Friday, January 29, 2010

Oil demand has peaked in developed world: IEA

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil use in rich industrialized countries will never return to 2006 and 2007 levels because of more fuel efficiency and the use of alternatives, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency said on Thursday.

The bold prediction, while made previously by some analysts, is significant because the IEA advises 28 countries on energy policy and its oil demand forecasts are closely watched by traders and policymakers.

Is it demand or is it suppy which has peaked?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Environmental and Energy Policy Challenges in the EU

The website of the President of the European Parliament has two key documents on some of the forward policy challenges and choices that are likely to face the European Union in the coming decade from 2009-2019.

The first document is a compendium of papers on policy challenges and choices. These papers provide a valuable overview of multiple issues which the EU in general is likely to confront over coming years, together with a series of useful pointers as to how the EU institutions might choose to respond.

The second document is much shorter, and is a synoptic 'EU Policy Challenges', which is a check-list of 69 possible areas for future policy work. These challenges include the following three areas related to the environment and energy.

Tackling climate change effectively
  • The European Parliament will need to work towards reaching the 20-20-20 target (20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (possibly 30%), 20% improvement in energy efficiency and 20% renewables in the energy mix) by 2020. The following four steps of the climate energy package of December 2008 will be on the agenda:
    1) revision of the directive on EU emission Trading System;
    2) creation of a directive for pilot projects on carbon storage;
    3) creation of a directive on renewable energy in electricity, transportation and heating and cooling;
    4) setting binding national targets for CO2 reduction.
  • A future financial framework will need to be created so that EU budget lines can be adapted in line with the requirements of climate policy. The European Parliament can no longer redistribute existing resources but could propose the creation of new resources to finance the cross-sectoral nature of the fight against climate change.
  • The Parliament could consider using 'green diplomacy', by regularly raising the issue of the EU climate targets, and defending those targets, in its contacts with parliamentarians from other countries. In addition, it could prompt the Commission and the Member States to construct a foreign policy on climate change and repeatedly draw attention to the EU climate targets in the EU's and the Member States' diplomatic missions.
  • International cooperation is crucial. Building an effective global carbon market will help achieve sustainable globalization. Also, the Parliament could push for placing climate change at the core of the development policy. The EU will need to give assistance to developing countries to draw up targets, to adopt new technologies and to stop deforestation.
  • Mitigation and adaptation policies will lead to a new model of sustainable development, where the social character could be promoted in order to secure the necessary social consensus. Thus the European Parliament could fully involve citizens in the process of combating climate change.
Shaking up EU biodiversity policy
  • The European Parliament could push for the development of a more coherent European integrated approach for halting the biodiversity loss. A clear post 2010 target could be set by the Member States and new funding opportunities could be established under the Common Agriculture Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, and the Cohesion and Structural Funds.
  • The Parliament could take the global initiative of proposing the creation, based on the model of IPCC, of an Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity Loss, which would be responsible for the coordination of the activities of the Member States and for the monitoring of the progress made in this area.
Transforming the EU into a sustainable and efficient energy system
  • The European Parliament can encourage Member States to devise a forward-looking common energy policy both within the EU and in external relations, so as to ensure a high level of security of energy supply. The proposal of the Parliament to form solar energy partnerships with third countries in the Mediterranean region could be taken forward.
  • The Parliament will need to promote further research and pilot projects in this field, as well as the development of the grid so as to allow for the optimal integration of renewable energy resources.
  • The transformation of the energy system will require the adjustment of the fiscal and market instrument. The Parliament could call on the Member States and the other institutions to introduce reduced rates of VAT for renewable energy and for energy-saving goods and services and to create incentives to modernisation by means of VAT reductions.
  • The growing energy dependence on fossil fuels will have to be limited and managed through diversification. The Parliament could stimulate investments in renewables and upgraded energy infrastructure, whilst developing a common approach towards Russia's influence on the gas market.
  • It could be important that the Parliament supports the restructuring of the industrial system (buildings, transport and manufacturing) with reinforced innovation. This includes strengthening existing measures, continuing public intervention and the increasing of financial resources for eco-innovation.

Friday, January 15, 2010

State of the World 2010: Transforming Cultures

State of the World 2010: Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability (State of the World)

"Worldwatch has taken on an ambitious agenda in this volume. No generation in history has achieved a cultural transformation as sweeping as the one called for here…it is hard not to be impressed with the book’s boldness "
—Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank

"If we continue to think of ourselves mostly as consumers, it’s going to be very hard to bring our environmental troubles under control. But it’s also going to be very hard to live the rounded and joyful lives that could be ours. This is a subversive volume in all the best ways!"
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"This year’s State of the World report is a cultural mindbomb exploding with devastating force. I hope it wakes a few people up ."
—Kalle Lasn, Editor of Adbusters magazine

Like a tsunami, consumerism has engulfed human cultures and Earth’s ecosystems. Left unaddressed, we risk global disaster. But if we channel this wave, intentionally transforming our cultures to center on sustainability, we will not only prevent catastrophe, but may usher in an era of sustainability—one that allows all people to thrive while protecting, even restoring, Earth.

In State of the World 2010: Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability, sixty renowned researchers and practitioners describe how we can harness the world’s leading institutions—education, the media, business, governments, traditions, and social movements—to reorient cultures toward sustainability.

About the State of the World Series

Worldwatch's flagship publication, State of the World, has educated a broad audience of students, journalists, policymakers, and concerned citizens about trends in sustainable development for a quarter century. The book has been published in 36 languages, and over the years it has authoritatively assessed issues ranging from population, energy, and agriculture to materials use, health, and trade policy. Topics are covered from a global perspective, with an emphasis on innovation and problem-solving. State of the World is recognized as a classic of environmental literature, having attracted luminaries from Kofi Annan to Mikhail Gorbachev to write forewords for the book. News media, policymakers, and NGOs worldwide cite the book for its cutting-edge analysis, reliability, and careful documentation of its arguments, all marshaled to speed the global transition to a sustainable world.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

(Fly Around) The World Without Fossil Fuels

Bertrand Piccard circumnavigated the Earth in a hot-air balloon. Now he wants to circle it in an airplane powered only by solar energy.

For the dawn of a new decade, adventurer Bertrand Piccard in this TED Talk offers us a challenge: Find motivation in what seems impossible. He shares his own plans to do what many say can't be done -- to fly around the world, day and night, in a solar-powered aircraft.

Bertrand Piccard was born in a family of firsts. His father, Jacques, together with Dan Walsh of the US, was the first man to reach the deepest point of the world's oceans, the Mariana Trench, in 1960. Almost 30 years earlier, his grandfather, Auguste, first ballooned into the stratosphere. While they went up and down, Bertrand went horizontal and in 1999, together with Brian Jones of Britain, completed the first-ever nonstop balloon circumnavigation of the globe, flying more than 45,000 km in 20 days.

Now, in a hangar near Zurich, a team of scientists and engineers around Piccard and co-pilot André Borschberg is building Solar Impulse, an unconventional aircraft designed to circumnavigate the Earth powered by solar energy, flying day and night (yes, when the Sun is "off"). The just-unveiled prototype has the weight of a car but the wingspan of an Airbus. Piccard hopes for test flights in the first half of 2010, and possibly a long flight in 2011, before attempting to fly around the Earth.

In a world depending on fossil energies, the Solar Impulse project is a paradox, almost a provocation: it aims to have an airplane take off and fly autonomously, day and night, propelled uniquely by solar energy, right round the world without fuel or pollution. An unachievable goal without pushing back the current technological limits in all fields...