July 22nd 2010 : News in Brief ? Watching
-UN set to become largest global provider of funds to new coal
-ID cards scrapped, but not for migrants
-New nuclear power boosted by government climate watchdog
-Persecution of Iraqi union leaders over oil sector dissent
-Barclays Bank, British Gas and RBS slammed for carbon trading activities
-SpinProfiles censored following right-wing think-tank complaint
Twelve power companies have applications pending with the UN, which would grant their planned new, more 'efficient', coal fired power stations in India and China status as 'Clean Development Mechanism' (CDM) projects. The CDM is one of the offsetting mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol, in which Annex 1 (rich country) governments and companies pay for 'emission saving' projects in non-Annex 1 (developing) countries and gain Carbon Emission Reduction (CER) credits in return, which go towards meeting their emission cut obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. If the power companies' applications are successful, they will gain about £3.5bn, and lots of CER credits will be generated, and used to justify emissions in Annex 1 countries.
These applications come after the establishment of a new methodology by Adani, an Indian coal company, which has build two new power stations at Mundra in Gujarat, India as CDM projects, gaining about £25m a year for the lifetime of the power stations. They claim that the 'super-critical' technology will emit up to 30% less carbon dioxide than standard coal power stations.
On 26th May 2010, Nick Clegg announced the scrapping of New Labour's plans for a compulsory national identity card scheme, an identity card for EEA nationals and the National Identity Register. He claimed it was a step towards the removal of the 'surveillance state'. However, according to the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and the Institute of Race Relations, it seems that non-EU citizens will continue to have to hold biometric identity cards. A scheme established in 2009, the National Biometric Identity Service (NBIS), which brought in a £265 million government contract with IBM to provide an 'integrated' database matching biometric and biographical information on individuals collected from passports, identity cards and elsewhere, will continue to go ahead. Legislation on ID cards for foreign nationals was never included within the ID Cards Act, rather it was within the UK Borders Act 2007 and the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, and so has not been scrapped along with the government's repeal of the ID Cards Act. The UK Boarder Agency's use, and abuse, of the holding of biometric information on non-EU migrants for information-gathering on, and criminalising of, foreign nationals and migrants will also continue. A freedom of information request by campaign group No2ID, has revealed that cross-referencing between police and security services' fingerprint databases and the biometric residence permit for migrants from outside the EU already takes place.
In its second annual report to the Government, the 'independent' Committee on Climate Change has advised that nuclear power is a 'cost-effective form of low-carbon generation', and an important part of meeting the UK's target of 34 per cent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2020. It predicts that a planning application for the first new nuclear power plant could be submitted before the end of 2010, and is positive about regulators, particularly the Environment Agency, approving new designs for nuclear power stations and creating plans for dealing with the, as yet unsolved, problem of toxic nuclear waste. It claims that the UK could have three new power plants by 2022.
The government has claimed that the nuclear industry will receive no subsidy for a proposed £20bn building programme for a new generation of nuclear power plants. However, the history of nuclear power reveals that, far from being 'cost-effective', nuclear has racked up enormous costs to the public, with no plant ever built without public subsidy. The government already faces a £4bn funding hole around dealing with existing nuclear waste. Friends of the Earth UK have highlighted that publicly funded nuclear waste facilities, likely to cost around £70bn, would mean a substantial public cost and benefit to nuclear companies. As previously reported by Corporate Watch, freedom of information requests have revealed an extensive, secret lobbying campaign by EDF on disposal costs for nuclear, which discredit its claims not to require public subsidy for nuclear new build.
The final decision on whether to proceed with a new generation of nuclear plants is not due to be taken until 2011.
Hassan Juma, president of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, and Faleh Abood Umara, the federation's general secretary, have had charges brought against them by the Iraqi state-owned South Oil Company following protests around labour rights within, and the political management of, the oil sector. Demonstrations and a strike in late March, targeting the South Refineries Company, during which workers called for higher wages and the removal of key government officials, have led the government to threaten a crackdown enforced by the Iraqi Army. The charges have been applied following repeated arrests of Juma and Umara, and harassment of oil union workers. The pair, who are two of Iraq's most prominent oil union leaders, are accused of 'impeding the work' at oil developments in Basra and 'urging workers to stand against senior management'. Legislation which remains from the Saddam Hussein regime makes oil unions illegal in Iraq.
Assem Jihad, an Oil Ministry spokesman, has stated that The problem is that the unionists instigate the public against the plans of the Oil Ministry and its ambitions to develop (Iraq's) oil riches using foreign development. Oil officials claim that the union leaders' have made threats directed against foreign oil companies, and are thus harming the country's economy. Juma argues that charges have been brought in response to comments he made about labour rights in an Iraqi publication.
The latest confrontations follow on from protests in 2007, during which a strike temporarily halted work in response to a draft oil law viewed as granting too many concessions to foreign oil companies. Oil workers are routinely fired and moved to different positions as a result of such activities.
Barclays Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland and British Gas
have been criticised by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) for their participation in ineffective and deceptive carbon offsetting projects in China and India. The projects involve the destruction of the potent greenhouse gas HCFC-23, a chemical by-product of the manufacture of the refrigerant gas HCFC-22. Barclays, RBS and British Gas have been slammed for financing these projects in return for cheap carbon credits which are sold by them for a large profit within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The financing of such chemical plants through offsetting has often lead to their unnecessary expansion, further harming communities which live around them, as companies switch to HCFC-22 production, and HCFC-23 destruction, as a way to gain subsidy. British Gas has been accused of passing the cost of purchasing these credits on to their customers. Within the rules of the EU ETS, corporations are allowed to pass the cost of complying with emissions caps, which includes purchasing extra credits through offsetting, onto customers. (HCFC-23 credits have been blamed for crashing the price of carbon by flooding the market...)
David Miller of Spinwatch has reported that SpinProfiles, a Spinwatch sister website, was taken down by the site's internet service provider 1 & 1 Internet following a complaint by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens. The complaint followed SpinProfiles posting a profile on Meleagrou-Hitchens which reported his involvement in right-wing think-tanks, specifically in the UK with the Policy Exchange, the Centre for Social Cohesion and the Henry Jackson Society Project for Democratic Geopolitics. The profile was fully referenced and backed up by publicly-accessible sources. An important monitoring resource, SpinProfiles collates information, already available in the public domain, into profiles on organisations involved in the untransparent world of lobbying. The profile revealed Meleagrou-Hitchen's involvement in a Policy Exchange briefing which attacked an annual Muslim conference at London's ExCel Centre, the 2008 Global Peace and Unity festival. In October 2008, Nick Clegg complained about Policy Exchange privately briefing against the event, specifying the notable lack of evidence to support many of the claims and the use of 'evidence' from the Society for American National Existance, which advocates the banning of Islam, punishable by 20 years in prison. Meleagrou-Hitchen was listed as an author of the document in the 'properties' of a Word file version of the briefing.
With 10 million domains worldwide, 1 & 1 Internet is one of the largest web-hosting companies in the world. After refusing to remove the profile in question, SpinProfiles was removed completely by 1 & 1 Internet, who cited the inclusion of (as yet undefined) personal information in the Meleagrou-Hitchen profile as the cause of their action. SpinProfiles has not, as yet, received any reply from Meleagrou-Hitchens to a request for his objections to the profile.
In Guardian 'Comment Is Free' piece, David Miller stated that: That our research can be arbitrarily wiped from the internet on the say-so of one disgruntled individual raises questions not only about online free speech and censorship, but journalism as we know it.