Monday, December 18, 2006

European Parliament votes in favour of renewable energy

On Thursday the European Parliament voted in favour of a considerable switch to renewable energy (50% by 2040), and an improvement of energy conservation in the European Union (EU) by 2050. Particularly significant was that Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favour of binding, sector-specific renewables targets to be included in a "road map" for renewable energy that is about to be launched in January by the European Commission.

Press reports on the proposed new policy said the EU Commission draft only included a general primary energy target, and did not set sector-specific targets for the growth of renewables in the heating, electricity and cooling sector. Renewable energy experts considered this to be very problematic and that - if approved - it would undermine the current growth of renewable electricity and heat technologies in the EU.

The Parliament also suggested EU leaders should agree by the end of next year on a binding EU CO2 reduction target for 2020 of minus 30% and an indicative minus 60-80% goal for 2050. They also recommended a "comprehensive strategy" for transport, aiming to phase out fossil fuels from the sector. They rejected an amendment that would have potentially incorporated nuclear electricity into EU targets for renewables.

The renewable energy industry was pleased, but remained worried about the proposals that will be made by the EU Commission in January.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Climate change an election issue?

I have the feeling this Reuters news story is a bit over-optimistic. I think we are far from seeing climate change being truly an election issue. However, certainly things are rapidly changing in politicians' perspective on climate change - partly thanks to successful campaigns and a change of attitude in the media. Also, if we compare the situation this year to the situation just one year ago - certainly there are some signs of change.

The article suggests that, just as Bill Clinton used the battle cry "It's the economy, stupid!" to keep his 1992 presidential campaign focused, political leaders worldwide are chanting a "new mantra" based on growing alarm about global warming.
Mainstream parties in Germany, Britain, France, Canada, the United States and Austria believe tackling climate change is a vote winner while established Green parties in Germany and Austria are experiencing a renaissance, the article says.

"Climate change, if presented the right way, is a topic that voters are definitely opening up to," Manfred Guellner, managing director of Germany's Forsa polling institute, told Reuters. "We're seeing you can score points with it.

In addition, this month, Canada's opposition Liberals elected former environment minister Stephane Dion as their leader. Dion campaigned on green issues and said he would focus on the need to cut emissions from the booming Alberta oil area.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Good news from China

This Reuters story is pretty heartening. All eyes - and rightly so - are on the US and Australia, who have not ratified Kyoto. Clearly countries such as China which are growing at a rapid pace (although their per capita emissions are way below those of industrialised countries) also need to start thinking of how to slow down growth of emissions.

And this is precisely what a a top Chinese energy policy maker said on Tuesday.

"China plans to reduce its energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent by 2010," he said.

Another issue is what they will do about their reliance on coal. "Because we're a coal dominant country, we have to take responsibility for lowering greenhouse emissions," Zhang Guobao, vice-chairman of the energy-policy setting National Development and Reform Commission, told an energy conference in Australia.

Improving energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy is crucial (and China has pretty ambitious goals on this already). But burning coal in more efficient power stations should also be a top priority...(more on this to follow in future posts).