Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Senator would drop land-use from US biofuels rule Reuters

Pittsburgh showcases green economy at G20 summit Reuters

Google News Alert for: ocean co2 acid fish A Sea Change Informs Us of the Dangers of Waiting Too Long Huffington Post

Google News Alert for: ocean co2 acid fish

A Sea Change Informs Us of the Dangers of Waiting Too Long
Huffington Post

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for September 22: Seven green jobs for every job lost in dirty energy sectors; Bill Clinton says, ""I still think the president should try really hard to pass climate change legislation this year."

Posted: 22 Sep 2009 10:01 AM PDT

_Working for the Climate: Renewable Energy & the Green Job  [R]evolutionSeven green jobs for every job lost in dirty energy sectors

Investment in renewables and energy efficiency would create seven times more green jobs over the next ten years than would be lost in the coal and nuclear sectors in Europe, according to a report launched today by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), and backed by trade unions.

A switch from dirty energy to renewables and energy efficiency would not just avoid over 470 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in OECD Europe, but would create 30% more jobs by 2020 than if we continue investing in fossil and nuclear fuels. If Europe chooses a clean energy pathway, 1.2 million people would be employed in the power generation sector, compared to eight hundred and fifty thousand under business as usual.  The report finds that over three hundred and eighty thousand jobs would be created in renewables and energy efficiency over the next decade, as opposed to some fifty thousand that would be lost in the coal and nuclear sectors.

"For each job lost in the coal and nuclear sectors in Europe, seven jobs would be created in renewable energy and energy efficiency over the next ten years. Green investments are an opportunity to revitalise the economy: postponing climate action is prolonging the economic recession and cheating us out of thousands of jobs. European leaders need to trigger an energy revolution and support and re-train communities affected by this technology shift," said Frauke Thies, Greenpeace EU energy expert.

"Now is the time to put in place a 'just transition' to sustainably transform the jobs of today and develop the decent and green jobs of tomorrow," added Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). "The union movement, as well as the authors of this report, believe ambitious climate action by world leaders can and must be a driver for sustainable economic growth and social progress."

The report: Working for the Climate: Renewable Energy & The Green Job [R]evolution is based on Greenpeace's Energy [R]evolution report and research from the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the Sydney University of Technology.  The report shows that by 2020, 5 million people could work for the renewable power industry globally and more than eight hundred and twenty thousand in Europe.

"There are already 450,000 people working in the renewable energy industry in Europe, representing a turnover of more than EUR 45 billion. This research proves that renewable energy is key to tackling both the climate and economic crises," said Christine Lins, Secretary General of the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC).

Bill Clinton: "I still think the president should try really hard to pass climate change legislation this year, in addition to health care"

Speaking with a group of bloggers on Monday ahead of his fifth annual summit of leaders from government and the private sector, President Bill Clinton said the U.S. risks looking like "yesterday's country" if it does not approve a binding limit on greenhouse gases this year. His remarks come just before the United Nations climate summit on Tuesday and the start of the fifth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The summit serves as forum for innovators and funders to collaborate on international projects, with a focus on economic development, human rights, health, and environment. Climate change has been among the top issues at the summit in recent years.

"I still think the president should try really hard to pass climate change legislation this year, in addition to health care," he said. Without passing it, he said, the U..S. will appear "long in the tooth….  We need to be tomorrow's country."

The key, said Clinton, is to "disprove this myth that still has a grip on many members of Congress, that [action on climate] is a net negative to the economy…. It's a huge myth that still has a stranglehold," he said, citing nations like Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom who are on a path to meet or exceed their goals under the Kyoto Protocol that have maintained economic stability.

Clinton rattled off potential jobs created by climate policy and the potential of efficiency, noting half of the 2020 emissions-reduction goals that global leaders have discussed could be met by efficiency alone. He said President Obama's stimulus plan could easily have devoted another $100 billion for those areas.

Acknowledging that many Democrats from coal, oil, and manufacturing states may be hesitant to vote for a bill perceived as a threat to their home-state industries, he said it's key to show the benefits of climate policy. "The number one thing we have to do is make sure we don't lose any Democrats because they really actually believe it's bad economics," he said. He recalled the BTU tax, backed by his administration, that passed the House without any Republican support as part of a budget bill in 1993, only to be dropped in the Senate. Republicans used the tax as a bludgeon against Democrats who voted for it, using the issue effectively in the 1994 elections that brought the first GOP House majority in 40 years.

Global businesses demand ambitious new climate deal

A coalition of more than 500 international companies on Tuesday urged rich countries to commit to "immediate and deep" cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at U.N. climate talks to help combat global warming.

The group of some of the world's biggest energy companies, retailers and manufacturers said a failure to agree a strong new climate deal at U.N. talks in Copenhagen in December would erode confidence and cut investment in low-carbon technology.

In a statement issued as nations met for a climate summit at the United Nations in New York, the coalition said economic development will be impossible without a stable climate.

"These are difficult and challenging times for the international business community and a poor outcome from…Copenhagen will only make them more so," it said.

"If a sufficiently ambitious, effective and globally equitable deal can be agreed, it will…deliver the economic signals that companies need if they are to invest billions of dollars in low carbon products, services, technologies and infrastructure."

The statement was issued by companies who back a campaign by Britain's Prince Charles, heir to the throne and environmental campaigner, to press for new government policies on climate change and "to grasp the business opportunities created by moving to a low climate-risk economy".

CO2 emissions tumble; leaders to meet on climate

Recession has set the stage for the sharpest fall in world greenhouse gas emissions in 40 years, an estimate Monday showed, as world leaders gathered in New York to seek a way forward on a new climate change treaty.

The International Energy Agency said global output of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels, would fall by about 2.6 percent this year amid a tumble in industrial activity.

It expressed hope that the world would seize on the decline to shift to lower-carbon growth despite worries that governments might take it as an excuse for inaction.

"This fall in emissions and in investment in fossil fuels will only have meaning with agreement in Copenhagen which provides a low-carbon signal to investors," IEA chief economist Fatih Birol told Reuters..

Gap Holds Between Climate Stances of Rich and Poor

As world leaders and their top advisers convened in Manhattan for Tuesday's United Nations summit on global warming, there were hints of accord on a few issues that could form the basis for a climate deal in December in Copenhagen – something less that a full-blown treaty but sufficient to avoid total breakdown of an international effort.

But in remarks by officials, there were also displays of the deep rifts that persist between rich countries and emerging powers. How this all shakes out in the 77 days leading up to the Copenhagen meeting remains to be seen. But for the moment, the familiar roadblocks to a climate deal appear to be strong and holding.

Most notable today was the continuing insistence by top officials from developing countries, including the president of South Korea and representatives of China and India, that the world's established powers need to provide money and technology to help developing countries shift away from fossil fuels.

In an interview with several journalists from The Times, President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea described his country's plans for voluntarily curbing emissions and intensifying research on non-polluting energy technology. But, echoing China and other fast-developing countries, he also insisted that a predicate for serious engagement by developing countries was a concrete commitment by wealthy nations. The rich nations, he said, must recognize that they in essence owe the rest of the world a climate debt for the greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the atmosphere from their century-plus head start in burning fossil fuels.

Eight GOP Politicians Parrot False $1,761 Talking Point on Costs of Climate Bill

I mentioned last week that both CBS and Politico were forced to issue corrections on pieces they published citing inflated cost-estimates of a version of climate legislation that was never considered by Congress.

Despite immediate and forceful pushback from the Treasury Department, the Congressional Budget Office and environmental groups, solid reporting by the Wonk Room and the Washington Post, and thorough debunkings by Media Matters and Politifact, several leading GOP elected officials have begun citing the highly misleading figure.

Green Groups Try to Assuage Dems' Worries Over Cap-and-Trade Fallout

Environmental groups are scrambling to convince Democratic lawmakers that a vote on cap-and-trade this year would not harm them politically. Attempting to suppress Democrats' doubts about pushing for another controversial vote now that the health care debate has proved long and bloody, groups that support cap-and-trade say they have spent the summer building the kind of grassroots support that health care reform did not have. Climate legislation advocates say they are deploying a "climate war room" — funded by 60 labor, business, faith, agricultural and environmental groups — to coordinate operations in 20 states.

The White House privately says it is reluctant to push lawmakers toward another contentious vote this year, but cap-and-trade advocates know that a winter of opposition ads could doom their efforts. Their focus has turned to polls, with which they hope to persuade hesitant, battle-weary Democrats. They are pointing to data that show most Americans support changes to U.S. energy policy currently in the works in Congress, and that Democrats in contested districts are not facing any backlash for supporting cap-and-trade legislation earlier this year.

"When you get your butt kicked, like we did [after the House energy vote], it focuses the mind," said Steve Cochran, director of the Environmental Defense Fund's National Climate Campaign. "We found out that this is not something to hide from but something to lean on — even in places where coal is king and Blue Dogs were perceived to be running for cover."

China and the U.S. Could Fix Climate — If Leaders Let Them: Duke Energy CEO at Climate Week NY°C

Chinese and American companies are eager to find ways to cooperate and work with each others' country, provided their governments support them, Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, said at a Climate Week NY°C panel discussion on China-US energy issues today. He was sitting next to Sen. John Kerry, who is leading the push in the Senate to pass climate legislation.

It will someday be "hard to tell if these companies are Chinese or American," Rogers said, referring to two China-based, US-linked renewable energy companies represented at the event, solar giant Suntech and Broad, which makes non-electric air conditioners. Issuing his firm support of a US climate bill for its power to finance clean energy, Tracy R. Wolstencroft. Managing Director, Goldman Sachs, said that a climate solution will depend upon a "three-legged stool" of policy, technology and capital. "All of those will need to move at the same speeds."

Speaking to an audience of investors at the offices of Bloomberg, Kerry sought to establish his understanding of the business potential of climate change action. He knew something about the bottom line, he said, and "this is the best bottom line opportunity for our country and the world. The question is at what pace will it happen, and who's going to own, discover and design the energy and fuels of the future."

He predicted that in 15 years, there would be "4 or 5 or 15 Google equivalents" in the energy technology business.

He also lamented the failures of American policy makers in the 1980s to seize upon the U.S.'s alternative energy advantage that had begun to be established in the 70s. "We lost our lead to Japan and Germany."

Now, he said, Germany has more workers on alternative fuels than in the automotive sector. He added: "Of the 30 top companies [in alternative energy], only five are in the U.S."

Calling the market for environmental finance "fantastic" and possibly "the largest emerging market," Wolstencroft of Goldman Sachs said that Chinese companies had raised 5 billion in capital in the U.S. over the past five years, in an arrangement possibly beneficial to both countries. "They develop solar panels that are then sold here at a low price, which stimulates the interest of consumers."

He said a cap and trade system — and the carbon market and offset mechanism that would follow — would help to better distribute capital to alternative energy development and contain costs for companies as they adjust to a less carbon-intense future.

Kerry said he had his own term for controversial "cap-and-trade." "I'd like to call it pollution reduction and investment in the future," he said.

Obama tells UN: "The security and stability of each nation and all peoples – our prosperity, our health, our safety – are in jeopardy," will work "at the G20 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies," pledges U.S. action on "slashing our emissions to reach the targets we set for 2020 and our long-term goal for 2050."

Posted: 22 Sep 2009 07:24 AM PDT

President Obama's speech on the urgent need for climate action is reprinted in full below with comments and supporting links.  Obama's blunt remarks should give heart to all climate science realists — at home and abroad — that he will in fact bring all of his political and rhetorical skills to passing climate and clean legislation in the next several months.

UPDATE:  Here is a speech clip..  I'll post a full clip when it's up.

Obama fully understands the catastrophic risk to future generations — and to our generations moral legacy:

Good morning.  I want to thank the Secretary-General for organizing this summit, and all the leaders who are participating.  That so many of us are here today is a recognition that the threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing.  Our generation's response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it – boldly, swiftly, and together – we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.

No nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change.  Rising sea levels threaten every coastline.  More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent.  More frequent drought and crop failures breed hunger and conflict in places where hunger and conflict already thrive.  On shrinking islands, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees.  The security and stability of each nation and all peoples – our prosperity, our health, our safety – are in jeopardy.  And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out.

In short, we face Hell and High Water.

And yet, we can reverse it.  John F. Kennedy once observed that "Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man."  It is true that for too many years, mankind has been slow to respond to or even recognize the magnitude of the climate threat.  It is true of my own country as well.  We recognize that.  But this is a new day.  It is a new era.  And I am proud to say that the United States has done more to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution in the last eight months than at any other time in our history.

No question about that (see here).  Obama clearly understands the clean energy opportunity:

We're making our government's largest ever investment in renewable energy – an investment aimed at doubling the generating capacity from wind and other renewable resources in three years.  Across America, entrepreneurs are constructing wind turbines and solar panels and batteries for hybrid cars with the help of loan guarantees and tax credits – projects that are creating new jobs and new industries.  We're investing billions to cut energy waste in our homes, buildings, and appliances – helping American families save money on energy bills in the process.  We've proposed the very first national policy aimed at both increasing fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks – a standard that will also save consumers money and our nation oil.  We're moving forward with our nation's first offshore wind energy projects.  We're investing billions to capture carbon pollution so that we can clean up our coal plants.  Just this week, we announced that for the first time ever, we'll begin tracking how much greenhouse gas pollution is being emitted throughout the country.  Later this week, I will work with my colleagues at the G20 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies so that we can better address our climate challenge. And already, we know that the recent drop in overall U.S. emissions is due in part to steps that promote greater efficiency and greater use of renewable energy.

See ""EIA projects wind at 5% of U.S. electricity in 2012, all renewables at 14%, thanks to Obama stimulus!" and "EIA stunner: By year's end, we'll be 8.5% below 2005 levels of CO2 — halfway to climate bill's 2020 target."

Most importantly, the House of Representatives passed an energy and climate bill in June that would finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy for American businesses and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  One committee has already acted on this bill in the Senate and I look forward to engaging with others as we move forward.

I guess he means the Senate energy committee….

Because no one nation can meet this challenge alone, the United States has also engaged more allies and partners in finding a solution than ever before.  In April, we convened the first of what have now been six meetings of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate here in the United States.  In Trinidad, I proposed an Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas.  We've worked through the World Bank to promote renewable energy projects and technologies in the developing world.  And we have put climate at the top of our diplomatic agenda when it comes to our relationships with countries from China to Brazil; India to Mexico; Africa to Europe..

Taken together, these steps represent an historic recognition on behalf of the American people and their government.  We understand the gravity of the climate threat.  We are determined to act.  And we will meet our responsibility to future generations.

But though many of our nations have taken bold actions and share in this determination, we did not come here today to celebrate progress.  We came because there is so much more progress to be made.  We came because there is so much more work to be done.

It is work that will not be easy.  As we head towards Copenhagen, there should be no illusions that the hardest part of our journey is in front of us.  We seek sweeping but necessary change in the midst of a global recession, where every nation's most immediate priority is reviving their economy and putting their people back to work.  And so all of us will face doubts and difficulties in our own capitals as we try to reach a lasting solution to the climate challenge.

But difficulty is no excuse for complacency.  Unease is no excuse for inaction.  And we must not allow the perfect to become the enemy of progress.  Each of us must do what we can when we can to grow our economies without endangering our planet – and we must all do it together.  We must seize the opportunity to make Copenhagen a significant step forward in the global fight against climate change.

We also cannot allow the old divisions that have characterized the climate debate for so many years to block our progress.  Yes, the developed nations that caused much of the damage to our climate over the last century still have a responsibility to lead.  And we will continue to do so – by investing in renewable energy, promoting greater efficiency, and slashing our emissions to reach the targets we set for 2020 and our long-term goal for 2050.

But those rapidly-growing developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part as well.  Some of these nations have already made great strides with the development and deployment of clean energy.  Still, they will need to commit to strong measures at home and agree to stand behind those commitments just as the developed nations must stand behind their own.  We cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together.  There is no other way.

We must also energize our efforts to put other developing nations – especially the poorest and most vulnerable – on a path to sustainable growth.  These nations do not have the same resources to combat climate change as countries like the United States or China do, but they have the most immediate stake in a solution.  For these are the nations that are already living with the unfolding effects of a warming planet – famine and drought; disappearing coastal villages and the conflict that arises from scarce resources.  Their future is no longer a choice between a growing economy and a cleaner planet, because their survival depends on both.  It will do little good to alleviate poverty if you can no longer harvest your crops or find drinkable water.

Notice how he links China to the U.S. and separates the country from other developing nations.

That is why we have a responsibility to provide the financial and technical assistance needed to help these nations adapt to the impacts of climate change and pursue low-carbon development.

What we are seeking, after all, is not simply an agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  We seek an agreement that will allow all nations to grow and raise living standards without endangering the planet.  By developing and disseminating clean technology and sharing our know-how, we can help developing nations leap-frog dirty energy technologies and reduce dangerous emissions.

As we meet here today, the good news is that after too many years of inaction and denial, there is finally widespread recognition of the urgency of the challenge before us.  We know what needs to be done.  We know that our planet's future depends on a global commitment to permanently reduce greenhouse gas pollution.  We know that if we put the right rules and incentives in place, we will unleash the creative power of our best scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to build a better world.  And so many nations have already taken the first steps on the journey towards that goal.

But the journey is long.  The journey is hard.  And we don't have much time left to make it.  It is a journey that will require each of us to persevere through setback, and fight for every inch of progress, even when it comes in fits and starts.  So let us begin.  For if we are flexible and pragmatic; if we can resolve to work tirelessly in common effort, then we will achieve our common purpose:  a world that is safer, cleaner, and healthier than the one we found; and a future that is worthy of our children.  Thank you.

Hear!  Hear!

Related Post:

Boxer (D-CA) readies for climate bill introduction, Mid-Oct. markup. Carper (D-DE): "The fact we've slowed down on health care I think gives us a chance to do a better job on the clean energy front."

Posted: 22 Sep 2009 06:22 AM PDT

The NYT reports (via Climate Wire):

Senate Democratic aides say Boxer has settled on 20 percent, and she will make the case by arguing that the slightly higher target is not that big of a leap given recent estimates from the Energy Information Administration that show U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell 6 percent last year because of the recession and a shift away from coal and toward natural gas.

This was the precise argument I made last week for why the Environment and Public Works bill should have a 20% target for 2020.  That said, I suspect the Senate will be lucky to pass a 17% bill.  And perhaps even EPW won't report out such a bill if "the chairwoman wants to satisfy key moderates on her panel, which include Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.)."

If Reid and Obama really want it — and if health care reform doesn't collapse entirely — the bill could still come to the Senate floor for a final vote by early December, in time for Copenhagen.  After Obama's blunt UN speech, I'd say there is at least a 50-50 chance of that, but, again, I don't think the precise timing is as important as picking the time for a floor debate/vote that would optimize the chance for actually passing.

Here are more details on the timing:

Sources off Capitol Hill say they expect Boxer to start legislative hearings during the week of Oct. 5, with a tentative markup penciled in for the week of Oct. 12….

Senate Democrats say they would like to get the climate bill finished by Copenhagen, but they also explained that the U.N. conference would not be their make-or-break deadline.

"It's not easy to predict how we'll complete the work this year," Cardin said. "But we're making every effort to get it done this year. We're certainly working toward concrete progress before the Copenhagen meetings. I think we're clearly working with the goal of action this year."

Reid said last week that he wanted to get to the climate bill "as quickly as we can." But he also acknowledged that the legislation may need to take a back seat until early 2010 while the Senate tries to pass other top-tier agenda items, including health care and Wall Street regulatory reform.

The prospect of a Senate slowdown prompted a top European official last week to question whether the United States was keeping true to its international commitments. "I submit that asking an international conference to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position," said John Bruton, head of the European Commission delegation to the United States.

Todd Stern, President Obama's top climate envoy at the State Department, pushed back in a conference call with reporters late Friday, citing $80 billion in U.S. spending on low-carbon technologies as part of this year's economic stimulus package, as well as EPA regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions.

"The Senate is now doing what the Senate does on large, complex legislation," Stern said. "It has jurisdiction in a number of committees. It is a highly consequential bill that probably affects every corner of the economy. They are also wrestling with major health care legislation. That's the way our process goes. It may be that some people on the other side of the pond don't understand the system that well, but that is the way our system works, and we're pushing ahead."

Democratic leaders won't say for sure when they plan a floor vote on the climate bill, but some aides predicted that April 2010 was the approximate cut-off point because of the politics surrounding the upcoming midterm elections.

Dan Weiss, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, said he would not rule out a continued climate change debate well into 2010. And he cited the legislative timeline surrounding another memorable battle over environmental legislation: the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments.

There, the Senate voted 89-11 to pass the bill in April 1990 while the House approved its version 401-21 a month later. Conference negotiations lasted four months and concluded with final votes at the end of October, just before the midterm elections. President George H.W. Bush signed the law in mid-November.

"The reality is there's plenty of time to enact a bill into law," said Weiss, who worked as a Sierra Club lobbyist during that 1990 debate.

And here's more on the politics:

Baucus appears ready to play the same role that his fellow coal-state House Democrats did by pushing for a weaker greenhouse gas emissions limit."Yes" votes from Baucus and Specter, another coal-state Democrat, could send a strong signal for other like-minded lawmakers headed toward the floor, where the bill likely faces a GOP-led filibuster. But neither lawmaker is on board yet, and the signals they are sending remain mixed.

Specter last week joined four other coal-state Democrats in writing the White House for its assistance in understanding key trade provisions of the House-passed legislation. And Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, is battling Boxer for jurisdiction over a key piece of the climate bill at the same time he remains immersed in health care.

See "Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) joins key Dems in proposal to boost carbon capture and storage in climate bill."

Democrats working on the climate bill acknowledged that they are constantly trying to piece together a 60-vote coalition on global warming.

"We're not at 60 votes yet," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). "But there are a lot of potential senators who could be part of that 60."

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), Boxer's lead co-pilot in writing the climate bill, said that the authors are in talks with their fellow Democrats on carbon market oversight, as well as funding for clean coal technology, other low-carbon energy technologies and adaptation.

"There are a lot of different pieces," Kerry said. Asked how often he is counting votes, Kerry replied, "Every day."

While Senate Democrats have largely kept their focus on winning over their own, Kerry has also taken the lead in direct talks with Republicans. More negotiations with GOP moderates are expected as the bill ripens and as the authors face dwindling prospects of winning over conservative Democrats, including Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana."I'm feeling pretty good about the tactics, the strategy, that as much as possible, we'd like it to include Republicans," Lautenberg said. "The one thing I believe, bipartisanship is a means, not an ends."

As they prepare for their bill introduction, Boxer and Kerry are most likely looking for help from Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who currently is in the thick of the health care debate. Down the line, the Democrats are also hopeful they can satisfy other longtime climate advocates, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Richard Lugar of Indiana.

"We think we can get Republican support for this bill," Cardin added. "Not just one senator, but several."

Breaking: Federal court says states may sue utilities over GHGs. NY AG Cuomo: "This is a game-changing decision for New York and other states, reaffirming our right to take direct action against global warming pollution from power plants."

Posted: 21 Sep 2009 05:39 PM PDT

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that states trying to combat global warming can sue six electric utilities to force them to cut the greenhouse gases emitted by their power plants in 20 states.

You can read the full ruling here.  David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate programs, told Greenwire (subs. req'd) tonight,

Hawkins added, "The import of this ruling is that failure of Congress or EPA to act on GHG will not immunize emitters from legal action to compel reductions in emissions."

Take that, delayers!

Again, a federal climate bill would be the best strategy for the country — and the world.  But if Congress fails to act — and if fiddlers like Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska block EPA action, then the only place left for recourse will be the courts.

Here are more details on the case from Reuters:

The lawsuit against American Electric Power Co Inc, Southern Co, Xcel Energy Inc, Cinergy Corp and the Tennessee Valley Authority public power system, argued that greenhouse gas emissions from their plants were a public nuisance and would cause irreparable harm to property.

The utilities are five of the largest carbon dioxide emitters in the United States. Around 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from fossil-fueled power plants.

Lawyers or representatives of the companies were either not immediately available to comment or could not immediately be reached for comment on the decision.

The top legal officers for Connecticut and New York welcomed the decision.

"Our goal is not money damages, but a change in company practices to stem the pollution and safeguard our environment and economy," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said: "Today's decision allows us to press this crucial case forward and address the dangers posed by these coal-burning power plants."

… The states that sued were California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. Three land trusts — Open Space Institute Inc, Open Space Conservancy Inc and the Audubon Society of New Hampshire — joined the case.

As Greenwire explains:

The power companies also insisted that federal common law had not been applied to an issue of such sweeping scale that covered all aspects of the U.S. economy. And they warned that the litigation would be a precursor to more global warming nuisance claims — with no end in sight as plaintiffs ticked through other sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

But the 2nd Circuit rejected all lines of the industry's defense with an opinion that cites the closing lines of a 1972 Supreme Court decision that dealt with similar common law questions concerning air pollution that crossed state lines.

"It may happen that new federal laws and new federal regulations may in time pre-empt the field of federal common law of nuisance," the Supreme Court wrote in Illinois v. Milwaukee. "But until that time comes to pass, federal courts will be empowered to appraise the equities of the suits alleging creation of a public nuisance."

After the 2nd Circuit judges finished quoting the Supreme Court decision, they inserted the words "by greenhouse gases."

Kudos to the states who brought the suit and the federal court who decided the case.

Illinois v. Milwaukee.

Looks like I'll be covering the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh

Posted: 21 Sep 2009 03:30 PM PDT

PRESS AVAILABILITY:  I'll be in Pittsburgh Thursday night and all Friday as press — but if there are any press who want to interview me, just shoot me an email..

G20 PREVIEW:  I don't normally go to these sort of meetings — CAP's Andrew Light is the international climate expert (and he'll be there, too, and available for interviews).   He moderated a discussion with members of the U.N. and CAP previewing what will be discussed at next week's G20 Summit.  He explains what to expect in this Clean Skies News interview:

And here's another video if you want the perspective of Sabina Dewan, CAP's Associate Director of International Economic Policy, on the broader questions:  What is the G-20 and why is it significant? What are leaders expected to focus on at the upcoming Pittsburgh G-20 meeting? What principles should guide discussions of the global economic recovery?

If you want to watch Obama's big UN climate speech Tuesday morning

Posted: 21 Sep 2009 03:08 PM PDT

The webcast will be here:

Obama should be speaking round 9:30 am EDT depending on length of ceremonial opening.  Many of the other speeches –IPCC head Pachauri, China President Hu Jintao Nobelist Wangari Muta Maathai — are also must-see.

I wanted to get this out today so would show up in people's inboxes tomorrow morning.  For some background see, "Obama to speak at U.N. special session on global warming."

Here is the full program:

9:00 am – 11:00 am

Opening Plenary Session (General Assembly Hall) – open to the media (limited access)

Ceremonial opening:

Mr. Djimon Hounsou, actor, Academy Award nominee, originally from Benin and Students from a diverse group of countries


H.E. Mr. BAN Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
H.E. Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
H.E. Mr. Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Republic of Maldives
H.E. Mr. Hu Jintao, President of the Peoples Republic of China
H.E. Mr. Yukio Hatoyama, Prime Minister of Japan
H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda
H.E. Mr. Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden
H.E. Mr. Óscar Arias Sánchez, President of Costa Rica
H.E. Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France
Professor Wangari Muta Maathai, Founder, Green Belt Movement, Kenya (Civil Society)
Ms. Yugratna Srivastava, Asia-Pacific UNEP/TUNZA Junior-Board representative, India, age 13 (Youth)

11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Four Interactive Roundtables (to be held in parallel)

11:00 am – 11:45 am
Press conference on Leadership Forum (Conference Room 4)

12:20 pm – 1:00 pm
Mid-day Press Update (Room S-226)
Mr. Janos Pasztor, Director, Secretary-General''s Climate Change Support Team

1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Leadership Forum Luncheon

3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Four Interactive Roundtables (to be held in parallel)

5:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Closing Plenary Session (General Assembly Hall) – open to the media

H.E. Mr. Tillman Joseph Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada
H.E. Mr. Ahmad Babiker Nahar , Minister of Environment and Urban Development of Sudan
H.E. Mr. Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark
H.E. Mr. BAN Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

6:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Closing Press Conference (Conference Room 4)
H.E. Mr. BAN Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark

The Clean-Energy Investment Agenda

Posted: 21 Sep 2009 02:51 PM PDT

A shrinking cap on emissions and a rising price for carbon dioxide is the sine qua non of enabling a sustained transition to a clean energy economy (see "The only way to win the clean energy race is to pass the clean energy bill").  But it is not the only strategy needed to ensure a rapid transition at the lowest possible cost.  CAP's John Podesta, Kate Gordon , Bracken Hendricks, and Benjamin Goldstein discuss what "A Comprehensive Approach to Building the Low-Carbon Economy" would entail in a new report (here) and a post first published here.

The United States is having the wrong public debate about global warming. We are asking important questions about pollution caps and timetables, carbon markets and allocations, but we have lost sight of our principal objective: building a robust and prosperous clean energy economy. This is a fundamentally affirmative agenda, rather than a restrictive one. Moving beyond pollution from fossil fuels will involve exciting work, new opportunities, new products and innovation, and stronger communities. Our current national discussion about constraints, limits, and the costs of transition misses the real excitement in this proposition. It is as if, on the cusp of an Internet and telecommunications revolution, debate centered only on the cost of fiber optic cable. We are missing the big picture here.

Let's be clear: Solving global warming means investment. Retooling the energy systems that fuel our economy will involve rebuilding our nation's infrastructure. We will create millions of middle-class jobs along the way, revitalize our manufacturing sector, increase American competitiveness, reduce our dependence on oil, and boost technological innovation. These investments in the foundation of our economy can also provide an opportunity for more broadly shared prosperity through better training, stronger local economies, and new career ladders into the middle class. Reducing greenhouse gas pollution is critical to solving global warming, but it is only one part of the work ahead. Building a robust economy that grows more vibrant as we move beyond the Carbon Age is the greater and more inspiring challenge.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avert dangerous global warming is a moral challenge, but it is also an economic, national security, social, and environmental imperative. The "cap and trade" provisions, which will set limits on pollution and create a market for emissions reductions that will ultimately drive down the cost of renewable energy and fuel, represent a very important first step and a major component in the mix of policies that will help build the coming low-carbon economy. But limiting emissions and establishing a price on pollution is not the goal in itself, and we will fall short if that is all we set out to do. Rather, cap and trade is one key step to reach the broader goal of catalyzing the transformation to an efficient and sustainable low-carbon economy. With unemployment at 9.5 percent, and oil and energy price volatility driving businesses into the ground, we cannot afford to wait any longer. It is time for a legislative debate over a comprehensive clean-energy investment plan. We need far more than cap and trade alone.

This is not just an exercise in rhetoric. Articulating and elevating a comprehensive plan to invest in clean-energy systems and more efficient energy use will affect policy development and the politics surrounding legislation now moving through the Senate, as well as international negotiations underway around the globe. The current debate, which splits the issue into the two buckets of "cap and trade" and "complementary policies," has missed the comprehensive nature of the challenge and its solutions. It also emphasizes the challenge of pollution control instead of organizing policy for increased development, market growth, reinvestment in infrastructure, and job creation through the transition to a more prosperous, clean energy economy.

This paper lays out the framework for just such an investment-driven energy policy, the pieces of which work together to level the playing field for clean energy and drive a transformation of the economy. Importantly, many elements of this positive clean-energy investment framework are already codified within existing legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by House of Representatives earlier this year. But with all the attention given to limiting carbon, too little attention has been placed on what will replace it. These critical pieces of America's clean-energy strategy should be elevated in the policy agenda and political debate as we move forward into the Senate, and used to help move legislation forward that advances a proactive investment and economic revitalization strategy for the nation.

Read the full report (pdf)

Lisa Murkowski proposes to fiddle while Alaska burns

Posted: 21 Sep 2009 11:12 AM PDT

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wants to put the brakes on the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to curb climate change by barring the agency from spending any funds on regulating carbon dioxide pollution from power plants, manufacturers, and other major emissions sources. She's asking for a one-year "timeout" so Congress can pass new legislation, despite the fact that they've known since April 2007 that EPA regulations were coming down the pike.

What makes this move all the more stunning is that Murkowski is painfully aware of how her state is being radically and rapidly ruined by climate change.  Indeed, in a 2006 speech on the subject (video here, and it's better than the prepared remarks), she described some of the worst impacts — including devastating wildfires:

one area that I believe we cannot lose focus on is the human dimension.  Our policies of today, and our policies of tomorrow, have a direct impact on those who live in the Arctic region….

When I visit the Native villages in northern Alaska, I ask the village elders what climate change means to them. They don't speak about the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or attempt to debunk the now infamous hockey stick theory.

They tell me what they have personally observed over the years. Native whaling captains tell me that the ice pack is less stable, and that there is more open water requiring them to travel greater distances to hunt. The snow pack is coming later and melting earlier than in years past. Salmon are showing up in subsistence nets in greater numbers across the arctic.  Different types of vegetation now grow where they never grew before.  The migratory patterns of animals have changed.  Warmer, drier air, has allowed the voracious spruce bark beetle to migrate north, moving through our forests in the south-central part of the state. At last count, over three million acres of forest land has been devastated by the beetle, providing dry fuel for outbreaks of enormous wild fires. To give you some perspective, that is almost the size of Connecticut.

So we recognize that times have changed, things are changing, and we need a new Arctic policy.

Well, apparently her new Arctic policy is to delay the EPA from doing its job and regulating CO2.  I seriously hope this means she will be voting for the climate and clean energy bill, since otherwise it would mean that her new Arctic policy is the same as the old one — do nothing and let the whole damn thing melt and burn (see "M..I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F").

Below is a guest column by Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, first published here.

Why is Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) behaving like an outlaw? It's jarring to learn that Sen.. Murkowski wants to take away U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries, coal-burning power plants and other smokestack industries. As reported in Environment and Energy Daily, Murkowski has filed a proposed amendment to spending legislation for EPA that would prohibit the agency from regulating greenhouse pollutants except those from cars or other "mobile" sources:

"Senator Murkowski is concerned about the economic consequences of EPA command-and-control regulation of emissions," said spokesman Robert Dillon. The senator plans to file the amendment, Dillon said, adding that he did not know whether a decision has been made to press for a vote.

Murkowski's amendment would thwart the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that said EPA does have authority under the Clean Air Act to deal with climate pollution, as long as the agency determines that it is a threat to health and/or the environment. EPA is moving ahead with that determination. Because the judicial branch has spoken so definitively, EPA must follow the law. By trying to block the agency through such a sneaky, back-door approach, Murkowski is bidding to become a climate outlaw.

The weird part here is that Murkowski herself has warned about the impact of global warming on Alaska — where, as Politico put it earlier this year, "the Alaskan tundra thaws and fishing villages disappear into the ocean." USA Today once called Alaska the "poster state" for climate concerns.

And no wonder: Alaska's climate has warmed about 4°F since the 1950's. That has prompted more rain, the melting of two major glaciers and permafrost melting which has caused erosion, landslides and damaged infrastructure. Some coastal towns could be overwhelmed by flooding. Carbon-caused ocean acidification threatens fish populations.

Grotesque evidence of the problem was recently reported as scientists determined the Arctic sea ice had reached the third lowest-level ever recorded: up to 200 walruses, which appear to be mostly new calves and yearlings, were reported dead near Icy Cape on the north coast of Alaska.

We can't wait to hear Murkowski's argument should she proceed with this ill-considered idea. Is she going to claim that this is something better handled by Congress? If so, why has she denounced the comprehensive climate legislation approved by the House? We suspect Murkowski is responding to the big campaign contributions she has received from the oil and electric power industries, both of which oppose EPA action. One major contributor is ExxonMobil, which continues to operate in Alaska despite its notoriety over the Exxon Valdez spill.

Several hours after Clean Air Watch alerted reporters by email about the Murkowski plan, a spokesman for Murkowski argued she "is not trying to subvert the process":

The senator has no interest in trampling on that Supreme Court decision as it relates to mobile sources.

Exactly our point: she does want to trample on the Supreme Court decision as it relates to stationary sources. Murkowski has shown no interest in being constructive on the climate debate, so her defense of waiting for congressional action is obviously a fraud designed only to kill the Clean Air Act. Which is exactly what the big oil companies and her other financial supporters want. Her plan to handcuff the EPA is nothing but duplicitous special-interest pandering that should be rejected out of hand.

Gap Holds Between Climate Stances of Rich and Poor New York Times

G-20 protesters allege police harassment in suit The Associated Press

States may sue utilities over climate, court says

Scientists Examine Injecting Liquid Carbon Dioxide Underground Reuters

Obama Administration Pushing for Regulatory Reform on Many Fronts Washington Post

Monday, September 21, 2009

TIME 100: Tackling Climate Change - New York

Democrats rethink global warming fight Politico

Costs of climate change deal would drop with truly global ...

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for September 21st: Obama to shift focus as climate talks approach

Posted: 21 Sep 2009 10:21 AM PDT

Obama to Shift Focus to Climate Change

After months of almost single-minded focus on healthcare, President Obama is about to shift the White House spotlight to global warming — first with a speech to the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, then later in the week at the G-20 economic conference in Pittsburgh.

The renewed emphasis on climate change and reducing carbon dioxide emissions comes at a crucial time: Negotiators are entering the home stretch in a drive to unveil a comprehensive international agreement to curb rising temperatures at a December conference in Copenhagen.

With key divisions remaining among the major industrialized nations, as well as with developing industrial powers and poorer nations, there is concern that negotiations leading up to Copenhagen could be bogging down. Obama administration officials, while admitting the seriousness of the challenges, hold out hope for a deal.

Here are nine hurdles facing Obama and his counterparts….

See also Todd Stern testifies "Nothing the U.S. can do is more important for the international negotiation process than passing robust, comprehensive clean energy legislation as soon as possible…. President Obama and the Secretary of State, along with our entire Administration, are committed to action on this issue."

And here's some good news that the administration is also working the issue behind the scenes:

White House Quietly Lobbies Senate on Climate Bill

Climate-change legislation has stalled on Capitol Hill, but the White House's unofficial "Green Cabinet" is quietly trying to revive the effort by lobbying dozens of senators.

President Obama has dispatched Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to Capitol Hill. White House aides said that they and other executive branch staffers, such as climate-change czar Carol Browner, have met with "dozens" of senators.

They are working to assure key senators – ranging from Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, to John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat – that a climate-change bill is viewed as a "priority" by the administration, Capitol Hill sources said.

A White House aide said the "Green Cabinet" is asking senators to support a comprehensive plan – though some vulnerable lawmakers would prefer that the bill be split into more politically tenable pieces – and is asking them to share ideas for what to include in the legislation.

As those meetings take place behind closed doors, some senators are striking deals on individual bits such as coal and nuclear issues, sources on Capitol Hill and in environmental groups say.

Cap and Trade Proves Popular in Some Conservative Democratic Districts

It appears that cap-and-trade legislation is turning out to be popular in the states of some conservative Democrats, according to a new poll that Democratic firm Garin Hart Yang conducted on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund.

In Blue Dog Dem Heath Shuler's North Carolina district, cap and trade is supported by 55% of voters, versus 29% opposed.

In Blue Dog Dem Baron Hill's Indiana district, cap and trade is supported by 45%, versus 30% opposed.

In Dem Rep. Tom Perriello's conservative Virginia district, cap and trade is supported by 42%, versus 25% opposed.

All three voted for the House climate bill, which makes the results not quite as surprising. More interesting would be the results in the districts of the 44 Dems who voted against it.

Climate Change to Take Center Stage at U.N.

U.S. President Barack Obama promised strong action on climate change from his first day in office, but he is heading into a series of meetings with other world leaders this month under growing pressure to deliver on his rhetoric.

More than 100 world leaders, including Mr. Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, are scheduled to meet Tuesday at the 64th United Nations General Assembly to talk about fighting climate change, in a prelude to the Pittsburgh Group of 20 meetings starting Thursday.

While the talk will be about the environment, the substance will be about money. Poor nations say that if rich nations want them to stop burning coal or cutting down forests, they should be willing to pay.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made global warming a focus, and he is worried that the meeting won't move the ball forward toward a new global climate-change treaty in Copenhagen this December to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

"We want world leaders to show they understand the gravity of climate risks, as well as the benefits of acting now," Mr. Ban said. "We want them to publicly commit to sealing a deal in Copenhagen."

While he said Tuesday's closed-door meeting was "not a negotiation forum," Mr. Ban said he expected the leaders to "to give their negotiating teams marching orders to accelerate progress toward an…ambitious global climate agreement."

Everest Memento for Obama to Show Climate Change Impact

Nepal's sherpa community is sending a piece of rock from Mount Everest to U.S. President Barack Obama to underscore the impact of global warming on the Himalayas.

Environmental group WWF said Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal had promised to carry the "memento" and give it to Obama when world leaders meet in New York next week as "a symbol of the melting Himalayas in the wake of climate change."

The rock was collected from the 8,850 meter (29,035 feet) Mount Everest by Apa Sherpa, who climbed the mountain for a record 19th time in May.

Sherpas, mainly living in Nepal's Solukhumbhu district, home to the world's tallest peak, are known for their climbing skills.

A WWF-Nepal statement said more than 200,000 youth had also signed a petition to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanding action on global warming ahead of crucial climate talks in Copenhagen.

Experts say mountainous Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 tallest peaks, including Mount Everest, is vulnerable to climate change despite being responsible for only 0.025 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the world's lowest.

Average global temperatures are rising faster in the Himalayas compared to most other parts of the world, according to the Kathmandu-based International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

Supporters Rally for Climate Change Action

Reports, pictures, and articles are streaming in from around the world as the more than 2,400 Global Wake Up Call events happen. They are taking place in more than one hundred and twenty countries and we are watching pictures of everyday citizens making the call in Beijing, in monasteries in Nepal, and from rural towns in Australia.

The diversity of the participants and the response they are getting from their calls is truly awe inspiring.

State Forest Restoration Plan Fights Global Warming

From planting seedlings to acquiring entire groves, forest restoration projects in state parks and on federal lands could soon spring from California's aggressive initiatives to reduce emissions linked to global warming.

Under the state's landmark program, companies looking to offset their climate-change effects for the first time will be allowed to receive credits for financing plantings and restoration in state and federal forests.

The California Air Resources Board on Thursday is expected to endorse those new rules of voluntary participation for all parties: landowners, public agencies and industry.

"There's nowhere else in the world where this type of protocol has been established," said Dave Bischel, president of the California Forestry Association, a timber group.

The campaign to arrest climate change is increasingly enlisting forests, because trees soak up carbon dioxide, a predominant greenhouse gas emitted by factories and cars. The wood continues to store the carbon for decades after being milled into homes or desks

Kirk Beset From Left and Right Over Climate Vote

Senate candidate Mark Kirk's changing positions on a "cap and trade" environmental bill are inspiring angry boos from some fellow Republicans and accusations of flip-flopping from Democrats.

Democrats on Friday challenged Kirk, who's serving his fifth term in the U.S. House, to explain why he now opposes a measure that he said three months ago was good for national security.

"It appears that he wants to win an election and he's willing to do that even if it means we have to keep fighting over foreign oil," said Jill Morgenthaler, Illinois' former director of homeland security and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in 2008.

Kirk was one of just eight House Republicans to vote for the bill in June.

Kirk told the crowd that he supported the cap-and-trade bill because it was the right thing for his congressional district in Chicago's northern suburbs, but that he would oppose it as a senator representing the entire state.

Japan Eyes Mandatory Cap-and-Trade

Japan's new government wants to introduce a compulsory cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions as early as the year to March 2012, the Nikkei business daily said on Sunday.

The scheme would be a key part of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's goal to cut such emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, the paper reported on its website without citing sources.

A government panel on the environment is likely to discuss the plan at a meeting later on Sunday, the paper said.

Under the scheme, the government would issue emissions quotas to companies. Firms emitting less than their quotas would be able to sell the surplus, the Nikkei said.

Hatoyama's Democratic Party has said the 25 percent emissions target — tougher than the last administration's — is needed for Japan to play a bigger negotiating role at U.N.-backed climate talks in Copenhagen in December, so that emerging nations such as China and India join a new climate pact that goes beyond 2012.

U.K. Official Confident U.S. Will Act on Climate Change

Even though climate change legislation has stalled in Congress, a senior British official who is working with U.S. policymakers expressed confidence that the bill's prospects are bright.

In an interview with The Hill, United Kingdom Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband said U.S. lawmakers and the White House are committed to moving the bill this year.

Miliband, who met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) this week, said, "The [climate] bill is being worked on as I understand it, and it will emerge soon."

While acknowledging that President Barack Obama's number one priority in 2009 is healthcare reform, Miliband said, "My sense from talking with the administration is there is a significant amount of commitment to the December deadline."

Japan's carbon cuts may include offsets

Posted: 21 Sep 2009 05:31 AM PDT

Japan's target for a 25 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 could include purchases of carbon credits from abroad, the country's new environment minister said on Thursday.

"I'd like to reiterate our party's stance that we could use measures including the Kyoto mechanism," Sakihito Ozawa, told a news conference, referring to a scheme to supplement domestic efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This Reuters story is not terribly surprising.  The country's new target was going to require a lot of effort (see "Japan's new prime minister promises to slash CO2 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 — with domestic emissions trading, clean energy subsidies").  That's especially true given that Japan is some 10% above 1990 levels as of last year.  No doubt that's one reason Japan had already made the climate pledge conditional on China, India.

Still, it's not like Americans can criticize the Japanese, given our too weak target (see "EIA stunner: By year's end, we'll be 8.5% below 2005 levels of CO2 — halfway to climate bill's 2020 target").  Here's more:

The new government is currently working to cut emissions domestically and by investing in clean energy projects abroad which generate credits to offset emissions. It is also buying surplus emissions rights from other industrialized countries.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama last week pledged to forge ahead with the target to slash emissions despite resistance from industries worried about the impact on the economy.

He has said the target, much tougher than that of the previous government defeated in an election last month, is needed for Japan to play a bigger negotiating role in U.N.-backed climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

The talks will try to work out a new agreement on reducing emissions to succeed the current Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which ends in 2012.

Ozawa reiterated Hatoyama's stance that Japan's new target also hinged on a deal on goals being agreed by major emitters.

But he declined to give details on how Japan would try to meet the target, including a plan to launch a domestic emissions trading market with compulsory volume caps on emitters.

Japan, the world's fifth biggest emitter, is under pressure for tougher climate policies after its emissions rose 2.3 percent to a record in the year to March 2008, putting the country 16 percent above its Kyoto Protocol target [of a 6% cut from 1990 levels].

The new energy, trade and industry minister Masayuki Naoshima told a separate news conference that the new emissions reduction target may also include domestic forest conservation.

This is one more reason Copenhagen needs to clean up the Clean Development Mechanism.

Newsweek gets duped by Big Oil — for real — in worst Big Media story of the year

Posted: 20 Sep 2009 01:23 PM PDT

Big Oil Goes Green for Real

So blares the Onion Newsweek headline.

Forget that Big Oil's product is a principal cause of the gravest environmental threat to the health and well-being of humanity (see "Intro to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water").  Certainly forget all the other environmental impacts of oil.

Forget that Big Oil is a principal funder of disinformation aimed at blocking action on global warming — see "Leaked Memo:  Big Oil is manufacturing 'Energy Citizen' rallies to oppose clean energy reform and "Even fantasy-filled American Petroleum Institute study finds no significant impact of climate bill on US refining."

Newsweek says we should focus on the truly small stuff:

So how should we take the spate of new green announcements from the world's major oil firms?

Uhh, not BP:  "BP stand for 'back to petroleum' — oil giant shuts clean energy HQ, slashes renewables budget up to $900 million this year, dives into tar sands."

And not Shell:  "Shell shocker: Once 'green' oil company guts renewables effort."

And not everyone else:  "Big oil made $600 billion under Bush, but invested bupkis in clean energy, Part 2: Details on BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Shell and ExxonMobil."

Here is the basis of Newsweek's nonsensical spin:

In July, ExxonMobil announced big plans to grow green algae to fuel cars.  In July, ExxonMobil announced big plans to grow green algae to fuel cars; last week, Chevron unveiled the world's largest carbon-sequestration project in Australia; and in recent months, Valero, Marathon, and Sunoco carried out a series of acquisitions that resulted in Big Oil controlling 7 percent of the U.S. ethanol business.

The list goes on. And this time it's the real deal.

[Pause for laughter to die down.  Pause longer for subsequent crying jag to end.]

Since when was corn ethanol green?

And ExxonMobil is green … for real?  Seriously, Newsweek?

Yes, forget the country's biggest oil company has funneled millions of dollars to fund the disinformation campaigns of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, all of which continue to advance unfactual anti-scientific attacks as I have detailed recently (see posts on Heritage and CEI and AEI). Chris Mooney wrote an excellent piece on ExxonMobil's two-decade anti-scientific campaign. A 2007 Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report looked at ExxonMobil's tobacco industry-like tactics in pushing global warming denial (see "Today We Have a Planet That's Smoking!").

The oil giant said it would stop, but that was just another lie (see "Another ExxonMobil deceit: They are still funding climate science deniers despite public pledge").  Newsweek should read this excellent commentary by award-winning journalist, Eric Pooley, "Exxon Works Up New Recipe for Frying the Planet."

But what about nouveau-green Valero?  A recent story notes:

San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. is launching a campaign against proposals to lower carbon emissions by posting signs at its gasoline stations warning customers about the projected increase in fuel prices if the U.S. House-approved bill on carbon cap-and-trade becomes law.

And don't get me started on Chevron:

And the piece ends with this whopper:

Big Oil is going to be an increasingly important investor in alternative energy. Venture-capital money has dried up.

Not.  In fact "Venture capital funding for renewable energy and cleantech startups (which plunged from last October through March) rebounded in the second quarter" with a staggering "$1.2 billion invested in 67 countries."

This is the worst major media story on energy this year.

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