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World’s energy systems vulnerable to climate impacts, report warns


Power plants and electricity distribution networks are particularly vulnerable to droughts and floods.Power plants and electricity distribution networks are particularly vulnerable to droughts and floods. Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters

Rising sea levels, extremes of weather and an increase in the frequency of droughts and floods will all play havoc with the world’s energy systems as climate change takes hold, a new report has found.

Energy companies are more often cited as part of the problem of climate change, generating the lion’s share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to around 40% of the total. But they will also suffer as global warming picks up pace, as generators – from nuclear reactors to coal-fired power plants – feel the brunt of the weather changes.

Many large plants are particularly at risk from droughts, because they need water to cool their facilities, and floods, because they lack protection from sudden storms. Electricity distribution networks are also likely to be affected.

The vulnerability of energy systems to natural shocks was shown starkly when the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan had to be closed down following the 2011 tsunami, which prompted governments around the world to review their nuclear policies.

The World Energy Council (WEC), which compiled the study along with Cambridge University and the European Climate Foundation, urged generators to examine their vulnerability to climate change, saying that with suitable adaptations – such as protecting power plants from water shortages and building resilience into power networks – the worst of the problems could be avoided.  (more…)

UN expresses alarm about proposed dumping in Great Barrier Reef


At the annual meeting of the Unesco world heritage committee in Doha, delegates 'noted with concern' the Abbot Point project.At the annual meeting of the Unesco world heritage committee in Doha, delegates ‘noted with concern’ the Abbot Point project. Photograph: AAP

The UN has expressed alarm at Australia’s proposal to dump 3m cubic metres of dredged material into the Great Barrier Reef world heritage site, saying the development could place the site on Unesco’s list of shame.

The Australian and Queensland governments have granted approval for dumping as part of the expansion of the Abbot Point coal port, which lies on the fringes of the reef.

At the annual meeting of the Unesco world heritage committee in Doha, delegates “noted with concern” the Abbot Point project. Australia was warned the reef could be added to the World Heritage in Danger list at the next meeting in 2015 if alternative development methods were not considered.

The committee said it: “regrets the state party’s approval for dumping 3m cubic metres of dredge material inside the property prior to having undertaken a comprehensive assessment of alternative and potentially less impacting development and disposal options”.

Conservation groups have said the dumping could irreparably damage the coral. The reef survives on a delicate symbiosis between its plants and animals. Corals provide the skeleton on which the entire ecosystem is built. These interactions are already significantly threatened by the runoff of agricultural chemicals and destruction of increasingly fragile corals by cyclones. In three decades the coral cover on the reef has fallen by 50%.  (more…)

EU plays hardball with Russia on gas issue


The European Commission has ruled that the intergovernmental agreements underpinning South Stream with all the countries along its route, which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia, do not comply with EU competition law and require revision before the pipeline can be built.The European Commission has ruled that the intergovernmental agreements underpinning South Stream with all the countries along its route, which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia, do not comply with EU competition law and require revision before the pipeline can be built. © http://www.gazprom.com/

Although the European Union, Ukraine, and Russia have yet to reach an agreement on Ukraine’s gas bill, over the past several weeks it has become clear that the EU holds strong cards in its gas relationship with Russia and is using them effectively.

The Bulgarian government last week bowed to the inevitable, accepting the demands of the European Commission to suspend construction of their parts of Gazprom’s South Stream pipeline designed to bypass Ukraine and bring Russian gas to Europe via a new southern corridor.

The Commission has ruled that the intergovernmental agreements underpinning South Stream with all the countries along its route, which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia, do not comply with EU competition law and require revision before the pipeline can be built.

The Commission has also, and perhaps more pointedly, begun to investigate the tender process that led to the award of a $4.7 billion contract for the construction of the Bulgarian section of the pipeline to a consortium headed by the Russian company Stroytransgaz. Stroytransgaz’s owner is sanctioned billionaire and Putin ally, Gennady Timchenko.

Sofia’s decision is a blow to Russia that will delay its long-standing effort to separate its relations with Ukraine from its European gas business. If built, South Stream’s capacity of 63 billion cubic meters per year will reduce Russia’s gas transit dependency on Ukraine to zero by 2020. Russia currently exports around 50 precent of its gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine, and the alternative route offered by South Stream would deprive Ukraine of a critical source of influence in its relationship with both Russia and Europe.

Of course, not all the countries through which the South Stream pipeline passes have bowed down to EU pressure. After meeting with his Serbian counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Serbia would begin building its stretch of the pipeline next month.

By challenging the legality of South Stream, however, the Commission has kicked the project into the long grass and forced Russia to seek an alternative solution to the vexed issue of gas transit through Ukraine.  (more…)

Rasmussen says a few thousand more Russian troops at Ukraine’s border


“We now see a new Russian military build-up around the Ukrainian border. At least a few thousand more Russian troops are now deployed,” Rasmussen said in London. © AFP PHOTO / ANDREY KRONBERG

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on June 19 that at least a few thousand more Russian troops were now at Ukraine’s eastern border, a build-up he called a regrettable step backwards.

After Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, NATO said Russia had massed some 40,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. It withdrew the vast majority of them until just one unit and 1,000 troops remained about a week ago.

“We now see a new Russian military build-up around the Ukrainian border. At least a few thousand more Russian troops are now deployed,” Rasmussen said in London.

“I consider this a very regrettable step backwards. It seems Russia keeps the option open to intervene further in Ukraine,” he said. “The international community would have to respond in a firm manner if Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine.”

He added: “That would imply deeper … economic sanctions against Russia which would have a very damaging effect on the Russian economy.”

In last few days, NATO has seen evidence of a few mechanised units, consisting of a few thousand Russian troops, conducting new troop movements close to the Ukrainian border, a NATO military officer said.

“These troops don’t appear to be engaged in ‘border patrol’ duties. Rather they appear to be concentrating in staging areas and preparing and awaiting future orders,” the officer said.


Reporting by William James and Jack Stubbs; Additional reporting by Adrian Croft in Brussels; writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Tom Heneghan

Reuters

Poroshenko confirms he’ll sign EU agreement on June 27


German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko (R) leave after a joint press statement prior to talks in Berlin, June 5, 2014.German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko (R) leave after a joint press statement prior to talks in Berlin, June 5, 2014. © AFP

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on June 19 he would sign an association agreement with the European Union on June 27 and would also send his new foreign minister to Luxembourg next week to lay out a peace plan for the east to EU ministers.

Poroshenko made his comments after presenting Pavlo Klimkin, who was earlier endorsed as foreign minister by parliament, to the media.

Klimkin commented: “Our priorities are obvious – they are a peace plan (for eastern Ukraine) and association with the EU.”

Referring to plans to sign the association agreement, Poroshenko said: “That for which we have waited for so long will take place next week.”


Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel

Reuters

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