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Climate policy - Dec 13

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Penalties of acting alone stall collective effort on climate change

Fiona Harvey, Financial times
Apopular radio comedy series in 1940s Britain featured a sketch in which two excessively polite gentlemen would find themselves unable to pass through a doorway, paralysed by their own good manners. “After you, Claude,” one would say. “No, after you, Cecil,” came the reply. It could go on for quite a long time.

That is exactly what negotiating international action on climate change feels like, according to David Miliband, the UK’s environment minister. “It’s an ‘After you, Claude’ situation,” he says of the discussions on the international Kyoto protocol. No country wants to be first in taking action to cut their greenhouse emissions for fear that other governments will fail to follow. So they find ways to stall, while their greenhouse gas output climbs steadily skywards.

According to some of the world’s leading scientists, climate change poses a bigger threat to future prosperity than wars or terrorism. Yet governments remain reluctant to address this threat because any country acting alone to curb its greenhouse gas emissions, without similar commitments by other governments, risks damaging the competitiveness of its industries.
(5 Dec 2006)


The Cost of an Overheated Planet

Steve Lohr, NY Times
The iconic culprit in global warming is the coal-fired power plant. It burns the dirtiest, most carbon-laden of fuels, and its smokestacks belch millions of tons of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.

So it is something of a surprise that James E. Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, a coal-burning utility in the Midwest and the Southeast, has emerged as an unexpected advocate of federal regulation that would for the first time impose a cost for emitting carbon dioxide. But he has his reasons.

“Climate change is real, and we clearly believe we are on a route to mandatory controls on carbon dioxide,” Mr. Rogers said. “And we need to start now because the longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive this is going to be.”

Global warming is not only an environmental hazard, but also a great challenge for economic policy. Without economic incentives, analysts say, the needed investments in industrial cleanup, innovative low-carbon technologies, fuel-efficient cars and other ways of reducing energy waste will not occur.

Mr. Rogers’s stance is far from universal within the power industry, but it has surprising support, particularly from those, like him, who also produce electricity from carbon-free nuclear reactors.

And despite the Bush administration’s adamant opposition to any limits on fossil fuel emissions, the idea is beginning to pick up momentum in the American political arena as well. Already, California has adopted a policy aimed at reducing the state’s contribution to global warming by 25 percent in the next 14 years.
(12 Dec 2006)
Long article at the original URL. The article is another in the NY Times series: The Energy Challenge, Fossil Fuel Economics. "Articles in this series are examining the ways in which the world is, and is not, moving toward a more energy efficient, environmentally benign future."


Climate Change Catching Voter Attention around World

Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters
BERLIN - "It's the environment, stupid!"

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.

Arnold Schwarzenegger won re-election as California governor in a landslide last month after distancing himself from President George W. Bush, a fellow Republican, and championing measures to cut the state's greenhouse gas emissions.

In Britain, Tony Blair and his probable successor Gordon Brown have made the fight against climate change a priority and the leader of the pro-business Conservative Party, David Cameron, has won over voters by talking up environmental issues.

"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.
(13 Dec 2006)


Wall Street eyes heart of darkness: global warming

Peter Bohan, Reuters
The topic of the conference was climate change and the rhetoric was sobering, haunted by scientific projections of a roasted world for our children and a looming environmental disaster of Biblical proportions.

But this was no talk shop of environmental activists. It was a meeting of Wall Street investors, insurance executives, state treasurers and pension fund managers, who between them manage about $3.7 trillion in assets.

"The insurance industry has historically taken on social issues. I know of no social issue that is bigger than this one," said Tim Wagner, director of insurance for the state of Nebraska.

The consensus of Wagner and others addressing the conference of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) was that institutional investors are still too near-sighted to factor climate change into their investment decisions.
(13 Dec 2006)

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