Sunday, February 14, 2010

Climate change – a torrent of EU money

If you happen to be wandering down High Holborn in London, you will hardly notice New Penderel House but, if you did, you might catch sight of a nameplate, one of many, just inside the lobby, announcing the London headquarters of New Energy Finance Ltd.

Apart from the name, there would no other clues as to the nature of the company, still less that it is one of the new breed of parasites living off the hype over "climate change". Part of the Bloomberg empire, with offices in New York, Washington and throughout the world, including Peking and Delhi, it was set up to exploit the burgeoning and totally artificial carbon market, grabbing money indiscriminately from wherever the trail led.

And in November 2008, one of those trails led to Brussels, where the EU Commission's Directorate-General Environment kindly awarded it a €196,625 contract – excluding VAT - to analyse the carbon market.

This is but one example of the torrent of money – provided by increasingly unwilling taxpayers – which is pouring out of Brussels, filling the coffers of disparate commercial companies, research institutes, academia and even public relation companies, all under the generic heading of "climate change" and closely related matters.

As with the UK government though, the spending is so fragmented and dispersed in the budgets of different spending departments (or Directorate-Generals – DGs – as they are called in Brussels) that it is virtually impossible to get a clear idea of quite how much money is being spent. But, by following the trail of contracts awarded by the Commission for work related to climate change, it is clear that hundreds of millions, running into billions of euros, is pouring out of the system.

New Energy Finance Ltd, for instance, was able to score again. Having completed its work on assessing the carbon market, it bid for a seminar to carry out a "travelling seminar on the outcome", delivering amongst others, 30 2-day seminars, 1 in each EU Member State and 1 each in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, targeting operators, market intermediaries and authorities. Two seminars were also to be organised in the United States targeting federal and state government and Congress staff as well as operators and market intermediaries.

The company was successful in its bid and, in January of this year it was awarded a contract worth €399,951 – excluding VAT – for delivery of the seminars.

The range and scale of the projects being commissioned is quite staggering. Even DG Taxation and Customs Union gets involved. In September 2008, it was looking for answers on whether VAT rates differentiation could be used to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For that, it awarded a contract to Copenhagen Economics, for a mere €121,100 - excluding VAT, of course.

DG energy and transport, on the other hand, bought a "feasibility and impact assessment on the use of alternative fuels, including biofuels, for aviation." With regard to "the need to limit the contribution of aviation to greenhouse gas emissions", in March 2009 it awarded the French National Aerospace Research Centre, Onera the eye-watering sum of €5,613,160 - excluding VAT.

In preparation for the Copenhagen summit, in January 2009 the EU decided to commission a "a set of assessment of policy scenarios affecting land use in EU-27", to serve as a basis for the definition of policy options in the context of the work on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The contract was awarded to the Dutch company Alterra BV, which walked away with €284,000 - excluding VAT.

Then, for the post-Copenhagen negotiations, it was looking for more information and thus commissioned a study on "the assessment of international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to the EU, with a particular focus on sectoral approaches and carbon leakage." That contract – worth €299,786, excluding VAT - was awarded in January of this year, going to the Öko-Institut in Freiburg, Germany.

The Öko-Institut was to get another bonanza in January 2010, when it was awarded a contract to assist with "the revision of Decision 280/2004 ('MM Decision') in view of the agreed climate change and energy package." That cost us €347,350 – excluding VAT.

A Danish consultancy group also made a tidy penny. This was COWI, which in February 2009 won a contract worth €150,000 for "assessing the interactions of climate change policies and measures with non-environmental policies."

But the work on offer is by no means always so "hard-edged". There is considerable funding going the propaganda effort as well. A central part of that is the Environment DG's external newsletter "Environment for Europeans". In December 2009, a 36-month contract was awarded to Mostra SA in Brussels to produce it, the value running to €522,000 – excluding VAT.

Another part of the propaganda effort is the creation of various awards, not least for the business community. Thus did the commission establish the European Business Awards for the Environment (EBAE).

Inevitably, such ventures require administration, so to help it out, in October 2009 DG Environment awarded a contract for running the EBAE secretariat and to coordinate preparations for the EBAE awards ceremony.

The lucky winner was the Brussels-based PR company Pracsis, which specialises in "enhancing public awareness about environmental and energy issues at local, regional, national and international level." And for this little venture, it was paid a mere €241,875 – excluding VAT of course.

Pracsis, in fact, does very well out of the EU, winning in July 2009 a four-year contract worth €5,000,000 for "event and exhibition organisation, materials and services" in the field of the environment.

That, incidentally, was one part of a three-part contract. The European Service Network in Brussels got €6,000,000 for "paper and web-based publication services, graphic design and editorial work" supporting the Directorate-General for the Environment, and D-Side SA, also based in Brussels, got €1,000,000 for the "production and delivery of customised, environmentally-friendly give-aways, gadgets and conference bags; compilation and delivery of conference packs."

This spending did not include a very special item. DG Environment, in a contract announced in November 2009, spent €215,000 on renting space renting in the EU Pavilion at the Bella Centre in Copenhagen during the December summit.

In preparation for that summit, incidentally, the EU has to produce its "5th national communication" to the UNFCCC. This, it contracted out, in November 2008 to Ecofys Netherlands, for the sum of €399,700 – excluding VAT.

Immediately prior to the summit, in October 2009, we also paid for a "study on the design of a business and government consultative body as part of the future international climate change framework" – part of the "sectoral approaches to fostering international action on climate change". The contract was won by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, in Geneva, valued at €262,566 – excluding VAT.

In another area, DG Energy and Transport remains a big spender, especially when it comes to biofuels. Thus, in December 2009, it forked out €1,480,070 to the Dutch company Ecofys Netherlands BV in Utrecht – a "key player in the field of sustainable energy solutions and climate change issues".

This was to provide the Commission with information from Member States and the main third countries exporting biofuels to the EU "in order to establish a set of baseline data on biofuel production and policies, and their impacts."

The period covered was to be 2008 and, for its money, the Commission also wanted a "proposal for methodology for regular monitoring and reporting on the impacts from increased consumption of biofuels in the EU and the main third countries of supply from 2008 onwards," as well as "input data and their analysis for the purposes of the next biofuels progress report to be published in 2010."

Ecofys Netherlands BV were also beneficiaries of another dollop of cash, handed out in December 2009, to provide the Commission with "inputs necessary for the guidance setting out the practical measures for the implementation of the biofuel sustainability scheme, as well to develop additional reference documents that facilitate its practical implementation." That little venture cost a mere €462,546 - excluding VAT.

DG Environment, however, does venture into the transport field. In January this year, it commissioned a "comparative international review of third country measures to reduce the climate impact of transport." The contract was awarded to the British Transport Research Laboratory in Wokingham, costing us €394,917 – excluding VAT.

Earlier, in October 2008, it got interested in "European action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international maritime transport". Seeking technical support, it awarded a contract to CE Delft BV, in the Netherlands, for the sum of €450,000 - excluding VAT.

Work on "preparation of monitoring, reporting and verification guidelines for aviation's inclusion in the EU Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme," however, cost us a mere €184,234, the contract being awarded in October 2007 to Entec UK Ltd, of 17 Angel Gate City Road, London.

In February 2009, DG Environment also awarded a contract for "technical support for assessing options for European action to reduce green house gas emissions from transport in the period to 2050." This went to AEA Technology plc, in Didcot, Oxfordshire, and cost €480,500 – excluding VAT.

This was not the first time AEA Technology had received EU funds. In October 2007, it was awarded two contracts One was on the "quantification of the effects on greenhouse gas emissions of policies and measures". That little lot was worth €663,446 – excluding VAT.

The other, awarded on exactly the same day, was for "streamlining climate change and air pollution reporting requirements". That only cost us €379,000 – excluding VAT.

The AEA was to get yet another contract in January 2010 for €519,526 – excluding VAT. This was for the next phase of the European climate change programme: "analysis of Member States' actions to implement the Effort Sharing Decision and options for further EU-wide measures."

Only the following month AEA was to get yet another contract. This was on for a service contract for sustainable industrial policy, building on the Ecodesign Directive - energy-using product group analysis – a project to reduce energy consumption of various types of equipment. For its part in the contract worth €895,666 the AEA took €259,059 for assessing sound and imaging equipment: DVD/video players and recorders, video projectors and video game consoles.

For a "service contract on model-based assessment of EU energy and climate change policies for post-2012 regime", DG Environment, in December 2009, turned to the Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS), in Athens. That cost us €557,212 - excluding VAT.

Another Athens firm was the beneficiary of our money, ICCS of NTUA, Zografou Campus, Athens. This was in January 2008, the project on climate modelling. The objective was "to make available updated, quantitative tools and to use these tools to assess proposals resulting from the energy-climate package in the medium (up to 2020) and long term (up to 2030/2050) ". This cost €394,500 excluding VAT.

DG Environment also spread our money about to get an assessment of climate change impacts and adaptation measures "with a specific focus on water related impacts and measures." It also wanted "an integrated analytical platform at a detailed geographical level, providing the basis for the identification of adaptation measures to be either promoted or prevented at EU level."

For that, it awarded a contract in January 2010 worth €605,646 - excluding VAT – to University of Kassel, in Germany.

That same month it gave the Swedish Environmental Research Institute a contract worth €149,900 - excluding VAT - "to improve understanding of greenhouse gas impacts of using peat or peat-grown biomass for transport fuels or other types of energy".

Climate change down on the farm also caught the eye of DG Environment, which decided that it wanted help to "prepare the concepts and tools for, and a tentative model on, farm climate change mitigation actions (including carbon sequestration), so as to enable farmers to take actions at farm level to reduce their emissions, and to enable policy makers to better design policies to achieve the same objective."

For that, in November 2009, it awarded a contract to the University of Hertfordshire for €142,868 - excluding VAT.

In October 2009, it had also given the Bio Intelligence Service in Paris a contract worth €147,663 - excluding VAT – to "provide as complete and accurate a picture as possible of crop rotation practices in the European Union and their environmental impacts, with a particular emphasis on impacts on soil, water, biodiversity, and climate change (adaptation, mitigation and carbon sequestration) ".

There was also a small contract awarded in February 2007 - a study on adaptation to climate change in the agricultural sector. This cost £95,537 - excluding VAT – and it was awarded to our old friend AEA Technology.

Out of the budget, though, is also the funding for the European Environment Agency, based in Copenhagen. And, tucked into its spending is an incongruously human note. In July 2008 it was awarded a contract for "services to enhance the cultural awareness of European Environment Agency staff and/or to provide guidance for expatriates living in Denmark."

For that, European taxpayers will be pleased to learn that this was a fairly modest effort, costing a mere €25,000 - excluding VAT. That brings the sum total of this tiny sample of spending to €28,814,544 - and that's without even looking at the €1.9 billion in the Seventh Research Framework Programme, which is allocated to climate change.

But at least no one can accuse the European Environment Agency of lacking in cultural sensitivity.