Climate Change Correspondent, Asia, Singapore
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Mar 10, 2010

Asia seen as growth driver for voluntary CO2 market

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Fear of Western-imposed carbon tariffs on goods and services from Asia is likely to drive growth in offsetting emissions by large firms in the region, a voluntary carbon market executive said.

The market, worth $705 million in 2008 and likely much less in 2009, relies on businesses to voluntarily manage their carbon emissions, for example from the energy they use to produce and transport goods around the globe.

Mar 4, 2010

Glacier melting a key clue to tracking climate change

SINGAPORE/ANCHORAGE (Reuters) – The world has become far too hot for the aptly named Exit Glacier in Alaska.

Like many low-altitude glaciers, it’s steadily melting, shrinking two miles over the past 200 years as it tries to strike a new balance with rising temperatures.

Mar 2, 2010

Indonesia, Australia launch A$30 mln forest CO2 project

SINGAPORE/JAKARTA, March 2 (Reuters) – Indonesia and Australia launched a A$30 million project on Tuesday to fight deforestation in Sumatra as part of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost a planned forest-carbon trading scheme.

The project, to target Sumatra’s Jambi province that has suffered rapid deforestation, is the second joint venture between the neighbouring countries keen to learn how to save forests by giving local communities incentives to keep the trees standing.

Indonesia, like Brazil, is on the front line of efforts to curb deforestation that is a major contributor to mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions that scientists blame for heating up the planet.

Australia and Indonesia are major supporters of a U.N.- backed scheme that could potentially channel billions of dollars to developing nations that preserve and enhance their forests.

Called reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD), developing countries would earn money from carbon credits sourced from forest preservation projects by selling them to rich nations that must meet mandated emission reduction targets.

The U.N. hopes the scheme will start from 2013 as part of a broader climate pact to succeed the existing Kyoto Protocol.

Under the Sumatra Forest Carbon Partnership, the money will be used to develop a project that will address the causes of deforestation in Jambi and to help rehabilitate deforested or degraded land.

Jambi, covering an area larger than the Netherlands, has lost more than two-thirds of its forests to illegal loggers, slash-and-burn farming as well as palm oil and pulp plantations. Fires are common, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases.

According to a statement from Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, officials have yet to pin-point the exact location for the project but it is likely to cover a variety of forest concession types.

Central design themes will be developing alternative livelihood and incentive payment schemes for local communities, such as switching to different cash crops, to drive long-term efforts to keep trees standing.

The project comes after Indonesia and Australia launched a related scheme in 2008 to rehabilitate 100,000 ha (250,000 acres) of carbon-rich peat land in Central Kalimantan on Borneo island. [ID:nSP124023]

Half the area has been cleared and half is still forested but under threat unless alternative livelihoods are found for the 20,000 people living in and around the project area. Australia has pledged A$30 million to fund this project until 2012.

The Kalimantan and Sumatra projects are designed to help Indonesia and Australia learn how to design REDD programmes to prepare for future international trading of forest carbon offsets. Each offset would represent a tonne of CO2-equivalent saved from being emitted.

REDD itself is complicated because projects must prove they are reducing emissions over time, preserve and enhance an area of forest or lead to it being replanted, ensure deforestation isn’t driven off to another area and rewards local communities.

A major concern, though, is that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has signed a decree allowing mining, power plants and other development in protected forests if the projects are deemed strategically important. [ID:nJAK85836]

(Editing by Sugita Katyal)





Feb 25, 2010

World warming unhindered by cold spells: scientists

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The pace of global warming continues unabated, scientists said on Thursday, despite images of Europe crippled by a deep freeze and parts of the United States blasted by blizzards.

The bitter cold, with more intense winter weather forecast for March in parts of the United States, have led some to question if global warming has stalled.

Feb 23, 2010

Copenhagen billions key to climate talks success

SINGAPORE, Feb 23 (Reuters) – The allure of $30 billion in climate aid for poor nations holds the key to helping restore confidence in U.N. talks on fighting global warming and stopping them from unravelling.

But there’s only months to figure out a way to start deploying the cash, say the world body, negotiators and greens.

A sense of despair has shrouded U.N. climate talks after what many say was a disappointing outcome of last December’s Copenhagen summit at which world leaders crafted a non-binding political accord in the final hours of the meeting.

While groundbreaking in some ways, the accord left nations struggling to figure out how to achieve the ultimate objective of years of negotiations: a tougher pact that succeeds the existing Kyoto Protocol and strengthens the fight against climate change.

Money could be one way to try to restore momentum, and trust, some analysts feel.

"There needs to be some kind of mutual understanding of where to move forward. My sense is that finance is a good one for that," said Kim Carstensen, head of environmental group WWF’s global climate initiative.

The accord promises $10 billion a year in aid from 2010-12, rising to $100 billion a year from 2020 and scores of countries have submitted action plans to curb emissions by 2020, effectively supporting the document.

It also makes clear that steps by all major emitting nations, rich and poor, were key to limit the impacts of rising seas, floods and more disease as the planet heats up.

For a factbox on the accord, click [ID:nLDE5BH29X]

"I think the finance part of the accord is the critical test of credibility and I don’t think any hedging about implementation of that will be seen kindly by developing countries," a senior climate negotiator said on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, the head of the U.N. Environment Programme, expected developing nations could be able to apply for some of the $30 billion promised in the accord within months. If that didn’t happen, that part of the accord would be in trouble, he said. [ID:nJAK44821]

Poorer nations feel the rich have broken past climate aid promises and aren’t doing enough to cut their own emissions, creating years of mistrust that have undermined climate talks.

Yet China, India, Brazil and other big emitters have ramped up efforts to curb the growth of their emissions and expect the rich, particularly the United States, to finally step up.

China has the world’s third largest wind capacity, behind the United States and Germany. Growth last year was highest in the world at 13 gigawatts, bringing China’s total to 25 GW. The government has set a 100 GW target for 2020 — about twice Australia’s total power generation capacity.

NEGOTIATING TABLE

Getting back around the negotiating table is also crucial. The chaotic scenes in the final hours of Copenhagen created doubts over the U.N.’s ability to deliver a tougher climate pact.

"We’ve gone into a whole new level of complexity in terms of the international change regime and its future," said Stephen Howes, a director of the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University in Canberra.

"There’s nothing in that political agreement (Accord) which says how it will be converted into a legal treaty, when it will be converted or even whether it will be converted," he said.

Some negotiators say ways must be found to help the U.N. get back to work and try to resolve impasses.

In a first step, a select group of negotiators on Monday decided Germany would host an extra session of U.N. climate talks in April, the first of the year, ahead of the main Nov 29-Dec 10 meeting in Cancun in Mexico. But the April meeting would not be a formal negotiation session. [ID:nLDE61L28E]

Over the coming months, nations must also try to settle once and for all what the new climate pact might look like. The accord, which was not formally adopted by the meeting in Copenhagen, adds an extra layer to the existing negotiations.

For several years, nations have been working on ways to succeed the Kyoto Protocol and negotiations have followed a twin-track path.

One looks at expanding Kyoto from 2013 and the other looks at longer-term climate actions and includes the United States, which never ratified Kyoto.

Prior to the final hours of Copenhagen, these twin tracks were the only negotiating paths to guide the talks and have yielded hundreds of pages of complex negotiating texts.

"The Copenhagen Accord provides guidance," another senior climate official said. Talks this year shouldn’t just try to return to negotiating the existing texts and pretend Copenhagen didn’t happen, said the official, who requested anonymity.

There also remains uncertainty on the fate of the Kyoto Protocol. Many rich nations want a new pact that commits all major emitters to emissions curbs, not just wealthy nations, and say Kyoto hasn’t worked. The Accord barely mentions it. (For related story, click on [ID:nLDE61918P])

One way forward may be to put aside efforts to clinch a new legally binding pact by Mexico or by 2011.

The focus should be getting nations to meet emissions cut pledges under the Accord, Howes said.

But for that to happen, actions must speak louder than words.

"If China can show it can drive a wedge between its economic growth and the growth in its emissions and show that it is on a low-carbon growth path, then that would generate more momentum," he said. (Additional reporting by David Stanway in Beijing; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)





Feb 19, 2010

Q+A-How will the Maldives fight climate change?

SINGAPORE, Feb 19 (Reuters) – The Maldives, which fears being swamped by rising seas as the planet heats up, says major economies should toughen their curbs of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for causing global warming.

The chain of low-lying sandy islands in the Indian Ocean, famed for its diving and luxury resorts, has launched a plan to become carbon neutral by 2020 with the help of renewable energy such as wind and solar that it hopes will attract foreign funds.

Following are answers to questions put to President Mohamed Nasheed in an e-mail interview. Nasheed was among the most outspoken leaders at December’s U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, calling for swift action to fight global warming.

CAN THE MALDIVES BE SAVED?

"My country is in peril but I don’t accept that we are doomed. If the world unites against carbon pollution and embraces green development, we can bring the climate crisis under control.

"By the end of this century, the very worst-case sea level rise predicted by scientists is two metres. And that’s if all our efforts fail. If we handle the situation better, it will be less than a metre.

"We can adapt to some of this change, even if parts or whole islands have to be evacuated. Every country stands to lose if we don’t curb carbon pollution. So, in a sense, we are all Maldivians."

WHAT WILL IT COST TO BECOME CARBON NEUTRAL? ONE ESTIMATE IS $1.1 BILLION FOR THE COUNTRY’S 310,000 PEOPLE

"No-one said this would be cheap or easy. It already costs us a great deal to import oil, which is used to generate all our electricity — $300,000 per day, with oil at $50 a barrel. If oil prices rise over $100 a barrel, the carbon neutral plan will save us money because we will no longer have to burn money on oil.

"We are incentivising the private sector to make many of the necessary infrastructure investments. For private companies, investing in renewable energy, waste-to-energy plants or energy efficiency schemes will generate healthy returns over decades."

"But wind and solar are intermittent by definition. So backup is essential — and this is a big challenge. If we go for biomass then it must be from truly sustainable sources. If in the worst-case, our existing diesel generators are used as back up, then we would have to offset the pollution they cause."

HOW MUCH ARE TOURISTS WILLING TO PAY AS AN EXTRA TAX?

"We do not currently have any plans for a green tourist tax. If we can demonstrate that achieving carbon neutrality is not only possible, but also profitable, I think bigger countries will follow suit and we can make real progress on curbing global carbon pollution."

DO YOU THINK THE COPENHAGEN ACCORD WILL EVENTUALLY BECOME THE BASIS OF A NEW LEGALLY BINDING CLIMATE TREATY?

"It’s too early to say, but clearly the signs are not good on the legally binding aspect. In any case, we should get a treaty right before making it legally binding. Kyoto was legally binding, but it did very little to reduce emissions, and actually made some problems worse with all its complexities and its rigid divisions between developed and developing countries.

"The Maldives made huge efforts at Copenhagen to salvage the best deal possible. I felt that a total collapse would have been the worst outcome. In the event we got an Accord which is far from perfect but is something we can build on."

WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THE NEXT MAJOR U.N. CLIMATE CONFERENCE IN MEXICO IN NOVEMBER?

"My great fear is that an ambitious and binding climate deal is endlessly postponed and climate talks start to resemble trade negotiations — endless rounds of talks with little progress to show for it at the end.

"At Bali, everyone looked forward to Copenhagen. Now after Copenhagen everyone is looking forward to Mexico. We have to stop fooling ourselves that action can wait until tomorrow." (Editing by Bill Tarrant)





Feb 18, 2010

Kyoto risks dying, no new climate deal in sight

OSLO/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Efforts to extend the Kyoto climate pact framework risk collapse in a setback to years of diplomatic bargains, as chances fade that the United States will join other rich nations in capping emissions.

December’s U.N. climate conference in Denmark failed to cite the U.N.-brokered Kyoto pact as a touchstone — sapping hopes for a global carbon price to guide billions of dollars in investments from nuclear plants to solar panels.

Feb 1, 2010

Gloom gathers around divisive Australia CO2 laws

CANBERRA/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Reviled by conservatives and rejected by swing voting senators, Australia’s plan for the world’s most comprehensive emissions scheme appears dead in 2010, hurting investment plans for businesses wanting carbon clarity.

Investors and carbon traders say they face another year of uncertainty after political opponents last year twice blocked the laws in the Senate.

Jan 27, 2010

Australia opposition eyeing voluntary CO2 cuts plan

SINGAPORE/CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia’s main opposition coalition, which has repeatedly blocked attempts to pass carbon trading laws, is eyeing a voluntary scheme based on buying up cheap offsets as a way to break the deadlock.

According to documents obtained by Reuters, the scheme, funded with public money, would buy carbon offsets from energy efficiency and forestry projects, among others.

Jan 21, 2010

U.S. vote dims hopes for stronger world climate pact

SINGAPORE/OSLO (Reuters) – Hopes for stronger world action in 2010 to curb climate change have dimmed after the U.S. Democrats lost a key Senate seat to a Republican opposed to capping emissions, experts said on Wednesday.

The election of Republican Scott Brown, an opponent of cap and trade, to the Senate after the death of Democrat Edward Kennedy dims prospects for U.S. action. Once Brown takes office, Democrats will have 59 seats in the Senate and the Republicans 41. The bill needs 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles.

    • About David

      "I report on climate policy, climate science and the carbon market (CDM, emissions trading) in Asia. I'm based in Singapore. It's a great story in a fast-growing and fast-changing region. I've been writing about climate change since university in Canberra, where I did a life sciences degree, with a communications major on the side. I started writing science articles for newspapers and, soon after completing my studies, joined as a cadet on The Canberra Times. After a few years there, it was off to London and then Hong Kong."
      Joined Reuters:
      1994
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