Posts tagged ‘energy’
Driving across the rolling farming country of northern and central France, as my wife and I have just done, you might think that French arable farmers have never had it so good. Grain prices are high and the landscape as far as the eye can see is bright yellow with rapeseed and brilliant green with wheat, barley or potatoes, the very picture of a healthy agriculture.
It’s not really healthy, of course. Unless rain falls within the next week or so those rolling hectares will lose their bloom. Drought has hit the cereal regions of the UK, France, Germany and Poland, which together account for two-thirds of European grain production. Already forecast yields for wheat, barley and rape are down by 10-20 per cent, while the prospect of a dry summer threatens a greater shortfall and a further escalation in food prices, which have already gone up by 30 per cent since March.
This is bad news for Europe. High grain prices mean rising costs for milk, meat and egg production, as well as bread, beer and other cereal-based foods, putting more strain on shop prices. Food price inflation has a direct political impact which will put additional pressure on EU governments at a time when household spending is already squeezed and unemployment levels remain high.
In France 42 départements have declared water control restrictions. The Polish government has been pressing the European Commission to raise the support level for wheat in support of its arable farmers – a plea which was rejected in the recent farm ministers council.
There are unexpected consequences. As rivers levels fall or even run dry I see that French nuclear power stations, which rely on river water for cooling, may have to cut back on generation capacity.
The global picture is no more comforting. With the US also suffering from drought there is little prospect of recovery in world supplies, let alone the building of stocks, during 2011. China is also affected. Russia and the Ukraine are the only northern hemisphere producers which have decent prospects for grain production this year.
The political implications are far-reaching. All those countries which depend on grain imports to feed their people, which include most of the Maghreb and much of the Middle East, will face a further food price crisis at a time when their political systems and their economies are undergoing revolution.
A succession of climatic disasters in the US may lead to recognition in the United States that climate change is happening and that something must be done, although it is a big step to acknowledge that human activity is the driver. As for Europe, after the driest and warmest April in parts of our continent since records began the argument that the climate is undergoing fundamental change seems incontrovertible.
We’ve flagged our conference last week on financing Europe’s energy needs shamelessly on this blog in recent days and weeks. You’ll be happy to know, no more. This is the last reference to it we shall make. Just to note for the 150 souls that didn’t make it off the waiting list to gain entrance, many of the principal speakers agreed kindly to repeat some of their main points to camera post their conference interventions.
You can find everyone from Sharon Bowles MEP to Philip Lowe of DG Energy speaking on energy, climate and Europe here.
A highlight was hearing Dr. Fatih Birol from the IEA contrast the good that could come from Europe reasserting its leadership role on climate while warning Europe about the impact such leadership could have on European competitiveness. Jos Delbeke from the Commission perhaps unsurprisingly argued for a renewal of EU leadership in the field. Today’s Commission work programme suggests he may well win out.
At the Financing Europe’s Energy Needs conference on Wednesday, which, I might add (and completely impartially), was a huge success, speaker Russel Mills (Global Director of Energy & Climate Change Policy for Dow Chemicals) described the climate change mission as a ‘long marathon’ and profoundly questioned, ‘how do we win this marathon?’
In an attempt to inspire the pessimists and sceptics amongst you I wanted to take Mr. Mills’ incredibly apt metaphor and extend it somewhat. I wanted to describe the efforts of those who have started us all thinking about this global problem and educating us on how to begin tackling it as the coaches training us all before the big race. I wanted to talk about the need to invest in the proper equipment and the need to have strict rules because, after all, we can’t be taking shortcuts. I even had ambitious plans for a pun on pre-race carb-loading/pre-Copenhagen carbon-loading.
However, whilst searching for a motivational picture to accompany such descriptions, I came across this rather interesting article which led me to a new train of thought: Thinner is better to curb global warming, study says.
The conference brought up a number of ideas on how to deal with and finance climate change and future energy needs, from Emissions Trading Schemes and Clean Development Mechanisms to EU FP7 funding for non-nuclear clean energy research, to name but a few. But whilst these measures are of course essential to managing the big picture, it is still important to consider the role that we as individuals can play in combating this problem.
So, what a pleasure to now know that each of us can do our bit for the environment not just by turning off lights and keeping the heating on low, but by cutting out the chocolate, avoiding the chips or, say, by running a marathon.
Tomorrow sees our conference on financing Europe’s energy needs at the Bibliotheque Solvay. Alas, we reached the 200 delegate limit some time ago and so there is around 100 of you that won’t get to attend in person due to Belgium’s pesky fire regulations.
Fear not. You can follow discussions on our Twitter feed http://www.twitter.com/eurotwittering or using the hashtag #euenergy If you are there in person, feel free to join in the conversation online.
We shall be tweeting the comments from speakers such as Jos Delbeke, Philip Lowe, Sharon Bowles MEP and Lena Ek MEP throughout the event.
In addition, members of our team shall be posting on this blog in coming days with their own reflections on the discussions from the event.
Greatings from a sunny, if cold, Washington D.C. where we’ve been having our global public affairs meeting over the past couple of days. Many highlights in the course of the two days, much of which you can catch at the FH Public Affairs twitter account. DC colleague Silvio Marcacci patiently sat at the back of the room tweeting away as various colleagues gave their views on everything from food safety and healthcare to energy and financial services. We’ve also some video that we shall be seeking to upload on the FH Public Affairs Youtube Channel.
On energy and financial services, I bring news from DC of something that is happening in Brussels later this month.
The first annual conference that is seeking to bring together those who know about energy with those who know about finance. Tackling climate change and answering our energy needs as a continent are going to take some serious investment of both political will and cold hard cash. It seems, at least to me from a personal perspective, that Europe needs to put as much ‘political leadership’ in this domain as it expends in seeking to lead in negotiations for binding targets on climate change at an international level. As such, it will be interesting to hear what some of our speakers have to say, especially as they include the Director Generals of both Climate Action (Jos Delbeke) and Energy (Philip Lowe) amongst others.
You can find out more about the event on March 24, which F-H is co-sponsoring, here.
This morning, on my way back to the office, a marching brass band, 10 three-meter tall cardboard smokestacks and a few dozen people in black t-shirts carrying black balloons that read ‘NO MORE COAL’ headed the other direction towards the European Parliament building. I asked a girl for the group’s website address, hoping to learn more.
“We don’t have a website”, but she handed me a flyer.
What do you mean you don’t have a website?! She explained “We’re a coalition of groups, so you can get information on any of our websites”.
The groups involved, according to the black and white flyer, are, CAN Europe, , Friends of Earth Europe, die klima-allianz, Christian aid, and the World Development Movement. Clearly this coalition invested a lot of time and money into the event, and I can’t help but think that they made a massive oversight by not having a website or a microsite for the event.
The cynic may point out that since Fleishman-Hillard offers a full-service digital group that builds anything from fancy emails to websites of all shapes and sizes, then of course we would argue that every event needs its own website. But in this day and age, with the low costs of websites, I can’t see any reason to not have at least a one page microsite or a dedicated page on an existing website, no matter how short-lived the event.
Just on the other side of Place du Luxembourg, one can see a digitally-driven campaign. Vattenfall has placed a massive digital screen asking people to go online and ‘Sign the climate manifesto’. The engaging website has a live webcam of the screen on Place du Luxembourg and a video of what happens when you ‘sign’ the online manifesto.