Are we heading for another COP-out?Published by MAC on 2015-11-28
Source: Statements, Bloomberg, Mining.com, Reuters
Next week sees the twentieth anniversary of United Nations Climate Change Conferences (COPs), the twenty-second of which will be held in Paris.
Masses of documents, filled with numerous statistics, will circulate, covering a wide spectrum of scenarious. (One might wryly comment that, if all copies of these papers were piled high and set ablaze, this pyre alone would measurably contribute further to global warming!).
It's not our task to second-guess the outcome. Certainly some carbon-heavy countries seem to be coming to the table with new proposals that may finally serve to rein-in their greenhouse gas emissions (notably the USA and China). But the devil is in the detail - in particular that related to timelines for fulfilling the cuts they promise. Are we looking for radical change taking place in ten, twenty, or even thirty years? At present no-one seems to know.
At the same time, some other high-carbon intensity states (such as Australia and India) have submitted pre-conference "plans" that commit them to virtually nothing substantial towards "de-carbonising" their economies.
Such political betrayals are distinctly reprehensible, since these states are among the largest producers and consumers of coal - the world's most damaging fossil fuel. And, while output of the thermal coal has somewhat declined over the past year (as in Indonesia, the world's largest single exporter), this is by no means indicates that it's now on the way out.
Top miners risk $10bn of earnings on carbon cost
Research shows that miners are unprepared for the transition to a low-carbon economy, CDP says
23 November 2015
The world’s biggest mining companies face a combined $10 billion risk to their earnings if carbon pricing tightens in the wake of crucial global climate talks in Paris starting next week, according to a report from UK non-profit organisation CDP.
CDP, which says it advises institutional investors with assets of $95 trillion, ranked 11 companies on climate change- related metrics including disclosure of emission-reduction targets, conducting water stress-test studies and preparing for an expected tightening of carbon regulation to emerge from the United Nations climate summit.
The estimate of earnings at risk, representing about 15% of the total for the group, assumes the introduction of a carbon price of $50 a metric ton, a level already accounted for by some companies, it said.
Glencore, the world’s biggest exporter of power-station coal, scored the worst among the companies that participated in the study, according to CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project.
A growing number of investors and regulators are studying the possibility that untapped deposits of oil, gas and coal – valued at trillions of dollars globally and controlled by some of the biggest resource companies in the world – may become stranded assets as governments adopt stricter climate change policies.
“This research is a canary in the coal mine for investors” and shows that the biggest miners are “unprepared for the transition to a low-carbon economy,” James Magness, CDP’s head of investor research, said in a statement. “Although there are clear signs of progress by some companies in areas such as energy efficiency and water resilience, the sector as a whole needs to up its game.”
The miners assessed in CDP’s study were ranked A to E, with A being the highest and E the lowest, on metrics including energy efficiency, water resilience, coal exposure, carbon-cost exposure and carbon-regulation readiness. The scores were generated by responses received from the companies that participated in the study.
Vale and BHP Billiton scored best in the study.
“Glencore is the clear laggard on carbon-regulation readiness, due to its opposition to carbon pricing and dismissal of the concept of stranded assets,” CDP wrote in the statement. It scored poorly across all metrics except for water resilience, CDP said.
The International Council on Mining & Metals said in a statement before the release of the CDP study that some of its members had expressed concern over the methodology used, adding it would respond more fully when it had a copy of the report. Glencore officials weren’t immediately able to comment on the study, while a spokesman for the World Coal Association declined to comment.
“We work to mitigate and manage any physical impacts of climate change that we can affect,” Glencore wrote in its 2014 Sustainability Report published in April. “We openly and transparently disclose our carbon and energy footprints and participate in the CDP Climate Change programme.”
BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, in September published its own research on the impact of climate change on its assets. It said it may lose almost 2% of the value of its assets by 2030 because of the spread of measures that put a price on pollution.
BHP said that in the scenarios it’s studying, governments may put a price of $24 to $50 a ton on emissions of carbon dioxide within the next 15 years. It could hit $80 a ton in a shock scenario, which would result in a loss of almost 5% of BHP’s value, it said.
About 137 heads of government and state including US President Barack Obama and China’s Xi Jinping will meet in Paris starting November 30 for the UN talks. The two-week event, more than a year in the making, will draw at least 40 000 delegates including businessmen and celebrities such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Governments are adopting policies to cut carbon dioxide emissions and meet the 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) target agreed in Copenhagen six years ago. The International Energy Agency estimates that based on current trends the world may warm 3.6 degrees by the end of the century.
Two-thirds of the world’s fossil-fuel reserves must remain unburnt to hold temperature increases below dangerous levels, researchers at University College London said in January. Half the world’s known gas reserves, one-third of the oil and 80% of the coal should remain in the ground and unused before 2050 to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius, UCL said.
Allianz Says Goodbye to Coal Industry
urgewald press statement
24 November 2015
This morning, the world’s largest insurance company, Allianz, announced its decision to undertake a major divestment action from the coal sector. In reaction to a campaign by the German environment organization, urgewald, Allianz stated it will divest shares of mining companies that derive over 30% of their revenues from coal and divest shares of utilities that produce over 30% of their power through firing coal. The Munich-based insurer will also phase out its bond investments in these companies. According to Allianz, the divestment action will amount to 4 billion €.
“This is incredibly good news for our climate and much bigger than the divestment action taken by AXA,” says Heffa Schücking, director of urgewald. Based on a threshold of 50%, the French insurer AXA announced the divestment of around 500 million € from the coal industry last May. “If well-implemented, Allianz’s divestment action sets a new standard for insurance companies and asset managers all over the world,” adds Schücking. "
“We are glad that first the Norwegian Parliament and now the board of Allianz is convinced of our divestment approach. Climate-oriented divestment requires threshold values not only for the turnover, but also for the production of electricity. This hits both the mine operators as well as coal-based utilities like RWE and Vattenfall, "says Schücking.
Over the past months, urgewald has been calling on Deutsche Bank and Allianz to make a ‘Pledge for Paris’ as these two institutions are Germany’s largest investors in the global coal industry. “Allianz has shown it is willing to step up and take action for our climate. Now it’s time for Deutsche Bank to move,” says urgewald divestment campaigner, Kathrin Petz. In order to make sure Deutsche Bank gets the message, urgewald activists delivered 7,000 petitions and dumped several wheelbarrows full of coal at the bank’s Frankfurt headquarters this morning.
Campaign “Paris Pledge”: http://dotheparispledge.org/
Katrin Ganswindt, coal expert urgewald: +49 176/32411130, katrin[at]urgewald.org
Heffa Schücking, director urgewald: +49 160/96761436, heffa[at]urgewald.org
Moritz Schröder, press spokesman urgewald: +49 176/64079965, moritz[at]urgewald.org
urgewald is a German non-profit organisation, whose mission is to address the underlying causes of global environmental destruction and poverty.
Global coal imports heading for second year of ‘dramatic’ drops
20 November 2015
Nearly all of the 47% growth in total world coal trade between 2008 and 2013 was driven by rising coal import demands by countries in Asia, specifically China and India… Not anymore.
This has been a particularly bad week for the global coal industry, already battling multi-year low prices for the commodity.
On Monday, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), set off fresh alarm bells by announcing that consumption of the fossil fuel was on track to drop an additional 2% to 4% before the end of the year. This as China, the top consumer, is stepping up efforts to battle against pollution, and global efforts to promote renewable energy are on the rise.
Now is the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) turn, which said Friday it expected coal imports and exports to dramatically fall in 2015 for the second year straight.
The agency pointed the finger at China and India, which from 2008 to 2013 accounted for 98% of the increase in world coal trade. In the rest of the world, exports and imports of the commodity declined over the same period.
Preliminary data for 2014 and this year indicate a reversal of this trend, with declines in China's coal imports currently on pace to more than offset slight increases in other countries in both years, said the EIA.
Global coal imports heading for second year of ‘dramatic’ drops
Coal imports by China, responsible for about half of global coal demand, has already fallen by 31% in the period between January and August this year. The EIA attributes this to rising output from domestic mines, improvements in coal transportation infrastructure, and slower growth in domestic demand of the fuel, which have resulted in lower domestic coal prices and reduced demand for coal imports.
In India, domestic coal production has been on the rise, but the EIA doesn’t think that trend will be sustained for long.
Global coal imports heading for second year of ‘dramatic’ drops“Efforts are underway to substantially increase domestic coal production over the next few years and to complete three major rail transportation projects for facilitating increased shipments of coal from major producing regions in northeastern India to demand centers in other parts of the country,” it said.
Coal producers, however, have a two-year window, based on the report. While India's coal miners increased domestic production last year and through the first few months of 2015, the first of three major coal railway projects, the Jharsuguda-Barpali railway link, won’t be completed until approximately 2017, it said.
Coal Mining Update Indonesia: Price, Production & Export Still Down
23 November 2015
Indonesia will fail to achieve its coal production target of 425 million tons in 2015 as the country's coal miners have cut production by an estimated 20 percent. Domestic coal mining firms have cut coal output due to persistent low coal prices resulting in a negative free cash flow for many miners. Global coal prices have declined due to a supply glut and weaker global demand amid sluggish economic growth.
Bambang Gatot, Director General for Coal and Minerals at Indonesia's Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, said coal production in Indonesia will remain in decline as long as coal prices continue to fall. Indonesia’s November benchmark thermal coal reference price (set by the government) fell 5.2 percent (m/m) to USD $54.43 per metric ton (FOB) from USD $57,39 per metric ton in the preceding month hence touching a new all-time record low since the start of this reference price in January 2009. So far this year, the reference price has fallen 15.0 percent.
Adhi Wibowo, Director of Business Development of Coal at the Energy Ministry, said reduced coal production has no impact on domestic consumption of coal in Indonesia. Several years ago, Indonesia implemented the domestic market obligation (DMO) for coal in a bid to ensure that local buyers have access to Indonesian coal. Each year, the government sets a new DMO for coal. This year the DMO was set at 62 million tons, slightly down from last year's 63 million tons. Wibowo said the government allows coal miners to cut production rates as long as they comply with DMO allocation regulations.
Indonesia's coal export performance, on the other hand, is heavily affected by global conditions. Indonesian coal exports have plunged 32.4 percent to 215 million tons in the first ten months of 2015, compared to 318 million tons in the same period last year.
Ahead of Paris Climate Talks, OECD Urges Indonesia to End Reliance on Fossil Fuels
24 November 2015
Jakarta - With the start of key climate talks in Paris just days away, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is calling on Indonesia to stop subsidizing its own demise by promoting the use of fossil fuels.
Rintaro Tamaki, deputy secretary-general of the OECD, said in Jakarta on Tuesday that Southeast Asia is among the regions that are expected to be hit hardest by climate change in the course of this century, so governments should be working toward elimination of greenhouse gas emissions.
Changing rain patterns in Southeast Asia are an example of how global warming could impact countries in the region, Tamaki said, with consequences for crop yields and thus food security.
In order to bring global warming to a halt, greenhouse gas emission have to be reduced to zero in the coming decades, the OECD official said.
"We have to create a society where fossil fuel is not utilized," Tamaki said, speaking through a translator at a conference on disaster resilience organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA) and the OECD.
Tamaki praised the government of President Joko Widodo for taking the long-overdue step of reducing fuel subsidies earlier this year, but he said a lot more political will is needed to make development truly sustainable -- in Indonesia and beyond.
"It is ironic that countries in Southeast Asia are [still] promoting the use of fossil fuels," Tamaki said.
Indonesia is the world's No. 1 thermal coal exporter and most of the power in the vast archipelago is generated by coal-fired plants.
Joko's administration aims to add 35,000 megawatts of power generation capacity before the end of his term in 2019, as millions of households are yet to be connected to the nation's electricity grid.
Most of the new plants will be coal-fired.
State electricity firm Perusahaan Listrik Negara has been steadily raising prices for consumers in recent years, but the draft state budget for 2016 still includes Rp 50 trillion ($3.65 billion) for electricity subsidies.
In this year's budget, Rp 73.1 trillion was allocated for electricity subsidies.
UN climate talks
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as COP21, is set to kick off in Paris on Monday.
Rachmat Witoelar, the Indonesian president's special envoy for climate change, previously called the talks a "make-or-break moment for the world."
Indonesia has already pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent by 2030.
"Just like what [UN Secretary-General] Ban Ki-moon has said, this generation is the first and last generation that can overcome the harming effects of climate change," Rachmat said last month. "If we fail to do so, it's game over for us."
The OECD's Tamaki stressed that for countries like Indonesia it is crucial to keep long-term carbon emission goals in mind when thinking about development of the nation's transportation and energy infrastructure -- both high on the agenda of Joko's administration.
"This will define our lives and those of generations to come," he said.
World coal consumption to drop up to 4% further by year-end
16 November 2015
IEEFA's report suggests consumption of coal for power is likely to have peaked in 2013 and is set to decline by between 2% and 4% in 2015.
After peaking in 2013, world coal consumption has been dramatically falling in the last two years and, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), it is on track to decline an additional 2% to 4% before the end of the year.
The study, which suggests consumption of coal for power is likely to have peaked two years ago, says that happened as a result of declining consumption by main coal-using countries, particularly China.
Following a decade of near double-digit growth, coal consumption in China has declined 5.7% so far this year, U.S. use is down 11%, Canada 5%, Germany 3% and the UK 16%, the report shows.
Of the top coal consumers, only India, as it pursues rapid economic growth and increased electricity access for its population, has seen its coal consumption increase — it is up 3% to 6% year on year.
The global coal industry has been under sustained attack, with scientists and environmental groups saying that more than 80% of known reserves must stay underground to help tackle climate change, investors pulling out of the sector and prices chronically depressed.
As the world’s biggest economies turned towards renewables, such as wind and solar, the situation is likely to get worse. Three major coal miners have already filed for bankruptcy protection this year: Patriot Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and Walter Energy. And last week, Arch Coal said it was talking to creditors about restructuring its balance sheet.
Meanwhile, England is shutting down it last standing underground coal mine next month, marking the end of a 300-year industry that once employed over a million workers.
Senators urge Obama administration to include carbon costs in coal program
Timothy Gardner and Valerie Volcovici
3 November 2015
Washington - Democratic U.S. senators on Monday urged the Obama administration to reform the federal coal mine program to include costs of the fuel's carbon emissions and potentially raise royalties paid by companies that mine the fuel on public lands.
Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, the top Democrat on the senate energy panel, and seven other senators asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a letter to use the agency's existing powers to develop a plan on federal coal mining.
The federal leasing program on coal is nearly 40 years old and does not account for costs associated with carbon emissions.
"We must be much more aggressive in reforming the outdated federal coal program," said Cantwell. "Taxpayers deserve a fair return on the sale of resources they own, but the current program is broken."
A senate aide said one path Interior could take is to raise royalties on publicly mined coal above the current 12.5 percent.
Public lands provide 40 percent of coal production. The lawmakers estimate that coal produced there accounts for 14 percent of all U.S. carbon pollution produced by energy.
The letter to Jewell said that while the Obama administration is pushing other countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions "there is still more to be done at home."
Earlier this year, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management opened around 10 billion tons of coal on public lands for mining.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club have been critical of BLM, arguing that allowing coal mining and oil and gas drilling on federal land erases the benefits of the Obama administration's major climate change proposals like the Clean Power Plan that cuts emissions from plants that generate electricity.
The Sierra Club said the BLM's plans would result in nearly 23 times more carbon dioxide emissions over their lifetime than the Keystone XL pipeline would.
Facing complaints that the Obama administration's public lands policy contradicts its climate change strategy, Jewell earlier this year called for a conversation about modernizing the government's federal coal program.
The BLM recently held sessions in the U.S. West to discuss ways to reform the program, such as raising royalty rates.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Valerie Volcovici; Editing by David Gregorio)
Aussie Gov’t under attack for saying there is 'moral case' for coal mines
27 October 2015
Stopping coal mining in Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says, “would make not the blindest bit of difference to global emissions.”
Sixty-one prominent Australians, including scientists, rugby players and religious leaders, among others, have written to world leaders, urging them to halt construction of new coal mines when they meet in Paris for a climate summit next month.
Signatories of the letter, The Guardian reports, argue that Australia’s massive coal exports is largely responsible for environmental damage in places like China and India, where the coal is burnt to produce cheap energy.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull brushed off the attacks, telling reporters that stopping coal mining in Australia “would make not the blindest bit of difference to global emissions.”
However, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull brushed off the attacks, telling reporters that stopping coal mining in Australia “would make not the blindest bit of difference to global emissions.”
"If Australia stopped exporting coal, the countries to which we export it would simply buy it from somewhere else," he said, according to International Business Times.
Greg Evans, executive director of the Minerals Council of Australia, agrees, noting that calls for a global moratorium on coal mines ignore the scale of global demand for energy.
“The reality is that demand for coal remains strong, particularly in Southeast Asia,” he said in a statement, adding that he believes coal will remain “a key part of the global energy mix for many years to come.”
Federal Resources Minister, Josh Frydenberg, when even further last week, by saying there was a "strong moral case" for Australia to export coal. He added the nation had a role in providing electricity to millions of impoverished people in nations like India.
He told ABC's Insiders program that G20 APEC energy ministers have shown him studies proving that over a billion people around the world don't have access to electricity:
"This means more than two billion people today are using wood and dung for their cooking.
"The World Health Organization says this leads to 4.3 million premature deaths – that's more people dying through those sort of inefficient forms of energy than malaria, HIV aids and tuberculosis combined."
But public figures, including the former head of the Reserve Bank and Climate Change Authority, Bernie Fraser, claim it is "nonsense" and "obscene" for the Federal Government to argue there is a "moral case" to open new coal mines.
"It's the vulnerable people around the world that are going to suffer the most, and have the greatest difficulty adjusting to global warming, even to a two-degree (Celsius) global warming, and a lot of those people are in developing countries, including countries like India," he said.
"It's a nonsense argument really and to sort of put a moral label to it is quite obscene really," he concluded.
A vision for cleaner coal
7 October 2015
As we approach the end of the year, there is one event on the horizon that is of real significance to the energy industry. Before we can think about the challenges ahead of us in 2016, we must first turn our attention to Paris and COP21, where delegates from around the world will meet to discuss climate change and reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Many are billing this meeting as the last chance to build some form of global agreement on climate change, although French President Francois Hollande has been quoted as saying any such agreement would require a miracle.
The challenge facing those at COP21 is finding a way of delivering energy to all corners of the world, while keeping it affordable and reliable, and also reducing emissions from our energy use. Fossil fuels – and coal in particular – have a track record of providing affordable, reliable energy but, as concern grows about CO2 emissions, so too does the scrutiny facing the industry. However, abandoning coal altogether is neither sensible nor realistic. Coal demand in Southeast Asia alone is expected to grow by 4.8% a year through to 2035, while the IEA forecasts that global electricity generation from coal will grow by around 33% through to 2040.
Recent forecasts suggest that by the year 2100, the date set by G7 leaders to complete “decarbonisation”, some 11 billion people will inhabit the earth. As the world’s population is set to grow, so too is its need for energy – and coal will be a critical part of meeting that demand. No other fuel can match coal for reliability or affordability, and this is why in places such as Southeast Asia, where energy is far less available than in the developed world, coal will remain a vital resource.
This does not mean, however, that climate ambitions have to be put on the back burner. On the contrary, 21st Century coal technology is capable of dramatically reducing the amount of CO2 emissions from coal use. Both high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) technology in the near term and carbon capture and storage (CCS) after that can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions at coal-fired power plants. To support countries who want to use coal as a key part of their energy mix, utilising these low-emission technologies should be a key focus of the COP21 negotiations.
For this reason, the World Coal Association (WCA) recently launched its PACE initiative. The vision of PACE is that, for countries choosing to use coal, the most efficient power plant technology possible is deployed. Raising the global average efficiency of coal-fired power plants would minimise CO2 emissions, while maintaining economic development and poverty alleviation efforts.
Introducing HELE technology would also be a significant first step towards CCS deployment, which, once operational, can capture and store up to 90% of a plants CO2, saving millions of tonnes in emissions a year. This technology presents countries with the opportunity to continue to benefit from coal’s abundance and affordability, while mitigating a huge portion of the environmental concerns associated with fossil fuel use.
Boundary Dam is the world’s first coal-fired CCS plant and the flagship initiative of SaskPower. The project is located near the small city of Estevan, Saskatchewan, in Canada, and is a fantastic example of how well the technology works. Boundary Dam remains a reliable source of baseload electricity, producing 110 MW/yr, yet managing to do so while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1 million tonnes of CO2. The project produces enough power for approximately 100 000 Saskatchewan residents each year, while reducing emissions akin to taking 250 000 cars off the province’s road. The CO2 is either used for enhanced oil recovery or it is stored 3.4 km underground in the Aquistore Project. The plant in fact captures 90% of the CO2 which would otherwise be emitted, along with 100% of SOX emissions and 56% of NOX emissions, showing just how innovative a piece of technology this plant is in demonstrating a cleaner future for coal.
Mike Monea, President of Carbon Capture and Storage Initiatives with SaskPower gave the keynote speech at this summer’s World Coal Association workshop entitled ’Building pathways for cleaner coal technologies‘. He was confident that the success of the Boundary Dam project would enable the group to build future plants at 30% less cost.
Rather than shy away from the reality that coal and other fossil fuels are going to be essential to carrying the growing energy burden of a planet with ever more people, world leaders should recognise the potential to improve existing power plants and prioritise the measures to help deploy all low-emission technologies as the best way to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions for all countries. With the help of HELE and CCS, countries in energy starved regions can build their economies, using not only reliable energy-from coal but also energy that is making significant reductions in global CO2 emissions.
Edited by Jonathan Rowland. This article first appeared in the October issue of World Coal.
About the Author: Benjamin Sporton is the CEO of the World Coal Association.
Failing to account for climate change in mining land reclamation may cost billions
23 October 2015
Researchers at the University of Waterloo are warning that plans to reclaim mined land risk failure and could cost industry and government billions in future cleanup costs if they do not take into account the affects of climate change.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change today, Professors Rebecca Rooney, Derek Robinson and Rich Petrone outline a six-step process to improve success rates for ecological reclamation projects and control mine closure costs; reconciling government-mandated mine closing procedures with long-term climate projections.
"Well-meaning reclamation plans that ignore climate change may prove to be a major liability," said Rooney, a professor of Biology in the Faculty of Science at Waterloo. "Most reclamation plans assume the environment, water budget and climate remain the same over time. Our research reveals the need for a more pragmatic approach to reclamation planning that will give these important habitats a more sustainable future. If these reclaimed landscapes fail, the public could be left with a staggering environmental problem covering hundreds of square kilometers across Canada alone - and billions in additional costs."
Under Alberta's Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act of 1993, oil sands mining companies are required to return natural areas to a natural state once a mine closes. They must submit a reclamation plan and set aside an environmental deposit as part of the permitting process.
Regulators currently do not require mining companies to incorporate predictive modeling into reclamation plans, nor do they consider proposals to reclaim with types of vegetation better suited to the projected future climate.
"Significant advances have been made in the science of reclamation and the criteria with which we evaluate reclaimed landscapes," said Petrone, a professor of Geography and Environmental Management from the Waterloo Faculty of Environment. "The big question is how we use this knowledge to adapt in the face of climate change."
Mega projects like oils sands extraction, mountain-top removal and open-pit diamond mines are so large that they can take several decades, sometimes up to a hundred years, from opening to closure. Over these time spans, habitats like the boreal forests are predicted to shrink in Alberta, even under the most optimistic climate scenarios.
The idea that new landscapes may be more sustainable in the long term is how Rooney pulled Petrone and Robinson, also a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management, into the project.
"We measure and compare the composition and configuration of habitats in different natural regions and estimate how these changes in habitat pattern under different climate scenarios affect hydrological processes. It's essential for reclamation success," said Professor Robinson.
The six-step process proposed by the Waterloo academics uses climate modeling, hydrologic modeling, bioclimate classification, and landscape and habitat modeling to provide planners with more adaptable closure designs that meet the provincial regulations.
"We want to target a climate envelope and hedge our bets on the future," said Professor Rooney. "If an area is located in an ecological transition zone between boreal to the north and parkland to the south, it could be better for reclamation to target parkland forest than boreal so it will be more capable of adapting as [climate] change continues."
More research in this area is needed as the predicted landscapes may have an additional effect on water availability for the region. Regional climate models will also have to be continually refined to be useful.
Explore further: Book about Indiana coal mine reclamation compiles years of research - http://phys.org/news/2012-10-indiana-coal-reclamation-years.html
More information: Rebecca C. Rooney et al. Megaproject reclamation and climate change, Nature Climate Change (2015). DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2719
China's economic shift promises to aid climate fight but packs a commodity punch
Philip Wen and Peter Hannam
Sydney Morning Herald
9 October 2015
China is promising peak carbon emissions by 2030 - possibly much sooner - which would be good for efforts to curb global warming, but means big economic impacts for many, including Australia's exporters.
When officials in the southern end of the Chinese province of Shanxi feared their local golf course might attract unwanted attention from a nationwide crackdown on corruption, they artfully changed its name to the Yishan Ecological Park.
Compared with the new apartment towers and eight-lane highways slicing across nearby cornfields, Yishan is something of a green oasis.
But a decade ago, the golf course was woodlands that have now been largely cleared, and are out of reach to those unable to tee up 200,000 yuan ($44,000) for lifetime memberships.
"Ecological civilisation", as it happens, is also one of the catchcries of China's leadership headed by President Xi Jinping. As in the case of the golf park, it's wise not to take policies in China entirely at face value.
The world is watching China closely. Not only is it the largest greenhouse gas emitter, the country's rise created "the largest, longest and most broadly based increase in commodity demand that the world economy has ever experienced" as Ross Garnaut, Professor of Economics at The University of Melbourne wrote in a recent report.
Its resource-hungry model, though, has largely run its course, prompting global commodity prices to sink below their lowest levels during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, with big implications for Australian exporters and state and federal coffers.
Ahead of the climate summit in Paris starting next month, the slowdown means China's pledge to peak carbon emissions before 2030 may be achieved much sooner than expected - which would be good news for the battle to limit global warming.
Xi last month drew applause for another climate pledge - to introduce a national market to put a price on carbon emissions by 2017 - but that is far less likely to play a significant role in China's emissions trajectory than many hope.
China had previously promised such a market by 2016 and the pilot schemes already in operation in five major cities and two big provinces are such the policy will have little impact for many years.
Take the market in the south-west megacity of Chongqing. In June, as the compliance deadline for liable polluters approached, the official in charge had to make personal visits to plead for their pollution details.
"He was like a door-to-door salesman," says Sophie Lu, who covers carbon markets in Beijing for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "They just don't care."
As with many previous market experiments in China, the process has been one of first setting the rules and building a platform for the future.
Teng Fei, a leading climate change economist at prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing, says a "plausible starting point" would be to link the seven markets and then extend them into a national scheme - although 2017 is probably too ambitious.
Some provinces are still short of "meaningful monitoring and reporting systems", Professor Teng says. "It's very important with an ETS to make sure one tonne is equal to one tonne."
'Please, no free allowances'
Jiang Kejun, a researcher with the Energy Research Institute under the powerful planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission, also has doubts.
"I cannot see the role for carbon prices because you will still have free allowances" issued to polluters, Professor Jiang says. "So if you are under the cap, there will be no change."
"We tried to convince the NDRC: no free allowance," he said. "It doesn't matter if the price is high or low, please don't give them free allowances."
"Our study showed that if everything is informed to the market, the price will go to zero," Jiang says.
A survey released earlier this month by the China Carbon Forum and ICF International, which tapped 304 responses from industry, academics and carbon traders, found average price expectations to be 39 yuan ($9) a tonne in 2017, rising to 56 yuan by 2020 and 70 yuan by 2025. [Australia's carbon tax was $24.15 when it was scrapped by the Abbott government in July 2014.]
Some 83 per cent of respondents expect China will also have a carbon tax. That's an approach both Teng and Jiang prefer, since it would give companies a more stable investment signal than one that potentially fluctuates wildly.
The fact President Xi announced the 2017 target, though, means a carbon market of some form will be implemented.
"The trouble for me is I don't think an ETS is important for China," Jiang says.
That view is not because China doesn't face big risks from climate change. To the contrary, the country is heavily exposed to even moderate changes in weather patterns.
As Professor Teng noted in a paper published with Frank Jotzo of the Australian National University last year, the majority of China's 1.3 billion people live within about 350 kilometres of the coast, many of them exposed to a forecast of more intense typhoons and sea level rise.
Inland, residents in cities such as Guazhou near the western end of the Great Wall in Gansu province, can only watch as the snowpack that provides them with vital water retreats further up the nearby mountains as conditions warm.
"China is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, and that's increasingly acknowledged by China's leaders," Qi Ye, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Centre for Public Policy, said during a visit to Australia this week.
Those concerns mean China's leaders will continue to take steps to curb emissions even if the motivations are many and varied.
The so-called "airpocalypse" of early 2013 when smog levels in many major cities literally went off the charts was clearly one spur to action.
China's leaders, worried about the soaring health costs and potentially millions of premature deaths, acted with alacrity to slap limits on coal consumption in 10 key cities and provinces.
'No space for India'
They also intervened to further boost renewable energy, lured by the global market opportunities that beckon as the world inevitably shifts towards less reliance on fossil fuels.
Unlike established industries such as aviation or computers, China doesn't have to rely on imported intellectual property, Jiang says.
"[It's] a good opportunity for China to get into the global [economic] game because low-carbon is really new for everybody," Jiang says. "If in 10 years India wants to come [in], there will be no more space to them."
China last month raised its solar energy ambitions, lifting its 2015 installation target for new panels to a mammoth 23 gigawatts of capacity - seven times Australia's - from 17.8 GW. "That's about half the world's installations this year," Jiang says.
A similar boom in wind energy, though, means capacity is coming on faster than the grid and consumers can adjust. So-called power curtailment, in which power was dispatched but not used, amounted to about 15 per cent of wind and 9 per cent of solar energy generation in the last half year, Bloomberg's Lu says.
With electricity demand up less than 1 per cent in 2015 amid a slowing economy, the coal-fired power sector is being squeezed - with big implications for Australia's thermal coal exports .
According to Tim Buckley, a former Citi analyst now with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the average generation hours of coal-fired power plants dropped 9 per cent in the first seven months of 2015 compared with a year ago.
Oddly, the dimming outlook for coal hasn't stopped China adding new coal-fired power plants. Last year, China added 37 GW of new capacity and the pace has even quickened to almost 1 GW - equivalent to a large plant in Australia - per week over the past 12 months, says Lauri Myllyvirta, a global coal campaigner for Greenpeace in Beijing.
"It's a complete bubble and there's no feedback from the market," Myllyvirta says, noting capacity usage of plants has slumped to about 50 per cent.
Jiang says the government is now considering the radical step of banning new coal-fired power plants as part of its 13th Five Year Plan due to start in 2016.
"Now we are just talking about this in the new five-year plan - whether we go to zero new coal-fired power plants," he says.
The plan is also likely to extend those mandatory curbs on burning coal, potentially nationally, Tsinghua's Teng says.
"The issue is how to define the cap, and how to allocate the cap among the different sectors and provinces," says Teng, who is also a member of China's negotiating team travelling to the Paris climate summit.
Early emissions peak
The impacts of wilting coal demand were on show last month with the largest coal company in China's northeast, Heilongjiang Longmay Mining, announcing it would shed 100,000 of 240,000 staff in three months to stem losses.
Investment bank Deutsche Bank estimates China poured 1.69 trillion yuan ($367 billion) into its coal sector since 2011, creating "very serious" overcapacity that will likely drive the coal price lower at home and abroad.
Reining-in that investment binge is likely to be bad news for Australia-based coal exporters such as Glencore – and prospective ones, such as China's Shenhua which is planning a controversial new coal mine in the rich farming lands of NSW's Liverpool Plains.
"The new model of economic growth involves major adjustment for the Australian resources industries if things go smoothly in China," Garnaut says.
"There will be no growth in coal or steel demand in China - in fact significant decline - for the foreseeable future, while increased supply capacity is being added in exporting countries," Garnaut says. "In the long term, growth in demand outside China will help the adjustment in China for iron ore, but not for thermal coal."
Services typically generate only one-third of the emissions of industry, so the transition to new growth drivers and the slowdown to under 7 per cent annual growth from 10 per cent plus indicate the country's emissions will peak well before Beijing's 2030 target – with or without a functioning carbon market.
Garnaut says emissions from coal alone have probably peaked and the rest of the economy may not be far off: "It is more likely than not that the peak will come before 2020 - before taking account of the possibility that emissions could temporarily fall more at any time as the economy hits a bump in the road."
Modelling by Jiang's team suggests the peak may come even sooner.
"One of the extreme scenarios said that China has already peaked last year," he says.
Paris, India And Coal
By John Scales Avery
28 November, 2015
The MIT Technology Review recently published an important article entitled “India's Energy Crisis”.
The article makes alarming reading in view of the world's urgent need to make a very rapid transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy. We must make this change quickly in order to avoid a tipping point beyond which catastrophic climate change will be unavoidable.
The MIT article states that “Since he took power in May, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made universal access to electricity a key part of his administration's ambitions. At the same time, he has pledged to help lead international efforts to limit climate change. Among other plans, he has promised to increase India's total power generating capacity to 175 gigawatts, including 100 gigawatts of solar, by 2022. (That's about the total power generation of Germany.)”
However India plans to expand its industrial economy, and to do this, it is planning to very much increase its domestic production and use of coal. The MIT article continues, pointing out that
“Such growth would easily swamp efforts elsewhere in the world to curtail carbon emissions, dooming any chance to head off the dire effects of global climate change. (Overall, the world will need to reduce its current annual emissions of 40 billion tons by 40 to 70 percent between now and 2050.) By 2050, India will have roughly 20 percent of the world’s population. If those people rely heavily on fossil fuels such as coal to expand the economy and raise their living standards to the level people in the rich world have enjoyed for the last 50 years, the result will be a climate catastrophe regardless of anything the United States or even China does to decrease its emissions. Reversing these trends will require radical transformations in two main areas: how India produces electricity, and how it distributes it.”
The Indian Minister of Power, Piyush Goyal, is an enthusiatic supporter of renewable energy expansion, but he also supports, with equal enthusiasm, the large-scale expansion of domestic coal production in India.
Meanwhile, the consequences of global warming are being felt by the people of India. For example, last May, a heat wave killed over 1,400 people and melted asphalt streets.
Have India's economic planners really thought about the long-term future? Have they considered the fact that drastic climate change could make India completely uninhabitable?
John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004. http://www.fredsakademiet.dk/ordbog/aord/a220.htm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mainstream Media Lying Permits Betrayal Of Humanity By Paris Climate Change Conference Before It Begins
By Dr Gideon Polya
29 November, 2015
The Paris Climate Change Conference aims for international consensus on actions to keep global warming to less than 2 degrees C, but has betrayed humanity before it even began. Thus science informs that the internationally-agreed 2 degree C temperature target is both catastrophic and inevitable. Pre-conference national greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution reduction commitments to Paris imply a plus 2.7 degrees C temperature rise. Indeed the present circa plus 0.9 degree C temperature rise is already catastrophic for populations in low-lying island and megadelta locations.
This massive public deception has come about because of Mainstream journalist, politician and academic lying by commission and lying by omission. As an indignant, 5-decade-career Australian scientist who is appalled by the worsening climate emergency, I have written a Memo (below) about this massive deception to the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia's equivalent of the UK BBC) that has been copied to Australian media, MPs, and climate change activists. The Silence has been Deafening – indeed a record 60,000 people attended the People's Climate Change March in the heart of Melbourne on Friday 27 November (the first of numerous such massive pre-Paris marches around the world except in Paris where war criminal and climate criminal President Hollande has banned any climate march and put climate activists under house arrest) but a Search of the ABC News for “climate change march” has revealed no reportage of this massive event.
Letter to ABC journalists.
Dear ABC journalist, All of us but particularly young people and future generations will be betrayed by the forthcoming 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference. I have sent a detailed memo (below) to the ABC that is a fact sheet re pre-Paris People's Climate Marches against the War on Terra that is also a War on the Young and Future Generations and their fundamental human right to a decent life in an undegraded environment. This betrayal has been facilitated by malreportage by Mainstream media and by the taxpayer-funded ABC in particular. Yours sincerely, Dr Gideon Polya [contact details]
Memo to ABC: fact sheet re pre-Paris People's Climate Marches against War on Terra.
Perhaps 200,000 people will attend the People's Climate March in Melbourne, Australia (5.30pm, Friday 27 November, State Library) [in fact a record 60,000 people attended this climate change rally] impelled by the worsening climate emergency due to the climate criminal War on Terra. Similar climate marches will be held around Australia and the world on 27-29 November, just before the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference. Listed below are crucial, Elephant in the Room, climate change realities which are nevertheless effectively ignored by Mainstream media and the taxpayer-funded ABC (Australia's equivalent of the UK BBC):
1. Temperature rise target. The internationally-agreed 2 degree C temperature target is catastrophic and inevitable; international commitments to Paris imply plus 2.7C; the present circa plus 0.9C is already catastrophic for low-lying island and megadelta locations. The Paris Climate Change Conference has failed before it has started, but while it is too late to avoid a catastrophic plus 2C temperature rise we must all do whatever we can to make the future less bad for our children and future generations.
2. Terminal carbon pollution budget. Direst estimates (involving methanogenic livestock impacts and a methane Global Warming Potential relative to CO2 of 105 on a 20 year time frame and with aerosol impacts considered) are that the world will exceed in 3 years its Terminal Carbon Pollution Budget of 600 Gt CO2-e that must not be exceeded for a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic plus 2C temperature rise; Australia's huge Domestic plus Exported greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution means it exceeded its fair share of this Terminal Carbon Pollution Budget in 2011 and its huge Domestic GHG pollution means it exceeded its fair share in 2013. Australia's minimum offer to the Paris Climate Change Conference of “26% off 2005 GHG pollution by 2030” is dishonest because it actually means that Australia's expected Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution in 2030 will be 164% of that in 2005.
3. Carbon fuel burning-related deaths. 7 million people die from air pollution each year, this including 10,000 Australian deaths from pollutants from carbon fuel burning and 75,000 people dying from the burning of Australian coal exports. Translating the latest London (UK) pollution-related mortality data to urban Australia would indicate about 20,000 urban Australian deaths annually from air pollution involving fine carbon particulates and NO2.
4. Carbon debt. Assuming a damage-related Carbon Price in USD of $200 per tonne CO2-e, the World has a Carbon Debt of $360 trillion that is increasing at $13 trillion per year, and Australia has a Carbon Debt of $7.5 trillion that is increasing at $400 billion per year and at $40,000 per head per year for under-30 year old Australians – climate injustice, climate inequity, intergenerational injustice, intergenerational inequity and unconscionable subsidies for deadly carbon fuel burning.
5. Climate change deaths & climate genocide. About 0.5 million people die from climate change annually in a world in which 17 million people die annually from deprivation. However the direst estimates of only 0.5 billion surviving unaddressed climate change this century translates to a climate genocide of 10 billion people and an average of 100 million such deaths annually this century. As a world leader in annual per capita GHG pollution and climate change inaction, Australia is disproportionately contributing to a worsening climate genocide in island states and megadelta states.
6. Safe atmospheric CO2 target 300 ppm CO2. Many climate scientists, biologists and science-informed climate activists demand that for a safe planet for all peoples and all species, we must rapidly return to the pre-Industrial Revolution atmospheric CO2 concentration of about 300 parts per million carbon dioxide (300 ppm CO2) from the present damaging and dangerous 400 ppm CO2 that is presently increasing at about 2.0-2.5 ppm CO2 per year. The cost of doing this via the cheapest route (generation of biochar or carbon from anaerobic pyrolysis of cellulosic biomass) is similar to the global carbon debt.
7. Methane bomb. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4) which leaks and has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) relative to CO2 of 105 on a 20 year time frame and with aerosol impacts considered. A 2.6% gas leakage will have the same global warming effect as burning the remaining 97.6% to generate CO2. Leakage from fracking could reach circa 10%. Depending upon the degree of leakage, burning gas for power could be dirtier GHG-wise than burning coal. A coal-to-gas transition is disastrous. A re-assessment of the impact of methanogenic livestock production revised annual global GHG pollution upwards to 64 Gt CO2-e per year from a previous 42 Gt CO2-e per year, with livestock contributing over 51% of the higher figure. The 50 Gt CH4 predicted to be released from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf in coming decades is equivalent to 50 billion tonnes CH4 x 105 tonnes CO2-equivalent/tonne CH4 = 5,250 tonnes CO2-e or about nine (9) times more than the world's terminal greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution budget of 600 Gt CO2-e. We are doomed unless we can stop this Arctic CH4 release.
8. Required actions. There must be urgent reduction of atmospheric CO2 to a safe level of about 300 ppm CO2 via a rapid switch to the best non-carbon and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tide and hydro options that are currently roughly the same market price as and about 4 times lower in actual true cost than obscenely-subsidized coal burning-based power) and to energy efficiency, public transport, needs-based production, re-afforestation and return of carbon as biochar to soils coupled with correspondingly rapid cessation of fossil fuel burning, deforestation, methanogenic livestock production and population growth. Renewable energy is vastly cheaper than the true cost of fossil fuel burning-based power and rapid implementation of 100% renewable energy by 2020 and rapid cessation of carbon pollution has been adopted by a variety of towns, cities, states, corporations and countries.
9. Overall nuclear cycle is dirty GHG-wise & food for biofuel has huge carbon debt. In a carbon economy the overall nuclear cycle - from digging up, transporting and processing uranium ore to disposing of radioactive waste and decommissioning power plants - generates CO2. When we necessarily have to shift to lower quality uranium ores the overall nuclear cycle CO2 production from a nuclear power station could be the same as from a gas-fired power station. Hugely increased efficiency of use of limited uranium reserves can be obtained using fast-breeder reactors but the resultant plutonium economy would be extraordinarily dangerous from plutonium chemical toxicity and nuclear weapons perspectives, with horrendous associated diminution of civil rights and human rights. The use of plant-derived sugar, starch or oil for generating biofuel requires expensive purification of ethanol or biodiesel, can carry a huge carbon debt and is an obscene use of food for fuel in a world in which 2 billion already have insufficient food and food insecurity is increasing. Indeed meat from grain-fed livestock is an increasingly unacceptable option in a hungry world. A temperature increase of 1C can decrease subtropical wheat yield by 10%.
10. Carbon price and divestment from fossil fuels. As cogently stated by scientifically-trained Green Left Pope Francis in his 2015 Encyclical “Laudatum si'”, the human and environmental cost of burning fossil fuels must be “fully borne” by the polluters . Permitting fossil fuel exploiters to pollute the one common atmosphere and ocean of all peoples for free is climate criminal theft, and the consequent damage will have to be reversed by future generations (climate injustice, climate inequity, intergenerational injustice, intergenerational inequity). The true cost of coal burning for power taking environmental and human impacts into account can be 4 times greater than the present highly-subsidized market price. The cap-and-trade Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) approach has been condemned by numerous experts because it is empirically ineffective, is accordingly counterproductive, will enable dishonest market manipulation and is fraudulent in that it involves a government unilaterally selling licences to pollute the one common atmosphere and ocean of all countries. The anti-science, anti-environment, pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-fossil fuels Australian Coalition (COALition) Government's Direct Action policy absurdly pays polluters to pollute less and is thus precisely akin to paying thieves to steal less. A “fully borne” Carbon Price has the corollary of divestment from exploitation of fossil fuel reserves that are now increasingly seen as stranded assets.
11. Climate criminality and Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Australia has 0.3% of the world's population but its annual Domestic plus Exported GHG pollution is 3% of the world's total GHG pollution. Currently about 0.5 million people die from climate change each year and 7 million die from air pollution. At some point, increasing climate genocide will elicit actions from affected countries, including Green Tariffs, Green Bans, International Court of Justice (ICJ) litigations, International Criminal Court (ICC ) prosecutions, and Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all those people, politicians, parties, companies, corporations, and countries disproportionately polluting the one common atmosphere and ocean of all people and thus disproportionately harming and threatening Humanity and the Biosphere with climate genocide, speciescide, ecocide, omnicide and terracide. The first actual climate genocides will be the adumbrated disappearance of Island States such as Kiribati and Tuvalu. Any species is unique and priceless but the species extinction rate is now 100-1,000 times greater than normal.
12. Personal responsibility and actions. What can decent people do in the War on Terra? What can you tell your grandchildren that you did in the War on Terra? Decent people can personally and collectively minimize their personal carbon footprint but must also (a) inform everyone they can; (b) urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all people, politicians, parties, companies, corporations, and countries disproportionately polluting the one common atmosphere and ocean of all people; and (c) vote for pro-environment, Green representatives – in Australia that means that they should vote 1 Green and put the COALition last. I suggest a three-fold ABC strategy involving (A) Accountability (holding the individual, corporate or national climate criminals responsible by intra-national and international sanctions, boycotts, civil actions and criminal prosecutions); (B) a Badge (e.g. wearing a Badge such as “300 ppm CO2”, the atmospheric CO2 target advocated by 300.org); and (C) a Credo (e.g. that of 300.org: “There must be a safe and sustainable existence for all peoples and all species on our warming-threatened Planet and this requires a rapid reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to about 300 parts per million”.
Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne.
PS For a version of this memo with detailed referencing documentation see “Memo to ABC: fact sheet re Pre-Paris People's Climate Marches against War on Terra”, Gideon Polya Writing, 2015-11-26: https://sites.google.com/site/gideonpolyawriting/2015-11-26 .
Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003).