03 September 2010

Show me the money, greener bubbly, China says 'you first', executive liability and other sustainability news

Top Stories

New Executive Liabilities in Climate Change.reliability medium.
Michael Meehan posts: "For the first time in history, executives and their companies are being held liable for activities that contribute to global warming. It’s not a debate, it’s already happening. ... when it comes to a company’s impact on climate change, does D&O Insurance cover executives? While companies say “yes”, the insurance industry is saying “no”. We’re talking millions – perhaps billions – in legal liability here, so someone will end up holding the bag." See Cleantech Ink.

New website to track climate aid, key to U.N. talks.reliability high.
Developed countries promised at Copenhagen to provide financial aid to poorer countries to help them address climate change. A new UN-backed web site will track such commitments. Countries are expected to enter the information themselves and there is no verification. So far 6 donor countries have entered a "total pledged" and/or "total committed" and 27 recipient countries are listed, but with no amounts in the pledged or committed columns. The site is supposed to list new commitments, beyond previous aid funding. See Reuters story. The site is here. [A key to any UNFCCC agreement on the part of developing countries is this transfer of funds from rich countries. Rich countries have to buy any commitments to greenhouse gas reductions on the part of poorer countries. See related items under "Government" below.]

Australian energy firms join calls for carbon price.reliability high.
Australia's Clean Energy Council, comprising 19 leading mainstream energy companies, issued an open letter calling on the new government to establish a price for carbon. Story at BusinessGreen. Access the open letter here. [The letter says, "Australians voted for a price on carbon at the election three years ago, and they are still waiting. Business accepts the need to act on climate change and wants certainty to invest in clean energy and create jobs."]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Oil slick spreading after rig explosion forced 13 workers into the Gulf.reliability high.
A fire on an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico made news. There appears to be some release of oil, thought the fire is out and all the workers are accounted for. At Grist from AFP. [Is this another effect of the BP Macondo disaster: every incident on every facility in the Gulf will make global headlines? A quickly extinguished fire, one injury and no deaths, a small slick. Formerly this wouldn't have reached the notice of national news media. Now we will hear about every death, fire, explosion or significant leak from every Gulf drilling or production platform or vessel, at least for a while.]

Report Says Heat, Not Smart Meters, Hiked Bills.reliability high.
Todd Woody posts on the independent review in response to complaints about new PG&E smart meters in Kern County, California in 2009. The report found that the devices were functioning properly. Higher charges that called forth the complaints were found to be due to a heat wave that coincided with the installation, and in some case to new electricity demand by customers. But the report also came down hard on PG&E for poor customer service that made the problem worse. See New York Times Green blog. Access the report here.

With Arch Rock acquisition, Cisco eyes IP wireless network tech for smart grid.reliability medium.
Andrew Nusca posts: "Cisco on Thursday announced that it intends to acquire San Francisco-based Arch Rock Corp., developer of IP wireless network technology for the smart grid. The announcement to acquire the privately-held firm dovetails with Cisco’s announcement on Wednesday of its partnership with smart meter maker Itron. It all plays into the networking giant’s mission to move the utility industry toward an open, interoperable and “smart” power grid." See ZDNet blog.

Soaring water risks spell opportunity for investors.reliability high.
"The latest results from Standard & Poor's Global Water Index, released yesterday, reveal that utilities and other water-related firms are outperforming the wider stock market as demand for water infrastructure continues to rise." More highlights of index performance, etc. Story at BusinessGreen. Access S&P report here.

A Greener Champagne Bottle.reliability high.
"The Champagne industry has embarked on a drive to cut the 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide it emits every year transporting billions of tiny bubbles around the world. Producing and shipping accounts for nearly a third of Champagne’s carbon emissions, with the hefty bottle the biggest offender. ... The current retooling, which uses 65 fewer grams (2.3 ounces) of glass, is in response to a 2003 study of Champagne’s carbon footprint, which the industry wants to cut 25 percent by 2020, and 75 percent by 2050." Full story in The New York Times.

Government and Regulation

Nations meet on climate cash, UN sees long haul.reliability high.
Environment ministers and other officials from around the world met in Geneva to assess progress on the $30 billion of "new and additional" aid that rich countries promised in Copenhagen for 2010-2012. "Swiss Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger told the start of the two-day talks that 'the regulation of the financial issues is a key precondition for the successful conclusion of the climate negotiations in Cancun.'" Includes quotes from UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. Reuters article.

U.S. reiterates commitment to 2020 climate goal.reliability high.
Climate envoy Todd Stern told a news conference at the Geneva meetings that the U.S. remains committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. 2020. He said that this would be achieved by a combination of EPA regulation and eventual legislation. See story at Reuters. [Article doesn't say whether anyone believed him.]

China Sustains Blunt 'You First' Message on CO2.reliability high.
Andrew Revkin posts: "Yu Qingtai, China’s lead negotiator in climate talks from 2007 through the tumultuous conference in Copenhagen last December, recently gave a blunt speech at the Bejing University School of International Studies on climate, diplomacy and the balance of national and global interests in limiting global warming. ... In sum, he said that China’s national interests will always come first and, in any move toward binding steps for reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases, rich countries must go first." Gives long quote from the speech as posted on Chinadialogue. See New York Times Dot Earth blog.

Culture and Society

The ways of a warmer world.reliability medium.
Reviews two books which see less-than-disastrous consequences from climate change: "Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future" and "Turned Out Nice: How the British Isles Will Change as the World Heats Up". "It is refreshing, then, to read books which look at the warming to come not as a frightful warning, nor as a fait accompli, but as something to which, at some levels of change, people will have to adapt—and which in some settings they may adapt to rather well. ... They look at the opportunities as well as the costs; they encourage as well as warn. And both remember that there will be some things that cannot be saved, even though others may not be lost." From The Economist. [The tone of the reviewer is one of relief that not all books on climate change have that scary, strident tone. But the relatively happy outcomes in the face of climate change reflected in these books may come from their focus on mostly well-off residents of cities and Britain. Others may not be so lucky.]

And . . .

From a sister blog: Plants Unhappy About Global Warming.reliability medium.
New science raises serious concerns about the negative impact of global warming on crop yields and plant productivity in general. This could be one of the most severe social and economic effects of climate change. See A Very Different Earth.