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How China has embraced renewable energy and Hong Kong hasn’t, and what’s behind city’s green power inertia

Summer 2016 saw record heat, and health problems from air pollution are rising, yet green energy projects have been shelved or denied funding; electricity firms lack incentives to go green, WWF says

Professor Johnny Chan Chun-leung is one of Hong Kong’s most eminent climate and energy scientists, and he is a very frustrated man. This month Beijing announced it would invest 2.5 trillion yuan (HK$2.8 trillion) in renewable energy technology by 2020 to establish the nation as world leader in sustainable and clean energy, and create 13 million jobs. Meanwhile, Chan and other respected scientists in Hong Kong are struggling to obtain financial support for their green energy projects.

Whereas China embraces wind, tide, solar and wave energy as essential tools to tackle climate change and its acute air pollution, attitudes in Hong Kong appear as fossilised as the fuel that provides 78 per cent of its energy needs.

Chan, chair professor of atmospheric science at the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Energy and Environment, outlined details of an innovative tidal turbine project at a conference on renewable energy last week, organised by the city’s Business Environment Council. Chan’s team has developed a system that can generate electricity even in low tidal streams, typical of the seas around Hong Kong. Though it is early days, trials staged at the Gold Coast Marina in the city’s Tuen Mun district produced encouraging results.

He now needs funding to scale it up, with a view to offering the city a viable green energy alternative, but his application to the Environment and Conservation Fund for HK$2 million was rejected. “The ECF told me today that I ‘did not demonstrate the merits and contributions of the proposed study to environmental protection’,” he says. “How ridiculous.”

It is not an isolated incident. Others complain privately that Hong Kong funding bodies are “overly risk averse” and are rarely enthusiastic about funding green energy research and development.

“I believe more can be done to promote local funding for R&D for all renewable energy components,” says Dr Walid Daoud, a solar energy expert from City University and another speaker at the council’s conference. Many believe these difficulties are just one symptom of a wider malaise when it comes to supporting green energy in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong performs badly in overall carbon emissions and renewable energy,” says Cheung Chi-wah, senior head of climate and footprint programmes at environmental campaign group WWF-Hong Kong. He notes that the city’s emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming have been rising steadily and are 23 per cent above their level in 2002. That was the same year the Hong Kong government published its first study of renewable energy, compiled by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department. The report estimated that 17 per cent of Hong Kong’s energy needs could be supplied by solar power alone.

It also made a key primary recommendation that the government should set targets for renewable energy’s contribution to demand of 1 per cent, 2 per cent and 3 per cent for 2012, 2017 and 2022, respectively. Nearly 15 years later, with electricity consumption rising about 5 per cent a year, the city recording record-breaking temperatures last summer, and health problems due to worsening air pollution growing, very little has been achieved. Instead of the proposed 2 per cent target for 2017, the latest data shows that the proportion of energy used in the city that is produced by renewable means is still less than 1 per cent – far from the 17 per cent potential – and the targets have not even been implemented.

Indeed, by 2012 only 2.2 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels, capable of meeting 0.01 per cent of Hong Kong’s energy needs, had been installed.

Hong Kong is also one of the few advanced cities in the world with no feed-in tariff scheme, or “net metering system”, in place. This means that, rather than small-scale green energy producers being paid for contributing any excess energy to the grid, they can only donate it.

Energy consultant Mike Thomas, of the Lantau Group, another speaker at the council’s event, thinks it is unhelpful to compare China and Hong Kong in terms of being “behind or ahead” because of the vast differences in the two economies’ scale, resources and political systems. He also believes Hong Kong is taking the right steps by implementing the government’s new fuel mix for energy supply by 2020, which consists of about 50 per cent natural gas, around 25 per cent nuclear power and more use of renewable energy sources. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel, but 30 per cent to 50 per cent cleaner than coal in terms of emissions.

“It is true that there is very little renewable energy, strictly speaking, but given the rabid debate about the use of green space for housing, I’m not sure that converting the hillsides to solar panels would appeal either,” he says. The issue of “low energy density” (the relatively high land area needed to produce 1 kilowatt of renewable electricity) is often cited by opponents of renewable energy in Hong Kong, which, including its 263 islands, has a land area of just 1,104 sq km.

Douad calculates the city would need to cover 20 per cent of its surface area with 10 per cent efficient solar panels to meet its energy needs, yet he remains a firm advocate of solar power.

“The 20 per cent is for the actual lateral 2D land use. However, we could also consider the vertical 3D of the urban landscape, using building walls as well as rooftops, sun-exposed roads and highways, sound barriers and water reservoirs,” he says.

While delegates at the council’s conference earnestly discuss the possibilities of using renewable energy locally, most leading cities have already embraced renewables and the smart grid – the use of digital technology to improve reliability, resiliency, flexibility, and efficiency – and have coherent policies in place to foster them.

Singapore is ramping up the use of solar panels through initiatives such as SolarNova, a government-led programme, and investing in green energy research via The Energy Research Institute. The city state is already seeing positive results. Figures for 2014 show that green energy sources contributed 3.7 per cent of total energy consumption (up from 2.4 per cent in 2005) and analysts expect that figure to top 5 per cent by 2020.

Hong Kong does have small-scale solar schemes designed for local consumption, and some government buildings generate solar power, but its approach to solar energy is piecemeal.

CLP Power, one of the city’s two electricity suppliers, commissioned its award-winning renewable energy power plant on Town Island in Sai Kung in January 2010, comprising wind turbines and solar panels, to supply the needs of the island’s drug rehabilitation centre, and says it has connected about 250 small-scale local schemes.

The other supplier, Hongkong Electric, says about 70 local use renewable systems have been connected to its grid over the past 10 years. It also operates a 1MW solar plant and the only wind turbine connected to Hong Kong’s power grid.

It might be imagined that geographical restrictions and a scarcity of available land would make harnessing offshore wind, wave and tidal power – as Chan proposes – more attractive, but there is little sign of progress on any of these. Detailed proposals from the electricity companies to build offshore wind farms were awarded environmental permits, but both schemes were shelved in 2013 and mysteriously disappeared from the local energy agenda.

“We are in the process of collecting wind, wave and other environmental data, along with a review of the engineering design, to complete the feasibility study,” a CLP spokesman says of its plan.

Hongkong Electric’s proposed wind farm in waters off Lamma Island was to supply 1.5 per cent of its total output. Asked about the proposal, a company spokesman says “field wind measurement has been going on since 2012”.

Cheung says no one in the industry understands why the company needs to collect five years of wind data. He suspects the real reason for offshore wind power being dropped is that the schemes of control both power companies have negotiated with the government, which regulate their profits on operations and investment, do not offer enough financial sweeteners for either company to proceed.

The current schemes of control are due to expire by end of 2018, and the government is negotiating terms with the companies to renew them. Cheung thinks it’s “a perfect time for the government to show its determination by introducing significant targets and incentives for energy consumption reduction and [renewable energy] development”.

One of the thorny issues that will need to be ironed out is tariffs. Hong Kong has some of the cheapest and most reliable power in the world (electricity costs about half what it does in New York). Although it is widely believed that greater use of green energy is essential, there is less agreement on who will pay for the higher prices or pick up the bill for integration of an intermittent power source to the grid.

While energy costs account for only 1.6 per cent of the average Hong Kong household’s budget, there is little commercial incentive for change and little political appetite for heaping extra costs on hard-pressed families.

There is more hope than expectation that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will use his final policy address to announce Hong Kong will follow Beijing’s lead and reveal a bold new policy for renewable energy with defined targets, a credible strategy to achieve them, and support for home-grown innovations such as Chan’s.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/2062467/how-china-has-embraced-renewable-energy-and-hong-kong-hasnt-and-whats

Paris changes everything

The Paris Agreement constitutes a global turning point away from fossil fuels and toward 100% renewable energy.

http://airclim.org/acidnews/paris-changes-everything

For the first time in history all countries have agreed to take drastic action to protect the planet from climate change, to jointly pursue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C and eventually reduce emissions to zero. Following this historic outcome, the next step is to translate these Paris commitments into deep emission reductions in all countries. There is no doubt that implementing the Paris Agreement will require a complete overhaul of the EU’s current climate and energy policies.

Since the Paris Summit we have already witnessed the transition to a 100% renewable energy economy speeding up. It is in the EU’s own interest to be a frontrunner in the race towards the zero-emission economy.

Increasing action before 2020 is a prerequisite to achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Cumulative emissions determine the level of global warming, so in order to be consistent with the long-term goal of 1.5°C adopted in Paris, it is paramount to consider the cumulative emissions budget – the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. The IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report provides numbers for different global carbon budgets allowing for different levels of warming. With current emissions of 38Gt of CO2 per year, the entire carbon budget that would allow a 66 per cent chance of staying below 1.5°C would be completely exhausted in five years. A budget allowing only a 50 per cent chance would be gone in nine years (figure 1).

Figure 1. How many years of current emissions would use up the IPCC’s carbon budgets for different levels of warming? Source:  Carbon countdown graph by Carbon Brief Data IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report table 2.2.

Figure 1. How many years of current emissions would use up the IPCC’s carbon budgets for different levels of warming? Source: Carbon countdown graph by Carbon Brief Data IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report table 2.2.

For any fair likelihood of keeping temperature rise to 1.5°C, global mitigation efforts need to be stepped up between now and 2020, and extended to all sectors, including international shipping and aviation.

Increasing mitigation action before 2020 is vital for achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, and will be one of the key issues if the UN climate conference COP22 in Marrakech in November 2016 is to succeed. Keeping in mind that the EU has already achieved its -20% by 2020 target several years in advance, and is progressing towards 30 per cent domestic reductions by 2020, the EU can make a significant contribution to this discussion by, among other things, cancelling the surplus of pollution permits under the Emissions Trading Scheme and the Effort Sharing Decision.

We urge the EU to seek solutions that can help drive global emissions to a deep decline as of 2017, both in the context of the Global Climate Action Agenda as well as strengthening the national pre-2020 commitments on mitigation and finance.

2025 and 2030 targets must be revised in 2018 at COP24. The post-2020 commitments (INDCs) put forward by countries are inadequate for keeping warming to 1.5°C (or even 2°C). Last May the UNFCCC Secretariat published a report assessing the aggregate effect of countries’ post-2020 targets. The report’s graph below concludes that while most of the carbon budget was already consumed by 2011, countries’ unrevised INDCs will entirely consume the remaining 50 per cent chance of achieving a 1.5°C compliant carbon budget by 2025.

All COP22 countries need to commit to prepare their respective assessments on how to raise the level of post-2020 targets to bridge the adequacy gap by COP24 in 2018. To facilitate this process we urge countries to put forward updated and improved post-2020 INDCs as soon as possible and latest by 2018, and to finalise their long-term strategies as soon as possible, and latest by 2018 (figure 2).

Figure 2. Cumulative CO2 emissions consistent with the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, with >50% probability by 2100. INDCs = intended nationally determined contributions. Source: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report scenario database and own aggregation.

Figure 2. Cumulative CO2 emissions consistent with the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, with >50% probability by 2100. INDCs = intended nationally determined contributions. Source: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report scenario database and own aggregation.

The EU’s ongoing legislative work on ETS and non-ETS emissions should be used to align the EU’s 2030 targets with science and the commitments made in Paris, and make them economy-wide, covering EU-related emissions from international aviation and shipping.

International shipping and aviation currently account for around 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions, and these emissions are anticipated to have vast growth rates (50–250% by 2050 for shipping, and 270% for aviation). As these sectors’ emissions are not counted under national inventories, the 2018 stocktake must ensure that these sectors too are in line with the Paris Agreement and the 1.5°C compatible carbon budget.

Long-term strategies for zero greenhouse gas and 100 per cent renewable energy. The Paris Agreement includes a long-term goal to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C requires a reassessment of the EU’s climate and energy policies, and an increase in action by all. The goal to reduce the EU’s domestic emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 is not consistent with the Paris Agreement and has to change to be consistent with the long-term goals governments decided in Paris.

The Paris Agreement also contains a commitment to reduce net global emissions to zero during the second half of the century. Achieving this requires most sectors in the EU to achieve zero emissions earlier, within the next couple of decades. Most urgently, the EU should adopt timelines for fully phasing out the use of coal, gas and oil.

In order to facilitate the process of aligning all policies with the long-term targets of the Paris Agreement, all countries should swiftly proceed in the development of their respective 1.5°C compliant mid-century strategy. Having a long-term strategic vision will help to guide their short- and medium-term decisions and will have a positive impact on a long-term framework for innovation and business development. The updated EU 2050 roadmap should be finalised latest by 2018, and take fully into account the recent striking developments in renewable energy. A COP decision in Marrakech setting the deadline of finalised mid-century roadmaps by 2018 would ensure that all countries begin preparations swiftly.

Shifting of financial flows. The Paris Agreement also includes a requirement for making all financial flows consistent with low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development. In the first instance this requires the EU to tackle those financial flows that are obstructing emission reductions, and which hinder progress towards the EU’s broader economic and social objectives. They include fossil fuel subsidies, public finance for high-carbon infrastructure through European development banks, and policy frameworks that facilitate financial support of fossil fuels.

The climate finance roadmap to raise 100 billion US dollars by 2020 should be launched in advance of Marrakech COP22. The roadmap must not be an accounting exercise for already existing financial flows, but rather guarantee stronger transparency, as well as adequate and reliable support for tackling the causes and impacts of climate change. It should also explicitly spell out to what level the EU and other donor countries will increase annual adaptation finance by 2020.

The current review of the EU ETS provides a key opportunity to showcase the EU leadership on climate finance, committing to direct a portion of the revenues from auctioning directly to the Green Climate Fund. Setting up an EU ETS International Climate Action Reserve would give a clear signal to developing countries that the EU is committed to continue to provide additional finance for climate needs in predictable and transparent ways. The Financial Transaction Tax should be implemented as soon as possible.

Resilience, adaptation and loss and damage. Even with the existing and future measures to mitigate climate change, the adaptation needs of all countries will continue to grow, undermining the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in particular. The EU should lead efforts to strengthen human rights in all climate action, as mandated in the Paris Agreement.

Ratification of the Paris Agreement and its early entry into force. A rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement would demonstrate that there is a strong international support for ambitious climate action and would serve as a strong signal to the private sector. All COP22 countries should set 2018 as a deadline for full entry into force of the Paris Agreement, including finalising all the outstanding work on rules and modalities for countries to be able to implement the Agreement.

Ulriikka Aarnio
Climate Action Network Europe

Hong Kong must seize the opportunity to cut fossil fuel use in favour of renewable energy

Albert Lai and John Sayer say the city’s negotiations for new terms and conditions with its two power companies offer a great chance to develop the green energy sector

Imagine if our chief executive announced that everyone had to pay an extra HK$5,600 next year for their electricity to cover the cost of dealing with the effects of fossil fuel use. While this is unlikely to happen, the government is nevertheless subsidising the use of fossil fuels here. Data from the International Monetary Fund shows that this annual subsidy came to more than HK$40 billion in 2015.

Electricity generation accounts for 54 per cent of the city’s fossil fuel consumption. As almost all local power generation uses coal and natural gas, we can conclude that power generation and consumption benefit from more than half of the HK$40 billion subsidy.

As a comparison, we note that the subsidy is equivalent to nearly 80 per cent of our health care budget – a good share of which is spent on treating the effects of poor-quality air on our lungs and hearts.

Attributing the real cost of fossil fuel use is important for several reasons. The profits that the two power companies are allowed to make are based on a formula in their respective scheme of control agreements, which is related to their capital investment and costs. If power companies and other direct users do not pay the real cost of the impact of fossil fuel use, the public has to bear this cost either directly in their bills or indirectly through taxes, which the government uses to clean up the effects of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel subsidies stand in the way of changes needed to achieve the goals set at last year’s Paris climate summit of a net-zero carbon economy this century, according to both the UN and the World Bank.

In Hong Kong, the scheme of control agreements will expire in 2018, providing an important opportunity for change. The city has the potential for solar, wind, tidal and wave power. The key lies in shaping a beneficial renewable energy policy and an enabling market environment.

To shape policy, we can learn from the experience of similarly developed economies. First, market access and diversification is important. Beyond 2018, power company regulations should give priority access to all who are willing and able to generate renewable energy, with a guaranteed connection to the grid.

Second, investment in renewable energy must be supported by a guaranteed price for clean electricity. Guangdong province, for one, pays twice the rate for solar power as for coal-generated electricity.

Third, a redirection of existing funds is needed. The Environment Bureau wants to revise the scheme of control agreements so the return on fixed assets is lowered from 9.9 per cent to around 6 per cent. If all or part of the reduction went into a feed-in tariff fund, it could provide a stable source of funding to encourage the development of renewable energy in Hong Kong.

At a rough calculation, with 2 per cent return on revenue paid into such a fund, about HK$30 billion a year would be generated. Assuming the government would contribute another half, an annual HK$45 billion fund could be created. If the average feed-in tariff is set at HK$2.50 per kWh, the fund would be sufficient to buy 1.8 billion kWh of clean electricity per year. This would kick-start renewable energy power generation by raising its contribution to 4 per cent of total production.

Fourth, providing space for community participation is vital. Citizens and businesses with suitable rooftops could take advantage of clean energy programmes. The government could allot space in housing estates, public facilities and other suitable areas for groups to form social enterprises and plan community-based investment in solar or wind power facilities.

Germany has invested heavily in renewables, which now account for a third of its energy use. Some 92 per cent of Germans support the transition. One of the main reasons is that the government placed great emphasis on opportunities for ordinary citizens to participate in creating and benefiting from renewable energy programmes through funding and investment schemes.

In Hong Kong, there are 17 reservoirs suitable for the installation of floating solar power plants, similar to those now appearing elsewhere. Offshore waters are also suitable for the installation of wind farms.

Finally, there’s green finance for the new era. With a stable feed-in tariff, renewable energy schemes are predictable enough to attract green funds from around the world.

To allow more people to share the fruits of renewable energy development, the government could consider issuing green bonds.

There are many advantages to the transition to renewable energy. A transformation of our energy system to multiple technologies and diverse suppliers will stimulate the economy and create green jobs.

The power companies may see asset growth stemming less from generation and more from an expanded role as providers of a smart grid. A new energy model for Hong Kong can reduce pressure on the government to import power from the mainland. It will also mitigate pubic calls to merge the two existing power companies, or to separate power generation and distribution.

For the public, implementing a feed-in tariff does not increase electricity tariffs. On the contrary, introducing more diverse renewable energy sources would reduce future vulnerability to increases in gas prices and electricity costs. The public would also benefit from reduced pollution and avoid hefty health care costs.

Meanwhile, local business can find new opportunities in engineering design, equipment supply, installation and maintenance in the fast-growing renewables sector.

For the financial sector, the development of local renewable energy projects is the best opportunity for Hong Kong to become a credible green finance centre. By 2030, it is estimated the world needs US$2.4 trillion invested in renewable energy to reach targets set in Paris.

China’s National Energy Administration has set a national average target for utility companies to generate 9 per cent of total electricity from renewables by 2020, not including hydroelectric or nuclear power. For Guangdong province, the target is 7 per cent.

In this context, the plan outlined above for Hong Kong to put in place incentives to generate 4 per cent of its power from renewables should be seen as only a first step in the right direction.

Who in Hong Kong will have the decisiveness, courage and vision needed to set ambitious targets for renewable energy development? After all, Hong Kong’s contribution to national and international reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately be even more important for the city’s development and the well-being of its people than the next chief executive election.

Albert Lai is policy convener at the Professional Commons. John Sayer is director of Carbon Care Asia
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1998542/hong-kong-must-seize-opportunity-cut-fossil-fuel-use-favour

The Unholy Alliance Between Big Oil and Big Tobacco: It’s Been Going On For Decades

http://trofire.com/2016/07/21/the-unholy-alliance-between-big-oil-and-big-tobacco-its-been-going-on-for-decades/

Over the past several months, The Ring of Fire and other Progressive media outlets have reported on how Big Oil (particularly Exxon-Mobil) has been covering up evidence of climate change since the 1970s.

It turns out that the cover up has been going on far longer. In fact, Exxon-Mobil’s corporate ancestor, Humble Oil, was manipulating scientific information in order to influence public opinion as long ago as the 1940s. It’s similar to the way Big Tobacco had been covering its own rear end since medical science started making connection between smoking and lung cancer in the 1930s.

Similarities between the two are no coincidence. Egregiously, these two corporate criminal enterprises were sharing marketing strategies and methods of spreading disinformation for decades.

On the surface, it would appear that Big Oil and Big Tobacco are unlikely corporate bedfellows. But consider that convenience stores represent a major retail outlet for both cigarettes and other tobacco products and gasoline. Since they are a high-markup item, the oil companies that kept cigarette vending machines back in the day were anxious to preserve their profits. It was a textbook case of a symbiotic relationship.

This lurid tale has been uncovered by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) in Washington D.C.. A short documentary film produced by the organization tells the story of the entangled relationship between Big Oil and Big Tobacco. It is a relationship that dates back more than sixty years.

Back in the 1950s, Monroe Rathbone, head of Standard Oil (another one of Exxon-Mobil’s corporate forebears) was also on the board of the American Cancer Society’s Committee on Smoking and Public Policy. At the same time, oil companies – in which tobacco companies held financial interests and vice-versa – were developing cigarette filters and sharing testing methods. It doesn’t take a genius to see the clear conflicts of interest here, and it doesn’t stop there.

For the past several months, CIEL has been researching more than 14 million documents showing the collusion between Big Oil and Big Tobacco. Earlier this year, CIEL released documents proving that oil company executives, engineers, and scientists were acutely aware of carbon dioxide’s role in global climate change since 1957 – and probably long before that. According to Carrol Muffet, President and CEO of CIEL, instead of exploring options to mitigate environmental damage and come up with alternative energy sources, oil companies decided to “invest in research to explain away the climate risks.”

What is even more unforgivable is that the oil industry had the technology to reduce and eventually eliminate CO2 emissions in 1963! On December 31st of that year, yet another of Exxon-Mobil’s corporate predecessors, Esso, filed Patent #3,116,169 with the U.S. Patent Office for “Fuel Cell and Fuel Electrodes.” The device was a catalyst, using oxygen to produce clean, efficient electrical energy.

Why didn’t oil industry players pursue this technology? Let the Exxon’s own words condemn them:

“THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT INCREASES IN FOSSIL FUEL USAGE AND DECREASES OF FOREST COVER ARE AGGRAVATING THE POTENTIAL PROBLEM OF INCREASED CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE. TECHNOLOGY EXISTS TO REMOVE CO2 FROM STACK GASES BUT REMOVAL OF ONLY 50% OF THE CO2 WOULD DOUBLE THE COST OF POWER GENERATION,” [EMPHASIS ADDED].

It’s simple; It was cheaper and more profitable to keep on drilling. Instead of exploring and investing in ways to mitigate and reverse the massive environmental damage they knew their product was causing, Exxon-Mobil and its partners in crime poured their resources into ways of adapting – new, taller oil rigs, for example, that could withstand rising sea levels, as well as insane and unworkable ideas to control the climate.

One of these ideas – on which Exxon actually filed a patent – was to literally pave over large, dry regions of the planet in order to create heat and increase rainfall. That brilliant idea was developed by one of Exxon’s own scientific advisers, James Black. Black was one of the scientists who warned the industry of the impact of fossil fuels on climate, but his solution was essentially more of the same (of course, what else would he tell the people who signed his paycheck?).

Another great plan was to spray black carbon into the air in order to create winds that would simply blow away the smog. It must not have occurred to the folks at Exxon that even if such an idea was workable, the smog would have to go somewhere. And of course, there was money to made; after all, asphalt is a petroleum product.

Furthermore, while the industry would be internalizing all those profits, they would be able to saddle the rest of us with the costs by getting rid of noxious wastes on the cheap.

Today, we are all paying the price for this insanity.

And how does this all relate to the relationship between Big Oil and Big Tobacco? Basically, it was a marriage of convenience, but hardly a love affair. To be sure, the two shared common financial interests. But there was more to it.

With the increase in the cancer rate in the latter part of the 20th Century, the tobacco and oil industries began pointing fingers at each other. According to Muffet, Big Tobacco had an obsession with Big Oil that “bordered on paranoia.” As the two industries watched each other, they came up with new and creative methods of “plausible denial” and ways to confuse and mislead the public. Between that and the way the industries have bought off lawmakers over the decades, little has been done to address the disastrous consequences to public health.

Now that the evidence has come out and CIEL has released documentation for the world to see, will there be consequences?

In July of 2014, a Florida woman was awarded $23.6 billion in a lawsuit against tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds. That was only the most recent victory in a long battle to hold Big Tobacco accountable.

Late last year, the State of New York started a major investigation into Exxon-Mobil’s deception of the public over the climate change issue. As of March, 17 more attorneys general have joined the investigation. Then, this past May, the Massachusetts-based Conservation Law Foundation began legal action against the oil company juggernaut over pollutants leaked into the confluence of the Mystic Island End Rivers from one of its terminals. It is the first lawsuit to link a localized incident to the broader threat of global climate change and the oil industry’s culpability.

Big Oil is a different animal. Not only does it have more resources than big tobacco, it sells a product that runs so much of society’s machinery. Nonetheless, the opening salvos in what promises to be a long, hard battle have been fired. As people wake up to the gargantuan lies that Exxon-Mobil has fed them for over half a century, and as they realize that a “Corporate Person” was willing to put the entire future of humanity at risk for the sake of making a few extra billion dollars, it’s a good bet that the day of reckoning will come.

We can only hope that it comes in time.

Fossil Fuels May Not Dwindle Anytime Soon

The U. S. Energy Information Administration foresees continued dominance for coal, gas and oil

Based on its latest projections, EIA said global carbon dioxide emissions from energy activities will rise from 36 billion metric tons in 2012, the baseline year used for the 2016 outlook, to 43 billion metric tons in 2040.

Rapid economic growth in China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and other emerging countries will drive global energy consumption to nearly double by 2040, according to new projections released yesterday by the Department of Energy.

But the associated rise in carbon emissions will not keep pace with overall energy consumption, thanks to a shifting global energy portfolio that relies less on coal for power generation and more on natural gas and renewable energy resources, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its 2016 International Energy Outlook.

Based on its latest projections, EIA said global carbon dioxide emissions from energy activities will rise from 36 billion metric tons in 2012, the baseline year used for the 2016 outlook, to 43 billion metric tons in 2040.
That’s a 34 percent increase in energy-related CO2, compared to a 48 percent increase in overall energy consumption from 2010 to 2040, when EIA says the world will consume a record 815 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy.

But some critics of EIA’s methodology say the projections on global energy use and CO2 emissions failed to adequately account for major international policy initiatives, including last year’s pledge by nearly 190 U.N.-member countries to make sharp reductions in energy-sector greenhouse gas emissions.

In a public rollout of the data at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski said that the agency used more sophisticated modeling tools for the 2016 report than previously available, especially in the transportation sector, and that the world’s demand for fossil fuels will continue to grow.

“Even in the aftermath of Paris, I think that our numbers suggest that growth and need for petroleum in transportation and industry is still going to be pretty strong,” he said. “Those numbers could come down over time, but it’s still really hard to compete with the energy density that’s in oil.”

Don’t count out fossil fuels

Among other things, the new report portends continued rising demand for natural gas, along with sustained growth in wind, solar and nuclear energy production. Renewables, led by wind and hydro power, are projected to be the fastest-growing energy resource over the next two decades, according to EIA, expanding by 2.6 percent annually through 2040.

Nuclear will also see solid growth, at 2.3 percent annually, underscored by China’s commitment to add 139 gigawatts of nuclear capacity to its grid by 2040. Natural gas, long the No. 3 source of global energy behind oil and coal, will by 2030 become the world’s No. 2 resource as coal consumption plateaus with the onset of new international carbon regulations.

Consumption of oil and other forms of liquid petroleum will fall modestly over the next 24 years, from 33 percent of total marketed energy consumption in 2012 to 30 percent in 2040. Oil will continue to be a primary fuel for the transport sector, as well as a key fuel for industrial uses in emerging countries.

But experts cautioned against the idea that fossil fuels will become 20th-century energy anachronisms by the middle of the 21st century. In fact, fossil fuels will still account for 78 percent of global energy use in 2040, even as the growth in non-fossil fuels exceeds that of oil, coal and gas.

“Abundant natural gas resources and robust production—including rising supplies of tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane—contribute to the strong competitive position of natural gas,” EIA said in the outlook.
While considerably diminished from a decade ago, coal-fired power generation is expected to grow by 0.6 percent annually over the coming years and will account for between 28 and 29 percent of global power generation by 2040, compared to 40 percent in 2012.

Natural gas and renewables, including hydropower, are also expected to claim between 28 and 29 percent of total global power generation by 2040, with the remainder coming from existing and new nuclear plants.
“This is going to happen in many places around the world, and it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a significant amount,” Sieminski told energy policy experts and journalists gathered at CSIS’s granite-and-glass headquarters on Rhode Island Avenue.

In one of the first high-level analyses of how U.S. carbon regulation will affect global energy markets, EIA projects that U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan would further shave coal consumption by roughly 1 percent after 2020 while driving a comparable increase in renewable energy deployment.

“It changes the global numbers a little bit, it changes the U.S. numbers more, and it particularly changes coal in the U.S. by more,” Sieminski said. “You can see coal plateauing.”

Critics slam projections

Among the world’s three largest coal users—the United States, China and India—only India is projected to see an overall increase in coal consumption by 2040. China is expected to begin reducing its use of coal after 2025, while the United States is already seeing a downward trajectory in coal use, one that could grow steeper if the Clean Power Plan is upheld in court.

While U.S. markets and policy will continue to be critical benchmarks for global energy, the United States will not be among the fastest-growing energy markets going forward, EIA found.

In fact, by 2040, nearly two-thirds of all of the world’s energy use will be in developing countries outside the 34-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Among non-OECD members, Asian countries like China, India and Indonesia will account for 55 percent of all new energy use through 2040, the analysis found.

Increasing oil and liquid fuels consumption for industry and transportation will be particularly strong in countries like China and India, Sieminski said, where rising incomes and a proliferation of privately owned cars and trucks has led to significant increases in vehicles miles traveled (VMT).

But critics like David Turnbull of the climate-focused nonprofit group Oil Change International said EIA should have given stronger consideration to shifting national and international climate policies, especially over the last several years.

“We all know that we’re moving in a different direction now,” Turnbull said. “The Paris Agreement was a clear indication that the fossil fuel era was ending. To make a projection that ignores some of these major shifts in public opinion, in energy markets, in renewable energy policy, is leaving out a big piece of the picture.”

A spokesman for EIA stressed in an email that the agency did not ignore the Paris accord or other international agreements in its analysis.

In fact, the report makes clear that EIA “has tried to incorporate some of the specific details,” such as renewable energy goals put forward in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, in its 2016 IEO reference case. “However, a great deal of uncertainty remains with regard to the implementation of policies to meet stated goals.”

In his comments at CSIS, Sieminski acknowledged that long-term projections like those in the IEO are imperfect and that policy and technology changes can lead to radically different outcomes than the best analysis can predict.

“There’s probably a lot of flex in these numbers,” Sieminski said. “Does that mean that we are wasting taxpayer dollars doing it? The answer is no. It’s hugely valuable to policymakers, it’s hugely valuable to the public.”

Is Oil & Gas the New Tobacco? Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Reaches New Milestone

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/33839-is-oil-a-gas-the-new-tobacco-fossil-fuel-divestment-movement-reaches-new-milestone

The growing campaign for divestment from the gas, oil and coal companies reached a new milestone today. 350.org Executive Director May Boeve announced more than 500 institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets have now made at least a partial commitment to divest from fossil fuels. In France, 19 cities have just endorsed divestment, including Lille, Bordeaux, Dijon, Saint-Denis and Île-de-France. Last week, the French National Assembly adopted a resolution encouraging companies and local authorities not to invest in fossil fuels. Over the past few months, the global fossil fuel divestment movement has claimed a number of victories; Uppsala, Sweden and Munster, Germany divested from fossil fuels and the London School of Economics abandoned its holdings in coal and tar sands.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting live from COP21, the United Nations Climate Summit, here in Paris, France. We begin looking at a new milestone in the growing campaign for divestment from the gas, oil and coal companies that are fueling climate change. May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org, made the announcement just before our broadcast today.

MAY BOEVE: We are very pleased to be announcing the new commitments to divest from fossil fuels and before I announce them to all of you, I just want to, once again, remind everyone what this movement for divestment is all about. We are here for a historic summit on climate change, and the divestment movement is about something quite simple: if it’s wrong to cause climate change, it’s wrong to profit from causing climate change. And the divestment movement has taken off all over the world with this as its rallying cry.

So without further a do, today we are announcing that as of today, total divestment commitments have passed the $3.4 trillion mark, that is $3.4 trillion of assets under management now Fossil-free. That includes a combination of different types of commitments, both commitments to full divestment, which we define as divestment from coal, oil, and gas, and also partial divestment, which includes one of those fuels or some other combination.

Now, I also want to say that because there are varying degrees of level of disclosure with these commitments, we don’t have the exact total of amount divested, but do know that standard portfolios contain around 3.7% of fossil fuels. But the point here has never been exactly how much is pulled out in that way. That is why we measure the total amount of assets. That’s for simple reason. A growing number of investors representing a growing amount of capital do not want to be associated with this industry any longer. It is a rogue industry. And that is what these commitments represent. It demonstrates that investors are taking climate risk extremely seriously.

So to close, I just want to highlight some of the commitments themselves. Over 500 institutions have committed to divest, that includes, just today, 19 cities here in France, including Bordeaux, Saint-Denis, and Dijon. The French Parliament has endorsed divestment. And between last September, when we announced the $2.7 trillion mark, and today, Uppsala became the largest city in Sweden to divest from fossil fuels, Münster became the first German city to divest, Melbourne, Australia, second-largest city committed, and the London School of Economics, another primary institution — we have someone to speak to that here. They have committed to divest.

So we’re really seeing a surge of commitments. It’s very exciting. And to close, I just want to say thanks to all the people who helped make all of these commitments possible. This movement works because it is powered by tens of thousands of individuals who are powering these commitments forward. So we thank you, all of you who fought for divestment, and who will fight for reinvestment of where those resources go. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s May Boeve of 350.org.

G7 leaders bid ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to carbon fuels

http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/06/08/g7-summit-idINKBN0OO25120150608

Leaders of the world’s major industrial democracies resolved on Monday to wean their energy-hungry economies off carbon fuels, marking a major step in the battle against global warming that raises the chances of a U.N. climate deal later this year.

The Group of Seven’s energy pledge capped a successful summit for host Angela Merkel, who revived her credentials as a “climate chancellor” and strengthened Germany’s friendship with the United States at the meeting in a Bavarian resort.

Ties between the Cold War allies have been strained in the last couple of years by spying rows but Merkel appeared to put that behind her on welcoming U.S. President Barack Obama, who declared their countries were “inseparable allies.”

Meeting in the picturesque Schloss Elmau at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, the G7 leaders pressed Greece to accept painful economic reforms to resolve its debt crisis and struck a firm tone on Russia’s role in Ukraine.

They agreed that existing sanctions against Russia would remain in place until Moscow and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine fully respect a ceasefire negotiated in Minsk in February, and said they could escalate sanctions if needed.

On climate change, the G7 leaders pledged in a communique after their two-day meeting to develop long-term low-carbon strategies and abandon fossil fuels by the end of the century.

“We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term, including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050,” the communique read.

The leaders invited other countries to join them in their drive, saying they would accelerate access to renewable energy in Africa and intensify their support for vulnerable countries’ own efforts to manage climate change.

MERKEL DELIVERS

The summit revitalised Merkel’s green credentials, after concern among diplomats and environmental campaigners that Japan and Canada might torpedo her efforts.

The G7 stopped short of agreeing any immediate collective targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which the Europeans had pressed their partners in the club to embrace. But they said a U.N. climate conference later this year should reach a deal with legal force, including through binding rules, to combat climate change.

Green lobby groups – routinely critical of the advanced economies’ record on climate change – welcomed the thrust of the summit commitments.

“Merkel’s G7 says ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ (farewell) to fossil fuels,” global activist network Avaaz declared in a statement.

“Elmau delivered”, enthused environmental pressure group Greenpeace, adding that “the vision of a 100 percent renewable energy future is starting to take shape.”

The G7 leaders supported a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions within a range recommended by the United Nations climate change panel, and backed a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial levels.

Their accord helps set up the U.N. Paris conference, at which some 200 countries will try to reach agreement on limiting the rise in global temperatues to 2 degrees Celsius and seal a new worldwide agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

PUTIN “WRONG-HEADED”

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and European Union took a firm stance on Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

Obama and Merkel both said the G7 countries were ready, if necessary, to strengthen sanctions against Moscow.

The leaders want Russia and Ukraine to comply with a Feb. 12 ceasefire agreed in the Belarus capital Minsk that largely halted fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

“Ultimately this is going to be an issue for Mr (President Vladimir) Putin. He’s got to make a decision,” Obama told a news conference at the conclusion of the summit.

“Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire, or does he recognise that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?”

Obama said Russian forces were operating inside Ukraine, something Moscow continues to deny.

In the communique, the leaders said they expected Russia to stop its support for separatist forces in Ukraine and implement the Minsk agreements in full. The sanctions, they said, “can be rolled back when Russia meets these commitments.”

The leaders discussed the Greek debt crisis as a group and also in bilateral meetings. Merkel said Europe was prepared to show solidarity if Athens implemented economic reforms.

Greece’s leftist government last week rejected proposals for a cash-for-reforms deal put forward by European lenders and the International Monetary Fund, but has yet to put forward its own alternative to unlock aid funds that expire at the end of June.

“There isn’t much time left,” Merkel said. “Every day counts now.”

Merkel convinces Canada and Japan on CO2

http://www.politico.eu/article/germany-canada-japan-emissions-pledge/

Germany browbeats Canada and Japan into joining broad G7 pledge to cut emissions.

By SARA STEFANINI 6/8/15, 9:24 PM CET

It was a long, hard slog for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but in the end the woman once dubbed the “climate chancellor” for her personal commitment to combating global warming pulled fellow G7 leaders to her side and triumphed over those resistant to putting an expiry date on fossil fuels.

Backed by French President François Hollande, U.S. President Barack Obama and EU leaders, the host of the summit in Schloss Elmau succeeded in putting tough, tangible commitments into the communiqué that the group agreed to Monday afternoon. That includes the crucial promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent by 2050, compared to 2010 levels, and to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

The result was a round of applause from climate experts and campaigners.

“Merkel didn’t have to, but she really went all in in putting climate change at the top of the agenda,” said Daniel Boese, a media campaigner for the German civic group Avaaz.

It was not easy for the German leader, added Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute. “She’s been quite determined despite the discussions not being easy and in fact in one forum Merkel has described it as the most challenging issue she deals with.”

Germany has become the big economy most dedicated to shifting away from fossil fuels, although coal is still an important part of the mix. A 2011 decision to shutter its nuclear plants has led to surge in power generated by wind, solar and other renewables; last year they accounted for almost a third of Germany’s electricity production. The transition, called Energiewende, has become much more than an energy project, turning into a social revolution with broad political support.

Backed by the German public, and boosted by her own deep knowledge of climate change (Merkel is a trained chemist), her long and steady push is now being lauded for bringing other G7 leaders on board, and eventually forcing the two primary opponents, Japan and Canada, to back down, sources in Elmau told POLITICO.

Japan, in particular, had entered the negotiations with a three stage strategy: “Delay, decline, block,” said an advocacy group source. Canada started to backtrack when it realized the U.S. had little interest in supporting its insistence that the G7 was not the venue to promote an ambitious global warming agenda, others said.

“At the end of the day, Japan realized it was alone in opposing any commitment to climate change, and the Canadians, I hear, were quite quiet in the end, probably because they didn’t want to separate themselves too much from the U.S.,” said Lutz Weischer, the team leader for international climate policy at the NGO Germanwatch.

The detractors

Japan’s resistance to ambitious climate change commitments stems from its shift to using coal to generate electricity after the Fukushima meltdown in 2011. Tokyo also exports coal-fired power plants.

The country, which does not have any of its own fossil fuel reserves, switched off its last of its 48 nuclear reactors in September 2013. It has since been generating the majority of its electricity with imports of oil, coal and gas. The three fuels accounted for 87 percent of the mix in 2013 (while nuclear contributed 1 percent), up from 61 percent in 2010. Hefty fuel import bills helped push the economy into an unexpected recession last year.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to lessen the blow from climate change policies by benchmarking Japan’s planned emissions reduction target of 26 percent by 2030 to 2013 levels, when pollution from fossil fuels reached their peak. Japan has also balked at halting exports of coal technology, saying it offers a cleaner way burning the fuel and therefore qualifies for financing from its climate fund.

But as Sunday’s negotiations among government representatives (known as “sherpas”) spilled into early Monday morning, the Japanese camp started to buckle.

“The option was that either the sherpas would solve it, or it would have to go to leaders, and I think the thought of Abe having to explain why he disagreed with the world’s leading climate scientists, in front of Merkel, Hollande and Obama, was not a position they wanted to put their leader in,” said Weischer.

While Japan succeeded in softening some of the overall language, it was unable to keep out a call to increase the availability of insurance for negative effects from climate change in low and middle-income countries, according to a source in Elmau.

Canada has been similarly wary of calling for an end to fossil fuels because, even though a large amount of its electricity comes from hydropower, it also has large and lucrative oil and gas reserves.

The country stepped away from the Kyoto Protocol of 1990 in 2011 when it realized its emissions had actually gone up, according to a Greenpeace report. Its planned commitment for the December global climate summit in Paris has also been criticized as the least ambitious of all G7 countries, at 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, has long defended fossil fuels. “We should not fool ourselves. Nobody is going to start to shut down their industries or turn off the lights. We have to find a way to lower carbon emitting energy,” he said after the summit.

The champions

For Hollande, the pressure is on to make sure the Paris summit is a success, unlike the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, which is widely remembered as a failure for setting low targets and a weak outline for climate action.

For Merkel, beefing up commitments from Germany and others has been a long-running pursuit. With her training in science, she is adept at keeping abreast of the technical details and keeping in contact with German and international NGOs.

“Copenhagen was a disaster for her personally and she really was shocked by the result,” said a German NGO source who has worked on the issue with Merkel and her team throughout her chancellorship. That experience led Merkel to set up an annual climate change conference, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which she used to prepare patiently for a fresh opportunity on the global stage — this week’s summit.

Her government has set a target of phasing out nuclear power by 2022 and replacing it with renewable sources which, as of last year, accounted for almost a third of the country’s electricity supply, outpacing coal.

That said, there are also questions about Germany’s ability to meet its own targets, according to the energy analysis group Agora Energiewende. Germany’s exports of coal-fired electricity to neighboring countries are crowding out cleaner gas-fired power, and will continue to do so as their power systems become more interconnected. Germany and 11 neighbors signed an agreement Monday in Luxembourg to improve their connections by setting common rules, including not to interfere with prices.

European coal and gas power on the way out

AcidNews June 2015

In a conference in mid-May organised in the run-up to the Paris climate negotiations in December 2015, gathering corporate executives from major power companies, Gérard Mestrallet, chief executive of Engie, one of the world’s biggest power companies said that fossil fuel electricity generation indeed is on its way out in Europe.

The profitability of gas and coal power generation have deteriorated to the point that future growth is more likely to come in big emerging markets such as India and China. According to Mr Mestrallet, power companies have stopped investing in thermal power generation in Europe and instead are investing in renewables.

European power companies are adapting to a market in which renewables are more profitable. Furthermore these power companies often struggle with overcapacity and competition from the growth of subsidised renewables. However, European power companies continue to build big power plants in emerging countries: Brazil, Chile, Peru, the Middle East and Asia.

Most of the corporate executives claimed to take climate change seriously and thus wanted to see Europe as a zero emissions area in 2050, with companies such as Czech CEZ taking the lead.

Source: Financial Times, 21 May 2015

Fossil fuels subsidised by $10 million a minute

AcidNews June 2015

Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of US$5.3 trillion a year, equivalent to $10 million a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In per cent of GDP, global energy subsidies are estimated to increase from 5.8 per cent of global GDP in 2011 to 6.5 per cent in 2015.

The IMF describes the numbers as “shocking”. They exceed global public health spending, estimated by the WHO at US$4.3 trillion in 2013. “It is one of the largest negative externalities ever estimated”, says Vitor Gaspar at IMF.

Most subsidies (59%) are for coal. In dollar terms, the top five subsidisers are China, United States, India, Russia, and Japan. Subsidies in the European Union are similar to those in India.

Source: The Guardian, 18 May 2015

The IMF working paper ”How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies?” is available at http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2015/wp15105.pdf