Despite Kyoto Rift, EU and US Search for Common Ground at Helsinki Climate Talks
TWIG - After the first day of talks between EU and US environmental officials in Helsinki on Wednesday, the delegations issued a joint statement agreeing to strengthen bilateral cooperation on the environment.
Despite the standing disagreement over the United States’ rejection of the mandatory reductions in CO2 emissions called for in the Kyoto Protocol, the delegations said that common ground could be found in promoting technologies to capture and bury greenhouse gasses from coal, setting common standards for biofuels, protecting the diversity of species on Earth, and helping developing nations.
James Connaughton, a member of the U.S. delegation and George Bush’s top environmental advisor, said that the U.S. and the EU must come to an agreement on basic standards for fuels produced from crops such as ethanol and biodiesel so that manufacturers can build engines that can use the fuel globally.
He also highlighted "clean coal" as "one of the biggest challenges because it’s the area where we need some of the most significant investments and technological applications," according to Reuters. "There’s [clean coal] technology in Europe and there’s technology in the United States…It requires a concerted effort."
Germany and America both working on "clean coal technologies
German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently attended the ground-breaking ceremony for an experimental CO2-free coal-fired electrical plant in Brandenburg. The German power utility Vattenfell invested 40 million Euros ($50 million) in the pilot plant, which will burn dried lignite in pure oxygen, producing highly pure CO2, which will be captured and stored in a yet undetermined process. Based on the small-scale pilot plant, Vattenfell hopes to build a commercially viable 1,000 megawatt CO2-free coal plant by 2020.
In the U.S., the Bush administration has earmarked a $1 billion for research in CO2 capture technologies for coal plants over the next 10 years. At universities in Pittsburgh and West Virginia as well as the National Energy Technology Laboratory, scientists are researching both the "oxyfuel" technique used by Vattenfell and other techniques. The Bush administration also gave the scientists an economic target; the electricity from clean coal cannot cost over ten percent more than current coal-power. By 2012, the researchers say they will build a commercially viable 275-watt coal plant with no atmospheric CO2 emissions.
Possible EU climate cooperation with California and Northeastern states
Outside the conference, Finnish environment minister Jan-Erik Enestam, who hosted the talks in Helsinki, also praised efforts by California and Northeastern states. He called the states’ adoption of mandatory reductions in CO2 emissions "very positive progress" according to CNN.
Last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order that would allow companies in his state to trade emissions credits with the seven Northeastern states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The RGGI, established by New York governor George Pataki in 2001 after the U.S. pulled out of Kyoto, commits the participating states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent before 2019. In September, Schwarzenegger signed legislation requiring a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gasses from California by 2020.
Schwarzenegger said that allowing California businesses to
trade emissions credits with RGGI states would help them meet the emissions
targets. He has also advocated emissions trading between California and the
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