Paid by Peabody, Laurence Tribe Argues Coal Is 'Bedrock' to Economy

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 06 Dec 2014 21:13:00 GMT

Laurence TribeLaurence Tribe, the Harvard law professor who argued the losing side of Bush v. Gore, is now defending the coal industry against the Environmental Protection Agency's planned rules for greenhouse pollution from power plants. In a submission to the EPA's comment period for the Clean Power Plan, Tribe and Peabody Energy's notorious climate-science-denying lobbyist Fred Palmer argued that coal is a "bedrock" of the United States economy.
In short, coal has been a bedrock component of our economy and energy policy for decades. The Proposed Rule, which manifestly proceeds on the opposite premise, thus represents a dramatic change in directions from previous Democratic and Republican administrations.

"It is a remarkable example of executive overreach and an administrative agency’s assertion of power beyond its statutory authority," Tribe and Peabody Energy wrote, in strident language reminiscent of Fox News rhetoric. "Indeed, the Proposed Rule raises serious constitutional questions."

Tribe and Peabody put great weight in the past history of coal's importance to the U.S. economy, as opposed to its future. Hillary Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter get special mention.

Both Democrats and Republicans should stand in strong support of the rule of law. And both Democratic and Republican Administrations have promoted the prudent use of domestic coal in order to reduce dependence on imported oil. In contrast, the Proposed Rule will require a dramatic decline in coal-fired generation of electricity, in order to implement EPA’s system of state-by-state mandates. In fact, under EPA’s plan, the agency envisions that coal generation would be eliminated altogether in 12 states. The Proposed Rule thus reverses policies that reach back to John F. Kennedy. As Hillary Clinton observed in 2007, “I think you have got to admit that coal — of which we have a great and abundant supply in America — is not going away.”
[The rule] retroactively abrogates the federal government’s policy of promoting coal as an energy source. Private companies – and whole communities – reasonably relied on the federal government’s commitment to the support of coal.
The Proposed Rule represents a reversal of decades of a bipartisan federal policy emphasizing increased use of domestic coal to achieve U.S. energy independence, reduce imported foreign oil, and provide the Nation with reliable and affordable electricity. As Hillary Clinton observed in 2007, “I think you have got to admit that coal — of which we have a great and abundant supply in America — is not going away.”
Both Democratic and Republican Administrations championed coal throughout the 20th century. John F. Kennedy explained, “It would be the height of folly for this nation to permit its coal mines to be abandoned – to permit the skills of our miners to be scattered throughout the country, in other industries – and to neglect further research and development in this major American industry. … We need intensive research on the development and use of our coal resources.”
Coal has been a central tenet of energy policy for every president since Jimmy Carter, who urged a “shift to plentiful coal” in order to reduce dependence on foreign oil. President Carter promised a certain and consistent policy to provide industry with the confidence necessary to make investments to move the U.S. toward energy independence.

Harvard Law School's conflict-of-interest policy requires only that professors like Tribe disclose outside work to the Dean. Tribe's public conflict of interest report discloses his work opposing the offshore wind project Cape Wind on behalf of fossil-fuel billionaire Bill Koch.

As Tribe fights in the pay of fossil-fuel polluters, seven Harvard students have filed a lawsuit against the University pushing it to divest from fossil-fuel investments.

The full submission can be read here.

Global launch of the Emissions Gap Report 2014

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:00:00 GMT

UN Report Says Global Carbon Neutrality Should be Reached by Second Half of Century, Demonstrates Pathways to Stay Under 2°C Limit

Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions Including Non-CO2 Must Shrink To Net Zero by 2100

Emissions Gap May Widen by 2030 but Low Carbon Path Offers Opportunities for the Future

– In order to limit global temperature rise to 2o C and head off the worst impacts of climate change, global carbon neutrality should be attained by mid-to-late century. This would also keep in check the maximum amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that can be emitted into the atmosphere while staying within safe temperature limits beyond 2020, says a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Exceeding an estimated budget of just 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2) would increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible climate change impacts.

Released days ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2014 is the fifth in a series that examines whether the pledges made by countries are on track to meet the internationally agreed under 2°C target. It is produced by 38 leading scientists from 22 research groups across 14 countries.

Building on the findings of the Fifth Assessment Report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report shows the global emission guardrails that would give a likely chance of staying within the 2°C limit, including a peaking of emissions within the next ten years, a halving of all greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century; and in the second half of the century, carbon neutrality followed by net zero total greenhouse gas emissions.

“An increase in global temperature is proportional to the build-up of long-lasting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially CO2. Taking more action now reduces the need for more extreme action later to stay within safe emission limits,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP.

“In a business-as-usual scenario, where little progress is made in the development and implementation of global climate policies, global greenhouse gas emissions could rise to up to 87 Gt CO2e by 2050, way beyond safe limits.”

“Countries are giving increasing attention to where they realistically need to be by 2025, 2030 and beyond in order to limit a global temperature rise to below 2°C. This fifth Emissions Gap Report underlines that carbon neutrality-and eventually net zero or what some term climate neutrality-will be required so that what cumulative emissions are left are safely absorbed by the globe’s natural infrastructure such as forests and soils,” added Mr. Steiner.

“The Sustainable Development Goals underscore the many synergies between development and climate change mitigation goals. Linking development policies with climate mitigation will help countries build the energy-efficient, low-carbon infrastructures of the future and achieve transformational change that echoes the true meaning of sustainable development,” he concluded.

To avoid exceeding the budget, global carbon neutrality should be reached between 2055 and 2070, meaning that annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions should hit net zero by then on the global scale. Net zero implies that some remaining CO2 emissions could be compensated by the same amount of carbon dioxide uptake, or ‘negative’ emissions, so long as the net input to the atmosphere due to human activity is zero, the report finds.

Taking into account non-CO2 greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons, total global greenhouse gas emissions need to shrink to net zero between 2080 and 2100.

Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute said, “Negotiating a global climate deal should not be based on emotions or political whims, it should be driven by science and facts. This report provides one of the most clear eyed, technical analyses of global emissions that shows how country commitments and actions measure against science.”

“Unfortunately, the world is not currently headed in the right direction. But, with the growing momentum for global climate action, we have the opportunity to close the emissions gap and keep within the limits of what the science says is needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”

Since 1990, global greenhouse gas emissions have grown by more than 45 per cent. To have a likely chance of staying below the 2o C limit, global greenhouse gas emissions should drop by about 15 per cent or more by 2030 compared to 2010, and be at least 50 per cent lower by 2050 on the way to net zero.

Past issues of the Emissions Gap Report focused on good practices across different sectors and their ability to stimulate economic activity and development, while reducing emissions.

This year, the report also looks at how international development targets and corresponding policies at the national level can bring about multiple benefits, including climate change mitigation focusing in particular on energy efficiency.

Bridging the Gap

The 2014 Emissions Gap Report defines the emissions gap as the difference between emission levels in 2025 and 2030 consistent with meeting climate targets versus the levels expected if country pledges are met.

Scientists estimate the gap in 2020 at up to 10 Gt CO2e and in 2030 at up to 17 Gt CO2e. Relative to business-as-usual emissions in 2030 (68 Gt CO2e), the gap is even bigger at 26 Gt CO2e.

Despite the fact that the gap is not getting smaller, the report estimates that it could be bridged if available global emissions reductions are fully exploited: The potential for emission reductions in 2030 (relative to business-as-usual emissions) is estimated to be 29 Gt CO2e.

The Cost of Delayed Action

Postponing rigorous action until 2020 will provide savings on mitigation costs in the near-term but will bring much higher costs later on in terms of:

• Higher rates of global emission reductions in the medium-term; • Lock-in of carbon-intensive infrastructure; • Dependence on using all available mitigation technologies in the medium-term; • Greater costs of mitigation in the medium- and long-term, and greater risks of economic disruption; • Reliance on negative emissions; and • Greater risks of failing to meet the 2°C target, which would lead to substantially higher adaptation challenges and costs.

Energy Efficiency and the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Not only does energy efficiency reduce or avoid greenhouse emissions, but it can also increase productivity and sustainability through the delivery of energy savings, and support social development by increasing employment and energy security.

For example:

It is estimated that between 2015 and 2030, energy efficiency improvements worldwide could avoid at least 2.5–3.3 Gt CO2e annually.

The International Energy Agency reports that end-use fuel and electricity efficiency could save 6.8 Gt CO2e, and power generation efficiency and fossil fuel switching could save another 0.3 Gt CO2e by 2030.

Countries and other actors are already applying policies that are beneficial to both sustainable development and climate mitigation. About half the countries in the world have national policies for promoting more efficient use of energy in buildings.

About half are working on raising the efficiency of appliances and lighting. Other national policies and measures are promoting electricity generation with renewable energy, reducing transport demand and shifting transport modes, reducing process-related emissions from industry, and advancing sustainable agriculture. The Sustainable Development Goals being discussed show the many close links between development and climate change mitigation goals.

For example, efforts to eradicate energy poverty, promote universal access to cleaner forms of energy, and double energy efficiency—if fully realized—would go a long way towards putting the world on a path consistent with the climate target.

For more information and to arrange interviews with experts on the topic, please contact:

Shereen Zorba, Head of News and Media, United Nations Environment Programme, shereen.zorba@unep.org, Tel. +254 788 526 000

Hugh Searight, News and Media, United Nations Environment Programme, hugh.searight@unep.org, Tel. 202 957 6978

Venue: National Press Club

Keystone XL Is Designed for a Burning Planet

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 18 Nov 2014 21:38:00 GMT

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, now under consideration for approval by the U.S. Senate, would have a significant and dangerous impact on the climate, incompatible with the White House goal of a sustainable climate.

In line with scientific warnings, President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department have committed to limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In the International Energy Agency’s 2°C scenario, global oil consumption would fall by 50 percent from current levels by 2050, within the intended operating lifetime of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL environmental impact statement instead assumes that global oil demand will increase over that time period. The baseline used is the Energy Information Administration’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook, which projects that global oil consumption will increase by 30 to 40 percent by 2040. In that scenario, the world would be on a pathway for rapid and catastrophic global warming of 4 to 6°C (or greater) by 2100.

To have an 80 percent chance of staying below 2C warming, no more than 900 GtCO2 can be burned before 2050.

In the Keystone XL scenario, over 1700 GtCO2 are burned by 2040—nearly double the safe amount, with a decade to go.

Keystone XL CO2 baseline

The International Energy Agency scenario reflects an estimated 2/3 chance of staying below 2C warming with the burning of 1260GtCO2 through 2050. Burning 1700 GtCO2 by 2040 would put the world on a catastrophic pathway of 3C warming or more.

The pipeline is intended to ship upwards of 830,000 barrels of tar-sands crude a day for a 40-year lifespan. The pipeline will add 120-200 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent to the atmosphere annually, with a lifetime footprint of 6 to 8 billion tons CO2e. That’s as much greenhouse pollution as 40 to 50 average U.S. coal-fired power plants. Furthermore the Keystone XL pipeline is recognized by the tar-sands industry as a key spigot for the future development of the Alberta tar sands, which would emit 840 billion tons CO2e if fully exploited. The carbon dioxide emissions produced by oil that would be moved in this single pipeline would amount to 3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and half a percent of the global carbon footprint. Only thirty-two countries have larger annual footprints than this single tar-sands project.

Graphs: U.S. and China Climate Commitments Leave No Room For World

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 13 Nov 2014 17:23:00 GMT

The climate commitments announced by Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping in China are momentous given the political status quo, but they still leave human civilization on a catastrophic trajectory, a Hill Heat analysis shows.

The non-binding targets agreed to in Beijing — that China would peak in emissions by 2030 and the U.S. would accelerate emissions cuts to reach 80 percent of current pollution levels (74 percent of 2005 levels) by 2025 — are a positive step forward. Without such targets catastrophic warming is guaranteed.

President Obama reaffirmed that limiting global warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels is his goal, claiming the announced targets “means the United States is doing its part to contain warming to 2 degrees Celsius.”

What do the announcements actually mean in the context of what is needed?

Below, we explore the targets in the context of a “Russian roulette” 2C pathway, with pollution levels that scientists estimate lead to a one-in-five chance of exceeding 2C. (Ed.: Russian roulette odds are actually a bit better.)

US-China Climate Commitments

By 2030, US and China alone will have emitted about 80% of the carbon budget, leaving the other 75% of the global population with little to spare. By 2050, US and China will have emitted about 160% of the carbon budget, making the “Russian roulette” scenario impossible. To be clear, even 2C warming is highly risky, to say the least (Hansen et al, 2013).

US-China Climate Commitments Far Exceed Budget

Graphing cumulative emissions, the U.S.-China trajectory becomes more readliy apparent, as the combined carbon footprint continues to grow rapidly through 2050. The carbon budget is used up by the two nations’ pollution alone by 2035.

The Trillionth Tonne Problem

How did we get to this point? About 420 gigatons of carbon were burned (1540 GtCO2) from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to 2014, one quarter of which came from the United States, one eighth from China. Most of China’s carbon pollution has been emitted in the past 15 years. The 2015-2050 budget for an 80% chance of staying below 2C warming is only 105 GtC (390 GtCO2) more. Right now, human civilization is emitting about 10 GtC (39 GtCO2) a year—which means that even if global emissions growth slows, the carbon budget will be exceeded within about ten years.

This conundrum has been referred to as the “trillionth tonne” problem, which (somewhat confusingly) has been formulated in two different ways. One is that the 2000-2050 budget for a 75% chance of staying below 2C warming was estimated in Meinshausen et al. 2009 at 272 GtC, which equals 1000 GtCO2—that is, one trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide. (Ed.: The use of the British spelling “tonne” is a useful indicator of the 1000-kilogran metric “tonnes” used in the U.K., as opposed to the 2000-pound short tons used in the U.S., which are a bit smaller. Each metric ton of carbon is the equivalent of 3.67 metric tons of carbon dioxide due to the added oxygen atoms.)

Alternatively, the all-time budget (starting with the Industrial Revolution and going forward to 2500) for 2C being the mostly likely warming scenario, with a 95% interval of 1.3-3.9C warming, was estimated in Allen et al. 2009 at 1000 GtC — or one trillion metric tons of carbon. With about 560 GtC burned 1751-2014, that leaves 440 GtC for the rest of time for humanity to burn for less than even odds of staying below 2C.

These competing formulations of the “trillionth tonne” problem were co-published in the April 30th 2009 issue of Nature.

Both mechanisms of analysis — which are confirmed, updated, and bolstered in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group 1 Chapter 12) — are based on the warming impact of all climate pollution, which is predominated by carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and deforestation, but also includes methane, aerosols, nitrous oxides, and exotic super-greenhouse gases. Aerosols, which reduce warming by blocking out the sun, are on the decrease, while non-CO2 greenhouse gases are increasing. The calculations in this post are based on the assumption that the CO2 emissions calculated by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center can be used in lieu of the total CO2-equivalent emissions. That assumption is increasingly untenable, especially as nations switch from coal to natural gas, which increases methane emissions. Thus, the scenarios presented here-in should be considered optimistic.

The construction of any new fossil-fuel infrastructure, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, is simply incompatible with a pathway toward climate safety. This fact is implicitly acknowledged in the climate-impact analysis of the tar-sands project, which uses a high-emissions energy scenario as its baseline.

In summary: anyone who believes “we have a moral obligation to fight climate change,” to use President Obama’s words, should be working to phase out all of our existing fossil-fuel infrastructure over the coming ten years, with the goal of a carbon-negative global economy.

Even if the rest of the world follows the US and China lead with commitments to stop emissions growth by 2030, there will be a high risk of catastrophic global warming. Assuming the US and China meet their targets and the rest of the world follows suit, humanity will burn through the Russian-roulette chance at staying below 2C warming before 2025.

US-China Climate Commitments Leave No Room For World

For small-island nations, coral reefs, global forests, Arctic ice, permafrost, and global ice sheets — and quite possibly the rest of human civilization — to have a long-term chance of survival, limiting warming to 1.5C looks to be needed. (This would require a rapid transition to a fossil-free economy with massive reforestation to reduce existing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million or lower, the inspiration for the name of the climate organization 350.org.)

A higher tolerance for catastrophic warming — by raising the risk of 2C warming from 20 percent to 50 percent — gives the world a more leeway for pollution, but not enough to make the announced US-China targets “safe”. The global budget for a 50-50 chance of 2C warming will be exhausted before 2040.

US-China Climate Commitments Leave No Room For World

The insufficiency of these newly announced targets — and the howls of outrage heard from the Republican Party in the United States — reflect the dangerous power the global fossil-fuel industry has over our future, at a time when our species’ collective power should be directed at building a fossil-free civilization.

U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 12 Nov 2014 05:13:00 GMT

Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping concluded a U.S.-China trade summit with the announcement of new climate targets for the two nations. Obama set a U.S. target of a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2025 from 2005 levels. The China commitment is for CO2 emissions to peak by 2030, with a non-fossil-fuel share (renewable and nuclear) of energy production of 20 percent by 2030.

The “fact sheet” released by the White House reads:

U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation

President Obama Announces Ambitious 2025 Target to Cut U.S. Climate Pollution by 26-28 Percent from 2005 Levels

Building on strong progress during the first six years of the Administration, today President Obama announced a new target to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. At the same time, President Xi Jinping of China announced targets to peak CO2 emissions around 2030, with the intention to try to peak early, and to increase the non-fossil fuel share of all energy to around 20 percent by 2030.

Together, the U.S. and China account for over one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Today’s joint announcement, the culmination of months of bilateral dialogue, highlights the critical role the two countries must play in addressing climate change. The actions they announced are part of the longer range effort to achieve the deep decarbonization of the global economy over time. These actions will also inject momentum into the global climate negotiations on the road to reaching a successful new climate agreement next year in Paris.

The new U.S. goal will double the pace of carbon pollution reduction from 1.2 percent per year on average during the 2005-2020 period to 2.3-2.8 percent per year on average between 2020 and 2025. This ambitious target is grounded in intensive analysis of cost-effective carbon pollution reductions achievable under existing law and will keep the United States on the right trajectory to achieve deep economy-wide reductions on the order of 80 percent by 2050.

The Administration’s steady efforts to reduce emissions will deliver ever-larger carbon pollution reductions, public health improvements and consumer savings over time and provide a firm foundation to meet the new U.S. target.

The United States will submit its 2025 target to the Framework Convention on Climate Change as an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” no later than the first quarter of 2015.

The joint announcement marks the first time China has agreed to peak its CO2 emissions. The United States expects that China will succeed in peaking its emissions before 2030 based on its broad economic reform program, plans to address air pollution, and implementation of President Xi’s call for an energy revolution.

China’s target to expand total energy consumption coming from zero-emission sources to around 20 percent by 2030 is notable. It will require China to deploy an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030 – more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States.
Building on Progress

In 2009, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were projected to continue increasing indefinitely, but President Obama set an ambitious goal to cut emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020. Throughout the first term, the Administration took strong actions to cut carbon pollution, including investing more than $80 billion in clean energy technologies under the recovery program, establishing historic fuel economy standards, doubling solar and wind electricity, and implementing ambitious energy efficiency measures.

Early in his second term, President Obama launched an ambitious Climate Action Plan focused on cutting carbon pollution, preparing the nation for climate impacts, and leading internationally. In addition to bolstering first-term efforts to ramp up renewable energy and efficiency, the Plan is cutting carbon pollution through new measures, including:

  • Clean Power Plan: EPA proposed guidelines for existing power plants in June 2014 that would reduce power sector emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 while delivering $55-93 billion in net benefits from improved public health and reduced carbon pollution.
  • Standards for Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles: In February 2014, President Obama directed EPA and the Department of Transportation to issue the next phase of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by March 2016. These will build on the first-ever standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (model years 2014 through 2018), proposed and finalized by this Administration.
  • Energy Efficiency Standards: The Department of Energy set a goal of reducing carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 through energy conservation standards issued during this Administration. These measures will also cut consumers’ annual electricity bills by billions of dollars.
  • Economy-wide Measures to reduce other Greenhouse Gases: The Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies are taking actions to cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, agriculture, and oil and gas systems through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards. At the same time, the State Department is working to slash global emissions of potent industrial greenhouse gases called HFCs through an amendment to the Montreal Protocol; the Environmental Protection Agency is cutting domestic HFC emissions through its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program; and, the private sector has stepped up with commitments to cut global HFC emissions equivalent to 700 million metric tons through 2025.

Expanding U.S. and China Climate & Clean Energy Cooperation

To further support the achievement of the ambitious climate goals announced today, the United States and China have pledged to strengthen cooperation on climate and clean energy. The two countries are expanding their ongoing and robust program of cooperation through policy dialogue and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.

The United States and China agreed to:

  • Expand Joint Clean Energy Research and Development: A renewed and expanded commitment to the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC). This will include:
    • Extending the CERC mandate for an additional five years from 2016-2020;
    • Renewing funding for the three existing tracks: building efficiency, clean vehicles, and advanced coal technologies with carbon capture, use and sequestration (CCUS); and
    • Launching a new track on the interaction of energy and water (the energy/water ‘nexus’).
  • Advance Major Carbon Capture, Use and Storage Demonstrations: Expanding our work under the Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) and under the CERC, and partnering with the private sector, the United States and China will undertake a major carbon capture and storage project in China that supports a long term, detailed assessment of full-scale sequestration in a suitable, secure underground geologic reservoir. The United States and China will make equal funding commitments to the project and will seek additional funding commitments from other countries and the private sector. In addition, both sides will work to manage climate change by demonstrating a new frontier for CO2 use through a carbon capture, use, and sequestration (CCUS) project that will capture and store CO2 while producing fresh water, thus demonstrating power generation as a net producer of water instead of a water consumer. This CCUS project with Enhanced Water Recovery will eventually inject about 1 million tons of CO2 and create approximately 1.4 million cubic meters of freshwater per year.
  • Enhance Cooperation on Hydroflurocarbons (HFCs): Building on the historic Sunnylands agreement between President Xi and President Obama regarding HFCs, the United States and China will enhance bilateral cooperation to begin phasing down the use of high global warming potential HFCs, including through technical cooperation on domestic measures to promote HFC alternatives and to transition government procurement toward climate-friendly refrigerants.
  • Launch a Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Initiative: Urbanization is a major trend in the 21st century, and cities worldwide account for a significant percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In response, the United States and China are establishing a new initiative on Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities under the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group. Under the initiative, the two countries will share city-level experiences with planning, policies, and use of technologies for sustainable, resilient, low-carbon growth. This initiative will eventually include demonstrations of new technologies for smart infrastructure for urbanization. As a first step, the United States and China will convene a Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities “Summit” where leading cities from both countries will share best practices, set new goals, and celebrate city-level leadership.
  • Promote Trade in Green Goods: The United States announced that Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will lead a Smart Cities/Smart Growth Business Development Mission to China April 12-17, 2015, focused on green infrastructure, energy efficiency and environmental trade sectors. The mission will highlight the benefits of sustainable urbanization, technologies to support China’s air pollution and climate goals, and green buildings opportunities. In addition, USTDA will conduct three reverse trade missions to bring Chinese delegations to see environmental, smart grid, and CCUS technologies in the United States over the next year.
  • Demonstrate Clean Energy on the Ground: U.S. DOE, State, and USTDA will undertake a number of additional pilot programs, feasibility studies, and other collaborative efforts to promote China’s energy efficiency and renewable energy goals. These will include expansion of our cooperation on “smart grids” that enable efficient and cost-effective integration of renewable energy technology, as well as the implementation through a U.S. and Chinese private sector commercial agreement of a first-of-its-kind 380 MW concentrating solar plant in China.

Fracking Opponents Rack Up Victories in Local Battles

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 05 Nov 2014 16:26:00 GMT

This Election Day, opponents of the hydrofracturing boom achieved a number of local ballot victories, overcoming massive spending by the fossil-fuel industry.

  • Voters in Denton, Texas, the “birthplace” of the modern fracking boom, banned fracking in a landslide vote. Supporters of the ban were outspent by the oil-and-gas industry ten to one.
  • Athens, Ohio voters “overwhelmingly” passed a ban on fracking. An astounding 78 percent of voters supported the ban.
  • Central California’s San Benito County, which lies atop the Monterey Shale formation, passed Measure J to ban fracking, overcoming $1.8 million in spending from Chevron, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum and other oil companies. Supporters of the ban won despite being outspent 15 to one.

There were additional local victories for oil-industry opponents and environmentalists across the nation.

In Richmond, the San Francisco suburb home to a major Chevron refinery which exploded in 1989, 1999, and 2012, a five-member progressive slate for mayor and city council won decisive victory over the Chevron-supported candidates. The progressives, supported by Richmond Working Families (ACCE Action, APEN Action, SEIU 1021), and by the Richmond Progressive Alliance, overcame $3 million in spending by the oil giant, a 60 to one spending ratio.

Fracking opponent Kristy Pagan, a first-time candidate, won election in Michigan’s state House 21st District.

In one of the few national races to swing unexpectedly for Democrats, Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska, a major Keystone XL backer, lost to Democratic challenger Brad Ashford, who has also expressed support for the pipeline but was endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters.

In another local victory against industrial interests, a ban on genetically engineered crops in Maui County, Hawaii, narrowly passed, overcoming $8 million in spending from opponents such as Monsanto and Dow, who profit from the treatment of food as intellectual property. The failed opposition outspent advocates 87 to 1. GMO-labeling measures failed under a similar spending onslaught in Colorado and Oregon.

Their wins aren’t wins just for their communities — they are wins for all of us pushing back against the fossil fuel industry and for a climate safe future,” Oil Change International’s David Turnbull wrote. “They are bright spots in an otherwise dim night.”

VIDEO: Cory Gardner Says Climate Scientists "Want To Tell Us How We Live Our Lives"

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 03 Nov 2014 20:57:00 GMT

Speaking at a right-wing conference in Steamboat Springs, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) claimed climate policy is a conspiracy to attack workers in the fossil-fuel industry.

“You know what? This is more than a war on coal, this is a war on workers,” he said. “This is a president who has decided he doesn’t like those jobs, he doesn’t like what they’re doing, and he’s going to put them out of business and out of work.”

“It’s a war on the kind of energy we use every day — fossil fuels — whether it’s gas, coal, oil,” he continued, “because they want to tell us how we live our lives, how we heat our homes, we drive our cars.”

Dick and Liz Cheney were the featured stars at the Steamboat Institute Freedom Conference, which took place in Steamboat Springs, Colo., on August 23, 2013. Gardner was the first speaker at the conference.

Refusing to accept the reality of fossil-fueled global warming, Gardner described policy attempts to reduce fossil-fuel pollution as part of a liberal conspiracy against hard-working Americans.

“It’s about the kind of work that thousands and thousands of men and women are doing each and every day,” Gardner claimed President Obama opposes, “working hard each and every day, to make our lives better, to give us a chance to build a way of life for our families.”

In reality, the coal industry, whose carbon pollution remains unregulated, has been marked by reduced employment and higher corporate profits, as labor protections and regulations have been blocked or eliminated by conservatives.

Gardner went on to criticize Obama and his scientific advisors for explanations they made of how market forces would encourage fuel-switching away from coal given a price on carbon pollution. In doing so, he misidentified Harvard geochemist Dan Schrag, a member of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, as Obama’s top science advisor, who is in fact Harvard physicist John Holdren.

Both Schrag and Holdren have publicly described the need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions to reduce the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Transcript:

CORY GARDNER: You know what? This is more than a war on coal, this is a war on workers. This is a president who has decided he doesn’t like those jobs, he doesn’t like what they’re doing, and he’s going to put them out of business and out of work.

This is a president who said when he ran for office, ‘Under my plan, electricity rates would necessarily going to skyrocket.’

This is a president whose Secretary of Energy said he’d like to see European-style energy prices.

This is a president whose top science advisor said, ‘A war on coal is exactly what we need.’

It’s more than a war on coal, though. It’s a war on the kind of energy that we use every day, fossil fuels, whether it’s gas, coal, oil, because they want to tell us how we live our lives, how we heat our homes, how we drive our cars.

But make no — it is not just about coal, though. It’s about the kind of work that thousands and thousands of men and women are doing each and every day, that we don’t do, because we’ve chosen other options in life, but they’re in a mine, deep under the ground, in a pit, working heavy equipment, working hard each and every day, to make our lives better, to give us a chance to build a way of life for our families. This president has decided he doesn’t like those jobs. And that’s simply wrong. And we’ve got to hold him accountable for it. I hope you’ll — In northwestern Colorado let’s make sure every — every rotary club, every school, every chamber, everybody knows about it, and that the voices are heard in Washington DC.

Thank you very much, Steamboat Institute, and have a great, great rest of the weekend.

Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 14 Oct 2014 20:30:00 GMT

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, who has led the United States in global climate talks since 2009, will address domestic and international efforts to mitigate the threat of global climate change during a public speech at Yale on Tuesday, Oct. 14.

The event, which will be held at 4:30 p.m. in Levinson Auditorium at the Yale Law School, 127 Wall St., is open to the public. It is hosted by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and Yale Law School. The speech comes just weeks before the 20th meeting of the annual UN climate conference in Lima, Peru — a meeting that many leaders hope will help set a constructive course toward a successful international climate agreement to be reached at the 2015 climate conference in Paris.

The event will be broadcast via live web stream.

Stern comes to New Haven just weeks after the United Nations Climate Summit, held in New York on Sept. 23, where more than 100 heads of state plus business and civil society leaders came together to call for ambitious action on climate change. At the Summit, President Obama touted U.S. progress on the Climate Action Plan, reaffirmed a U.S. commitment to reach a global climate agreement, and announced several new climate change initiatives. Stern played an active role at the summit, which he called an opportunity for international leaders to build momentum toward a new global climate treaty before the 2015 meeting in Paris.

Allison Grimes, Mitch McConnell Challenger: "I Do" Believe in Climate Change

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:04:00 GMT

The U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky’s Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, has been marked by competing acts of fealty to the coal industry.

“Mr. President, Kentucky has lost one-third of our coal jobs in just the last three years,” one Grimes radio spot runs. “Now, your EPA is targeting Kentucky coal with pie in the sky regulations that are impossible to achieve.”

“We know what Obama needs to wage his war on coal,” McConnell retorted. “Obama needs Grimes.”

However, there is now a point of contention between the two candidates: Grimes, unlike McConnell, recognizes, at least in rhetoric, the reality of climate change.

In an interview on September 25 with Matt Jones on Louisville talk radio station WKJK, Grimes said she believes in the science of climate change.

JONES: “Do you believe in climate change?”

GRIMES: “I do. You know, Mitch McConnell and I differ on this. He still wants to argue with the scientists. I do believe that it exists, but I think that we have to address, especially leaving this world in a better place, in a balanced manner. We’ve got to keep the jobs that we have here in the state, especially our good coal jobs.”

This question came in the context of a longer discussion about Grimes’ disagreement with President Barack Obama on the coal industry. “I think we have to rein in the EPA,” Grimes said. “I think the regulations as they exist now are overburdensome.”

The McConnell campaign extracted a clip of the conversation, ending Grimes’ remarks at “it exists.”

Boston Carbon Risk Forum

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:00:00 GMT

The Carbon Risk Forum will bring together city and state government leaders, financial professionals, and leaders of organizations concerned about carbon risk in their investments. We are faced with growing evidence of the risk inherent in fossil fuel investments – it’s time to responsibly move to more sustainable, safer, investments. In the last year, over 30 local governments have moved to divest from fossil fuels, and we hope you will join us for an in-depth examination of the issues and a discussion of what institutions can do to lower their carbon risk. Addressing carbon risk by divesting is financially, morally, and politically prudent. This is a growing movement and we must now map out the path forward for responsibly moving our assets into more sustainable investments. The Forum will provide a unique opportunity for local governments and the institutional financial sector to interface on the components and implications of fossil fuel divestment. The Forum will build off of the successful Seattle Divestment Forum.

Agenda

8:00am ​Breakfast and Registration

8:30am Welcome and Introduction
  • The Reverend Doctor Robert Massie
  • Moderator: Councilor Leland Cheung
9:00 – 10:00am Carbon Risk: Framing the Problem and the Response
  • Mark Campanale, Carbon Tracker Initiative
  • Mark Lewis, Kepler Cheuvreux
  • Moderator: District Attorney Sam Sutter

10:00 – 10:15am Break

10:15 – 12:00pm Divestment as a Response
  • Stuart Braman, Fossil Free Indexes
  • John Fisher, Bloomberg LP
  • Bevis Longstreth, Corporate Finance Lawyer and Professor
  • Leslie Samuelrich, Green Century Funds
  • Moderator: Councilor Seth Yurdin
12:00 – 1:30pm Lunch and Keynote
  • Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Somerville MA
  • Moderator: Representative Marjorie Decker
1:30 – 2:30pm What Happens if you Divest?
  • Thomas Kuh, MSCI
  • Liz Michaels, Aperio Group
  • Moderator: Councilor Michelle Wu

​2:30 – 2:45pm Break

​2:45 – 3:45pm Divestment Case Study
  • Donald P. Gould, Pitzer College Board of Trustees
  • Eric Becker, Sterling College Board of Trustees
  • Dan Curran, President, University of Dayton
  • Moderator: Stu Dalheim, Calvert Investments
3:45 – 4:45pm Carbon Risk Roundtables
  • Getting Pension Boards to Yes – Stephanie Leighton, Trillium Asset Management
  • Divestment or Engagement – Leslie Samuelrich, Green Century Fund
  • Maximizing the Political Benefit of Divesting – Mike McGinn, Former Seattle Mayor
  • Reinvestment Possibilities – Ken Locklin, IMPAX, Karina Funk, Brown Advisory
  • State-level Divestment – Rep. Marjorie Decker, Rep. Aaron Michlewitz
  • City-level Divestment – Councilor Seth Yurdin

​4:45 – 5:00pm Closing

​5:00 – 6:00pm Reception

Attendees
  • Shelley Alpern, Director, Social Research & Shareholder Advocacy, Clean Yield
  • Craig Altemose, Executive Director, Better Future Project
  • Jim Antal, Conference Minister and President, Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
  • Rebecca Bar, Coordinator, Investor Program, Ceres
  • Edward Bean, Finance Director, City of Somerville, MA
  • Eric Becker, Chief Investment Officer, Clean Yield Asset Management
  • James Bennet, Deputy Chief Investment Officer, MainePERS
  • Shoshana Blank, Senior Research Fellow, The Sustainable Endowments Institute
  • Stuart Braman, Founder and CEO, Fossil Free Indexes
  • Dylan Brix, ESG Analyst, Sustainability Group at Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge
  • Will Brownsberger, State Senator, MA Senate
  • Nick Buonvicino, Student, Merrimack College
  • Chris Burns, Deputy Executive Director, Cambridge Retirement System
  • Ben Caldecott, Programme Director, Smith School, University of Oxford
  • Mark Campanale, Director & Founder, Carbon Tracker, London
  • Jay Carmona, Community Divestment Campaign Manager, 350.org
  • Michael Carter, Chief Administrative Officer, City of New Haven, CT
  • Leland Cheung, Councilor, Cambridge
  • Jim Coburn, Senior Manager, Ceres
  • Gary Cohen, President, Health Care Without Harm
  • Anthony Cortese, Principal, Intentional Endowments Network
  • Daniel Curran, President, University of Dayton, Ohio
  • Joseph A. Curtatone, Mayor, City of Somerville, MA
  • Mark Dailey, Deputy Chief of Staff for Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg, Massachusett Senate
  • Stu Dalheim, VP, Shareholder Advocacy, Calvert Investments
  • Chris Davis, Director of Investor Programs, Ceres
  • Marjorie Decker, State Representative, Cambridge, MA
  • Rosamond Delori, Board Chair, World Learning
  • Sheila Dormody, Acting Policy Director/Sustainability Director, City of Providence
  • Van Du, Special Assistant/Sustainability Adviser, City of Boston – Environment, Energy, and Open Space
  • Darcy DuMont, Advocate, 350MA
  • Jameson Dunn, Student, Merrimack College Financial Group
  • Paul Ellis, Sustainable Investment Consultant, Beacon, NY/Paul Ellis Consulting
  • Austin Faison, Director of Operations/Parking Clerk, City of Somerville, MA
  • Topher Fearey, Business Development, Brown Advisory
  • John Fisher, Bloomberg LP
  • Michael Flaherty, Mayor, At-Large Counciler, City of Boston, MA
  • Brett Fleishman, Senior Analyst, 350.org
  • Emily Flynn, Associate Director, Sustainable Endowments Institute
  • Jean Foster, Environmental Action Team Chair, Cambridge
  • Tom Francis, Director, Oil & Gas Research, Fossil Free Indexes, LLC
  • Sidni Frederick, Co-Coordinator, Divest Harvard
  • Karina Funk, Co-Portfolio Manager, Brown Advisory
  • Thomas Gainey, Vice President, Pax World
  • Eli Gerzon, State Divestment Organizer, Better Future Project
  • Donald Gould, President, Gould Asset Management LLC
  • Bradford Goz, Director, Fossil Free Indexes
  • Vanessa Green, Campaign Director, Divest-Invest Individual
  • Shannon Gurek, Vice President, Finance and Administration, South Hadley
  • Gilda Gussin, Consultant, Change Producers
  • Bob Helmuth, Senior VP – Stakeholder Relations, Pax World Investments LLC
  • Spencer Hendersen, Client Service Representative & Research Associate, Aequitas Investment Advisors LLC
  • Kathryn Hoffman, Director, Berkeley/ California Student Sustainability Coalition
  • Wendy Holding, Trustee, The Sustainability Group
  • Robert Hooper, Trustee, State of Vermont VPIC
  • James Irwin, Senior Associate, Mayors Innovation Project
  • Jenny Isler, Director of Sustainability, Clark University
  • Christine Jantz, President & Portfolio Manager, Boston
  • Brad Johnson, Reporter, New Republic
  • Brett Juliano, ESG Research, MSCI
  • Emily Kirkland, Communications Coordinator, Better Future Project
  • Emily Koo, Deputy Director of Policy, City of Providence
  • Thomas Kuh, PhD, Executive Director, MSCI ESG Indexes
  • Laura Kunkemueller, Investment Consultant, Mercer
  • Natasha Lamb, Director, Equity Research & Shareholder Engagement, Arjuna Capital
  • Alex Lamb, Senior Consultant, EY
  • Stephanie Leighton, Partner & Portfolio Manager, Trillium Asset Management
  • Mark Lewis, Senior Analyst, Kepler-Cheuvreux
  • Jason Lewis, State Senate, Middlesex, MA
  • Kenneth Locklin, Senior Portfolio Advisor, Impax
  • Bevis Longstreth, Former Commissioner, SEC, New York City
  • Tim MacDonald, Senior Fellow, Capital Institute
  • James Maguire, Director, Grants Management & Accounting, Merck Family Fund
  • Robert Massie, Advisor, 350.org
  • Jessica Matthews, Managing Director, Cambridge Associates
  • Chloe Maxmin, Student, Divest Harvard
  • Michael McDonald, Reporter, Bloomberg News
  • Michael McGinn, Former Mayor, Seattle WA
  • Robert Melton, Vice President, MSCI
  • Liz Michaels, Director, ESG/SRI; Chief of Staff, Aperio Group
  • James Michel, Trustee, First Church in Jamaica Plain
  • Aaron Michlewitz, State Representative, House of Representatives
  • Amy Miller, City and State Divestment Campaigner, 350.org
  • Andy Mims, Trustee, Boston/The Sustainability Group
  • James Monagle, City Auditor, City of Cambridge, MA
  • Richard Mott, Environment Director, Wallace Global Fund
  • Nelson Murphy, Director, Investor Development, United Church Funds
  • Jaclyn Olsen, Assistant Director, Harvard University Office for Sustainability
  • Mark Orlowski, Executive Director, Sustainable Endowments Institute
  • Mark Peters, Principal, Federal Street Advisors
  • Mark Quercio, Investment Professional, NorthPointe Wealth Management
  • Susan Redlich, Divestment Team Member, 350MA.org
  • Kelly Regan, Investment Consultant, NEPC
  • Satya Rhodes-Conway, Managing Director, Mayors Innovation Project
  • Dave Rogers, State Representative, Massachusetts House of Representatives
  • Leslie Samuelrich, President, Green Century Capital Management
  • Charles Sandmel, Portfolio Manager, First Affirmative Financial Network
  • Sam Sutter, District Attorney, Bristol County
  • Andrew Thompson, Client Relationship Manager, Boston Common Asset Management
  • Leah Turino, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Associate, Boston Common Asset Management
  • David Unger, Journalist, The Christian Science Monitor
  • Austin Williams, Environmental Caucus Chair, College Democrats of Massachusetts
  • Emily Williams, Communications Intern, Better Future Project
  • Candace Williams, Legislative Aide to Senator Michael Barrett, MA State Senate
  • Canyon Woodward, Student Coordinator, Divest Harvard
  • Michelle Wu, City Councilor At-Large, City of Boston, MA
  • Seth Yurdin, Majority Leader, Providence City Council
  • Giovanni Zinn, Project Manager, City of New Haven, CT
  • Andrew Zucker, Senior Research Scientist, Concord MA / The Concord Consortium

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