Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Special Holiday Offers For eNewsUSA

It's the Holiday season and we're in the Holiday Spirit.
The eNewsUSA Blog is on Holiday break until January 3, 2011. But, now is a great time to review the full text of every issue of eNewsUSA during the first half of December 2010, and get ready to be on top of all the major environmental and energy issues in 2011. We've posted the first 13 issues of December 2010 for your review. You can access the issues on a special blog established just for this promotion (click here).
We have two Holiday specials that could be a valuable gift for you and/or a statewide business association which you are affiliated with. You can subscribe now to receive our eNewsUSA Daily Environmental Briefing Report at a special half-off rate for 2011 -- just $119.50 (until the end of February).
Or, if you are a member of a statewide business association (non-Michigan), we also have a special redistribution option for Associations that can offer even greater savings for you and your association members. See details (click here).

Friday, December 17, 2010

California Adopts Cap-And-Trade Regulation To Drive Green Jobs

Dec 16: The California Air Resources Board (CARB), following a 10-hour meeting voted 9-1 to approve a cap-and-trade regulation, marking a significant milestone toward reducing California's greenhouse gas emissions under its AB 32 law. CARB's cap-and-trade regulation, along with several complementary measures which they say will drive the development of green jobs and set the state on track to a clean energy future. The regulation is a key measure to achieve the greenhouse gas reduction goals of AB 32, California's pioneering climate change law signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2006.

    CARB Chairman Mary Nichols said, "This program is the capstone of our climate policy, and will accelerate California's progress toward a clean energy economy. It rewards efficiency and provides companies with the greatest flexibility to find innovative solutions that drive green jobs, clean our environment, increase our energy security and ensure that California stands ready to compete in the booming global market for clean and renewable energy."
    The regulation sets a Statewide limit on the emissions from sources responsible for 80 percent of California's greenhouse gas emissions and establishes a price signal needed to drive long-term investment in cleaner fuels and more efficient use of energy.  The program is designed to provide covered entities the flexibility to seek out and implement the lowest-cost options to reduce emissions. The cap-and-trade program also works in concert with other measures, such as standards for cleaner vehicles, low-carbon fuels, renewable electricity and energy efficiency, and complements and supports California's existing efforts to reduce smog-forming and toxic air pollutants.

    According to a release from CARB, "The cap-and-trade program and the other measures to reduce greenhouse gases provide a model for action that can be used at the Federal, state and regional levels. As climate policies are being addressed worldwide, California's early actions are positioning its economy to reap the benefits on the world stage and are catalyzing action throughout the country and the world." Nichols added, "The cap-and-trade program provides California with the opportunity to fill the growing global demand for the projects, patents and products needed to move away from fossil fuels and to cleaner energy sources."

    The regulation will cover 360 businesses representing 600 facilities and is divided into two broad phases: an initial phase beginning in 2012 that will include all major industrial sources along with utilities; and, a second phase that starts in 2015 and brings in distributors of transportation fuels, natural gas and other fuels.

    Companies are not given a specific limit on their greenhouse gas emissions but "must supply a sufficient number of allowances" (each covering the equivalent of one ton of carbon dioxide) to cover their annual emissions. Each year, the total number of allowances issued in the State drops, requiring companies to find the most cost-effective and efficient approaches to reducing their emissions. By the end of the program in 2020 there will be a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to today, reaching the same level of emissions as the state experienced in 1990, as required under AB 32.
    To ensure a gradual transition, CARB will provide significant free allowances to all industrial sources during the initial period (2012-2014). Companies that need additional allowances to cover their emissions can purchase them at regular quarterly auctions CARB will conduct, or buy them on the market. Electric utilities will also be given allowances and they will be required to sell those allowances and dedicate the revenue generated for the benefit of their ratepayers and to help achieve AB 32 goals. 

    Also, eight percent of a company's emissions can be covered using credits from "compliance-grade offset projects," promoting the development of beneficial environmental projects in the forestry and agriculture sectors. Included in the regulation are four protocols, or systems of rules, covering carbon accounting rules for offset credits in forestry management, urban forestry, dairy methane digesters, and the destruction of existing banks of ozone-depleting substances in the U.S. (mostly in the form of refrigerants in older refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment).

    There are also provisions to develop international offset programs that could include the preservation of international forests.  A Memorandum of Understanding has already been signed with Chiapas, Mexico, and Acre, Brazil, at the Governor's Global Climate Summit 3 to establish these offset programs. The regulation is designed so that California may link up with programs in other states or provinces within the Western Climate Initiative, including New Mexico, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Efforts are also underway to link the WCI with other regional climate programs, such as the Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which covers the power generation emissions of 10 northeastern states. 
    Governor Schwarzenegger said in a presentation thanking the CARB Board, ". . .one thing we know for sure is that AB 32 was challenged, you know, by outside oil companies and by industries, coal mines and different companies that challenged it, put millions of dollars behind it in the last election. And Proposition 23, which was meant to take out AB 32, was defeated overwhelmingly -- not by 5 percent, not by 10 percent but by 22 percent. So that just shows to you -- a huge majority of Californians are big believers in AB 32. And they are big believers not just because of the global climate change because, let's be honest, not everyone believes in that. There are some people that believe in it and some people don't. . .  I know today, even though we are 10 years away from 2020 but I know today that we will have a reduction of 25 percent of greenhouse gases by the year 2020, only because I have such an excellent team here. . ."
    Kristin Eberhard, Legal Director of Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC's) Western Energy and Climate Projects issued a statement saying, "The adoption of this unprecedented carbon market to reduce pollution is a key milestone that will enable California to forge ahead with a clean energy economy. The Air Board today responded to the strong message delivered by California voters on November 2nd when they voted for a clean energy economy by resoundingly rejecting Proposition 23, the largest public referendum in history on climate and clean energy policy. The Air Board's action demonstrates that California continues to lead in pioneering smart, clean energy policies that make sense for the environment, public health and our economy. This is an economically sound program that will send a steady market signal driving innovation in clean energy, reducing pollution and mitigating oil price shocks while creating jobs and promoting economic growth."
    Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said, "California is turbo charging its already fast-growing clean energy economy by creating incentives and a market for pollution reducing technologies. The state is leading a new industrial revolution that will give U.S. companies an edge over foreign competitors in a global market opportunity valued at $2.3 trillion." Derek Walker, director of the California Climate Initiative at EDF said, "The next great economy will be in energy technology, presenting huge opportunities for investments, manufacturing and jobs. California is leading America's charge to fight climate change by capping pollution and starting a domestic clean tech revolution that'll help us more effectively compete against China, India and Europe."
    In a statement on December 10, prior to the hearing the California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA) said, "There are still many unknowns with the proposal. CMTA has long-advocated for implementing AB 32 in a way that allows California to reach the GHG reduction emission goals while at the same time maintaining the competitiveness of the state. Unfortunately, because of missing information and unfinished regulation, it is nearly impossible for regulated industries to estimate the potential costs and other impacts of the cap-and-trade regulation on their operations. In the proposal, free allocation of allowances for all industrial sectors is allowed for the first compliance period but not for the second and third. CMTA has asked that the free allowances, up to the output-based benchmark for each sector, be applied to all periods up to 2020. We believe that AB 32 does not authorize CARB to raise revenue for purposes unrelated to administration of the program. In addition, imposing a broader auction in the second and third periods will only increase leakage (companies moving out of the state) by imposing higher costs on industry."

    Access a release from CARB (click here). Access extensive information and staff presentations from the CARB meeting (click here). Access the CARB Cap-and-Trade website (click here). Access a statement from Governor Schwarzenegger (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). Access a blog post from NRDC with more information (click here). Access a statement and link to more information from EDF (click here). Access a statement from CMTA and link to more information on CMTA's concerns (click here).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

EPA Reports Toxic Releases Down 12% In 2009

Dec 16: U.S. EPA announced the earliest release ever of its annual national analysis of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), providing the public with vital information about their communities. The TRI program publishes information on toxic chemical disposals and releases into the air, land and water, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities in neighborhoods across the country. In 2009, 3.37 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment, a 12 percent decrease from 2008. The analysis, which includes data on approximately 650 chemicals from more than 20,000 facilities, found that total releases to air decreased 20 percent since 2008, while releases to surface water decreased 18 percent. Releases to land decreased 4 percent since 2008.

    EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "The Toxics Release Inventory is an important way to inform American communities about their local environmental conditions. It plays a critical role in EPA's efforts to hold polluters accountable and to acknowledge good corporate neighbors who put pollution prevention efforts in place. We will continue to make every effort to put accessible, meaningful information in the hands of the American people. Widespread public access to environmental information is fundamental to the work EPA does every day." This year, EPA is offering additional information to make the TRI data more meaningful and accessible to all communities. The TRI analysis now highlights toxic disposals and releases to large aquatic ecosystems, selected urban communities, and tribal lands. In addition, portions of the analysis are available in Spanish for the first time.

    The analysis shows decreases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals including lead, dioxin, and mercury. Total disposal or other releases of mercury decreased 3 percent since 2008, while total disposal or other releases of both dioxin and lead decreased by 18 percent. The analysis also shows a 7 percent decrease in the number of facilities reporting to TRI from the previous year, continuing a trend from the past few years. EPA noted that some of the decline may be attributed to the economic downturn; however, the Agency plans to investigate why some facilities reported in 2008 but not 2009.

    EPA added 16 chemicals to the TRI list of reportable chemicals in November. These chemicals are reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens, and represent the largest chemical expansion of the program in a decade. Data on the new TRI chemicals will be reported by facilities on July 1, 2012. Facilities must report their chemical disposals and releases by July 1 of each year. This year, EPA made the 2009 preliminary TRI dataset available in July, the same month as the data were collected. 

    TRI was established in 1986 by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and later modified by the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990. Together, these laws require facilities in certain industries to report annually on releases, disposal and other waste management activities related to these chemicals. TRI data are submitted annually to EPA and states by multiple industry sectors including manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste facilities.
    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the 2009 TRI release information with extensive data management tools to view information by chemical, industry, state, county, region and more (click here). Access the TRI website (click here).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

State Department Briefing On Cancun Climate Change Conference

Dec 14: Todd Stern, the Department of State Special Envoy for Climate Change, who just returned from the major UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico, that ended on Saturday provided a press briefing in Washington, DC. Over the last two weeks, representatives from more than 190 nations met in Cancun for the 16th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP16) with the goal of reaching new agreements to advance the collective efforts to meet this challenge [See WIMS 12/13/10]. In the early morning hours of Saturday in Cancun, Stern said, "the parties largely achieved that goal. This result was fundamentally consistent with U.S. objectives. Throughout the year, our strategic vision was to consolidate and elaborate on the progress made last year in Copenhagen by many of the world's leaders, including President Obama, and to have such outcome fully endorsed by the Conference of the Parties, all the nations to the Climate Treaty, as the Copenhagen Accord obviously was not."
    Stern continued, "The resulting Cancun agreement advances each of the core elements of the Copenhagen Accord. Specifically, it anchors the accord's mitigation pledges by both developed and developing countries in a parallel manner. It outlines a system of transparency with substantial detail and content, including international consultations and analysis; that was the negotiated phrase from the Copenhagen Accord. And this will provide confidence that a country's pledges are being carried out and help the world keep track of the track that we're on in terms of reducing emissions. The agreement in Cancun also launches a new Green Climate Fund with a process for setting it up, creates a framework to reduce deforestation in developing countries, establishes a so-called technology mechanism which includes -- will include a new technology executive committee and a climate technology center and network, and it will also set up a framework and committee to promote international cooperation and action on adaptation.
    In response to a question stating that the Cancun meeting basically punted the hardest issue, mandatory emissions caps until next year, Stern said, "The issue that was rolled over to next year is what happens in the Kyoto Protocol track. . . there are simultaneously two negotiating tracks going forward. One is the Kyoto Protocol track, which doesn't involve the United States, because we're not part of it. And the issue there is will there be a second so-called commitment period of Kyoto, the first being 2008-12. . . Kyoto is not the larger agreement that covers -- that includes emission commitments from the U.S., China, India, Brazil, et cetera. On that track, at the moment, while there may be something -- some kind of legal treaty down the road, that's not happening, I think, anytime soon for the reason that we're not prepared to enter into legally binding commitments to reduce our emissions unless China, India, and so forth, are also prepared to do that. And at the moment, they're not. . ."

    In response to a question regarding India's role at Cancun, how it went and all, Stern said, "I think India played, actually, a particularly constructive role in Cancun. I think that India was very much faithful to its own national interests and faithful to its role in the G-77, but at the same time creatively looking for solutions to difficult issues in the negotiation in a way that could bring in both developing countries -- and by the way, developing countries are not a monolithic group at this point, there's all sorts of different -- there's the large ones, there's Africans and least developed nations and island states and so forth. I think India really played a particularly constructive role in trying to find solutions that would bring everybody to the table. And one good example of that is on the issue of transparency, which was very important. . ."
    In response to a question that a U.K. scientists said "there has been no statistically significant global warming since 1995," Stern said, "Well, I'm not a scientist, so I'm not going to comment on it and I'm not familiar with exactly what he said. I think that if you look at the warming that has been recorded on a steady basis for over the last 20 years or so, you will see a very significant rise in temperatures over time. We have -- and I think if you look at the last 20 years, you have something like the 15 or 18 warmest years in history having happened during that period. So. . . I think there is a very, very broad consensus of scientists who see a marked warming trend, and again, a very large percentage of scientists who study in this area who attribute that to human activity."
    In response to a question about what does the U.S. need to do in the next year to move the process forward in light of the fact that a number of senators have expressed concern about even "modest international financing commitments by the U.S.," Stern said, "With respect to financing, look, the financial promises that were made in the first instance in Copenhagen and continued in the Cancun agreements are extremely important. I mean, they're – they are a core part of the deal. Obviously, the fiscal situation is exceedingly tough in the U.S. It's tough in Europe and other places as well. And we are going to have to do the best we possibly can to carry out, to make good on the – in the first instance, the fast start pledge that was part of Copenhagen and reiterated here. In the second instance, to work with parties to set up a good structure of the good architecture for the new Green Fund that has been agreed on. And then in the slightly longer-term front, to continue thinking through how sources can be put together for the $100 billion – the commitment to the goal of mobilizing that money from all sources, public and private, that we made by 2020. . ."
    In response to a question about the U.S. position on China's involvement in the negotiations, Stern said, "Our position on China is that China needs to make significant reductions in its emissions. But for China or other developing countries, at this stage, those are going to be relative reductions. . . whether it's China or India or others, are growing at 6, 8, 10 percent, you can't slam the brakes on completely and say you've got to be making absolute reductions tomorrow. It just – it couldn't work. . . the critical direction that we need to move on is to separate growth from the path of emissions, so that growth goes up but emissions can still go down. . . We're not calling -- I mean, it's not so much that we're calling on China or India to make legally binding commitments right now. What we're saying is we will do legally binding commitments only if they are symmetrical, if the emerging market countries do that also. If they're not ready to do it, it's not so much that we're criticizing that, it's just that we say in that – if that's where we are globally, then we need to push forward in the kind of politically binding structure that we're doing now. . ." 
    Access the complete State Department briefing (click here).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Senate Version Of Tax Cut Bill Now Includes Many Energy Provisions

Dec 14: S.A.4753, The Reid-McConnell Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, an amendment to H.R. 4853, is apparently on track to pass the Senate later today. The bill, originally designed to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, has emerged from negotiations with the Administration and Republican leaders, and now includes add-ons which followed Senate negotiations. It is now considered to be an $858 billion tax deal some are calling the "second stimulus." The bill still includes the highly controversial tax cuts for income earners over $250,000 and breaks for high income earners on inheritance tax. Both provisions, which have apparently received endorsement from a large number of Republican and Democratic senators, still remain a major point of contention with House members which must reapprove the amended bill. A cloture motion on the bill passed the Senate yesterday with a 83-15-2 vote.
    Recently added to the bill is a Subtitle dealing with Energy and the extension of certain expiring provisions including: Incentives for biodiesel and renewable diesel; Credit for refined coal facilities; New energy efficient home credit; Excise tax credits and outlay payments for alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixtures; Special rule for sales or dispositions to implement FERC or State electric restructuring policy for qualified electric utilities; Suspension of limitation on percentage depletion for oil and gas from marginal wells; Extension of grants for specified energy property in lieu of tax credits; Extension of provisions related to alcohol used as fuel; Energy efficient appliance credit; Credit for nonbusiness energy property; and Alternative fuel vehicle refueling property.
    One of the dissenters to the Senate "compromise" was Michigan Senator Carl Levin (D-MI). In a lengthy Floor speech, Levin said, "I believe that before this Congress adjourns we must extend unemployment benefits that are so vital to the economic survival of many American families and to our economic recovery. I also believe we must ensure that working families are not hit with a tax increase that endangers our recovery. But the legislation before us exacts a high price, and it should be amended to accomplish those goals without giving unwarranted benefits to the wealthiest Americans. Unfortunately, the procedure under which it is intended for us to consider it will apparently give us no opportunity to correct its shortcomings. The tax cuts included in this bill, while they would benefit working families, are too skewed toward the well-off, and would exacerbate a growing trend of income inequality in our country. Today, the wealthiest one percent of Americans receive about one-quarter of total U.S. income. Thirty years ago, they earned only about 10 percent of total U.S. income. Not only have incomes for the wealthiest sector of the population continued to grow. Incomes for middle- class families have been stagnant and have actually fallen when adjusted for inflation. . ."
    Access links to a lengthy bill summary, table of budgetary effects and the full text of the bill (click here). Access a CBO budget summary (click here). Access the roll call vote on cloture summary (click here). Access the complete Floor speech from Senator Levin (click here).

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Cancún Agreements" Unite Nations To Address Climate Change

Dec 11: The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico, ended on Saturday with the adoption of what the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) called a "balanced package of decisions that set all governments more firmly on the path towards a low-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change in the developing world." According to a release, the package, dubbed the "Cancún Agreements" was welcomed to repeated loud and prolonged applause and acclaim by Parties in the final plenary. The next Conference of the Parties is scheduled to take place in South Africa, from November 28 to December 9,  2011.

    UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said, "Cancún has done its job. The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored. Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause. They have shown that consensus in a transparent and inclusive process can create opportunity for all."

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement saying, "Over the last year, the United States has worked with our international partners to build on the progress achieved at the climate change conference in Copenhagen. We have pressed for substantive steps that would advance the vision of the Copenhagen Accord. This month we joined the nations of the world in Cancun for a new round of talks aimed at mobilizing common action to meet the shared global challenge of climate change. Today, I am pleased to announce that we secured the Cancun Agreements, a set of balanced international decisions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which represent meaningful progress in our global response to climate change.
    "This outcome advances each of the core elements of the Copenhagen Accord: They anchor the Accord's mitigation pledges; build on a system of transparency, with substantial detail and content of International Consultations and Analysis which will provide confidence that a country's pledges are being carried out; launch a new Green Climate Fund; create a framework to reduce deforestation in developing countries; establish a technology mechanism; and setup a framework and committee to will promote international cooperation and action on adaptation. The Cancun Agreements represent a balanced and significant step forward. In the days and months ahead, the United States will work with our friends and partners to keep the world focused on this urgent challenge and to continue building on this progress. 

    UNFCCC indicated that governments have given a clear signal that they are headed towards a low-emissions future together, they have agreed to be accountable to each other for the actions they take to get there, and they have set it out in a way which encourages countries to be more ambitious over time. Figueres said, "Nations launched a set of initiatives and institutions to protect the poor and the vulnerable from climate change and to deploy the money and technology that developing countries need to plan and build their own sustainable futures. And they agreed to launch concrete action to preserve forests in developing nations, which will increase going forward. They also agreed that countries need to work to stay below a two degree temperature rise and they set a clear timetable for review, to ensure that global action is adequate to meet the emerging reality of climate change. This is not the end, but it is a new beginning. It is not what is ultimately required but it is the essential foundation on which to build greater, collective ambition."

    According to a UNFCCC summary the key elements of the Cancún Agreements include:
• Industrialized country targets are officially recognized under the multilateral process and these countries are to develop low-carbon development plans and strategies and assess how best to meet them, including through market mechanisms, and to report their inventories annually.
• Developing country actions to reduce emissions are officially recognized under the multilateral process. A registry is to be set up to record and match developing country mitigation actions to finance and technology support from by industrialized countries. Developing countries are to publish progress reports every two years.
• Parties meeting under the Kyoto Protocol agree to continue negotiations with the aim of completing their work and ensuring there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods of the treaty.
• The Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanisms has been strengthened to drive more major investments and technology into environmentally sound and sustainable emission reduction projects in the developing world.
• Parties launched a set of initiatives and institutions to protect the vulnerable from climate change and to deploy the money and technology that developing countries need to plan and build their own sustainable futures.
• A total of $30 billion in "fast start" finance from industrialized countries to support climate action in the developing world up to 2012 and the intention to raise $100 billion in long-term funds by 2020 is included in the decisions.
• In the field of climate finance, a process to design a Green Climate Fund under the Conference of the Parties, with a board with equal representation from developed and developing countries, is established.
• A new "Cancún Adaptation Framework" is established to allow better planning and implementation of adaptation projects in developing countries through increased financial and technical support, including a clear process for continuing work on loss and damage.
• Governments agree to boost action to curb emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries with technological and financial support.
• Parties have established a technology mechanism with a Technology Executive Committee and Climate Technology Centre and Network to increase technology cooperation to support action on adaptation and mitigation.
    Todd Stern, U.S. Department of State, Special Envoy for Climate Change held press briefing at the conclusion of the conference and had high praise for the Agreements. He said a "balance package" of agreements on the key issues which he hoped would be addressed had in fact been achieved. He said the Agreements are "very good" and build on the achievements of the Copenhagen Accord. He said the Cancun Agreements "anchor" the pledges of the Copenhagen Accord including the targets for emissions reductions; "robust" transparency procedures, climate funds, technology mechanisms, REDD, mitigation and adaptation. In summary "sckelital ideas" of the Copenhagen Accord which were not officially approved have now been "elaborated and approved" in the Cancun Agreements.
    "Climate Action Tracker," an independent science-based assessment, developed by the German-based organizations Climate Analytics and Ecofys, which tracks the emission commitments and actions of countries has already developed and up-to-date assessment (post-Cancun Agreements) of individual national pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

    According to the analysis, "Current emission reduction pledges, after the close of the Cancun climate conference, fall short of what is needed to get the world on track for limiting global warming to 2 and 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Both of these warming limits are mentioned in the agreement. To keep warming limited to these targets, global total emissions need to drop below 44 billion tonnes CO2eq per year by 2020. After adding up reduction proposals of individual countries and taking into account accounting provisions, expected global emissions leave a gap of 12 billion tonnes CO2eq/yr by 2020. In Cancun, countries discussed a wide range of options that influence the size of the gap. If countries would implement the most stringent reductions they have proposed with most stringent accounting, the remaining 'reduction gap' would shrink to 8 billion tonnes CO2eq/yr."
   Despite the praise for the Agreements from the delegates and participants, environmental groups are also calling the results "modest." For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Director of Strategy and Policy Alden Meyer said, "The outcome in Cancún wasn't enough to save the climate but it did restore the credibility of the United Nations as a forum where progress can be made." UCS indicated that, "On a macro level, the conference fell short of what is needed. The collective actions pledged by countries remain insufficient to meet the challenge of climate change. And the declarations by both Japan and Russia that they have no intention of taking on emissions reduction targets when the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period starts in 2013 almost derailed the talks -- and point to the challenges ahead."
    Jennifer Haverkamp, managing director of Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) international climate program said, "The conference pushed forward a modest, but important package of climate initiatives. The U.N. has now put its seal of approval on compensating countries for protecting their forests. And Mexico's skillful leadership here has helped to rebuild confidence in the U.N. process. The overall outcome represents only a fraction of what's needed," said Haverkamp. "Despite the best efforts by many countries, glaciers are still melting faster than this process is moving."
    Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), said in a statement today, "Progress was made on a number of important issues, but it's clear the Senate's failure to pass clean energy legislation tied the hands of negotiators to come to a full global deal. Formally recognizing the Copenhagen reduction targets -- including the U.S. 17 percent reductions by 2020 -- still leaves the world woefully short of what needs to be done to tackle the climate crisis. The stakes are too high to let lawmakers captured by special interests drive what happens on the international stage. America's role as a world power, and it's outsized emissions require us to show good faith and constructive engagement so we can achieve a binding climate accord. These qualities were absent far too often in Cancun. To ensure the chances of success in South Africa next year, the administration must start now to show the rest of the world it's acting to reduce its global warming pollution at home."
    U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), released a statement saying, "I am encouraged that the negotiators from nations around the world have made real, substantive progress in Cancun on important issues including transparency and verification of emissions reductions; forest protection; and helping countries transition to clean energy and adapt to a changing climate. Global warming is a global problem and international cooperation is crucial to addressing this challenge. It is also vitally important to keep making progress on clean energy here at home, so we can create jobs, cut dangerous carbon pollution, and move away from our billion-dollar-a-day dependence on foreign oil."
    Access a release from the UNFCCC (click here). Access the statement from Secretary of State Clinton (click here). Access links to the complete Cancun Agreements (click here). Access the webcast of Todd Stern's December 11 press briefing (click here). Access links to all COP16/CMP6 webcasts (click here). Access the Climate Action Tracker release and link to the complete analysis (click here). Access the UCS release (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a release from NWF (click here). Access a release from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access a 30-page summary and analysis from IISD (click here). Access the State Department COP16/CMP6 website including links to press briefings, the U.S. Center, extensive other links, schedules, reports and fact sheets (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for complete details, documents and live, on-demand webcasts (click here). Access the Mexico host country COP16 website (click here). Access detailed, day-by-day coverage from IISD (click here).

Friday, December 10, 2010

U.S. Speaks Out At Cancun Climate Change Meeting

Dec 9: Todd Stern, U.S. Department of State, Special Envoy for Climate Change delivered a statement on behalf of the U.S. at the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP16) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Cancun, Mexico. Stern's statement was part of a day-long "high-level" segment where statements from heads of states, governments and delegations were delivered. Stern said:
    "Mr. President, I am honored to be here and represent the United States at this Conference, and to support the President of the COP and the Government of Mexico in pursuit of a successful outcome. I want to specifically thank Mexico for the outstanding work that they have done in hosting this event and in working on it all year. I think we all know how extraordinarily difficult it is to manage an event like this and to be in the role of the President. President Calderon, Foreign Minister Espinosa and her whole team have done an outstanding job.

    "Last year in Copenhagen, President Obama joined with leaders and others representing countries from around the world to find a formula that could bridge a wide variety of interests and perspectives and forge a new path on climate change -- one on which all Parties would embark together. The resulting Copenhagen Accord did not find universal acceptance, but it provided a significant step forward in our work -- including for the first time international agreement by all the world's major economies to implement their mitigation actions and targets in an internationally transparent manner, and that also paved the way for new institutions and support for climate finance, technology, adaptation, and REDD.

    "The United States has worked hard this year to move forward on elements that our leaders agreed to last year. We have invested more than $90 billion dollars to transform the way our country produces and consumes energy, and taken a range of new regulatory and other actions to reduce emissions. And we will continue to work strenuously with our Congress on legislative solutions to enhance our energy security and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have also secured approximately $1.7 billion dollars worth of climate assistance in our first year of Fast Start financing that will support adaptation activities for the most vulnerable countries around the world, combat deforestation in the world's most biologically diverse tropical forests, and help put countries on a path toward low-carbon development. Again, this is just the first of three years and we will be looking to increase that amount in each of the next two years.

    "Mr. President now is the time for us to take the next step. We can and must do this through a balanced package of decisions that builds on the understandings our leaders reached in Copenhagen and makes meaningful, comparable progress on the key elements of our negotiations. In this package, we can agree to launch the establishment of a Green Fund to serve as the centerpiece of an enhanced financial architecture for climate change. We can also move forward on substantial new arrangements for technology, adaptation, and REDD [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation]. And we also must at the same time move forward to capture, to anchor, as the word has come to be used in these negotiations, the targets and actions that countries agreed to implement last year in a decision by the Conference of the Parties, so that these are an inherent part of our ongoing effort going forward.

    "And we must also clearly lay out the elements of transparency -- including International Consultations and Analysis -- that will provide us confidence that we are all carrying out, carrying through on our undertakings, and that will help gauge our progress in our collective worldwide efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    "We can and we should and we must do all of these things and begin a new operational phase in our work, even as we continue to work to progressively strengthen the Convention over time. Mr. President, I want to assure you the firm commitment of President Obama and the United States to working with all countries towards a solution to climate change, and toward a successful outcome this week here in Cancun. Thank you very much."

    According to an IISD report of the meeting, as of 9 PM last evening (December 9), an informal "stocktaking session" was convened by COP and COP/MOP President Espinosa. Ministers leading the informal consultations suggested that while "issues had been 'better elaborated,' compromise texts on the Kyoto Protocol, mitigation and MRV had not been crafted. The stocktaking ended at around 11 pm with a reminder from President Espinosa that 'very few hours for actual negotiating' remained. Already-tired delegates therefore prepared themselves for "another marathon all-nighter." One high-level representative indicated that 'there is still a deal to be done -- but we could also end up with a belly flop.'" Reports from earlier today indicated that informal ministerial consultations continued throughout the night. The Conference is scheduled to end today.

    Access the complete text U.S. statement (click here). Access various webcast (click here). Access the State Department COP16/CMP6 website including links to press briefings, the U.S. Center, extensive other links, schedules, reports and fact sheets (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for complete details, documents and live, on-demand webcasts (click here). Access the Mexico host country COP16 website (click here). Access detailed, day-by-day coverage from IISD (click here).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

EPA Delays Ozone Standard For Further Technical Review

Dec 8: In January 2010 U.S. EPA proposed stricter standards for smog [See WIMS 1/7/10]. As part of the Agency's extensive review of the science, Administrator Jackson announced that she will ask the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) for further interpretation of the epidemiological and clinical studies they used to make their recommendation. To ensure EPA's decision is grounded in the best science, EPA will review the input CASAC provides before the new standard is selected. Given this ongoing scientific review, EPA intends to set a final standard in the range recommended by the CASAC by the end of July, 2011.
    While EPA was under a court order to issue the revised regulations by the end of the year, in a December 8, 2010, filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, the Agency said, "In its previously-filed motion to govern further proceedings, EPA stated that it required additional time, until December 31, 2010, to complete that rulemaking and sign a final rule, and thus requested that the Court continue to hold these cases in abeyance and direct the parties to file motions to govern further proceedings by January 10, 2011. . . the EPA Administrator recently determined that additional advice from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) may prove useful and important in evaluating the scientific and other information before her."
    EPA told the court it, "intends to submit questions to the CASAC panel for the Ozone NAAQS Rule requesting additional advice, with the expectation that, for example, CASAC's advice 'may aid the Administrator in most appropriately weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific evidence and other information before her, and thus aid her in the exercise of judgment as to the appropriate standard for ozone under CAA section 109(b).' . . . The CASAC process also includes an opportunity for the public to submit comments to CASAC and EPA. Thereafter, the Administrator will consider CASAC's further advice and any additional public comments, together with the other record information, to reach her final decision. EPA expects that this process will require just over an additional seven months, until July 29, 2011."
    The Agency is proposing to replace the standards set by the previous administration, which many believe were not protective enough of human health [See WIMS 3/13/08]. EPA is proposing a rule to set the "primary" standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. The current primary 8-hour standard is 0.075 ppm. EPA was originally scheduled to issue final standards by August 31, 2010, but has now requested three extensions.

    The proposal has been highly controversial. The American Petroleum Institute (API) has testified that, "Without a clear certain scientific basis for selecting a different numeric standard, the ozone standard need not be changed now." and urged the Administrator not to pursue the proposal. API said EPA's own studies failed to support a lowering of the ozone standards. On the other hand, environmental organizations have pointed out that strengthening the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone pollution from 75 to 60 parts per billion (ppb) would reduce premature death rates by 60-fold and reduce asthma cases 50-fold, according to analyses by EPA [See WIMS 2/10/10].
    Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), issued a statement saying, "While I welcome news of the delay, I remain concerned about EPA's direction in addressing the 2008 ozone NAAQS. Employers, small businesses, and local communities still have good reason to suspect EPA will impose more burdensome new regulations that restrict investment, job creation, and economic growth. States are making, and will continue to make, significant progress in achieving cleaner air. So EPA must very carefully rely on the best available science to guide its decision-making in the coming months.  I will be conducting oversight to ensure that it does. It's also important to note that any more stringent standard within the range EPA is considering would have widespread negative consequences. Based on 2008 air quality data, a standard of 65 ppb would create 608 new non-attainment areas, while a standard of 70 ppb would create 515 such areas. Non-attainment is a scarlet letter that condemns local areas to more burdensome regulations and thus an even steeper climb out of recession."
    The Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC's) Executive Director Peter Lehner issued a statement in response to EPA's decision and said, "This delay will sicken many Americans. Ozone pollution aggravates wheezing and coughing caused by asthma and other respiratory ills. It sends children and seniors to the hospital. We are confident, however, that additional scientific analysis will support the need for a fully protective standard. We must let EPA follow the science and not let polluters convince Congress to weaken the safeguards we need. The EPA must set the bar where it belongs. We'll all breathe easier once that's done."
    Earthjustice attorney David Baron said, "Delaying this important air rule is deplorable. The nation's leading medical experts and EPA's own science advisors say we need stronger standards. This evidence has been available for years. EPA does not need another six months to do its job: It must protect our lungs and those of our children now. Earthjustice is talking with its clients about legal options for putting an end to further delays on these urgently needed protections."

        Access EPA's 22-page court filing (click here). Access EPA's ground-level ozone regulatory website for complete background (click here). Access a release from Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice (click here).

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

MI Rep. Upton Selected Chairman Of Energy & Commerce

Dec 7: The House Republican Steering Committee selected Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) to be the next Chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Upton will take over for under the Republican leadership [See WIMS 11/03/10] and replace the current Democratic Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA). Upton has served on the Energy and Commerce Committee since 1991, and currently serves as the Ranking Member of the Environment and Energy Subcommittee which is Chaired by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA). Chairman-elect Upton lost no time in setting a confrontational tone and issued the following statement upon learning of the Steering Committee vote.

    "I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, Whip McCarthy and the entire Republican Conference as we repeal Obamacare, fight rampant job-killing regulations, cut spending, and help put folks back to work. As our new majority pledged to America, 'We dedicate ourselves to the task of reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on, the principles we stand for, and the priorities of our people.'

    "We face many challenges, but priority number one is to repeal the job-killing Obamacare law. While the various subcommittee posts will be filled in the days ahead, the fight to repeal Obamacare starts now and I am pleased to appoint Rep. Joe Pitts [R-PA]as chairman of the Health Subcommittee. Together, we will protect the sanctity of life, ensuring early next Congress that no federal funds are used for abortion. Energy and Commerce will also immediately adopt new rules to cut spending and restore fiscal responsibility.

    "If we have learned anything these last two years of soaring unemployment and out-of-control spending, it is that government is not the answer to all our ills -- it is, in fact, the root cause of many of them. The Obama administration is on notice -- they will not be allowed to regulate what they have been unable to legislate. In his January 1989 farewell address to the nation, my old boss President Ronald Reagan warned: 'As government expands, liberty contracts.' The American people spoke loud and clear on November 2nd, and we have a charge to stand up for liberty and deliver the real change that the American public expects and demands. We will not let them down."

    In a separate, December 7, memo to Republican Colleagues, Rep. Upton said, "Pelosi never listened to the American people and she never lived up to her promises. We will do both. We have a clear mandate to cut the size of government, reduce spending, and reverse costly job-killing regulations. . . The job-killing policies of Obama and Pelosi end here. . . I have always been and always will be one of the most loyal members of the team. . . It is about all of us together working as a cohesive unit to advance our ideals and our conservative agenda and lay the groundwork for victory in 2012. . . There are powerful forces working against us, pushing a liberal agenda that will do further damage to our economy. The American people not only rejected the Democrats' misguided vision for America, they also heard our message. . ."

    In the end, Rep. Upton was selected over the current Ranking Member of the full Committee, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX). Rep. Barton who previously Chaired the Committee under previous Republican leadership, was nearly stripped of his Committee assignments for his widely publicized public apology to BP and his comments about being "ashamed" of the $20 billion oil spill claims fund agreement which the White House negotiated with BP. In comments before the Committee, Barton apologized to BP and called the agreement a "shakedown." [See WIMS 6/18/10].

    In his memo to colleagues, Rep. Upton included a number of his recent op-eds which he said will "give you a sense of my vision for the future." In one of his op-eds, printed in the Washington Times on October 20, Rep. Upton declared "War on the Regulatory State." [See WIMS 10/20/10]. He said Republicans would terminate what he called the "wasteful" Select Committee on Climate Change, established by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and also Chaired by Rep. Markey. He said the Committee "has needlessly spent nearly $8 million in taxpayer money. . . "

    On December 6, Rep. Upton issued a release and op-ed, urging President Obama to ignore pleas from Senate Democrats to permanently block responsible drilling of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's (ANWR), vast reserves. Upton has been a longtime supporter of drilling in ANWR and supports an "all of the above" approach to fortify the nation's energy needs with American-made energy. 

    On December 3, Rep. Upton called on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to provide greater transparency as the Agency considers rules for cooling water intake structures at existing electric generation and manufacturing facilities. He said, "Given that this rulemaking has the potential to affect more than 400 power plants throughout the country and could impact energy supply and reliability, I am concerned about the direction of the proposal and its timing. The potential retrofit costs could be substantial ($200-300 million per unit for coal and $700 million to $1 billion for nuclear power plants) and some coal steam generators may not have the space necessary for the installation of cooling towers and other associated equipment. This could result in the retirement of some of these generators." He called on EPA to allow 180 days at minimum for the public to digest and prepare comments for a rule of this magnitude. 

    On December 1, Rep. Upton reacted to what he called "the Obama Administration's expanding its offshore drilling moratorium," i.e. the updated oil and gas leasing strategy for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) [See WIMS 12/1/10] saying, "They are cheering in the streets of Caracas and Tehran today over the administration's misguided offshore drilling moratorium." He said, "We are long overdue for a thoughtful, visionary energy policy that puts a premium on American-made energy. We need an 'all of the above' approach with offshore drilling right at the top. Let's stop punishing American workers - pursuing American-made energy will not only ensure our energy security, it will ensure our job security."
    In other recent releases and op-eds, Rep. Upton has called for EPA to stand down in its efforts to regulate coal combustion residuals (CCRs)"; called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to "remove the bureaucratic roadblocks that have delayed the administration's approval of the Keystone XL pipeline application"; asked Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu to explain "Where Are the Jobs?" as a result of the administration's $800 billion stimulus package; called for a formal investigation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman's decision to delay a vote on the Department of Energy's legal authority to withdraw the license of the Yucca Mountain permanent nuclear waste repository in Nevada; and demanded answers from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about nearly $3 million in advertisements "promoting the health overhaul." 
   In his op-ed on "Declaring "War on the Regulatory State,"  Rep. Upton said, "No significant regulation should take effect until Congress has voted to approve it and the president has had an opportunity to approve or veto congressional action. Right now, these regulations are free to hide in the shadows of the Federal Register. By shedding additional light on the regulatory beast, we can keep government limited and accountable."
    Access Rep. Upton's release and memo to colleagues regarding his Chairmanship (click here). Access recent releases on various regulatory matters (click here). Access links to recent op-eds (click here).

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Supreme Court Will Hear Greenhouse Gas "Public Nuisance" Case

Dec 6: The U.S. Supreme Court has granted a petition to hear the controversial case of American Electric Power Company Inc., et al., Petitioners v. Connecticut, et al (Docket No. 10-174) appealed from the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decision of September 21, 2009 [See WIMS 9/22/09]. Justice Sotomayor took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition. The Second Circuit case was decided by a two judge panel because Justice Sonia Sotomayor, originally a member of the panel, was elevated to the Supreme Court on August 8, 2009. The case will be argued next spring.
    The Supreme Court indicates that the issues questions presented in the case are: "The court of appeals held that States and private plaintiffs may maintain actions under federal common law alleging that defendants -- in this case, five electric utilities -- have created a 'public nuisance' by contributing to global warming, and may seek injunctive relief capping defendants' carbon dioxide emissions at judicially-determined levels. The questions presented are:
  • 1. Whether States and private parties have standing to seek judicially-fashioned emissions caps on five utilities for their alleged contribution to harms claimed to arise from global climate change caused by more than a century of emissions by billions of independent sources.
  • 2. Whether a cause of action to cap carbon dioxide emissions can be implied under federal common law where no statute creates such a cause of action, and the Clean Air Act speaks directly to the same subject matter and assigns federal responsibility for regulating such emissions to the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • 3. Whether claims seeking to cap defendants' carbon dioxide emissions at 'reasonable' levels, based on a court's weighing of the potential risks of climate change against the socioeconomic utility of defendants' conduct, would be governed by 'judicially discoverable and manageable standards' or could be resolved without 'initial policy determination[s] of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion.' Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217 (1962)."
    In the major 139-page decision of the Second Circuit regarding citizen and government enforcement of greenhouse gas emissions the Appeals Court summarized saying, the case is appealed from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York that dismissed Plaintiffs-Appellants' Federal common law of nuisance claims as non-justiciable under the "political question doctrine." The Second Circuit Appeals Court ruled that, "We hold that: (1) Plaintiffs-Appellants' claims do not present non-justiciable political questions; (2) Plaintiffs-Appellants have standing to bring their claims; (3) Plaintiffs-Appellants state claims under the federal common law of nuisance; (4) Plaintiffs-Appellants' claims are not displaced; and (5) the discretionary function exception does not provide Defendant-Appellee Tennessee Valley Authority with immunity from suit. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings."
    In its conclusion, the Appeals Court said additionally, "With regard to air pollution, particularly greenhouse gases, this case occupies a niche similar to the one Milwaukee I occupied with respect to water pollution. With that in mind, the concluding words of Milwaukee I have an eerie resonance almost forty years later. To paraphrase: 'It may happen that new federal laws and new federal regulations may in time pre-empt the field of federal common law of nuisance. But until that comes to pass, federal courts will be empowered to appraise the equities of the suits alleging creation of a public nuisance' by greenhouse gases. Milwaukee I, 406 U.S. at 106."
    Environmental organizations praised the Second Circuit opinion. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a release calling the decision "a landmark ruling," that "five large electric power companies can be sued in Federal court because their carbon dioxide emissions contribute to rising temperatures and a host of damaging impacts in other states, including heat waves, smog episodes, droughts and forest fires."  [See WIMS 9/22/09].
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Calling the decision an "alarming reversal of established precedent." The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform said, "We are deeply troubled that the Second Circuit has chosen to ignore well-settled law and allowed the plaintiffs' lawyers' novel public nuisance claims to proceed. For the better part of the decade, key players within the plaintiffs' bar have been aggressively advancing a twisted use of the public nuisance legal theory -- an 800-year-old legal concept historically applied to unreasonable interference with public rights -- as an avenue for new mass tort litigation to address issues not designed for judicial resolution. While courts have rightly repudiated this flawed legal scheme, America's lawsuit industry needs only one precedent-setting victory to open up a public nuisance can of worms."
    Plaintiffs in the Second Circuit case involved the states of CT, NY, CA, IA, NJ, RI, VT, and WI plus New York City, Open Space Institute, Inc., Open Space Conservancy and the Audubon Society of New Hampshire. Defendants included: American Electric Power Company, Inc., American Electric Power Service Corporation, Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, Xcel Energy, Inc., and Cinergy Corporation.
    Access the Supreme Court docket indicating the various brief filed, questions presented and attorneys involved in the case (click here). Access the Supreme Court Order including the case (click here). Access links to the 2nd Circuit decision, briefs and petitions filed (click here).

Monday, December 06, 2010

Mexico COP16/MOP6 Leader Paints Positive Outcome Picture

Dec 5: Despite growing skepticism about the success of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) being held in Cancun, Mexico, and diminishing political support for the climate change issue in the U.S.; the United Nations is reporting that two bodies within UNFCCC have concluded their work on a number of significant draft decisions that will be presented for adoption on Friday, December 10, in the final plenary of the Conference of the Parties (COP16) and the sixth Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP6 or MOP6).
    The two groups -- the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) -- concluded their deliberations yesterday with draft decisions on continued, strengthened support to developing countries efforts in climate change adaptation and mitigation, including concrete technology transfer projects, UNFCCC said in a statement. Patricia Espinosa, President of the Conference and Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Mexico said, "These advances form an important part of the groundwork for strengthened global climate change action," said They also clearly show that countries have come to Cancún in good faith to show the world that the multilateral process can deliver as long as a spirit of compromise, cooperation and transparency prevails."
    Espinosa added that the progress "should be seen as a positive sign for the conference as a whole," and urged all UNFCCC Parties to maintain the spirit of compromise with a view to reaching a balanced agreement that will take the world into a new era of cooperation on climate change.
    According to a release, the decisions included a near agreement that carbon capture and storage may be an eligible project activity under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), provided it complies with stringent risk and safety assessments. The move is significant because it presents ministers, who will be asked to give political guidance to the negotiations, with only two clear options on the issue. UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres said, "This conclusion is important because it gives Parties a key to unlock other outstanding issues under the two tracks of the negotiations on Long-Term Cooperative Action and in the Kyoto Protocol." 
    Another achievement was a decision to broaden the mandate of a Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Expert Group and extend it for a five-year term, the longest period given to the Group since its establishment in 2001. The Group provides technical guidance and advice to LDCs on the preparation and implementation of national adaptation programs of action. Countries also agreed to strengthen education, training and public awareness on climate change through increased funding for such activities, and to engage civil society more strongly in national decision-making and the UN climate change process. Figueres said, "Faster and more effective action on climate change requires governments to welcome the fresh ideas and active participation of all sides of civil society, especially the young whose futures are at stake. This underlines the commitment of the negotiations to remain open, transparent and engaged."
    In her brief statement on December 5, Espinosa, President of COP16/MOP6 meeting said, "No international conference can succeed without there being confidence among the parties and in the process itself. We believe that, after much hard work by all, current conditions should allow .indeed must allow. for the reaching of understandings. This is in no small measure due to a commitment by all to transparency and inclusiveness, principles that the Mexican Presidency will continue to honor throughout.

    "Ministerial-level representatives from all over the world are already in Cancun. Yesterday I offered a welcoming dinner to them, in which no papers were distributed and no negotiations took place. Starting today, however, the presence of high-level officials must be capitalized, as they can provide the necessary political guidance to push forth on several key issues. . . Allow me to stress this central point:Ministers have very kindly agreed to contribute to the work that is already under way, in which we have made important progress but still require political decisions to be taken in order to forge ahead.

    "I have approached pairs of ministers, one from a developing country and one from a developed country, who I know would greatly benefit our effort by focusing on specific matters. I hope their agendas allow them to undertake this task. Sweden and Grenada could help on matters related to shared vision; Spain and Algeria on adaptation; Australia and Bangladesh on finance, technology and capacity building; New Zealand and Indonesia on mitigation, including MRV [Measurable, Reportable, and Verifiable], and the United Kingdom and Brazil on items under the Kyoto Protocol. Other ministers, among them those from Ecuador, Singapore, Norway and Switzerland could support on other specific issues as they arise. . .

    "One week into the process, the conditions are in place to reach a broad and balanced package of decisions that leads to an era of increasingly effective global action on climate change. However, the positive outcome that our societies demand is still not complete. We must continue working with a renewed sense of urgency. I believe we can complete the package, or at the very least to make significant advances, before the opening of the high-level segment on Tuesday afternoon. . ."

    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access the complete statement from Espinosa (click here). Access a December 3, press briefing webcast from UNFCCC's Christiana Figueres (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for complete details, documents and live, on-demand webcasts (click here). Access the Mexico host country COP16 website (click here). Access detailed, day-by-day coverage from IISD (click here).

Friday, December 03, 2010

BP Commission: Oil & Gas Industry Must Embrace New Safety Culture

Dec 2: The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling established by Executive Order 13543 on May 21, 2010, held its 6th and final public meeting on December 2-3, 2010. The Commission deliberated on the preliminary findings related to the root causes of the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster and options to guard against and mitigate the impacts of future spills.
    The agenda of discussion items and staff presentations included: Safety Culture in the Offshore Drilling Industry; Regulatory Oversight; Environmental Review; Drilling in the Arctic; Oil Spill Response; Liability Caps and Financial Responsibility Draft Staff;
Commission Presentation for Containment; Impacts and Assessment Presentation; and Long-Term Restoration Presentation.
    In an opening statement from Co-Chair William Reilly, he said, "I am struck myself by the evolution in my own thinking in the course of the time that I have spent serving on this commission. I came into it persuaded as I think most people in the oil and gas industry may still be persuaded that this was a case of a company with at least a five-year history of severe safety challenges and misbehavior, and that we were dealing with essentially a rogue company. I think it has been conclusively and indisputably established that we have a bigger problem than that."
    Reilly indicated that three major companies were heavily involved in the decisions that are most questionable that were made on the Macondo rig, and "this perception in some quarters of the oil and gas industry that Macondo was the consequence of one company's bad decisions simply doesn't stand. Our investigative team concluded that three major companies were fully implicated in the catastrophe and our staff further reported that other companies had no effective containment preparations and laughable response plans that promised to look out for any polar bears or walruses that happened on to the scene. The poor state of containment and response plans and capability in the Gulf of Mexico is indisputable evidence of a widespread lack of serious preparation, of planning, of management. That culture must change. It must change for so many reasons for the good of all of us.  It must change among other reasons for the good of the oil and gas industry. . . So let me say as emphatically as I can the oil and gas industry needs to embrace a new safety culture. . ."
    Co-Chair Bob Graham in an opening statement said, "I would like to note that I am very impressed with what we have been able to accomplish without subpoena power. I remain mystified as to why a few Senators decided to deny this commission this power when subpoena power has been granted as almost an absolute for congressional commissions which have analogous responsibilities to ours. The lack of subpoena power has made our commissions work more difficult. Our success is a testament both to the determination and skill of our team and to the plain fact that the problems of and deficiencies with the current safety regime are so egregious. Over the next two years we will discuss our findings and how we propose to translate them into reforms that are worthy of our great nation."
    Access the opening remarks from Co-Chairs Reilly and Graham (click here). Access links to the current and past meetings and link to the 2-day agenda and extensive staff presentation and proposed recommendations (click here). Access the BP Commission website for more information (click here).