A successful marathon in Bali, US energy bill jumps another hurdle, but bad news for UK commuters

Bali bulletin

After two weeks of intense debate, the United Nations Climate Change Conference last month in Bali ended with governments signing up to a “roadmap” for future talks on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions. States agreed to conclude talks by the end of 2009, in time to launch a new international regime to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. But the timetable could be extended to 2010 should a Democrat such as Hillary Clinton win the US presidential election this year and decide to change US climate policy.

Key outcomes of the conference include the launch of an Adaptation Fund to help Kyoto members in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse affects of climate change.

States also agreed to reform the Clean Development Mechanism – a way for rich countries to meet their Kyoto commitments by financing low-carbon projects – to reduce costs for developing countries.

Another breakthrough was an agreement on forest conservation. Under the Reducing Emissions and Ending Deforestation initiative, countries could be paid to protect their tropical forests from illegal loggers.

Companies are preparing to negotiate industry-wide standards for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Participants in Bali agreed that businesses in the steel, cement, car and other sectors should meet and agree on targets for reducing their carbon footprints. Global firms such as steel maker ArcelorMittal lobbied for such agreements, which aim to protect companies that invest in reducing emissions from losing competitive advantage.

Jobs in renewable energy programmes in Spain, China, Brazil and Germany have almost topped one million, while the US environmental industry employed more than 5 million people in 2005, UN Environment Programme head Achim Steiner told delegates.

New Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd kept his pre-election promise and signed the Kyoto Protocol at the Bali conference, leaving the US as the only industrial country not taking part in the agreement.

Cadbury Schweppes, Johnson & Johnson, eBay, Nokia and Nike were among 150 companies to call for legally binding emissions reductions to encourage investment in low-carbon technologies ahead of UN climate change talks in Bali.

Barclays launches carbon index

Barclays Capital, the investment banking division of the UK-based bank, has launched the world’s first index tracking the performance of carbon credits from main greenhouse gas emissions trading systems.

The Barclays Capital Global Carbon Index will begin by tracking credits of the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, adding new systems as they become available.

UK environment targets require economic change

UK business lobby group the Confederation of British Industry has released a new report concluding that substantial economic changes are necessary if the UK is to meet its stated climate goals. The report emphasises the importance of informed, participating consumers in effecting positive changes, as well as businesses’ role in developing reporting initiatives and improving energy efficiency.

Train drain

Green campaigners Friends of the Earth have criticised the UK government’s transport policy after train operators announced they would put up rail fares by 5 per cent, from this month. Research from the group claims that it is becoming cheaper to drive as prices for using trains and buses go up, which FoE says runs counter to UK government targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

House says yes to energy bill

The US House of Representatives has approved a sweeping energy bill, which includes measures to tighten vehicle fuel efficiency regulations for the first time in decades and require more energy to come from renewable sources. Now moving on to the Senate for approval, the bill also includes tax increases for oil companies. The White House says president George Bush will veto the measure.

Big Apple goes green

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg last month announced an $80 million plan to cut energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the US’s largest city. Bloomberg’s ten-year plan includes removing 1.1 million tonnes of emissions by 2017 through projects in the city’s five boroughs.

Finland’s Neste Oil will invest €550 million in a Singapore biodiesel plant, which will turn mostly palm oil into 20,000 barrels of biodiesel every day from 2010.

Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, an energy investment company, has become the first firm from the Gulf Cooperation Council to join the Combat Climate Change, or 3C, Initiative. The global lobbying group aims to define emissions reduction targets for 2030 and 2050.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has praised crisp maker Frito-Lay, microchip maker AMD, and computer firm Dell for their conservation efforts.

Ireland’s government has launched a €15 million, five-year climate change campaign called “Change Now” to get business and consumers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

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