Compromise, compromise, compromise – that is the watchword for the climate talks now going on in Cancun, according to the United Nations’ top climate change official, Christiana Figueres (pictured).
Her insistence was a clear reminder that the first objective of this year’s conference is to avoid scenes of the kind that marred the final days of last year’s summit in Copenhagen – when the debate degenerated into name-calling on the part of some countries, to the deep offence of many others.
It was impossible to predict yesterday whether her call for a constructive spirit would be heeded – on the first day, it’s easy for all the negotiators to wear winning smiles and to clap the anodyne speeches.
So what is happening at Cancun?
Environment ministers and government officials from around the world are gathering in Mexico to talk about climate change, and how to tackle the problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Didn’t they do that last year?
Last year’s climate summit in Copenhagen produced a deal by which both developed and developing countries for the first time agreed to curbs on their greenhouse gas emissions, but that was not a full treaty.
Will a treaty be signed this year?
No – the Cancun meeting is a staging post on the way to a bigger meeting in South Africa next year, at which the United Nations is hoping a new pact will be signed.
Ali Naimi, the oil minister of Saudi Arabia, was in mischievous mood on Monday night, positing an oil price of $70 to $90 for the foreseeable future, and suggesting that oil consumers should be happy with such a settlement – because a price of more than $70 was needed to justify investments in renewable energy.
His remarks, which came in response to questions from the Financial Times at a dinner hosted by the Singapore International Energy Week, did not go down well with all sections of the audience – some were unhappy that the world’s biggest oil producer should suggest they be content with an oil price they felt was unnecessarily high.
Mr Naimi justified his $70 to $90 prediction, which he called a “comfortable zone” that should be welcomed by oil producers and consumers alike, by reference to renewable energy, which he suggested gave oil an “anchor” price. If the oil price were to fall below $70, then renewable energy would not be competitive, he said.
It has been a busy week for wind energy.
First came the good news – a massive investment in offshore wind in the UK. Although the UK leads the world in offshore wind generation, that is mainly because so little of it has been built anywhere. But a vote of confidence in the UK’s prospects came from three wind turbine manufacturers who announced on Monday they would set up shop on the UK’s north-east and eastern coasts.
General Electric, Siemens and Gamesa are arriving, with more than £300m in investment promised and the creation of an estimated 3,000 jobs. (That is direct jobs – more will follow along the supply chain.)
So farewell, then, Severn Barrage.
The idea of an electricity-generating barrage across the Severn estuary has been around for nearly as long as electricity generation itself. Writing on the subject several years ago, I was delighted to receive a letter from a reader who had been present at a public meeting to push forward work on such a barrage – in 1929.
It is hardly surprising, as the Severn is an ideal place for tidal power generation. It has one of the highest “tidal reaches”, or differences between high and low tide, in the world.
On a recent visit to Drax, the biggest coal-fired power station in the UK, I was struck by the cluster of 12 wind turbines that have sprung up just beside the water-vapour belching cooling towers.
Picture by Press Association
The wind turbines do not belong to Drax – the company prefers to lower its emissions using biomass – but make a striking picture, situated so close to the coal plant.
The local people hate them.
You might have thought that people who have lived for decades with an enormous coal-burning power plant in their backyard would think nothing of a few little turning blades. No so. The wind developers faced a barrage of local opposition to their plans.
“You wouldn’t want those on your doorstep,” one local man said. “They’re an eyesore.”
The world is likely to warm by an average of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to a new report from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, and the Met Office Hadley Centre.
Climate scientists regard a rise of more than 2 degrees as taking the planet beyond the limit of safety.
The research was published to coincide with the current round of climate change negotiations, now taking place in Bonn. One of the topics of discussion, which also dominated the agenda for several days at Copenhagen, is whether the current international goal – enshrined in the Copenhagen Accord – of holding temperatures to 2°C should be toughened, to oblige nations to try to hold warming to no more than 1.5°C.
A report from the NOAA in the US has found that data from ten key climate indicators all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable.
It is the first major piece of new research since the “Climategate” scandals.
It found that, relying on data from multiple sources, each indicator proved consistent with a warming world. Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere.
Read the full report here:
Ten exciting new initiatives! Those are the results from the first “Clean Energy Ministerial” summit held in Washington DC on Monday and Tuesday.
The initiatives, we are told, will do all of the following: cut energy waste; help deploy smart grid, electric vehicle, and carbon capture technologies; support renewable energy markets; expand access to clean energy resources and jobs; and support women pursuing careers in clean energy.
If they are all successful, they will “eliminate the need to build more than 500 mid-sized power plants worldwide in the next 20 years”.
Rumours of the death of the clean energy industry in the recession were exaggerated, it seems: new investment in clean energy technologies, companies and projects “held steady” in the second quarter at $33.9bn globally, according to a new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
This represented a slight decline of 1.5 per cent from the first quarter of 2010, and the year-on-year drop was more marked, with this year’s Q2 showing a 3 per cent fall from investment figures for the same period last year.
Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said this was good going, given the Greek and Eurozone crises, the continuing tightness of credit, and the sluggish US economic recovery.