade, we anticipate a rise of around £100 in the average bill as a result of investment in low-carbon power capacity, which will benefit the UK in the long run.”
Fuel poverty

The committee’s analysis comes against a background of increased concern about rising fuel costs.

In November it was revealed that the number of people with energy debts had risen by a quarter for electricity and a fifth for gas.

Campaign group Consumer Focus and charity Citizen’s Advice say energy prices increased by seven per cent last winter and warn that further rises of 14% this winter could push more people into debt.

An independent report by Professor John Hills published in October found that 2,700 people died each year from problems linked to fuel poverty such as respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

And government figures released over the summer suggested that more than a fifth of all households in the UK in 2009 were affected by fuel poverty – meaning they spend more than 10% of their income keeping warm.

Professor Hills called for a new definition of fuel poverty, which focuses on people with low incomes driven into poverty by high fuel bills.

Credit: BBC

Half of Multinationals to Choose Suppliers Based on CO2 Emissions

Half of multinational companies plan to select suppliers based on carbon performance, according to a study by Carbon Trust Advisory.

The research says that 29% of suppliers are likely to lose their places on green supply chains if they do not have adequate performance records on carbon. The research also finds that 58% of multinationals will in the future pay a premium for low carbon suppliers to reduce their overall corporate carbon footprints.

In the U.K., 56% of multinationals said that in the future they expect to drop suppliers based upon low carbon performance, compared to just 28% in the U.S.

The research consisted of 100 interviews carried out by Dynamic Markets. Respondents were from the senior manager level or above, working for companies with at least 1,000 employees and with operations, subsidiaries, or investments in more than two countries.

The respondents highlighted a number of challenges to reducing carbon in the supply chain, including:

difficulty in demonstrating the financial business case (34%)
sustainability considerations being trumped by cost considerations (32%)
difficulty in getting suppliers to act (29%)

The research found that 40% of multinationals are addressing their indirect carbon emissions, compared to 93% for direct emissions. Among the companies not addressing supply chain emissions, 42% said they would do so within the next year, and another 42% within the next two to three years.

BT says it was one of the first companies in the U.K. to introduce a climate change procurement standard, in March. The company spends about £12bn ($ ) a year with 16,700 suppliers.

Next month Marshalls Plc, a supplier of hard landscaping, will be hosting a United Nations Global Compact Supplier event to educate first-tier suppliers on its approach to environmental issues.

In October, the GHG Protocol, a coalition led by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, will unveil the Corporate Value Chain (scope 3) Standard and the Product Lifecycle Standard, in an effort to provide internationally agreed-upon approaches for companies to measure and report their supply chain and lifecycle emissions.

In the Carbon Trust report, 74% of U.K. respondents said shareholder pressure would be a key driver for them in tackling carbon emissions, compared to just 24% in the U.S.

Last week shareholder advocacy group Ceres called on investors to adopt stronger proxy voting guidelines for environmental and social issues. Ceres published what it called 75 leading examples of sustainability-focused proxy voting guidelines.

Credit: Environmental Leader

Original Carbon Retains Ethical Accreditation

We are pleased to announce that for the third year running, The Original Carbon Co. has been awarded Ethical Accreditation by the Ethical Company Organisation, which certifies that the Company or Brand in question has scored highly in an overall analysis of its Corporate Social Responsibility record.

The application process takes 6 weeks and involves ECO research teams analysing our record on up to 15 specific criteria under the 3 general headings of Environment, Animals and People. They search for criticisms within several thousand documents from NGO’S, Campaign Groups and Court Reports. Ethical Accreditation screening includes the applicant company and its ultimate holding company. The research is repeated every 12 months to ensure that our Ethical Accreditation status remains up to date.

New U.N. Climate Deal Struck, Critics Say Gains Modest

(Reuters) – Climate negotiators agreed a pact on Sunday that would for the first time force all the biggest polluters to take action on greenhouse gas emissions, but critics said the action plan was not aggressive enough to slow the pace of global warming.

The package of accords extended the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact that enforces carbon cuts, agreed the format of a fund to help poor countries tackle climate change and mapped out a path to a legally binding agreement on emissions reductions.

But many small island states and developing nations at risk of being swamped by rising sea levels and extreme weather said the deal marked the lowest common denominator possible and lacked the ambition needed to ensure their survival.

Agreement on the package, reached in the early hours of Sunday, avoided a collapse of the talks and spared the blushes of host South Africa, whose stewardship of the two weeks of often fractious negotiations came under fire from rich and poor nations.

“We came here with plan A, and we have concluded this meeting with plan A to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come,” said South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who chaired the talks.

“We have made history,” she said, bringing the hammer down on Durban conference, the longest in two decades of U.N. climate negotiations.

Delegates agreed to start work next year on a new legally binding treaty to cut greenhouse gases to be decided by 2015 and to come into force by 2020.

The process for doing so, called the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, would “develop a new protocol, another legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force” that would be applicable under the U.N. climate convention.

That phrasing, agreed at a last-ditch huddle in the conference centre between the European Union, India, China and the United States, was used by all parties to claim victory.

Britain’s Energy and Climate Secretary Chris Huhne said the result was “a great success for European diplomacy.”

“We’ve managed to bring the major emitters like the U.S., India and China into a roadmap which will secure an overarching global deal,” he said.

U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said Washington was satisfied with the outcome: “We got the kind of symmetry that we had been focused on since the beginning of the Obama administration. This had all the elements that we were looking for.”

Yet U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres acknowledged the final wording on the legal form a future deal was ambiguous: “What that means has yet to be decided.”

A U.N. spokesman said the final texts might not all be publicly available for some days.

Environmentalists said governments wasted valuable time by focusing on a handful of specific words in the negotiating text, and failed to raise emissions cuts to a level high enough to reduce global warming.

Sunday’s deal follows years of failed attempts to impose legally-binding, international cuts on emerging giants, such as China and India, as well as rich nations like the United States.

The developed world had already accepted formal targets under a first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out at the end of next year, although Washington never ratified its commitment.

Sunday’s deal extends Kyoto until the end of 2017, ensuring there is no gap between commitment periods, but EU delegates said lawyers would have to reconcile those dates with existing EU legislation.

LEAST-BAD OPTION

India’s Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, who gave an impassioned speech to the conference denouncing what she said was unfair pressure on Delhi to compromise, said her country had only reluctantly agreed to the accord.

“We’ve had very intense discussions. We were not happy with reopening the text but in the spirit of flexibility and accommodation shown by all, we have shown our flexibility… we agree to adopt it,” she said.

Small island states in the frontline of climate change, said they had gone along with a deal but only because a collapse of the talks was of no help to their vulnerable nations.

“I would have wanted to get more, but at least we have something to work with. All is not lost yet,” said Selwin Hart, chief negotiator on finance for the coalition of small states.

Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, head of the Africa Group, added: “It’s a middle ground, we meet mid-way. Of course we are not completely happy about the outcome, it lacks balance, but we believe it is starting to go into the right direction.”

U.N. reports released in the last month warned delays on a global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions will make it harder to keep the average rise to within 2 degrees Celsius over the next century.

“It’s certainly not the deal the planet needs — such a deal would have delivered much greater ambition on both emissions reductions and finance,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Producing a new treaty by 2015 that is both ambitious and fair will take a mix tough bargaining and a more collaborative spirit than we saw in the Durban conference centre these past two weeks.”

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Show Record Jump

Carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have increased by half in the last 20 years, giving the world much less chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, according to new data.

The research was published as lead negotiators were arriving at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, where prospects of a new global treaty on climate change appeared to have stalled, with deep divisions between developed and developing countries.

Last year, emissions from burning fossil fuels rose by 5.9%, bringing the total rise since 1990, the baseline year for calculating emissions under the Kyoto protocol, to 49%, an average rate of increase of about 3.1% a year.

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, and an author of the research, said the data showed that little had been achieved in the past two decades in reducing the risks from climate change.

“There have been efforts to use more renewable energy and improve energy efficiency but what this shows is that so far, the effects have been marginal,” she said. “We need to do something about the 80% of energy that still comes from burning fossil fuels.”

She said the problem was urgent, as the chances of holding global temperature rises to less than 2C above pre-industrial levels (which scientists regard as the limit of safety) beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible, were dependent on emissions peaking by 2020 at the latest.

Governments meeting in Durban this week are focusing on a new treaty that, if it can be achieved, would not come into force until 2020. “That would be too late, unless strong actions are taken in the meantime,” said Le Quéré.

Some governments and policy advisers have been advocating a different approach to the climate negotiations, suggesting that a system of voluntary reductions in emissions undertaken by national governments and industries could be more effective than a “top-down” global treaty. But this so-called “bottom up” approach did not appear to be working currently, Le Quéré said, as efforts to cut emissions so far had made little impact outside Europe, where emissions have been successfully reduced.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change, found that global carbon emissions were likely to carry on increasing at a rate of about 3% per year. It was accompanied by another study offering new proof that climate change is linked to human activities, in burning fossil fuel.

Prof Chris Rapley, professor of Climate Science at University College London, said: “These two new results offer a stark message. Human carbon emissions are certainly disturbing the climate system upon which we depend, and in spite of the economic slowdown, and despite all the efforts by governments, businesses and people to reduce them, our emissions are reaching new highs. The climatic consequences, already emerging, will grow over time, and are irreversible.

“A new level of decisive action is required now to achieve real emissions reductions. World leaders at the climate negotiations at Durban know the score; the opportunity to act consistent with their responsibilities and rank lies before them. We can only hope that they rise to the challenge.”

Julia Steinberger, lecturer in ecological economics at the Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds, said the research showed that even the recession had barely made a dent on the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

She said: “The worst economic crisis in decades was apparently a mere hiccup in terms of carbon emissions: a temporary drop for the richest countries in 2009, and hardly perceived by emerging economies. These findings are truly shocking, and constitute a global wake-up call.

“The economic crisis should have been an opportunity to invest in low-carbon infrastructure for the 21st century. Instead, we fostered a lose-lose situation: carbon emissions rocketing to unprecedented levels, alongside increases in joblessness, energy costs and income disparities. Surely the transition to a green economy has never seemed more appealing.”

From The Guardian