Thursday, January 15, 2009

US Climate Action Partnership climate change plan launched -- behind the times

The US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a coalition of business, environmental and other interests, unveiled its "Blueprint for Legislative Action" climate change program today, which features a cap-and-trade approach to reducing GHG emissions.  USCAP link to 28 page Blueprint   USCAP Executive Overview  The cap-and-trade proposal is, of course, by now mainstream thinking -- and unsurprising given the Environmental Defense economic incentive approach to environmental problems. The USCAP plan is based upon an 80% reduction of 2005 GHG emissions by 2050.  Note that this goal falls far short of more ambitious proposals already made in Congress and is woefully inadequate to meet the 350 ppm, 1 degree C criterion for climate change mitigation policy proferred by James Hanson, et al. to avoid dangerous global warming impacts.

The Blueprint apparently represents two years of work by USCAP members building on their January 2007 Call for Action, which articulated  principles for climate change mitigation efforts and made recommendations urging “prompt enactment of national legislation in the United States to slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the shortest time reasonably achievable.”     

The Blueprint responds to requests by federal policymakers for a detailed consensus to help inform climate change legislation. USCAP acknowledges that it does not include all stakeholders and interests.  It characterizes the Blueprint as an "integrated package of policies [providing] a pragmatic pathway to achieve aggressive environmental goals in a responsible and economically sustainable manner." 4 page

 
 

Continue reading

January 15, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

EU Pesticide Ban advances through EU parliament

Yesterday, the European Parliament voted to ban highly toxic pesticides unless their effects can be proven to be negligible. If endorsed by 27 EU ministers, countries with similar geography and climate could decide whether farmers may use specific products. This implements an agreement negotiated in December that substantially reduced the number of substances to be banned.  December agreement

The EU will list EU-approved "active substances," excluding 22 ingredients that are classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction. The chemical "blacklist" includes eight substances used in the manufacture of herbicides, 11 used in fungicides and three in insecticides, many of them produced by German chemical giants Bayer and BASF -- including Ioxynil, Amitrol and Iprodion.  That list will provide the basis for national EU governments to approve pesticides nationally or, via mutual recognition with 120 days, in the north, center, and south regions of the EU.  Currently, approvals apply only for individual countries and there is no deadline set for mutual recognition approvals. 

Already licensed pesticides remain available until their 10-year authorization expires, avoiding a sudden large-scale withdrawal of pesticides from the market.

EU countries will be allowed to ban a product, because of specific environment or agricultural circumstances.  Also, certain restrictions will be put on pesticide use, including banning most aerial crop-spraying, strict conditions on pesticides use near aquatic environments and drinking water supplies, and buffer zones requirements around water and protected areas along roads and railways.

January 14, 2009 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, Land Use, Legislation, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

States Set for Clean Energy Lobbying on Hill

                              
                     

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   

Media contact:

Larry Kopp/Seth Allen, The T.A.S.C. Group

Ph: 646-723-4344/ cell: 917-282-2357

seth@thetascgroup.com

 

Clean Energy States Alliance To Hold Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill

 

 

 

CESA Will Propose New Federal/State Partnership for Green Stimulus Investment

 

Washington, DC, January 9, 2009: Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) will hold a congressional briefing on Tuesday, January 13 on the strategic role of states in supporting clean energy. The event is co-sponsored by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and will be held from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. at 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. CESA will present policy recommendations for the Obama administration and outline a new federal/state partnership for moving forward with effective clean energy economic stimulus. The key is distributing federal funds for clean energy investment directly through the many existing state clean energy funds and programs.

 

"For years, the states have been funding clean energy projects and have taken the lead in green collar job creation," said CESA President, Lewis Milford. "The federal government should use the many existing state clean energy funds as vehicles to quickly and efficiently deploy the green stimulus investment."

 

Speakers for the briefing include: Lewis Milford, President and Founder of Clean Energy States Alliance and Clean Energy Group; Janet Joseph, Director of Clean Energy Research &Market Development, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); Tom Plant, Director of Colorado Governor's Energy Office; Rob Sanders, Sustainable Development Fund Manager, The Reinvestment Fund and Peter West, Director of Renewable Energy, Energy Trust of Oregon.

 

The briefing coincides with a press conference and panel event CESA has scheduled for the morning of January 13 at the National Press Club. The press breakfast will start at 9:30 a.m. and run through 11:00 a.m. At the event, CESA will release a new report which highlights its national database of nearly 50,000 state funded renewable energy projects. The projects in the database have a capacity of 1.7 Gigawatts and generate 5.3 million megawatt hours of electricity each year, enough to power 500,000 homes. As of 2007, 12,000 state renewable energy projects have been completed and state clean energy funds have invested $1.5 billion and leveraged an additional $2.5 billion in private capital.

 

Much of the innovative and effective activity to advance clean energy has taken place at the state level. By supporting creative finance, policy, and market initiatives, the states have been serving as laboratories where ideas for implementing clean energy can be tested and proven in the real world. In many cases, the states have established special funds to promote renewable energy and other clean energy technologies. CESA will also honor five state clean energy programs with the inaugural "State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards" at the event. Representatives from CESA and the winning programs will be present.

 

The CESA and EESI briefing is open to press. Anyone interested in attending the event and scheduling interviews with CESA representatives must contact:

 

Larry Kopp/Seth Allen, Office: (646) 723-4344, Cell: (917) 282-2357, seth@thetascgroup.com

 

About Clean Energy States Alliance

Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) is a national nonprofit organization that works with clean energy funds and state agencies to expand the nation's clean energy infrastructure and advance markets for clean energy technologies. CESA provides information and technical services to its members and shares its knowledge with the federal government and influential policymakers. CESA's member states manage programs that will invest nearly $6 billion in the next ten years to support clean energy. Clean Energy Group (CEG) created CESA in 2002 and now manages it.

 

www.cleanenergystates.org, www.cleanegroup.org

January 11, 2009 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 9, 2009

ExxonMobil supports carbon tax

This speech takes a leaf from Ken Cohen's playbook.  I think that Cohen is honestly convinced that taxes are better and that cap-and-trade is too complicated.  On the other hand, it certainly muddies the waters for quick passage of a climate change bill.  And maybe that's the real point.  The other strategic possibility is that oil companies are quick to suggest that their marginal costs of control are far higher than utilities.  If so, since utilities will control first rather than pay the tax, the tax necessary to secure reductions from the utilities will be relatively low.  So, the oil companies could pay the low tax and defer payment of the higher costs of control. 

Also, as I frequently point out to my students, environmental taxes produce a downward pressure on the level of emission control to be achieved simply because they tax each unit, not just the undesired units, of pollution.  That drives the cost of control through the roof and creates the downward political pressure.  Additionally, there is always the uncertainty of what the marginal cost of control is and thus the amount of emission reduction that will be achieved. 

WSJ reports:

The chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp. for the first time called on Congress to enact a tax on greenhouse-gas emissions in order to fight global warming. In a speech in Washington, Rex Tillerson said that a tax was a "more direct, a more transparent and a more effective approach" to curtailing greenhouse gases than other plans popular in Congress and with the incoming Obama administration...

By backing [a carbon tax], Mr. Tillerson has become an unlikely member of a club that includes former Vice President Al Gore, consumer advocate Ralph Nader and President-elect Barack Obama's designated head of the National Economic Council, Larry Summers.

Carbon taxes have been politically unpopular. "Calling for a carbon tax could be a ploy because few observers believe such a tax is politically feasible in our Congress," says Daniel J. Weiss, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center think tank in Washington.

The leadership of the Democratic-led Congress and other major oil companies prefer using a cap-and-trade approach. Under this system, the government would establish economy-wide emission limits as well as limits for individual companies. There would be a market for firms to buy and sell pollution allowances based on whether they were above or below their caps.  ConocoPhillips and the U.S. divisions of BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have all supported a cap-and-trade solution.

Mr. Tillerson said a cap-and-trade system would be costly, bureaucratic and create a "Wall Street of emissions brokers." The speech signals an evolution in the thinking of Mr. Tillerson, who became chief executive and chairman of Texas-based Exxon, the world's largest Western oil company, in 2006. Mr. Tillerson now calls the issue complex and challenging to understand, but -- in contrast to Exxon's previous party line -- he doesn't question whether fossil fuel use has contributed to rising global temperatures.

Tillerson's certainly right about the transaction costs associated with a cap-and-trade system.  This could be interesting. 

January 9, 2009 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Economist on Poznan: Fiddling with Words

The Economist summarized the December Poznan, Poland meeting as fiddling with words. Economist link Likewise, in 2007, I characterized the G8 summit in these words, "Nero became infamous for fiddling as First Century Rome burned. This month, the parties at the G8 summit followed Nero's insanely frivolous, time-wasting lead. Unfortunately, this time the whole planet is burning."   Findlaw: Smith commentary But the Economist captured the situation with a different metaphor.

IMAGINE that some huge rocky projectile, big enough to destroy most forms of life, was hurtling towards the earth, and it seemed that deep international co-operation offered the only hope of deflecting the lethal object. Presumably, the nations of the world would set aside all jealousies and ideological hangups, knowing that failure to act together meant doom for all.  At least in theory, most of the world’s governments now accept that climate change, if left unchecked, could become the equivalent of a deadly asteroid. But to judge by the latest, tortuous moves in climate-change diplomacy—at a two-week gathering in western Poland, which ended on December 13th—there is little sign of any mind-concentrating effect. To be fair to the 10,000-odd people (diplomats, UN bureaucrats, NGO types) who assembled in Poznan, a semicolon was removed. At a similar meeting in Bali a year earlier, governments had vowed to consider ways of cutting emissions from “deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation [and forest management]”. After much haggling, delegates in Poland decided to upgrade conservation by replacing the offending punctuation mark with a comma.  At this pace, it seems to hard to believe that a global deal on emissions targets (reconciling new emitters with older ones) can be reached next December at a meeting in Copenhagen, seen as a make-or-break time for UN efforts to cool the world.

The Economist went on to explain some of the background factors that influenced the events at Poznan and why it was not a totally depressing waste of time:

In the background of the Poznan meeting, there was mild optimism (and a reluctance by others to put fresh cards on the table) ahead of an expected change of stance by an Obama administration in America; resentment (among the poor and green) over the refusal of Japan and Canada to promise deeper cuts; and strong demands from China for the transfer of technology from the rich to others. In the final hours of the conference, the governments of small, sinking island nations were delighted to learn that they, and not some global body, would control a fund to help them adapt to a warming world. Their mood changed when it became known that no extra money had been set aside for this purpose.  However hard it looks to put this global jigsaw together, there were some encouraging unilateral moves, especially from Latin America. Mexico vowed to halve greenhouse emissions by 2050; Brazil said it could reverse a recent rise in deforestation and cut the rate of forest loss by 70% over the next decade; Peru said that with help it could reduce deforestation to zero.

But the economist made the case that the key to progress towards an agreement in Copenhagen is the willingness of the EU to continue to provide climate leadership.  The EU's attitude seems a bit ambivalent.  As the Economist reported,

At a summit on December 11th and 12th, the EU’s leaders eventually decided to keep their targets intact while also allowing opt-outs which may yet undermine their stated goals. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who chaired the summit, boasted of a “terrific fight” which French diplomacy had managed to finesse. Despite many concessions for heavy industry and poor newcomers to the EU, the final deal (perhaps to its credit) left everybody unhappy. European industry felt too much was being asked of it, while green groups thought industry had gained rather too many concessions.  In the background of the EU’s wrangling were some goals laid out last year in pre-recession times. By the year 2020, the EU promised three things: to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20% over 1990 levels; to obtain 20% of overall EU energy from renewables like wind, waves and plant waste; and to make efficiency savings of 20% over forecast consumption.  The new EU deal kept the targets, but offered sops to countries that fear an emphasis on the “polluter pays” principle may drive up electricity costs, or push heavy industry away to places, like Asia, that in Copenhagen will oppose big emission cuts. Opt-outs were granted from plans to force large polluters to buy allowances to emit carbon at auction. Poorish ex-communist countries that rely on coal for power will be allowed to dish out up to 70% of the carbon allowances needed by power firms, for no payment, for a few years after 2013. Heavy industries that face global competition will also get up to 100% of their allowances free, at least initially, if they use the cleanest available technologies. And EU nations will be allowed to buy in credits for emissions reductions far from Europe, and count them against as much as 90% of their national reduction targets. Eurocrats say a reduced emphasis on auctioning permits won’t undermine the benefits of the package; carbon-cutting discipline still comes from the ceiling on the number of allowances issued. That cap will be cut each year after 2013: this should help to support carbon prices in the EU’s Emissions-Trading Scheme. The concessions risk prolonging some follies. For example, big power firms that now get carbon allowances free have been passing on their nominal cost to customers. Handing out free allowances may also reduce revenues available to governments for investment in greenery. Moreover, some pro-market countries fret that using climate-change policies to redistribute money within the EU will cause trouble in global talks. It will make it harder to resist China and India when they seek transfers of money in the name of “solidarity”.

The ECN had a more optimist view of the EU's action, arguing that the final package passed the political test:

The energy and climate policy package was proposed in January 2008 by the European Commission and, after some adjustments, agreed by the Member States last week during a meeting of EU government leaders. The central objectives remained in place: For the year 2020, (i) to save energy use by 20%, (ii) to increase the share of renewable energy in total energy use to 20% (compared to some 8% in 2005), and (iii) to reduce total EU greenhouse gas emissions by 20% (compared to 1990).

The main instrument to achieve the greenhouse gas reduction target is the EU-wide harmonised Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The most contested issue in the package was whether industries would receive their emission allowances for free or whether they would have to buy them in an auction. Currently, the allowances are given out for free, which has led to power companies charging their consumers as if they are paying a carbon price, resulting in billions of windfall profits. Auctioning of the emission allowances would solve this problem, but is politically controversial as it would lead to high costs for greenhouse gas emitting industries.

On auctioning in the ETS the following was decided:

• Starting from 2013, power companies have to buy all their emission allowances at an auction. Contrary to the original EC proposal, however, the EU government leaders agreed that for existing power generators in some (mainly East-European) countries the auctioning rate in 2013 will be at least 30% and will be progressively raised to 100% no later than 2020. This means that for instance existing coal-fired power plants in Poland still get their allowances for free, but that new power plants need to pay. In the Netherlands, all power plants will have to buy their allowances.

• For the industrial sectors under the ETS, the government leaders agreed that the auctioning rate will be set at 20% in 2013, increasing to 70% in 2020, with a view to reaching 100% in 2027. The original EC proposal included 100% auctioning in 2020 rather than 2027. Industries exposed to significant non-EU competition, however, will receive 100% of allowances free of charge up to 2020.

With regard to greenhouse gas reduction in the sectors that are not covered by the ETS, such as households and transport, which cover about 55-60% of EU emissions, the Commission proposal allowed Member States to use offset credits to meet up to two-thirds of the emission reduction and the remaining part by domestic abatement measures. The EU leaders, however, agreed to allow 11 (mainly West-European) countries – including Spain and Italy – to use additional offset credits to meet their non-ETS targets.

My bottom line from all of this is that the U.S. needs to assert serious leadership on climate change -- and the green team Obama has assembled gives every reason for hope that it will do so.  In just less than a month!

December 26, 2008 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, South America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

CAIR Reinstated Pending EPA Revision of Rule

The D.C. Circuit decided today 12/23 decision to temporarily reinstate the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR),EPA CAIR webpage  but the program to reduce power-plant emissions of NOx and SOx will need to be revised due to the court's finding of "fundamental flaws" in the CAIR cap-and-trade provisions.  The court on rehearing decided against vacatur, striking down the rule altogether, as its July decision had done.  July CAIR decision   The industry petitioners, the government, and environmentalists had agreed in their responses to the court that vacatur was not a desirable remedy.  The CAIR rule, which takes effect at the beginning of the year, is reinstated until EPA crafts a new program consistent with the court's determination that allowing utilities to freely trade SO2 emissions credits, banking early credits and using them in later years, violates the Title IV acid rain provisions of the Clean Air Act.  Whether through legislative action or rulemaking, the process of revising the rule is likely to require at least two or three  years. The SO2 emissions market reportedly rallied today after the court decision, trading up from yesterday's close of $148 to more than $200 per allowance,

December 23, 2008 in Air Quality, Cases, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Legislation, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Here are some of the picks of Change.gov

 

The “green dream team”

   

President-elect Obama's picks for key members of his energy and environment team have not just drawn praise -- they've set off a wave of optimism that the time for serious action on climate change has arrived.

"This is a team with a keen interest in addressing climate change, and the talent and skills to get the job done," Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said in a statement. "With Steven Chu, Carol Browner, Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley at the helm, President-Elect Obama's Administration will be well-equipped to tackle the challenge of building a new clean energy future that preserves the climate while revitalizing our economy."

"These selections form a green dream team that will help President-elect Obama’s vision for solving our economic and global warming challenges through clean energy become reality," Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, was quoted as saying by Congressional Quarterly's Politics blog.

In the press conference yesterday introducing the new team, President-elect Obama said of Energy Secretary-desginate and Nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Chu, "His appointment should send a signal to all that my Administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action."

That signal has been heard loud and clear.

"Obama has chosen about the most qualified scientist one can imagine to make the case for putting the E back into DOE," Science Insider, a blog run by the same organization that publishes the influential journal Science, wrote of President-elect Obama's choice to lead the Department of Energy.

Under the headline "Science Born Again in the White House, and Not a Moment Too Soon," Wired magazine's Science blog wrote that Secretary-designate Chu "recognizes the need to invest in science, from grade schools to universities to industry. He sees the imperative for the government to think in new and big ways about the energy problem. He understands we have to face up to climate change. And, most importantly, he has ideas about how to get it all done and the character to make them happen."

Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, praised the creation of a new White House post to coordinate energy and climate policy, and the choice of Carol Browner to fill it.

"The President-elect's decision...to integrate policy on the intersection of energy, environment and climate change is both visionary and overdue," he said in a statement. "All the agencies of government must be involved, and his selection of Carol Browner to lead the Council signals the importance he attaches to an effective inter-agency process."

The National Journal has more responses on its Energy and Environment blog.

   

December 23, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Know your source: American Council for Capital Formation contends that CO2 controls will conflict with job creation and economic stimulus plans

E & E:

Can President-elect Barack Obama successfully stimulate the economy, create jobs and reduce emissions? What are some of the pitfalls of pursuing a "green" stimulus? During today's OnPoint, Margo Thorning, senior vice president and chief economist at the American Council for Capital Formation, gives her take on why some of the incoming administration's aggressive climate and economic goals may conflict with each other. Thorning assesses Obama's energy and environment Cabinet picks and explains how she believes the chairmanship shift in the House Energy and Commerce Committee will affect the push for cap-and-trade legislation.

ACCP has been an ExxonMobil-funded, conservative think tank with a climate skeptic slant.  For example, in March 2003, Dr. Thorning had this take on the minor cuts required by the Kyoto Protocol:

Given the severe macroeconomic impacts the Kyoto Protocol would impose on the United States, including reducing U.S. GDP by 1-4 percent, slowing wage growth significantly, worsening the distribution of income, and reducing growth in living standards, Dr. Thorning called for a new approach. Voluntary measures to reduce CO2 emissions should include modifications to U.S. tax policy that reduce the cost of capital for energy-efficient investments

ExxonSecrets.org reported that American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research has received $1,619,523 from ExxonMobil between 1998-2006.  The 2007 report indicates that ExxonMobil still supports ACCF-CPR, again providing a $15,000 additional contribution.

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December 22, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Social Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

UNGA Adopts Climate Change-Related Resolutions

UN General Assembly (UNGA)

Last week, among 34 development-related actions put forward by its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a number of resolutions including consideration of the economic ramifications of climate change. 

Among the climate change-related resolutions, the UN General Assembly:

  • supported international efforts and funding to prevent and manage natural disasters, as well as extreme weather patterns;
  • stressed the need to further advance and implement the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-Building (document A/63/414/Add.7);
  • called for urgent global action to address climate change for the benefit of present and future generations, and urged parties to the UNFCCC to continue using the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their work (document A/63/414/Add.4);
  • urged all governments, relevant organizations, UN bodies and the Global Environment Facility to take timely action to effectively follow-up and implement the Strategy and the Mauritius Declaration, and called upon the international community to help Small Island Developing States adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change (document A/63/414/Add.2);
  • encouraged governments to promote sustainable urbanization to improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations, including slum-dwellers and the urban poor, and to help mitigate climate change (UN-Habitat document A/63/415); and
  • reaffirmed its partnership with the Pacific Island Forum through the lens of the serious threats posed to vulnerable island States by climate change and the global economic recession (document A/63/L.56).

[UN Press Release]

December 22, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Haiti's Resurrection

Dear Readers and Friends:

It is so difficult this time of year to decide how to spend one's limited resources in a way consistent with our duty to reduce human suffering and make the world a better place.  It is especially difficult now, when all of us are a bit uncertain about our financial future and have lost a considerable amount of our paper wealth.  But, I am concentrating for now on Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere. Below I post a letter from a friend in Haiti, in the hope that some of you may help in the resurrection of Haiti after this fall's hurricane season. Obviously, my friend is a Christian (as I am), but human need knows no religion.  Be assured that any money sent him through the church will be used to meet profound human need, not the promotion of a creed.  And, if you are reluctant to send money to a faith-based organization, just let me know and I'll be happy to find a secular route for your gift.

[We] are writing you all with a great mix of emotions – sadness and frustration, great doubts, fear, but also some sense of hope. Many of you already know that in the past five weeks, Haiti was affected by four hurricanes – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, resulting in profound destruction throughout the entire country. Chavannes Jean Baptiste, the director of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay–Farmer’s Movement of Papay) noted this past Monday that the situation is without precedent.  MPP along with other national and international organizations are beginning to get a grasp of the level of havoc and devastation, but it seems impossible that anyone will ever be able to make a full accounting of the loss of life and property.


Many of the root causes of the poverty in Haiti–weak government, inadequate communication, lack of roads and other infrastructure, virtually non-existent social services–have always kept Haitind other countries with similar conditions, open to the full effects of disasters such as this. These same conditions now make it difficult and in some cases impossible for a quick response to those who need help the most. It is even nearly impossible to know who needs the help the most. In the last two days, I have received reports via e-mail of whole communities without food and water, with no help in sight. Lack of real roads have always been part of the isolation of many of these communities. Now, the serious damage to bridges and other weak points along the roads that do exist has increased the number of people who are isolated from any easy access, as well as deepening the level of isolation for those who have always lived at the limits.


Given all this, [our] sense of sadness is easy to understand. We live along side people who carry on their daily lives with grace, great generosity and wonderful senses of humor, despite the profound limitations. Now, these same people, some of whom are close personal friends, have lost homes and possessions and we know they have no real resources, or hope, for recuperating their losses. We have a great need to help, but we ourselves do not have the ability to provide any help that seems significant, even at the local level. Not even for just the families who are part of MPP – at least 52 families whose homes were flooded last week. Multiply the needs of the folks in Hinche by all of communities in nearly every part of Haiti, you can easily understand our frustration. What can we do? Within the sadness and frustration I also feel some guilt, because we ourselves are safe and suffered no damage at all to our home or even to the project where I work.


We also wonder whether the kind of help that is starting to come could possibly be adequate, given the enormous need. And will the assistance that comes be directed to address some of the root causes of poverty in  Haiti?  Will the funds help rebuild roads and bridges so that they are better than they were, or will the be used to make the highways and byways merely passable, subject as always to rapid degradation by even normal use? And will the international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, encourage the Haitian government to create “safety nets” that can help families and communities recuperate losses? Or will they follow their standard policy, insisting on budgetary stringency, regardless of the needs of the most vulnerable–the poor in general, and women, children and the aged in particular?


It is impossible to write about the current catastrophe without mentioning as well the ongoing global wide crises of food prices which are spiraling out of US control. In the project that I help coordinate – the crew prepares and shares two meals a day. We produce all of the vegetables for these meals ourselves, but for the items we can’t produce (corn, rice, coffee, oil etc), we paid a total of around  $100 in  May.  In August, we spent around $135 for the same supplies and in September we spent $175. In a country where over half the population earns less than $US 1.00 a day, the situation was devastating, before the flooding will now die from hunger, giving in at last to ongoing deprivation?


And the fear we feel, where does that come from? Haitians have a marvelous way of dealing with difficult situations that I have come to respect a great deal. They sing, they laugh, they joke and suddenly, the load lightens and the way forward opens up again. There is also a great deal of tolerance, or patience, with unjust conditions. But there are limits. The suffering from the food crisis was becoming nearly insufferable before the hurricanes. If there is not a rapid, reliable and comprehensive response to the current situation, especially by the Haitian government, there will almost surely be massive unrest, probably focused, as always, in Port au Prince, the capital of     Haiti.


At the end of such a letter, what could we say about hope that could balance the discouragement I’m sure you can sense in what I write? First and foremost is faith – [our] faith as well as the profound faith of Haitians in general. We do believe in a God who makes a way where there is no way – our God who sent our savior, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, not only to demonstrate God’s profound solidarity with his chosen people, but also to completely and finally put an end to despair. Because we are Christ followers, we hope, and there is nothing that can separate us from that hope, from the constant renewal of that hope. As [we] and several crew members were heading south, into Port au Prince,... we passed through an area just north of the city of    Mirebelais (Mee be lay) where the farmers have access to irrigation. In field after field as we traveled down the road, farmers were out in those fields transplanting rice, hoeing rice, irrigating rice. Just one day after Hurricane Ike had passed through, the fields were already moving from devastation into abundance, farmers moving from being victims to being the agents of their own resurrection. What a miracle. What a God.


Note:

Please be part of Haiti’s resurrection. Contributions for the crisis in Haiti may be sent to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). Please write on the check “DR-000064 Haiti Emergency.” Mail it to:

Presbyterian Church (USA)
Individual Remittance Processing
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh PA 15264-3700 

 

December 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

DON’T FORGET TO MARK PIELC IN YOUR 2009 CALENDARS!

The 27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

Solidarity! United Action for the Greener Good

 

February 26th – March 1st

University of Oregon School of Law

Eugene, Oregon

www.pielc.org

 

Read on for planning updates and reminders . . .

 

- Last day to submit panel suggestions is January 15th, but the sooner the better, as our timeslots are already starting to fill up.  Go to http://www.pielc.org/pages/panel_suggest.html

- Submit artwork for PIELC 2009 posters and t-shirts now!  Email submissions to aengel@uoregon.edu, or mail them to 1221 University of Oregon School of Law, Eugene, OR 97403, attn: LAW

- Coming in mid-January, our website will be updated with more travel, lodging, and childcare options than ever at www.pielc.org.

- Our confirmed keynote speakers are:

Katherine Redford – Co-Founder and US Office Director of Earth Rights International, is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights and Public Service. She is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar and served as counsel to plaintiffs in ERI's landmark case Doe v. Unocal. Katie received an Echoing Green Fellowship in 1995 to establish ERI, and since that time has split her time between ERI's Thailand and US offices. In addition to working on ERI's litigation and teaching at the EarthRights Schools, Katie currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at both UVA and the Washington College of Law at American University. She has published on various issues associated with human rights and corporate accountability, in addition to co-authoring ERI reports such as In Our Court, Shock and Law, and Total Denial Continues. In 2006, Katie was selected as an Ashoka Global Fellow.

Riki Ott – Experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill—and chose to do something about it. She retired from fishing, founded three nonprofit organizations to deal with lingering social, economic, and harm, and wrote two books about the spill. Sound Truth and Corporate Myths focuses on the hard science-ecotoxicology, and the new understanding (paradigm shift) that oil is more toxic than previously thought. Not One Drop describes the soft science--the sociology of disaster trauma, and the new understanding that our legal system does not work in cases involving wealthy corporations, complex science, and class-action. Ott draws on her academic training and experience to educate, empower, and motivate students and the general public to address the climate crisis and our energy future through local solutions. Ott lives Cordova, Alaska, the fishing community most affected by the disaster.

Stephen Stec – Adjunct Professor at Central European University (HU) and Associate Scholar at Leiden University (NL).  As well as the former head of the Environmental Law Program of the Regional Environmental Center (REC), Stec is one of the authors of The Aarhus Convention Implementation Guide and main editor for the Access to Justice Handbook under the Aarhus Convention. The subject of the Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention is not only an environmental agreement; it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness.  The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice.

Fernando Ochoa – Legal Advisor for Pronatura Noroeste a Mexican non-profit organization and the Waterkeeper Program for the Baja California Peninsula, and founding member and Executive Director for Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN), an environmental advocacy organization. Mr. Ochoa has helped establish more than 60 conservation contracts to protect more than 150 thousand acres of land in Northwest Mexico.  As the Executive Director of DAN, Mr. Ochoa has successfully opposed several development and industrial projects that threatened ecosystems in the Sea of Cortes and the Baja California Peninsula, having saved critical habitat for Gray Whales, Whale Sharks and other endangered species.  His work has set important legal precedents on environmental law in order for local communities to gain participation in decision making processes, transparency and access to justice.

Claudia Polsky – Deputy Director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Green Technology (P2 Office) in California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).  The P2 Office is central to the implementation of  new (2008) legal authority that gives California expansive ability to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products.  Instead of focusing on cleanup of past pollution -- the historic emphasis of DTSC -- the P2  Office looks to the future by preventing the use of toxic materials in consumer products and industrial operations.  Ms. Polsky's duties include implementing California’s Green Chemistry Initiative, overseeing hazardous waste source-reduction programs, and working with staff engineers to evaluate and deploy new environmental technologies that reduce the need for toxic chemicals. The Office's work involves interaction with stakeholders as diverse as electronics manufacturers, breast cancer activists, analytical chemists, and venture capitalists.  Before joining DTSC, Ms. Polsky worked for the California Department of Justice, Earthjustice, Public Citizen Litigation Group, and The Nature Conservancy. She holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, where she was Editor in Chief of Ecology Law Quarterly. She is also a former Fulbright Scholar to New Zealand, receiving a Masters of Applied Science in Natural Resource Management.

Gail Small – The director of Native Action, an environmental justice organization in Lame Deer, Montana. Small's political engagement in energy issues began in the early 1970s, when she and other high school students were sent by the tribal government to visit coal extraction sites on the Navajo Reservation and in Wyoming, after the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) signed leases opening the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to strip-mining. Small later served on a tribal committee that successfully fought for the cancellation of the BIA coal leases. She received her law degree from the University of Oregon and formed Native Action in 1984. Her work at Native Action includes litigation, drafting tribal statutes, and creating informational resources for tribal members.

Derrick Jenson – bio coming soon

SEE YOU THERE!

The Conference Co-Directors

Cadence Whiteley

Erin Farris

Jasmine Hites

Andy Engel

Teresa Jacobs


Questions? Suggestions? Comments?  email askpielc@uoregon.edu

December 17, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CGD Contribution to Development Index - Environment

 
Go check out the Center for Global Development's 2007 Commitment to Development Index page.  Its got some great graphics that you have to see to appreciate.  Unsurprisingly, EU countries lead the way on the Center for Global Development's index of commitment to environmentally sustainable development and the US trails the pack, scoring under 3 on a 10 point scale, while EU countries tend to score 6 or above with Norway near 9.  Center for Global Development Commitment to Development Index   

CGD reports:

Norway tops this year’s environment standings. Its net greenhouse gas emissions fell during 1995–2005, the last ten years for which data are available, thanks to steady expansion in its forests, which absorb carbon dioxide. Also high is Ireland, whose economy grew 6.6 percent per year faster in the same period than its greenhouse gas emissions; and the U.K., which has steadily increased gasoline taxes and supported wind and other renewable energy sources. Spain finishes low as a heavy subsidizer of its fishing industry while Japan is hurt by its high tropical timber imports. The U.S. has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the most serious international effort yet to deal with climate change. That gap, along with high greenhouse emissions and low gas taxes, puts the U.S. last. Two notches up, Australia cuts a similar profile, with the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the group.      

 

The environment component of the CDI compares rich countries on policies that affect shared global resources such as the atmosphere and oceans. Rich countries use these resources disproportionately while poor ones are less equipped to adapt to the consequences, such as global warming. Countries do well if their greenhouse gas emissions are falling, if their gas taxes are high, if they do not subsidize the fishing industry, and if they control imports of illegally cut tropical timber.

A healthy environment is sometimes dismissed as a luxury for the rich. But people cannot live without a healthy environment. And poor nations have weaker infrastructures and fewer social services than rich countries, making the results of climate change all the more damaging. A study co-authored by CGD senior fellow David Wheeler predicts that a two-meter sea level rise would flood 90 million people out of their homes, many of them in the river deltas of Bangladesh, Egypt, and Vietnam.

The environment component looks at what rich countries are doing to reduce their disproportionate exploitation of the global commons. Are they reining in greenhouse gas emissions? How complicit are they in environmental destruction in developing countries, for example by importing commodities such as tropical timber? Do they subsidize fishing fleets that deplete fisheries off the coasts of such countries as Senegal and India?

December 2, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Special Guest Contribution: Will we leave the Great Barrier Reef for our children? -- Dr. Chris McGrath

Dr Chris McGrath is an Australian lawyer and researcher on laws protecting the GBR from climate change. This article is based on a previously published research paper, McGrath (2008).  Submitted 30 October 2008.

 

Amidst the current policy debate in Australia and internationally on climate change is a surreal argument that policies that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBR) and other coral reefs around the globe are acceptable and economically rational.

Nicolas Stern (2007: 330) concluded that “coral reef ecosystems [will be] extensively and eventually irreversibly damaged” by temperature change relative to pre-industrial levels of 0.5-2°C. He found that at 2°C warming “coral reefs are expected to bleach annually in many areas, with most never recovering, affecting tens of millions of people that rely on coral reefs for their livelihood or food supply” (Stern 2007: 94).

Yet for what were clearly reasons of pragmatism and feasibility he recommended the global stabilisation goal should lie within the range of 450-550 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalents (ppm CO2-eq), thereby implicitly accepting a likely warming of 2-3°C and loss of coral reefs, including the GBR.

Ross Garnaut, the Australian Government’s handpicked economic advisor on responding to climate change, followed Stern’s approach and was alive to the damage to the GBR. He recommended that Australia should initially aim for a global consensus next year at COP-15 in Copenhagen to stabilise greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 550 ppm CO2-eq and hope that global consensus can be reached later for lower stabilisation.

Garnaut (2008a: 38) was brutally frank in his supplementary draft report: “The 550 strategy would be expected to lead to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs.” His final report does not shy away from this conclusion (Garnaut 2008b). 

The new Australian Government has silently avoided the issue of the expected impacts to the GBR when explaining the costs and benefits of its climate policies. It does not yet have a stabilisation target for the rise in global temperatures or greenhouse gases but recent modelling of economic impacts of mitigating climate change considered only three stabilisation targets.

The Australian Treasury (2008) considers only stabilisation at 450, 510 and 550 ppm CO2-eq, aiming to stabilise mean global temperature rises between 2-3°C. The only reference to impacts on the GBR is to a “very high risk [of] loss of complete ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef [if] the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rises to over 1,500 ppm CO2-eq by 2100 [giving an] increase in global average temperature of 5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100” (Australian Treasury 2008: 35).

In fact, as Stern recognised, the current science indicates that the GBR will be devastated long before such levels are reached and within the lower stabilisation range the Australian Government appears to be aiming for.

Stern and Garnaut’s frank admissions of the expected impacts to the GBR reflect research findings since mass coral bleaching occurred globally in 1998 and 2002. Rising sea temperatures and increasing acidity of the oceans due to our use of fossil fuels are now well-recognized as major threats to coral reefs and the marine ecosystem generally in coming decades.   

In relation to coral bleaching the IPCC (2007b: 12) found that:

“Corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and have low adaptive capacity. Increases in sea surface temperature of about 1 to 3°C are projected to result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality, unless there is thermal adaptation or acclimatisation by corals.”

The findings of the IPCC suggest that a rise of 1°C in mean global temperatures and, correspondingly, sea surface temperatures above pre-industrial levels is the maximum that should be aimed for if the global community wishes to protect coral reefs. The range of 1-3°C is the danger zone and 2°C is not safe. Supporting this conclusion Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and his colleagues concluded in a review of the likely impacts of climate change to the GBR edited by Johnson and Marshall (2007: 295):

“Successive studies of the potential impacts of thermal stress on coral reefs have supported the notion that coral dominated reefs are likely to largely disappear with a 2°C rise in sea temperature over the next 100 years. This, coupled with the additional vulnerability of coral reefs to high levels of acidification once the atmosphere reaches 500 parts per million [CO2], suggests that coral dominated reefs will be rare or non-existent in the near future.”

The IPCC’s (2007a: 826) best estimate of climate sensitivity found that stabilising greenhouse gases and aerosols at 350 ppm CO2-eq would be expected to lead to a rise in mean global temperatures of 1°C, stabilising at 450 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 2°C, and stabilising at 550 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 3°C.

Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols have already passed 350 ppm CO2-eq making stabilisation at that level extremely difficult if not impossible in practice, particularly in the context of current global growth and energy use patterns. Atmospheric CO2 reached 379 ppm in 2005 and was increasing by around 2 ppm per year (IPCC 2007c: 102). Including the effect of other greenhouse gases such as methane, the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases was around 455 ppm CO2-eq in 2005 (IPCC 2007c: 102). However, the cooling effects of aerosols and landuse changes reduce radiative forcing so that the net forcing of human activities was about 375 ppm CO2‑eq for 2005 (IPCC 2007c: 102).

Global emissions of carbon dioxide, the major anthropogenic greenhouse gas, are growing at approximately 3% per annum, which exceeds even the “worst case” IPCC projections (Raupach et al 2007). This places global greenhouse gas emissions on a trajectory to rise by 150% between 2000 and 2050 on “business as usual”.

When the conclusions of the IPCC are synthesised, it is clear that reductions of greenhouse emissions of 60% by 2050, such as proposed by the Australian Government (2008), even if they can be achieved, are not likely to prevent serious damage to the GBR and other coral reefs. A 60% reduction in global emissions by 2050 is likely to lead to a mean global temperature rise around 2.4°C (IPCC 2007d: 67), which is likely to severely degrade coral reefs globally. Stabilising greenhouse gases and aerosols around 350 ppm CO2-eq and allowing a rise in mean global temperature of 1°C appear to be the highest targets that should be set if coral reefs are to be protected from serious degradation.

This brings us back to the current policy debate – Stern and Garnaut’s frankness in recognizing the likely damage to the GBR and coral reefs from the targets they recommend is welcome but their conclusions leave us to wonder: is this the best we can do? Should we be prepared to write-off the GBR and other coral reefs and their economic, social environmental values?

As a young boy growing up in Australia’s Whitsundays Islands in the 1970s I did not dream that the GBR that I swam and fished on would be severely damaged by human activity within my own lifetime. Much less would I have dreamt that we would choose to allow these impacts to occur, as we are currently doing.

Stern and Garnaut’s targets are not ambitious enough and we should not accept them.

We should judge our climate change policies by this simple test: will we leave the GBR and other coral reefs around the world for our children? At present the answer we are giving to this question is “no”. We are all responsible for changing the answer to “yes”.

We should demand targets based on what we as a society want to achieve. We should not accept targets that will produce unacceptable outcomes.

The current science indicates our aim should be stabilising atmospheric greenhouse gases at 350 ppm if we want to protect the GBR and other coral reefs, but this is rarely even mentioned as a potential target.

We do not yet know if we can stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gases as 350, 450 or 550 ppm CO2-eq but think of it this way: if we want to build a bridge across a river that is 1 kilometre wide we would not ask our engineers to build us a bridge that is 500 metres long. We should apply the same logic to climate change policy and set targets for our engineers and scientists to achieve that produce results that we want to achieve.

We need vision, ambition, and hard work to solve the climate crisis. Stern and Garnaut’s approaches lacks the vision and ambition that is needed. We need to add these ingredients to the global community’s many hard workers to solve the climate crisis.

References

Australian Government (2008), Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper (Department of Climate Change), http://www.climatechange.gov.au/greenpaper/index.html.

Australian Treasury (2008), Australia’s Low Pollution Future: The Economics of Climate Change Mitigation (Australian Government Treasury), http://www.treasury.gov.au/lowpollutionfuture/.

Garnaut R (2008a), Garnaut Review Supplementary Draft Report: Targets and trajectories (Garnaut Review, Canberra, 5 September 2008), p 38, available at http://www.garnautreport.org.au/.

Garnaut R (2008b), Garnaut Climate Change Review Final Report (Cambridge University Press), http://www.garnautreview.org.au/index.htm.

Hoegh-Guldberg et al, “Vulnerability of reef-building corals on the Great Barrier Reef to climate change”, Ch 10 in Johnson JE and Marshall PA (eds), Climate Change and the GBR: A Vulnerability Assessment (GBRMPA, 2007), p 295, http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/22598/chapter10-reef-building-corals.pdf

IPCC (2007a), Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of WGI to the AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm.

IPCC (2007b), Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. WGII Contribution to the IPCC AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg2.htm.

IPCC (2007c), Climate change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of WGIII to the AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg3.htm.

IPCC (2007d), Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report (IPCC), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-syr.htm

McGrath C (2008) “Will we leave the Great Barrier Reef for our children?” (IUCN), http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/cel_op_mcgrath.pdf.

Raupach MR, Marland G, Ciais P, Le Quéré C, Canadell JG, Klepper G, and Field CB, (2007) “Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions” 104(24) PNAS 10288-10293, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/104/24/10288.

Stern N (2007), The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, http://www.occ.gov.uk/activities/stern.htm.

 

November 7, 2008 in Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Physical Science, Sustainability, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

McCain's Freeze on Discretionary Spending Includes all Energy and other R&D

Jeffrey Mervis of ScienceNOW Daily News [link] reported yesterday that next year's federal budget will not contain even one penny more for scientific research, technology development, and science education if McCain is elected, assuming Congress cannot muster enough votes to override a veto.  McCain intends to freeze all discretionary spending for a year to evaluate all programs.  Democratic Senator Barack Obama (IL), on the other hand, proposes doubling the budgets of many U.S. science agencies over the course of the next decade.

McCain had promised support for R & D in August, but his science aide Brannon said yesterday that there's been no talk within the campaign of allowing any flexibility in the proposed freeze. It would be part of McCain's 2010 budget submission next spring to Congress for the fiscal year that begins in October 2009, should he defeat Obama in November. "Senator McCain realizes that it's difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of basic research," Brannon told Science. "But the freeze applies to the entire budget, most of which doesn't relate to science."

September 20, 2008 in Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Legislation, Physical Science, Social Science, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Legislative Climate Change Targets in the 110th Congress

For those of you teaching climate change, WRI has a great comparison of the emission reduction targets of various legislative proposals. WRI analysis of US climate legislation targets The World Resources Institute’s analysis of emissions targets and cumulative emissions budgets attempts to compare on a consistent basis the GHG reductions from explicit carbon caps and complementary policies contained in climate proposals.  Emissions from capped sectors are calculated based on the text of the respective legislation. For sectors that are not covered by the legislation, emissions are estimated to continue uncontrolled in line with projections published by EPA. WRI disclaims: "This analysis is not a projection of actual future emissions under the various proposals nor is it an analysis of economic impacts resulting from the enactment of these policies."



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September 19, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Boxer releases new, improved Senate global warming bill

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) released a substitute global warming bill (PDF) today with significant changes from the version approved last December in the Environment and Public Works Committee.    It includes an $800 billion tax break to help Americans cope with high energy prices, greater use of international forestry programs and a cost-containment program that allows extra greenhouse gas emission allowances to be auctioned off if the price for carbon credits reaches a certain level.

Some of you may not follow the bouncing ball of global warming legislation, so here's my summary.

  • The bill caps annual US greenhouse emissions at 5775 million tons in 2012, reducing the cap every year until it reaches 1732 in 2050 -- a 70% reduction from projected 2012 emissions.
  • Covered facilities are required to obtain allowances for every carbon dioxide equivalent (CDE) of greenhouse gases that they emit
  • Covered facilities include:
    • (A) any entity using more than 5,000 metric tons of coal in a year;
    • (B) natural gas processing plants (except in Alaska)
    • (C) natural gas producers in Alaska and federal waters within the Alaska OCS;
    • (D) natural gas importers, including liquefied natural gas
    • (e) petroleum or coal-based manufacturers of fuel (i.e. refineries) that causes GHG emissions;
    • (F) importers of oil, coke, coal or petroleum based liquids or fuels that cause GHG emissions;
    • (G) any entity manufacturing  more than 10,000 carbon dioxide equivalents of non‐HFC GHG;
    • (H) importers of more than10,000 carbon dioxide equivalents of non‐HFC greenhouse gas; and
    • (I) manufacturers of HFCs.
  • Allowances may be obtained through several means: allocation, regular auctions, cost-containment auctions, domestic offset projects (up to 15% annual US allowances), international offsets and allowances (up to 5% annual US allowances so long as and to the extent that domestic projects are less than 15%).
  • Covered facilities that fail to secure enough allowances must pay three times (3x) the market value of the allowances that they are short and must provide an equal or greater amount of allowances the next year.  They also are subject to enforcement and citizen suits under the Clean Air Act.
  • An advanced clean fuel efficiency standard is set for fleets at the average 2010 GHG emissions in 2010, reduced to the baseline adjusted for renewable fuels in 2012-2022, reduced to 5% less than baseline by 2023, and finally reduced to 10% less than baseline by 2028.
  • A carbon duty or tariff is placed on covered goods from countries that do not make a comparable effort to the United States.
  • An enormous variety of programs are created that either (1) directly allocate allowances to protect the interests of particular groups affected by the cap and trade program or (2) provide for auctions of allowances to create funds for various carbon mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • State regulations of GHG are protected by a broad savings clause for state regulation of greenhouse gases:   
    (a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection (b), nothing in this Act precludes, diminishes, or abrogates the right of any State to adopt or enforce—
    (1) any standard, limitation, prohibition, or cap relating to emissions of greenhouse gas; or
    (2) any requirement relating to control, abatement, mitigation, or avoidance of emissions of greenhouse gas.
    (b) EXCEPTION.—Notwithstanding subsection (a), no State may adopt a standard, limitation, prohibition, cap, or requirement that is less stringent than the applicable standard, limitation, prohibition, or requirements under this Act.
  • EPA may authorize tribes to be treated as states for purposes of the Act.
  • Enforcement will occur through the enforcement and citizen suit provisions of the Clean Air Act.
  • Judicial review will be largely in accord with the judicial review provisions of the Clean Air Act.
  • The President is given authority to make an emergency proclamation modifying provisions of the Act for up to 6 months where the President determines that a national security, energy security, or economic security emergency exists, and that it is in the paramount interest of the United States to modify any requirement under this Act to minimize the effects of the emergency.

Here are some of the details about the allocation and funding programs created by the bill:

  • Allocation programs include:
    • Carbon intensive manufacturers of iron, steel, pulp, paper, cement, rubber, chemicals,
      glass, ceramics, sulfur hexafluoride, or aluminum and other non‐ferrous metals will be allocated 11% of the annual allowances for the first 10 years, with the allocation reduced by 1% per year until it reaches 0 in 2030. EPA may allocate 10% of these allowances to petroleum refiners.
    • Petroleum refiners also are guaranteed their own allocation of 2% of annual allowances from 2012-2017 and 1% of annual allowances from 2018-2030.
    • Natural gas processing plants (Alaska), natural gas producers, and natural gas importers will receive 3/4 of 1% of the annual allowances through 2050.
    • Power plants will be allocated 18% of the annual allowances in 2012, which will reduce to 2.75% of the annual allowances by 2030.
    • States heavily dependent on coal and manufacturing will receive 3% of the annual allowances initially, increasing gradually to 4% for 2031-2050
    • A Renewable Energy Program will be allocated 4% of annual allowances from 2012-2030 and 1% of allowances from 2031-2050.
    • States that led in reducing emissions, as scored annually according to their historical State investments and achievements in reducing greenhouse‐gas emissions and increasing energy efficiency, will be allocated 4% of the annual allowances in 2012, gradually increasing to 10% for 2032-2050.  However, states that have established their own cap-and-trade program.
    • Celluosic Biofuel producers will allocated 1% of annual allowances in the first 2 years, 3/4 of 1% from 2014-2017, and 1% from 2018-2030.
  • Allowance funded programs include:                
    • A Climate Change Worker Training and Assistance Fund funded with 1% of annual allowances for 2012-2017, rising to 2% for 2018-2027, 3% for 2028-2030, 4% for 2031-2019, and dropping to 3% for 2039-2050.
    • A Consumer Assistance Fund will initially be allocated 3.5% of the annual allowances for auction, increasing gradually to 15% from 2035-2050.
    • A Transportation Emission Reduction Fund will initially be allocated 1% of the annual allowances for auction, increasing to 2.75% between 2022-2050.
    • A Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program will be allocated 2% of the annual allowances for auction.
    • An Efficient Energy Use Program will auction 2.25% of annual allowances to reward efficient buildings, efficient equipment, and efficient manufacturing (divided equally).
    • A Zero or Low Carbon Generation Technology Fund will provide incentives for manufacturers by auctioning 1.75% of annual allowances 2012-2021, 2% 2022-2030, and 1% 2031-2050.  Advanced research into such technologies will be funded from auctions of .25% of annual allowances over the entire period.
    • A Carbon Sequestration and Storage Early Deployment Program will provide financial support for early CSS projects through a "Kick-Start" Program, funded by auctioning 1% of annual allowances from 2012-2025.  Long-term incentives will be created by allocating 3% of allowances to those projects from 2012-2025, 4% from 2026-2030, dropping to 1% from 2031-2050.  Bonus allowances will also be made available, starting at 2% in 2012 and gradually dropping to 1/2 of 1% in 2050.  The legislation sets the following performance standards to qualify for allowances:  (1) Existing units that commence operation of CCS equipment in 2015 or earlier must treat at least the amount of flue gas equivalent to 100 MW of output and meet a 85%  capture and sequester standard; (2) Existing units that commence operation of CCS equipment after 2016 must achieve an average annual emissions rate of not more than 1,200 pounds of CO2/MWH; (3) New units for which construction of the unit commenced prior to July 1, 2018 must achieve an average annual emissions rate of not more than 800 pounds of CO2/MWH; (4) New units commenced on or after July 1, 2018 must achieve an average annual emissions rate of not more than 350 pounds of CO2/MWH; (5) Units at covered facilities that are not electric generation units must achieve a 85% average annual capture standard.

                   The bill also contains a variety of provisions necessary to create sequestration capacity.

    • Commercial fleet owners who purchase clean hybrid vehicles will be rewarded from 2012-2017 through an auction of 1/2 of 1% of annual allowances
    • A Federal Natural Resources program will fund federal lands firefighting efforts and implementation of a Federal Wildlife Adaption Strategy with funds from auctioning 3% of allowances in 2012, 2.5% from 2013-2022, 3% from 2023-2024, 4% from 2025-2031, and 5% from 2032-2050.
    • International efforts will be funded also through 1% for forestry capacity building, 1/2 of 1% for clean development technology deployment, and most significantly 1% in 2012 gradually rising to 7% in 2039-2050 for international climate change adaptation efforts.
    • Last, but decidedly not least, reduction of the federal deficit will be funded by 5.75% of allowances in 2012, rising gradually to 19.75% in 2031, dropping to 17.75% for 2032-33, and stabilizing at 16.75% for 2034-2050.





 

May 21, 2008 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Take that!

The House overwhelmingly passed the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act, H.R. 6074 today, waiving the sovereign immunity of OPEC nations in order to allow the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices, subjecting OPEC oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, to US antitrust laws.  Wash Post report OPEC investments in the United States would serve as the source of damage awards.  The Bush administration  threatened to veto the bill, arguing that OPEC nations would retaliate by cutting crude production, hurting US gasoline refineries and raising gas prices.  However, the 324-84 vote makes the measure veto-proof.   

According to Speaker Pelosi, the bill also (1) creates a new DOJ Petroleum Industry Antitrust Task Force to examine the existence and effects of price gouging in the sale of gasoline, anticompetitive price discrimination by petroleum refiners, unilateral actions to withhold supply in order to inflate the prices, and manipulation in futures markets and (2) requires a GAO study as to the effects on competition of prior mergers and ordered divestitures in the petroleum industry.

One interesting aspect of this legislation is Congress' willingness to make US laws applicable extra-territorially.  If the US extended labor and environmental laws to apply extra-territorially to multi-national corporations that are based or operate in the United States, especially labor and environmental laws, imagine how the world might change.

May 20, 2008 in Asia, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Is There a Silver Lining for the Environment in the Economic Slowdown? -- Katrina Kuh

Weathering the storm of bad economic news over the past few months has been trying.  I've found myself quickly reaching for the tuner nob at the first mention of "marketplace report" or anything akin thereto to avoid the latest in the unrelenting stream of dire economic updates.  Throughout, I have tried to comfort myself by imagining that a recession would carry with it a silver lining -- a reduction in GHG emissions.  Experience suggests that a sure route to dramatic GHG reductions is economic downturn (see the former U.S.S.R.) and, conversely, that explosive economic growth frequently spikes GHG emissions (see China).  Indeed, the fact that the Bush Adminstration climate change strategy, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/20020214.html, focuses on reducing "greenhouse gas intensity" (the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output) as opposed to overall GHG emissions seems driven by a recognition of the close connection between economic output and GHG emissions.    

Ultimately, however, I haven't found much comfort in the idea that a recession could reduce domestic GHG emissions.  I suspect that this is so because in my heart of hearts I think that any short-term reduction in GHG emissions caused by a recession would likely be outweighed by the increased GHG emissions that will result if a recession derails the adoption of meaningful domestic GHG-reduction measures. 

A recession would likely pose at least two problems for the adoption of a meaningful domestic program to reduce GHG emissions.  First, a recession makes it less likely that a federal measure requiring deep GHG reductions will be enacted.  In the past week, both EPA, see http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/economics/economicanalyses.html, and the American Council for Capital Formation, see http://www.accf.org/nam.html, have released analyses of the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill that forecast that the bill will have negative eonomic impacts.  Putting aside arguments that these analyses overstate costs and undercount benefits, opponents of federal climate change legislation are going to have a receptive audient to their claims about the devastating economic impacts of climate change legislation in the context of a recession.  During a recession, these opponents don't have to win on their argument that climate change legislation will hurt the economy doesn't have to prevail -- all they need to do is sow a seed of doubt.  Second, even assuming that votes could be found to pass a perceived-to-be-costly GHG-reduction measure against the backdrop of recession, I fear that concerns about the economy would result in a very weak measure.  Finally, a recession could also play havoc with the baseline caps that have already been incorporated into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Lieberman-Warner bill because any cap calculated prior to a recession will be bloated with "hot air" during a recession.  And a recession could imperil the flow of financial support to renewable energy research and development. 

So for now I'm left looking for a silver lining to the bad economic news.  If you think of anything, let me know.

April 7, 2008 in Asia, Climate Change, Economics, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Drink Water for Life

This article is written by Denise Olivera, Columbia School of Journalism, about the Drink Water for Life Challenge originated by 1st Congregational Church, U.C.C. of Salem, Oregon.  The article was covered by the Great Reporter newsservice link The congregation pledges to give up some of its lattes, sodas, etc. during Lent and give the money to our Pure Water Fund.  In celebration of Lent, spring, or World Water Day, please chose to follow this lead.

March 17, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Buzz on Climate Legislation

According to E & E, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will send House Speaker Pelosi a report from the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming with legislative proposals to address climate change on or before the House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a markup on a major piece of climate legislation.  Markey was selected by Pelosi as chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which Pelosi created  when the Democrats took control of Congress last year.  Markey's committee lacks legislative authority, but has held more than 30 hearings on climate change and energy issues.

Markey's staff reportedly has been meeting with alternative energy firms, labor groups, finance specialists, and others seeking legislative ideas.  Markey's report is expected after House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell releases his draft climate legislation in mid-April. Dingell (D-Mich), of course, has been protective of the automobile industry -- for example, he attempted last summer to preempt California's GHG emission standards for motor vehicles.   If displeased with the bill ultimately reported by Dingell, Pelosi could seek a special rule making Markey's legislative proposal(s) the basis of floor debate, in lieu of Dingell's bill.  If Dingell bill's is overly protective of narrow interests or insufficiently stringent, that sort of end run just might happen.

March 10, 2008 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)