Climate Change & Energy – Review of the Year 2007

Carbon offsetting came under fire in 2007 as questions were raised over the validity of unregulated credits, leading reputable offsetting companies to seek CDM-registered credits for private markets.

Despite rising CO2 emissions, the UK claimed to be on track to smash its Kyoto targets.

The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) warned against media misinformation and ‘climate panic’ before issuing a substantial report warning against the catastrophic potential of climate change.

Al Gore was the climate celebrity du jour, winning a Nobel prize for his film An Inconvenient Truth, along with being voted environmental personality of the year by edie readers – the icing on the cake.

In the UK, Government decided his film should be shown in every secondary school, a decision which was challenged – unsuccessfully – by those who thought this was indoctrination.

2007 was a big year for biofuels, with many extolling their virtues as a panacea to fuel demands while some raised questions over the energy used in their production and the risk that fuel crops could displace food crops.

The USA was seen to be the country investing the most in renewables, though India and China were also seen as contenders for this crown.

The UK looked set to host two world firsts when it came to renewable projects – the biggest offshore wind farm beyond the mouth of the Thames and a major wave energy project off the Cornish coast.

The EU ramped up targets on emissions cuts, setting a binding cut of 20% by 2020 on 1990 levels across the union.

Meanwhile the UK went a step further by becoming the first nation aiming to write legally binding emissions targets onto its statute books with its Climate Change Bill, which is set to become law by spring or early summer 2008.

The change in British Prime Ministers brought out the commentary from the pundits with Tony Blair getting a relatively rosy review for his role on the international stage promoting the need to address climate change.

The question of how green Brown is was left open.

Whether or not aviation emissions should be covered by wider trading schemes was a hot topic in 2007.

The EU Council agreed in December that the sector should be included in its Emissions Trading Scheme from 2012, and 2008 is expected to see more debates on the issue when the proposals reach the Parliament for a second reading.

Tensions between Old Europe and the New World remained, with the EU telling Australia and the US to ‘lose the attitude’ when it came to negotiating climate agreements.

And while climate change might be the glamorous part of the environmental news agenda, there were efforts to ‘sex it up’ further with warnings that it was a security issue or would impact on human rights.

China took the lead in emissions of CO2 for the first time, overtaking the USA as the international whipping boy.

In France, newly elected President Nicolas Sarkozy promised a new French revolution – with a green hue.

Not to be outdone, the UK announced it would aim to build thousands more turbines off the British coastline over the next 15 years and Germany said it would trump the UK’s Climate Change Bill by aiming to cut its emissions by 40% by 2020.

The climax of the climate year, however, came in December when world leaders gathered in Bali to discuss international efforts to curb emissions once the Kyoto Protocol has run its course.

Australia’s newly elected government created the headlines in the first week of the conference after signing up to Kyoto.

Two weeks of intense debate resulted in all the countries present at Bali agreeing to work together to produce a post-2012 agreement. What that agreement will be remains to be seen.

Sam Bond

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