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    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicks off the meeting in Valencia, Spain, which will result in the production of the Synthesis Report on climate change. The report will summarize the core findings of the three volumes published earlier by the separate working groups. IPCC - November 12, 2007.

    Biopact's Laurens Rademakers is interviewed by Mongabay on the risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon storage (BECS) proposals. Even though Biopact remains positive about BECS, because it offers one of the few safe systems to mitigate climate change in a drastic way, care must be take to avoid negative impacts on tropical forests. Mongabay - November 10, 2007.

    According to the latest annual ranking produced by The Scientist, Belgium is the world's best country for academic research, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Belgium's top position is especially relevant for plant, biology, biotechnology and bioenergy research, as these are amongst the science fields on which it scores best. The Scientist - November 8, 2007.

    Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced the acquisition of Celsys BioFuels, Inc. Celsys BioFuels was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Ladisch, an internationally known leader in the field of renewable fuels and cellulosic biofuels. He will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Purdue University to join Mascoma as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Business Wire - November 7, 2007.

    Bemis Company, Inc. announced today that it will partner with Plantic Technologies Limited, an Australian company specializing in starch-based biopolymers, to develop and sell renewably resourced flexible films using patented Plantic technology. Bemis - November 7, 2007.

    Hungary's Kalocsa Hõerõmû Kft is to build a HUF 40 billion (€158.2 million) straw-fired biomass power plant with a maximum capacity of 49.9 megawatts near Kalocsa in southern Hungary. Portfolio Hungary - November 7, 2007.

    Canada's Gemini Corporation has received approval to proceed into the detailed engineering, fabrication and construction phases of a biogas cogeneration facility located in the Lethbridge, Alberta area, the first of its kind whereby biogas production is enhanced through the use of Thermal Hydrolysis technology, a high temperature, high pressure process for the safe destruction of SRM material from the beef industry. The technology enables a facility to redirect waste material, previously shipped to landfills, into a valuable feedstock for the generation of electricity and thermal energy. This eliminates the release of methane into the environment and the resultant solids are approved for use as a land amendment rather than re-entering the waste stream. In addition, it enhances the biogas production process by more than 25%. Market Wire - November 7, 2007.

    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

China: poverty reduction, energy security more important than capping emissions

People in the wealthy post-industrialised world tend to forget that for developing nations access to abundant and cheap energy resources is crucial in the fight against poverty. Westerners often hope these countries can somehow skip the polluting fossil fuel path which turned Europe, the US and Japan into prosperous regions, 'leapfrog' into a greener, far more efficient and low carbon future, and fight poverty in the process. But is this is a highly idealistic, very tall order indeed.

The economies of developing countries are energy intensive, and without energy security and affordable fuels, all efforts at social development are in vain. We are already seeing the truly catastrophic socio-economic effects of high oil prices on the poorest countries, some of which are now forced to spend up to six times more on importing oil than on health care and poverty alleviation (previous post). Asking such countries to make energy even more expensive by putting a carbon tax on fossil fuels or by capping emissions in order to fight climate change would be unacceptable to many of them. In fact, some energy experts have warned that in the medium term, high energy prices could indeed be more threatening to societies than climate change (more here).

A Chinese top official, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, made this crystal clear by saying Beijing will reject binding caps on greenhouse gas emissions at the UNFCCC's global meeting in Bali next month, because developing countries must be allowed to use more energy and consequently raise emissions to fight poverty.
Climate change is caused mainly by developed countries. They should have the main responsibility for climate change and to reduce emissions. [...] Most developing countries are in the process of industrialization and urbanization, and they face the arduous task of poverty reduction. This is why they need a large period of time for continuous energy demand growth with the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. - Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui
China is about to become the world's top greenhouse-gas producer, even though its per capita emissions are still only 35% of the OECD average. However, the People's Republic's stunning economic growth means it will be responsible for the major share in emissions growth over the coming decades, the International Energy Agency said in its World Energy Outlook released earlier this week. The agency projects that in a business as usual scenario, global CO2 emissions will jump from 27 gigatonnes in 2005 to 42 Gt in 2030, with China alone accounting for 42% of the increase. In a high growth scenario, this share will increase to a whopping 49%, more than the rest of the world combined (except India) (graph, click to enlarge, and previous post).

Succesfully fighting climate change will obviously be impossible without China committing to major cuts in emissions. This is why the country is under immense pressure to accept binding limits at a meeting in Indonesia of environment ministers from 80 nations to discuss a possible replacement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on emission reductions. Nations agreed in Kyoto to cut output of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to below 1990 levels by 2012. But China, India and other developing economies are exempt:
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Vice Foreign Minister Zhang did not say directly what Beijing's position would be at the key meeting in Bali, and he did not take questions from reporters. But a European Union official who met this week with Chinese leaders said they told him in private meetings that Beijing could not accept any binding obligations.

Zhang was speaking at a ceremony to launch a fund to channel money from emissions-reduction credits into environmental projects. The fund will collect a share of Chinese companies' revenues under a system that allows industries in developed economies to offset pollution by paying others to reduce emissions. Beijing has promoted that system among its companies while resisting emissions caps.

Despite its refusal to back binding reduction targets, China has also announced an ambitious plan to promote low carbon renewables, with the bulk of the proposed funding going to hydropower projects. These remain controversial. Biomass and wind power receive a far smaller share. The overall aim of the plan is to meet 15 per cent of the country's energy demand by renewables in 2020 (earlier post).

However, given the sheer pace and scale of China's growth and the coal intensive energy mix which drives this development, such an ambitious renewables policy would have only a marginal effect on offsetting the vast amounts of greenhouse gases it will be releasing over the coming decades.

Economic growth and poverty alleviation versus the fight against climate change. The wealthy countries, whose economies have become less and less energy intensive and who can afford the cost of reducing emissions, do not think there is such a dilemma. But for developing countries, and for China in particular, there is indeed a sharp conflict between these two demands. China has decided to prioritize the first over the latter. And the consequences of this choice will affect all of us.

Perhaps there is only one development on which the world can pin its hopes for turning this situation around, and that is a dramatic increase in prices for both oil and coal, followed by a long and global economic slowdown, and a massive, fast, radical and continued investment in renewables, conservation and energy efficiency.

Graph: projection of China's increasing share in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2030. Credit: IEA, World Energy Outlook 2007.

Associated Press: China Signals Rejection of Emission Caps - November 10, 2007.

Biopact: IEA WEO: China and India transform global energy landscape - demand, emissions to grow 'inexorably' - November 08, 2007

Biopact: China unveils $265 billion renewable energy plan, aims for 15% renewables by 2020 - September 06, 2007

Biopact: High oil prices disastrous for developing countries - September 12, 2007

Biopact: Energy experts: high oil prices bigger threat than climate change - October 29, 2007


Dan said...

Perhaps China would be more receptive to a revenue-neutral carbon tax, with the revenues retained within China? Maybe something similar to the type of carbon tax we propose for the United States at www.carbontax.org.

3:56 AM  

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