Monday, December 21, 2009

Update On The Copenhagen Accord; UN Calls For 2010 Final Deal

  • Subscribers & Readers Note: Although we are on our Christmas-New Year's holiday break, we are issuing this special report to provide an update on the Copenhagen Accord completed early Saturday morning in Copenhagen.

Dec 21: Acknowledging that the climate change deal reached over the weekend in Copenhagen was not ideal for all nations, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon exhorted world leaders to act in concert to ensure that a legally binding treaty is reached next year. The "political" agreement was struck in the Danish capital on Saturday morning after negotiations had come to a standstill, with Secretary-General Ban intervening at the last minute to assuage nations which felt they had been excluded from parts of the negotiations.

The agreement, now known as the Copenhagen Accord, includes an agreement to working towards curbing global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, efforts to reduce or limit emissions, and pledges to mobilize $100 billion a year for developing countries to combat climate change. According to a UN release, "The leaders were united in purpose, but they were not united in action." Ban told reporters today in New York today (December 21), “While I am satisfied that we sealed a deal, I am aware that the outcome of the Copenhagen conference, including the Copenhagen Accord, did not go as far as many have hoped.” The two-week-long United Nations conference in Copenhagen, attended by 128 heads of State and government, was marked by interruptions in negotiations due to divisions between States over transparency and other issues.

Ban outlined five key points of the Accord saying, "First, it commits countries to work to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius. It also says that they will review this commitment in 2015 to take account of new scientific evidence. (He noted that the IPCC is going to try to release their fifth assessment report in 2014). Second, the Accord includes mid-term mitigation targets by developed countries and mid-term mitigation actions by developing countries.

"Third, countries have agreed on the importance of acting to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. This means we have finally brought the source of nearly one fifth of global emissions into the emerging climate regime. Fourth, the Accord agrees to provide comprehensive support to the most vulnerable to cope with climate change. Fifth, the deal is backed by money and the means to deliver it. You know that already $30 billion have been committed until 2012, and after that $100 billion annually up to 2020."

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said, "We now have a package to work with and begin immediate action. However, we need to be clear that it is a letter of intent and is not precise about what needs to be done in legal terms. So the challenge is now to turn what we have agreed politically in Copenhagen into something real, measurable and verifiable."

The Accord specifies that industrialized countries will commit to implement, individually or jointly, quantified economy-wide emissions targets from 2020, to be listed in the accord before January 31, 2010. Additionally, a number of developing countries, including major emerging economies, agreed to communicate their efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions every two years, also listing their voluntary pledges before the January 31, 2010.

Following his involvement in the agreement, President Obama issued a brief statement and answered a few questions at a press briefing. The President said, "Today we've made meaningful and unprecedented -- made a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough here in Copenhagen. For the first time in history all major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change. . .

"Because of the actions we're taking we came here to Copenhagen with an ambitious target to reduce our emissions. We agreed to join an international effort to provide financing to help developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, adapt to climate change. And we reaffirmed the necessity of listing our national actions and commitments in a transparent way. These three components -- transparency, mitigation and finance -- form the basis of the common approach that the United States and our partners embraced here in Copenhagen. . .

"In addition to our close allies who did so much to advance this effort, I worked throughout the day with Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia, who was representing Africa, as well as Premier Wen of China, Prime Minister Singh of India, President Lula of Brazil, and President Zuma of South Africa, to achieve what I believe will be an important milestone. . .

"The time has come for us to get off the sidelines and to shape the future that we seek. That's why I came to Copenhagen today, and that's why I'm committed to working in common effort with countries from around the globe. That's also why I believe what we have achieved in Copenhagen will not be the end but rather the beginning, the beginning of a new era of international action. . ."

The next annual UN Climate Change Conference will take place towards the end of 2010 in Mexico City, preceded by a major two week negotiating session in Bonn, Germany, scheduled May 31 to June 11.

Access a release from the UN Secretary-General (click here). Access the official Copenhagen Accord posted by the UNFCCC (click here). Access the UNFCCC final press release (click here). Access the President's statement and press briefing following the deal (click here). Access pictures and a blog post of the President in Copenhagen (click here). Access the U.S. Department of State Copenhagen website for text and video of U.S. press briefings and various releases (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to all documents and videos of all press briefings (click here).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Obama: "I Come Here Today -- Not To Talk, But To Act"

  • Note: As we wrap up 2009, President Obama is still in Copenhagen attempting to reach an agreement and reports are just coming in that some sort of a deal with China and others has been reached. A news conference is expected soon (4:15 pm EST). We will be taking a few days off for our annual Christmas/New Year's break and return on Monday, January 4, 2010, to begin our 30th year of environmental news services. We wish all of our subscribers and readers a happy and safe holiday season and wish you well in the coming new year. Thank you all for your continuing support.

Dec 18: President Obama delivered brief remarks at the morning plenary session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) High-level session. The session included 119 heads of state and government representing countries that account for 89% of the world's GDP, 82% of the world's population and 86% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Included in the 119 countries are the 20 largest economies and the top 15 greenhouse gas emitters in the world.

President Obam summarized the current situation as follows, "After months of talk, after two weeks of negotiations, after innumerable side meetings, bilateral meetings, endless hours of discussion among negotiators, I believe that the pieces of that accord should now be clear.

"First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change. I'm pleased that many of us have already done so. Almost all the major economies have put forward legitimate targets, significant targets, ambitious targets. And I'm confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050 in line with final legislation.

"Second, we must have a mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive, or infringe upon sovereignty. They must, however, ensure that an accord is credible, and that we're living up to our obligations. Without such accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.

"I don't know how you have an international agreement where we all are not sharing information and ensuring that we are meeting our commitments. That doesn't make sense. It would be a hollow victory.

"Number three, we must have financing that helps developing countries adapt, particularly the least developed and most vulnerable countries to climate change. America will be a part of fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion by 2012. And yesterday, Secretary Hillary Clinton, my Secretary of State, made it clear that we will engage in a global effort to mobilize $100 billion in financing by 2020, if -- and only if -- it is part of a broader accord that I have just described.

"Mitigation. Transparency. Financing. It's a clear formula -- one that embraces the principle of common but differentiated responses and respective capabilities. And it adds up to a significant accord -- one that takes us farther than we have ever gone before as an international community."

The President continued, "We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years. These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it other than an increased acceleration of the climate change phenomenon. The time for talk is over. This is the bottom line: We can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, continue to refine it and build upon its foundation. We can do that, and everyone who is in this room will be part of a historic endeavor -- one that makes life better for our children and our grandchildren.

"Or we can choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year, perhaps decade after decade, all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.

"Ladies and gentlemen, there is no time to waste. America has made our choice. We have charted our course. We have made our commitments. We will do what we say. Now I believe it's the time for the nations and the people of the world to come together behind a common purpose.

"We are ready to get this done today -- but there has to be movement on all sides to recognize that it is better for us to act than to talk; it’s better for us to choose action over inaction; the future over the past -- and with courage and faith, I believe that we can meet our responsibility to our people, and the future of our planet."

On December 17, House Speaker Pelosi, Leader Steny Hoyer, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, and Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Chairman Edward Markey held a press briefing at the Bella Center in Copenhagen (see link below).

At approximately 8:00 PM, Copenhagen time, a draft agreement was emerging from the negotiators.

Update: In the early evening, U.S. time, a "deal" -- the Copenhagen Accord -- was announced which President Obama called a, "meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough here in Copenhagen." See link to the President's statement and press briefing following the deal below.

Access the full text of the President's address (
click here). Access a current report of the progress from the New York Times includes latest, still draft agreement (click here). Access the official Copenhagen Accord posted by the UNFCCC (click here). Access the President's statement and press briefing following the deal (click here). Access pictures and a blog post of the President in Copenhagen (click here). Access the transcript from the House press conference and a video (click here). Access the U.S. Department of State Copenhagen website for text and video of U.S. press briefings and various releases (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to all documents and videos of all press briefings (click here).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Secy. Clinton Says Lack Of Transparency Is "Kind Of A Dealbreaker"

Dec 17: At yesterday's Department of State press briefing it was announced that Secretary Hillary Clinton would be traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark to participate in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP 15/CMP 5 meeting. It was stated that, "She and the President decided that she could play a useful role in helping close gaps in the -- our climate talks there by traveling to Copenhagen and personally participating." Today, Secretary Clinton is attending some of the events that are intended for leaders, such as the gala dinner tonight and will attend events in advance of the President, who arrives Friday morning (December 18). She is conducting a number of bilateral meetings.

At a press briefing today, she said, "We have now reached the critical juncture in these negotiations. I understand that the talks have been difficult. I know that our team, along with many others, are working hard and around the clock to forge a deal. And we will continue doing all that we can do. But the time is at hand for all countries to reach for common ground and take an historic step that we can all be proud of. There is a way forward based on a number of core elements: decisive national actions, an operational accord that internationalizes those actions, assistance for nations that are the most vulnerable and least prepared to meet the effects of climate change, and standards of transparency that provide credibility to the entire process. The world community should accept no less."

In an important announcement relating to developed countries providing funding for developing countries. She emphasized that the effort is designed to assist "the poorest and most vulnerable" countries, implying that the funding is not intended for major developing countries link China, India and Brazil. She said, ". . .we also recognize that an agreement must provide generous financial and technological support for developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, to help them reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. That’s why we joined an effort to mobilize fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012 to support the adaptation and mitigation efforts of countries in need.

"And today I’d like to announce that, in the context of a strong accord in which all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation, the United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries. We expect this funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. This will include a significant focus on forestry and adaptation, particularly, again I repeat, for the poorest and most vulnerable among us."

She concluded, "Over the next two days, we will be discussing these issues further. This problem is not going away, even when we leave Copenhagen. But neither is our resolve. We must try to overcome the obstacles that remain. We must not only seize this moment, but raise our oars together and row in the same direction toward our common destination and destiny. And the United States is ready to do our part."

In response to a question asking whether the U.S. would walk away from the agreement if China does not commit to transparency, incorporating their commitments into an international treaty that the U.S. is asking; she said, "It would be hard to imagine, speaking for the United States, that there could be the level of financial commitment that I have just announced in the absence of transparency from the second biggest emitter - and now I guess the first biggest emitter, and now nearly, if not already, the second biggest economy."

In response to a question regarding what standards the U.S. would expect China and other major developing nations to meet in order for there to be a deal in which the U.S. could go ahead with a financial commitment; she said, "Well, we have presented and discussed numerous approaches to transparency with a number of countries and there are many ways to achieve transparency that would be credible and acceptable. But there has to be a willingness to move toward transparency in whatever form we finally determine is appropriate. So, if there is not even a commitment to pursue transparency, that’s kind of a dealbreaker for us. . . there have been occasions in this past year when all the major economies have committed to transparency. Now that we are trying to define what transparency means and how we would both implement it and observe it, there is a backing away from transparency. And, you know, that to us is something that undermines the whole effort that we’re engaged in."

In response to a question on details of the funding commitments for developing countries, it was mentioned that the EU has committed about 10 billion dollars, Japan 15 billion and so what the U.S. offering; she responded briefly, "We are committed to the fast funding start, and we are going to do our proportion of it. .."

Following Secretary Clinton's comments, the Associated Press reported later in the day that "China says it is willing to provide details about its actions to control carbon emissions, moving to meet a key US demand for verification of China's promises to fight global warming." AP quoted Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei as saying China is ready for "dialogue and cooperation that is not intrusive, that does not infringe on China's sovereignty."

Access the complete transcript of Secretary Clinton's statement and press briefing (
click here). Access the U.S. Department of State Copenhagen website for text and video of U.S. press briefings and various releases (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to all documents and videos of all press briefings (click here). Access the AP report (click here).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Without Developing World Commitment, A Solution Is Impossible

Dec 15: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged international negotiators in Copenhagen to reach a "broad operational agreement to combat climate change." In an op-ed published by the International Herald Tribune, the Secretary laid out a way forward that will promote sustainable development by moving the world toward a low-carbon economy. Secretary Clinton is currently on her way to Copenhagen to attend the climate change conference. The so-called "high level segment" of the conference began on December 15.

In her op-ed she said, "A successful agreement depends upon a number of core elements, but two are shaping up to be essential: first, that all major economies set forth strong national actions and resolve to implement them; and second, that they agree to a system that enables full transparency and creates confidence that national actions are in fact being implemented."

She said further, "Our world is on an unsustainable path that threatens not only our environment, but our economies and our security. It is time to launch a broad operational accord on climate change that will set us on a new course. . . It is no secret that the United States turned a blind eye to climate change for too long. But now, under President Obama’s leadership, we are taking responsibility and taking action.

"Already, the Obama administration has done more at home to promote clean energy and address climate change than ever before in our history. We are investing more than $80 billion in clean energy and working with Congress to advance comprehensive climate and energy legislation. And we have announced our intention to cut our emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and ultimately in line with final climate and energy legislation. In light of the president’s goals, the expected pathway in pending legislation would extend those cuts to 30 percent by 2025, 42 percent by 2030, and more than 80 percent by 2050. These are the kind of strong national actions that a successful agreement requires.

"So there should be no doubt about our commitment. We have come to Copenhagen ready to take the steps necessary to achieve a comprehensive and operational new agreement that will provide a foundation for long-term, sustainable economic growth. This needs to be a common effort. All major economies, developed and developing, need to take robust and transparent action to reduce their carbon emissions. Of course, the actions required of the developed and major developing countries will not be identical, but we must all do our part.

The simple fact is that nearly all of the growth in emissions in the next 20 years will come from the developing world. Without their participation and commitment, a solution is impossible. Some are concerned that a strong agreement on climate change will undermine the efforts of developing nations to build their economies, but the opposite is true. This is an opportunity to drive investment and job creation around the world, while bringing energy services to hundreds of millions of the world’s poor.

"That is why United States is supporting an accord that both complements and promotes sustainable development by moving the world toward a low-carbon economy. The accord we seek will provide generous financial and technological support for developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, to help them reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. And we are prepared to join an effort to mobilize fast-start funding that will ramp up to $10 billion in 2012 to support the adaptation and mitigation efforts of countries in need.

"We can all see the way forward that has emerged from months of negotiations: decisive national action, an operational accord that internationalizes those commitments, assistance for nations that are the most vulnerable and least prepared to meet the effects of climate change, and standards of transparency that provide credibility to the entire process. The United States is ready to embrace this path, and we hope that the rest of the world will rally around it this week."

At yesterday's (December 15) press briefing in Copenhagen by Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change and Head of the United States Delegation, in response to a question stating that the "U.S. wouldn’t sign up to Kyoto or Kyoto with another name. Is that still your position?" Stern responded, "That is definitely still our position. That doesn’t mean that there are – that there aren’t some elements of the Kyoto Protocol that would still be relevant. I mean there’s some really important elements of the Kyoto Protocol that the United States wrote, even though we didn’t end up in the agreement. So all of the whole architecture of emissions trading and the so-called clean development mechanism, which is - you know, allows the purchase of offsets from developing countries. All of those are ideas and provisions that were created by the U.S. and which actually, interestingly, although this is past history, but which the EU fought quite hard against back in 1997. Then, of course, the U.S. went in another direction and then didn’t end up there, and the EU, to its credit did, and put in place emissions trading and a lot of other things. So, there are provisions, certainly, from Kyoto that we’d be very comfortable with. But in terms of the overall Kyoto architecture, no."

In response to a question regarding how does the U.S. reconcile it's commitment to greenhouse gas reduction of 17% below 2005 levels with scientists’ recommendations, who say that developed countries need to reduce emission by 25 to 40 %, relative to 1990? And the U.S. commitment is equivalent to a 3% reduction from 1990.

Stern responded, "I actually absolutely can reconcile it, and here’s the reason. I think that the 25 to 40 % reduction below 1990 was included in what has become a kind of iconic chart in the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, the scientific body. And that sets forth a good pathway for essentially holding emissions to around 450 parts per million, which is designed to give us a decent chance of holding temperature increases to 2 degrees above preindustrial. It’s not the only pathway, at all. There are a whole lot of other pathways that can get you there. We have -- our proposal and the legislation that’s pending in Congress would take us, decade by decade -- about 20% every decade -- to an 80% reduction. Actually, 80% below 1990, 83% below 2005 -- which would be right on target with what we would need to do. There is all kinds of scientific work that -- the President’s science advisor, John Holdren is actually here; I’m sure [he] would be happy to talk to you about this in Copenhagen -- has laid out a whole set of other pathways that can get you where you need to go. The difference -- just so you can sort of again have the frame in mind -- the difference between the pathway that the U.S. has charted and the pathway that would involve starting at that 25 to 40 % below 1990 -- the difference between that and what we’re doing is about 1 part per million in 2050. So I think that we’re on a very good path."

On the critical question regarding commitments from China, the question was asked: "It seems as though one of the real potential showstoppers here is between the U.S. and China. And I’m wondering if you could sort of help us think of a way to get out of the fact that China seems resolutely not wanting to put in paper – in writing – its domestic announcement. And the U.S. is obviously resolutely insisting upon that as a condition of an agreement here."

Stern responded, "It is an issue. It’s a big issue. You know, I’m not quite sure what to tell you. I think that from our point of view, you can’t even begin to have an environmentally-sound agreement without the adequate and significant participation of China. Look, I have said on many occasions about China and many of the other major developing countries that I think they are doing a great deal. If you go to China you will see a really significant amount of activity, a significant amount of engagement on this issue. But if we are going to have an international agreement, as opposed to a bunch of individual countries doing their own domestic thing, but an international agreement where countries come together to work together, then they have got to be prepared to put what they are doing into that international agreement. I actually think that we’re going to get there with China, but you know -- don’t know for sure yet. But it is a tough issue. But it is just one that I think is necessary in order to have an environmentally-sound agreement."

Access the full text of Secretary Clinton's op-ed (
click here). Access the complete and very informative press briefing with Todd Stern (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to all documents and videos of all press briefings (click here). Access the U.S. Department of State Copenhagen website for text and video of U.S. press briefings and various releases (click here).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sen. Murkowski's Disapproval Resolution On Endangerment Finding

Dec 14: U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), announced her intention to file a disapproval resolution to stop U.S. EPA from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act. Murkowski’s resolution comes in the wake of the agency’s recent endangerment finding, which she said will result in "damaging new regulations that endanger America’s economy." The Senator's announced disapproval came one day before EPA's endangerment finding was officially published in the Federal Register [74 FR 66495-66546, 12/15/09]. The endangerment finding was announced by EPA on December 7 [See WIMS 12/8/09].

Murkowski said, “I remain committed to reducing emissions through a policy that will protect our environment and strengthen our economy, but EPA’s backdoor climate regulations achieve neither of those goals. EPA regulation must be taken off the table so that we can focus on more responsible approaches to dealing with global climate change.” Murkowski indicated that while the Administration claims the endangerment finding is merely an affirmation of the science behind global climate change, she said "that aspect is just the tip of the iceberg."

She said further, “The EPA administrator’s move has thrown open the door to expensive and intrusive government regulation -- as far from a market-based solution as we can possibly imagine. The endangerment finding is aptly named. It endangers jobs, it endangers economic growth, and it endangers American competitiveness, while setting the stage for backdoor bureaucratic intrusion into the lives of Americans on an unprecedented scale. The EPA has taken these actions despite the fact that Congress is continuing to work on climate legislation. I find that highly counter-productive, especially as our nation struggles to regain its economic footing. The endangerment finding must be stopped so that Congress can pass responsible legislation that is sound on its own merits, and not merely a defense against the threat of damaging regulations.”

Murkowski warned those who believe EPA action will prod Congress to act faster that such a strategy is likely to fail and carry with it unintended consequences. She said, “Make no mistake -- Congress is being threatened in a misguided attempt to move a climate bill forward. But this strategy is highly flawed because it assumes Congress will pass economically damaging legislation in order to stave off economically damaging regulations. That’s a false choice and it should be rejected outright. “This administration should be able to work with this Congress to pass needed, common-sense, and transparent reforms to our energy and environmental policies. Until the administration stops playing Russian roulette with the economy and decides to reach across the aisle, however, it will be difficult to do anything but oppose the irresponsible decisions that are being made.”

In a release, Murkowski indicated she will file her disapproval resolution pursuant to the provisions of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Senators Don Nickles (R-OK) and Harry Reid (D-NV), were the principal sponsors of the CRA, incorporated into the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Upon introduction, a disapproval resolution is referred to the committee of jurisdiction, which in this case will be the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW). If the committee does not favorably report the resolution within 20 calendar days, it may be discharged upon petition by 30 Senators. Once a disapproval resolution is placed on the Senate calendar, it is then subject to expedited consideration on the Senate floor, and not subject to filibuster.

Access a release from Senator Murkowski (
click here). Access a video of the Senator's floor speech (click here). Access the full text of the floor speech (click here).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Final Week Of Turbulent Copenhagen Climate Change Meeting

Dec 14: At the start of what he called "the most critical week in global efforts to forge a new deal to curb climate change," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking to reporters from the UN Headquarters in New York City, warned that the world stood at "the crossroads between a sustainable future and a path to catastrophe." He said, “Now is the moment to act. Seldom in history has a choice been so clear. We can move toward a future of sustainable green growth, or we can continue down the road to ruin. We can act on climate change now, or we can leave it to our children and grandchildren -- a debt that can never be paid, a poisoned legacy that threatens our planet and its people. I call on the world’s leaders to lead. Time is running out. There is no time left for posturing or blaming. Every country must do its part to seal a deal in Copenhagen.”

New draft negotiating texts were released on Friday, December 11, at the climate change conference under way in Copenhagen. The drafts are designed to move the talks forward; however, the United Nations stressed that they do not presuppose either a final outcome or its legal form. The texts released included: Chair’s Proposed Draft Text on the Outcome of the Work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA, 7-pages); and Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP, 27-pages).

According to a release from the UN, "the texts seek to promote discussion on the broader picture of a possible outcome to arise from the gathering in the Danish capital before high-level government officials start arriving as early as tomorrow." Negotiators are currently examining the new texts and will decided this evening whether they are a useful basis for their further work. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said that "considerable progress has been made in areas including technology, adaptation and the prevention of deforestation." He said, “It is now also time to begin to focus on the big picture."

De Boer said he welcomed the announcement by leaders of the European Union (EU) to provide €7.2 billion over the next three years to help developing countries take action on climate change. He indicated that the amount pledged by the EU is nearly one-third of the $30 billion needed from 2010-2012 to help poorer nations cope with the impacts of global warming and plan for low-emissions growth. He said, "One of the things that has been holding [the Copenhagen] process back is lack of clarity on how short-term financial support is going to be provided to developing countries and the fact that Europe has now very clearly put a figure on the table will, I think, be a huge encouragement to the process.”

Among many other items the AWG-LCA draft calls for a long term vision saying, "a. Parties shall cooperate to avoid dangerous climate change, in keeping with the ultimate objective of the Convention, recognizing [the broad scientific view] that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed [2degreesC][1.5degreesC]; b. Parties should collectively reduce global emissions by at least [50] [85] [95] per cent from 1990 levels by 2050 and should ensure that global emissions continue to decline thereafter: (c) Developed country Parties as a group should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions
by [75–85] [at least 80–95] [more than 95] per cent from 1990 levels by 2050. . ."

Regarding mid-term targets, the draft says, "Developed country Parties shall undertake, individually or jointly, legally binding nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions, [including][expressed as] quantified economywide emission reduction objectives with a view to reducing the collective greenhouse gas emissions of developed country Parties by at least [25–40] [in the order of 30] [40] [45] per cent from 1990 levels by 2020;" Note: numbers in brackets indicate options being considered.

Further the draft indicates, "Developed country Parties shall provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation action in developing country Parties. . ."

After reviewing the LCA draft, Todd Stern, Special Envoy on Climate Change and Head of the U.S. Delegation said at a press conference that the U.S. agreed with some parts of the draft and didn't agree with other parts; however, he said, the "mitigation" section could not serves as a basis of negotiation because, "the U.S. will not do a deal without the major developing countries stepping up and taking major actions. It [the draft text] calls for developed countries to have legally binding commitments to Kyoto-type targets, but does not in any sense call upon major developing countries to set forth their own actions or stand behind them -- this is a basic element of a deal for the United States."

Access a release from the UN on the beginning of the final week (
click here). Access a release from the UN on the release of the draft texts (click here). Access the AWG-LCA draft (click here). Access the AWG-KP draft (click here). Access a video of the complete Todd Stern press conference (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for links to all documents and press briefings (click here).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

UN Hopes For Best But Backstage Rumblings At Copenhagen

Dec 9: While the United Nations continues to put a positive spin on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, behind the scenes there is considerable controversy over several issues including the hacked emails and the underpinnings of climate science; the level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction commitments from major developed nations, particularly the United States; calls for binding agreements and funding assistance from the most vulnerable island nations; the lack of binding commitments from major developing countries like China and India; and general tensions between developed and developing nations.

The UN reports that the negotiations have entered the drafting phase towards reaching a final agreement. The two-week summit in the Danish capital entered its fourth day, and negotiators have only a few days to wrap up their work before the start of the high-level segments next week, which will draw government ministers and heads of State. UNFCCC says it has noted an "eagerness among the parties to the talks to sit down and complete as much work as possible before the arrival of high-level government officials next week."

Yvo de Boer, the UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary, underscored that the issue of finance must be resolved, both in the short- and longer-term. He said, “I hope indeed that this conference can even decide what mechanism will be put in place, first of all, to mobilize those financial resources, and secondly to spend them once they’ve been mobilized in a way that countries see as being equitable.”

Over 34,000 people -- mostly from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- have registered to attend the conference, but the Bella Centre in which it is taking place can only hold 15,000. The UN said this is “clearly a testimony to the great interest generated” by the summit. A system has been set up to allow NGO delegates into the building based on a quota system. Additionally, 7,000 kilometres of cables, long enough to stretch from Copenhagen to Prague, have been laid at the Bella Centre.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that the outcome of Copenhagen gathering will have "reverberations for the future of humanity and the planet." Speaking to reporters in New York he said, “We’ve come a long way in just two years’ time, but what we do now over the next two weeks [in Copenhagen] will determine how we fare." He expressed optimism that an immediately effective “robust” agreement -- which will include specific recommendations on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology -- will be reached. He said, “Copenhagen can and must be a turning point in the world’s efforts to prevent runaway climate change."

In the wake of the release of the hacked emails now referred by climate skeptics as "Climategate" [
See WIMS 12/4/09], the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Ecofys, Climate Analytics, the Sustainability Institute, the European Climate Foundation and ClimateWorks issued a joint statement regarding the underlying climate science.

The statement indicates that, "Recent independent analyses of current mitigation proposals on the table in Copenhagen by Nicholas Stern, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Ecofys, Climate Analytics, the Sustainability Institute (C-ROADS), the European Climate Foundation and ClimateWorks (Project Catalyst) all point to the same conclusion: the negotiations must deliver the high-end of current proposals, and stretch beyond them, if the world is to have a reasonable chance of containing warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, or the 1.5°C goal of many developing nations."

A release from UNEP indicates that, "There is a narrow window of opportunity to have the possibility of achieving the global political and scientific consensus of avoiding a global warming of more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels or the 1.5°C goal of 100 developing nations. The concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is increasing everyday and, without significant reductions in emissions, will soon reach levels at which the consequent changes in the Earth's climate will have very serious, and potentially disastrous and irreversible, impacts. Research papers and analysis released in the past few days by several of the leading independent authorities on the question have looked at the impact of the current proposals made by countries at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. While there are differences in the details of the findings, the overall messages from these studies are clear. . .

"A deal that puts us on the path to having a good chance of avoiding warming of 2 degrees, is possible -- but the proposals on the table are not quite there. We need to capture the high-end of those proposals and more in Copenhagen, and then continue to ratchet-up commitments over time. We have a historic opportunity in Copenhagen to increase climate security and economic security for the world for generations to come."

Access a release from the UN (
click here). Access a release from the UNEP with the joint statement and climate science summary (click here). Access links to daily reporting and Copenhagen update previously reported by WIMS on 12/7/09 (click here). Access the Danish Government Copenhagen website for report on some of the recent climate change controversy (click here).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

API Says EPA Endangerment Finding "Clearly Politically Motivated"

Dec 7: As WIMS reported yesterday, U.S. EPA's endangerment finding announced on December 7 [See WIMS 12/7/09, 12/08/09] has resulted in the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) announcing it will file suit in Federal court to overturn finding and various mixed reactions from interest groups and politicians. Also, in a harshly critical statement, Jack Gerard, President of the American Petroleum Institute said there was no pressing reason for the finding and EPA’s action was "clearly politically motivated."

Gerard said, “This action poses a threat to every American family and business if it leads to regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Such regulation would be intrusive, inefficient, and excessively costly. It could chill job growth and delay business expansion. The Clean Air Act was meant to control traditional air pollution, not greenhouse gases that come from every vehicle, home, factory and farm in America. A fit-for-purpose climate law is a much preferred solution.

“There was no compelling deadline that forced EPA’s hand on this decision. It is a decision that is clearly politically motivated to coincide with the start of the Copenhagen climate summit. EPA’s finding is inadequate, unsupported by the record and fails to demonstrate a significant risk of harm to public health or welfare. API members are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in technology to reduce them further. Between 2000 and 2008, U.S.-based oil and natural gas companies invested $58 billion in low-carbon energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, more than either the federal government or all other U.S.-based private industry combined.”

In a related action, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Vice President of Energy & Resources Policy Keith McCoy also issued a statement saying, "The NAM is concerned that the EPA did not seriously take into consideration any of the thousands of comments manufacturers made on this proposal. The endangerment finding will have a cascading effect on the ability of all manufacturers to grow and prosper. By declaring GHG emissions a threat to public health and welfare through its endangerment finding, the EPA is paving the way to begin regulating carbon emissions across the board, including large stationary sources such as manufacturing plants, hospitals and libraries under the Clean Air Act.

"Let me be clear: the NAM supports cost-effective efforts to address climate change but believes the appropriate authority to address this should be Congress. The EPA is moving forward with an agenda that will put additional burdens on manufacturers, cost jobs and drive up the price of energy. This finding comes when unemployment is hovering at 10 percent, and many manufacturers are struggling to stay in business. It is doubtful that this endangerment finding will achieve its stated goal, but it is certain to come at a huge cost to the economy. Our nation needs a comprehensive federal policy that will achieve environmental results without inflicting unnecessary economic harm. This is a complex issue that deserves a rigorous, public and transparent debate in Congress."

NAM acknowledged that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson indicated that she would prefer Congress address this issue. But said, "therefore, we are disappointed the EPA chose this power grab move. We will continue to work with Congress to address this important issue and urge the EPA to think about the economic harm it is inflicting before moving forward with additional rules."

In announcing the endangerment finding, EPA noted that its "findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation." EPA indicated in a release that "President Obama and Administrator Jackson have publicly stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. However, climate change is threatening public health and welfare, and it is critical that EPA fulfill its obligation to respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants."

EPA issued the proposed findings in April 2009 [See WIMS 4/27/09] and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments, which it said "were carefully reviewed and considered during the development of the final findings."

Access the statement from API (click here). Access the statement from NAM (click here). Access a release from EPA on the finding (click here). Access EPA's Endangerment website for complete information and background (click here).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Lawsuit & Mixed Reactions On EPA's Endangerment Finding

Dec 7: The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) announced it will file suit in Federal court to overturn U.S. EPA's endangerment finding announced December 7 [See WIMS 12/7/09], on the grounds that EPA has "ignored major scientific issues, including those raised recently in the Climategate fraud scandal." [See WIMS 12/4/09]. Sam Kazman, CEI General Counsel said, “EPA is clinging for dear life to the notion that the global climate models are holding up. In reality, those models are about to sink under the growing weight of evidence that they are fabrications.”

Marlo Lewis, CEI Senior Fellow said, “Today’s decision by EPA will trigger costly and time-consuming permitting requirements for tens of thousands of previously unregulated small businesses under the Clean Air Act. A more potent Anti-Stimulus Package would be hard to imagine. The sensible solution would be for Congress to pass legislation, such as that proposed by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee that would pre-empt the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.”

In announcing its findings, EPA said that "after a thorough examination of the scientific evidence and careful consideration of public comments it has determined that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat." EPA noted that its "findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation. EPA indicated that on-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions."

EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The "endangerment finding" responds to the April 2, 2007, 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which decided the historic case about global warming (Massachusetts, et al. v. EPA, et al., No. 05-1120), and ruled that EPA has existing authority under the Federal Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from motor vehicles. Under the Bush Administration, EPA had refused to regulate such gases, arguing it lacked statutory authority [
See WIMS 4/2/07].

In other reactions to the EPA's findings, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement saying, "The EPA has thoroughly reviewed the scientific literature on climate change, which spans decades of research across a breadth of disciplines and across the globe. The science is clear: global warming is real, its impacts are being felt around the world, and carbon emissions present a danger to public health and the economy worldwide. As the United Nations Climate Change Conference begins in Copenhagen today [
See WIMS 12/7/09], those who fear EPA regulation of global warming pollution will find the answer in the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House this year. This legislation will give businesses both certainty and flexibility, help to minimize costs to companies and consumers as we transition to clean energy, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and stimulate investments that will create millions of clean energy jobs."

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, issued a statement saying, "The endangerment finding released today confirms what we have been told by America's top scientists and leading scientists of the world --that unchecked global warming is perilous to human health and our environment. After the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that global warming pollution is covered under the Clean Air Act, the Bush EPA laid the groundwork for this endangerment finding, which has been completed by the Obama EPA. It is now clear that if we take our responsibility seriously to protect and defend our people from this threat, the Senate has a duty to act on climate change legislation that includes major components of the work done by the Energy and Environment Committees. In light of the EPA endangerment finding, the President's appearance in Copenhagen will carry even more weight, because it shows that America is taking this issue very seriously and is moving forward."

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works issued a statement and video saying, "The Administration's endangerment finding will lead to a wave of new regulations and bureaucracy that will wreak havoc on the American economy, destroy millions of jobs, and force consumers to pay more for electricity and gasoline. This bureaucratic nightmare is based on flawed science. Lisa Jackson, Obama's EPA Administrator, admitted to me publicly that EPA based its action today in good measure on the findings of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. She told me that EPA accepted those findings without any serious, independent analysis to see whether they were true. Of course, we now have thousands of emails showing several of the UN's top scientists apparently evading laws requiring transparency, defaming scientists with opposing viewpoints, and manipulating data to fit preconceived opinions. They cooked the science. . . "

He continued saying, "I agree with Sen. Joe Lieberman, who said of climategate, "We ought to be demanding that that be cleaned up. We ought to be angry about it. The endangerment finding also will have virtually no impact on global warming. That's because India and China, two of the world's leading emitters of CO2, are left out. . . So today the American people are getting a raw deal: all cost with no benefit. Yet, the Obama Administration is moving forward anyway. . ."

Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen issued a statement saying, "What scientists have long known is now official U.S. policy: global warming pollution is real and has dangerous impacts on public health and the environment. The Obama administration's announcement today acknowledges that our nation must move quickly and efficiently to achieve the cuts in carbon dioxide and other global warming pollution needed to stave off catastrophic climate change. The time for talking is over; now is the time for taking action. EPA has based this decision under the Clean Air Act on overwhelming scientific evidence that global warming poses a significant threat. We will look to the administration to continue along this path and take the next important step of adopting strong rules that limit global warming pollution from motor vehicles and industrial polluters. . ."

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-West Chester) issued a statement saying, "Today’s EPA announcement paves the way for Washington Democrats’ ‘cap-and-trade’ national energy tax, a bureaucratic nightmare that would make households, small businesses and family farms pay higher prices for electricity, gasoline, food and virtually every product made in America. One independent analysis determined that this national energy tax would cost our economy millions of jobs each year for the foreseeable future. What’s more, the timing of this announcement is yet another indication President Obama is preparing to unilaterally commit the United States to mandatory emissions cuts at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. If the President truly believes these job-killing mandates are in the nation’s best interests, he should slow down and first seek the advice and consent of the people’s elected representatives."

Access a release from CEI (
click here). Access a release from EPA on the finding (click here). Access EPA's Endangerment website for complete information and background (click here). Access a lengthy release from Speaker Pelosi with links to related information (click here). Access the statement from Senator Boxer (click here). Access the statement from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice (click here). Access the statement from Representative Boehner (click here).

Monday, December 07, 2009

COP15 Copenhagen Climate Change Kick-Off & Links

Dec 7: It's finally here. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 15) and the fifth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 5). The 2-week meeting will take place from December 7 to 18 2009 in the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Conference marks the culmination of a two-year negotiating process in an attempt to follow-up on the "Bali Roadmap," adopted by COP 13 in December 2007. The Copenhagen meeting follows a series of recent contentious international negotiating sessions including: The G-8 and "Major Economies Forum (MEF) in L’Aquila, Italy in July [
See WIMS 7/13/09]; UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Germany in August [See WIMS 8/14/09]; the UN Climate Change Summit in New York City [See WIMS 9/24/09]; UNFCCC meeting in Bangkok (September 28 to October 9) [See WIMS 10/09/09]; UNFCCC meeting in Barcelona, Spain in November [See WIMS 11/6/09]. Most of the meetings ended in intense disagreement between developed and developing countries over the setting of appropriate mid-term target emission reductions for developed countries and the establishment of an international monetary fund to provide assistance to developing countries.

As the Copenhagen Conference begins, the latest expectation appears to be obtaining a "political" agreement with an appropriate level of detail, followed by an commitment to translate and finalize the agreement into a legally binding treaty within the first six months of 2010. Late Friday, the White House announced that President Obama who was originally scheduled to go to Copenhagen on December 9, will now be attending during the important closing sessions when other world leaders will be in attendance on December 18.

According to a release from UNFCCC, "The highly anticipated conference marks an historic turning point on how the world confronts climate change, an issue with profound implications for the health and prosperity of all people." Danish Prime Minister Lars L√łkke Rasmussen announced that 110 heads of state and government will attend the conference at its conclusion. The meeting brings together the 193 Parties to the UNFCCC and the 189 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. More than 15,000 participants, including government delegates and representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions, are attending the gathering.

The Danish Prime Minister pointed to the fact that climate change knows no borders saying, "It does not discriminate, it affects us all. And we are here today because we are all committed to take action. That is our common point of departure. The magnitude of the challenge before us is to translate this political will into a strong political approach."

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said there was unprecedented political momentum for a deal. "World leaders are calling for an agreement that offers serious emission limitation goals and that captures the provision of significant financial and technological support to developing countries. At the same time, Copenhagen will only be a success if it delivers significant and immediate action that begins the day the conference ends." UNFCCC indicated that negotiators must focus on solid and practical proposals that will unleash prompt action on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and capacity-building.

De Boer outlined three layers of action that governments must agree to by the end of the conference: (1) fast and effective implementation of immediate action on climate change; (2) ambitious commitments to cut and limit emissions, including start-up funding and a long-term funding commitment; and (3) a long-term shared vision on a low-emissions future for all. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that 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. If total global emissions can be reduced by at least 50% by 2050, there would be only a 50% chance of avoiding the most catastrophic consequences.

The UNFCCC working groups starting Monday will have six days to conclude negotiations before the Ministerial High Level Segment starts December 16. Ministers will then in turn have two days to take any unresolved issues forward before the more than 100 world leaders that begin arriving the evening of December 17. This means a total of eight negotiating days to prepare a workable package that consists of both immediate and long-term components which leaders can endorse on December 18.

In a related important development, as the COP15 conference begins and while climate skeptics are claiming the international scientific community has falsified climate change science [See WIMS 12/4/09], the U.S. EPA announced that "after a thorough examination of the scientific evidence and careful consideration of public comments it has determined that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat."

EPA indicated in a release that President Obama and Administrator Jackson have publicly stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. However, climate change is threatening public health and welfare, and it is critical that EPA fulfill its obligation to respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. EPA issued the proposed findings in April 2009 [See WIMS 4/27/09] and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments, which it said were carefully reviewed and considered during the development of the final findings.

The following are some important links to follow the 2-weeks of what will likely be intense negotiations:

UNFCCC Website - Complete information and documents including all COP15 events live and on demand (
click here).

IISD Daily Reporting - The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) providing daily coverage from Copenhagen with The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) daily reports and online high-resolution digital photos from inside the negotiations and ENB on the Side (ENBOTS) daily reports featuring coverage of selected side events (
click here).

BNA World Climate Change Report - BNA is providing complimentary, real-time reporting and analysis of the landmark COP15 event. BNA will offer open access to its World Climate Change Report(R), which contains expert climate change analysis as well as live coverage of COP15, December 4-21, 2009 [registration required] (
click here).

U.S State Department COP15 Website - The U.S. Department of State has established a special website to follow the U.S. activities in Copenhagen. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern will lead the U.S. delegation during the two-week conference. Other U.S. departments and agencies will join the Department of State on the delegation, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Transportation, and Treasury; the U.S. Agency for International Development; U.S. EPA; the U.S. Trade Representative; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. delegation will also include officials from the National Security Council and the White House Council on Environmental Quality; and Members of Congress (click here).

Copenhagen, Denmark COP 15 Website - The website of Denmark and the city of Copenhagen hosting the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) taking place at Bella Center in Copenhagen from the 7th to the 18th of December, 2009 (
click here).

WIMS Climate Change Issue Website - Waste Information & Management Services, Inc. (WIMS), EcoBizPort, Climate Change issue website for extensive links to important climate change information and resources (
click here).

Access a release from UNFCCC (
click here). Access a video press briefing from Yvo de Boer (click here). Access links to UNFCCC webcasts, live and on demand (click here). Access a release from EPA (click here). Access EPA's Endangerment website for complete information and background (click here).

Friday, December 04, 2009

Independent Review Of Hacked Emails To Be Complete Spring 2010

Dec 3: The University of East Anglia (UEA) announced that Sir Muir Russell KCB FRSE will head the Independent Review into allegations made against the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) [See WIMS 11/24/09]. The Independent Review will investigate the key allegations that arose from a series of hacked e-mails from CRU. On November 20 it was reported that hundreds of emails were illegally obtained by hacking the server at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at UEA 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. According to a release from UEA, The review will:

1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.

2. Review CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.

3. Review CRU’s compliance or otherwise with the University’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.

4. Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds.

Sir Muir will have the discretion to amend or add to the terms of reference if he feels necessary, devise his own methods of working, and call on appropriate expertise in order to investigate the allegations fully. The University has asked for the Review to be completed by Spring 2010 and this will be made public along with UEA’s response.

Announcing the Independent Review, Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor said, “The reputation and integrity of UEA is of the upmost importance to us all. We want these allegations about CRU to be examined fully and independently. That is why I am delighted that Sir Muir has agreed to lead the Independent Review and he will have my and the rest of University’s full support.”

Sir Muir Russell, Head of the Independent Review said, “I agreed very willingly to Professor Acton’s request to undertake this Independent Review. Given the nature of the allegations it is right that someone who has no links to either the University or the Climate Science community looks at the evidence and makes recommendations based on what they find. My first task is to scope the project, gather the information I need and source the additional expertise that will be required in order to investigate fully the allegations that have been made. Once this has happened I will be in a position to confirm timescales for publishing the review.”

In a related matter, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a statement and references to two of its reports. The statement said, "Past controversies over historical temperature trends and access to research data have resurfaced amid a stir over old e-mail exchanges among climate scientists that were stolen from a university in the U.K. Two National Research Council reports in particular address these issues. Guiding principles for maintaining the integrity and accessibility of research data were recommended in a report released earlier this year, and a 2006 report examined how much confidence could be placed in historical surface temperature reconstructions."

NAS referenced its report, Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age, which recommends that researchers -- both publicly and privately funded -- make the data and methods underlying their reported results public in a timely manner, except in unusual cases where there is a compelling reason not to do so.

NAS also referenced its report, Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Past 2,000 Years, examined what tree rings, boreholes, retreating glaciers, and other "proxies" can tell us about the planet's temperature record, and in particular how much confidence could be placed in a graph that became known as the "hockey stick," which depicted a steep rise in temperatures after a 1,000-year period in the last few decades of the 20th century. NAS said, "The committee that wrote the report found sufficient evidence to say with a high level of confidence that the last decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years. It said less confidence could be placed in reconstructions of temperatures prior to 1600, although proxy data does indicate that many locations are warmer now than they were between A.D. 900 and 1600. Proxy data for periods prior to A.D. 900 are sparse."

Access the release from UEA (click here). Access links to all of the emails (click here). Access the statement from NAS and links to the two referenced reports (click here).

Thursday, December 03, 2009

GAO Report On Nuclear Waste Storage & Disposal Options

Dec 2: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Nuclear Waste Management: Key Attributes, Challenges, and Costs for the Yucca Mountain Repository and Two Potential Alternatives (GAO-10-48, November 04, 2009). The report was requested by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman Committee on Environment and Public Works; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid(D-NV) and John Ensign (D-NV).

According to GAO high-level nuclear waste -- one of the nation's most hazardous substances -- is accumulating at 80 sites in 35 states. The United States has generated 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste and is expected to generate 153,000 metric tons by 2055. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, as amended, requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to dispose of the waste in a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. However, the repository is more than a decade behind schedule, and the nuclear waste generally remains at the commercial nuclear reactor sites and DOE sites where it was generated.

The report examines the key attributes, challenges, and costs of the Yucca Mountain repository and the two principal alternatives to a repository that nuclear waste management experts identified: (1) storing the nuclear waste at two centralized locations; and, (2) continuing to store the waste on site where it was generated. GAO developed models of total cost ranges for each alternative using component cost estimates provided by the nuclear waste management experts. However, GAO did not compare these alternatives because of significant differences in their inherent characteristics that could not be quantified.

The Yucca Mountain repository is designed to provide a permanent solution for managing nuclear waste, minimize the uncertainty of future waste safety, and enable DOE to begin fulfilling its legal obligation under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to take custody of commercial waste, which began in 1998. However, project delays have led to utility lawsuits that DOE estimates are costing taxpayers about $12.3 billion in damages through 2020 and could cost $500 million per year after 2020, though the outcome of pending litigation may affect the government's total liability. Also, the administration has announced plans to terminate Yucca Mountain and seek alternatives.

Even if DOE continues the program, it must obtain a Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction and operations license, a process likely to be delayed by budget shortfalls. GAO's analysis of DOE's cost projections found that a repository to dispose of 153,000 metric tons would cost from $41 billion to $67 billion (in 2009 present value) over a 143-year period until the repository is closed. Nuclear power rate payers would pay about 80 percent of these costs, and taxpayers would pay about 20 percent.

Centralized storage at two locations provides an alternative that could be implemented within 10 to 30 years, allowing more time to consider final disposal options, nuclear waste to be removed from decommissioned reactor sites, and the government to take custody of commercial nuclear waste, saving billions of dollars in liabilities. However, DOE's statutory authority to provide centralized storage is uncertain, and finding a state willing to host a facility could be extremely challenging. In addition, centralized storage does not provide for final waste disposal, so much of the waste would be transported twice to reach its final destination. Using cost data from experts, GAO estimated the 2009 present value cost of centralized storage of 153,000 metric tons at the end of 100 years to range from $15 billion to $29 billion but increasing to between $23 billion and $81 billion with final geologic disposal.

On-site storage would provide an alternative requiring little change from the status quo, but would face increasing challenges over time. It would also allow time for consideration of final disposal options. The additional time in on-site storage would make the waste safer to handle, reducing risks when waste is transported for final disposal. However, the government is unlikely to take custody of the waste, especially at operating nuclear reactor sites, which could result in significant financial liabilities that would increase over time.

Not taking custody could also intensify public opposition to spent fuel storage site renewals and reactor license extensions, particularly with no plan in place for final waste disposition. In addition, extended on-site storage could introduce possible risks to the safety and security of the waste as the storage systems degrade and the waste decays, potentially requiring new maintenance and security measures. Using cost data from experts, GAO estimated the 2009 present value cost of on-site storage of 153,000 metric tons at the end of 100 years to range from $13 billion to $34 billion but increasing to between $20 billion to $97 billion with final geologic disposal.

Access the complete 84-page report (click here).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Rep. Markey Hearing On "The State of Climate Science"

Dec 2: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming, Chaired by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) held a hearing on, "The State of Climate Science." Obviously, much of the discussion and questioning from Committee members focused on the November 20 release of hundreds of emails, illegally obtained by hacking the server at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England, which some opponents are claiming reveals a conspiracy in the scientific community regarding the science behind climate change [See WIMS 11/24/09].

Witnesses testifying at the hearing included Dr. John Holdren, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and formerly a professor at Harvard University and the director of the acclaimed Woods Hole Research Center; and Dr. Jane Lubchenco the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States’ leading climate office. Chairman Markey also issued an opening statement.

In his opening statement, Chairman Markey reminded that, ". . .scientists -- including those advising the U.S. government -- have issued warnings about the rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere throughout the last 4 decades. After a report from his science advisory committee, President Lyndon Johnson noted in a 1965 special address to Congress that 'a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels' has altered the composition of the atmosphere. In 1978, Robert White, the first administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), warned that carbon dioxide emissions 'can have consequences for climate that pose a considerable threat to future society.'"

Markey continued saying, "Administration scientists once predicted the impacts of global warming. Now they can confirm them. And, unfortunately, families from New Orleans to Alaska are living with the harsh consequences. Given the upcoming international climate conference in Copenhagen and the continuing work on domestic clean energy legislation in Congress, an update on the administration’s view on the state of climate science is timely. . ."

Holdren said in his 11-page testimony that, "It is well established that climate is changing in the United States and all across the globe. The air and the oceans are warming, mountain glaciers are disappearing, sea ice is shrinking, permafrost is thawing, the great land ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass, and sea level is rising. We know the primary cause of these changes beyond any reasonable doubt. It is the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping pollutants from our factories, our buildings, our vehicles, and our power plants; from farming, cement manufacture, and waste disposal; and from deforestation and other forms of land-use change that move carbon out of soils and vegetation and into the atmosphere. . .

"It goes almost without saying that the United States, as the largest contributor to the cumulative additions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and still today the second-largest emitter after China, and as the world’s largest economy and pre-eminent source of scientific and technological innovation, has both the obligation and the opportunity to lead the world in demonstrating that the needed emissions reductions can be achieved in ways that are affordable and consistent with continued economic growth, that create new jobs, and that bring further co-benefits in the form of reduced oil-import dependence and improved air quality. President Obama is going to Copenhagen to underline that the United States is fully committed to assuming this leadership role. The Administration obviously will need the support of the Congress in delivering on this promise. . ."

In her 10-pages of testimony, Lubchenco said, "In the short time that President Obama has been in office, he has made it clear that our choices will be informed by scientific knowledge and that he considers addressing climate change to be a high priority. . . " She highlighted research from the U.S. government landmark report entitled, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (GCCI 2009), prepared under the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

She noted that the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC 2007) is a climate science assessment prepared by 152 leading scientists from around the world who served as its authors. It was then reviewed and re-reviewed by more than 600 experts and dozens of governments. She said, ". . .the latest key finding in the GCCI 2009 report: Global warming is unequivocal and is primarily human-induced." Among the highlighted conclusions she cited, global average surface temperature has risen by about 1.5 degreesF since 1900 and is projected to rise another 2-11.5 degreesF by 2100 (IPCC 2007 and GCCI 2009). The current atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is estimated at around 385 ppm, which is higher than the highest point in at least the last 800,000 years (GCCI 2009). In the U.S. she said cited that the U.S. average temperature has risen more than 2 degreesF over the past 50 years and is projected to rise more in the future (GCCI 2009).

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, statements (click here).

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

EPA May Grant Ethanol Waiver; But More Testing Needed

Dec 1: U.S. EPA announced that it expects to make a final determination in mid-2010 regarding whether to increase the allowable ethanol content in fuel. In a letter sent today (December 1) to Growth Energy -- a bio fuels industry association that had asked EPA to grant a waiver that would allow for the use of up to 15 percent of ethanol in gasoline -- the Agency said that while not all tests have been completed, "the results of two tests indicate that engines in newer cars likely can handle an ethanol blend higher than the current 10-percent limit." The Agency will decide whether to raise the blending limit when more testing data is available. EPA also announced that it has begun the process to craft the labeling requirements that will be necessary if the blending limit is raised.

In March 2009, Growth Energy requested a waiver to allow for the use of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline, an increase of five percent points. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA was required to respond to the waiver request by December 1, 2009. EPA has been evaluating the group’s request and has received a broad range of public comments as part of the administrative rulemaking process. EPA and the Department of Energy also undertook a number of studies to determine whether cars could handle higher ethanol blends. Testing has been proceeding as quickly as possible given the available testing facilities. The current limit on the amount of ethanol that can be blended into a gallon of gasoline is at ten volume percent ethanol (E10) for conventional (non flex-fuel) vehicles. Growth Energy and 54 ethanol manufacturers submitted the application requesting an increase in the amount of ethanol blended into a gallon of gasoline to up to 15 volume percent (E15) on March 6, 2009. EPA conducted an extended comment period that ended on July 20, 2009 [See WIMS 5/15/09].

Despite support for the E15 waiver by 10 Midwestern governors supporting the proposal [
See WIMS 7/17/09], the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance). AIAM said, "The consequence of potential equipment malfunctions caused by the use of E15 extends beyond failure to sufficiently control emissions. It will also create a high risk of consumer dissatisfaction due to drivability problems which would needlessly damage product reputation and imperil customer satisfaction with dealer service." The Alliance asked "EPA to deny this waiver application, in whole and in part, because insufficient data are available to determine whether the proposed fuel blend(s) can satisfy the legal requirements under the Clean Air Act section 211(f)(4)." [See WIMS 7/21/09].

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement on the ethanol waiver request saying, "We are very encouraged that the results of the tests of E15 in newer model cars have been positive. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) movement towards developing an effective labeling rule sends a strong signal about the future viability of the biofuels industry. Biofuels are a vital component of America's energy future, helping to break our dependence on oil. This commitment reflects the Obama Administration's support for a strong biofuels industry helping to increase income for farmers and jobs in rural America."

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a release supporting EPA's decision to postpone approving any increase in the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline saying, "More ethanol in gasoline could increase tailpipe pollution or damage older vehicles." UCS said, "The Obama administration is respecting the role of science and resisting industry pressure to put private interests ahead of public health and the environment. Raising ethanol blend percentages without testing what it would do to air quality and vehicle engines is like going in for surgery before getting a diagnosis. It wouldn't be good for the industry or the environment to rush ahead only to find out later that we guessed wrong."

Access a release from EPA (
click here). Access links to EPA's letter to petitioners and complete background information on the E15 waiver (click here). Access the statement from USDA (click here). Access a release from UCS (click here).