President George W Bush has invited the world’s most polluting nations to discuss cutting global emissions at a climate change summit in September, during the same week that the United Nations is holding a similar conclave.
He has asked the EU, UN and 15 major industrialised nations to the high-level talks on September 27-28 in Washington, to be hosted by Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State.
The talks would see America “collaborating with other major economies to agree on a detailed contribution for a new global framework by the end of 2008”, to be used after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
The protocol, adopted in 1997, aims to limit the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by industrialised countries.
The president’s conference was first suggested before the opening of the G8 summit in Germany in June, which was dominated by the issue of climate change. However, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has said that he was convening the meeting on climate change on September 24, a day before the General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting.
The Korean, who has made climate change a top priority since taking the reins of the UN on January 1, has urged all countries to reach a comprehensive agreement by 2009.
Asked whether the White House conference was aimed at competing with or deflecting attention from the UN meeting, a U.S. presidential spokesman said: “No, this is an effort to help supplement the ongoing efforts on other places around the world.”
At the G8 summit, Mr. Bush agreed to make “substantial” but unspecified cuts in emissions and to negotiate a framework to seek a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2009.
The US is not a party to the Kyoto agreement and large developing countries such as China, India and Brazil are exempt from its obligations. Earlier this year it was estimated that China had overtaken America as the world’s top producer of greenhouse gasses.
New infrared camera could catch out car-sharing cheats
Scientists have invented a roadside camera that can count the number of people inside a moving vehicle. The technology could be used to catch lone motorists who abuse congestion-easing car-share lanes.
These lanes give priority to vehicles carrying at least one passenger, but can be misused by solo drivers who hope they will not be seen. Some even place human-like dummies in the seat beside them to create the illusion of a passenger.
The new Dtect system, which rapidly projects an infrared scan through a vehicle’s windscreen, can distinguish human skin from mannequins, dogs or other diversions. Its inventors hope it will be in use before the end of the year.
However, motoring organizations have dismissed the technology, arguing that Britain’s roads do not have enough room for priority lanes and that it would be a long time before the reliability of such a device could be satisfactorily proved.
The demand for an automated system has existed since 1998, when Leeds City Council created a car-sharing lane on the A647. Its scheme is enforced by council officers and police, who pull over suspected offenders and fine those who are guilty. But experts at Loughborough University believe they have invented a more efficient system.
Loughborough’s Dr. John Tyrer, a director of Vehicle Occupancy, a company set up by the university to commercialise the invention, said: “The problem with a policeman in a bright yellow coat is that you’ll see him from afar, pull out of the priority lane, and then go back in later.”
You could stick a photo or dress a mannequin in the passenger seat, so CCTV is easily fooled.
At ₤7 300, it’s a pudding that might be a trifle too rich
A British entry has made the Top Ten of the world’s most expensive desserts, despite offering a humble plum soufflé in a list that included edible gold leaf, truffles and keepsake gems.
The golden plum soufflé, costing ₤24, from the Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire, came tenth in the list compiled by Forbes Traveler magazine.
The 35-year-old signature recipe, by three-star Michelin chef and owner Michel Roux, contains Mirabelle plums, a delicacy from Alsace in France. It is the closest the list comes to simple, honest food.
Top of the list is the Fortress Aquamarine, costing ₤7 300, at the luxury resort in Galle, Sri Lanka. An 80-carat aquamarine is balanced on an upright sliver of chocolate shaped like the resort’s logo. It comes with cassata served in a vase of sugar. The hand-made glass utensils are not included in the price, but the gem is. None has been sold yet. Forbes spoke to top pastry chefs, restaurateurs and culinary experts to assemble the list. Desserts from Dubai, the United States and Thailand beat the British offering. Three came from the U.S., the top two in the relatively typical, all-American forms of a brownie and a sundae, at ₤500 each. The dark chocolate Brownie Extraordinaire, topped with Italian hazelnuts and served with ice-cream, comes with a Saint Louis crystal perfume bottle filled with a shot of rare 1996 Quinta Do Noval port, to be sprayed into the mouth between bites. The dessert is served at Brulee in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
How wonderful it is that in “classless” Britain we can all aspire to be top consumers. We fly regularly, take holidays abroad, buy designer clothes, eat in restaurants that get reviewed in national papers. Banks toss out gold cards like confetti. Airlines woo us with loyalty benefits.
We are rich beyond the wildest dreams of a few decades ago.
But this upshifting doesn’t make the more affluent in society very happy. They can see their territory usurped by middle managers, PAs and people who work for the local council. It doesn’t please them one bit to meet a sales assistant from Milton Keynes shopping in Harvey Nichols or a computer programmer from Uxbridge relaxing on the beach in Bali. So the elite are concentrating on keeping one step ahead – or indeed, several Manolo-Blahniked strides in advance.
Take money. According to research commissioned by American Express, owning a gold card is perceived as on a par with driving a sports car. There are a lots of proud people out there flashing gold cards – but they are from the high-street banks, and are handed out to almost anyone earning ₤20 000 a year.
However, try to join a bank like Coutts and you won’t get a card of any colour at all unless you’re on a salary of at least ₤100 000 a year. A platinum American Express card remains the preserve of high spenders like Meg Mathews – and Prince William, who was given one for his 14th birthday.
As for travel, your frequent flier card may get a few perks – air miles, and so on. But don’t expect to be rubbing shoulders with the truly rich, who will already have been whisked away somewhere far more luxurious. Those in the know are already wistfully visualizing the day when whole flights will be business-class, with not an oik in sight.
Already, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and Gold ticket-holders are picked up by a chauffeur-driven Range Rover with a mobile check-in desk, and can book their in-flight masseur at the same time. Speaking of Range Rovers, they are the car of choice among the elite of Wall Street, over and above the BMW and Porsche. Which makes the optional electric sunroof on your Megane or Clio look extremely paltry.
And on the town, the trick isn’t simple to ensconce yourself into a booth at the Met Bar – it’s hanging on to it, because when Martine McCutcheon trips through the door, you’ll be shifted, pronto. Having a VIP area at a party or launch has long been standard practice, but not there is the VIP-VIP enclave, to weed out hangers-on-presumably, in the VIP-VIP enclosure Nicole Kidman stands and talks to herself.
These days your average housewife doesn’t shop at Marks & Spencer’s, she goes to Whistles. Anyone can prance into Harvey Nichols and buy whatever they want, if they have the money. And designers are encouraging the proles, by introducing “diffusion ranges” – cheaper lines such as Miu Miu from Prada that are more within reach of the nouveau rich-ish.
But while one might be tempted to splash out the odd ₤100 on a designer T-shirt, to spend real money, one could try boutiques like Voyage, where a frock could be ₤7 000. Except it’s members only. Nicole Kidman, Yasmin le Bon and Goldie Hawn can get its locked doors opened, but Madonna was refused. Securing the hair do to go with the clothes isn’t easy either. For a first appointment with Nicky Clarke, you pay ₤300 – which could rise to ₤600 if you need extensive work. If you can get that far: the waiting list runs into weeks.
As the elite soar into the stratosphere, even supermarkets are rushing to go posh, with ranges like Tesco’s “Best”. These “gourmet lines” offer ready-stuffed ducks and prepared lobsters.
However, there are signs that the sensible are starting to drop out of the aspirational rat race, according to Melanie Howard of the Future Foundation. This has identified a group of affluent, youngish entrepreneurial types which it calls
I-Society – I stands for independence – that accounts for 10 per cent of the population. Howard believes nearly one-third will follow suit over the next decade. I-Society has money but isn’t obsessed with status. Just as well, because when everyone is a VIP, at the same time no one is – and the VIPs that already exist are unlikely to give in to a loss of status without a fight.