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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Global: John Vidal |

Climate aid threat to countries that refuse to back Copenhagen accord

Developing nations claim they are being offered cash to sign up to climate change deal

Rich countries have threatened to cut vital aid to the developing nations if they do not back the deal agreed at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, it has emerged.

The pressure on poor countries to support the US, EU and UK-brokered Copenhagen accord came as 190 countries resumed UN climate talks in Bonn in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion.

"The pressure to back the west has been intense," said a senior African diplomat. "It was done at a very high level and nothing was written down. It was made very clear by the EU, UK, France and the US that if they did not back them then they would suffer."

According to other African climate diplomats, threats to cut aid were accompanied by promises of financial support for countries that complied.

"There was definite strong-arming of countries. A lot were left in no doubt that there would be repercussions if they did not associate themselves with the accord," said Saleemul Huq, of the International Institute for Environment and Development, in London.

Yesterday it emerged that the US is to cut climate aid to Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries who have refused to sign up to the accord. But the outgoing UN climate change chief, Yvo de Boer, said: "Bolivia is losing $2.5m in climate funds. That's about what the presidential palace pays for toilet paper a year. Bullying is not an effective instrument."

Earlier this year, Karl Falkenberg, director-general for environment at the European Commission, signalled that countries that did not fully support the accord might not qualify for future funds. "It is not money for free, we are helping developing countries to make more of an effort than they could do on their own."

Although the accord is not legally binding and was not adopted by the UN, more than 112 countries have so far "associated" with it. They include 14 African countries that depend on aid from the EU, UK and France.

It commits rich countries to holding emissions to a rise of 2C, provides for $30bn (£19.5bn) a year to be found in the short term for developing countries to adapt to climate change, and up to $100bn a year in the long term.

Some signatories will be richly rewarded for backing the weak agreement. Ethiopia expects to earn nearly $1bn from climate change funds. However, 90 poor countries have refused to associate with it, mostly arguing it will not reduce emissions enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Bonn climate talks diary

Viscount Monckton back in action, fresh faces round the negotiating table and a plea for sleep

Monckton's back

Oh no. Der Viscount Monckton von Brenchley, aka Lord Monckton, has arrived in Bonn with a team from the rabidly contarian Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. This fully paid up climate sceptic NGO has commandeered a stall right by the entrance to the plenary hall, and Monckton is to be seen leaping on unsuspecting diplomats, thrusting invitations into their hands for a reception this evening, and scattering "international carbon credit" notes like confetti. These entitle the bearer, he says, "to enjoy guilt-free McMansions, world travel, hot showers and machine-washed clothing". Hmmm.

I caught up with Monckton giving an interview to a clearly bewildered Japanese TV crew. Brandishing a copy of the US constitution, he was arguing that this document would make it next to impossible to ever reach a global climate deal, and would therefore save the day. "We the people of the free world say no to the bogus scientists who have made up a scare. Thanks to this constitution, there is still a chance to protect the world from a world-governing class!" he said. The trouble with Monckton is that he has a twinkle in his eye which suggests he is joking. He's not.

Fresh faces

Spring is in the air, and it's all change in Bonn. The British negotiating team has completely changed. Jan Thompson, seconded by the Foreign Office to lead the negotiating team last year, has gone - feather boas and all - as has her deputy from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In their place comes a team from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which is so anonymous that no one even knows their names. Moreover, because parliament is now "in purdah" before the election, the UK team will not say a word to anyone. "If you want to know the British position you are better off talking to the Spanish," says one observer.

But many of the old faces are here. Hello again to Lumumba Di-Aping, Sudanese scourge of the rich countries in Copenhagen who, as chair of the G77 last year, sparked outrage by comparing the climate change deal to the Holocaust. He is now now a board member of the conference of the parties, which advises the president.

Yvo, wherefore are thou?

The big question here is where is Yvo de Boer? The outgoing head of the UNFCCC is usually here to welcome everyone, but strangely has still not arrived in Bonn. The talk, however, is of his potential successor. South Africa and Indonesia have put up candidates, and the Hungarian Janos Pasztor, who has been working on Ban Ki-moon's climate change team at the UN, has been mooted. The frontrunner, though, is Christiana Figueres, who was Costa Rica's lead climate negotiator since 1995 but is now in industry. She has the double advantage of being from a developing country that has tried hard to cut emissions and is a friend of both north and south.

Russia gets a hand

The only applause of the day went to the Russian diplomat who pleaded at the opening session not for understanding and harmony between nations or more time to negotiuate, but for sleep. The poor man was clearly upset that at Copenhagen that delegates were asked to stay up all night. "Some parties think we can only make decisions at night. Ladies and gentlemen, we need to sleep!" © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Climate negotiators urged to meet monthly to reach binding deal

Developing nations say countries must meet once a month to make enough progress for a binding deal to be reached at Mexico summit

Developing countries today called for climate talks to be stepped up in order to each a global deal at a crucial meeting in Mexico in November - even if it means negotiators getting together once a month.

Countries were setting out their positions at the re-opening of climate talks in Bonn in Germany, the first time countries have met after the UN climate summit in Copenhagen failed to reach a legally binding deal in December.

But rich countries were noticeably cool on their proposals, suggesting that only one more meeting would be held and that the talks could take another year to reach a binding agreement.

In a noticeable U-turn since Copenhagen, when rich countries expressed urgency and tried to push through a legal agreement over the heads of the majority of countries, diplomats lined up to back the slower but more trusted UN system of reaching agreement by consensus.

"In Copenhagen we saw a text put together by a few and a blatant attempt to disregard the Kyoto protocol. This broke the trust of developing countries. Any attempt to exclude the majority will only obstruct the outcome," said a Congolese spokesman for the African group of nations.

"Developing countries want a result in Mexico. They are now asking why they cannot have one. They are saying 'let's keep talking'," said Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, a Geneva-based thinktank for developing countries.

In a series of short statements, the African bloc was backed by groups representing the small island states (Aosis), the least developed countries (Ldcs) and many Latin American and Middle Eastern nations.

Many strongly opposed the Copenhagen accord, the weak deal that countries "noted" but did not legally adopt at the end of the Danish talks. This called for countries to "aim at" holding temperatures to 2C, and a transfer of $100bn a year by 2020 to developing countries to help them to adapt to climate change.

"The reduction in emissions proposed [in the Copenhagen accord] would be only 13-17% yet if we are to go below the 2C rise in temperatures it should be 25-40%. If these are the best figures that countries can manage then mother earth is in great danger," said a Bolivian spokesman.

But Australia, speaking on behalf of the US, Canada, Iceland, Russia and others in the "umbrella group" of rich countries, strongly backed the accord as the way forward in the negotiations. "Copenhagen gave us vital political direction. This has the support of 120 countries who between them represent 80% of global emissions. We are committed to realising this agreement," a spokeswoman said.

India, one of the powerful group of developing countries which includes China, Brazil and South Africa, sought a middle way. Its delegates said it backed the accord, but also the bottom-up approach demanded by most small countries.

"Consensus has come to be questioned. It's a dangerous trend. The accord is only a political document. It has the power to build consensus but cannot substitute for the [UN] process," said a spokesman.

However, the US and China, the world's two largest emitters of CO2, both declined to make individual statements. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Climate talks reopen at Bonn summit

Diplomats from more than 180 countries gather in Bonn for the first time since the widely perceived failure of last year's Copenhagen summit

Diplomats from more than 180 countries are meeting in Bonn over the next three days to reopen global climate change negotiations for the first time since last year's Copenhagen summit, which was widely perceived as a failure.

Top of the agenda is how countries respond to the Copenhagen accord, the non-legally binding deal that was pushed through by a small group of countries in a bitter atmosphere in the last few hours of the UN conference.

Some 110 countries have now backed the agreements made in the accord. These include aiming to hold temperature rises to 2C, transferring $30bn a year in the short term and $100bn a year by 2020 to developing countries for adaptation to climate change; and reaching new global agreements on forests and technology transfer.

Observers this morning said they detected a new mood to cooperate in the talks, with developing countries determined to find a way through the suspicion, mistrust and national self-interest which hampered the Copenhagen summit.

But many diplomats also expect fireworks, especially from some African countries which felt left out of the Copenhagen talks.

"There is still considerable anger that a figure of 2C was reached which, if implemented, would effectively consign many vulnerable countries to an intolerable future," said a spokesman for the least developed group of countries.

Critically, countries have agreed to negotiate along two tracks, as opposed to the one which the US, EU and other rich countries sought before Bonn.

However, it is uncertain how far the text of the accord will be used as the base for future negotiations. The US has signalled its determination to follow it but other developed countries are expected to be less enthusiastic. Many of the poorest countries are hostile, and key emerging economies like China and India have signalled reluctant support.

Over the next few days, negotiators - and not politicians - will try to hammer out the technical details of a future agreement and chart a way ahead for the politicians to take over at meetings in Bonn in May and in Cancun, Mexico in November.

Non-governmental groups today urged countries to heal the rifts between them. "Governments have a critical chance to repair the distrust caused by their failure to take the lead in Copenhagen," said Wendel Trio, Greenpeace international climate policy spokesman.

"Delay is costly both financially and in terms of human lives. Governments must adopt an ambitious plan of action demonstrating they are prepared to move beyond a time-wasting blame game, and negotiating solutions to the climate crisis," he said.

Governments must acknowledge there is a considerable gap between proposed emission reduction pledges," said a WWF spokesman. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Chagos islands marine protection plan comes under fire from three sides

Foreign secretary David Miliband's action condemned by British MPs, Mauritius government and native Chagossians

Anger mounted today over Britain's decision last week to create the world's largest marine protection zone around the Chagos islands as an influential group of British MPs joined the government of Mauritius and a large group of islanders to condemn the way the decision was made.

The world's leading conservation groups welcomed the move to ban fishing across an area the size of France, but the Mauritian government, which claims the Indian Ocean islands, and the largest Chagos refugee group, which is fighting for the right to return to the islands, have deplored the way they claim the, foreign secretary, David Miliband rushed out the decision without their consultation.

"Perfidious Albion is dishonest. I am very angry," said Mauritian foreign minister Arvin Boolell.

Olivier Bancoult, chair of the Chagos Refugees Group, the largest collection of exiles, said he was "shocked" that Britain had not shown the islanders even a draft of the proposal.

Speaking from Mauritius, he said: "The British government has shown its true face in the way it does things with no respect for democracy and consideration for others' opinions. We have been taken for a ride."

Details of the conservation zone have not been made public, except that it is to become a full "no-take" area. This ban on fishing, previously Chagossians' main livelihood, could make it impossible to live on the islands if the islanders won the right to return.

"Everyone would have been happy with the creation of a marine protection area providing it had made provision for the interests of Chagossians and Mauritius, which it could so easily have done," said David Snoxell, former British high commissioner in Mauritius and chair of the Marine Education Trust.

"The Foreign Office statement completely disregards the Chagossians who are not even mentioned in it. They have been airbrushed out," he said.

Miliband also attracted the ire of the all-party Chagos committee, whose members complained that parliament had been sidelined.

In a letter to Miliband, chair of the committee Jeremy Corbyn said: "The action of the Foreign Office flies in the face of world opinion in respect of the Chagossians' right to return.

"I am shocked that you did not see fit to honour the undertaking given to parliament that there would be full consultation with islanders and MPs."

The Foreign Office had committed in a debate on Chagos two weeks ago that MPs would be briefed before any final decisions were taken on the marine protected area (MPA).

The all party parliamentary group wants to know what the urgency was for the MPA's creation and how the Foreign Office had time to properly examine 450 contributions, many of them complex, to the consultation.

The MPs are expected to ask Miliband to put the decision on hold pending a verdict on the islanders' right to return, due in the summer from the European Court of Human rights.

The islands were ceded to Britain in 1814 but were evacuated in the 1960s to allow construction of a US military base on the largest island, Diego Garcia.

About 2,000 people were deported to Mauritius, and Diego Garcia is now populated by an estimated 1,700 US military personnel and 1,500 civilian contractors. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Britain has key vote on World Bank loan to Medupi power station

• Medupi coal station would be three times larger than UK's Drax
• Dilemma between climate damage and South African industry

Joss Garman on South Africa as an industrialised climate player

Britain is likely to cast the deciding vote on whether the World Bank lends South Africa $3.7bn (£2.4bn) to build one of the largest coal-fired power stations in the world. The state-owned Medupi station would be three times the size of Britain's biggest, at Drax in Yorkshire, but would emit 25m tonnes of CO2 a year – more than 115 other countries including Kenya, Luxembourg, Burma and Croatia.

The decision on what would be one of the biggest bank loans ever made will be taken next Thursday at a World Bank board meeting in Washington. It places Gordon Brown and the UK government in an intensely difficult situation because Britain has led international attempts to persuade South Africa and other rapidly-industrialising countries to take action on climate change. At the same time the government has strongly backed South African industry which has been hit by major power shortages in the last two years.

Britain, the bank's biggest donor and one of its largest five shareholders, is likely to cast the deciding votes on the loan following President Obama's new guidelines to diplomats to approve coal plants only if the World Bank is unable to secure additional funding to pay for a lower-carbon option. It is thought that under the guidelines, the US will abstain in Thursday's vote.

A spokesperson for the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) said, "We haven't made the decision yet. It's very difficult. We have been in negotiations with the bank for some time. We are well aware of the implications of voting either way, and of both sides' arguments."

Pro- and anti-Medupi lobbyists this week argued fiercely over the merits of the station, which is planned for Limpopo and will be among the 10 largest in the world. South Africa's public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan warned that the country's economy depends on having a secure supply of electricity. "If we do not have that power in our system, then we can say goodbye to our economy and to our country. This is how serious this thing is. The construction of Medupi … is necessary so that we do not derail the country's economic growth and development", she said.

She was backed by Jamal Saghir, the World Bank's director of energy, transport and water. "We cannot afford to see the South African power sector in crisis," he said in an interview. If the loan is turned down, he said, there would be a "major backlash" for the economy not just South Africa but the entire region.

But opponents in South Africa and Britain have argued that little of the 4,800MW of electricity which the state-owned power company Eskom plans to generate from Medupi will go to ordinary South Africans, but to large foreign-owned companies in the region who dominate the aluminium and mining industries.

"This loan will put South Africa deep into debt, damage the environment and drive the climate impacts already affecting poor South Africans. It is not electricity for the millions of people who live in deep rural areas who still have no electricity. It's for big industry which uses more than 80% of South African electricity," said Bobby Peek, director of Groundwork Friends of the Earth. It argues that the power station will amplify South Africa's climate and poverty crises.

A coalition of more than 100 grassroots organisations, including churches, community groups, conservationists and metal-workers today condemned the loan, saying it is "financing a bad project, contributing to energy poverty and environmental destruction".

"This is a massive amount of international public finance going to the dirtiest form of energy in a highly unequal society without strong indications that it will have any positive impact on energy access for the poorest. Much of the increased energy provision will go to big, mostly foreign-owned industry which benefits from beneficial electricity pricing agreements", said Eliot Whittington, an adviser with Christian Aid.

The World Bank has been heavily criticised in the past for funding some of the most environmentally destructive projects. It now calls itself the "climate bank" because it seeks to distribute global climate change funds, but analysis by the Bank Information Centre – an NGO that advocates social justice and ecological sustainability in funding from financial institutions – shows that it loans nearly 10 times as much to fossil fuel projects than renewables.

There are no firm plans to implement carbon capture and storage on the new plant, although Eskom is "considering" the option for new stations, according to Hogan. She said that CCS would not be commercially viable until around 2030.

"It's time for Gordon Brown to pull the plug and invest money in the clean energy development South Africa needs," said John Sauven, director of Greenpeace. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Britain brandishes olive branch to restart global climate change talks

Ed Miliband concedes ground and offers to sign new Kyoto treaty in unilateral attempt to heal rift between rich and poor countries

Britain brandished a diplomatic olive branch today as it tried to restart global climate change negotiations with an initiative to heal the rift between rich and poor countries following the failure of the Copenhagen summit.

Climate secretary Ed Miliband conceded considerable ground, offering to sign a new Kyoto treaty as developing countries' demand, but while also requiring that those nations enshrine their commitments to tackling global warming in international law.

Britain's unilateral move addresses the key issue that doomed Copenhagen – that the rich accept the legally binding commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions enshrined in Kyoto.

The initiative could lead to two separate global treaties on climate change. It also offers a challenge to China, India and other major developing countries, who have been unwilling to commit legally to acting on climate change because the Kyoto agreement specifically exempts them.

"We are asking that developing countries internationalise in a legally binding agreement the actions they take domestically," said the government action plan, published today in advance of formal UN negotiations that reopen next week in Bonn.

"We would not envisage developing countries being subject to any punitive compliance measures," it added.

The move is the strongest signal yet that rich countries' attempts to sideline or even abandon the Kyoto treaty have failed and that the negotiations will continue within the 192-nation UN climate body and not in smaller groups of countries as the US and other nations had wanted.

"We hope by doing this we can take away the myth that developed countries were trying to destroy Kyoto," said Miliband.

"We are determined to unblock the negotiations. We are willing to offer a second agreement under Kyoto, provided there is a separate legal treaty covering all other countries."

The move was immediately welcomed by Bharrat Jagdeo, president of Guyana. But he warned that developing countries would not accept an agreement if rich countries – who have emitted by far the most carbon pollution – did not commit to further deep cuts in emissions.

Referring to the US, he said: "There are countries who stick out and clearly need to do more work. If the largest [developed] country emitter falls so far below the minimum, it makes it far harder for other countries, and you lose the element of justice and fairness."

The diplomatic moves came as Gordon Brown met billionaire financier George Soros; Obama's economic adviser Larry Summers; economist Lord Nicholas Stern and other finance ministers to find ways to raise $30bn (£20bn) a year immediately and $100bn a year by 2020 to enable developing countries to adapt to climate change.

The high-level advisory group on climate change financing, convened by UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon and chaired by Brown and Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi, will consider at least six ways of raising up to $1tn dollars for climate change adaptation. These include:

• a small levy on all international aviation and shipping

• enlarging existing carbon cap-and-trade markets

• imposing a small "Robin Hood"-type tax on all financial transactions

• using the International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights.

The group of 19 financial leaders have been asked by Ban to report back by November, when UN climate talks take place in Cancun, Mexico.

Environment and development groups welcomed the British initiative. Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth's executive director, said: "It's positive that the government has restated its commitment to the Kyoto protocol, which enshrines the responsibility of rich countries, as the biggest historical polluters, to slash their emissions first and fastest."

Joanne Green, head of policy at development agency Cafod, said: "This shows that Gordon Brown is listening to the concerns of developing countries. This is a first stride in rebuilding the trust desperately needed between developing and developed countries."

And Melanie Ward, Christian Aid's UK political adviser, said: "The positive language needs to be matched by the necessary political choices.

"These include using international finance to support clean development in poor countries, rather than more dirty coal power stations, and demanding much deeper cuts in EU emissions levels." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

UK to invest £30m in Nigerian public transport system

Britain to pay for buses and trains to replace molues and danfoes - Lagos's legendarily hectic buses and minibuses

Anyone who has experienced the "molues" and "danfoes" - the notorious buses and minibuses of Lagos - will understand the word anarchy. They carry huge numbers of people round the African mega-city but they respect no traffic lanes, bus-stops or policemen, many are falling apart and they belch some of the the dirtiest smoke in Africa.

But Britain is hoping to bring some order to the city of legendary traffic jams and road rage by trying to rationalise its public transport system. Over the next few years it will invest more than £30m increasing the number of bus routes, bringing in bigger buses and helping to build two new train lines to go through some of the most densely populated areas of Lagos.

Lagos has a population of 16 million but the Nigerian government expects this to grow to over 25m in the next 20 years, leaving the city authorities unable to provide clean water and electricity, or to keep pace with the growth of slums. Unless investments are urgently made in the infrastructure, says the UK's Department for International Development, the situation will become critical. It now plans to invest in improving slum areas in other African cities.

The switch to investing in the urban environment rather than rural areas marks a significant shift in approach to combating poverty. Until very recently most aid has been directed at rural areas to try and stem the flow of people to cities and boost agriculture. But there is a new understanding that hunger in large cities and poverty is now as bad in cities as in rural areas.

"Investing in urban areas is a different set of challenges," said international development minister Gareth Thomas. "We have watched the rise of the mega-city, especially in Africa. Places like like Addis Ababa, Cairo and Johannesburg will all see massive expansion over the next 20-30 years. Unless we act now people will only live in slums.

"People find it difficult to access work outside their own impoverished areas due to lack of transport and potential industry around the slums is hampered by unreliable electricity sources," he said.

UN predictions show that, by 2030, 700 million people will live in towns or cities in Africa and of them, 70% will live in slums. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

US oil company donated millions to climate sceptic groups, says Greenpeace

Report identifies Koch Industries giving $73m to climate sceptic groups 'spreading inaccurate and misleading information'

A Greenpeace investigation has identified a little-known, privately owned US oil company as the paymaster of global warming sceptics in the US and Europe.

The environmental campaign group accuses Kansas-based Koch Industries, which owns refineries and operates oil pipelines, of funding 35 conservative and libertarian groups, as well as more than 20 congressmen and senators. Between them, Greenpeace says, these groups and individuals have spread misinformation about climate science and led a sustained assault on climate scientists and green alternatives to fossil fuels.

Greenpeace says that Koch Industries donated nearly $48m (£31.8m) to climate opposition groups between 1997-2008. From 2005-2008, it donated $25m to groups opposed to climate change, nearly three times as much as higher-profile funders that time such as oil company ExxonMobil. Koch also spent $5.7m on political campaigns and $37m on direct lobbying to support fossil fuels.

In a hard-hitting report, which appears to confirm environmentalists' suspicions that there is a well-funded opposition to the science of climate change, Greenpeace accuses the funded groups of "spreading inaccurate and misleading information" about climate science and clean energy companies.

"The company's network of lobbyists, former executives and organisations has created a forceful stream of misinformation that Koch-funded entities produce and disseminate. The propaganda is then replicated, repackaged and echoed many times throughout the Koch-funded web of political front groups and thinktanks," said Greenpeace.

"Koch industries is playing a quiet but dominant role in the global warming debate. This private, out-of-sight corporation has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition. On repeated occasions organisations funded by Koch foundations have led the assault on climate science and scientists, 'green jobs', renewable energy and climate policy progress," it says.

The groups include many of the best-known conservative thinktanks in the US, like Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Foundation for research on economics and the environment. All have been involved in "spinning" the "climategate" story or are at the forefront of the anti-global warming debate, says Greenpeace.

Koch Industries is a $100bn-a-year conglomerate dominated by petroleum and chemical interests, with operations in nearly 60 countries and 70,000 employees. It owns refineries which process more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day in the US, as well as a refinery in Holland. It has held leases on the heavily polluting tar-sand fields of Alberta, Canada and has interests in coal, oil exploration, chemicals, forestry, and pipelines.

The majority of the group's assets are owned and controlled by Charles and David Koch, two of the four sons of the company's founder. They have been identified by Forbes magazine as the joint ninth richest Americans and the 19th richest men in the world, each worth between $14-16bn.

Koch has also contributed money to politicians, the report said, listing 17 Republicans and four Democrats whose campaign funds got more than $10,000from the company.

Greenpeace accuses the Koch companies of having a notorious environmental record. In 2000 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined Koch industries $30m for its role in 300 oil spills that resulted in more than 3m gallons of crude oil leaking intro ponds, lakes and coastal waters.

"The combination of foundation-funded front groups, big lobbying budgets, political action campaign donations and direct campaign contributions makes Koch Industries and the Koch brothers among the most formidable obstacles to advancing clean energy and climate policy in the US," Greenpeace said.

A spokeswoman for Koch Industries today defended the group's track record on environmental issues. "Koch companies have consistently found innovative and cost-effective ways to ensure sound environmental stewardship and further reduce waste and emissions of greenhouse gases associated with their operations and products," said a statement sent to AFP by Melissa Cohlmia, director of communication. She added: "Based on this experience, we support open, science-based dialogue about climate change and the likely effects of proposed energy policies on the global economy."

Top 10 Koch beneficiaries 2005-2008

Mercatus center: ($9.2m received from Koch grants 2005-2008) Conservative thinktank at George Mason University. This group suggested in 2001 that global warming would be beneficial in winter and at the poles. In 2009 they recommended that nothing be done to cut emissions.

Americans for prosperity. ($5.17m). Have built opposition to clean energy and climate legislation with events across US.

Institute for humane studies ($1.96m). Several prominent climate sceptics have positions here, including Fred Singer and Robert Bradley.

Heritage foundation ($1.62m). Conservative thinktank leads US opposition to climate change science.

Cato Insitute ($1.02m). Thinktank disputes science behind climate change and questions the rationale for taking action.

Manhattan Institute ($800,000). This institute regularly publishes climate science denials.

Washington legal foundation ($655,000) Published articles on the business threats posed by regulation of climate change.

Federalist society for law ($542,000) advocates inaction on global warming

National center for policy analysis ($130,000) NCPA disseminates climate science scepticism.

American council on science and health ($113,800) Has published papers claiming that cutting greenhouse emissions would be detrimental to public health. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Chagos Islanders attack plan to turn archipelago into protected area

UK government proposals a ploy to block displaced Chagossians from returning to their homeland, say campaigners

In pictures: wildlife of the Chagos
Tony Juniper: a chance to preserve a natural wonder

The 55 islands and the sparkling seas around them are famed for their clean waters and pristine coral reefs. They are described by naturalists as the "other Galapagos", "a lost paradise" and a "natural wonder" and are officially recognised as a biodiversity hotspot of global importance.

This week the British government, backed by nine of the world's largest environment and science bodies, including the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Royal Society, the RSPB and Greenpeace, is expected to signal that the 210,000 sq km area around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean will become the world's largest marine reserve. If it does, all fishing, collection of corals and hunting for turtles and other wildlife will be banned across an area twice the size of the British isles.

More than 275,000 people from more than 200 nations have sent messages in support of Britain's full protection of the Chagos Islands and their surrounding waters, but one group is distinctly uneasy.

The original Chagossians, who were deported between 1967 and 1973 to make way for a giant US nuclear air force base on the largest island, Diego Garcia, say they would in effect be barred from ever returning because the marine protection zone would stop them fishing, their main livelihood. "There would be a natural injustice. The fish would have more rights than us," said Roch Evenor, secretary of the UK Chagos Support Association, who left the island when he was four.

The islanders, who number about 4,000 and live in exile in Britain, Mauritius and elsewhere, have battled through the British courts for nearly 20 years for the right to return and appeared to have won an important victory in 2000 when the then foreign secretary, Robin Cook, decided in their favour. But following the September 11 attacks, the UK government reversed Cook's decision and the Chagos case has migrated between courts. Most recently, the House of Lords ruled against them after Britain cited American security concerns. Their last hope is that the European court of human rights will overturn the decision in their favour in the next few months.

Today, Chagossian supporters accused the government of duplicity. "The British government's plan for a marine protected area is a grotesquely transparent ruse designed to perpetuate the banning of the people of Mauritius and Chagos from part of their own country," said Ram Seegobin, of the Mauritian party Lalit de Klas, in a letter to Greenpeace seen by the Guardian. "The conservation groups have fallen into a trap. They are being used by the government to prevent us returning," said Evenor.

They were backed by Clive Stafford Smith, director of the human rights group Reprieve, who has challenged the UK government on the use of Diego Garcia by the US to render suspected terrorists. "The truth is that no Chagossian has anything like equal rights with even the warty sea slug. There is no sense that the British government will let them go back. The government is not even contemplating equal rights for Chagossians and sea slugs."

Supporters of the islanders also suspect that the timing of the announcement of the protected area is highly political. "Clearly, the British government is preparing a fall-back plan; if they lose the case in Europe, then there will be another 'reason' for denying the banished people their right of return," said Olivier Bancoult, a Chagossian leader in Mauritius.

Today, scientists and conservationsists denied that they were being "used" by the government.

"The UK government agrees that a marine protection area will not create a barrier for the Chagossians to return. The two issues are separate. If the Chagossians are given a right to return, any conservation measures will be adjusted. The aim is to protect the reserve now so that the resources there would be available for the Chagossians if and when they return. As it is, the seas there are being heavily depleted by French and Taiwanese fleets," said a spokeswoman for the US-based Pew environment group, which is expected to contribute millions of dollars to establish the reserve.In a letter on its website, Greenpeace said: "[We] acknowledge and support the Chagossians in their struggle, and hope that they are successful. But at the moment, the Chagos Islands are being administered by the UK government, and whatever way you look at it, taking steps to protect the marine life there is a good idea. If and when the Chagossians are repatriated, then the protection of the seas around the archipelago will need to be readdressed, and yes, that may well involve allowing fishing by the islanders."

But David Snoxell, former high commissioner to Mauritius, said the marine reserve would set up a significant barrier to the Chagossians' return. "The environment groups were beguiled [into giving their support]. If the government were to designate a protection area they would be erecting a psychological, legal and economic barrier against the Chagossians, and send a strong message that they would not be welcome in their homeland. It would be highly prejudicial." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

The trillion-dollar question is: who will now lead the climate battle?

Political and business leaders gather this week in an attempt to revive the world's faltering challenge to global warming. But they face a battle to lift the cloud of scepticism that has descended over climate science and chart a new way forward

Some of the planet's most powerful paymasters will gather in London on Wednesday to discuss a nagging financial problem: how to raise a trillion dollars for the developing world. Those charged with achieving this daunting goal will include Gordon Brown, directors of several central banks, the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, the economist Lord (Nicholas) Stern and Larry Summers, President Obama's chief economics adviser.

As an array of expertise, it is formidable: but then so is the task they have been set by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. In effect, the world's top financiers have been told to work out how to raise at least $100bn a year for the rest of this decade, cash that will be used to help the world's poorest countries adapt to climate change.

"The prices we pay for our goods do not reflect one key cost: the damage that their production does to the planet's climate system," said Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the LSE. "We need to find ways to extract payment from those who cause that damage and then use that money to fund developing nations so that they can protect themselves from the worst effects of global warming."

And to raise those funds the Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing has made clear that it will consider everything – from placing levies on international aviation and shipping, to enlarging carbon markets, introducing financial transaction taxes and using the International Monetary Fund's special reserve currency. You name it and it will be run up the flagpole – for success in establishing a developing world finance plan is now considered crucial to the success of next December's UN climate change meeting in Mexico. "Finance is a prerequisite for a climate agreement," said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climage Change, on Friday. "Developing countries are very sensitive about this. Talks will collapse without strong and secure financing in place."

It sounds familiar, and so it should: these new discussions mark a renewal of global climate talks that ended only three months ago at the Copenhagen UN summit, which failed to set a deal to control emissions of carbon dioxide.

Politicians and negotiators are preparing another assault on the issue, though this time talks will be very different. For a start, climate science has suffered damaging setbacks. There was the leaking from the University of East Anglia's climate research unit of email exchanges between some of the world's top meteorologists as well as the discovery that a UN assessment report on climate change had vastly exaggerated the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers.

The former revelation suggested some researchers were involved in massaging the truth, sceptics claimed, while the latter exposed deficiencies in the way the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – authors of the report – go about their business. The overall effect has been to damage the credibility of the large number of scientists who fear our planet faces climatic disaster. Trying to restart stalled negotiations will be very hard.

Yet increased scepticism is only part of the problem for negotiators. Since December, new political groupings have emerged. China, India, South Africa and Brazil, known as the "Basics" nations, have assumed climate leadership roles, while the European Union has retreated from the front line. Nothing is quite what it was.

Consider the US. Obama – fresh from his successes in passing his health bill and his nuclear arms talks with Russia – has indicated he is turning his attention to climate change. At an hour-long meeting last week, his climate and energy adviser Carol Browner and White House legislative affairs director Phil Schiliro discussed the prospects of a climate change bill with Senate leader Harry Reid and other senior Capitol Hill Democrats. Three senators – Democrat John Kerry, independent Joe Lieberman and Republican Lindsey Graham – have also been holding talks to draw up legislation. Their planned bill looks set to be released next month.

For campaigners, these developments seem encouraging, while Obama's critics are angry. "The administration has shown it is prepared to draw up a partisan bill and force it through. If that is their model of governing, then there is no limit to what they will do," said Ken Green, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative thinktank.

A US climate law will be primarily aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But the devil, as always, will be in the details, for the bill is likely to include many provisions that will anger the green lobby. Graham wants to include measures that would boost offshore oil drilling on America's continental shelf, while recent leaks suggest funds may be provided for so-called "clean coal" power stations. In addition, there is likely to be support for nuclear power. All three ideas are reviled by environmentalists.

Barack Obama's move on climate change is therefore far less radical than it seems, for the simple fact is that there is little political appetite to repeat the dramas that marred healthcare reform. The new legislation will therefore be softened in order to ensure Republican support. "It is not going to be a one-party push. I am sure we can get 60 votes to support this," said Tad Segal, a spokesman for the US Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of environmental and business groups in favour of new laws limiting emissions. As Washington insiders know all too well, that is the way US law is passed, no matter what the concerns of the rest of the planet. "In America, even with climate change, all politics is local," said Segal.

The prospect of such a weak US move on climate change has not gone down well. "Countries are losing patience with the US. There may be sympathy for Obama, who clearly faces a difficult domestic situation, but it is now clear that the US wants to take another path on climate change and is demanding everyone goes with it," said a source in one European embassy last week.

This point was backed by Liz Gallagher of Cafod, the Roman Catholic development agency. "The talks cannot go back to where they were. The rest of the world has realised that the US will not change and the only way to progress may be to leave the US behind and show them that they will lose out in the green race."

This difference in attitude is likely to reach a showdown in Bonn next month over which negotiating text is used for future discussions. The US wants to adopt the weak accord agreed in Copenhagen, while most developing countries – including China, India and Brazil – say it has no legal standing and that the talks must continue with the far stronger framework that was agreed at Kyoto a decade earlier.

Significantly, this latter group is backed by the distinguished UN climate chief Yvo de Boer. "I think we'll continue on the two-track approach. For the developing countries, the presence of the Kyoto protocol is very important," he said. He is also supported by more than 200 of the world's largest environment and development groups, including Friends of the Earth International, Christian Aid, Third World Network, Jubilee South and the World Development Movement, which have called for a total rejection of the Copenhagen accord and urged countries to resume twin-track talks.

However, other observers believe the US has in effect forced its views on the world because no rich country is prepared to take it on.

"We are in a world of disarray. The US is laughing and there is no evidence that rich countries have the appetite to take on the US and go it alone. It is a mess," said Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, an inter-governmental developing country think tank based in Geneva.

It is a depressing backdrop for Wednesday's talks in London, but it does not mean that all is lost.

"If the US agrees to limit its emissions in only a modest way, that will be an immense improvement on America's previous stance," said the Grantham Research Institute's Ward. "And while it may seem daunting to talk about raising a trillion dollars for developing nations to deal with the impact of global warming, we should note that this represents an investment that is far lower than the one that was required to save the world's financial system in 2008.

"Had it gone down, the consequences would have been grim. But if we don't face up to global warming, then the impact will be far worse. This point is not lost on the Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing and I think that we will get global action to tackle global warming very soon. We should not be too downhearted yet." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Budget 2010: pale green measures that could bring 80m-tonne cut in CO2

Alistair Darling's low-carbon commitments were slim, but Treasury figures show plans for biomass and electric cars amount to big emissions savings

It looked like the palest of green budgets but Treasury calculations suggested that the series of small but significant transport, tax and investment measures announced could cumulatively lead to the reduction of nearly 80m tonnes of CO2 - nearly 15% of all UK climate change emissions - by 2020.

The biggest benefits, said the Treasury, should come from the new green investment bank which the government hopes will encourage a £2bn kick-start for the low carbon economy. Together with initiatives - that the chancellor did not specify in his speech - to encourage biomass burning as opposed to fossil fuels, help for electric and other ultra-low carbon vehicles, this could lead to a saving of 51m tonnes of CO2 by 2020, it says. The new bank, it said, will have an exclusive low carbon focus, and will concentrate on green transport infrastructure and offshore wind.

Fuel duty increases between 2010 and 14 should reduce emissions by another 1.7m tonnes of CO2 and the chancellor should save 2m tonnes of CO2 by committing all government departments to cut their own emissions by 30%. A £60m grant to further develop an unnamed north-east port - believed to be Blythe - to serve the burgeoning offshore North Sea wind-power industry, as well as a business package to encourage investment in low carbon technologies, should save another 8m tonnes, said the Treasury.

Transport measures like fuel duty increases and car tax exemption for zero-carbon cars should encourage businesses to choose ultra-low and zero-carbon cars and vans, so saving 18m tonnes. Increasing the tax on landfill and aggregates should reduce emissions by 4m tonnes by 2020 and shift 600,000 extra tonnes of waste from holes in the ground.

The set-piece green measure of the budget was the heavily trailed green investment bank with £2bn of capital, half from the public purse. This drew praise from many quarters.

"A single government body responsible for evaluating, assessing and backing infrastructure investments can only be a good thing," said Nick Chism, head of KPMG's global infrastructure practice. "However, the proposed fund only covers a fraction of the estimated £400bn the UK needs in infrastructure investment over the next 10 years."

"The green investment bank, alongside the Committee on Climate Change and carbon budgets, forms a central plank of the UK's now very credible decarbonisation strategy. Over time it can grow to further support British industry through a diversified range of financial products focusing on energy efficiency, smart and super-grids, renewable energy and carbon capture and storage," said Nick Mabey, chief executive of sustainable development non-profit organisation E3G.

"We're disappointed there was no action to tax business jets, which currently pay no fuel tax and in many cases pay no air passenger duty either," said Campaign for Better Transport director Stephen Joseph. "The new infrastructure bank is welcome, but it must be used to fund green urban transport schemes such as trams, as well as electric cars." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

UN report: World's biggest cities merging into 'mega-regions'

Trend towards 'endless cities' could significantly affect population and wealth in the next 50 years

The world's mega-cities are merging to form vast "mega-regions" which may stretch hundreds of kilometres across countries and be home to more than 100 million people, according to a major new UN report.

The phenomenon of the so-called "endless city" could be one of the most significant developments - and problems - in the way people live and economies grow in the next 50 years, says UN-Habitat, the agency for human settlements, which identifies the trend of developing mega-regions in its biannual State of World Cities report.

The largest of these, says the report - launched today at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro - is the Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou region in China, home to about 120 million people. Other mega-regions have formed in Japan and Brazil and are developing in India, west Africa and elsewhere.

The trend helped the world pass a tipping point in the last year, with more than half the world's people now living in cities.

The UN said that urbanisation is now "unstoppable". Anna Tibaijuka, outgoing director of UN-Habitat, said: "Just over half the world now lives in cities but by 2050, over 70% of the world will be urban dwellers. By then, only 14% of people in rich countries will live outside cities, and 33% in poor countries."

The development of mega-regions is regarded as generally positive, said the report's co-author Eduardo Lopez Moreno: "They [mega-regions], rather than countries, are now driving wealth."

"Research shows that the world's largest 40 mega-regions cover only a tiny fraction of the habitable surface of our planet and are home to fewer than 18% of the world's population [but] account for 66% of all economic activity and about 85% of technological and scientific innovation," said Moreno.

"The top 25 cities in the world account for more than half of the world's wealth," he added. "And the five largest cities in India and China now account for 50% of those countries' wealth."

The migration to cities, while making economic sense, is affecting the rural economy too: "Most of the wealth in rural areas already comes from people in urban areas sending money back," Moreno said.

The growth of mega-regions and cities is also leading to unprecedented urban sprawl, new slums, unbalanced development and income inequalities as more and more people move to satellite or dormitory cities.

"Cities like Los Angeles grew 45% in numbers between 1975-1990, but tripled their surface area in the same time. This sprawl is now increasingly happening in developing countries as real estate developers promote the image of a 'world-class lifestyle' outside the traditional city," say the authors.

Urban sprawl, they say, is the symptom of a divided, dysfunctional city. "It is not only wasteful, it adds to transport costs, increases energy consumption, requires more resources, and causes the loss of prime farmland."

"The more unequal that cities become, the higher the risk that economic disparities will result in social and political tension. The likelihood of urban unrest in unequal cities is high. The cities that are prospering the most are generally those that are reducing inequalities," said Moreno.

In a sample survey of world cities, the UN found the most unequal were in South Africa. Johannesburg was the least equal in the world, only marginally ahead of East London, Bloemfontein, and Pretoria.

Latin American, Asian and African cities were generally more equal, but mainly because they were uniformly poor, with a high level of slums and little sanitation. Some of the most the most egalitarian cities were found to be Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh.

The US emerged as one of the most unequal societies with cities like New York, Chicago and Washington less equal than places like Brazzaville in Congo-Brazzaville, Managua in Nicaragua and Davao City in the Phillippines.

"The marginalisation and segregation of specific groups [in the US] creates a city within a city. The richest 1% of households now earns more than 72 times the average income of the poorest 20% of the population. In the 'other America', poor black families are clustered in ghettoes lacking access to quality education, secure tenure, lucrative work and political power," says the report.

The never-ending city

Cities are pushing beyond their limits and are merging into new massive conurbations known as mega-regions, which are linked both physically and economically. Their expansion drives economic growth but also leads to urban sprawl, rising inequalities and urban unrest.

The biggest mega-regions, which are at the forefront of the rapid urbanisation sweeping the world, are:

• Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou, China, home to about 120 million people;

• Nagoya-Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe, Japan, expected to grow to 60 million people by 2015;

• Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo region with 43 million people in Brazil.

The same trend on an even larger scale is seen in fast-growing "urban corridors":

• West Africa: 600km of urbanisation linking Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana, and driving the entire region's economy;

• India: From Mumbai to Dehli;

• East Asia: Four connected megalopolises and 77 separate cities of over 200,000 people each occur from Beijing to Tokyo via Pyongyang and Seoul. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

227 million people escape world's slums, UN report finds

Nearly a quarter of a billion people were lifted out of slum conditions in the last decade, but number of slum-dwellers continues to rise

China and India, the world's most populous countries, have together lifted 125 million people out of slums in the last decade, while a further 112 million escaped poor conditions in the rest of the world, according to a new report from UN-Habitat, the UN agency for human settlements.

But increasing urbanisation has led to many more new slum-dwellers, meaning the total number now living in crowded, substandard housing – often without safe drinking water and sanitation – has increased by nearly 55 million people since 2000. The worldwide number of slum-dwellers now stands at 827 million and is on course to grow to 889 million by 2020.

Two-thirds of the world's slum-dwellers now live in Africa, the report found, the only continent to have made little progress in reducing slum numbers in the last decade.

Although north Africa made considerable progress reducing slum numbers, the 34 sub-Saharan African countries between them only improved the living conditions of 17 million slum-dwellers in the last decade. These countries now have virtually 200 million people – over 60% of their populations – living in slums. This proportion was only a slight improvement on 2000 figures.

Continual Chinese and Indian economic growth has radically reduced the numbers of people living in unacceptable housing in those countries but the most improved countries were Indonesia, Morocco and Argentina, which each reduced their slum populations by more than 40%.

While countries comfortably achieved the Millennium development goal to lift 100 million people out of slums by 2020, the UN says slum numbers will inevitably increase in the short term.

It warned: "The current global financial crisis poses a risk that advances in slum upgrading and prevention may be reversed. In addition, some gains can be undone by responses that do not take population growth into account."

Conflicts have increased the number of slum-dwellers by at least 10% in Central African Republic and Cote d'Ivoire. Elsewhere, countries like Ethiopia, Benin and Malawi now have more than 70% of their populations living in slums.

Southern Asia now has 190.7 million slum dwellers (35% of the population) and eastern Asia 189.6 million (28.2%).

Developed countries have about 6% of their populations living in unacceptable housing conditions, says the report. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

UK air pollution causes 50,000 early deaths a year, say MPs

Minute particles from burning fuel can shorten lives by up to nine years, according to the environment audit committee

Fifty-thousand people a year may be dying prematurely because of air pollution, a influential committee of MPs has reported after a six-month investigation.

According to the environment audit committee, minute sooty particles, emitted largely from the burning of diesel and other fuels and inhaled deeply into the lungs, shortens lives by seven to eight months. In pollution hotspots like areas of central London and other cities, the particles could be cutting vulnerable people's lives short by as much as nine years.

The committee, which took evidence from government ministers as well as medical experts, said it was shocked so little was being done to address the problem, despite the health evidence and threats from Europe to take Britain to court and fine it millions of pounds a year until improvements are made.

In a series of Commons meetings, the committee heard the government had been breaking EU air quality laws for more than a decade and also extracted new figures from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. These showed that the scale and seriousness of the long-term problem had been known for many years but had been repressed.

Long-term air pollution, from the sooty particles known as PM10s, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), it was told, makes asthma worse and exacerbates heart disease and respiratory illness.

"Despite these considerable impacts on public health, very little effort is being put into reducing air pollution levels, compared with efforts to tackle smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity. Much more needs to be done to save lives and reduce the enormous burden air pollution is placing on the NHS," said the committee chair, Tim Yeo.

"The large EU fines we face, if we don't get to grips with this problem, should now focus ministers' minds", he said.

"Air pollution from road vehicles causes the most damage to health. A dramatic shift in transport policy is required if air quality is to be improved," concluded the report. "This means removing the most polluting vehicles from the road, cleaning up the vehicles that remain and encouraging smarter choices about transport. Many of the policies needed to reduce transport emissions have the added benefits of tackling climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions."

The air pollution problem is particularly acute in London where there has been a political standoff between the mayor, Boris Johnson, and central government, with each blaming the other for inaction.

Simon Birkett, director of Clean Air for London (Cal), a small group which has led efforts to expose the full extent of air pollution and the official reluctance to address the problem, said the inquiry confirmed Cal's estimates of premature deaths.

"This report shames Britain. The government should respond immediately by giving Mayor Johnson full responsibility for complying with limit values for dangerous airborne particles (PM10s) in London; publishing its plans for complying with legal standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx); and communicating clearly estimates for the number of premature deaths due to poor air quality," said Birkett.

"Why did it take an inquiry by one of parliament's most powerful select committees to get a government minister to refer, for the very first time, to the possibility of 35,000 premature deaths in the UK in a year due to air pollution?" he asked. "Why has the government never published an estimate for the number of premature deaths due to long-term exposure to dangerous airborne particles? Before the inquiry, the highest government number we had heard before was "up to 24,000 deaths per year"."

Environment groups said the report showed the folly of trying to expand Heathrow airport with a third runway. Geraldine Nicholson, from the No third runway action group, said: "The air quality limits have, in recent years, been consistently exceeded in the area around Heathrow airport and will not be met in 2010 or the foreseeable future."

"There are still no measures in place to help improve our air quality as it is today. The addition of a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow are proof that the UK government is, once again, swimming against the tide and is putting economic and industrial interests over the health and wellbeing of local residents."

Local authority chiefs also called for action. "The risk to people's health and the threat of fines from the EU leave no excuse for inaction and we need a co-ordinated national approach to policy and improving public awareness," said the LACORS chairman, councillor Paul Bettison.

"The full impacts on Londoners' health need to be spelled out clearly by the mayor and the government in their official documents. It appears that official statements made in previous years have completely underestimated the serious nature of the impacts on human health and the mayor needs to come clean," said Darren Johnson, Green party London assembly member.

A Defra spokesperson said: "We take improving air quality and meeting EU targets very seriously and have already made significant achievements – since 1990 we have succeeded in reducing sulphur dioxide emissions by 86% and have nearly halved particulates."

He added: "We are working across government to reduce emissions further, including transport and electricity generation. But we recognise that there is more to do and will consider the EAC report carefully."

A spokesperson for the Mayor Johnson said: "We welcome this influential Committee's findings and its recommendations [but] London cannot act alone in solving this problem. Additional funding and action is required from government ... if EU targets are to be met in the capital. The Mayor will shortly be publishing an air quality strategy for public consultation." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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