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The chances of the world holding temperature rises to 2C – the level of global warming considered “safe” by scientists – appear to be fading fast with US scientists reporting the second-greatest annual rise in CO2 emissions in 2012.

Carbon dioxide levels measured at at Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii jumped by 2.67 parts per million (ppm) in 2012 to 395ppm, said Pieter Tans, who leads the greenhouse gas measurement team for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The record was an increase of 2.93ppm in 1998.

The jump comes as a study published in Science on Thursday looking at global surface temperatures for the past 1,500 years warned that “recent warming is unprecedented”, prompting UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres, to say that “staggering global temps show urgent need to act. Rapid climate change must be countered with accelerated action.”

Tans told the Associated Press the major factor was an increase in fossil fuel use. “It’s just a testament to human influence being dominant”, he said. “The prospects of keeping climate change below that [two-degree goal] are fading away.”

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Regular readers of Newtz Climate Change Blog will recognise the dangers of as little as a 2 Deg C global temperature rise in creating a tipping point that can lead to irreversible climatic effects, with the real danger of positive feedback impacts creating dangerous temperature rises. The fact that since the beginning of the industrial revolution we have already ‘locked in’ a 0.8 Deg C global temperature rise will be confirmed by the latest IPCC report due for release in 2013/14; the draft of which has already been leaked.

And yet, based on accumulated emissions; (the day to day build up of carbon), the scientific data is clear that we are on track for a 3.5 to 4 Deg C rise by 2020, and upto 6 Deg by 2050 based on locked-in accumulated emissions, with the irreversible consequences of a climate that will be almost impossible for most of the species of the planet to adapt to (http://wp.me/PUSJK-S). In my micro blog of ‘The Economics of Climate Change’ I discussed how the climate scientists have been largely confined by the realism of the economic cost to mitigate climate change and consequently have adopted the most optimistic trends to fit the affordable pathways given both the economic cost and the cost to compensate the poorer nations (as agreed recently at Doha).

Current UK spending to mitigate Climate Change is less than 1% of GDP, whereas, the reality is that nearer 2% of GDP is required to simply have a decreasingly limited chance of meeting the 2050 target of less than 550ppm (parts per million) CO2. My own calculations show over 5.6% is realistically required. The short sightedness of successive UK governments is further compounded by the belief that the cost to the UK is reduced by the locked in benefits of increases in energy efficiency until 2020. They still work on data showing an expected rise in GDP from 2009 of 2.0%, yet their own data and that of the World Bank show that infact it has effectively stalled at around £1.5 trillion and expected to slightly fall.

As an aid to understanding the difficulty of achieving the UK 2050 CO2 targets i have provided the full actual model (in MS Excel format) used to balance forcing issues of energy supply and demand in an attempt to achieve the UK targets (http://wp.me/PUSJK-15). Full ‘actual’ government backed data is provided to see if you can achieve or better the target and the cost to the economy for your effort (by the way …. good luck. If you can come up wit a solution that is less than 2% of gross GDP I’m confident that both the Treasury and DECC will be very interested !).

Of course, in order to legislate sufficient funding to tackle climate change, it is necessary to have ‘real’ economic growth and maintain a favourable credit rating (AAA minimum), so as to maintain cheap borrowing, both of which are currently under severe threat. Economically we are in a triple dip recession with little hope of return to significant growth in the next three years. Likewise, the UK credit rating is already at the time of writing under warning of downgrade by Standard & Poor. In my most recent micro blog ‘The Shadow Economy and the Missing Billions’, i described how egregious tax avoidance and tax evasion are costing the UK economy more than the total Health Spend (highlighting data from World Health Organisation and UK HMRC). The total calculated cost to the public purse is in the region of £60 billion, or remarkably a loss to the treasury of close to 4.2% of the total GDP. Further, by following an aggressive tax retrieval not only reduces the ‘Tax Gap‘ but makes for legitimate trading allowing world markets to act much more optimally and consequently stimulate world economic growth.

For too long, and too often in the name of deregulation, successive UK governments have promoted ideas that have undermined effective accountability and the supply of meaningful accounts so that a company can be properly appraised upon its true economic activity. This has only assisted to reduce tax revenue, curtail the ability to close the Tax Gap and consequently undermine our ability to fund effective Climate Change.

Weak government policies and tax fraud destroys the effectiveness of markets and suppress its capacity to operate at anywhere near optimum. The government needs to better support honest businesses that want to compete on a level playing field where abuse of the tax system plays no part in their success.

Such complex tax avoidance can be tackled by the creation of a general anti-avoidance principle, such that if any step is added into an otherwise commercial arrangement for the purpose of securing a reduction in a tax liability, then that step can be ignored or challenged for tax purposes by HMRC. In effect, this makes it clear that HM Revenue & Customs would have the power to over-rule any tax avoidance scheme designed to exploit loopholes and allowances.

But wait …, The House of Lords effectively created such an arrangement in the 1980s when ruling in two cases called Furness V Dawson and Ramsey. For more than a decade the tax profession believed as a result that if such steps were taken they could be knocked down by HMRC. However, statute law never confirmed this and as result the ruling of the House of Lords was eventually challenged and in 1996 in a further House of Lords ruling, called the Westmoreland case, the principles in the two earlier decisions were overturned. The result was a flood of tax planning from which, full recovery has not been made.

A general anti-avoidance principle would make clear that this was unacceptable and would put massive pressure on tax avoiders to reform their ways, and would create penalties for them if they did not.

The link then to Rangers FC (Oldco) was first suggested in my blog ‘The Shadow Economy and the Missing Billions’. In describing the illegitimate practises of tax evaders, it drew remarkable similarities to the Rangers Big tax case (FTT), and in particular the deliberate lack of transparency and deceitful accounting with the use of suppressed data and identity disguise. These aggressive practises culminate in uncertainty when pursuing these egregious activities. That uncertainty rested on the chance that either they will not be discovered to be tax avoiding or that if they are then the interpretation placed on the law that they seek to exploit is favourable to them. Such was the fine line that Rangers FC (oldco) faced in their 2:1 majority victory over HMRC in the recent tax tribunal case (FTT). (Note: HMRC have recently announced that they are appealing this verdict).

The business practice of Rangers FC (oldco)  has resulted in huge loses to the Treasury, alleged to be in excess of £70 million (with penalties), and does not account for an alleged previous debt write off by the previous owner in the region of £60 million through aggressive accounting practices. Nor does it account for the smaller tax case against them for deliberate non payment of around £15 million of PAYE and National Insurance payments. The small (wee) tax case was incidentally the reason for Rangers FC (oldco) being placed into administration and ultimately liquidation after the refusal by HMRC to accept the administrators CVA proposal.

The emergence of a newco Rangers FC is an opportunity for the new owners to demonstrate legitimate and honest governance and from the honest taxpayers point of view, a legitimate tax revenue generating concern that long term will pay its moral and dutiful taxes in full. In its own small way will help reduce the burden of honest taxpaying businesses, and help reduce the Tax Gap.

It was disturbing to learn then that back in May 2012 during the purchase of the assets of the oldco Rangers FC, that the current owners of the (newco) Rangers FC sought to transfer £40 million of brought forward tax losses to go into the Current Balance Sheet of the newco subject to HMRC approval. Thankfully this never materialised. It is important then that such companies remain under the scrutiny of bloggers such as Paul McConville and his excellent blog site ‘Random Thoughts Re Scots Law’ (http://scotslawthoughts.wordpress.com/).

Newtz

It is increasingly unlikely that global warming will be kept below an increase of 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels, a study suggests.

Data show that global CO2 emissions in 2012 hit 35.6bn tonnes, a 2.6% increase from 2011 and 58% above 1990 levels.

“These latest figures come amidst climate talks in Doha, but with emissions continuing to grow, it’s as if no-one is listening to the scientific community,” said Corinne Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

“I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory,” Prof Le Quere said.

“We need a radical plan.”

The researchers’ paper says the average increases in global CO2 levels were 1.9% in the 1980s, 1.0% in the 1990 but 3.1% since 2000.

Recently, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new record high in 2011.

In its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the organisation said that carbon dioxide levels reached 391 parts per million in 2011.

The report estimated that carbon dioxide (CO2) accounted for 85% of the “radiative forcing” that led to global temperature rises.

Other potent greenhouse gases such as methane also recorded new highs, according to the WMO report.

By Mark Kinver Environment reporter, BBC News (ReBlog)

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