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Due to a technical problem on Wednesday Jan 16, we are upgrading the news management system by a Canadian software company, which will be completed in coming days.

It has taken longer than anticipated. That is one of the drawbacks of outsourcing. C'est la vie - even Google News updating falls behind at times!

Business News Headlines to Jan 16 2008

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Click for Monday's stories and links from Jan 17 2008

European Commission to set tough carbon emission cut targets for Rich countries including Ireland; Lack of clarity from Government on cuts plan and impact

The European Commission will this week publish plans setting emission cut targets for Member Countries and it's reported that Ireland as a rich country will have to cut greenhouse gases by 20%, compared to 2005. Poor countries such as Bulgaria will be allowed to increase greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20%  in the next 12 years.

The publication of the targets is expected on Wednesday.

The expected cap means the maximum possible cut would reduce Ireland's CO2 emissions to 55 million tonnes by 2020, which is the same level of emissions as 1990 - the base year of the Kyoto Protocol.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Ireland was allowed to increase its emissions to a level of 13% above the 1990 figures but, with just four years left of the Kyoto framework, Irish emissions are 25% or 13 million tonnes, above 1990 levels.

There is a plan to ban energy inefficient light bulbs and a Taxation Commission is due to be set up in the coming weeks, but it's reported that the Department of Finance does not expect it to report for at least two years, potentially delaying the new carbon tax.

The tough choices are ahead and the Government may well find that the slowing of economic activity may provide some help. However, despite the introduction of a so-called "Carbon Budget" last December, there is no clarity on how the Government would enact deep cuts and their related impact.

Also in December, Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment John Gormley, did not respond to serious questions raised by ESRI researcher Richard Tol on the economic impact of steep emission cuts.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that Europe’s plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, risk working against the environment and could destroy the competitive position of European industry, according to the region’s leading industrialists.

The warning comes in a letter to Gunter Verheugen, European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, from Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell and chairman of the energy and ­climate change working group of the European Roundtable of Industrialists. ERT is a group of about 50 of Europe’s biggest industrial companies representing sales of about €1,600bn ($2,300bn, £1,200bn).

The letter warns against the EU’s plans to introduce an auction system for carbon certificates to replace the current free allocation of permits on a country-by-country basis.

The ERT says the plan could both encourage undesirable protectionist measures, such as import taxes on goods from countries without similar schemes, and severely damage the competitiveness of European industry by imposing costs that cannot be passed on to consumers. This, in turn, could threaten investment in carbon capture and other environmental initiatives.

Finfacts Report: European Union countries fighting over share-out for cutting greenhouse gas emissions; Environment Commissioner now says some biofuels do more harm than good

Finfacts Climate Change Reports


Increasing amounts of ice mass have been lost from West Antarctica and the Antarctic peninsula over the past ten years, according to research from the University of Bristol and published online this week in Nature Geoscience.

Meanwhile the ice mass in East Antarctica has been roughly stable, with neither loss nor accumulation over the past decade.

Professor Jonathan Bamber at the University of Bristol and colleagues estimated the flux of ice from the ice sheet into the ocean from satellite data that cover 85% of Antarctica's coastline, which they compared with simulations of snow accumulation over the same period, obtained using a regional climate model.

They arrived at a best estimate of a loss of 132 billion tonnes of ice in 2006 from West Antarctica – up from about 83 billion tonnes in 1996 – and a loss of about 60 billion tonnes in 2006 from the Antarctic Peninsula.

Professor Bamber said: “To put these figures into perspective, four billion tons of ice is enough to provide drinking water for the whole of the UK population for one year."

The authors conclude that the Antarctic ice sheet mass budget is more complex than indicated by the evolution of its surface mass balance or climate-driven predictions. Changes in glacier dynamics are significant and may in fact dominate the ice sheet mass budget. This conclusion is contrary to model simulations of the response of the ice sheet to future climate change, which conclude that it will grow due to increased snowfall.

The ice loss is concentrated at narrow glacier outlets with accelerating ice flow, which suggests that glacier flow has altered the mass balance of the entire ice sheet.

Over the 10 year time period of the survey, the ice sheet as a whole was certainly losing mass, and the mass loss increased by 75% during this time. Most of the mass loss is from the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica and the northern tip of the Peninsula where it is driven by ongoing, pronounced glacier acceleration. In East Antarctica, the mass balance is near zero, but the thinning of its potentially vulnerable marine sectors suggests this may change in the near future.

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