Thursday, 23 July 2009

Investment analyst says US CC Bill means Copenhagen Conference will fail

I had the privilege today of getting a private briefing from a leading investment analyst on the impact of the new US Climate Change Bill.

Below are 11 key points:

1. The Bill has been watered down so much that US industry is unlikely to be doing any real emission cuts until the mid-20s.

2. This is because the modest emission reductions required up till then can be achieved largely with the carbon offsets allowed in the scheme. (This is a good time to chop down some trees in Sri Lanka so you can plant them again in a few years and sell the carbon credits to US utilities.)

3. The Bill is likely to deliver a US carbon price of around US$16 a tonne in 2020. This also the official US EPA forecast.

4. Most analysts, including the one providing the briefing, argue that a price of at least 30 Euros a tonne is needed to drive required emission-reduction changes. They are hopeful that the EU will see €30 a tonne prices, but the disparity between the US and EU schemes means they are unlikely to be linked up for some time, further delaying a unified market for emissions trading.

5. Of course a US$16 a tonne also means that CCS won't be viable in the US; it needs a much higher carbon price than that.

6. As a result of the US Bill, substantial reductions cannot be agreed in Copenhagen; the EU will not trigger it's proposed 34% reduction by 2020 target; nor will Australia trigger it's 15% reduction target.

7. The analyst thus believes that Copenhagen will not help to stop the world getting to 3?C warming and more.

8. They think the Copenhagen Conference will therefore be forced to spend much more time on discussing adaptation.

9. Their stock recommendations are generally "underperform" for renewable energy companies and "buy" for environmental engineers and the like who'll be dealing with holding back rising seas. That's not good news for those of us directly in the path of climate impacts.

10. Of course the problem is that, if climate scientists like Jim Hansen are right, we enter into run-away climate change that won't stabilise until 6-7?C and 20-25m sea level rises. The analyst quietly agreed that, as a result, armaments companies are probably a good investment.

11. That confirms that we have to put more energy into parallel paths to mitigation, such as improving the investibility of large-scale low carbon projects - without expecting a carbon price to be a substantial factor.

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