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Decision by two countries to join scheme exposing corruption in mining and oil industries represents significant breakthrough
Britain and France have both announced they are to join a groundbreaking initiative to expose systematic corruption, mainly in Africa, requiring mining and oil companies to reveal the taxes paid to national governments and the value of the minerals being extracted.
Nearly 40 countries have already signed but the news that France and the UK have joined the initiative represents a breakthrough.
The decision to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative was announced by the French president, François Hollande, and the British prime minister, David Cameron, ahead of a working dinner in Paris.
The UK helped create the EITI in 2002 and has subsequently funded it, but since the UK was not defined as a "resource-rich" country by the International Monetary Fund, the UK did not feel it necessary to join, even after Barack Obama said the US would join in 2011.
Under the initiative, annual reports publish what tax was paid by oil and mineral companies in a country, and the national government publishes what it received. The report is prepared to an international standard overseen by an independent body. The two sums are then reconciled and any gap can be often be attributed to corruption. The move also strengthens the powers of the legislature of countries since they have clearer information on what their executives have received.
The current chair of the EITI is Clare Short, the former international development secretary. In a weekend interview she said: "This is billions and billions and it far outweighs anything that goes across the world in aid. If these monies were properly managed and properly invested and used, hundreds of millions, literally, of people could see a better life. At the moment there's great riches but they're not lifting up the people in poor countries that have become the target of mining and oil investment in this commodity boom in the way that they should."
She said: "You can't force countries, but if a country won't reform and in the worst case that you talk about where you've got a kleptocracy that really is running away with the money, no one can make them change unless they want to.
"But the EITI does leverage change in improvement in some of the countries with really serious problems."
In Washington last week, David Cameron the current chair of the G8 leading economies, called for more openness among energy companies, claiming a veil of secrecy obscures the conduct of the extractive industries.
He announced an urgent review into Britain's failure to join the regime, saying: "We cannot call on other countries to live up to these high standards if we are not prepared to do so ourselves."
The US Securities and Exchange Commission ruled last year that oil and natural gas companies must disclose payments to foreign governments.
At present there are 39 countries involved with the initiative and 23 that are fully compliant.Patrick Wintour
The fuel could become a 'new North Sea' energy business, and create more than 70,000 jobs, according to a new report
Investments in shale gas drilling could yield an industry worth nearly £4bn a year to the UK economy and create more than 70,000 jobs, according to a new report from the Institute of Directors (IoD), becoming a "new North Sea" energy business in the process.
That is higher than previous estimates, and includes a wide variety of jobs from those directly employed in the industry, such as geologists and drilling experts, but also cement manufacturers and people working in local retail and service companies near the drill sites, which is a more controversial measure of employment. The report was published as politicians and businesses met in Brussels to discuss the EU's future energy policy.
Corin Taylor, senior economic advisor at the IoD and lead author of the report, said: "Shale gas could be a new North Sea for Britain, creating tens of thousands of jobs, supporting our manufacturers and reducing gas imports. Further exploration will be needed to assess the size of technically and commercially recoverable resources. At the same time, partnerships need to be established between industry, government and communities to ensure that development of this vital national resource benefits local people."
But green campaigners pointed out that the report had been sponsored by Cuadrilla, the only shale gas company with wells in the UK currently, and said the estimates were based on unlikely scenarios and downplayed the potential destruction and environmental effects of the drilling.
Tony Bosworth, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "This industry-funded report paints a completely distorted view of the benefits of shale gas development in Britain. Shale gas extraction will have a major impact on local communities, undermine efforts to tackle climate change and do little to tackle soaring fuel bills. We should be embarking on a clean energy revolution to develop the huge potential from the wind, waves and sun - not rushing further down the dead end street of fossil fuel production."
The IoD report supported recent suggestions by the government and by MPs that local communities should be offered incentives to encourage them to allow planning permission for drill sites. According to Taylor, the best way to do this would be for local authorities to keep 100% of the business rates from shale gas sites.
But this is controversial, as MPs have said the money for cash incentives should come from the companies extracting the gas, rather than taxpayers.
The report cited government estimates that 76% of the UK's gas would be imported by 2030, costing £15.6bn. Taylor found that, against these estimates, shale gas production if vigorously pursued could reduce gas imports to 37% in 2030, with the cost of imports falling as a result to £7.5bn a year.
Dan Byles, a Conservative MP and chair of the new House of Commons group for supporters of unconventional oil and gas, said: "Shale gas is about more than simply gas. It is about wider British industry, providing secure energy and raw materials for manufacturers. The North Sea is rightly regarded as a model for effective offshore oil and gas regulation. If we get this right, in future I believe the world could look to the UK as the gold standard for a well-regulated and safe shale gas industry that benefits local communities and the nation."
His intervention came as an energy summit took place among the European council in Brussels on Wednesday, aimed at framing the debate for the EU's energy policy beyond 2020, when current renewable and climate change targets expire. Shale gas was one of the topics of discussion, as well as proposed improvements in energy efficiency and the future of Europe's electricity generation.
Mónica Cristina, of Shale Gas Europe, an industry "resource centre", admitted that shale gas was unlikely to have the sorts of impacts on the EU economy as it had in the US, where shale drilling has sent gas prices plummeting amid a glut of the fuel. There is estimated to be less shale gas resource available in Europe, and it will be much more difficult to extract given the high population density. But Cristina said the fuel could make a contribution: "There is a growing understanding amongst European decision-makers that shale gas development can take place within a responsible regulatory regime. The work to provide clarity about the environmental impacts or the compatibility of shale gas development with the agriculture sector, for example, must go on. Europe has the opportunity to take the best practices from North America, doing it right from day one. In the meantime, shale gas exploration must continue in order to enable an accurate assessment of existing resources."
Green MEPs vowed to fight against plans for an expansion of shale gas across Europe. Claude Turmes, green energy spokesperson, said: "Shale gas is not the silver bullet for Europe's energy policy but rather a dangerous Trojan horse. Moves to promote shale gas must be headed-off. Quite apart from the indisputable environmental and health risks associated with shale gas extraction, the economics of this energy-intensive technology are highly questionable and based on unrealistic estimates. The geographical and demographical situation in Europe is even more unsuitable and we should not make the same mistakes here."Fiona Harvey
Ed Davey tells conference that more than one-third of the UK's subsidies for wind, wave and tidal energy is spent in Scotland
Ed Davey, the UK energy secretary, has warned that Scotland could lose billions of pounds in subsidies for renewable energy projects if it voted for independence, putting its green energy revolution at risk.
Davey told a renewable energy conference in Aberdeen that more than one-third of the UK's subsidies for wind, wave and tidal projects – currently £1.4bn a year – was spent in Scotland. That was worth £530m, even though only 9% of all UK electricity sales were in Scotland.
The energy secretary said that there had been pledges of £13bn worth of investment, and 9,143 jobs, announced in Scottish renewables since 2010, with a further £16.5bn of promised investment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
UK-wide investment in renewables would rise to £7.6bn a year by 2020, he said. Asking whether an independent Scotland could ever afford supporting that type of investment with just 10% of the market to fund it, the cabinet minister said: "At present Scottish renewables benefit from the ability to spread investment costs across the whole of the UK consumer base. [I] believe Scottish renewables have flourished precisely because Scotland is part of the United Kingdom. Our collective energy system has underpinned the success seen to date."
Davey's remarks will fuel further conflict with Alex Salmond's government after tit for tat threats about the potential conflicts between Scotland and the UK, assuming the nationalists overturn a big gap in the opinion polls to win next year's independence referendum.
Political tensions between the two governments are growing, raising the stakes over future renewable energy cooperation. The first minister claimed on Tuesday that a future independent Scotland could refuse to pay its £92bn share of the UK's debts if the UK government refused to set up a new sterling currency zone.
Salmond claims that all the current assets of the UK, including sterling, are commonly owned by all parts of the UK, and insists that Scotland's substantial green energy resources – theoretically the largest in Europe - greatly increase the arguments for close cooperation between Edinburgh and London.
Scottish ministers claim that if the rest of UK hopes to hit its post-Kyoto climate and renewable energy targets, it is in London's interests to share the heavy investment needed to exploit Scotland's marine energy reserves.
That potential was underscored at the same conference, when a major new wave power project off the Isle of Lewis – the largest in the world so far – was approved by the Scottish energy minister, Fergus Ewing.
Ewing said Scottish ministers had now agreed a new system for increased funding for marine energy. Up to 50 Oyster 800 wave power machines, totalling 40MW, will be deployed by Edinburgh-based Aquamarine Energy off the island's north-west coast.
UK ministers dispute that the rest of the UK would be heavily reliant on Scottish energy: Irish renewables, nuclear power and the UK's own offshore projects would be heavily used. Scottish power firms, which share a UK-wide "single market" of 23 million consumers, would have to compete with other suppliers, they state.
Davey told delegates in Aberdeen: "We cannot assume that English, Welsh and Northern Irish consumers would still be willing to subsidise Scottish renewables.
"But it will be much harder for a nation potentially having to spread the costs of investment in renewables across just two and a half million households to keep prices competitive."
The £29bn of private sector investment in renewables is money that has been announced by companies, between January 2010 and April 2013, but much of it has not yet been delivered. The Department of Energy and Climate Change was unable to say how much had been deployed and how much was still at the planning stage.
The projects that are being planned are uncertain – some may be windfarms or other installations such as biomass power plants that fail to gain planning permission, and the money also includes other investments that may not go ahead, depending on the financial and political environment.
Private sector investors have repeatedly warned that they will reconsider their investments in renewables in the UK if the political environment is perceived to be hostile or policies liable to be revised in future. Many Tory MPs have fuelled this uncertainty through outspoken attacks on renewables and the subsidies for them.
According to Decc estimates, the number of jobs to be created by the £29bn in private sector money is likely to be about 30,000. That would represent about £1m per job.
However, a department spokesman stressed that this measure is only of the jobs directly created in the projects, and does not include jobs in the supply chain and related industries that will also be supported by the new investments. It also does not take into account existing jobs that are supported by the projects, nor the benefits of an overhaul to the UK's infrastructure.
The comedian says renewable energy projects are subsidy-hunting free enterprise, despoiling 'pristine landscapes'
The comedian Griff Rhys Jones has accused the government of "random desecration" of the countryside and despoiling "pristine landscapes" through its subsidies to wind turbines and solar power.
Responding to criticism of his objection to a solar farm near his home in Suffolk last week, he said it was "not really a Nimby issue," that he was not a climate sceptic and he thought the UK should be powered by new nuclear reactors, not renewable energy.
"We surely need better solutions to global warming than randomly scattered whirly-gigs [sic], and thousands of acres of glinting solar panels, however soothing to our consciences," he wrote in a letter to the Guardian.
Jones has criticised wind turbines as "green tokenism" in the past but his new broadside ups the temperature and broadens his criticism to taxpayer support of green energy, the planning system and the reliability of wind and solar power.
"[The] government is hiding behind subsidy-hunting free enterprise. The result of this has been and is random desecration, with little or no accountability," he said of windfarms that he felt were badly sited. He also suggested the intermittent nature of renewable energy undermined its environmental credentials. "How can we effect [sic] to be green, when we use gas from uncertain fossil fuel driven sources as back up? It is logical to ask why we are assaulting our shrinking countryside in the name of this apparent hypocrisy."
A "distorted" planning system was failing to protect green spaces, he added, but "aiding and abetting an exponential grab at the countryside."
Instead of solar power, which "doesn't operate" at night, he said he would like to see more nuclear power, such as two new planned reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk, because it would cut carbon emissions, provide more power than solar and had a small physical footprint. "I am not a climate change sceptic. I am a solution sceptic," he said.
Jones has emerged as one of the most prominent celebrity opponents of renewable energy. He is not the first well-known TV personality to do so – in 2004, Noel Edmonds gave his backing to anti-wind campaigns following plans for windfarms near his home in Devon.
A spokeswoman for trade body RenewableUK said: "RenewableUK has always advocated a balanced mix to decarbonise our power system and achieve security of supply. The benefits of this can be seen for example when Sizewell B was offline for several months and wind generated the equivalent of electricity for 400,000 homes annually. While no power source generates for 100% of the time, therefore back-up is needed on the system, every unit of wind produced saves us burning polluting imported fossil fuels."
Adam Royle, a spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said that solar farms were of increasing concern to its members. "Solar energy has a role to play in helping the UK to meet its renewable energy targets, as part of a mix of renewable technologies. However CPRE's members and supporters are increasingly concerned about the size and scale of some proposed solar parks, and the impact they could have on the landscape. Applications that would take high grade agricultural land out of productive use are particularly concerning. There is a vacuum in planning policy that the government needs to address so that solar farms do not spoil the countryside, are directed to brownfield sites and are of appropriate size and scale."
Jeremy Leggett, whose comment article in the Guardian Jones was responding to, said: "I'm glad that Griff's whole belief system on energy is out in the open now. It's more useful to have these kinds of debates in a holistic context. Let's see how his case fares in reversing the opinion polls that show big majorities of people favouring 'scattered whirly-gigs, and glinting solar panels', and believing – as the Germans are showing every day – that in fact they do a rather good job of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions."Adam Vaughan
Jones accuses the government of 'random desecration' of the countryside and broadens his criticism to taxpayer support of green energy, the planning system and the reliability of wind and solar power
Select committee report accuses ministers of failing to set clear goals for what they hope to achieve from flagship energy policy
The green deal, the flagship environmental policy of the UK's coalition government intended to make the country's homes more energy efficient, has received a fresh blow after an influential committee of MPs blasted the government on Wednesday morning for failing to quantify what could be counted as a success for the policy.
The parliamentary select committee on energy and climate change accused ministers of failing to set clear goals for what they hoped to achieve from the green deal. That failure would make it harder to achieve substantial outcomes from the policy, the group of MPs said.
Tim Yeo, former Conservative minister and current chair of the committee, said: "It is unacceptable that, three years into the life of this parliament, ministers are unable to explain what success would look like from one of the coalition's flagship policies."
The committee also listed several obstacles to the green deal, including the difficulty for people renting their homes of obtaining consent from their landlords to take up the offers, and that many people might find the hassle of the building works involved in complex renovations – such as solid wall insulation – too offputting for the low level of benefit they are likely to obtain.
The green deal has been beset by problems since it was announced in the early days of the coalition, with its launch delayed by several months until the end of January this year. Critics have called the scheme over-complex – it relies on homeowners taking out loans to cover energy efficiency improvements to their properties, which are paid back over years in the form of additions to energy bills. The loans apply to the property, so any owner selling needs to pass on the liability to the buyer or pay back the loan early, risking penalties. There have also been concerns that the interest rates charged on the loans would deter many households, and that households may be discouraged by the poor reputation of energy companies after a series of mis-selling scandals and price-fixing in the wider industry.
The government rebuffed the committee's claims of obstacles, saying that any household taking up a green deal offer will be guaranteed to save money on energy bills over the lifetime of the loan. However, although the scheme was formally launched in late January, there have been no publicly released figures yet showing how many households have chosen to install energy efficiency measures as a result of the deal. Those figures are due next month.
In the meantime, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said last week that nearly 19,000 green deal assessments had been carried out by the end of April. These are undertaken by green deal suppliers in order to inform interested households of how much they could benefit from measures such as cavity wall insulation or windows and door replacements, but they carry no obligation for the homeowner to follow through with the installation.
In its report on progress under the green deal, the committee said that the government must be able to judge whether take-up levels were low or high enough, and if they were found to be too low, to engineer changes to the policy that would improve its uptake.
Greg Barker, minister for energy and climate change, said the results were encouraging: "It's still early days for this long-term initiative, but this is a clear sign of growing interest from consumers, with people keen to improve the efficiency of their homes to make them warmer and help save money on bills."
Decc has previously estimated that 14m households could benefit from the sorts of improvements that would be financed under the green deal, but it has not said how many people it hoped to reach in each year of the policy's operation. The department said the number of suppliers and experts was also increasing: at the end of April there were 55 authorised green deal providers, as well as 1,274 individuals registered to carry out assessments and 942 organisations signed up to carry out installations.
But industry experts called on the government to heed the warnings of the select committee and put more force behind the green deal, as well as quantifying what would be regarded as success from the initiative. Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: "With rocketing energy bills becoming a real worry for householders, it's encouraging that the government has moved home energy efficiency higher up the agenda. However, while there are positive signs that the green deal is helping to catalyse greater interest in home retrofit, there is a lack of clarity about what success looks like. Government needs to work with the private sector, to produce a clear route map for retrofitting the UK's 26m gas-guzzling homes, detailing what needs to be achieved by when – giving industry the confidence to invest in a new market of energy services and retrofit solutions."
Richard Lloyd, executive director of the consumer advocacy organisation Which?, said: "The government must be clear about what the green deal is expected to achieve, and we welcome the select committee's scrutiny to help hold ministers and officials to account on behalf of consumers. Rising energy prices are consistently one of consumers' top financial concerns so it is right to help people save money by making their homes more energy efficient. The government must act now to make sure that the green deal delivers real savings on energy bills. Any bad practice in selling green deal products must be stamped out as quickly as possible."
Separately, the government announced it would include measures to encourage energy efficiency in the forthcoming energy bill. The decision was welcomed by energy campaigners. Decc said that under its new proposals, companies installing measures that result in permanent reductions in the amount of electricity they use could receive financial incentives. The department said it was deciding whether to "test the proposed approach via a pilot" as a way of gathering evidence on what from the proposed incentive should take.
Andrew Warren, chief executive of the Association for the Conservation of Energy, said: "This is a tremendous triumph for common sense. It is a policy which [we have] campaigned about for over two decades. Throughout that time, every objective study has revealed that it is frequently far cheaper in strategic terms to save electricity than it is to generate electricity. It is very welcome news that at long last the government is legislating so negawatts [amounts of electricity that go unused owing to efficiency measures] will be able to compete on an even playing field with conventional megawatts. We hope that the relevant amendment to the electricity market reform bill will be tabled by the government in time so it can be discussed at the commons report stage [due in about a fortnight]."Fiona Harvey
Complete set of Grand Inga dams on the Congo River would generate a massive 40,000MW of electricity
The dream of harnessing the mighty Congo River with the world's largest set of dams has moved closer, with the World Bank and other financial institutions expected to offer finance and South Africa agreeing to buy half of the power generated.
French, Belgian, Chinese, Brazilian and African engineers have, over 60 years, all hoped to dam the Congo. But decades of civil war, corruption, and the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) reputation as a failed state have limited the hydropower developments at Inga Falls to two relatively small dams, built in 1972 and 1982. These, dubbed Inga 1 and 2, have a theoretical capacity of 1,400MW but produce only about half that.
A new $20bn development to generate a further 4,800MW was announced over the weekend in Paris with work planned to start in October 2015. According to the DRC government, working with European and other consultants, five further stages at Inga Falls could eventually have a capacity of 40,000MW – the equivalent of more than 20 large nuclear power stations.
This would make the complete Grand Inga development the largest hydro project in the world, generating twice as much as the Three Gorges dam in China. In theory, say its backers, it could provide 40% of Africa's electricity needs.
The attraction of developing hydropower on the Congo, says the government, is that unlike most of the world's great dam projects it would not require tens of thousands of people to be relocated, nor would it block the river and result in significant environmental consequences. Because the Congo River around Inga is so vast and falls nearly 100 metres over a short distance, water can be diverted to create a massive new lake without disturbing its main flow.
"The impact on land use is very limited. The development can be progressive and carried out in a series of further phases, eventually providing 40,000MW of power," says the technical data for the proposed development.
The African Development Bank, World Bank, French Development Agency, European Investment Bank and Development Bank of South Africa have all shown interest in financing the next stage of the project. No developer has been chosen but Chinese, Korean and Spanish companies are said to be in the forefront.
Key to the project is South Africa's commitment this week to buy 2,500MW of capacity. "We have affirmed our commitment to the project by already provisioning for this purchase in our budgetary plan," said South Africa Ministry of Energy official, Garrith Bezuidenhoudt.
But the prospect of the local population getting power from Inga in the next 20 years is remote. Less than 10% of the population currently has electricity, with nearly all Inga 1 and 2 power going directly to multinational mining companies in the Katanga "copper belt". It is expected most Inga 3 power would travel 1,500 miles to power-hungry South Africa or large mines in Congo.
Giant hydropower schemes in Africa have a bad track record. "Projects such as Inga 1 and 2 have not unleashed economic development, but have been major contributors to African countries' unsustainable debt burden," said US-based International Rivers network which has led opposition to major dams around the world for 20 years.
In a letter last week to the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, International Rivers and 18 other civil society organisations and networks from Africa, Europe and the United States said the reality of large-scale dams seldom matched their expectations, mostly adding to debt problems and allowing powerful companies to cheaply exploit and export Africa's vast natural resources.
According to the groups, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that because of the continent's low population density, grid-based electrification, including through large hydropower projects, is not cost-effective for much of rural Sub-Saharan Africa.
"Distributed renewable energy solutions such as wind, solar and micro hydropower projects are much more effective at reaching the rural poor. According to the IEA report, 70% of the world's unelectrified rural areas are best served through mini-grids or off-grid solutions," said the letter.
"In the DRC, the World Bank and other financiers have invested billions of dollars in the construction and rehabilitation of the Inga 1 and 2 hydropower projects and associated transmission lines over the past 40 years. After all this investment, 85% of the electricity in the DRC is consumed by high-voltage users, while only 6-9% of the population has access to electricity. We are concerned that the bank's proposed focus on large hydropower projects will write off electricity access for the majority of Africa's poor."John Vidal
Despite billions in profits, the problem of poverty remains largely unresolved in one of the world's least developed countries
Félicité sees nothing unreasonable about her demands. Seated in one of the few shady spots in her yard, she details what she would like to obtain for her family: a decent wage, enough to eat, a health service and cheap building materials so everyone can have a home. "And school really free of charge for all children," adds this resident of Dembé, a poor neighbourhood of N'Djamena, the capital of Chad.
Félicité and her husband arrived here 20 years ago. They are fortunate in having their own home: three huts accommodating the 10 members of the family. Otherwise, life is a struggle. Even as a public-sector worker, her pay does not cover their needs, particularly with the price increases of recent years. "With the oil money all that should have sorted itself out," she complains.
Like many of their compatriots, Félicité's family cannot understand what went wrong. Ten years after the oil started to flow, Chad is still close to the bottom of the human development index, ranked 184th out of 187 by the UN in 2012. It may have started with a big handicap, but little has changed for most people, fuelling widespread discontent towards President Idriss Déby, in power for the past 22 years.
In 10 years oil has earned the country $9.8bn. "On the international market oil prices have soared. We should not feel poverty so harshly," says Delphine Djiraibe, one of the heads of the Chadian Civil Society Network for Peace and Reconciliation (CSAPR) coalition of NGOs, established in 2002, that has repeatedly criticised the poor management of this windfall. "The resentment," she adds, "is particularly strong because oil revenue mainly benefits the elite."
Hopes were high when the Doba oilfields came on stream in 2003, prompting the launch of a new development scheme. The World Bank part-funded buildinga 1,100km pipeline from Chad to Cameroon. In exchange the authorities undertook to pay 10% of the income into a fund for future generations. Of the remainder, 80% was to be allocated to priority development sectors, 5% to the Doba area and no more than 15% to the national budget. But the agreement was short-lived, the cash being primarily used to buy arms to combat various rebel movements.
Peace was restored in 2009 and the focus of spending has shifted. Chad has signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which requires governments to publish details of mining revenues. "The problem now is governance," says Gilbert Maoundonodji of the Gramp/TC NGO, which monitors oil exports. He reckons 80% of revenue is being spent on infrastructure, particularly roads. "Massive, disproportionate investments," he adds, "often a legal way of capturing earnings."
The authorities say that substantial amounts have been spent on development. As well as roads, many schools and hospitals have been built, with various schemes to support farming, which occupies over three-quarters of the population. "It's true," says a humanitarian worker, "but there is an acute lack of planning and supervision."
Last year saw a massive public-sector strike from July to December. "The aim was to obtain a new pay scale, which the government promised in 2011 but never implemented," says trade union leader Michel Barka. Ultimately, an agreement was reached and the minimum wage was doubled.
Despite the lingering resentment there seems little likelihood of a Chadian spring. Unlike Tunisia or Egypt, the majority of the country's youth are still rural. "And who would take the responsibility of calling for demonstrations?" asks Abderamane Gossoumian, a CSAPR official. "What's more, we can make all the demands we like, but there are no politicians to carry them forward."
The recent military intervention in Mali, broadly supported by the Chadian population, has undoubtedly strengthened Déby's hand, but it leaves a bitter taste. "The operation was so dazzling," Djiraibe explains, "it makes us forget our difficulties at home."
• This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le MondeCharlotte Bozonnet
Rates for one-off payments will be increased to support the market as renewable heat incentive delays continue
Payments to help householders switch from heating their homes with oil to greener systems such as biomass boilers and solar thermal will double in most cases, the government is to announce on Monday.
The grants were intended as a stopgap measure until the start this summer of the government's bigger renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme – ongoing payments akin to the feed-in tariff for solar panels but for generating low-carbon heat. But in March, the RHI was postponed until 2014, in a delay that industry said it was "bitterly disappointed" with.
From today, rates for the one-off payments, the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) scheme, will be increased to support the market through the limbo imposed by the delay.
Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker said: "I want to kickstart this exciting new market for consumer renewable heat technologies. This time limited, big increase in the value of vouchers for hardworking people who want to do something positive to install money saving green heating in their homes, should be a real boost for this growing green sector."
Payments for ground source heat pumps, which extract warmth from underground, nearly double from £1,250 to £2,300, and air source heat pumps – which take heat from air outside a home – rise from £850 to £1,300. Biomass boilers that provide a theoretically carbon-neutral supply of hot water and heating go from £950 to £2,000, and solar panels that heat water double to £600. The total value of the fund for the payments is £12m.
More than 10,000 people have used the vouchers since they were first introduced in 2011.
However, under new rules announced today, householders wanting to take advantage of the payments will first have to pay around £100-150 for an assessment under the government's new flagship energy efficiency scheme. The green deal, launched in January, allows householders to take out a loan with companies who undertake work such as upgrading old boilers and lagging lofts.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change said that the increased payments were partly to offset the cost of the green deal assessments, which it said would "help householders think about how renewable heat could fit with energy efficiency improvements for their home".
Renewable heating technologies largely only make financial sense for homes that are off the gas grid. Most householders using a gas-fired boiler would be unlikely to recoup the initial outlay of a solar thermal system for more than 30 years, under the proposals for the domestic RHI.Adam Vaughan
New dress code issued to government employees as country endures blackouts of up 20 hours a day amid 40C temperatures
Pakistan has told its civil servants not to wear socks as the country turns off air-conditioners amid soaring temperatures to deal with chronic power cuts.
The government has turned off all air-conditioning in its offices as the country endures blackouts of up to 20 hours a day in some places.
"There shall be no more use of air-conditioners in public offices till such time that substantial improvement in the energy situation takes place," a cabinet directive said. As part of a new dress code, moccasins or sandals must be worn without socks.
The power shortages have sparked violent protests and crippled key industries, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in a country already beset by high unemployment, a failing economy, widespread poverty and a Taliban insurgency.
The "load-shedding" means many families cannot pump water, let alone run air-conditioners, with disastrous knock-on effects on health and domestic life.
Frustration over the power cuts contributed to the former ruling party's poor showing in the 11 May general election.
Two ministers in charge of water and power explained what could be done to end power cuts in parts of the country enduring temperatures of 40C and above – absolutely nothing, it seems, except raise prices. Ministers Musadiq Malik and Sohail Wajahat Siddiqui "expressed their inability to overcome the crisis", the Daily Times quoted them as telling a news conference in Lahore on Monday.
"They have termed financial constraints as a major, and incompetence as a minor, hurdle in resolving the issue," the newspaper said. "Presenting the realistic picture, the ministers announced that they were going to increase the price of electricity and gas for all sectors."
They gave no details but said the problem would get worse before it gets better. About two-thirds of Pakistan's energy is generated by oil and gas, and there are widespread gas shortages, with cars run on compressed natural gas queuing up for hours overnight to fill their tanks.
Prof James Hansen rebukes oil firms and Canadian government over stance on exploiting fossil fuel, which he says would make climate problem unsolvable
Major international oil companies are buying off governments, according to the world's most prominent climate scientist, Prof James Hansen. During a visit to London, he accused the Canadian government of acting as its tar sands' salesman and "holding a club" over the UK and European nations to accept its "dirty" oil.
"Oil from tar sands makes sense only for a small number of people who are making a lot of money from that product," he said in an interview with the Guardian. "It doesn't make sense for the rest of the people on the planet. We are getting close to the dangerous level of carbon in the atmosphere and if we add on to that unconventional fossil fuels, which have a tremendous amount of carbon, then the climate problem becomes unsolvable."
Hansen met ministers in the UK government, which the Guardian previously revealed has secretly supported Canada's position at the very highest level.
Canada's natural resources minister, Joe Oliver, has also visited London recently to campaign against current EU proposals to penalise oil from Alberta's tar sands as highly polluting. "Canada can offer energy security and economic stability to the world," he said. Oliver also publicly threatened a trade war via the World Trade Organisation if the EU action went ahead: "Canada will not hesitate to defend its interests."
The lobbying for and against tar sands has intensified on both sides of the Atlantic as the EU moves forward on its proposals, which Canada fears could set a global precedent, and President Barack Obama considers approving the Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar sands oil from Canada to the US gulf coast refineries and ports. Canada's president, Stephen Harper, was met by protesters when he visited New York last week to tell audiences that KXL "absolutely needs to go ahead".
Canada's tar sands are the third biggest oil reserve in the world, but separating the oil from the rock is very energy intensive and causes three to four times more carbon emissions per barrel than conventional oil. Hansen argues that it would be "game over" for the climate if tar sands were fully exploited, given that existing conventional oil and gas is certain to be burned.
"To leave our children with a manageable situation, we need to leave the unconventional fuel in the ground," he said. Canada's ministers were "acting as salesmen for those people who will gain from the profits of that industry," he said. "But I don't think they are looking after the rights and wellbeing of the population as a whole."
"The thing we are facing overall is that the fossil fuel industry has so much money that they are buying off governments," Hansen said. "Our democracies are seriously handicapped by the money that is driving decisions in Washington and other capitals."
The EU aims to penalise oil sources with higher carbon footprints, as part of a drive to reduce the carbon emissions from transport called the fuel quality directive. But Canada, supported by the UK, is fiercely opposed: "We are not saying they should not move to reduce emissions," said Oliver. "But the proposed implementation of the FQD [fuel quality directive] is discriminatory to oil sands and not based on scientific facts." However, Europe's commissioner for climate action, Connie Hedegaard, said the FQD was "nothing more, nothing less" than accurate labelling and putting a fair price on pollution.
Hansen, who informed the US Congress of the danger of global warming in 1988, has caused controversy before by saying the "CEOs of fossil fuel companies should be tried for high crimes against humanity" and calling coal-fired power plants "factories of death". In April, he stepped down from his Nasa position after 46 years to spend more time communicating the risks of climate change and to work on legal challenges to governments.
Hansen has started a science programme at Columbia University, the first task of which is to produce a report to support suits filed again the US federal government and several state governments. It is being pursued by the Our Children's Trust charity and is based on a trust principle recognised in US law.
"We maintain that the atmosphere and climate are held in trust by the present generations for the future generations and we do not have the right to destroy that asset," Hansen said. "Therefore the courts should require the government to give a plan as to how they are going to ensure that we still have that asset to pass on to the next generation."Damian Carrington
Homeowners wishing to sell may find buyers are not prepared to take over Green Deal loan attached to the property's energy bill
Homeowners taking out a loan under the government's Green Deal energy efficiency scheme could find themselves having to pay off the debt before they can sell their property, according to consumer body Which?
Since January, householders have been able to sign up to the Green Deal, which allows them to pay for energy efficiency improvements in their home with no, or little, upfront cost; instead, these are funded by a loan repaid through their electricity bill.
Crucially, the "golden rule" of Green Deal is that you should not pay back more in loan repayments than you are saving on your energy bill – but this can mean that, depending on the cost of the improvement, you could be making loan repayments for as long as 25 years. The loan is attached to the property's electricity bill until it is paid off, so if the person who has set up the deal moves house, the bill falls to the new owner.
Research by Which? shows that of the 2,070 people it surveyed in April 2013, a fifth (21%) would reconsider buying a home if it had a Green Deal loan attached to it. Almost half of prospective buyers (46%) would want a Green Deal loan paid off before they would purchase the property.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "With rising energy prices still one of the top consumer worries, measures that help people make their homes more energy efficient are vital to help save money on bills.
"The Green Deal might work for some people but, as with any financial product, whether it's a good deal for you will depend upon your personal and financial circumstances."
In January, The Observer warned about the possible implications of taking out a loan that comes attached to a property — even if the purpose of the loan is to save homeowners money on their bills.
A mortgage industry source told The Observer at the time: "We have concerns that a potential buyer looking at a property may not value the improvements carried out under Green Deal and may not want to pay for them. Buyers may also consider that the benefits of any home improvements have already been factored into the sale price, and that the loan repayments on their electricity bill are therefore an extra cost they don't want to pay."
There are also reports of rogue traders attempting to use the Green Deal to defraud householders. Caerphilly Trading Standards has recently received 17 complaints of people knocking on doors claiming that homeowners were entitled to around £10,000 of funding for free home improvements. The fraudsters then asked for an "administration fee" to undertake various tasks on behalf of the householder. But Tim Keohane, senior trading standards officer in Caerphilly, said that none of the people under investigation was registered under the scheme.
The Building & Engineering Services Association, which operates the consumer advice service the Heating Helpline, wants the government to do more to publicise the fact that only authorised installers will be able to identify themselves as "Green Deal installers" and use the Green Deal quality mark.
Ed Davey needs to do more on cutting energy consumption than the Green Deal. Looking to Germany would be a start
So Ed Davey, climate secretary, wants to "want to turn the non-switchers into savvy switchers", he said on Friday, talking about the importance of driving down energy bills. But switching supplier is never going to be enough. We need to start taking energy consumption seriously.
The UK currently has a handful of policies in place on this, in an attempt to catch-up with our European rivals on efforts to rein in energy consumption. The majority of UK energy programs are aimed at the housing stock. UK homes are among the least efficient in Europe, burdened by poor insulation, draughts and inefficient heating systems. They account for nearly a third of the nation's total energy use.
The Green Deal aims to tackle this issue. It's a finance scheme that helps people pay for energy-efficiency improvement in their home. It gets around the question of "why bother improving my home if I'm going to move out in two years anyway?" by tying the loan scheme's repayments to a property's electricity bill, rather than the individual who intiated the works.
Statistics out this week from the Department of Energy Climate Change show that nearly 19,000 Green Deal assessments have been made to date. But what we really want to know is how many of those assessments are being converted into actual Green Deal plans – those figures will be released next month.
While the scheme is certainly a step in the right direction, it's not too clear what that direction actually is. "The Green Deal should be part of an overall strategy, but the big mistake here is that the Green Deal has been mistaken for a strategy," says Dave Timms at Friends of the Earth. Timms points out that the UK needs to bring together incentives, regulations and financing schemes, like the Green Deal, to create an effective oversight. The Green Deal alone is unlikely to meet the nation's ambitious energy targets.
In comparison, Germany has its energy strategy clearly laid out in front of them. By 2020 it aims to lower its primary energy consumption by 20% (relative to 2008 figures). The government is also determined to concentrate on renewable energy, while phasing out its use of nuclear energy and fossil fuels. "In Germany they really know the direction they're heading in, and there's quite a broad consensus on their strategy," says Peter Sauer, the Counsellor of Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the German Embassy in London. He suggests that for the Green Deal to really kick off, there needs to be more focus on promoting the scheme and defining an overarching plan.
The UK has a number of other policies in the pipeline that will help create the tough set of regulations necessary to drive change in energy consumption. One that is currently pending final approval is aimed at private landlords. By 2018, it will be an offence for a landlord to let a property with the very lowest levels of energy efficiency. Improvements would have to be made to the property, be it a home or an office, to meet minimum standards in order to let it out.
Last summer, another proposal aimed at the UK's existing building stock was unceremoniously scrapped by Ministers in a 'U-turn' decision. The objective was to make it mandatory for any existing homes with plans for extensions to make 'consequential improvements', quickly dubbed a 'conservatory tax' in sections of the media'. This would mean that while the actual extensions would have to be energy-efficient, the pre-existing property would also have to be improved to meet minimum standards.
According to Andrew Warren, Director of the Association of Conservation of Energy, these proposals were estimated to bring in 2.2 million Green Deals, also generating £11 billion of extra economical activity in the construction sector. The policy was put under consultation and saw an 82% approval rate. Ministers dropped the idea after the media backlash. The issue is now being pursuing in the courts by the Association of Conservation of Energy.
"It's an astonishing state of affairs when one considers that the public announcements of government are that energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit of climate policy, the one that has the greatest benefits for businesses and households," adds Timms.
This event reinforces the need for a common UK energy objective. It's crucial for all parts of the government, not just Decc, to work together on a common goal. Taking a closer look at progress made by other European nations may also yield inspiration to the UK's energy approach.
In a series of upcoming blogposts, I'll be looking at the question of energy consumption in the workplace, education and the context of psychology. If you have any thoughts, please share them on email or below. As individuals we all play a part in the nation's energy use.
• Katherine Portilla is a science journalism MA student at City University London and will be investigating issued related to energy consumption for her final project. In the next few weeks she will interview experts and explore various sectors related to the subject. She can be contacted via email on email@example.com and on Twitter @katherine_op
Building programme advancing, says minister as expectations of timetable delay at Hinkley Point grow and Chinese 'lose interest'
The government has insisted it was still optimistic about plans to build a series of nuclear power stations despite expectations that EDF would delay its timetable for a new reactor at Hinkley Point and concerns that China was losing interest in being a co-investor.
"The UK's new nuclear programme is advancing positively with three projects currently being taken forward by NNB GenCo [EDF], NuGen and Horizon Nuclear Power," said the energy minister, Michael Fallon, in response to a select committee report.
"We are confident that we will see investment in the context of the government's policy on no public subsidies for new nuclear."
He added that negotiations were continuing over a "strike price" – or guaranteed minimum price for electricity generated. EDF, which wants a 40-year guarantee, said it remained optimistic that it could tie up a deal with ministers before long.
On Friday, the construction trade paper Building quoted industry sources as saying that EDF did not expect to take a final investment decision on Hinkley in Somerset until September at the earliest.
The firm, 80% of which is owned by the French state, had originally talked about concluding negotiations by the end of 2012. That was later extended to the first quarter of 2013. Delays have traditionally dogged nuclear energy projects but are particularly worrisome in this case because Britain faces a potential energy capacity crisis within five years.
An EDF spokeswoman declined to comment on the latest speculation, saying. "I am not going to make up dates. Others might have their own views but we have nothing else to add."
A major slip in the Somerset timetable was one of the reasons British Gas owner Centrica pulled out of its original plans to invest in Hinkley alongside EDF, which the British company highlighted at its annual general meeting on Monday.
Sam Laidlaw, Centrica's chief executive, told shareholders: "Not only had the cost increased but also the schedule had lengthened very considerably. So instead of taking four to five years to build, EDF were telling us that it was going to take nine to 10 years to build. That is a long time to be writing out a cheque for this project."
EDF has been struggling with its own soaring £30bn debt levels and delays at its key project in France. The group opened talks with the Chinese as an alternative co-investor and earlier this month signed a formal co-operation deal with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Company. But City sources working for the Chinese told the Guardian they thought it very unlikely they would participate.
"Money is no object but the Chinese have pulled back on nuclear in Britain. They realise they do not have sufficient know-how to pass the UK regulators but do not want to be just a passive investor," said one investment banker.Terry Macalister
Former senior official John Ashton attacks government for 'spooking potential investors' in energy infrastructure
The number of people employed by the government to work on the UK's adaptation to the effects of climate change has been cut from 38 officials to only six, in a sign of how the response to global warming has been rapidly downgraded within Whitehall under the coalition.
Adapting to the effects of climate change – including flooding, much fiercer storms, droughts, heatwaves and more extreme weather – is calculated to cost the UK tens of billions of pounds in the next few decades, rising to much higher sums in future.
Government advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, have warned that the measures needed to prepare the UK's infrastructure will include defences for power stations, transport and communication networks, changes to the way buildings are constructed, and new ways of trying to prevent flooding, such as an upgrade to the Thames Barrier.
But the number of officials dealing with the issue within the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been cut. The current secretary of state at Defra, Owen Paterson, is said by people close to him to be a climate change sceptic.
The cut in the number of officials charged with the issue was attacked on Thursday night by one of the former most senior Whitehall officials on climate change. John Ashton was charged with leading the UK's diplomatic efforts to forge a new international agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the United Nations.
Ashton gave a fiery speech at the Royal Society of Arts, in which he lambasted his former political masters – from every party – for their failure to get to grips with the urgent problem of global warming. He attacked ministers for "spooking potential investors" in the UK's energy infrastructure, and said David Cameron's famous husky – when he was photographed in the Arctic as part of his efforts to change the image of the Conservatives – was dead "with a neat hole between its eyes".
Ashton, now a director at the environmental thinktank E3G, also called for a target for the decarbonisation of the UK's electricity industry to be included in the forthcoming energy bill, which is currently going through parliament. The proposed target – of making the UK's electricity generation almost carbon-free by 2030 – has been removed by the government, at the insistence of chancellor George Osborne, who has quashed all proposed environmental targets beyond 2020. But the former Tory minister Tim Yeo is planning a rebellion on the bill when it comes before the Commons next month.
Ashton said: "It is vital that the target be restored. I can't myself see how any MP who votes against the target will thereafter be able credibly to claim that they support an effective response to climate change."
He said the UK could not move out of recession without looking to green industries. "The government may think it has a growth story. Nobody else does. If it would stop looking at low-carbon growth in the way the Spanish inquisition looked at heretics, it could find one in front of its nose. The economy as a whole bumps along the bottom. The low-carbon economy keeps growing at nearly 4% [a year]," he said.
Andy Atkins, director of Friends of the Earth, which co-ordinated the event at which Ashton was speaking, said: "After a year that has already brought flooding and other extreme weather to the UK, it's shocking that the department responsible for protecting us against the effects of climate change is to pare its staff to the bone."
US National Strategy for the Arctic Region prioritises corporate 'economic opportunities' at the expense of everyone else
One week ago, the Obama administration launched its National Strategy for the Arctic Region, outlining the government's strategic priorities over the next 10 years. The release of the strategy came about a week after the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President at the White House Complex hosted a briefing with international Arctic scientists.
Despite giving lip service to the values of environmental conservation, the new document focuses on how the US can manage the exploitation of the region's vast untapped oil, gas and mineral resources in cooperation with other Arctic powers.US hinges success of Arctic strategy on diminishing sea ice
At the heart of the White House's new Arctic strategy is an elementary but devastating contradiction between what President Obama, in the document's preamble, describes as seeking "to make the most of the emerging economic opportunities in the region" due to the rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice, and recognising "the need to protect and conserve this unique, valuable, and changing environment."
Despite repeated references to "preservation" and "conservation", the strategy fails to outline any specific steps that would be explored to mitigate or prevent the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice due to intensifying global warming. Instead, the document from the outset aims to:
"... position the United States to respond effectively to challenges and emerging opportunities arising from significant increases in Arctic activity due to the diminishment of sea ice and the emergence of a new Arctic environment."
In other words, far from being designed to prevent catastrophe, the success of the new strategy is premised precisely on the disappearance of the Arctic summer sea ice.
The document identifies three main US objectives in the region: advancing US "security interests" by increasing US military and commercial penetration "through, under, and over the airspace and waters of the Arctic"; pursuing "responsible Arctic region stewardship" by continuing to "conserve its resources"; and strengthening international cooperation to advance "collective interests" and "shared Arctic state prosperity" - all the while, somhow working to "protect the Arctic environment."Vast quantities of mineral resources
But the most important strategic objective is all about Big Oil.
Noting that "ocean resources are more readily accessible as sea ice diminishes", the strategy document points out that:
"The reduction in sea ice has been dramatic, abrupt, and unrelenting. The dense, multi-year ice is giving way to thin layers of seasonal ice, making more of the region navigable year-round. Scientific estimates of technically recoverable conventional oil and gas resources north of the Arctic Circle total approximately 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the world's undiscovered gas deposits, as well as vast quantities of mineral resources, including rare earth elements, iron ore, and nickel. These estimates have inspired fresh ideas for commercial initiatives and infrastructure development in the region. As portions of the Arctic Ocean become more navigable, there is increasing interest in the viability of the Northern Sea Route and other potential routes, including the Northwest Passage, as well as in development of Arctic resources."
The document emphasises that the Arctic is central to US "energy security", as the region:
"... holds sizable proved and potential oil and natural gas resources that will likely continue to provide valuable supplies to meet US energy needs."Empty promises
Extraordinarily, the document offers just a single sentence acknowledging the potentially destabilising impact of rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice:
"These consequences include altering the climate of lower latitudes, risking the stability of Greenland's ice sheet, and accelerating the thawing of the Arctic permafrost in which large quantities of methane – a potent driver of climate change – as well as pollutants such as mercury are stored."
To address such risks, the document promises obliquely that:
"Protecting the unique and changing environment of the Arctic is a central goal of US policy. Supporting actions will promote healthy, sustainable, and resilient ecosystems over the long term, supporting a full range of ecosystem services."
Yet this generic promise offers no specific explanation of what US policy to "protect" the Arctic entails - particularly given that protecting the "changing environment of the Arctic" might well allude to a policy of doing nothing to stop the 'change' that is the diminishing of the sea ice.
This is all the more alarming given that more than 180 native communities in Alaska are, according to this week's in-depth Guardian investigation, "flooding and losing land because of the ice melt that is part of the changing climate."
Unfortunately, President Obama's new Arctic strategy offers nothing tangible for the country's "first climate refugees", despite giving copious lip service to consulting the region's indigenous communities already facing direct threats to their existence due to climate change.A strategy for global catastrophe
But the strategy is not just bad new for so many Alaskan natives. It's also bad news for the rest of us.
America's new Arctic strategy, if implemented, will dramatically accelerate the very processes of fossil fuel consumption that have already led to carbon dioxide atmospheric concentrations reaching a record 400 parts per million. And as Damian Carrington reports:
"... the last time this happened was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today."
Studies based on paleoclimate data consistently show that conventional climate models of where this current business-as-usual trajectory is heading tend to underestimate the extent of the crisis.
A 2011 paper in Science found that at the current rate of increase of greenhouse gas emissions, by the end of the century they will reach levels last seen when the planet was 16C hotter - far more catastrophic than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) worst case projection of a virtually uninhabitable planet at 6C by 2100.
According to lead author Jeffrey Kiehl, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the study "found that carbon dioxide may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models of global climate."
Now a new study published last week in the same journal vindicates these conclusions, showing that at current atmospheric concentrations, the Arctic was 8C warmer:
"One of our major findings is that the Arctic was very warm in the Pliocene [~ 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago] when others have suggested atmospheric CO2 was very much like levels we see today. This could tell us where we are going in the near future. In other words, the Earth system response to small changes in carbon dioxide is bigger than suggested by earlier models."
So the new US Arctic strategy is not just short-sighted, ill-conceived and self-interested. If it proceeds as planned, it will condemn all of humanity to unimaginable disaster, just to sustain the near-term profits of a few giant energy corporations.
Dr Nafeez Ahmed is director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmedNafeez Ahmed
Visual essays by Franke James reveal how the 'troublesome artist' was targeted because her views on climate change clashed with the push to develop Alberta's tar sands
• Franke James' art – in pictures
Canada, under the government of Stephen Harper, has exhibited little patience for dissent. The government has muzzled government scientists, insulted Nasa climate experts, and dismissed environmental protesters as dangerous radicals.
But there is apparently one woman whom the government can't shut up: the Toronto environmental writer, illustrator and activist Franke James, who turned the efforts to silence her into material for a new book.
Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship, released this week, shows how Canadian bureaucrats tried to silence James because her views on climate change clashed with the Harper government's push to develop Alberta's tar sands.
The story is told through visual essays as well as official emails obtained by James, in which government bureaucrats discuss the troublesome artist and her work.
It also relies heavily on humour – some of it provided inadvertently by the government bureaucrats discussing what to do about James.
The artist said she received some 2,172 pages of official memos in which her name appeared.
The events go back to the summer of 2011 when Canadian officials intervened to try to shut down a show of James's work in Croatia hosted by a local environmental group.
James is not a household name in Canada, but she had apparently turned up on the government's radar for a series of visuals poking fun at Harper and demanding that polluters be held accountable for the tar sands.
For James, the decision to target her encapsulated the extreme measures taken by the Harper government to counter its critics, especially those who oppose the expansion of the tar sands, because of the heavy environmental consequences.
"It is almost like it's a corporation exercising extreme message control," she said in a phone interview. "It's as if Stephen Harper were the CEO of Canada the corporation and we were his employees and we were not allowed to step out of line or say what we believe is right or true because that would upset the company's brand.
"This fanatical obsession with message control to me is very much what you have in a company but in a democracy that shouldn't be the case."
The Harper administration's preoccupation with message control is now the stuff of legend in Canada. The government is acutely sensitive to criticism of its policies on fossil fuel and climate change.
The Alberta tar sands have until now operated as a vast store of carbon. Scientists estimate that mining it all would add a 0.4C temperature rise from Alberta alone.
Under Harper, Canada has ramped up production from the Alberta tar sands, and pulled out of the Kyoto climate agreement, as the country's greenhouse gas emissions rose.
The government also adopted a hardline approach to international critics, and dissenting voices within the Canadian bureaucracy. Government scientists were directed not to speak to the press and to remain in sight of media minders at international conferences – in case they happened to strike up a conversation with a passing reporter. Librarians were discouraged from attending outside conferences.
Scientific reports that arrived at findings not in keeping with the government's pro-energy policies were shelved for months, or published without the usual press release, so as to escape attention.
In one instance, reported by Macleans, 11 government bureaucrats exchanged more than 50 different emails discussing whether to grant an interview to an Ottawa Citizen reporter on a National Research Council study on snowfall patterns – and then turned him down.
Harper's iron-fisted message control is now viewed sufficiently seriously that Canada's information commission earlier this year launched an investigation into media controls on seven government departments, including environment and natural resources, which oversees tar sands development.
But the snowfall emails were just a fraction of the 2,172 pages of memos generated by Canadian bureaucrats discussing James's cancelled art show, and her subsequent protests. The emails – heavily redacted – were released to James after a laborious process of open records requests involving seven government departments.
The formidable email trail started when a local Croatian environmental group approached the embassy in Zagreb for support, which was initially received. But the then ambassador to Croatia, Thomas Marr, was furious to learn that James would be showing in Croatia and fired off an email to a staffer asking why she had ever been invited in the first place.
The email, heavily redacted, was eventually released to James under an open records request. "You have connected them with Ms James who has a 'green conscience' and whose work sharply criticises the men and women working in forestry and in oil sands in our great country?" the 11 July email asked. The subject line read: "Franke James is your fault?"
James's arts grant was cancelled, in what she said was an effort to shut down her tour.
She said the move came as a shock. "I was just going along in my blissful way," she said. "I really didn't think that I was at risk of getting shut down in any way."
James spent much of the next two years protesting against the move to blacklist her. She wound up installing her show as posters at Ottawa bus shelters, and began the lengthy process of getting the government to release its trove of emails discussing her show, and its decision to cut funding.
"It became clear that they really do not like my art speaking about climate change and I was censored especially because I promoted policies that were different to theirs," she said.
She became angrier as the pile of documents grew higher. At a time of government cutbacks, many resources had been put into maintaining her file. Harper's personal communications team followed her on Twitter. Senior civil servants signed off on emails discussing her. "There are people at really high levels monitoring my file," she said. "They are cutting a lot of important things, but wasting their time interfering with a climate change art show."
Unless there has been a major policy shift in the Harper government, the bureaucrats are unlikely to be done with James yet. Along with the book, she plans to take her campaign against the tar sands, and the Harper government's message control, on the road, putting up posters on street corners and bus shelters.
She also hopes the book will serve as a how-to guide to other activists hoping to take on the Harper administration, especially with humour. "It's kind of like a judo flip, meaning that you can actually flip someone who is much bigger than you."Suzanne Goldenberg
Authorities push forward plans for 314 metre-high dam on Dadu river which would affect rare plants and fish
Chinese environmental authorities have approved construction plans for what could become the world's tallest dam, while acknowledging that the project would affect endangered plants and rare fish species.
The 314 metre-high dam will serve the Shuangjiangkou hydropower project along the Dadu river in south-western Sichuan province, according to China's state news agency, Xinhua. A subsidiary of Guodian Group, one of China's five major state-owned power companies, will complete the project over a decade at an estimated cost of £2.9bn.
The dam will be far taller than the 185 metre-high Three Gorges dam along the Yangtze river – the world's most powerful hydroelectric project – and slightly edge out the current record holder, the 300 metre-high Nurek dam in Tajikistan. The world's second-tallest dam, the 292 metre-high Xiaowan dam on the Lancang (Mekong) river, is also in China.
China's environment ministry released a statement on Tuesday acknowledging that the dam would have an impact on the area's highly biodiverse flora and fauna.
"The project will affect the spawning and movement of rare fish species, as well as the growth of endangered plants, including the Chinese yew, which is under first-class state protection," it said, according to Xinhua.
The ministry proposed counter-measures to mitigate the project's environmental impact, such as "protecting fish habitats in tributaries, building fish ladders and increasing fish breeding and releasing", Xinhua reported. The project is still awaiting a final go-ahead from China's state council.
The Dadu river is a tributary of the 735km-long Min river, which cuts through the centre of Sichuan province before joining the Yangtze in the province's south.
Upon completion, the plant will have a total installed capacity of 2 gigawatts and produce nearly 8bn kilowatt-hours of energy a year, about twice as much as the Hoover dam in the US.
China's hydropower development has surged in recent years as the country moves to increase non-fossil energy sources to 15% of its total energy use by 2020. Central authorities approved a controversial cascade of 13 dams on the pristine upper reaches of the Nu (Salween) river in January. The plans had stalled nearly a decade ago under pressure from environmental groups.
Scientists and environmental activists have raised concerns that a profusion of dams in south-west China could increase the area's risk of natural disasters, such as earthquakes and landslides.
Another hydroelectric project on the Dadu river sparked social unrest in 2004, as tens of thousands of farmers along its banks rioted against the government's proposed plans to relocate them. Authorities responded by halting the Pubugou dam's construction for a year.
Stephen Harper's administration has increased spend from $9m to $16.5m in the last year
The Canadian government has nearly doubled its advertising spending to promote the Alberta tar sands in an aggressive new lobbying push ahead of Thursday's visit to New York by the prime minister, Stephen Harper.
The Harper government has increased its advertising spending on the Alberta tar sands to $16.5m from $9m a year ago.
The Canadian Press news agency, which first reported on the increase in advertising spending by the Department of Natural Resources, said the television advertising was just one part of a broad promotion for tar sands.
It said the Canadian government was planning another big advertising buy in America aimed at winning White House approval for the Keystone XL pipeline project and promoting exports of crude oil from the Alberta tar sands.
Those high-profile ad buys included sponsoring Politico's Playbook, an influential site that is well-read by administration officials. The Canadian government has also been despatching a series of officials to US and European cities.
On Thursday, it will be the prime minister's turn. Harper was due to start his day with a question and answer session at the Council on Foreign Relations before heading off to meetings with American business leaders.
The announcement on the prime minister's website put the tar sands pipeline project squarely on Harper's agenda.
"I look forward to engaging with council members on pressing issues including the global economy, trade liberalisation, energy and security, as well as issues of importance to Canada and the US such as the Keystone XL pipeline," a statement said.
Canadian embassy officials in Washington, when asked for details of the visit, provided the link to the same six-day-old press release.
Barack Obama is due to make a decision on the pipeline later this year.
With the fate of the project in the balance, Canadian officials increasingly are going on the offensive to try to beat back opposition to the project and push ahead with development of the tar sands.
"Canada will keep developing its natural resources for export to the United States in a way that ensures the environment is protected," the natural resources minister, Joe Oliver said. "It is important to present these key facts on our strong environment record and long-standing energy relationship to American decision makers and opinion leaders."
In addition to winning approval for the pipeline across the American heartland, Canadian officials are fighting off moves in the European Union to set a separate category for tar sands crude because of its higher greenhouse gas emissions. Oliver has said such moves are unfair.
"It's discriminatory, it's not based on science and it would potentially hurt Canada's ability to access markets for its resources," Oliver told CBC radio.
The project will pump up to 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil to the refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, opening up an important outlet for the tar sands.
The decision has been cast by both sides as a defining moment for his presidency. The Canadian government, industry and some trades union argue the pipeline will create jobs and help restore the economy.
Climate scientists, environmental campaigners – and some of Obama's biggest supporters among Democratic fundraisers – say the pipeline will unlock a vast store of buried carbon and put the world on course of catastrophic climate change.
Your article (European energy chief puts forward case for funding coal, 12 May) says the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has "hinted it may expand funding of high-carbon coal projects despite mounting pressure from climate change campaigners to rule out such investments". This suggestion is wrong. The EBRD is not considering an expansion of its funding of coal projects. The EBRD has been pioneering in its development of a sustainable energy initiative which is actively promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources across the regions where it invests. The EBRD may, on a selective basis and taking into account the lack of availability of alternative sources of energy, consider financing coal-fired projects that would replace highly polluting existing plants with new state of the art ones, thus improving energy efficiency and lowering emissions. But there is no consideration of a policy of expanding its funding for coal projects.
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
• It is disappointing that the transport select committee (Report, 10 May) calls for the expansion of Heathrow, given that millions of Londoners already suffer from the excessive noise and air pollution of an airport that was built in the wrong place. However, in recognising that Britain needs a competitive hub airport and that Heathrow would need a fourth runway, the committee has accidentally made clear why the Davies commission must reject Heathrow expansion and recommend a new airport to the east of London.
Transport spokesman, GLA Conservatives