Earlier this month, the parliament in Finland passed a new climate change act that obliges the country to reduce its emissions with 80 percent by 2050. Ville Niinisto, the Minister of the Environment, said that the new climate change legislation "is an attempt to establish Finland as a leader in low-carbon society."

Besides the emission reduction targets the new climate change act also contains measures to improve climate policies and responsibilities for various state authorities, as well as a planning and monitoring system.

The new climate change act mainly targets the public sector and does not impose any new obligations on businesses or other operators in Finland. Instead, the new climate laws will act as a tool for the Finnish Government and Parliament to make sure that the public sector and state authorities in the country reach their emission reduction targets.

“Climate change and the efforts to mitigate it will change the world and human activities substantially in the coming decades,” Niinisto said. “The Climate Change Act will improve the operations of the public sector in terms of smart societal planning, so that Finland will still remain competitive while we work to reduce climate emissions.”

The climate change act includes both medium-term and long-term plans to make sure that Finland actually reaches their reduction targets by 2050. The long-term plan will contain various options for reaching the 80 percent reduction target and will have to be approved by the Parliament at least once every ten years. The medium-term plan concerns reduction measures against emissions outside the emissions trading scheme – such as traffic, housing and agriculture. These reduction measures will need to be approved once per election term.

In a recent poll, surveying the public’s opinions about the new climate laws, nearly 80 percent of the respondents said that they approved the new act. So public support for the new climate laws seems to be strong, but criticism from industry representatives remains. But Niinisto rejects fears that the new climate laws could hamper the Finnish industry and bring about additional costs for businesses.

“In fact, this is an opportunity for Finnish industries,” Niinisto argued. “It’s a breakthrough that so many sectors seek to address these issues. We will commit to the emissions cuts cost-effectively in order to ensure that the economy thrives and the well-being of citizens increases,” Niinisto assured. “We will avoid unreasonable costs.”
A new poll shows that Americans are willing to pay more to curb climate change. The very same poll also shows that people are more likely to support politicians that seeks to address the climate crisis.

According to the Bloomberg National Poll, nearly a two-to-one margin, 62 percent to 33 percent, say they are prepared to pay more for energy if it would result in a reduction of carbon emissions. “It is a rare poll where people responding will stand up and say ‘tax me,’” said J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll for Bloomberg.

The result differs depending on people’s political affiliations. Only 46 percent of Republicans are willing to accept higher energy bills, with 49 percent being against such climate policies. This result can be compared to the 82 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents who are in favor of higher energy bills to curb carbon emissions.

Government officials expect that, if approved, Obama’s historic plan to cut carbon emissions will result in a 10 percent increase in electric utility rates by 2030.

More than half of the respondents – mainly female, young and independent people – say they want to see climate policies from the U.S. government. They would also back candidates in the midterm elections that supports political measures to curb climate change. But again, the poll shows the deep divide between U.S. political lines. 70 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents say they are more likely to support pro-climate candidates. But only 28 percent of Republicans would do the same.

The Bloomberg poll also shows that a majority see climate change as a threat, with 46 percent of the respondents classifying it as a “major” threat and 27 percent as a “minor threat.” Disappointingly, it seems that 43 percent of the respondents believe that climate scientists “manipulate their findings for political reasons” – with only 48 percent saying that they “trust” the warnings from scientists.
In a rather surprising and unprecedented move, Tesla Motors, the U.S. electric car company, has announced that they will allow their competitors to use their patents. Tesla Motors is giving access to its patents in an effort to spur the global use of green electric cars to address the climate crisis. At least that’s what Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors, claimed in a post on the company’s blog.

“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” Musk wrote. “If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

According to Musk, Tesla Motors originally created the patents for fears that the larger car companies would simply copy their electric car technology and sidestep Musk and his car company with their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power.

“We couldn’t have been more wrong,” Musk said. “At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all.”

Global vehicle production is nearing 100 million cars per year but not even one percent of these are electric cars, or vehicles that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons. Considering that the global car fleet is nearing two billion, Musk believes that Tesla Motors competition are not other car manufactories, instead it’s all the gasoline cars that rolls out of factories every single day.

“It is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis,” Musk said. “We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.”

But Musk and Tesla Motors is not only doing this to fight climate change, or because they represent some sort of new philanthropic, open-source corporate movement.

Tesla Motors are expected to build a huge factory, nicknamed the Gigafactory, in the U.S. that will produce the company’s unique batteries. These cylindrical batteries are the key feature that allow electric cars from Tesla Motors to double, or even triple, its driving range compared to other electric vehicles.

“Even if other competitors copy Tesla’s design, Tesla still gets to sell them batteries, and that’s pretty awesome. Tesla’s decision isn’t entirely altruistic,” patent law expert Jacob Sherkow told the Los Angeles Times.
A new study warns that we are on the brink of another mass extinction, with species of animals and plants becoming extinct up to 1000 times faster than they did before humans populated Earth. “We are on the verge of the sixth extinction,” said Stuart Pimm, the study’s lead author and biologist of Duke University to AP. “Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions.”

Great extinctions that have wiped out the majority of life has struck Earth at least five times before. The dinosaurs who walked the earth about 66 million years ago was wiped away in such a mass extinction. But while previous mass extinctions have been the result of asteroids or methane spewing microbes, this next great extinction will largely be the result of human activities.

The study notes how man-made climate change will cause a sudden rise in temperatures and acidification in our oceans making traditional habitats unlivable for countless of species - a phenomenon which can already be observed today.

The biggest cause for the mass extinction is habitat loss, the study says. Species are losing their home as more and more places are being built, developed and altered by humans. Other factors include overfishing and invasive species taking over new areas previously populated by native species.

That mass extinctions are occurring today is nothing new to scientists, but this study calculates not just the number of species being wiped away, it also shows the actual rate of extinction before and after humans. In 1995, scientists calculated that before humans populated the Earth, one out of 1 million species went extinct every year. Now, after new data and research, the rate is between 100 to 1000 species. But the trend can be reversed, Pimm notes. We need to find out where vulnerable species are located and preserve their habitats – before it’s too late.

Read the study: The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection
The California Fish and Game Commission voted on June 4 to grant endangered species protections to gray wolves. This is the first time the state has stepped into the issue over the species, which is losing protection and being killed in several states, and which is expanding to territories it had not inhabited for decades in others.

One such territory might be the Golden State itself, where a gray wolf pup was spotted in the northern part of the state in 2011. Environment authorities believe that pup later found a mate and began denning in Oregon. California now joins Oregon and Washington in providing safe passage for these wolves that are repopulating their former range. This comes at a time when wolves in other states have not been so lucky; 80 percent of those in Wyoming can be shot on sight after the state marked them a "trophy game animal."

Environmental groups thus applauded California for making the correct choice on gray wolves. Amaroq Weiss, of the Center for Biological Diversity, remarked, "The Pacific states are the last, best place for wolves. We have the progressive attitudes and social values where people embrace wildlife, no matter if it's got teeth or claws."

Experts believe the wolves denning in Oregon will eventually establish a pack in northern California. Damon Nagami, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, declared, "While other states bicker and quarrel, California adds the latest chapter to one of the world's greatest biological success stories. The dispersal of wolves out of the northern Rockies will help to bring balance to other ecosystems in need of their stabilizing influence."

Gray wolves have taken much flak from oppositional groups, which include hunters and ranchers. They have been called everything from "killing machines that gut calves for fun" to "coyotes on steroids that will take livestock, attack ranchers, and ruin the industry." These claims, however, are greatly exaggerated, and do not match up with the fact that gray wolves' population in such areas continues to be sparse. In Oregon, there are only a little over two dozen wolves, and this is the result of a reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park that began as far back as 1995.

California Fish and Game Commission member Michael Sutton, a former Yellowstone ranger, said, "There is no more iconic animal in the American West than this one. We owe it to them to do everything we can to help them recolonize their historic range in our state."

The Sierra Club stated, "Wolves are among the most charismatic animals in America. The howl of the wolf is emblematic of our country's last wild areas, a reminder of strength and beauty in the natural world. Wolves are vitally important to maintaining the natural balance, culling out weak and sick animals to keep populations in check. The rippling benefits of wolf reintroduction can be seen throughout the region - from the reappearance of willow and aspen trees, to the return of beavers, and increased populations of red foxes. Nevertheless, habitat loss, unregulated hunting, and negative stereotypes continue to reduce their numbers."

This article was originally published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
John Knox, UN Independent Expert on human rights and the environment, called today on nations to do more to protect human rights activists and environmental defenders. Knox plea comes on World Environment Day and highlights a world that is increasingly becoming more hostile and deadly against activists. Knox also linked the effects of climate change, pollution and environmental degradation to human rights.

“Environmental degradation, including harm from climate change, desertification, air and water pollution, and exposure to toxic substances, impairs the enjoyment of a vast range of human rights, including the right to life, to health and to an adequate standard of living,” Knox said.

“As States implement their human rights obligations relating to the environment,” Knox continued, “they should pay particular attention to the threats against environmental human rights defenders – those who strive to protect the environment for the benefit of us all.”

A recent study by Global Witness shows that, on average, two environmental activists have been killed each week over the past four years. The report found that these eco-murders have tripled over the past decade. 147 activists were killed in 2012, compared to 51 activists only ten years earlier. Shockingly, almost none of the killers have faced charges from authorities.

“Environmental defenders are at the front line of efforts to protect us all from the severe impact of environmental degradation on the enjoyment of human rights,” Knox said. “States must do more to protect environmental human rights defenders from threats, and to promptly investigate threats and killings when they occur.”

The study shows that at least 908 people have been killed in what largely are disputes over industrial logging, mining and land rights between2002 and 2013. Violence against activists are particularly common in Latin America and Asia-Pacific. Global Witness notes that there is a “severe shortage” of monitoring surrounding the death of environmental activists – and that the number of killings is “likely” to be much higher than what their study shows. “This lack of attention is feeding endemic levels of impunity, with just over one per cent of the perpetrators known to have been convicted,” the organization writes.

Also read:
Murdered because they wanted to protect the environment
Brazilian rainforest activist murdered
Amazon loggers captured a young tribe girl and burned her alive

In what could become a defining moment in environmental history, President Obama unveiled a plan on June 2 to cut carbon emissions by nearly a third within 15 years. It is the centerpiece of a larger climate action plan, and could prove to be one of the most important initiatives ever to fight climate change.

"Right now," said Obama, "there are no national limits to the amount of carbon pollution that existing plants can pump into the air we breathe - none. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur, and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water. But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It's not smart, it's not safe, and it doesn't make sense."

The plan is already facing a wave of hostility from Republicans, who believe it will kill jobs. Obama dismissed this criticism, noting, "Special interests and their allies in Congress will claim that these guidelines will kill jobs and crush the economy. But let's face it, that's what they always say. They warned that doing something about the smog choking our cities, and acid rain poisoning our lakes, would kill business. It didn't. Our air got cleaner, acid rain was cut dramatically, and our economy kept growing." In fact, if this carbon reduction goal is met, it could produce "net climate and health benefits totaling $48-82 billion," according to the EPA.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the new rules would be critical in moving the rest of Obama's climate action plan forward. "The EPA is delivering on a vital piece of the plan by proposing a clean power plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from plants. This is not just about disappearing polar bears and melting ice caps. This is about protecting our health, our homes, our local economies, and our jobs."

Pollution reduction targets will vary based on what is best for each state; for example, the Rust Belt relies heavily on coal-fired plants, but some states, like Iowa, now generate over 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources. Plans will thus be adjusted accordingly. Some activists believe the state-by-state setup could be problematic, particularly in those that heavily lean on coal. Indiana, for instance, gets 80 percent of its electricity from coal. Republican Gov. Mike Pence vowed to fight the plan, remarking, "Indiana will oppose these regulations using every means available."

Obama's counselor John Podesta addressed the concerns, stating, "While I am sure there will be holdouts amongst the states, most utilities will also want to work with their regulators to ensure successful implementation." He acknowledged that Republicans will "find various ways to try and stop us from using the authority we have under the Clean Air Act. All I would say is that those have zero percent chance of working, and we're committed to moving forward."

Greenpeace applauded the ruling, remarking, "The plan shows that President Obama is serious about pushing the power sector away from coal and toward renewable energy, and that commitment couldn't come any sooner. Global warming is already affecting the lives of Americans in every single corner of our country, and things will get dramatically worse if we don't switch from coal, gas, and oil to renewables like wind and solar."

In a separate statement, Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaign director Gabe Wisniewski warned that the opposition would come not just from right-wing politicians, but industries and lobbyists like the American Legislative Exchange Council. While that pushback is to be expected, he added, it makes little sense, as "the most successful and innovative businesses in the country are sprinting to adopt renewable energy."

"The President promised he would act to tackle the climate crisis and protect the health of our children and grandchildren, and he is keeping his word," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "These aren't just the first-ever protections to clean up carbon pollution from power plants, they also represent the largest single step any president has ever taken to fight climate disruption."

EcoWatch founder and CEO Stefanie Spear said June 2 was "a really historic day for our country. These guidelines will help foster clean energy and efficiency while cleaning up the nation's air. We really need to show how renewables do work. We can power our country from wind, from solar, from other renewable sources, and energy efficiency has a vital role in all of this."

Sheryl Carter, co-director of the National Resources Defense Council's energy program, added, "Energy efficiency is the cheapest, fastest, and cleanest way to cut carbon emissions, and it benefits local communities enormously by putting people to work and lowering bills. We are already seeing clear examples of efficiency in action, with huge job and money-savings benefits based on real-world experience by states. This analysis shows that carbon standards that use efficiency as a key strategy will expand these benefits to a much bigger scale. We need to do this now."

This article was originally published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
One day after the US unveiled their plan to cut carbon emissions with 20 percent by 2030, a top senior adviser to the Chinese government said that the country will set limits to their carbon emissions from 2016.

Reuters report that He Jiankun, chairman of China's Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing earlier today that China will introduce an absolute cap on carbon emissions from 2016. “The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap,” He said.

Although later during the day He seemed to downplay his earlier comments, saying that he was only expressing his “personal view” and that they do not represent the views of the Chinese government - potentially after pressure from the latter. “What I said today was my personal view,” He said. “The opinions expressed at the workshop were only meant for academic studies. What I said does not represent the Chinese government or any organization.”

If China were to set a cap on their carbon emissions, it would be a major game changer for international climate talks. So far these talks have suffered from a North versus South, rich versus poor, divide where the U.S. and China have been arguing over who should take the first step to limit carbon emissions.

“The Chinese announcement marks potentially the most important turning point in the global scene on climate change for a decade,” said Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate policy at University College London, to Reuters.

In 2006, China dethroned the U.S. and became the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and their emissions continue to rise steadily. A cap on carbon emissions is therefore very much needed, but the actual impact of such a cap is dependent on which limit and sector its applied to.

“Interesting hint from Beijing, although the key point will be where (the cap) is set. If ambitious and announced well in advance of Paris, it could be a game changer,” Connie Hedegaard, Climate Action Commissioner for the European Union, said in a response.

Following the announcement from the U.S. yesterday and today’s hint from China, things are clearly starting to move again after the huge failure in Copenhagen back in 2009. The big climate summit in Paris next year will be exciting. But it’s doubtful that China will, and even can, limit their carbon emissions before 2030.
Today the Obama administration announced its plan to cut 30 percent of carbon emissions from power plants by 2030. The new emission standards are historic and are called the strongest action taken by the U.S. so far to curb the effects of climate change. It’s also the first time ever that an American president wants to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that the Clean Power Plan would ensure a healthier environment, spur innovation and strengthen the economy and create jobs. “Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” McCarthy said. “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids.”

Coal lobbyist say the plan will create an energy crisis and force hundreds of coal plants to close. But experts say that investments in renewable energy, an industry that already employs 6.5 million people globally, will “explode” as a result of Obama’s new proposal.

“If you’re working in the solar or wind industry, you should feel very happy right now. Those are the industries growing faster than the rest of economy,” Mike Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said to Al Jazeera America. “It’s clear that those are going to be the industries to work in, invest in and watch. They’re about to explode in terms of growth.”

If the proposal goes through, it could lead to a transformation of the whole energy economy in America, as well as playing a vital role in international climate negotiations – successfully putting pressure on China and India to also limit their use of coal.

The new proposal, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), mainly targets the country’s 600 coal plants and would result in a 30 percent reduction by 2030 from carbon levels recorded in 2005. The 2005 baseline is politically important as it makes the target much easier to hit. Carbon emissions were much lower at this time than only a few years back. In 2013, the emissions were 10 percent lower compared to only eight years prior. Setting a baseline much further back would have made a bigger impact on climate change – but it would also make the proposal harder to sell.

Despite this, the reactions from environmental groups are generally positive but they stress that Obama, and the plan, can do much more. “The new rule shows that the Obama administration is serious about taking action on climate change, but the Administration could and should strengthen it considerably,” Greenpeace director Gabe Wisniewski said in a statement.

But the plan might not come into effect until 2017 or 2018 – long after Obama has left office. First, the plan is open for public comment until June next year. After that, all 50 states will participate in a regulatory process where they will determine how to reduce their emissions. The 30 percent target is for all of U.S., this means that targets for individual states varies depending on their current usage of coal. The state of Ohio will have a target of 28 percent, while Kentucky and Wyoming only have to cut emissions by 18 and 19 percent respectively. The proposal could potentially also be in jeopardy if the Republicans were to form an administration before it becomes law.
Earlier this week, a group of Greenpeace activists climbed onto an oil rig belonging to Statoil, a Norwegian state-owned oil and gas company. The oil rig was being moved to its new drilling location in the Barents Sea, located near the unique Arctic habitat of Bear Island – a protected nature reserve home to countless of sea birds, polar bears and other wildlife. The activists managed to “occupy” the oil rig for 48 hours before they were forcefully removed by Norwegian police.

Following the arrest of its activists, Greenpeace decided to block the actual drilling site with its ship the Esperanza. The activists rejected the coast guard's demands to move the ship. As a result, Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum informed Greenpeace that the government had created a “safety zone” around the drilling site. And early this morning, the Norwegian coast guard boarded Esperanza and started towing it away.

Because Esperanza was outside of Norwegian territorial waters, Greenpeace believes that the boarding violates international law.

“There is no reason why the Esperanza should have to make way for oil companies to drill here because of the abrupt and irregular declaration of a safety zone,” said Greenpeace International legal counsel Daniel Simons. “Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, foreign vessels enjoy freedom of navigation through the Exclusive Economic Zone. We certainly have as much right to be here as companies drilling for Arctic oil," Simons explained.

Greenpeace also delivered a petition from over 120,000 people to Tine Sundtoft, the Norwegian Environment minister, asking her to reconsider the decision to allow drilling near Bear Island, a protected nature reserve.

“I took action in Russia last year to stop exactly the same recklessness as I can see here in Norway. We ask everyone to tell the Norwegian government to stop this dangerous rush into the beautiful Arctic environment and rethink its increasingly desperate hunt for oil,” said 32 year old Sini Saarela from Finland, who spent over two months in Russian prison for climbing another Arctic oil rig in September last year.

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Green Blog has been online since 2007. We have green news from authors around the world, environment forums and member blogs.

We believe that human and civil rights, global peace, equality and democracy all plays central roles in safeguarding our environment and improving - in a sustainable and non-destructive way - the lives of all people on this fragile planet. Green Blog encourage people to take direct non-violent action against CO2 emitting sources and protest against the current climate change inaction.