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Brazil rocks Doha talks, UK Energy Bill, green Chinese MoU and more: 18 top stories you may have missed

03 December 2012
Brazil rocks Doha talks, UK Energy Bill, green Chinese MoU and more: 18 top stories you may have missed

Read a global snapshot of some of the biggest clean technology, economy and policy headlines, from the week commencing December 3, 2012.


End of week number one at the Doha COP and according to reports in the press, Brazil has said a row over carbon credits could derail the negotiations. The row concerns whether countries entering the second round of the Kyoto protocol should be allowed to carry over emissions credits from the first phase. Some countries, including Poland, Ukraine and Russia, have large surpluses of credits, generated because their carbon output collapsed alongside their industrial base after the fall of communism. More at the Guardian, December 3. Read our summary of week one at COP18 in Doha.

Saudi Arabia is planning to invest $109 billion into solar energy and is looking to develop a solar industry that can provide 1/3 of its electricity by 2032. Doing so will free up larger quantities of its reserves for international sales rather than for use domestically. With the price of oil to rise significantly in the coming decades, such a move makes sense for an economic standpoint. Saudi Arabia’s first solar farm is expected to begin operations by 2015, and its first nuclear plant by 2020, according to an official at the agency developing the country’s renewable (and atomic) energy program. Solar Love, November 25.

Carbon dioxide emissions from industry rose an estimated 2.6% this year, according to a study of global carbon emissions. The research by the Global Carbon Project, an annual report card on mankind's CO2 pollution, also says emissions grew 3.1% in 2011, placing the world on a near-certain path towards dangerous climate change, such as more heat waves, droughts and storms. More at the Guardian, December 3.

Governments and businesses from industrialized countries invested just $8 billion in clean energy projects in developing economies last year, representing just a fraction of the $100 billion a year of investment that nations have pledged to deliver by 2020. That is the conclusion of a major new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which warns that levels of cross-border investment in clean energy infrastructure are well short of that required to sufficiently decarbonise both industrialized and emerging economies. BusinessGreen, November 27.


The full text of the long-awaited Energy Bill was published last week. Energy firms can increase the "green" levy from £3 billion to £7.6 billion a year by 2020, potentially increasing household bills by £100. But big, energy-intensive companies could be exempt from the extra costs of the switch to renewable energy. Also, it was confirmed that a decarbonisation target will not be set until after the election, at 2015. Here is how the BBC reported the news last Thursday. Business Week/Bloomberg have an interesting round-up of what the new Energy Bill will mean for the British economy – the article includes a comment by Mark Kenber. Read Mark's full statement.

The UK's £3 billion Green Investment Bank has officially opened, accompanied by government predictions it will mobilize billions of pounds of investment in the country's low carbon economy. Launching the bank, Business Secretary Vince Cable also confirmed the institution has made its first official investments, ploughing £8 million into a new anaerobic digestion plant in Teesside and a further £5 million to reduce energy consumption at Kingspan UK's headquarters. BusinessGreen, November 28.

The Bristol Channel could provide as much as 14 gigawatts of low carbon energy capacity without resorting to a large scale tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary, a report claims. A series of lower impact tidal fences and turbines deployed in conjunction with wave and wind power systems would generate more electricity than the controversial barrage scheme, according to not-for-profit Regen SW and consultancy Marine Energy Matters. MPs are currently investigating the feasibility of a barrage running from Cardiff to Weston-super-Mare, which would harness the Severn Estuary's 14 metre tidal range. BusinessGreen, November 27.


They account for less than 4% of electricity generation now, but solar and wind could be cheaper than coal by 2030, according to the Climate Commission. Chief commissioner Professor Tim Flannery said rooftop solar panels may already be cheaper than conventional electricity in areas with high power prices, such as south-west Western Australia, and some regional areas. About 754,000 households and businesses have installed solar panels. Sydney Morning Herald, November 26.

The federal government's main representative at the United Nations climate talks says Australia's next target under the Kyoto Protocol represents a major effort to cut carbon emissions. Labor announced that it was ready to commit to limiting annual emissions to an average of 99.5% of 1990 levels from 2013 to 2020, in the second Kyoto commitment period. That's consistent with the bipartisan domestic pledge to reduce carbon pollution to at least five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. Climate Spectator, November 27.


The World Bank Group and China launched a new knowledge hub to improve development outcomes, aiming to spread practical knowledge from China’s successes in reducing poverty both within China as well as to other countries. Under the MoU on the World-Bank-China Knowledge Hub for Development signed in Beijing by Kim and the Chinese Minister of Finance Xie Xuren, the first pilot, called TRANS-FORM, will focus on urban transport. This focus was selected because of the urgent need for innovative solutions to deliver green, inclusive, and low-carbon development. World Bank, November 27.

The Chinese government started investigating whether foreign suppliers of polysilicon are selling below cost in China, the world’s biggest consumer of the raw material used in making solar-energy devices. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said it will determine if retroactive duties, or penalties, should be imposed on the suppliers from the U.S., the European Union and South Korea. It will also probe whether the U.S. and EU are subsidizing makers of the silicon-based commodity. China is expanding the trade disagreement between the world’s biggest economies as the global solar-energy industry grapples with overcapacity, lower prices and declining profits. Bloomberg, November 26.


In the past year, Germany’s CO2 emissions fell by 2.4% compared with 2010, according to figures released by Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA). The decrease, say experts, has largely come through a push towards renewable energy that has accelerated since the country began its move away from nuclear power. In the first six months of 2012, the amount of electricity produced using renewable energy rose from 20% to 25%, bringing the country closer to its targets of 35% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The Guardian, November 26.

Vestas has revealed plans to develop its giant 8 megawatts wind turbine (largest offshore wind turbine) with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, after securing millions of euros in fresh funding. Vestas  announced a €1,300m syndicated loan from nine banks has been replaced by a smaller €900 million loan, while a new €200 million loan has been secured from the European Investment Bank, alongside a €55m loan from the Nordic Investment Bank. BusinessGreen, November 27.

North America

Canada's current greenhouse gas emissions are 23% over the country's Kyoto protocol target, and federal government estimates place Canada 28.8% over the target by 2014. Canada is the only country to have repudiated Kyoto, the sole legally binding international policy tool to date to deal with the emissions, and ranks just behind the US and Australia in the table of worst global emitters per capita. The Guardian, November 26.

The US is claiming credit for "enormous" efforts on climate change – delivered in part by the carbon reductions from its investments in the controversial practice of "fracking" for shale gas. Jonathan Pershing, a senior negotiator for the US, said: "Those who don't know what the US is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it's enormous." The Guardian, November 26.


The Electric Vehicle Information Exchange (EVIX) conducted a survey of 970 panelists and profiled the average EV driver, characteristics include: well-educated, upper-middle class white men in their early 50s; four-year or greater degree and make well over six figures annually; last of boomers and first of Generation X; over half live in the west and about one-quarter live in the south; energy independence was the primary reason for interest in EVs and one-third use home solar or wind generation. Mother Nature Network, November 20.

As electric cars try to forge more than just a niche in the market, the auto industry is already looking to another form of clean technology that could overtake today's battery-powered vehicles. Commitments by automobile manufactures to develop hydrogen fuel-cell cars have surged in recent months. Toyota, Hyundai, Daimler and Honda announced plans to build vehicles that run on the most abundant element in the universe and emit only water vapour as a by-product. CNN, November 26.


The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class will be the first car to be fitted completely with LEDs as standard. Energy efficiency is a key factor. “With its long life and a colour temperature resembling daylight, LED technology already had a great deal in its favour” said Thomas Weber, member of the Daimler board responsible for group research and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. “Now, though, our engineers have made great advances where energy efficiency is concerned too, reducing power consumption to a quarter of that of convention headlamps.” LEDs Magazine, November 21.


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Photo by UN Climate Change.

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