The Dernogalizer

December 15, 2010

350.org: “We got in it to win”

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:36 am
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I think 350.org’s recent e-mail reflecting on the closure of the Cancun climate talks is spot on.  It’s reposted below

Dear friends,

It’s not something you hear often when it comes to climate negotiations: “progress has been made.”

At 4AM on Saturday morning in Cancun, delegates emerged from the UN negotiations, all of them sleep-deprived and most of them smiling. They had managed to agree on a foundation for future talks. The agreements that came out of Cancun won’t be enough to get the world back to 350–but they offer a glimpse at a path forward that just might.

The feeling of momentum emerging from Cancun was refreshing: countries rebuilt trust, and wrestled with difficult issues like deforestation and transparency. This trust was in serious doubt after last year’s failed negations in Copenhagen–and even in the final hours of negotiations in Cancun.

These countries will now have to negotiate with the world’s climate–and the physics and chemistry that govern the climate won’t negotiate. In the wake of the modest progress achieved in Cancun, it’s tempting to overlook the fact that delegates mostly avoided the real crux of the negotiations: exactly how much will countries reduce their planet-heating emissions?

In fact, the current pledges contained in the negotiating text are still grossly inadequate, leaving the planet on a crash course with at least 4 degrees Celcius of temperature rise–a terrifying prospect that would put us closer to 750ppm than 350ppm. That’s very far from where we must be, and that gap won’t be fixed by simply waiting until next year’s convention in Durban, South Africa.

To close the gap between scientific necessity and political possibility, we must fight the influence of big polluters on the political process.
At the end of last week, thousands of you spoke up in support of the most vulnerable countries, sending your messages of solidarity from all corners of the planet. Our team in Cancun delivered your messages directly to the delegates, and reminded them just how much the world is counting on them to stand up to big polluters.

By building a public movement around the climate solutions that science and justice demand, we’ve helped keep this process alive when major polluters tried to destroy it. We’ve made the science clear. And thanks to your messages of solidarity, we’ve strengthened the voices of vulnerable nations, who have pledged to keep the fight for bold climate action alive.

In the months and years to come, that will continue to be our fight as well. In the final hours of the talks in Cancun, members of the 350.org team were among a group of young people who stood peacefully at the entrance to the negotiating halls and slowly counted upwards towards 21,000, the number of deaths attributed to climate-related disasters in the first 9 months of this year.  After two weeks of abstract negotiations, this event was a poignant reminder of the stakes in this struggle–and of the strength of the bonds of this global network.

There will be those receiving this email who would wish us to condemn the agreements that came out of Cancun — as well as those who might like us to call it a hope-filled victory.

But we didn’t get involved in this movement to condemn or cheer: we got in it to win.

To do that, we’ll have to win our country’s capitols first, and to do that, we’ll have to organize in all the communities where we live. We’ve begun that work, but we still have much more work to do.

We will do it with hope, with passion, and with unwavering determination.  And above all, we will do it together.

Onwards,

May Boeve for the 350.org Team

P.S. To get real action from the UN process, its crucial to keep spreading what happens in these conferences out into the world. If this email resonates, please pass along this link to a photo-tour of our experience in Cancun via Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

December 11, 2010

A Hopeful Atmosphere from Cancun

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:28 pm
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Perhaps because expectations were so low, or because of the realization that cooperation between nations needed to occur for the UN climate negotiations to continue to exist, or because NASA announced the hottest November and likely 2010 on record, the media reports and commentary from nations and activists coming out of Cancun is much better than it was last year in Copenhagen.  Here is the text adopted by the UNFCCC.  My take upon reading the news reports and looking at the text is that the language purposefully leaves a lot of the details and specifics to be worked out in future summits, while using broad language to satisfy developed and developing countries to keep the process moving forward.  There is greater agreement than last year about what needs to be done, such as the establishment of a $100 billion Green Climate Fund by 2020, and the allocation of $30 billion between 2010-2012 for developing nations to use for mitigation and adaption.  Below is the closing COP 16 press release, along with some reactions from other countries, bloggers, and media outlets…

UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun delivers balanced package of
decisions, restores faith in multilateral process

(Cancun, 11 December 2010) The UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, ended on Saturday with the adoption of a balanced package of decisions that set all governments more firmly on the path towards a ow-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change in the developing world.

The package, dubbed the ‘Cancun Agreements’ was welcomed to repeated loud and prolonged applause and acclaim by Parties in the final plenary.

“Cancun 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,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. “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,” she said.

“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,” she 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,” said Ms Figueres.

Elements of the Cancun Agreements include:

  • Industrialised country targets are officially recognised 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 recognised 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 industrialised countries. Developing countries are to publish progress reports every two years.
  • Parties meeting under the 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 US$30 billion in fast start finance from industrialised countries to support climate action in the developing world up to 2012 and the intention to raise US$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 “Cancun 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.
  • The next Conference of the Parties is scheduled to take place in South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December 2011.

    US climate envoy Todd Stern’s reaction in the Washington Post: “U.S. special climate envoy Todd Stern, who had pushed hard for adoption of language outlining how China, India and other major emerging economies will subject their carbon cuts to international view, described the recent negotiations as “a challenging, tiring and intensive week.”

    In an early-morning press conference Saturday, Stern told reporters he thought the core achievement of this year’s talks was the fact that “ideas that were first of all, skeletal last year, and not approved, are now approved and elaborated.”

    And while he noted the current measure would not ensure the global temperature rise remains within 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of pre-industrial levels, “You just need to keep making good steady progress…We’re not there yet with respect to all the committed reductions it would take to get the world to the two-degree target people talk about. But we’re a lot closer than we were before.”

    “What we have now is a text that, while not perfect, is certainly a good basis for moving forward,” Stern said.”

    From Brad Johnson’s Wonk Room: “The first lesson of the Cancun talks is that the governments of the world can in fact work together on global warming, even though decoupling civilization from greenhouse pollution is a herculean task. However, the second lesson is that their leadership only gets humanity so far. Only the full mobilization of the present generation can overcome the institutional barriers to change and protect our fragile civilization from the raging climate system our pollution has created. The Cancun compact has restored hope around the world, but now the actual work has to begin.”

    And according to Brad’s Twitterfeed, some good reactions from nations as the talks closed…

    Mexican President Felipe Calderon: “We must ensure our fragile planet, Mother Earth, lasts forever. Cancun has brought us closer to that goal.”

    Brazil: We will go away from Cancun with a firm commitment. Considerable progress has been made.

    Zambia: Thank you for lifting our spirits from the depression of Copenhagen. You have restored our hopes in multilateralism

    India: I believe we are launched on a process in which the trust deficit has been significantly bridged

    Japan: We wholeheartedly support the efforts being made by the presidency. We’d like to express our deep support to draft text.

    China: Though there are shortcomings, we are basically satisfied.  The government of China will act in a fully responsible manner to the people of China and the people of the world.

    South Korea: We were warned, if we cannot achieve a balanced outcome, we’d be blamed by our children. I believe we have risen to the challenge.

    So all in all, it’s good to see this positive will between counties that lacked last year in Copenhagen.  The agreement on the table needs a lot of work, it isn’t strong or forceful enough to achieve what needs to be done, but it avoids a collapse of the UN climate talks, and keeps the negotiating process moving forward to what will hopefully be concrete action.

    December 8, 2010

    Bangladesh Minister: ‘We Are Struggling With The Impacts Of Climate Change’

    Filed under: Climate Change — Matt Dernoga @ 11:20 am
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    After US Senator and climate denier James Inhofe criticized the Obama administration for appropriating $1.3 billion dollars into a climate fund for developing countries struggling to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, climate scientists struck back.  Now the Bangladesh Environmental Minister of one of the most vulnerable countries to sea level rise in the world has this to say in Cancun in response to Inhofe

    December 6, 2010

    The Emerging Role of Mexico in Climate Policy

    Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:06 am
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    International climate negotiations are taking place in Cancun at the moment, and although there are low expectations for progress, the host county Mexico stands out as a bright spot.  Mexico is one of the few developing nations that’s taking significant action, and according to this recent Washington Post article much of the credit goes to their President Felipe Calderon who is apparently “obsessed by climate change”.  Some of Mexico’s successes on reducing greenhouse gas emissions show the value of having a strong leader on climate issues, especially considering all of the other challenges Mexico is facing.  Excerpts are posted below.

    “Mexico is battling billionaire drug mafias armed with bazookas, but when President Felipe Calderon ranks the threats his country faces, he worries more about methane gas, dwindling forests and dirty refineries.”

    “The president is extremely engaged and very committed. He has instructed us to move, and move now, and not wait for anybody else,” said Fernando Tudela, the deputy secretary of planning and environmental policy.”

    Mexico is raising efficiency standards and helping citizens replace old refrigerators and air conditioners that don’t meet them. It is ratcheting up mandatory emissions controls for vehicles and struggling to reduce the number of aging, heavily polluting buses on its roads. Government lenders are offering “green mortgages” with lower interest rates to home buyers who insulate windows or install solar panels.

    Officials are having landfills covered to trap methane gas and planning power plants fueled by garbage; the first such plant will be built in Monterrey. The state oil company,Pemex, has promised to slash the amount of methane it wastes at its refineries by creating cogeneration energy plants.

    By 2012, if it stays on track, Mexico will have reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 50 million tons, equal to the carbon produced by 45 days of domestic oil production.”

    “This is not easy. For the locals, there is short-term gain in clearing forest land to grow corn or raise cattle, and there is a huge gap between Mexico’s richest citizens and the 50 percent who live in poverty. Massive government reforestation campaigns, such as ProArbol, have mostly withered, derailed by corruption, incompetence and the planting of saplings that were not suited to the environment and quickly died.

    Like others, the government of Mexico has a long tradition of announcing lofty ambitions – for education, against poverty – only to see the goals quietly forgotten over the long haul. And fighting climate change is a marathon, according to everyone.

    “There is a huge potential for green growth in Mexico,” said Tudela. “We would like to prove that a developing country can mitigate and adapt to climate change without hurting the economy. We want to prove that in Mexico.”

     

     

     

    December 1, 2010

    Secretary Chu – Is the Energy Race our New “Sputnik” Moment?

    Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:30 pm
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    A must see video by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu about the crucial need for the United States to invest in the energy technologies of the future.

    Oil drilling ban to be maintained in key areas

    Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:18 pm
    Tags:

    According to the Washington Post, the offshore drilling ban will be maintained in “key areas”

    “Obama administration officials will announce Wednesday afternoon they will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as part of the next five-year drilling plan, according to sources briefed on the plan, reversing two key policy changes President Obama announced in late March.”

    This would be a significant departure from the announcements in March in a very good way.

    November 30, 2010

    Greenpeace Sues Dow, Sasol, Dezenhall for Corporate Spying, RICO

    Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt Dernoga @ 3:05 am
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    Looks like trouble!  See more information on the lawsuit here, and the Washington Post article here.  In case you like long reading, here’s Greenpeace’s complaint.

    November 29, 2010

    Column: Building a green campus

    Congratulations to Sam Rivers for getting his Op-Ed published in the Diamondback.  Sam is a new member of the University of Maryland Student group UMD for Clean Energy, and he stepped right in by writing a column to the student newspaper about the need for the massive East Campus redevelopment project to be an ambitious green development.  Back when I was Campaign Director of the group as a senior last spring, we organized a successful event that put pressure on the university to stipulate in its RFP (request for proposal) that sustainable development was a top priority, and had to be one for any prospective developer.  Some  members of  the group met with The Cordish Companies'(the selected developer) development director and their design team last month to discuss students demands for a cutting edge green development, and listen to what the design team was planning.

    UMD for Clean Energy at the Cordish Companies Headquarters

    Now with the developer’s first public forum set for tomorrow, the group is looking to generate student and community support for rebuilding downtown College Park into a sustainable community that others can look to.  Below is Sam’s column discussing East Campus and this forum.

    Guest column: Building a green campus

    Last Monday, I attended my first UMD for Clean Energy meeting. The group’s purpose is to advocate for sustainability on and around the campus. As an environmental science and policy major, I had been wanting to check it out.

    Discussion focused on East Campus, a proposed development to be built across Route 1 by the university in partnership with The Cordish Companies. To my surprise, I learned the development is not just one new dorm but an entire community spanning from Fraternity Row to Paint Branch Parkway — an area about six times the size of McKeldin Mall. This vast expanse will include student housing, restaurants and retail space. Furthermore, completing the project will require ripping out multiple existing buildings.

    In 2009, this university unveiled a Climate Action Plan, a document that commits the university to carbon neutrality by 2050. East Campus will be included in the university’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory, and the East Campus buildings will last for decades. To have any hope of achieving the 2050 goal, the East Campus community must be built with sustainability in mind.

    What would the university and The Cordish Companies have to do to build sustainably? To begin, East Campus should have walking and biking paths and must be connected to the rest of the campus by quick and reliable bus routes. There should be sufficient green space for rainwater to sink into the soil so that runoff does not pollute waterways.

    Constructing rooftop gardens and building paths with water-permeable pavement could be important components of this more natural stormwater management system. Most importantly, buildings must be constructed with sustainable materials and be energy efficient. The university currently requires new buildings to earn a Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design Silver certification — the third highest ranking in a commonly accepted ranking system for green construction. But building to LEED Gold standards would affirm the university as a nationwide leader in sustainable development and move us one step closer to carbon neutrality.

    The campus’s Climate Action Plan requires reducing waste and pushing the envelope on energy efficiency. But this will not happen without student involvement. So here’s where you come in: Tomorrow there will be a forum in Ritchie Coliseum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., when the East Campus project will be put up for public commentary. The Coliseum is easily accessible by taking the Shuttle-UM Blue route bus or crossing Route 1 at The Dairy. The more people who  come to ask questions about this development’s environmental impact, the more seriously sustainability will factor into construction. You can also sign the petition for a greener East Campus at http://www.umdforcleanenergy.org. Maps of the proposed site, a flyer for the forum, East Campus’ history and more can be found at http://www.eastcampus.umd.edu.

    Sam Rivers is a freshman environmental science and policy major. He can be reached at brivers at umd dot edu.

    Give me a break Washington Post!

    Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:46 am
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    Look at that Solar Plant Destroying the Environment!

    There’s a recently posted article on the Washington Post about how $2 billion of the stimulus money the Obama Administration doled out avoided review under the National Environmental Policy Act, which basically means they avoided having to get a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement(EIS).  Now, if this money was given out to projects with a net negative impact on pollution and the environment, I would join in on the criticism, but give me a break!  Just looking at the examples the Washington Post uses makes it crystal clear to me why these projects received exemptions.  They list a smart-grid update, a wind farm project, a biofuel from algae project.  All are the kinds of projects we need to be investing in to reduce our impact on the environment.  We need a trillion more dollars for projects like these, and we need them fast not just because of jobs, but because the world needs to deploy a massive amount of clean energy technology in order to avoid catastrophic global warming.  The Obama Administration sums it up well…

    “Administration officials say the exemptions were essential to accelerate more than $30 billion in stimulus-funded clean-energy projects through the Energy Department, which already have created 35,000 jobs. In the long run, they add, the exempted activities will boost energy efficiency and curb pollution.

    It makes complete sense to me that there should be different environmental standards for a wind farm than a coal plant.

    The other minor-story the Post reports on is that some of the companies doing these green projects and received these exemptions aren’t exactly saints in the environmental arena.  Now, if I were the guy in chance doling out grants for projects, I would choose a company with a clean record over one with a dirty one, but the unfortunate reality is that most of these companies  have dirty records.  Find me a green oil company that I can give an algae biofuel grant for.  There are none!  I should add that I ultimately want the dirty companies to start doing clean energy projects.  That’s what environmental activists rightfully spend a lot of time doing, protesting dirty investments by corporations while pressuring them to make clean ones.  So if Duke Energy has a history of building coal plants, and it decides it wants to build a wind farm, I’m not going to throw a fit!  Heck, I’ll tell them to build two.

    What we don’t need is more hyped up negative stories to the public about how clean energy projects are dodging environmental regulations intended for dirty ones.

    November 27, 2010

    Looking for Climate Solutions in Cancun

    Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:45 pm
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    The next round of international climate negotiations through the UN are going to begin soon in Cancun, Mexico.  It’s no secret last year’s summit in Copenhagen was a major disappointment to environmental groups and climate activists, and there aren’t very high expectations for Cancun to correct course.  However, we should obviously be looking to move forward wherever we can in the short-term while continuing to press for a long-term framework.  The NY Times has published an editorial with a couple of suggests for how this progress can take place.  I’m republishing parts below…

    “But carbon dioxide is not the only kind of pollution that contributes to global warming. Other potent warming agents include three short-lived gases — methane, some hydrofluorocarbons and lower atmospheric ozone — and dark soot particles. The warming effect of these pollutants, which stay in the atmosphere for several days to about a decade, is already about 80 percent of the amount that carbon dioxide causes. The world could easily and quickly reduce these pollutants; the technology and regulatory systems needed to do so are already in place.

    Take methane, for example, which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in causing warming. It is emitted by coal mines, landfills, rice paddies and livestock. And because it is the main ingredient in natural gas, it leaks from many older natural-gas pipelines. With relatively minor changes — for example, replacing old gas pipelines, better managing the water used in rice cultivation (so that less of the rice rots) and collecting the methane emitted by landfills — it would be possible to lower methane emissions by 40 percent. Since saved methane is a valuable fuel, some of this effort could pay for itself.”

    “Ozone, which is formed in the lower atmosphere from carbon monoxide, methane and other gases emitted by human activity, is a particularly hazardous component of urban smog. And every year it causes tens of billions of dollars in damage to crops worldwide. So pollution restrictions that reduce ozone levels, especially in the rapidly growing polluted cities of Asia, could both clear the air and slow warming.”

    “Soot likewise offers an opportunity to marry local interests with the global good. A leading cause of respiratory diseases, soot is responsible for some 1.9 million deaths a year. It also melts ice and snow packs. Thus, sooty emissions from Asia, Europe and North America are helping to thin the Arctic ice. And soot from India, China and a few other countries threatens water supplies fed by the Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers.”

    “Credibility is especially important for the United States. It can already offer the world much of the technology and regulatory expertise that will be needed to reduce short-lived pollutants, particularly ozone and soot. Some American efforts are under way to share these technologies, including a program to help provide better cookstoves for people in developing countries. By making such programs more visible and demonstrating that they deliver tangible results, and by establishing a realistic plan for cutting its own emissions at home, the United States could show that it is serious about addressing climate change.”

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