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Lib Dems see zero-carbon Britain setting the global green agenda

Michael White, The Guardian
The Liberal Democrat leadership yesterday outlined a vision of a zero-carbon Britain by 2050 when it published the most ambitious blueprint for climate change reform ever produced by a mainstream political party. Citing extreme weather events such as the Australian drought, the destruction of New Orleans by a hurricane, warm winters in Canada, and Britain’s summer floods, Sir Menzies Campbell insisted that climate change was finally moving up the political agenda worldwide. “This time it’s different,” he told a press conference in London.

The total replacement of petrol-driven cars by 2040 and an end to civil nuclear power stations were only passing details in Zero Carbon Britain: Taking a Global Lead, the densely argued 50-page policy statement unveiled by Sir Menzies and his green spokesman and erstwhile leadership rival, Chris Huhne MP.
(29 August 2007)
Comment by Leo Hickman (Guardian) :

… flicking through this vision of life in Britain if we were actually able to reduce carbon emission by 100% makes you realise quite how much political movement there has been on these issues in the past few years. Which mainstream party, after all, would have dared to talk about making it compulsory for cars to be free of carbon emissions by 2040, or establishing personal carbon allowances not just in Britain but across the world, or capping airport capacity at today’s levels? The Lib Dems’ policy document is about as bold as a mainstream party is likely to go in today’s political scene. But the political climate is changing almost as quickly as the planet’s. It is highly likely that, even if voters reject this vision in the short term, it will drag the other parties’ policies in the same direction. No one is likely to run on a ticket of “Let’s burn lots more of the black stuff” ever again.

But dreaming of such a future is the easy part. Is it really possible to achieve a zero- carbon Britain, given what we already know of our current lifestyle addictions – flying, driving, heating and shopping – and enslavement to an oil economy? And what would it be like to live in such a place? In essence, what the Lib Dems (and, to be fair, some of the more green-minded Conservative and Labour politicians) are proposing is that we move towards a so-called “pay as you burn” world. Every service or product we purchase – be it a mini-break, a television, or bottle of wine – would have its full carbon cost “internalised”, as economists like to say.

Albania in throes of energy shortage

Original: The Heart of Darkness
Transitions Online (TOL)
If you live in Albania, chances are you cannot read this.

To read an Internet journal requires electricity, and Albanians are in the throes of an energy shortage that threatens glimmers of economic and political progress in Europe’s second poorest country.

Today, rolling blackouts plague the capital Tirana and other cities, while rural residents have electricity for just a few hours a day. Foreign sources of energy, mainly from Bulgaria, are drying up, as are the rivers and reservoirs that drive Albania’s hydroelectricity plants. A brutally hot summer in southeast Europe and prolonged drought will cause domestic electricity production in Albania to drop 30 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Reservoir levels have dropped by as much as 85 percent, government officials say.

It is a degrading situation for a country that was an electricity exporter under the repressive Stalinist leader Enver Hoxha.

The ripple effects are troubling: The IMF warns that electricity problems pose a significant risk to economic stability. Meanwhile, the United Nations and conservationists warn of serious deforestation in the mountainous country, as rural Albanians turn to an old source of fuel for cooking and heating.

Nature is a convenient excuse for the current crisis, but there are plenty of other culprits. One is Albania’s notorious corruption.
(31 August 2007)
Not sure about TOL’s funding and viewpoint, but you can see a list of TOL’s staff and advisors.

Ecuador: $350m to leave oil in the ground

Rory Carroll, The Guardian
Ecuador asks developed world to pay it not to pump – and avoid further pollution of the Amazon rainforest

…Oil has been pumped from here [eastern Ecudador] for almost four decades and the result, say environmentalists, is 1,700 square miles of industrial contamination, with rivers poisoned, wildlife wiped out and humans falling sick.

But now, mindful of the environmental and political cost, the state has made a startling proposal: if wealthy nations pay Ecuador $350m (£174m) a year – half of the estimated revenue – it will leave the oil in the ground.

Supporters say it is an idea whose time has come, a logical step forward from carbon offsetting in which rich polluters in developed countries compensate for environmental damage caused by their consumer habits.

Since it was first floated in June there have been promising signals, said Alberto Acosta, a former mining minister and close ally of President Rafael Correa. The German and Norwegian governments have expressed interest, as have parliamentarians from Italy, Spain and the European Union. “This could be a historic accommodation,” he said. Donors could pay in cash, debt relief or other indirect ways.

Some greens champion the proposal as a way to protect biodiversity and combat global warming while allowing a poor country to develop. “It’s not utopian, it’s realistic,” said Esperanza Martínez, of the Quito-based Acción Ecológica.

But others are sceptical. They predict that rich countries will not stump up the money and that Ecuador’s government will ultimately find its oil bounty too tempting to pass up. The government and oil companies are already eyeing another chunk of Amazonian rainforest, the Yasuni national park, a Unesco-designated biosphere reserve.
(31 August 2007)
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