Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ex-Accenture Chief James Hall Appointed as Carbon Clear Chairman

Following another year of excellent growth and the expansion of our carbon management services, Carbon Clear is pleased to announce the appointment of our first Chairman.

James Hall, who previously held the posts of Managing Partner at Accenture UK and Chief Executive of the UK Identity and Passport Service, will take on the role of Chairman of Carbon Clear from 1st August 2011.
James’ extensive experience of corporate strategy and delivery will help to develop Carbon Clear’s services and guide its fast-growing team of carbon management experts.

Mark Chadwick, CEO of Carbon Clear, said “Carbon Clear has gone from strength to strength this year despite a challenging economy. We’re thrilled to have James Hall on board and believe his broad experience will help us to achieve even better results for our clients.”

James Hall said “Carbon Clear is an ambitious company in a very interesting market – one that is topical given the pressures on companies to demonstrate a responsible approach to their business. I am delighted to have the opportunity to join them as they plan their next stage of growth." 

(Carbon Clear Website)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Airlines, the EU-ETS and Biofuels

The ever-informative news aggregators at Climate Connect have done an interesting wrap up of European airlines' efforts to prepare for inclusion in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS).  From 2012, airlines that operate from the EU will have to keep their greenhouse gas emissions within a cap set by regulators, or else buy carbon credits for their excesses.

Airlines are pursuing various measures to escape the cost of buying allowances or offsets.  Some, like those in China and the U.S., are suing.  Most European based airlines, however, are looking at ways to reduce their emissions without necessarily reducing the number of flights.  Key in these efforts is a switch to biofuels.  As Climate Connect reports, KLM has begun operating commercial flights between Paris and Amsterdam using a biokerosene blend derived from used cooking oil.  Lufthansa will use a 50% biofuel blend in one engine on flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt (planes are designed to fly and land safely on one engine). And British Airways is planning to procure modest amounts of biofuel from municipal waste by 2014.

All of this is superficially encouraging, until you consider the routes on which they are using these more "environmentally friendly" fuels.  Paris to Amsterdam is 500 km (300 miles).  That's 3 hours 18 minutes from city centre to city centre by rail.  By air it's a 1 hour 15 minutes flightr, plus 2 hours check-in and travel out to the airport for a total journey time that's the same or even longer than taking the train. The time savings are more in the airlines' favour on the Frankfurt-Hamburg route, but not by much.

Who exactly is making all those flights, and why?
I understand that the airlines want to test the use of biofuels on routes where there's somewhere safe to land if things go wrong - the mid-Atlantic is not the place to discover there's a problem.  However, I worry that making too much noise about their pioneering use of biofuels on extremely short-haul flights raises reputational risks for the airlines.  Greenhouse gas emissions from short-haul airplane flights are about 10X those of rail travel. Using biofuels to cut those emissions by 20% or so does not make short-haul flights an environmentally benign option, especially when more sustainable alternatives already exist.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Another English Speaking Country Puts a Price on Carbon

First the UK, and now Australia.

On Sunday, the Australian Government launched its "Clean Energy Future", which aims to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.

The initiative combines a number of measures to drive emission reductions throughout the economy while minimising the pain felt by ordinary citizens:
  • a carbon tax of AUS$23 (US$24.50/ £15/ €17.40) on the largest polluters, which will convert to a cap and trade system by 2015;
  • income tax reductions and rebates for individuals and families to balance out the trickle-down effects of the carbon tax;
  • incentives to promote renewable energy;
  • policies to encourage lower-emissions land use measures.
The Australian scheme aims to reduce emissions by 159 million tonnes CO2e by 2020 - equivalent to taking 45 million cars off the road.  It throws down the gauntlet for U.S. policy makers who are concerned that bold measures will harm the economy.

Let's hope they're paying attention, and are brave enough to raise the ante.

Drought Threatens Southern U.S.

A crescent of states stretching from Deleware to Arizona are in the grip of a deepening drought that the New York Times says may rival the Dust Bowl.

The drought is breaking records across the southern states, with Oklahoma's rainfall only 28% of normal.  Wells are running dry. Crops are withering in the field, where they had a chance to grow at all.  Farmers are sending cattle to slaughter because they cannot afford to feed them. As the Times reports, the economic damage from the drought could surpass $3 billion in Texas alone.

Interestingly, the Times does not mention climate change as a possible cause of the drought - a La Niña weather system in the Pacific gets the blame.  Indeed, it is difficult to blame any single incident on a long term global phenomenon.  However, this drought - and ther earlier Midwestern floods, Russian heatwaves and a host of other recent weather disasters - are precisely the types of impacts that we can expect from global climate change.

What lessons can we learn?  One is that adaptation to climate stress is costly and manifests itself in unpredictable ways - even in wealthy economies with good infrastructure.  Higher grain prices in the U.S. will cause ripples in global commodity markets, squeezing pocketbooks and potentially threatening food security in developing nations. The drought is likely to cause a short term collapse in the price of beef as ranchers bring cattle to market early.  This means less money in farmers' pockets and less tax revenue for Southern states - even as the U.S. economy continues to struggle. And shrinking aquifers threaten the continued growth of towns and cities across the American South.

Wealthy nations are struggling to restart their economies and reduce budget deficits. Few will relish taking on the costs associated with worsening climate change.  Developing countries are even less prepared.  Compared to these costs, measures to limit global warming - energy efficiency, renewables, and others - can seem like a bargain.

(Back to the Carbon Clear website)