Geoffrey Lean

Geoffrey Lean, Contributing Editor (Environment) at London's Daily Telegraph, has been covering the field for almost 40 years and has won many national and international awards for his work.

Big bright green cleantech machine

Did China block Copenhagen progress to pave way for its own dominance in cleantech?

You hear it all the time, one of the most frequently voiced excuses for Western countries failing to radically cut carbon dioxide emissions: Taking any such action would hand a massive competitive advantage to fast-industrializing China. Yet evidence is piling up that the very opposite is the case. The main challenge from the world’s new industrial superpower is not that it will continue to use the dirty, old technologies of the past, but that it will come to dominate the new, clean, green ones of the future. As developed nations fail to put an adequate price on carbon, and thus …

Who's leading whom?

Developing nations continue to lead post-Copenhagen

It was one of the biggest surprises in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit, and it may be one of the best reasons for hope now that the meeting has ended in disappointment. Rapidly industrializing developing countries are pressing ahead with their plans to reduce the growth in their carbon emissions, despite the failure to reach a substantial international agreement in the Danish capital. One by one, as last month’s Copenhagen summit approached, the main developing countries — China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, and Indonesia — announced surprisingly ambitious emission targets. Indeed, measured against what the United Nations’ Intergovernmental …

Letter From Europe

With new year comes second chance to save the world

Just about exactly a year ago, patient readers with long memories may remember, I received a sobering New Year’s Day message. “Today,” it began arrestingly, “is arguably the first day of the most important year in human history.” Once again, the climate clock is ticking…The message — sent to a who’s who of top officials on both sides of the Atlantic, was from Prof. Tom Burke, a close adviser to three successive British Conservative environment secretaries in the 1990s, and one of Europe’s shrewdest observers of green politics. He was referring, of course, to the recent Copenhagen climate summit, which …

Letter from Europe

Copenhagen blame game is obstacle to 2010 climate deal

The holidays are supposed to be the season of goodwill. But that has been in short supply over the past week and a half as governments and environmental groups blame each other for the disappointing outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit. Did the messy outcome at Copenhagen make it less likely that world governments can reach a deal next year in Mexico?The blame game began with Europe-based environmental groups pointing the finger at President Obama and the United States. Greenpeace International said the U.S. had “dragged the talks down,” while Christian Aid singled out Obama for special condemnation and decried …

COP16 or Bust

Seven steps to achieving a real climate deal

So where do we go from here? How do we get from the disorganized, disappointing, dispiriting debacle of Copenhagen to a new and worthwhile climate treaty? The world needs solid directions for getting to a real climate deal in Mexico next year.Asking the question recalls the famous joke about the Irishman who, when asked by a motorist to give directions to his destination, replied: “If I wanted to get there, I would not be starting from here.” Indeed, it is rather worse than that — for we never expected to be starting from this point at all. “When negotiations were …

Letter from Europe

All or nothing: a look at the Copenhagen endgame

Well, here we are at last. After two years of largely fruitless negotiations, the real bargaining on the terms of a new global climate pact has just begun. Yvo de Boer, the U.N. official charged with shepherding a new international climate pact, must feel as if he’s carrying the world on his shoulders as COP15 enters its final week.Courtesy UNFCCCAfter a confusing first week of the Copenhagen summit, with conflicting texts of a draft agreement (at least five of them) apparently being drawn up in every corner of the spectacularly ugly Bella Center, some order has finally been imposed on …

Letter from Europe

Twists and turns on the ‘Hope-to-Despair Express’

The Rutschbanen roller coaster.Photo courtesy wikimedia commonsCOPENHAGEN — The Danish capital’s famous Tivoli gardens boasts an equally celebrated roller coaster. Built in 1914, it is the oldest all-wooden one still operating in the world; being at the climate summit here over the last two days has felt like taking as ride on it. In truth, the 15,000 people from over 190 nations attending the summit were always in for a series of stomach-wrenching ups and downs as the vital talks proceeded, with hope alternating with despair. But few expected that the roller coaster ride would start so violently and so …

Letter from Europe

Environmental groups unprepared for ‘Swift Boating’ of climate science

Are the climate skeptics increasingly winning the battle for public opinion? On the very eve of the Copenhagen conference, there are signs that they are — and that environmental groups are allowing them to. Polls on both sides of the Atlantic over the last weeks indicate that fewer people now believe that global warming is taking place or that humanity is responsible. Books by prominent skeptics have become bestsellers. And in the last week a furor about e-mails hacked from a computer at Britain’s University of East Anglia have given added voice to the skeptics’ misinformation campaign that prominent scientists …

ROCKET, man

Copenhagen talks ready for take off: 5, 4, 3…

Will world leaders rocket at Copenhagen?Photo: jurvetson via Flickr Creative CommonsSuddenly — and just in the nick of time — next month’s Copenhagen conference is starting to gain momentum. National leaders have rushed to say they are going, elevating it to the status of a major summit. More and more commitments to action are coming in, from both developed and developing countries. And there are signs that even the United States may put an, albeit provisional, offer on the table. It has all been enough to cheer up the phlegmatic Yvo de Boer, who — as  Executive Director of the …