The law of unintended consequences – part 83 – China’s plans to curb the number of cars in Beijing have failed miserably with the Vice Mayor who was in charge of traffic, Huang Wei, standing down. The plans to restrict vehicles to ease jams, parking problems and pollution were based on car ownership schemes that were due to come into force in 2011 – but a pre-emptive surge in car buying (30,000 cars were sold last week) has torpedoed the scheme. 240,000 ownership licences will be issued in 2011 by lottery, down from a total of 700,000 in 2010. Whether the cars will ever travel anywhere remains to be seen.

A really good article in the Observer on Boxing Day (26/12/2010) “After a wasted year, climate change must again be our priority“. The Keeling curve is indisputable – it shows that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising remorselessly …  more from Robin McKie at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/26/robin-mckie-carbon-emissions-up 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has projected that the United States will lead the world into catastrophic global warming over the next twenty five years. In its 2011 Annual Energy Outlook, the EIA predicts that energy-related CO2 emissions will “grow by 16 percent [PDF] from 2009 to 2035,” reaching 6.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (or 1.7 GtC) http://www.climatechangenews.org/ .

Towns accross much of  Eastern Australia have been cut off by heavy rainfall with more expected in the next few days. The rain has had a serious effect on agriculture with the sugar crop badly damaged by weeks of flooding. The rain is believed to be the worst for 150 years. And Southern Spain is also experiencing climate change – this report from our special correspondent in Spain: “this is the 5th year in Granada of heavy winter rain and no drought in summer. Before that they always had water shortages in Summer. Actually it has been the same on the coast because there were threatened restrictions every year (in some villages many hours without water ) when we were there until the last few years when the auhorities started saying there was enough in the reservoirs for 2 years or so even if there was no further rain. The frequent floods now being experienced in many areas are something new to many people”.

The Times reports that big corporate advertisers are beginning to shift their spend away from ‘product’ advertising towards promoting their corporate brands – and the industry hopes that if a company is seen as more environmentally friendly, purchasers will seek out its products. Whilst it is an encouraging move, expect oodles of greenwash and bucket loads of corportate nonsense.

And more on China: The UN is concerned that China will struggle to feed its billion plus population in the future, one fifth of the World’s population, because of land degradation, drought, urbanisation and an increasing reliance on fossil fuels and fertilisers (which add to pollution and soil damage).  UN Envoy Dr Olivier de Schutter noted that 37% of China’s territory was degraded and that 8.2 million hectares of arable land had been lost to cities, industrial parks, natural disasters and foresty programmes.  This, coupled with an increasingly carnivorous diet in China, is pushing up food prices in China at a double digit inflation rate. Last year pork went up 17% and eggs went up 30%.  in a report to the UN and the Chinese government Dr Se Schutter said China needed to embrace sustainable agriculture and wean itself off fossil fuels, adding that China didn’t need to move to massive farms and industrial style farming saying that “Small scale farming is more efficient in its use of natural resources”.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/dec/23/china-ability-to-feed-population-warning

The Chinese government is also trying to defuse a row with the USA over its plan to subsidise its green economy.  Plans to subsidise the manufacture of wind turbines have been described as ‘illegal subsidies’ by officials in the Obama administration.  Beijing insists its wind policies are good for the global environment but it seems China will take a concilliatory aproach with the US in trade talks.  Professor Pan Jiahua from the Sustasinable Development Research Centre said “at a global level the US action is terrible. Its very silly. This gives a very bad signal for the World. Its says the renewable energy technologies should not be encouraged. This is a huge blow to the fast deployment of wind energy.” China is committed to producing 90 Gigawatts of wind energy in the future, up from current output of 20 gigawatts in 2009. More on Intellectual Property law and the environment can be seen here – a very interesting article by Scottish solicitor Gill Grassie on the role of patents in promoting (or restricting) the progress of green technology and titled Pooling Together: IP as Hero or Villain? can be found at   http://jiplp.blogspot.com/2010/12/new-issue-and-guest-editorial-on-ip-and.html .

Finally back to the UK Government’s daft plans to sell off our woodlands – we had said this “Caroline Spelman, the UK’s Environment Secretary, is expected to announce that the UK Government plans to sell off 150,000 hectares of forests and woodland that it owns, to property developers, large land owners and international companies. Cripes, firesales are always useless (Gordon Brown sold off all our gold on the cheap) but this one looks ridiculous. Still, only a rumour. But if it is ridiculously cheap and we imagine it will be (and probably cost almost as much to sell in ‘consultant’s fees’) – we would like to buy some please – especially at bargain basement prices – so – now we’ve said it publicly! Onwards with Festival Wood and maybe Festival Forest!” Sadly the plan itself now it seems a reality – read more  here: “For sale – all of our forests. Not some of them, or most of them – the whole lot. For sale: all of our forests. Not some of them, nor most of them – the whole lot;  Tories have never been treehuggers, but their plans to sell off all state-owned forests are unwarranted, unwanted and unworkable”  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/dec/22/tory-privatisation-all-state-forests