Saturday, March 30, 2013

Haida Investigation Proceeding in Canada

The enforcement branch of Environment Canada has reportedly executed search warrants in its ongoing investigation of last summer's Haida ocean fertilization experiment (for background, see Loan Documents Shed Additional Light on HSRC Project, 10/23/12).  The department maintains that the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (HSRC) did not submit an application for approval to conduct its iron fertilization activities, as required by law.  But leaders of the Village of Old Massett, who created and control HSRC, continue to fight back against outside criticism--in the words of Chief Councillor Ken Rea, "After all the uproar, based on a whole bunch of inflammatory mischaracterized words, after calling it illegal, calling it dumping, calling it rogue and not having any of the evidence to back up their statements, none of it, they have no evidence to back all these statements up, we have it." Meanwhile, residents of Skidegate, the other major Haida community in British Columbia, are distancing themselves from Old Massett, blaming HSRC for ruining their green reputation.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

European Commission Split on How to Advance CCS

Last summer, the European Commission declared its intention to select two or three European CCS projects for major awards by the end of 2012 under the EU's NER300 funding program (see Update on NER300, 8/10/12).  But these first round funding plans fell apart in December, after the Commission was unable to persuade any Member State to provide the required 50 percent cost share for candidate projects.  Faced with this setback, the Commission shifted the entire 275 million ($357.8 million) dedicated to CCS under the program to the second and final NER300 funding round, with final award decisions expected by the end of 2013.

Now, with national governments apparently unwilling to support projects, and funding levels much lower than originally anticipated (since they are based on sales of ETS emission allowances, which plummeted in value following adoption of the NER300 funding framework), Brussels is considering other ways to propel CCS forward in Europe.  According to a draft "communication" currently circulating within the Commission, given the moribund state of the European carbon market, "there is no rational case for economic operators to invest in CCS," and "it is unrealistic to assume that industry will commit the appropriate investments to CCS projects."  Rather than relying on ETS-based NER300 funding, the draft proposes alternative strategies to promote CCS uptake, including emissions performance standards for power plants and tradable CCS certificates akin to renewable energy certificates (RECs).  The performance standards proposed by the UK as part of its Electricity Market Reform (EMR) initiative (see Electricity Market Reform in the UK, 12/9/12) are singled out as a potential model for the rest of the EU.  However, the Directorate-General for Climate Action reportedly opposes releasing the communication and triggering a public consultation, preferring instead to drive CCS deployment through the ETS carbon market.

CCS performance standards is a good idea whose time has come.  The ETS has manifestly failed to deliver CCS to Europe, either through cap-and-trade carbon prices or as a source of capital funding.  Despite proposals to bolster allowance prices by "backloading" auctions to temporarily restrict supply, the ETS is clearly too weak to overcome the cost constraints inherent to carbon capture.  Short of a robust carbon tax, emissions performance standards offer the best way to ensure widespread adoption of CCS technology and deployment of integrated systems (for more, see Calls Intensify for More Global Action on CCS, 5/16/12).  The climate directorate should drop its objections and support the new proposals from the Commission.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Two New Studies Underline Need for Research Now

Two recently published articles underscore the need for aggressive funding of solar geoengineering research, including field experiments, as quickly as possible.  The first, by Valerie Livina and Tim Lenton, presents a convincing case that the Earth has already passed a planetary tipping point, namely, the cratering of Arctic sea-ice volume and extent widely reported in summer 2007.  According to the authors, this contraction marked not only a record low (since surpassed--see Call for Immediate Arctic Deployment Dismissed by UK Parliamentary Committee, 9/24/12), but a transition to a new, reduced, less stable state.  Data since 2007 suggest that sea-ice has shifted permanently to this new equilibrium--as Lenton describes it, "This wasn't a one-off, it was a permanent change."

The second study affirms recent climatic changes but also highlights the ameliorative potential of stratospheric aerosols.  A team at the University of Colorado Boulder has demonstrated that sulfur emissions from relatively small volcanoes worked to suppress global average temperature increases between 2000 and 2010.  Approximately one quarter of the warming that would have taken place over this period was likely offset by sulfate aerosols in the stratosphere derived from these eruptions.  "This new study indicates it is emissions from small to moderate volcanoes that have been slowing the warming of the planet," says lead author Ryan Neely.  Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, by comparison, is regarded as a large volcano.

Meanwhile, the sequester has struck Washington, and there is no new information on possible geoengineering research funding (see Obama Administration Considering Possible Research Funding, 1/29).