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In the headlines: EU emission cuts could herald climate turning point and UK green electricity to hit record levels

Date
31 March 2014
In the headlines: EU emission cuts could herald climate turning point and UK green electricity to hit record levels

News snapshot for the w/c 31st March is below, please click the links to read further.

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Global

IPCC report: Climate change a threat to security, food and humankind
United Nations report raised the threat of climate change to a whole new level on Monday, warning of sweeping consequences to life and livelihood. The report from the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change concluded that climate change was already having effects in real time – melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the Arctic, killing off coral reefs in the oceans, and leading to heat waves, heavy rains and mega-disasters. And the worst was yet to come. Climate change posed a threat to global food stocks, and to human security, the blockbuster report said. “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC. The Guardian, March 31

Air pollution causes ‘one in eight deaths’ says UN
Air pollution killed seven million people in 2012, confirming that it is now the world’s largest environmental health risk. The figures, released today by the World Health Organisation, are more than double previous estimates. It means that in 2012, air pollution was responsible for one in eight total global deaths. “The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” says Dr Maria Neira, Director of the Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at the WHO. “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.” Along with strokes and heart disease, respiratory infections and lung cancer are also killing people as a result of air pollution. RTCC, March 25

China

Christine Lagarde urges China to bolster value of natural resources
The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged China to adopt fresh measures to protect the environment, in a bid to deliver more sustainable, high quality economic growth. Speaking in Beijing yesterday, Christine Lagarde warned China that despite its "enormous economic progress", it still faces a number of challenges in delivering sustainable growth. "The challenge is clear: to make growth more inclusive, friendlier to the environment, and more sustainable," she said. According to reports, Beijing's dangerously high air pollution levels is already putting pressure on businesses, as foreign firms struggle to convince top executives to relocate to China. Lagarde warned that poor air quality, severe water shortages, and desertification pose a serious risk to the next stage of China's development. Business Green, March 24

China to Launch Pollution Permit Market within 3 Years
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) said on Monday that China plans to launch a nationwide scheme to trade pollution permits within three years in order to clean up its environment. A draft guideline for the scheme has been submitted to the State Council. China’s rapid economic growth, outdated power generation equipment and poor regulatory system have jointly contributed to its environmental crisis. The combined health and non-health related costs of air and water pollution for China’s economy adds up to around US$100 billion a year (or about 5.8 percent of the country’s GDP). Dealing with pollution is on China’s top legal agenda this year. The MOF said that China will issue proposals for new pilot trading projects in major cities, and in particular aims to facilitate cross-regional trading. The pollution permit scheme is expected to curb the emissions of key pollutants from major factories. Those that exceed their emission caps will be forced to buy permits in the market or invest in cleaner equipment. The scheme mainly targets the emission of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ammonium nitrate. China Briefing, March 25

Asia – Pacific

Australia's record hot year much more likely because of global warming: report
Global warming caused by humans "vastly increased the odds" of Australia's record hot year in 2013, according to Australian research cited in the World Meteorological Organisation's annual Status of the Global Climate report. University of Melbourne researchers Sophie Lewis and David Karoly found the record-setting year for Australia "would have been virtually impossible without human contributions of heat-trapping gases", the report states. Model simulations found the likelihood of the record heat for the summer 2013 alone increased at least five-fold when human influences were included. The influence "was even strong for spring", Professor Karoly told Fairfax Media, citing attribution research currently awaiting peer-review. The WMO noted last year was the fourth warmest on record globally for land temperatures and sixth warmest overall, based on three main global datasets. The Japan Meteorology Agency placed 2013 as the second-warmest, using separate analysis. Sydney Morning Herald, March 25

Asia Pacific plays critical role in energy-water cooperation: UN
The interdependence between energy and water has never been more pronounced than it is now in the Asia Pacific, where sourcing its energy supply, primarly coal, has severely contributed to the scarcity of water in the region, said the United Nations in a report released on Friday, just before World Water Day. Called the United Nations World Water Development Report 2014 (WWDR), the 230-page document launched in Tokyo, Japan is a comprehensive review of data and scientific investigations from various UN agencies on the state of water around the world. It widely explores the nexus between water and energy – the theme of this year’s World Water Day, which has been observed every March 22 since 1993. According to the report, coal production is set to continue in the Asia Pacific, where China and India are already extracting more than half of the world’s total coal output. Eco Bussiness, Match 25

Europe

EU emissions cuts could herald climate turning point
The European Union is considering steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The EU only accounts for a fraction of total global emissions, but its actions could nevertheless have a big impact on future warming. Last week, the European Council met to discuss a proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent, relative to 1990 levels, by 2030. A new study suggests such a strong signal from Europe could help avoid dangerous climate change – if other countries follow suit. The European Union is on track to meet its existing target, a 20 per cent emissions cut by 2020. The final decision on the 40 per cent target will not be made until October. New Scientist, March 25

European leaders ask Obama to allow increased exports of US shale gas
European leaders on Wednesday asked Barack Obama to share the US's shale gas bonanza with Europe by facilitating gas exports to help counter the stranglehold Russia has on the continent's energy needs. At an EU-US summit in Brussels, Barack Obama's first visit to the city in office, the impact of Vladimir Putin's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula loomed large, affecting transatlantic relations in various ways – from defence spending to energy policies and trade talks. With Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, supplying a quarter of Europe's gas needs, and almost all of the gas in parts of eastern Europe, the energy issue has soared to the top of Europe's strategic agenda as a result of the Ukrainian crisis and the fear that the Kremlin will be able to blackmail Europe if a threatened trade war erupts. The Guardian, March 26

India

Investors backing companies providing clean technology, healthcare, food and education services
Angel investors who have preferred to watch over technology startups in India so far are now looking to include young companies from other sectors under their wings. As a rising tide of entrepreneurship spreads across the country, networks of investors are backing companies that provide clean technology, healthcare, food and education services. Economic Times, March 28

North America

Canada commits funds to Kenya to address climate change
Canada has provided US$1 million in its resource conservation expertise to Kenya through a project that would help the latter's protected areas and enable locals adapt to climate change. Funded under Canada's Fast-Start Financing, the project highlights the importance of protecting and preserving healthy ecosystems that help provide vital services like clean water and hydro-electricity for Kenya's communities. The Government of Canada has provided $990 000 for this project whereby Parks Canada and the Kenya Wildlife Service would help communities and ecosystems adapt to the challenges of climate change. The project is being carried out in six national parks, Amboseli, Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Mt. Kenya, Aberdare and Lake Nakuru. These iconic tourist destinations are among the most important biodiversity hotspots in the country and provide clean water to more than half of Kenya's population. All Africa, March 25

Reality check: First-year report card for North America's largest energy storage project
The $43 million battery project was funded by Duke with 50% of the cost covered under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. By storing wind energy, the battery smoothes the wind farm's variability. It can respond quickly to regulate frequency and also provide ancillary services. Duke is currently preparing its first report for the U.S. Department of Energy. One benefit is reducing emissions compared to power from gas-fired generation. There are other benefits as well. The battery is very fast and very accurate. A conventional power plant can take several minutes to ramp to a output level. But the battery can respond with full output in less than a second. The system is currently delivering power for frequency regulation 6 to 10 times per hour. The system has also done some dispatch into the energy market during peak periods when prices were high. "To use storage only for what conventional generators do doesn’t tap its true value," says Gates. "Flexibility and reliability are probably the two biggest values." Smart Grid News, March 27

UK

UK greenhouse gas emissions fall by 2%
UK greenhouse gas emissions fell by nearly 2% last year, as less coal and gas was burned to generate electricity.But official figures published on Thursday show that because of increases in 2010 and 2012, the UK's carbon footprint is still roughly the same as it was in 2009 despite government promises to cut emissions. The fall in 2013 is likely to provide some relief for ministers ahead of a major UN climate science report next week and a renewed push for an international climate change deal in Paris next year. Last year's drop appeared to be largely due to a 9% decrease in coal use and a 7% decrease in gas. The share of energy generated from renewables sources was up, as a series of large offshore windfarms were connected to the grid. Onshore wind power generation was up 36.4%, and offshore wind up by 45.8%. Emissions were up in the residential sector by 2.6% and 2.9% in business, and remain static for transport. The Guardian, March 27

New wind power blows UK green electricity to record levels
Huge rise in offshore and onshore wind energy pushes overall green generation to 15 per cent of UK mix. This year-on-year rise of three and a half percentage points, driven by increased wind energy coming on to the system saw green generators produce a total of 52.8 terawatt hours of electricity in 2013. And high wind speeds from November 2013 to January 2014 ensured renewables generated around 18 per cent of total UK electricity during the three months. Jennifer Webber, director of external affairs, at trade body RenewableUK, said wind power has proved it is a "force to be reckoned with. At a time when we needed it most, wind delivered," she added. “The UK has a choice - stay in hock to foreign powers for our energy or invest in secure, clean renewables and build tens of thousands of jobs for British workers." Business Green, March 27

Renewable energy from rivers and lakes could replace gas in homes
Millions of homes across the UK could be heated using carbon-free technology that draws energy from rivers and lakes in a revolutionary system that could reduce household bills by 20%. Energy secretary Ed Davey has described the development as “game changing” in regards to Britain’s need for renewable energy against the backdrop of insecurity in Russia, which supplies much of Europe's gas, and the political row at home over soaring fuel bills. In the first system of its kind in the UK, a heat pump in the Thames will provide hot water for radiators, showers and taps in nearly 150 homes and a 140-room hotel and conference centre in south London, saving 500 tons of carbon emissions from being released every year into the atmosphere. Independent, March 23

Innovation

A hurdle for Tesla and SolarCity’s grid batteries: Utilities
The biggest hurdle to hooking up more batteries to the power grid (to store energy) has long been cost — batteries are just too expensive. But another real-world challenge is quietly emerging for solar installer SolarCity as it’s been trying to ramp up sales of batteries, made by electric car maker Tesla, combined with solar panels: The utilities themselves. SolarCity says that its solar battery pilot program — which it has been working on since early 2012 — has managed to get around 500 customers in California (including Walmart) interested. But to date only a dozen of those customers have battery systems connected to the grid. That’s because California’s three large utilities are slowing down the connection process, requiring a series of applications, charging high fees for connecting batteries (in some cases close to $4,000 per customer), and just taking a very long time to connect the batteries to the grid, says SolarCity. Gigaom, March 24

Philips adds new dimension to LED market with 3D printed lamps
Electronics giant Philips will today unveil a new range of wireless LED lamps, including 3D-printed sculpture-style luminaires, as it pushes further into the smart home lighting market. The company will release three new smart lighting products in its so-called "Hue" range, which allows lights to be controlled through Wi-Fi networks. Business Green, March 31

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