Monday, November 30, 2009

UN Head Warns Island Nations Against "Perfect" Climate Deal

Now 28: On what he called "the final lap of the years-long marathon to the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen," now just 6 days away, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the Commonwealth summit meeting with small island developing States, held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. He warned that holding out for a "perfect" deal at the climate change summit in Copenhagen, December 7-18, could result in there being no agreement at all. He called on all States to get behind a deal that is as ambitious as possible but also has broad international support. He told participants that given their countries were on the frontline of the impact of climate change, it was vital that their voices were heard to try to achieve “a strong, equitable agreement” in the Danish capital.

Speaking to the meeting with the leaders of AOSIS (the Alliance of Small Island States) and Small Island Developing States, (SIDs) he said, “I know the cost of inaction far outweighs the costs of acting today. I commend your call for deep emissions cuts in line with the science. And I support your call for scaled-up resources for urgent adaptation needs as well as mitigation.” Without a deal at the summit, Ban said greenhouse gas emissions would continue to rise and the impact of climate change worldwide would become ever more severe. A deal “must be as ambitious as possible. But to get a deal we need every country on board. We need you on board. The world needs your support at this critical moment.”

The Secretary-General said he recognized the concerns of many small island developing States, particularly about the need to set a long-term goal to keep global temperature increases as low as possible. He said, “Many refer to a 2-degree limit while for you, the most vulnerable countries, a safe level means staying below 1.5 degrees centigrade. That said, we face a simple reality: if we delay for perfection, we risk ending up with nothing -- no agreement at all.”

He indicated that momentum for a deal in Copenhagen, where at least 80 world leaders are expected to attend, was strong and continuing to grow. He said, “The world has never before witnessed this level of political engagement on climate. We will not get a better chance any time soon.” He emphasized that any deal reached in Copenhagen should deliver “immediate, practical results,” including the acceleration of financing of at least $10 billion a year to strengthen resilience and support mitigation measures against climate change in poorer and vulnerable countries.

He concluded, “A deal that will spur action on all key areas of adaptation, mitigation, finance and governance. An ambitious deal that will set a firm deadline for a legally binding treaty as soon as possible in 2010. The stronger the agreement in Copenhagen, the quicker it can be transformed into a legal framework.”

In the meantime, important documents that will form the basis of negotiations and agreements in Copenhagen are beginning to become available. The documents are from the two key committees that will be holding: (1) The tenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 10); and (2) The eighth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA 8).

Also as part of the White House announcement on that President Obama will be attending the Copenhagen COP15 meeting [
See WIMS 11/25/09], the U.S. State Department has established a special website dedicated solely to COP 15 events, as well as a Facebook page (See links below). The State Department, in coordination with the White House and multiple federal departments and agencies, is organizing and hosting a U.S. Center at UNFCCC COP15 conference. The U.S. Center will host over 70 events during the two-week conference.

One day following the White House announcement, on November 26, China announced that Premier Wen Jiabao will attend the Copenhagen climate summit and that China will commit to reducing its "carbon intensity" by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. According to a statement from the Chinese government, the State Council said that China is going to reduce the "intensity of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP" in 2020 by 40 to 45 percent compared with the level of 2005. The State Council said, this is "a voluntary action" taken by the Chinese government "based on our own national conditions" and "is a major contribution to the global effort in tackling climate change,"

In a meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao on November 25,the State Council reviewed a national task plan addressing climate change. A press statement released November 26, said the index of carbon dioxide emissions cuts, announced for the first time by China, would be "a binding goal" to be incorporated into China's medium and long-term national social and economic development plans. The announcement said that new measures would be formulated to audit, monitor and assess its implementation. Qi Jianguo, an economic and environmental policy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua that the targets would put "great pressure" on China's development.

Access a release from the UN (
click here). Access the statement from Ban (click here). Access a second UN release and link to a second Ban speech of 11/27/09 (click here). Access the AOSIS website (click here). Access the SIDS website (click here). Access links to the AWG-LCA 8 documents (click here). Access links to the AWG-KP 10 documents (click here). Access the State Dept. COP15 website (click here). Access the State Dept. Facebook page (click here). Access a lengthy statement from the Chinese government (click here). Access the China Climate Change Info-Net website for more information (click here).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

President Obama Will Go To Copenhagen & Emission Targets

Nov 25: With just 11 days before the start of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP15), the White House announced that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark on December 9 to participate in the conference. According to a release, the President "is eager to work with the international community to drive progress toward a comprehensive and operational Copenhagen accord."

The release indicates, the President has worked steadily on behalf of a positive outcome in Copenhagen throughout the year. Based on the President’s work on climate change over the past 10 months -- in the Major Economies Forum, the G20, bilateral discussions and multilateral consultations -- and based on progress made in recent, constructive discussions with China and India’s Leaders, the President believes it is possible to reach a meaningful agreement in Copenhagen. The release states, "The President’s decision to go is a sign of his continuing commitment and leadership to find a global solution to the global threat of climate change, and to lay the foundation for a new, sustainable and prosperous clean energy future."

The White House also announced that, in the context of an "overall deal in Copenhagen that includes robust mitigation contributions from China and the other emerging economies, the President is prepared to put on the table a U.S. emissions reduction target in the range of 17% below 2005 levels in 2020 and ultimately in line with final U.S. energy and climate legislation. In light of the President’s goal to reduce emissions 83% by 2050, the expected pathway set forth in this pending legislation would entail a 30% reduction below 2005 levels in 2025 and a 42% reduction below 2005 in 2030."

The White House said, the "provisional target" is in line with current legislation in both chambers of Congress (i.e. H.R. 2454 & S. 1733) and "demonstrates a significant contribution to a problem that the U.S. has neglected for too long." With less than two weeks to go until the beginning of the Copenhagen conference, the White House said, "it is essential that the countries of the world, led by the major economies, do what it takes to produce a strong, operational agreement that will both launch us on a concerted effort to combat climate change and serve as a stepping stone to a legally binding treaty. The President is working closely with Congress to pass energy and climate legislation as soon as possible."

The White House also announced that a host of Cabinet secretaries and other top officials from across the Administration will travel to Copenhagen for the conference. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson are all scheduled to attend, along with Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner.

For the first time, the U.S. delegation will have a U.S. Center at the conference, which they said would provide "a unique and interactive forum to share our story with the world." In addition to working with other countries to advance American interests, U.S. delegates will keynote a series of events highlighting actions by the Obama Administration "to provide domestic and global leadership in the transition to a clean energy economy." Topics will range from energy efficiency investments and global commitments to renewables policy and clean energy jobs.

The schedule and topics of keynote events and speakers are: Wednesday, December 9th: Taking Action at Home, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson; Thursday, December 10th: New Energy Future: the role of public lands in clean energy production and carbon capture, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar; Friday, December 11th: Clean Energy Jobs in a Global Marketplace, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke; Monday, December 14th: Leading in Energy Efficiency and Renewables, Energy Secretary Steven Chu; Tuesday, December 15th: Clean Energy Investments: creating opportunities for rural economies, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; and, Thursday, December 17th: Backing Up International Agreement with Domestic Action, CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley and Assistant to the President Carol Browner.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, released a brief statement regarding the Obama administration's announcement and said, "I am so pleased that the President is going to Copenhagen to address one of the most pressing issues of our time -- global warming. The goal he announced today, in the range of 17 percent, reflects the work that was done in the House of Representatives and in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It is realistic, it's smart, and it's credible." The Senate Bill, S. 1733, actually includes a 20% reduction over 2005 levels -- a reduction that Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chair of the Senate Finance Committee that will consider the bill in January, said was "too high." Senator Baucus was the only dissenting Democratic vote when the EPW approved the bill [
See WIMS 11/5/09].

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the EPW Committee, commented on the news that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen and said, "I suspect President Obama is making the trip to Copenhagen in order to ‘save' the climate conference. Yet no amount of lofty rhetoric or promises of future commitments can save it. This is due in large part to the fact cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate is dying on the vine, and, as important, recent revelations of leading climate scientists who appear to have manufactured the climate ‘consensus'-revelations that cast doubt over the entire global warming enterprise. Moreover, it's clear that China, India, and the developing world, which will soon be responsible for the vast bulk of greenhouse gas emissions, will not accept mandatory cuts in emissions -- despite entreaties from President Obama. The U.S. Senate has made clear on numerous occasions that unilateral action by the United States is unacceptable, because it will harm our economy and have virtually no effect on climate change."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed the announcement that President Barack Obama would be attending the Conference in Copenhagen. UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters, “As more and more heads of State and government confirm their attendance, momentum is building for a successful conclusion to this crucial world gathering. Earlier this month, Ban urged the US to take a leading role in forging a new global pact to combat global warming and said, “No country is more important than the United States in resolving this climate change issue.” In a briefing to the press less than two weeks ahead of the Copenhagen (COP 15) conference, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer spoke about his expectations for the meeting, which he described as a “historic turning point.” with "no Plan B."

Access a lengthy release from the White House with a listing and links to further information on American action and accomplishments over the last 10 months (
click here). Access a release from Senator Boxer (click here). Access a release from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access a statement from the UN (click here). Access links to the de Boer briefing video and speaking notes (click here).

Today's full issue of eNewsUSA included more climate-related articles including:

  • CBO On The Costs of Reducing Greenhouse-Gas Emissions
  • Senator Inhofe Launches "Climategate" Investigation
  • India & U.S., Two Largest Democracies, Form "Green Partnership"
  • Draft Report Analyzing Vulnerability Of Endangered Species To Climate Change

Click here and we'll send you today's complete report

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Controversy Over Hacked Emails On Climate Change

Nov 23: On November 20 it was reported that hundreds of emails were illegally obtained by hacking the server at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England. The emails have been posted on the Internet and many climate change opponents are claiming they reveal conspiracy in the scientific community regarding the science behind climate change.

On November 23, the University of East Anglia issued a statement saying, "The volume of material published and its piecemeal nature makes it impossible to confirm what proportion is genuine. We took immediate action to remove the server in question from operation and have involved the police in what we consider to be a criminal investigation. The material published relates to the work of our globally-respected Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and other scientists around the world. CRU's published research is, and has always been, fully peer-reviewed by the relevant journals, and is one strand of research underpinning the strong consensus that human activity is affecting the world's climate in ways that are potentially dangerous. . ."

As an example, the University highlighted one email which they said they could "confirm is genuine," and which they said has caused "a great deal of ill-informed comment, but has been taken completely out of context and I want to put the record straight." The email reads: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline. Mike's series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with data through Oct +is 0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998."

The University comments and emphasizes, "The first thing to point out is that this refers to one diagram -- not a scientific paper -- which was used in the World Meteorological Organization's statement on the status of the global climate in 1999 (WMO-no.913). "The diagram consisted of three curves showing 50-year average temperature variations for the last 1000 years. Each curve referred to a scientific paper and a key gives their details. Climate records consist of actual temperature records from the mid-19th century and proxy data (tree rings, coral, ice cores, etc) which go back much further. The green curve on the diagram included proxy data up to 1960 but only actual temperatures from 1961 onwards. This is what is being discussed in the email. The word 'trick' was used here colloquially as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward."

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a statement saying, "Climate science contrarians are using the release of e-mails from several top scientists to attack climate science. Unfortunately for these conspiracy theorists, what the e-mails show are simply scientists at work, grappling with key issues, and displaying the full range of emotions and motivations characteristic of any urgent endeavor. Any suggestions that these e-mails will affect public and policymakers' understanding of climate science give far too much credence to blog chatter and boastful spin from groups opposed to addressing climate change. . . Policymakers and the general public should reject these attacks and not be distracted from building solutions to this urgent threat."

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and an outspoken critic of climate change science and legislation said in a radio interview on November 21st regarding last weeks announcements that climate change legislation would be put off until Spring, "cap and trade is dead forever." He said, "I told Barbara Boxer [Senate EPW Chair] after all these years. . . I won, you lost. . . get a life." He said the legislation would die a "quiet muffled death." Regarding the emails he said "We have known; not known; suspected that this was happening; we have heard testimony in private from different scientists and others, where they are subduing information they have. We're going to get into the big middle of that even though the issue may be gone; may be dead; the means that they would use. If they would do that on global warming, they would do it on health care or any other issue and that's what has to be exposed. . ."

Among the more than 1,000 climate change-related emails made public, one exchange from 2003, involved contributions from John Holdren, who is now the Director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and was then a professor in the Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University and Director of the independent, nonprofit Woods Hole Research Center in Woods Hole, MA. According to an OSTP note, "That exchange -- between Holdren and a skeptical blogger -- provides an excellent summary of how a person lacking scientific expertise might best arrive at a conclusion about the conflicting data relating to the science of climate change." OSTP has released the entire email exchange (See link below).

Access a report from the New York Times with links to related information (
click here). Access links to all of the emails (click here). Access the complete release from University of East Anglia (click here). Access a release from the Union of Concerned Scientists (click here). Access the Senator Inhofe radio interview on the hacked emails (click here, about half way into the recording). Access the Holdren email exchange (click here).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Investor Groups Petition SEC Regarding Climate Risk Disclosure

Nov 23: A supplemental petition submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission by a broad coalition of 20 institutional investors explains that "it’s impossible for investors to adequately assess the risk to their investment money if companies don’t tell them how much climate change and its impacts might affect their financial performance." The petition asks the SEC to provide interpretive guidance outlining climate-related "material risks" -- such as new regulations, physical impacts, new economic and business opportunities and other climate-related trends -- that companies should be disclosing to investors.

Some of the 20 signatories to the petition include leading U.S. and Canadian institutional investors managing more than $1 trillion in assets, including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), British Columbia Investment Management Corporation of Canada, Pax World Management Corporation, state treasurers from Oregon, North Carolina, Connecticut, Maryland and Vermont and Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.

Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the $8 trillion Investor Network on Climate Risk, which includes many members who submitted the petition said, “Climate change is without question a material risk to businesses, and ignoring it is a disservice to investors. We need to measure and disclose these risks so that both investors and companies can make financially-sound decisions.”

A release from the groups indicates that the petition echoes several earlier requests to the SEC for guidance on climate risk disclosure. But, they said, "what makes this submission different is a spate of recent regulatory, legislative and scientific developments - including the Environmental Protection Agency’s new mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule – and new economic opportunities that dramatically change the landscape of corporate climate risk disclosure. Congress is also hard at work on climate legislation that would set specific limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other large company facilities. A climate and energy bill was approved by the House in June and is now before the Senate."

The groups indicated that SEC took a large step toward greater corporate disclosure of climate risks last month. It decided then to allow shareholder resolutions seeking information from companies on the financial risks they face from social and environmental issues including climate change. The decision, outlined in SEC Staff Legal Bulletin No. 14E (CF) reverses an SEC rule that prevented investors from directly asking companies about the impacts of climate change and other pressing concerns on their financial bottom lines. The groups said issuing clarifying guidance on climate-related disclosure is fundamental to the SEC’s core mission “to protect investors; maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets; and facilitate capital formation.”

Access a release from the groups and link to the petition supplement, full petition, the full list of signers and related information (
click here). Access the SEC bulletin (click here).

Friday, November 20, 2009

UN Predicts Copenhagen Accord & Treaty Within 6 Months

Nov 19: November 2009 – With just 17 days left before the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Yvo de Boer predicted success for a framework accord including "specific reduction targets from the United States, the only hold-out among industrialized nations, with a formal treaty to follow within six months." At a news conference in New York, de Boer said, “There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that it [Copenhagen] will yield a success.” He said President Barack Obama’s presence in the Danish capital “would make a huge difference.”

As the three main points that must come out of Copenhagen, he cited individualized targets “in black and white” by industrialized States to reduce global warming greenhouse gas emissions by 2020; a list of actions by developing nations; and clear short- and long-term financing to support developing countries on both mitigation and adaptation.

At an informal meeting of the General Assembly held on November 19, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, cited various emission and deforestation reduction targets announced recently by Indonesia, Russia, the Republic of Korea, Brazil, Japan and the European Union, and also voiced confidence in reaching a deal in Copenhagen that sets the stage for a binding treaty as soon as possible in 2010. He put short-term financing from richer nations to the developing countries at $10 billion in fast-track funding annually over the next three years to jump-start low-emission growth, limit deforestation and finance immediate adaptation measures, while medium-term needs are estimated at $100 billion annually through 2020.

De Boer told the Assembly that aggregate pledges made so far by industrialized countries for mid-term reductions still fell short of the target of 20 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, which the scientific community calls necessary to avoid more disastrous change. He said, “Industrialized countries clearly need to raise their level of ambition.” Also, he said, without resolving the political issues of mitigation and finance, reaching agreement in Copenhagen would be impossible in the battle to curb climate change, with its impact already being felt in droughts, changed rainfall patterns and floods. He said a numerical mid-term target and a commitment to financial support from the U.S. are essential “and I believe it can be done.”

General Assembly President Ali Treki told the same meeting that progress at Copenhagen is not optional – “it is imperative to our very survival.” He later added at a news conference that the world is now conscious of the dangers of climate change for everyone, not just the most vulnerable countries, and that it is in the interest of everyone to “achieve a good result” in Copenhagen.

De Boer indicated further that the conference also needs to launch immediate action for international cooperation on the pressing needs to preserve and sustain forests, he said, “If the lungs of the world collapse, the rest will die.” Finally, governments must agree in a tight deadline to finalize it all into a legal treaty, “and that means no delay, no more long drawn-out process. For all this Copenhagen will be the turning point where talking about action stops and taking action begins.”

Asked about the position of the U.S., which never ratified the 1997 emission reduction treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol, de Boer said, “I think that President Obama has shown incredible courage and leadership. . . He wants a strong domestic policy in this area not just because of climate change, but also because of issues of energy security and energy prices. . . he wants a deal in Copenhagen.” He said "Mr. Obama was now focusing on health care and climate change will come up early next year, but having said that, I am confident that the President of the United States can come to Copenhagen with a target and with a financial commitment.”

Access a lengthy release from the UN with links to the full text of comments and related information (
click here).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

U.S. & China Sign Memo On Collecting Reliable GHG Data

Nov 19: In addition to other climate change and energy agreements with China signed this week [See WIMS 11/17/09], U.S. EPA and China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) have also formalized a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) to enhance capacity to address climate change (i.e. greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement, monitoring, reporting). Signing the Memorandum were EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and NDRC Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua. The MOC was signed by Jackson on November 17, 2009, and commences upon the signature and continues for a period of five years, unless discontinued by one of the parties upon six months notification.

Jackson said, “Cooperation between China and the United States is essential to successfully address climate change. EPA has a long and productive partnership with China on many important environmental issues. This arrangement builds upon our ongoing cooperation to address one of the most significant global challenges of our time. The work that will be supported through this agreement will assist China in enhancing its capacity to collect reliable greenhouse gas emissions data. It also presents an opportunity for EPA to share with China its extensive expertise in measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.”

According to EPA, initially, cooperation will focus on providing technical support for the development of robust greenhouse gas inventories. In addition, the MOC recognizes the joint work on climate change impacts on economic development, human health, and ecological systems. It also envisions cooperation on education and public awareness of climate change issues. The EPA-NDRC arrangement is one of several implementing measures under the Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation on Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment concluded during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue session in Washington earlier this year in July [See WIMS 7/28/09].

According to the 4-page general agreement, cooperative activities undertaken "may involve" "Capacity building for developing greenhouse gas inventories" as well as education activities, climate change impacts and "Other areas determined by the Participants." The MOC also says, "Participants intend to develop, as needed, detailed work plans according to the cooperation themes and forms intended in this MOC, including key activities and outputs of cooperative projects, scheduling, budget and organizational arrangements, etc. . . EPA intends to support cooperative projects through the provision of needed technical assistance and NDRC or the organization designated by NDRC will provide needed in-kind support."

Access a release from EPA (
click here). Access the 4-page MOC (click here). Access links to previous U.S.-China environmental agreements (click here). Access a media report from the Washington Post (click here).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hearing On International Aspects Of Global Climate Change

Nov 17: The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), held a hearing "to explore the international aspects of global climate change." Witnesses included representatives from the Council on Foreign Relations; Climate Advisers; Institute for 21st Century Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and the National Foreign Trade Council.

Chairman Bingaman opened the meeting with a statement saying, “Much of the discussion of international climate policy revolves around the United Nations and negotiations to reach an international agreement to reduce emissions. This weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, President Obama and other world leaders decided to delay the goal of reaching a climate change agreement at the next global climate conference in Copenhagen [
See WIMS 11/17/09]. Today we will hear from the witnesses on this issue and explore the realms of possibility for an international agreement. . .

“I was particularly pleased to see the U.S.-China Clean Energy Announcements from the White House this morning. The U.S. and China share many of the same energy and climate challenges and a strong bilateral partnership on clean energy, renewables and efficiency could benefit both countries. Finally, we will also hear about U.S. clean technology development and deployment. Effective programs to spur the development and deployment of clean energy technologies abroad -- especially in rapidly developing countries -- are vital to our national goals of mitigating climate change through global action and promoting U.S. competitiveness in future energy technologies.

"Moreover, despite the establishment of multiple interagency coordinating groups -- in laws passed in 1992, 2005, and 2007 – our international energy programs are still inhibited by structural and budgetary obstacles. The result is a duplication of capacity across agencies, under-resourced programs where they do exist, and less-than-optimal outcomes from the nation's international energy technology portfolio. I hope we can develop a better approach to international energy cooperation than simply creating more interagency coordinating groups, if we are to seriously address not only reducing global emissions, but also building robust American energy industries that can compete globally in the 21st century.”

Ranking Member of the Committee, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) stressed that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions "must be international in scope to truly address climate change." She said, “Climate change mitigation must be a global effort to be effective, but progress on the international front has been slow and difficult. Those who assume that others will follow if America acts first are ignoring that our actions on civil rights, worker protections and environmental stewardship have often failed to inspire similar progress in many other nations.”

Senator Murkowski said she remains committed to working toward climate change legislation, but cautioned that any solution must not harm the economy or put the United States at a competitive disadvantage with countries whose emissions remain unchecked. She said, “Congress shouldn’t try to pass just any bill to prove that we’re serious about climate change. Until we show the world that it’s possible to reduce emissions and maintain economic growth, I believe it will remain difficult to secure the international commitments that matter most in this effort. Climate change is, quite clearly, a global challenge that demands nothing short of a global solution. As focused as our committee has been on the nuts and bolts of domestic policy, we can’t forget that our actions will make little difference unless the rest of the world is working with us.”

The Council on Foreign Relations testified that, "There is an emerging international political consensus that global emissions should be cut at least in half by midcentury. The International Energy Agency estimates that the United States, Europe,
China, and India will each need to cut their energy-related emissions by 12-15% below business as usual by 2020 and by 34-42% below business as usual by 2030 to get the world on this path." They said, India has been wrongly lumped together with China in climate discussions. Total Indian emissions were, as of 2005, about one quarter of total Chinese emissions. Indian GDP is about 30% of Chinese GDP, and its foreign exchange reserves are barely 10% of those held by China. About 40% of Indians have no access to electricity; almost all Chinese have at least some. And while both countries are vulnerably to climate change, the danger to India is particularly acute."

The Climate Advisers testified that, "The Kyoto negotiations took a decade from start to finish. The Copenhagen process will not require that long, but it will take some months or possibly years more. Second, the negotiations have been affected by significant uncertainty surrounding the shape of future U.S. climate and energy policies. The world learned from the Kyoto negotiations that the United States cannot deliver on new climate commitments unless the president and Congress see eye-to-eye. . . a high-profile outcome from Copenhagen would be politically binding in the sense that nations would commit publicly to specific outcomes. A solid political agreement would send a clear signal about where the international community is heading while also providing concrete guidance to negotiators as they continue the work of crafting a complete international agreement. . ."

The U.S. Chamber testified that, "As this year’s negotiations wind their way to a conclusion in Copenhagen, Denmark, the prospect of a new international deal is not very bright, and it is not hard to see why. Consider that the starting point for discussion is a 50% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Endorsed by G8 leaders, this “50-by-50” goal is among the most aggressive of the 177 emissions reduction scenarios examined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Meeting such a goal would require large and expensive emissions reductions and avoidances, most of which would have to occur in developing countries. Though ultimately non-binding and unenforceable, the long-term vision nonetheless drives expectations about technology readiness and commercial adoption, short-term goals, burden sharing by developing countries, finance and wealth transfers, and technology transfer, issues that are among the most contentious in the international negotiations."

The Chamber said that "Developing countries are pressing the United States and other developed countries to transfer anywhere from 0.5% to 2.0% of their gross domestic product each year to bankroll climate change programs in developing countries. . . At that rate, in 2008 the cost to American taxpayers alone would have been $72 billion to $289 billion."

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace focused its remarks on China and its role in managing climate change. They indicated that President Hu announced to the world China’s climate change goals, notably: Reducing energy intensity by 20% between 2005 and 2010. China has reduced its energy used per unit of GDP by 1.8% in 2006, 4% in 2007, and 4.6% in 2008. In the first half of 2009, China reduced energy intensity by 3.35%. Analysts predict that if China is able to continue at this pace, it will reach its 2010 goal. China’s internal goal is to have 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Carnegie said, "The question of how to evaluate the data provided by the Chinese government especially in light of the Chinese climate change negotiators clearly stating that China will not accept a carbon cap (which they see as limiting their economic growth potential) and instead will focus on carbon intensity targets."

They said, "The U.S. can have confidence that China is going to do what it says it is going to do because its motivations are internal. And, China is continually improving its ability to enforce its own policies. Improving the process by which Beijing monitors how well it reaches its national goals requires continued technical support. While it is unlikely that China will allow international inspectors, a process that puts its reputation at stake could be helpful. Most important is the recognition of reciprocity. China will push back hard against any policy or initiative that appears to set it in a special category."

The National Foreign Trade Council said it, "does not take a position on specific legislative approaches to climate change. While we broadly support targets to reduce U.S. emissions and an international framework agreement to put countries on low emissions pathways, comprehensive climate legislation addresses issues beyond our mandate and expertise." The Council represents Business Council for Sustainable Energy; Coalition of Service Industries; Emergency Committee for American Trade; Information Technology Industry Council; National Association of Manufacturers; National Foreign Trade Council; Organization for International Investment; Retail Industry Leaders Association; and United States Chamber of Commerce.

Access the hearing website for links to the testimony and a webcast (
click here). Access a release from Sen. Bingaman (click here). Access a release from Sen. Murkowski (click here).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Deal Shifts To Keeping The Pressure On

Nov 16: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged countries to seize the opportunity presented at the climate change conference in Copenhagen to clinch a "political" agreement that will help chart the way forward on a new "legally" binding pact to combat global warming. Ban said, “Opportunity is knocking. It is up to you to open the door.” He was issuing a statement at a two-day closed meeting in the Danish capital to climate negotiators from nearly 40 countries who are preparing ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference set to begin on December 7, and run through December 18. The Secretary-General's message was delivered by Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Now that the pressure appears to be off to negotiate a "legally binding" agreement, and instead settle for a "politically binding" framework [
See WIMS 11/16/09], the parties are beginning to be concerned about keeping the negotiating momentum on to reach a legal agreement by some near future deadline. On behalf of the Secretary-General, de Boer said, "Copenhagen will mark a milestone in international efforts to build a more sustainable relationship with our planet. We must seize this opportunity to create a safer and more prosperous future for all, to reduce the emissions that are causing climate change, and to help the most vulnerable adapt to impacts that are already under way. From all corners of the globe, we see unprecedented momentum for governments to act quickly and decisively. Heads of State and Government are now directly involved in climate change discussions to a degree previously unimaginable even a few short years ago."

De Boer outlined what the Secretary-General indicated are the "essential elements of a Copenhagen deal" which he said there is "growing support from the highest levels of government" including: Enhanced action to help the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt; Ambitious emission reduction targets for industrialized countries; Nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries with the necessary support; Significantly scaled-up financial and technological resources; and An equitable governance structure. He said, such a deal "can safeguard our common future while ushering in powerful new opportunities today for economic growth, enhanced security, and sustainable, climate-resilient development."

He said to the ministers gathered at the meeting, "The world is looking to you to transform those expressions of global political will into tangible outcomes in Copenhagen. The science, the future of the global economy, and the fate of the planet require no less. I applaud the progress that you have made in the negotiations to date. But core political issues remain unresolved. As Ministers, you have a key role to play. We need political agreement on the outline of a deal in Copenhagen to ensure that specific mitigation and adaptation actions can be swiftly implemented as of 2010."

He concluded, "The UN system, for its part, will continue to support governments in achieving an ambitious outcome. Similarly, the United Nations stands ready to “deliver as one” in helping Member States to implement adaptation and mitigation actions on the ground, drawing on the UN's global expertise in energy, water, development and other relevant areas. Let us work together. Let us seize this moment to make Copenhagen the success the world wants and needs it to be."

According to reports from Copenhagen, de Boer is pushing for a treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, within six months after the COP15 conference ends. Other observers and participants are fearful that negotiations may stagnate and drag on for years. According to media reports, some are saying negotiations may go on for years and years; citing for example the Doha negotiations on liberating global trade that after eight years of talks have still not come to a conclusion. Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told Reuters in an interview, "It raises the specter of having a stalemate on the legally binding part lingering for years to come." He says Copenhagen must set a firm deadline for negotiating a treaty text.

On November 17, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen speaking to the Ministers at the pre-COP consultations said, "Hard work and political will is the only way forward -- and it is not over yet. I am just back from a meeting with leaders gathered for the APEC Summit in Singapore. We had a very encouraging discussion. And we reminded ourselves of the mandates and the deadline set at Bali. I presented the vision for an ambitious, binding agreement in Copenhagen. An agreement providing for immediate and strong action within all areas of the Bali mandates. And setting us on track for a comprehensive legal framework. I am pleased with the positive response I got. Also the American President endorsed our approach, implying that all developed countries will need to bring strong reduction targets to the negotiating table in Copenhagen."

He continued saying, "My focus remains the real commitments we can obtain for strong and specific action, both in the short and in the longer term. Thus: Real action and a strong mandate and a time frame for further work on the legal framework to be concluded as soon as possible. . . The Copenhagen Agreement should be concrete and binding on countries committing to reach targets, to undertake actions, and to provide agreed finance. Of course, developed countries must take lead by delivering substantial reductions and finance. We need numbers on the table in Copenhagen."

The Prime Minister said, "So why not a legally binding text in Copenhagen? Because the time and the diverging positions of the parties, as well as the number of possible outstanding issues to be resolved, will not allow for it to happen. But that must not be an excuse for inaction. . . What about Kyoto? Is Denmark ready to sacrifice it? Again, the answer is no. Denmark is a party to the Kyoto Protocol and will remain so."

He emphasized a two-part process and said, "Denmark has set out the vision of “one Agreement – two purposes.” Firstly, the Copenhagen Agreement should have a solid content covering all the Bali building blocks: shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and capacity building. This will provide a strong impetus and guidance to further negotiations on a legal framework. Secondly, the agreement should provide for immediate action in all areas, including mitigation, adaptation and finance. Significant up-front finance should support early adaptation and mitigation efforts as well as capacity building and technology cooperation."

UPDATE: Obama & Hu Call For Comprehensive Copenhagen Agreement

Nov 17: In a joint press statement by President Obama and President Hu of China issued from the Great Hall in Beijing, President Hu said, "We agreed to expand our cooperation on climate change, energy, and environment. We also agreed to act on the basis of the principle of the common but differentiated responsibilities and consistent with our respective capabilities to work with other parties concerned to help produce positive outcomes out of the Copenhagen conference. The complementing departments of China and the United States have already signed a number of cooperation agreements, including the MOU to enhanced cooperation on climate change, energy and environment. The two sides have also officially launched the initiative of developing a China-U.S. clean energy research center."

President Obama said, "We meet here at a time when the relationship between the United States and China has never been more important to our collective future. The major challenges of the 21st century, from climate change to nuclear proliferation to economic recovery, are challenges that touch both our nations, and challenges that neither of our nations can solve by acting alone. . . President Hu and I also made progress on the issue of climate change. As the two largest consumers and producers of energy, there can be no solution to this challenge without the efforts of both China and the United States. That's why we've agreed to a series of important new initiatives in this area. As President Hu indicated, we are creating a joint clean energy research center, and have achieved agreements on energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner uses of coal, electric vehicles, and shale gas.

"We also agreed to work toward a successful outcome in Copenhagen. Our aim there, in support of what Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark is trying to achieve, is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect. This kind of comprehensive agreement would be an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge. And we agreed that each of us would take significant mitigation actions and stand behind these commitments."

In the official U.S.-China Statement that was released, Item V indicates in part, "Regarding the upcoming Copenhagen Conference, both sides agree on the importance of actively furthering the full, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with the Bali Action Plan. The United States and China, consistent with their national circumstances, resolve to take significant mitigation actions and recognize the important role that their countries play in promoting a sustainable outcome that will strengthen the world’s ability to combat climate change. The two sides resolve to stand behind these commitments.

"In this context both sides believe that, while striving for final legal agreement, an agreed outcome at Copenhagen should, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, include emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries. The outcome should also substantially scale up financial assistance to developing countries, promote technology development, dissemination and transfer, pay particular attention to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change, promote steps to preserve and enhance forests, and provide for full transparency with respect to the implementation of mitigation measures and provision of financial, technology and capacity building support. The two sides are committed to working together and with other countries in the weeks ahead for a successful outcome at Copenhagen."

Access a release from the UN (click here). Access the full text of the Secretary-General's comments (click here). Access a report from the Danish COP15 website on a possible stalemate in the negotiations and links to related articles (click here). Access the complete text of the Prime Minister's address (click here). Access the complete joint Obama-Hu press statement (click here). Access the official U.S.-China Statement (click here).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Agreement Expectations Taking Shape

Nov 16: The Danish government website for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen, December 7-18, 2009, now just 20 days away, and Bloomberg news are both reporting that "What has been evident for some time was confirmed this weekend by world leaders gathered in Singapore. The UN climate conference in Copenhagen (COP15) three weeks from now will not yield a legally binding treaty, but a comprehensive political agreement at best."

President Obama and other leaders gathered for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) reportedly backed a two-step approach proposed by Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen the host of the COP15 meeting. According to Bloomberg report, Rasmussen said, "Even if we may not hammer out the last dots of a legally binding instrument, I do believe a political binding agreement with specific commitment to mitigation and finance provides a strong basis for immediate action in the years to come." The report indicates that Rasmussen suggested the outcome in Copenhagen should be a five-to-eight page document with "precise language of a comprehensive political agreement." Negotiations to come up with a binding legal treaty would then continue into 2010 or possibly even beyond that.

In a Declaration entitled, "Sustaining Growth, Connecting the Region," adopted by the APEC forum, whose member account for about half the world’s economy, they said, "We welcome the Declaration of the Leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in L’Aquila and the Leaders’ Statement at the G-20 Pittsburgh Summit [See
WIMS 7/9/09, WIMS 9/28/09], and reaffirm our commitment to tackle the threat of climate change and work towards an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen, within the objective, provisions and principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will need to be accompanied by measures, including financial assistance and technology transfer to developing economies for their adaptation to the adverse impact of climate change.

"We recall our Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development in Sydney in 2007, which set out an APEC-wide aspirational target of reducing energy intensity by at least 25 percent by 2030. We applaud the efforts made by individual APEC economies that have unilaterally undertaken measures to reduce emissions. Sustainable forest management plays an important role in mitigating global emissions. We will enhance work on meeting the aspirational goal in the Sydney Declaration of increasing forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares of all types of forests by 2020. We support efforts in the UNFCCC negotiations to agree on actions to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing economies. We recognize the role of the oceans in mitigating climate change, and the impact of climate change on oceans and coastal areas, and welcome the Manado Ocean Declaration.

"Responding to climate change through transition to green economies also offers opportunities. We will ensure that efforts to address climate change are consistent with our international trade obligations. A key thrust in APEC’s sustainable growth agenda is the APEC Environmental Goods and Services (EGS) Work Programme, under which we will develop and implement a set of concrete actions to support sustainable growth in the region, advance work to increase utilization and dissemination of EGS, reduce existing barriers and refrain from introducing new barriers to trade and investment in EGS, and enhance capabilities of economies to develop their EGS sectors. We also commit to rationalize and phase out over the medium term fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, while recognizing the importance of providing those in need with essential energy services. We will review progress on this at our meeting in 2010. We will also take steps to facilitate the diffusion of climate-friendly technologies, including through economic and technical cooperation (ECOTECH) and capacity building activities.

"We will advance work on sharing best practices in energy efficiency with a view to deploying cleaner and more efficient technologies, and welcome the implementation of the voluntary APEC Peer Review on Energy Efficiency. We recognize the role of renewable energy in reducing emissions and encourage its development in the APEC region. We will encourage publication on a regular basis, timely, accurate, and complete data on oil production, consumption, refining and stock levels as appropriate."

The APEC leaders also issued a separate Statement entitled, "A New Growth Paradigm For a Connected Asia-Pacific in the 21st Century," which covered many of the same points in the Declaration, and also said, "Future growth must be compatible with global efforts to protect the environment and mitigate climate change. At the same time, efforts to address climate change must be consistent with our international trade obligations."

APEC’s 21 members account for more than 40% of the world’s population, approximately 54.2% of the world’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) and 43.7% of the world trade. The APEC members include: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, China; Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, and Viet Nam.

Access the complete APEC 2009 Declaration (click here). Access the APEC 2009 website for links to additional information including videos, transcripts, releases, photos and more (click here). Access the main APEC website for more information and background (click here). Access the Access the Danish government COP15 website report (click here). Access the Bloomberg report (click here).

Friday, November 13, 2009

OIG: Unregistered Pesticides May Re-Enter U.S. Food Chain

Nov 12: The U.S. EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report entitled, EPA Needs to Comply with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and Improve Its Oversight of Exported Never-Registered Pesticides (No. 10-P-0026, November 10, 2009. OIG initiated the review to evaluate whether EPA has properly implemented Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 17(a) with respect to the Foreign Purchaser Acknowledgement Statements, and whether controls are in place to ensure the safety of imported foods.

Pesticides not registered for use in the United States may be manufactured domestically and exported abroad. FIFRA Section 17(a) requires that before an unregistered pesticide is exported, the foreign purchaser must sign a Foreign Purchaser Acknowledgement Statement (FPAS) acknowledging awareness that the pesticide is not registered and cannot be sold for use in the United States.

OIG said it found that, "EPA is not complying with FIFRA Section 17(a) which is, in part, intended to notify the government of an importing country that a potentially hazardous pesticide was imported into that country. Specifically, EPA does not comply with requirements to provide notice to all countries importing unregistered pesticides. EPA does not ensure manufacturer compliance with FIFRA Section 17(a) notification requirements. Consequently, there is no assurance EPA is receiving the entire universe of export notifications in any given year. Finally, export data on unregistered pesticides are insufficient for tracking and analysis."

OIG said export notification practices and data requirements are insufficient to monitor for the potential re-entry of never-registered pesticides on imported foods or to determine whether a dietary risk to U.S. consumers exists. The safety of unregistered pesticides intended solely for export is not evaluated by EPA. Therefore, the risk associated with never-registered pesticides is unknown. OIG said, "EPA does not know the pesticide class, volume, use, or final destination of unregistered U.S. pesticide exports. EPA also cannot provide the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture with information needed to monitor and detect pesticide residues from pesticides that have never been registered for use in the United States. Therefore, the extent of dietary risk from never-registered pesticide residues on imported foods is unknown."

OIG concludes, "We recommend that EPA comply with statutory mandates, implement management controls, and establish procedures for identifying and mitigating any dietary risk to consumers from never-registered pesticides. The Agency stated that it had now checked the specific subset of FPASs highlighted in the report. The Agency concluded that since it did not find a problem after reviewing these Fiscal Year 2007 FPASs, there is no basis for change in procedures or further analysis. The Agency comments were nonresponsive to the findings and recommendations. The Agency addressed neither its compliance with FIFRA Section 17(a) requirements nor the insufficient control process to monitor for potential re-entry of never-registered pesticides. All recommendations are undecided."

Access the complete 36-page OIG report (
click here). Access a legal analysis entitled, "The EPA's Pesticide Export Policy: Why The United States Should Restrict The Export Of Unregistered Pesticides To Developing Countries" by attorney Michael Holley (click here).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

UN Head Ban Ki-moon Urges Congressional Action On Climate Change

Nov 11: Just 24 days before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen, December 7-18, 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Congressional leaders in Washington, DC to make a continuing pitch to "seal the deal" by enacting a global climate change agreement. However, following the disappointing results of the last major negotiation session in Barcelona, Spain [See WIMS 11/6/09], even the Secretary-General is beginning to temper his words in describing the possible outcomes in Copenhagen..

On November 9, the Director of Ban’s Climate Change Support Team, Janos Pasztor, told a news conference in New York that, “The Secretary-General is confident that governments will reach agreement in Copenhagen on the fundamental issues that will form the substance of a legally binding international agreement which is the end goal for guiding action on climate change.” But, the statement was qualified and indicated further that, "Although in all likelihood it will not be possible to complete all the work needed for a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen, the meeting should make clear what needs to be done in the three core fundamental issues that remain unresolved -- ambitious mitigation targets in the developed countries; how to consider mitigation actions in developing countries; and financing."

Pasztor said, “Those are the three key issues where there still needs to be agreement, and they are precisely the issues where heads of State and heads of government need to be engaged because those issues are so important for the overall economic development of the countries that you cannot expect the negotiators themselves to make a move.”

In DC, on Veterans Day, at a media briefing, flanked by U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), the Secretary-General said, “No country is more important than the United States in resolving this climate change issue. All eyes of the world are looking to the United States and to this august body, the US Senate.” Ban urged the United States to take a leading role in forging a new international pact to combat global warming, warning that the consequences of failure outweigh the cost of tackling climate change.

Ban indicated that the world leaders meeting in Copenhagen, must conclude “a robust, global agreement that can serve as a foundation for a climate treaty.” He said, “From what I heard today, there is great support in the Senate for action on climate change. But for some, there are lingering doubts about whether we can afford to take action during this hard economic crisis.” Acknowledging that there is a price to pay in battling climate change, Ban stressed that the costs are insignificant compared with the cost of not taking action. He said, “Inaction will mean a weakened economic recovery, a loss of global competitiveness, increased global instability and further human suffering. A global agreement on the other hand will unleash investments that will do more than any single other action could do to jumpstart and sustain global economic recovery.”

Ban voiced appreciation for the U.S. Government, particularly President Barack Obama, in showing their initiative, leadership and commitment in addressing a climate change bill, as well as for Mr. Obama signaling a willingness to participate in Copenhagen. On November 10, President Obama reportedly told Reuters news service in an interview, "If I am confident that all of the countries involved are bargaining in good faith and we are on the brink of a meaningful agreement and my presence in Copenhagen will make a difference in tipping us over edge then certainly that's something that I will do." Ban said, “Copenhagen offers us all an unprecedented opportunity. We must use our time before that historic gathering for maximum effort.”

Reuters reported that President Obama said, "The key now is for the United States and China, the two largest emitters in the world, is to be able to come up with a framework that, along with other big emitters like the Europeans and those countries that are projected to be large emitters in the future, like India, can all buy into."

A report from the Washington Post on the press briefing indicates that Senator Lugar, the Ranking Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "I don't see any climate bill on the table right now that I can support. We really have to start from scratch again." Senator Lieberman reportedly said, "We are going to try to move the Senate as far as we can before Copenhagen."

On November 10, the Senate Finance Committee, Chaired by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) held a hearing entitled, “Climate Change Legislation: Considerations for Future Jobs.” Witnesses testifying at the hearing included representative of the: International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, Department of Government Affairs; Nuclear Energy Institute; American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research; American Council for Capital Formation; and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

In an opening statement, Chairman Baucus who has already said he thinks the 20% greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target by 2020 (from a 2005 base), contained in the Kerry-Boxer bill is too high, said, "I am committed to passing meaningful, balanced climate‐change legislation. I am committed to legislation that will protect our land and those whose livelihood depends on it. . . So I’m going to work to pass climate‐change legislation that is both meaningful and that can muster enough votes to become law." Baucus said he convened the hearing to address competing claims that the legislation will either stimulate or impede job creation, in order to better determine what the Finance Committee might do to facilitate job growth as it develops energy and carbon emissions reduction legislation.

He said, “What America needs now is jobs. And while there are differing views on the climate issue, we have an opportunity to retool energy to support domestic production and cut damaging pollutants and dependence on foreign sources, while creating jobs in the process. We need to find ways to help make that happen.”

Access a Nov. 9 UN release (click here). Access a Nov. 11 UN release (click here). Access the Reuters article on the interview with the President (click here). Access a report on the press briefing from the Washington Post (click here). Access a webcast of the Finance Committee hearing (click here). Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and opening statements (click here).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Major Study Shows Toxic Chemicals In Fish Tissue Nationwide

Nov 10: A new EPA study shows concentrations of toxic chemicals in fish tissue from lakes and reservoirs in nearly all 50 U.S. states. For the first time, EPA is able to estimate the percentage of lakes and reservoirs nationwide that have fish containing potentially harmful levels of chemicals such as mercury and PCBs. Peter Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water said, “These results reinforce Administrator Jackson’s strong call for revitalized protection of our nation’s waterways and long-overdue action to protect the American people. EPA is aggressively tackling the issues the report highlights. Before the results were even finalized, the agency initiated efforts to further reduce toxic mercury pollution and strengthen enforcement of the Clean Water Act – all part of a renewed effort to protect the nation’s health and environment.”

The data showed mercury concentrations in game fish exceeding EPA’s recommended levels at 49 percent of lakes and reservoirs nationwide, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in game fish at levels of potential concern at 17 percent of lakes and reservoirs. These findings are based on a comprehensive national study using more data on levels of contamination in fish tissue than any previous study. EPA said that burning fossil fuels, primarily coal, accounts for nearly half of mercury air emissions caused by human activity in the U.S., and those emissions are a significant contributor to mercury in water bodies. From 1990 through 2005, emissions of mercury into the air decreased by 58 percent. EPA is committed to developing a new rule to substantially reduce mercury emissions from power plants, and the Obama Administration is actively supporting a new international agreement that will reduce mercury emissions worldwide.

The study also confirms the widespread occurrence of PCBs and dioxins in fish, illustrating the need for federal, state and local government to continue efforts to reduce the presence of these harmful chemicals in our lakes and reservoirs and ensure that fish advisory information is readily available. EPA said it is important that women of child-bearing age and children continue to follow the advice of EPA and the Food and Drug Administration on fish consumption as it relates to mercury. The study is also a strong message to state and local governments to redouble their efforts in looking for opportunities to reduce mercury discharges, as well as developing fish advisories, especially to reach those in sensitive and vulnerable populations.

Results from the four-year National Study of Chemical Residues in Lake Fish Tissue show that mercury and PCBs are widely distributed in U.S. lakes and reservoirs. Mercury and PCBs were detected in all of the fish samples collected from the nationally representative sample of 500 lakes and reservoirs in the study. Because these findings apply to fish caught in lakes and reservoirs, it is particularly important for recreational and subsistence fishers to follow their state and local fish advisories.

EPA said it is conducting other statistically based national aquatic surveys that include assessment of fish contamination, such as the National Rivers and Streams Assessment and the National Coastal Assessment. Sampling for the National Rivers and Streams Assessment is underway, and results from this two-year study are expected to be available in 2011. Collection of fish samples for the National Coastal Assessment will begin in 2010.

Access a release from EPA (click here). Access EPA's National Lake Fish Tissue Study website for complete information (click here). Access more information on local fish advisories (click here).

Monday, November 09, 2009

House Passes Chemical & Water Security Act (H.R. 2868)

Nov 6: The House of Representatives passed by a vote of 230 to 193 the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2868) [See WIMS 10/23/09]. According to a release from the Energy and Commerce Committee, the bill strengthens security at America's chemical plants and drinking water and wastewater facilities by establishing risk-based and reasonable security standards for these critical assets. H.R. 2868 reauthorizes the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, which is slated to expire October 2010, and improves the program in many ways. It also authorizes U.S. EPA to establish similar security programs for drinking water and wastewater facilities.

Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee said, "I am pleased that the House has acted to close the critical security gap at drinking water facilities and to strengthen security requirements for chemical facilities. The Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009 will reduce the risk that chemicals used by our own chemical facilities are turned against us through terrorist attack and other intentional acts. This bill will make our country safer."

Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee said, "Today the House took decisive action to secure our nation's chemical plants and drinking water facilities from a potential terrorist attack. This bill will help shore up a potential vulnerability in our defenses, as the same chemicals that help purify our water and make the microchips used in our computers could potentially be turned into weapons of mass destruction. The bill contains language that I have championed for five years that provides authority to require the riskiest facilities to use safer chemicals or processes when they are technologically and economically feasible. This is central to protecting the millions of Americans that live near these facilities -- since terrorists cannot blow up what is no longer there."

According to a summary from the Committee, the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009: (1) Makes the DHS CFATS program permanent. The legislation strengthens the chemical security program by requiring the review and, in some cases, the implementation of safer technologies, adding enforcement tools, and protecting the right of workers to participate in developing and implementing chemical facility security plans. (2) Authorizes EPA to create a risk-based, performance-based program for the water sector similar to the one established by DHS for chemical plants. This gives effect to the regulatory approach that the Obama Administration supports. (3) Requires the riskiest chemical facilities, drinking water facilities, and water treatment works to assess and, when appropriate, implement methods to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack (also known as inherently safer technologies [ISTs]). (4) Strengthens the enforcement of the CFATS program by allowing citizens to bring suit against the Secretary of DHS for failure to perform non-discretionary obligations.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO, Cal Dooley, released a statement saying, “The legislation approved by the House today is an important step toward building upon the ongoing success of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) by making them permanent. While ACC is unable to endorse the bill due primarily to concerns over the potential impact of the authority granted to DHS to mandate the implementation of IST, we appreciate the efforts by both the House Energy & Commerce and Homeland Security Committee to seek our input to improve the legislation. Specifically, we were encouraged by changes that ensure proper protections for sensitive information and a civil lawsuit provision that bolsters oversight while still protecting private companies from frivolous lawsuits.

“We look forward to working with Senate in the same spirit to pass legislation that takes an aggressive but smart approach to regulating chemical security and ensures DHS has the resources to help us protect our facilities, our employees, the communities in which we operate, and the vital products we supply everyday to the nation.”

Rick Hind, legislative director of Greenpeace USA indicated, “Although it’s a compromise, this bill represents a historic first step toward protecting the 100 million Americans living in the shadow of high-risk chemical plants. Attempts by House Republicans to weaken the legislation were voted down. “The day after a terrorist attack at a chemical plant kills thousands of Americans, any suggestion that we should not require the use of safer chemicals at these plants will be considered totally crazy. Republicans should have been offering amendments to strengthen this modest legislation instead of trying to cripple it.”

Greenpeace cited the recent announcement from the Clorox Company which indicated it plans to convert all of their U.S. facilities from ultra-hazardous chlorine gas to liquid bleach to “strengthen our operations and add another layer of security,” according to their CEO Don Knauss. Clorox also indicated that these changes “won’t affect the size of the company’s workforce." Hind from Greenpeace added, “by leading the way in eliminating the potential consequences of a catastrophic terrorist attack or accident, Clorox provided Congress with compelling new evidence to enact chemical plant security legislation.”

Access a release from the Energy & Commerce Committee and link to the bill text (
click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 2868 including the roll call vote (click here). Access the statement from ACC and link to additional information (click here). Access the ACC position and more on ISTs (click here). Access a lengthy release from Greenpeace (click here).

Friday, November 06, 2009

Barcelona UNFCCC Climate Change Talks Breakdown

Nov. 6: The last negotiating session before the historic UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in December concluded Friday in Barcelona, Spain. More than 4,500 participants, including delegates from 181 countries, took part in the Barcelona UN Climate Change Talks. The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen will take place from December 7 to 18.

Based on contentious discussion in Barcelona and what appears to be a deepening of division between developing and developed countries; it now seems impossible that any legally binding agreement will be reached in Copenhagen. If that is the case, then the question turns to whether some alternative process to resolve major differences can be agreed to; or whether the differences, trust, goodwill and confidence of the parties may be so broken that even an agreement to proceed will be difficult.

Speaking at a press conference in Barcelona, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer reiterated that Copenhagen must result in a strong international climate change deal. He said, “Copenhagen can and must be the turning point in the international fight against climate change -- nothing has changed my confidence in that. A powerful combination of commitment and compromise can and must make this happen."

De Boer said in terms of specific he cited, progress on adaptation, technology cooperation, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and mechanisms to disburse funds for developing countries was made in Barcelona. He said, “It is essential that practical action is swiftly implemented after Copenhagen to assist developing countries in their fight against climate change.”

However, de Boer indicated little progress was made on the two key issues of mid-term emission reduction targets of developed countries and finance that would allow developing countries to limit their emissions growth and adapt to the inevitable effects of climate change. He said, “Without these two pieces of the puzzle in place, we will not have a deal in Copenhagen. So leadership at the highest level is required to unlock the pieces."

He reminded that at a summit in New York earlier this year, heads of state and government pledged to clinch a deal in Copenhagen that provides clarity on: ambitious emission reduction targets of industrialized countries; nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries with the necessary support; significantly scaled-up financial and technological resources and an equitable governance structure for these resources. De Boer said, “I look to industrialized countries to raise their ambitions to meet the scale of the challenge we face. And I look to industrialized nations for clarity on the amount of short and long-term finance they will commit.”

According to de Boer, developed countries would need to provide fast-track funding on the order of at least $10 billion USD to enable developing countries to immediately develop low emission growth and adaptation strategies and to build internal capacity.
At the same time, developed countries will need to indicate how they intend to raise predictable and sustainable long-term financing and what there longer-term commitments will be.

De Boer also reminded that according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an aggregate emission reduction by industrialized countries of between minus 25% and 40% over 1990 levels would be required by 2020 in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change, with global emissions falling by at least 50% by 2050. Even under this scenario, there would be an only a 50% chance of avoiding the most catastrophic consequences. He concluded, “Negotiators must deliver a final text at Copenhagen which presents a strong, functioning architecture to kick start rapid action in the developing world. And between now and Copenhagen, governments must deliver the clarity required to help the negotiators complete their work.”

The U.S. appeared to take a much stronger position as evidenced by the press conference of Jonathan Pershing , Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change at the conclusion of the Barcelona meetings. Pershing reiterated that the U.S. interested in "strongest possible agreement." However, indicated frustration with developing countries who he said want the U.S. to agree to a fixed dollar amount of assistance and fixed emission reduction targets; yet, they (developing countries) do not want to make reasonable commitments on their part.

Pershing said, "We are looking for parallelism not imbalance;" meaning the U.S. expects similar commitments from all countries based upon their individual abilities or capacities to achieve such commitments. For example, he said, "we expect more from Brazil" than of very poor African or South American countries. He said he was "somewhat disappointed" that the U.S. is having such a hard time getting agreement on what seems like a straight forward concept.

However, just as the U.S. and other developed countries are frustrated -- so are large blocks of developing countries. Those countries are saying that the developed countries want to "abandon the Kyoto Protocol and seek a new agreement which they are opposed to. They also point out what they call as the "low level of ambition" from developed countries, i.e. their commitments to mid-term greenhouse reduction targets which they say are inadequate and unacceptable. They also say that the developed countries are attempting to "shift responsibility to developing countries" by requiring them make specific commitments.

Developing countries are also raising question about developed countries using new undefined terms like "advanced developing countries" which have not been agreed to. Also, they say that developed country commitments on financing "were not adequate or forthcoming." They say there is a need for at least commitments of $400 billion per year. Finally, they say there is no central body to deal with technology transfer, and their are many loose ends dealing with research and development, models, intellectual property concerns, etc.

Access a release from Yvo de Boer (
click here). Access the Pershing press briefing (click here). Access the South Centre press briefing representing 51 developing countries (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to press briefings and documents (click here). Access various media reports on the Barcelona meetings (click here).

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Senate EPW Committee Passes S.1733 Without Republicans

Nov 5: Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), again made a brief appearance as the only Republican before the Committee and again reiterated the same Republican request for a complete economic analysis of S. 1733 before proceeding with the scheduled markup of the bill. He expressed strong opposition to reports that the Committee was considering the so-called "nuclear option," (i.e. moving the bill without at least two Republicans present for the vote. Senator Inhofe left following his brief statement.

The Committee then proceeded to vote to approve the Chairman's mark of the bill, without amendment. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) voted "no" and explained that he supports climate change legislation; however, he could not vote for the bill as is. He indicated his primary objection was that he felt the 20% greenhouse gas reduction from 2005 levels was too strict and said he preferred a "trigger" mechanism the would be activated if other countries demonstrated that they were reducing emissions as required. The bill passed the committee on a vote of 11-1, with all seven Republican members absent.

A number of Democratic members of the Committee expressed their support for Chairman Boxer's decision to move the bill forward. It was again pointed out that at least 5-6 other Senate committees will be considering related bills and amendments. It was also again emphasized that the U.S. EPA testified that additional economic modeling at this time, as demanded by Republicans, would not indicate any significant changes and would be costly and time consuming. It was also noted the Senator Kerry, Lieberman and Graham will be attempting to craft a bill that can obtain 60 votes for passage.

Chairman Barbara Boxer said the vote to send the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act to the floor of the Senate was in full accordance with longstanding Committee and Senate Rules. She said, "We did it for three reasons. S. 1733 addresses a crucial issue of our time and advancing the bill is a necessary step on the road to garnering the 60 votes we need for a comprehensive bill that will be melded together from various Committees and Senators from different regions of the country. This bill is already being worked on by Senators Kerry, Lieberman, Graham and others.

"We found, after questioning the EPA extensively, that the Republicans’ demand for another EPA analysis now would be duplicative and a waste of taxpayer dollars. The absence of the Republicans during the EPA’s presentation was a clear message that their criticism of the EPA analysis was not a substantive one. Indeed, the EPA said their economic analysis was 'unprecedented' in scope and was never done for any other energy or climate bill at this stage of the process.

"The Committee and Senate rules that have been in place during Republican and Democratic majorities are there to be used when the Majority feels it is in the best interest of their states and of the nation to act. A majority of the Committee believes that S. 1733, and the efforts that will be built upon it, will move us away from foreign oil imports that cost Americans one billion dollars a day, it will protect our children from pollution, create millions of clean energy jobs, and stimulate billions of dollars of private investment. We are pleased that despite the Republican boycott, we have been able to move the bill.”

Access the hearing website for a webcast (
click here). Access the statement from Senator Boxer and link to the Chairman's mark of S. 1733 (click here).