<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference is announced for 26 - 27 February 2008. This joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. The conference focuses on EU and global issues relating to global warming, and in particular looks at the following issues: - Post-2012 after Bali and before the Hokkaido G8 summit; Progress of EU integrated energy and climate package, burden-sharing renewables and technology; EU Emissions Trading Review with a focus on investment; Transport Climatepolicy.eu - January 28, 2007.

    Japan's Marubeni Corp. plans to begin importing a bioethanol compound from Brazil for use in biogasoline sold by petroleum wholesalers in Japan. The trading firm will import ETBE, which is synthesized from petroleum products and ethanol derived from sugar cane. The compound will be purchased from Brazilian petrochemical company Companhia Petroquimica do Sul and in February, Marubeni will supply 6,500 kilolitres of the ETBE, worth around US$7 million, to a biogasoline group made up of petroleum wholesalers. Wholesalers have been introducing biofuels since last April by mixing 7 per cent ETBE into gasoline. Plans call for 840 million liters of ETBE to be procured annually from domestic and foreign suppliers by 2010. Trading Markets - January 24, 2007.

    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

    Record warm summers cause extreme ice melt in Greenland: an international team of scientists, led by Dr Edward Hanna at the University of Sheffield, has found that recent warm summers have caused the most extreme Greenland ice melting in 50 years. The new research provides further evidence of a key impact of global warming and helps scientists place recent satellite observations of Greenland´s shrinking ice mass in a longer-term climatic context. Findings are published in the 15 January 2008 issue of Journal of Climate. University of Sheffield - January 15, 2007.

    Japan's Tsukishima Kikai Co. and Marubeni Corp. have together clinched an order from Oenon Holdings Inc. for a plant that will make bioethanol from rice. The Oenon group will invest around 4.4 billion yen (US$40.17 million) in the project, half of which will be covered by a subsidy from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The plant will initially produce bioethanol from imported rice, with plans to use Hokkaido-grown rice in the future. It will produce 5 million liters per year starting in 2009, increasing output to 15m liters in 2011. The facility will be able to produce as much as 50,000 liters of bioethanol from 125 tons of rice each day. Trading Markets - January 11, 2007.

    PetroSun, Inc. announced today that its subsidiary, PetroSun BioFuels Refining, has entered into a JV to construct and operate a biodiesel refinery near Coolidge, Arizona. The feedstock for the refinery will be algal oil produced by PetroSun BioFuels at algae farms to be located in Arizona. The refinery will have a capacity of thirty million gallons and will produce 100% renewable biodiesel. PetroSun BioFuels will process the residual algae biomass into ethanol. MarketWire - January 10, 2007.

    BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc, which develops and operates carbohydrate-based transportation fuel production facilities, has secured capital liquidity for corporate overhead and continued project development in the value of US$15 million with Quercus, an environmentally focused trust. BlueFire Ethanol Fuels - January 09, 2007.

    Some $170 billion in new technology development projects, infrastructure equipment and construction, and biofuel refineries will result from the ethanol production standards contained the new U.S. Energy Bill, says BIO, the global Biotechnology Industry Organization. According to Brent Erickson, BIO's executive vice president "Such a new energy infrastructure has not occurred in more than 100 years. We are at the point where we were in the 1850s when kerosene was first distilled and began to replace whale oil. This technology will be coming so fast that what we say today won't be true in two years." Chemical & Engineering News - January 07, 2007.

    Scottish and Southern Energy plc, the UK's second largest power company, has completed the acquisition of Slough Heat and Power Ltd from SEGRO plc for a total cash consideration of £49.25m. The 101MW CHP plant is the UK’s largest dedicated biomass energy facility fueled by wood chips, biomass and waste paper. Part of the plant is contracted under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation and part of it produces over 200GWH of output qualifying for Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), which is equivalent to around 90MW of wind generation. Scottish & Southern Energy - January 2, 2007.

    PetroChina Co Ltd, the country's largest oil and gas producer, plans to invest 800 million yuan to build an ethanol plant in Nanchong, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, its parent China National Petroleum Corp said. The ethanol plant has a designed annual capacity of 100,000 tons. ABCMoneyNews - December 21, 2007.

    Mexico passed legislation to promote biofuels last week, offering unspecified support to farmers that grow crops for the production of any renewable fuel. Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas said Mexico could expand biodiesel faster than ethanol. More soon. Reuters - December 20, 2007.

    Oxford Catalysts has placed an order worth approximately €700,000 (US$1 million) with the German company Amtec for the purchase of two Spider16 high throughput screening reactors. The first will be used to speed up the development of catalysts for hydrodesulphurisation (HDS). The second will be used to further the development of catalysts for use in gas to liquid (GTL) and Fischer-Tropsch processes which can be applied to next generation biofuels. AlphaGalileo - December 18, 2007.

    According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil's production of sugarcane will increase from 514,1 million tonnes this season, to a record 561,8 million tonnes in the 2008/09 cyclus - an increase of 9.3%. New numbers are also out for the 2007 harvest in Brazil's main sugarcane growing region, the Central-South: a record 425 million tonnes compared to 372,7 million tonnes in 2006, or a 14% increase. The estimate was provided by Unica – the União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar. Jornal Cana - December 16, 2007.

    The University of East Anglia and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850. The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, speaks at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.

    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.

Creative Commons License

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Carbon-negative energy revolution a step closer: Carbon8 Systems to capture CO2 from biomass through carbonation

The bioenergy community is excited about a new start-up that could play a key role in the mass introduction of carbon-negative bioenergy systems. Scientists from the University of Greenwhich who formed Carbon8 Systems have developed a technique that allows power producers to capture CO2 simply by turning it into limestone via a carbonation process. If the system is applied to biomass power plants instead of coal plants, the company says, 'negative emissions' are obtained. Negative emissions from energy means that CO2 is pulled out of the atmosphere. What is more, for tropical and subtropical countries that lack large limestone deposits - a key soil amendment to make acidic soils more productive - the process could result in an extremely important synergy that allows farmers to boost (energy) crop yields.

Renewables like solar, wind, hydropower or even a source like nuclear energy are all 'carbon neutral' at best. That is: they do not add new emissions to the atmosphere and have a relatively small carbon footprint over their lifecycle. But this is a weak result compared to carbon-negative bioenergy. Socalled 'Bio-energy with carbon capture' (BECS) systems go much further: they actively take CO2 from the past out of the atmosphere. This is so because as biomass grows it stores atmospheric CO2 in its tissue. When the biomass is combusted for electricity generation or transformed into a decarbonized fuel like biohydrogen, and consequently the CO2 resulting from this transformation is captured and stored, the result is a negative emissions balance.

This makes such bioenergy systems by far the most important tool in the climate fight. Table 1 (click to enlarge) shows the difference in emissions between electricity from fossil fuels, from carbon-neutral renewables like wind or solar, and from carbon-negative biomass. Whereas a kWh of coal-based electricity generates up to 1000g/CO2, and one based on photovoltaics around 100g/COeq, a kWh of carbon-negative bio-electricity yields minus 1030 g/CO2. In other words: the hyper-green energy removes the climate destructive gas from the atmosphere.

There are two main pathways to capture and store carbon from bioenergy systems. One is high tech and involves capturing CO2 from biomass power stations through a set of complex techniques, after which the greenhouse gas is transported via pipeline or ship and sequestered in geological formations such as depleted oil & gas fields, or saline acquifers. The other technique is based on storing biochar in soils, which could lead to a highly beneficial cycle of improved agriculture.


But now, a third option is emerging: capturing CO2 from power plants, gasification based biohydrogen reactors or waste incineration facilities and using it as a feedstock to produce limestone. Dr Paula Carey and Dr Colin Hills, both geologists from Greenwich, created Carbon8 Systems in 2006. They are commercialising the technology. (A competitor would be Carbon Sciences, Inc. but it currently only focuses on coal).

Dr Paula Carey says the process is in fact very simple and known as carbonation. Industrial waste, such as the ash obtained from municipal incinerators, or biomass ash from power plants, contains calcium silicates which react vigorously with CO2 to produce calcium carbonate, or limestone as it is more commonly known. This process occurs naturally but because of the relatively low concentrations of CO2 in the air the reaction can take years.

The researchers developed a process based around the mixture of calcium silicates, water and the right concentration of CO2 that speeds the reaction up so it takes only about 15 minutes. The result comes in the form of limestone pellets (picture), ready for use as a raw material in other industrial sectors (construction materials, cosmetics, etc). Carbon 8 Systems has a certain degree of patent coverage for the process and is now working to commercialise the technology. (Note: no word yet about the energy intensity of the process).

Asked whether the carbonation technique could also be applied to CO2 from biomass energy plants, Dr Carey replied:
Absolutely. What we are looking at is a genuinely carbon negative process. If you consider the advantage of biomass projects are that they are carbon neutral as emitted carbon had been absorbed as the biofuel grew then adding a technology that captures the CO2 when it is emitted and takes it permanently out of circulation is a carbon negative process.
Limestone and acid soils
Biopact would add that with the technique a new and highly interesting synergy could be emerging for developing countries in the tropics and the subtropics. As is well known, vast tracts of land in Asia, Africa and Latin America are dominated by highly problematic acid soils, often burdened by aluminum toxicity, which is known to result in poor agricultural yields. Around half the world's arable land suffers from acidity. However, there is a simple technique to increase the Ph of these soils: adding lime. However, many developing countries have a lack of this resource, which limits the scope for this most basic intervention.

Acidic soils worldwide: aluminum toxicity in acidic soils limits crop production in as much as half the world's arable land
Now if these countries were to produce carbon-negative bioenergy from locally grown energy crops in a decentralised manner and apply the carbonation process, they would obtain a large enough stock of limestone that can be applied to the acid soils, thus boosting crop yields. The lime pellets can easily be pulverized to obtain a product similar to agricultural lime. An amazing synergy based on this system would then emerge in which climate change is fought in the most radical way with negative emissions (for which carbon credits become available), access to rural electricity for poor communities is boosted, while agricultural output is increased, food insecurity tackled and pressures on land, water and forests reduced:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The importance of lime for tropical agriculture should not be underestimated. In the 1970s and 1980s, Brazil, for example, based most of its agricultural zoning and planning efforts on the presence of lime deposits. Lime availability was seen as the key limiting factor and determined where which type of crops could be grown. The same logic is true for most other tropical countries with vast acid soil resources.

Other applications
According to Dr Carey other applications are for incinerators that produce CO2 from the chimney while also producing the ash needed to capture much of that CO2. Applying the technology to an incinerator means you would not only cut carbon emissions, the process would also treat the waste ash and make it less hazardous and the net result is limestone which can be reused as aggregate for the construction industry.

When it comes to the reduction in carbon emissions that could be achieved with this technology, Carbon 8 Systems estimates that 70,000 tonnes of ash would absorb between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes of CO2. Beyond that the only constraint on how widely you could apply the technology would be the availability of the ash and the demand for the aggregate.

Commercialisation of the carbonation process is being worked on. The biggest challenge is capturing the CO2 from the chimney, though carbon capture systems for doing that are absolutely feasible and the company's scientists are working on developing the technology. When it comes to using the process to just treat the hazardous ash they can simply use bottled CO2. The researchers conducted a field trial last week using this process, following up on trials they did several years ago. They are also working with a waste company to get a full pilot using bottled CO2 up and running in the next two to three months.

Realistically speaking Carbon 8 Systems is thinking in terms of saving millions of tonnes rather than tens of millions of tonnes for the UK, due to the limitations in terms of availability of ash and demand for the end product. But the potential application of the technology is still huge, they think. It would be expensive retrofitting any system to existing incinerators, but it is expected that more incinerators and biomass power plants will be built.

Dr Carey is the commercial director of Carbon8 Systems as well as an academic a the University of Greenwich. She has a research background in geology and natural materials for the construction industry.

Map: Aluminum toxicity in acidic soils limits crop production in as much as half the world's arable land, mostly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America. Credit: Cornell University Chronicle Online.

VNU Net: To capture CO2, just add calcium silicate - January 29, 2008.

FAO Problem Soils Database: Acid Soils.

Article continues

NFC to invest up to $80 million in reforestation-for-energy project in Uganda

Commercial tree planting is not a conventional type of business in Uganda but the New Forest Company (NFC), a UK-based firm, is signalling the growing attractiveness of the sector by announcing an investment that could reach $80 million over the coming years. The reforestation projects will supply woody biomass for power generation as well as timber for the construction industry. The concept shows that, contrary to the opinion of some bioenergy adversaries, biomass production is most often not based on deforestation, but rather on the opposite: reforestation and afforestation.

Deforestation is a growing problem in Uganda, with poor households relying on highly inefficient energy technologies for heating and cooking - burning wood fuels on open fires, leading to a loss of 90% of the energy contained in the fuel. A transition to modern energy would greatly reduce deforestation rates. A Ugandan government forest policy says because of this reliance on woodfuel and inefficient technologies, the country needs to recover 20 per cent of its lost forest cover, which equates to about 250,000 hectares of new trees to be planted by 2015. This opportunity, combined with rising commercial energy costs, the efficiency of modern biomass power production, and the growing related market for timber, prompted NFC to launch a massive investment campaign since 2005, expecting to raise 4.3 million trees, mainly Pine and Eucalyptus species.

During a tour of a plantation in Mubende by officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Uganda Investment Authority, NFC's CEO Julian Ozanne said that in a first step, the company is to invest $30 million in plantations in Mubende, Bugiri and Kiboga. The target there is to plant 65,000 acres of land, mainly for the timber market. So far 7,250 acres have received trees. This year, an additional $11 million should bring the total to 15,000 acres in the three districts.

In the meantime, NFC is working with British energy company Aldwych International which has already received a licence from the energy ministry to put in place a 50MW biomass power plant. NFC's plantations would supply the green electricity plant, pushing up its total investment to between $70 - $80 million over the next 10 years. For this project to succeed, the company needs to obtain a power purchase agreement from the government, so that the plant will be connected to the national grid.

Ozanne urged the government to support the project in order to diversify energy sources and to stop relying on hydro power only, which has become an unreliable source of energy. According to NFC, renewable biomass power offers reliable baseload energy and creates considerably more jobs than hydropower.

According to Meredith Bates, the company's corporate responsibility manager, NFC has so far created 1,600 jobs and forecasts another 2,500 in the next five years, operates in three districts of Mubende, Bugiri and Kiboga. According to Bates, the workforce is highly motivated and productive, for many of the rural workers and contractors this is their first real job so there is considerable training required to help make the transition to full time employment.

Bates added that the NFC's reforestation projects are underwritten by carbon credits, which require sound environmental land use management in compliance with the Clean Development Mechanism:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Our business mixes commercial plantation forestry with protection and regeneration of indigenous tree species and the promotion of bio-diversity and environmentally sustainable land use management. - Meredith Bates, NFC corporate responsibility manager
Besides carbon credits, timber plantations offer attractive rates of return in the order of 15-18 percent (more with well grown Eucalypts), says Bates. Besides the bioenergy market, Uganda's rapidly growing construction industry is pushing up demand for timber and other timber products providing a huge market for tree dealers and timber vendors. The regional market in Southern Sudan and Rwanda will also come in hardy to provide wider and new markets.

Planting is the first step being undertaken to create volume. In the next phase, NFC will build a processing plant that will include a modern saw mill and a pole-treatment factory. The development of supply chains for biomass as a fuel will be developed later when the government approves the power project.

During the tour in Mubende, IMF's senior resident representative, Abebe Aemro Selassie, said the company had mobilised private equity for a sustainable forestry project. "This is a positive development that has created jobs", he said.

Picture: reforestation and afforestation through eucalyptus plantations; the trees grow fast and yield high amounts of biomass that could become crucial for developing countries making a transition to more efficient energy systems.


New Vision (Kampala - via AllAfrica): Forest Company to Invest $30m - January 28, 2008.

The Monitor (Kampala - via AllAfrica): Tree Planting Promises Hefty Fruits for UK Firm - January 28, 2008.

Article continues

Suez to build 150MW coal-biomass power plant to supply Chilean copper mine

European energy giant Suez Energy International and Antofagasta Minerals S.A., a Chilean industrial group, have signed an agreement for the supply of up to 150 MW and related energy for the new Esperanza mine starting in 2011. For this demand, Suez will build a second power unit at the Central Termoeléctrica Andina (CTA) in Mejillones. The power station will use circulating fluidised bed technology and will be able to burn renewable biomass and other fuels.

Circulating fluidized bed (CFB) combustion is a relatively new and evolving technology that has become a very efficient method of generating low-cost electricity while generating electricity with very low emissions and environmental impacts. In the CFB combustion process, crushed fuel is mixed with limestone and fired in a process resembling a boiling fluid. The limestone removes the sulfur and converts it into an environmentally-benign powder that is removed with the ash. Fluidized bed boilers are capable of burning a wide range of fuels cleanly, including biomass fuels.

Suez' second unit will be identical to a first one it already built at the CTA, for which construction started in the 4th quarter of 2007. It will equally be connected to the Sistema Interconectado del Norte Grande ('Northern Grid'). The plant will be built in Mejillones, some 1,400 kilometers north of the Chilean capital Santiago.

Chile is racing to build electrical generating capacity to feed its booming mining sector, which produces about a third of the world's copper. The new plant will be coal-fired and possibly co-fire biomass. It is part of Chile's solution to shortages of natural gas, which has been supplied by Argentina to run northern generating facilities.

Central Termoeléctrica Andina’s environmental impact study has already been approved. For the construction, an Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract was signed with the Spanish company Cobra for both units of the CTA project:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Notice to Proceed for the second Suez unit has been given to Cobra and the construction will begin in the forthcoming weeks. The estimated construction time is around 3 years. An average of 700 persons will be employed during the construction phase.
Taking into account the energy context of Chile, we think it is crucial to invest in different energy solutions. Apart from the coal stations we are constructing now, we will start in the coming months the construction of our LNG project in Northern Chile, which will secure a reliable source of natural gas for the existing gas-fired plants. - Dirk Beeuwsaert, CEO of SUEZ Energy International
The Esperanza mine will be one of Chile's first major greenfield copper projects - ones built from scratch - in years. Esperanza, located in Chile's Atacama Desert near Antofagasta's active El Tesoro Mine, is expected to be ready for operation in the fourth quarter of 2010 and will add an annual production of some 195,000 tonnes of copper, 229,000 ounces of gold and 1.556 million ounces of silver to Chile's mining roster.

In Chile, SUEZ Energy International also has a stake in the electricity companies Electroandina and Edelnor as well as in the company Gasoducto NorAndino.

Antofagasta has three business divisions: Mining, Transport and Water, with the first of those being the most important. Antofagasta plc is one of the largest international copper producing companies in the industry. Today its activities are mainly concentrated in Chile where it owns and operates three copper mines, Los Pelambres, El Tesoro and Michilla, with a total production of 466 thousand tonnes in 2006, at an average cash cost of 40.2 c/lb. The Group's mining division, Antofagasta Minerals, is also actively involved in exploration particularly in Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Pakistan.

Suez: SUEZ Energy International continues its expansion in Chile [*.pdf] - January 28, 2008.

Power Engineering International: Suez to build second coal/biomass unit at Chile mine - January 29, 2008.

Article continues

EU climate package provokes threats of trade war

The EU finds itself on a collision course with its major trading partners after the Commission announced it was considering forcing importers to pay pollution charges on carbon-heavy imports.
There would be no point in pushing EU companies to cut emissions if the only result is that production, and indeed pollution, shifts to countries with no carbon disciplines at all. - José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission
Carbon equalisation
The European Commission's plans to tighten Europe's greenhouse gas reduction regime, presented in the dirctive of 23 January 2008, recognised the risk that new legislation would put European companies at a competitive disadvantage compared to countries with less stringent climate protection laws, such as the US, China and India.

According to the Commission, this situation could cause large "carbon leakages", whereby companies move their activities to other regions of the world in order to keep costs down.

To address this threat, the draft legislation includes proposals to impose restrictions on imports unless an international agreement subjecting all industrialised countries to similar climate change mitigation measures is reached.

According to the proposal, such a "carbon equalisation system" could take the form of an obligation for foreign companies doing business in Europe to obtain emissions permits alongside European competitors.

The Commission's threat of climate-related trade sanctions aimed at putting EU and third country producers on a level footing appears mainly targeted at convincing governments in Washington and Beijing to adhere to a global deal on climate change. Indeed, the EU executive has confirmed that it will not decide on the introduction of any such measures before 2011.

However, the mere fact that the EU is considering such action has already caused outrage among its trade partners.

Trade war threats
The United States has warned it would "vigorously" resist any move to introduce a tax on American products based on its position in climate change negotiations. Last week, US Trade Representative Susan Schwab accused the EU of using the climate as an excuse for protectionism.

Legal experts remain divided on whether the EU's proposed measures would be compatible with international trade regulations, as the WTO has no clear provisions on the subject. On the one hand, border adjustment measures could be considered to contravene WTO rules prohibiting discrimination between countries or between "like products". On the other, WTO law also states that countries may deviate from these rules if it is for the protection of animal, plant or human health or for the conservation of natural resources.

A spokesman from the US Mission to the EU told reporters that while the US was encouraged to see that the EU's new climate package does not introduce any trade-restrictive action on imports, the US would be "vigorous in resisting calls for any form of trade protectionism as a response to climate change."

Even though an EU member, Britain seems to side with the US.
We are against any measures which might look like trade barriers […] There is always the danger that the protectionists in Europe - and they do exist - could use this as a kind of secret weapon to bring about protectionism. - British Energy Minister Malcolm
France, however, is continuing to push for protection against unfair international competition to avoid massive delocalisation of EU companies. The establishment of a border adjustment mechanism is a "fundamental element" of the package and France will work "very closely" with the European Commission between now and 2011 on proposals to set up the scheme, insisted French Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development Jean-Louis Borloo:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

According to the Financial Times, Ujal Singh Bhatia, India's ambassador to the WTO, warned against the risk of retaliation and litigation from the EU's trade partners if it goes ahead with trade restrictive measures. He said: "Unilateral measures at this stage would create contentiousness and lead to charges of protectionism […] If the countries imposing such measures invoke Gatt provisions to justify them, the dispute settlement mechanism in [the] WTO would face serious challenges and create divisions along North-South lines."

However, British Liberal MEP Chris Davies welcomed the idea of tariffs, saying they would create a level-playing field for business: "It makes more likely an emissions trading scheme on a worldwide basis, if manufacturers in China know they are not going to gain entry."

But business leaders fear that imposing "climate tariffs" could provoke trade retaliation. Folker Franz, a senior policy adviser at BusinessEurope, the European employers' organisation, said: "If you impose import measures on others, the others might do the same." As an alternative, he said the EU should promote the clean development mechanism – a scheme which allows European companies to invest in carbon-reduction projects in the developing world.

Trade Unions within the EU, however, believe that establishing a border adjustment mechanism is essential and are upset that the Commission is delaying the measure. ETUC General Secretary John Monks stressed: "There is a way of keeping employment and the planet from being the losers: a compensation mechanism such as a carbon tax on imports, which would equalise carbon costs for all companies, whether they are based in Europe or outside its borders. Under such a system, a considerable effort could be demanded of European industry while keeping heavy industry and jobs in Europe." He added: "The Commission's postponement of that decision is a mistake, since it has acknowledged the dangers of relocation and 'carbon leakage'."


European Commission: Questions and Answers on the Commission's proposal to revise the EU Emissions Trading System - January 23, 2008.

French Ministry for Sustainable Development: Proposition de la Commission européenne sur les objectifs « climat-énergie » à l’horizon 2020 - January 23, 2008.

American Chanber of Commerce to the EU: Position Paper on Climate Change [*.pdf] - January 23, 2008.

European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC): Climate change package: the Commission makes important proposals but it is necessary also to guarantee jobs in Europe in a globalised context - January 23, 2008.

BusinessEurope: New Energy and Climate Rules: Uncertainties regarding competitiveness must be resolved [*.pdf] - January 23, 2008.

International Institute for Sustainable Development: Unpacking the Wonder Tool: Border Charges in Support of Climate Change [*.pdf] - November - December 2007.

Financial Times: Carbon import tax could provoke trade war - January 23, 2008.

Article continues