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In the headlines: 15 stories you may have missed

Date
13 August 2012
In the headlines: 15 stories you may have missed

Here's a global snapshot of some of the biggest clean technology, economy and policy headlines, from the week ending August 13, 2012.

Australia

Australia’s government is holding talks with businesses about possible changes in pricing for emission permits in a program started July 1. “Discussions are continuing and no decisions have been made,” the office of Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said today in an e-mailed statement. The government may scrap a proposed minimum price of A$15 ($15.80) and restrict access to cheaper international carbon credits, the Australian Financial Review reported, without citing where it got the information. The government is in negotiations with the Greens, the political party that Gillard relies on to pass laws in the lower house of parliament, over the proposal, the newspaper said. Bloomberg Businessweek, August 9.

The Gillard government has announced four new board members to help run the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). The corporation, part of Labor's carbon price package, will support renewable energy projects through loans, guarantees and equity investments. Based in Sydney, it will invest funds from July 2013. The board members announced on Friday are recently retired Macquarie investment banker Michael Carapiet, fellow banker Ian Moore from Banker's Trust, former solicitor and Climate Works Australia executive director Anna Skarbek and ex-Origin Energy senior manager Andrew Stock. All have been appointed for five-year terms. They will work alongside corporation chairwoman Jillian Broadbent, who is also a Reserve Bank board member. Brisbane Times, August 10.

China

The Chinese government has confirmed it has increased its target for solar energy by 40 per cent, pledging to deploy 21GW of capacity by 2015. State media reported that the National Energy Administration (NEA) had rubbersta mped the new target in response to the rapidly falling cost of solar technologies and the success of government incentive schemes across the country. The NEA said the latest move, which according to local media reports is accompanied by new minimum targets for renewable energy use that will be imposed on energy firms and grid operators, means renewables will account for 9.5 per cent of the country's energy mix by 2015. BusinessGreen, August 10. Read our news story on this, including insight from Changhua Wu, Greater China Director, The Climate Group.

China's export and import growth slowed for the second straight month in July, raising fears about the strength of the world's second-largest economy. Exports rose by 1% from a year earlier, down from 11.3% growth in June, amid slowing demand from key markets. Meanwhile, imports rose by 4.7% compared with 6.3% in June, indicating that domestic demand was also slowing. Analysts said the data was weaker-than-expected and may see Beijing introduce stimulus measures to spur growth. BBC News, August 10.

Europe

Germany's national infrastructure bank KfW has confirmed it has cranked up its investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, revealing that it now plans to provide €100bn of finance to the country's green economy over the next five years. As part of the bank's half yearly update KfW revealed 41 per cent of its promotional business volume went to support projects involved in "environmental and climate protection", totalling €12.1bn of loans. The bank said that during the first six months of the year investment in environment and climate protection projects more than doubled year-on-year to €95m, while funding for renewable energy programmes rose from €4.1bn during the first half of 2011 to €4.9bn this year. BusinessGreen, August 10.

Weak Japanese economic data on Monday tempered European investors' optimism about ECB plans to tackle the euro zone crisis, with stocks down slightly and the euro flat. Japan said its economy grew 0.3 percent in April-June from the first quarter, half as much as expected, as Europe's debt crisis weighed on export demand and consumer spending began to lose momentum. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.18 percent shortly after trading began, German government bonds - traditionally favoured by risk-averse investors - were virtually motionless and the euro was also little changed at $1.2288. Reuters, August 13.

Global

A Group of 20 countries are planning a meeting to coordinate a response to surging food prices, the Financial Times reported, as the worst U.S. drought in more than half a century devastates crops, lifting grain prices to record highs. G20 officials plan to hold a conference call in the week of August 27 to discuss a meeting, which could be held in late September or early October, the Financial Times said, quoting four unnamed officials familiar with the conversations. Reuters, August 12.

India

Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (Cept) University and Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D) are going to make Udaipur, Rajkot and Visakhapatnam low carbon cities. The institutes will work together on improving the mobility in these cities while lowering carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. As lead agencies of this project, the institutes will help civic authorities set up greener transport system infrastructure, which will help bring down carbon emissions in the cities. The initiative is under a project called 'Promoting Low Carbon Transport in India,' endorsed by the environment and urban development ministries, which envisions carbon-free transportation in the year 2050. The project is the first one in the field of transportation that is financed by (UNEP). The Times of India, July 19.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has forecast stronger growth for the country's stumbling economy, prompting opposition charges that the 79-year-old leader is "in denial". Mr Singh said he expected Asia's third-largest economy to expand this year by more than last year's 6.5 per cent - a far rosier projection than that of many private economists, who say India could post its worst economic performance in a decade. "The fundamentals of the Indian economy are strong," Mr Singh told reporters. Mr Singh's comments in New Delhi came after the research arm of the global ratings agency Moody's on Thursday scaled down its growth forecast for this fiscal year ending March 2013 to 5.5 per cent. Sydney Morning Herald, August 13.

North America

Canada must do much more to meet its 2020 target for reducing greenhouse gases, given rising emissions as the energy sector develops the oil-rich tar sands of northern Alberta, government officials said on Wednesday. Canada, the biggest single supplier of oil and gas to the United States, says it will cut output of greenhouse gases by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020, a goal that's far less stringent than the international targets Canada abandoned last year. New figures released on Wednesday show that Canada is half way to meeting its own target. But emissions will rise steadily from now until 2020 unless more action is taken. Reuters, August 9. Our Canadian members are doing more to meet targets; click here to read more. 

Mitt Romney has announced Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running-mate, a bold and contentious choice that puts the Wisconsin congressman’s controversial budget at the centre of the campaign. Mr Romney made the announcement in Norfolk, Virginia, at a naval base with a battleship as a backdrop at the start of a four-day bus tour through battleground states. He called the Romney-Ryan ticket “America’s Comeback Team”. Taking the stage after being introduced by Mr Romney, Mr Ryan focused immediately on the economy and the challenges the country faces in bringing the deficit under control. “No one disputes President Obama inherited a difficult situation,” he said, before listing the initiatives the president passed when Democrats had control of Congress in the first two years of his term and his failure to turn round the economy in the process. Financial Times, August 11.

UK

David Cameron has been urged to stand up for renewable energy against what environmental campaigners see as attacks by the Treasury. More than 170 green businesses signed a letter to the prime minister, drafted by the Renewable Energy Association, calling for a public declaration of support for green energy and a resolution of the uncertainty that surrounds government plans for renewable power subsidies. The signatories include Frances O'Grady, deputy secretary general of the TUC, Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project, and Penny Shepherd, chief executive of the Sustainable Investment and Finance Association of investors, as well as veteran green campaigners Jonathon Porritt and Tony Juniper, adviser to Prince Charles. The Guardian, August 9.

Scotland's status as one of the world's leading renewable energy markets was again underlined last week, after new figures revealed the sector has attracted more than £2.8bn of capital investment since the start of 2009. The figures from industry group Scottish Renewables were released on Friday and confirm a three-year surge of investment across a range of different technologies, including onshore and offshore wind farms, marine energy arrays, solar panels, hydro-electric systems and biofuel and biomass generators. As expected, onshore wind farm developments dominate the market with £1.6bn of investment leading to 1.1GW of new capacity between the end of 2008 and the end of 2010. However, they also reveal that £589m was invested in offshore wind farms resulting in 190MW of capacity, while solar installations drove £206m of investment, hydro-power led to more than £100m of investment, and biofuel technologies attracted more than £200m. BusinessGreen, August 13.

The Climate Group member, The Scottish government, has taken another step towards its goal of generating 100 per cent of the country's electricity from clean sources, after granting planning approval for a new 55MW wind farm. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing gave the green light for the 22 turbine Galawhistle wind farm, which will be located seven kilometres east of Muirkirk in East Ayrshire and four kilometres west of Douglas in South Lanarkshire. Developers Infinis Plc said the project would provide power for over 31,000 homes, while resulting in the creation of up to 34 jobs. It also pledged to create a community fund that will provide annual payments to local groups, estimating that around £2.7m will be delivered during the 25 year operation of the wind farm. BusinessGreen, August 9.

Electric Vehicles

A small battery company backed by General Motors is working on breakthrough technology that could power an electric car 100 or even 200 miles on a single charge in the next two-to-four years, GM's CEO said on Thursday. Speaking at an employee meeting, CEO Dan Akerson said the company, Newark, Calif.-based Envia Systems, has made a huge breakthrough in the amount of energy a lithium-ion battery can hold. GM is sure that the battery will be able to take a car 100 miles within a couple of years, he said. It could be double that with some luck, he said. Akerson said the company is looking at hybrids, all-electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and natural gas vehicles, as well as developing more efficient petroleum-powered engines. "We can't put all of our chips on one bet," he said. "We've got to look at them all." Bloomberg Businessweek, August 9.

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