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Found 8 results

  1. What are countries really bringing to the negotiating table when the world meets to thrash out a greenhouse deal in Paris this year? The stakes are high – the hoped-for deal at the 2015 summit will be the first since the landmark Kyoto Protocol in 1992, and could commit countries to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020. Throughout the year, countries will submit draft contributions known as INDCs or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. These may be baselines and targets (such as 40% below 1990 levels by 2030), but may also take other forms. Contributions will be submitted through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change here. To read an explainer of INDCs and how they fit into a global climate deal, click here. The Conversation will be tracking these contributions as they are submitted through the interactive map below. Click on countries to view contributions and other climate stats. Notes: This map was compiled with the assistance of Pep Canadell, Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project. Emissions (all greenhouse gases): total greenhouse gas emissions within a country, expressed in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). This excludes emissions from land use, land use change, and forestry. Source: EDGAR Emissions per capita (all greenhouse gases): total greenhouse emissions within a country for each person, expressed in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). Source: EDGAR Emissions growth (CO2 only): growth in total carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuel 2010-2011. Source: Global Carbon Project Emissions transfer (CO2 only): fossil fuel emissions minus consumption emissions (carbon dioxide emissions generated elsewhere in the production of goods and services consumed within a country). A negative value shows that a country “outsources” some of its carbon dioxide emissions to other countries, and a positive value means the country is exporting more carbon in goods and services than it imports. Source: Global Carbon Project
  2. New research shows that our existing economic models “grossly underestimate” the costs of climate change. As a result, current carbon prices are 10 to 20 times lower than they need to be to stop catastrophic climate change. The shocking (but somewhat not surprising) findings are presented in a new study by leading climate economist Nicholas Stern and co-author Simon Dietz, from the UK’s Grantham Research Institute. According to their research we need a globally coordinated carbon price of $32 to $103 per tonne of emissions, as early as next year. And within two decades the price need to almost triple and rise to $82-260 per tonne of carbon emissions. Current carbon prices are much, much lower than this. In the European Union, a tonne of carbon emissions costs €5.7 or about $7.7. In California a tonne of carbon emissions - despite having one of the world’s highest carbon price - only costs around $12. The report, which will be published in the Economic Journal, came to this conclusion after reviewing the DICE-model, a widely-used economic model developed by Yale Professor Bill Nordhaus in 1991. This model by Nordhaus has served as a basis for other major climate studies – such as the recent IPCC report. The problem though is that the DICE-model is based on data of the climate impacts we had knowledge about in the 90s. But nowadays, that data is old as we now know that the climate impacts are much worse than we previously expected. Unfortunately, the usage of this old model has led to a severe underestimation of the taxes and fees required. “It is extremely important to understand the severe limitations of standard economic models, such as those cited in the IPCC report, which have made assumptions that simply do not reflect current knowledge about climate change and its [...] impacts on the economy,” Stern said. The revised economic model by Stern and Dietz takes into account new and updated climate data. It also calculates that the ability to generate new wealth would be affected by climate change – due to climate impacts such as extreme weather, destruction of coastal and water infrastructure, and so on. “The new version of this standard economic model, for instance, suggests that the risks from climate change are bigger than portrayed by previous economic models and therefore strengthens the case for strong cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases,” Dietz said.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Emissions shrank rapidly during the recession, then bounced back slightly as the economy recovered. But shifting market conditions, pollution regulations, and changing behaviors are also behind the decline. Oil is the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States. After a steep drop following the 1979 oil crisis, emissions from oil climbed steadily until 2005, when they peaked at 715 million tons of carbon. Since then, these emissions have fallen by 14 percent, or 101 million tons of carbon - the equivalent of taking 77 million cars off the road. (See data.) Oil is mostly used for transportation, so vehicle fuel efficiency and the number of miles driven determine the amount of emissions. On both fronts things are improving. Average fuel efficiency, which had been deteriorating for years in the United States, started to increase in 2005 and keeps getting better. Americans are traveling farther on each gallon of gas than ever before. Furthermore, people are driving less. For many years Americans as a group drove billions more miles each year than the previous one. But in 2007 this changed. Now more cars stay parked because more people live in urban areas, opt for public transit, work remotely, or retire and thus no longer commute to work. Coal - the dirtiest fossil fuel - has dominated the U.S. power grid, but its grip has weakened in recent years. As the price of natural gas has fallen, utilities are dropping coal. They are also deciding to retire old, inefficient coal plants and invest elsewhere rather than pay for retrofits in order to meet increasingly stringent pollution regulations. Strong grassroots work, too, is helping to close the curtain on coal even faster. The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, which coordinates efforts across the country to retire old plants and prevent new ones from being built, tallies 149 coal plants that plan to retire or switch fuels out of more than 500. As falling natural gas prices, pollution regulations, and shrinking electricity demand reduce coal use, U.S. carbon emissions from coal have fallen 20 percent from their peak in 2005. Meanwhile, natural gas consumption for electricity generation and heating has increased. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning natural gas hit an all-time high of 373 million tons of carbon in 2012, up 17 percent above 2006 levels. They are projected to remain at that level in 2013. Natural gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy as coal does. With domestic production on the rise, the share of carbon emissions from natural gas are likely to continue to increase. But electricity does not have to come with a huge carbon hangover. Wind and solar power - carbon-free energy sources with no fuel costs - have been taking off. U.S. wind power capacity has more than tripled since 2007 and now produces enough energy to power over 15 million homes in the United States. Solar power capacity, starting from a smaller base, increased 14-fold in the same time period. Although wind and solar power currently account for only a small share of total energy production, their prices will continue to drop as deployment increases. In some areas wind is already cheaper than coal. This is just the beginning of reductions in carbon dioxide emissions as the explosive growth of wind and solar power cuts down the use of dirty fossil fuels. The switch to renewables cannot come soon enough. Accumulating greenhouse gas emissions from the United States and other countries have led to a global temperature increase of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since the Industrial Revolution. Higher emissions will lead to higher temperatures that will bring more heat waves, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels. In 2009, President Obama set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Putting a price on carbon would help accelerate the trends that are cutting the United States' carbon contribution and allow the country to exceed this goal. By Emily E. Adams. For more information on the U.S. transition to wind power, see "Iowa and South Dakota Approach 25 Percent Electricity from Wind in 2012," by J. Matthew Roney. Photo credit: freefotouk (cc).
  8. China is number one, in greenhouse gas emissions that is. A report from the University of California says that Chinas greenhouse gas emissions have been "underestimated" and that the country probably took the number one position from USA in 2006-2007. According to the research "unchecked future growth will dwarf any emissions cuts made by rich nations under the Kyoto Protocol." Dr Auffhammer, lead researcher, said in an interview with BBC that: "Our figures for emissions growth are truly shocking. But there is no sense pointing a finger at the Chinese. They are trying to pull people out of poverty and they clearly need help. The only solution is for a massive transfer of technology and wealth from the West." And he is of course correct. A large part of the western industries have moved to China and other development and low-cost countries. China, for example, produces the gadgets, clothes and other stuff that we, in the western world, consume. It also doesn't really matter if China is the top carbon polluter in the world. They still have a low per capita levels of pollution compared to USA. USA's per capita levels are around five to six times higher than China. The UN insists "that rich countries with high per capita levels of pollution must cut emissions first, and help poorer countries to invest in clean technology." And just like Dr Auffhammer said, China and the other development countries are just doing it the same way we did when we become developed countries. It is of course sad and extremely bad that China is now polluting the most. But emissions in USA, Europe and elsewhere are still growing. Not a single developed country today is doing enough, so why should the poorer countries be held responsible?