Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Climate Snippets - 4 September

Climate change news from Aotearoa and around the World.

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Parliament passes biofuels legislation.

Parliament tonight passed legislation requiring oil companies to supply biofuel at a fixed percentage of their total sales. They have to start supplying it in October this year at 0.5 percent, rising to 2.5 percent by 2012. Decisions about which type of biofuel is supplied, how much of it is blended with fossil fuels and where it comes from will be up to the industry. Energy Minister David Parker said during the third reading of the Biofuel Bill that the alternative fuels would have to be sustainable. "We know all biofuels are not equal and sustainability is under increasing scrutiny," he said. "But because some biofuels are not good doesn't mean all are bad." Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said it was a small step but it would bring in investment that would create the infrastructure to produce biofuels that could be used when new technologies became available. The bill passed its third reading 70-50, with Parliament sitting under urgency.

Reaction to Green’s decision to support ETS.

The Government is one step closer to passing its Emissions Trading Scheme before the election. The bill underwent its second reading in the Parliament, passing by 63 votes to 56. Reaction to the Green’s decision was mixed:
Latest figures on emissions from energy & industry.

The Ministry of Economic Development this week released the 2008 edition of the Energy Greenhouse Gas Emissions report which contains information on emissions from energy and industrial processes to the end of 2007. The report assists in meeting New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions reporting obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The report also contains a wealth of useful material for those with an interest in greenhouse gas emissions.

Key features of the latest report are:
  • Total emissions from the energy sector were around 4% lower in 2007 than in 2006.
  • Emissions from thermal electricity generation were around 18% lower in 2007 than in 2006 due to the commissioning of the Huntly e3p combined cycle gas turbine and the relatively high hydro storage levels that were maintained through the year.
  • Growth in emissions from transport appears to have slowed in recent years, with an average annual growth rate of 1% since 2004.
  • Emissions from gas combustion increased by 11%, mainly due to fuel switching for thermal electricity generation.
  • Emissions from coal combustion decreased by 34% between 2006 and 2007, due largely to a lower amount of coal used for thermal electricity generation in 2007 as a result of the commissioning of e3p and favourable hydrological conditions.
  • Emissions from industrial processes increased by 6% between 2006 and 2007.
The report, and more detailed supplementary data tables, are available from the MED website:

Iwi wins rights to river's energy.

Waikato-Tainui leaders say they have "future-proofed" their river settlement by securing potentially lucrative rights of first refusal. The Crown and Waikato-Tainui yesterday signed a Treaty of Waitangi settlement covering the Waikato River. The rights of first refusal come into play if future governments decide to sell off either the Huntly Power Station or the Solid Energy permit to mine underneath the Waikato River. The coal-powered station is the largest power producer in the country, supplying up to 20 per cent of energy requirements.

Cash offer for 'converting' on the cards.

Consumers will get a one-off cash payment in 2010 to help offset the cost of climate change policy under a package to be unveiled today. The payment will be linked to household income, with low income homes receiving the most. The deal was hammered out between the Government, NZ First and the Green Party as part of a package that includes $1 billion over 15 years to help improve insulation and energy efficiency. The compensation package would use funds recycled from income to the Government from the scheme.

Ending fossil-fuel subsidies would help climate and economy, U.N. says.

A new U.N. report urges countries to phase out energy subsidies, saying they often waste money, do not always help the poor and are bad for the environment. Gas-rich Russia leads countries spending the most in energy subsidies, laying out $40 billion a year, according to the U.N. Environment Program report released Tuesday at a 160-nation conference aimed at drafting a new treaty to contain global warming. Oil-exporter Iran is second, spending $37 billion, while Saudi Arabia, the world's leading oil producer, is also among the top five.

Governments spend as much as $300 billion a year total in subsidies that encourage consumption and discourage efficiency. The subsidies delay the transition from dirty energy to more climate-friendly sources of power, said the UNEP report. Some African countries are known to spend all the foreign development aid they received to pay for the increase in fuel prices, which may be politically popular but economically damaging. "In the final analysis, many fossil fuel subsidies are introduced for political reasons but are simply propping up and perpetuating inefficiencies in the global economy," said UNEP director Achim Steiner, who also is a U.N. undersecretary general.

Accra talks bode well for future climate change negotiations – UN official.

Important progress has been made during the latest round of United Nations-led climate change talks in Accra, Ghana, on key issues relating to a new international agreement to tackle global warming, the world body’s top official dealing with the issue said today. The Accra meeting was the latest in a series of UN-sponsored talks in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. The aim of the negotiations is to create a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, with first-round commitments ending in 2012, on greenhouse gas emissions reduction. “We’re still on track, the process has speeded up and governments are becoming very serious about negotiating a result in Copenhagen,” Yvo de Boer told reporters on the final day of the week-long session.

The achievement of the Accra meeting had therefore been in “providing the basis for real negotiations to begin in Poznan,” he said, referring to the Polish city that will host this year’s UN Climate Change Conference from 1 to 12 December. Highlighting the progress made during the past week, Mr. de Boer said there was an “encouraging and important” debate on the important topic of deforestation and forest conservation, which was crucial since deforestation accounts for about 20 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions for which humans are responsible.

Scientists suggest the Arctic is already at a climatic "tipping point".

Arctic sea ice has shrunk to the second smallest extent since satellite records began, US scientists have revealed. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) says that the ice-covered area has fallen below its 2005 level, which was the second lowest on record. Melting has occurred earlier in the year than usual, meaning that the iced area could become even smaller than last September, the lowest recorded.

Researchers say the Arctic is now at a climatic "tipping point". "We could very well be in that quick slide downwards in terms of passing a tipping point," said Mark Serreze, a senior scientist at the Colorado-based NSIDC. "It's tipping now. We're seeing it happen now," he told the Associated Press news agency.

In Brief

Finding power in effluent.

Ngai Tahu has filed another claim with the Waitangi Tribunal because of the Government's emissions trading scheme.

Greens say Waterview project a 'financial drain'.

Pike River Coal has reported a $1.14 million loss for the year to the end of June, which the company said reflected the development phase of its new mining operation and related one-off costs.

NZer on trial for damage at UK power station.

Obama would make cap-and-trade program a top economic priority.

Exxon Mobil must face lawsuit by Indonesian villagers.

Japan firms to work on solar-powered ship.

The eco-rundown on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain's VP pick.

London Mayor reveals climate change plan.

Climate 'hockey stick' is revived.

Best of the Net

Cool the Earth contest.

Blog: An emissions trading subsidy for fishing?

Image: Permanent recess – Wellington 2200 by AJ

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