Climate Change News November 14, 2011

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
November 14, 2011



Keystone XL Pipeline Decision Delayed until 2013, Climate Change Cited as Concern

The Obama Administration announced it would delay its decision on whether to authorize construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline until 2013. In a State Department press release, officials cited several factors that contributed to the decision, including concerns about the environmental sensitivity of the Sands Hill area of Nebraska, through which the pipeline would be built. The November 10 statement announced the Administration will now conduct a thorough reassessment of proposed pipeline route alternatives. In addition, the release also noted, “Among the relevant issues that would be considered are environmental concerns (including climate change), energy security, economic impacts, and foreign policy.”

For additional information see: Washington Post, State Department

Obama Administration Renews Plan to Regulate CO2 Emissions

On November 8, the Obama Administration announced intentions to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants. The rule, titled “Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Electric Utility Steam Generating Units,” would be the first rule that allows the EPA to enforce standards for new power plants. New regulations about greenhouse gas emissions have been delayed by Republican lawmakers claiming that actions of the EPA will result in fewer jobs. Opponents claim that economic costs of the rule will outweigh environmental benefits. The proposed regulation follows a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act if it found greenhouse gases to be a danger to public health, which EPA confirmed in a 2008 endangerment finding.

For additional information see: LA Times

Georgetown Climate Center Introduces Online Forum to Share Climate Change Tools

The Georgetown Climate Center recently launched the Adaptation Clearinghouse, an online tool to find and share resources and information that pertain to climate change policy issues and adaptation measures. This new online community will serve as a database of new research about climate change adaptation, as well as a forum to spread newly developed models and techniques. Some of the recent resources shared in the online community include a comprehensive model that explores sea level rise and coastal land use, and an adaptation plan for the city of Chula Vista that weighs the potential infrastructural impacts of climate change on the city. The Georgetown Climate Center is a nonpartisan group that aims to connect policymakers and share best practices and resources concerning climate change.

For additional information see: Georgetown Climate Center

Pew Center on Global Climate Has New Name, Funding

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change has announced it has changed its name to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) after it lost $3.5 million in funding from its primary donor, The Pew Charitable Trusts. In lieu of Pew’s funding, C2ES has found funding from three “strategic partners”, Entergy, HP and Shell, as well as major contributions from Alcoa Foundation, Bank of America, GE, The Energy Foundation, Duke Energy and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. According to Eileen Claussen, the group’s president and former climate change negotiator under President Bill Clinton, “Every one of these companies does some things that we don’t like. . . They’ve got trade associations to do their bidding and they’ve got lobbyists. They view their association with us as different because we are in fact independent.” Claussen stressed that C2ES will remain commited to “fact-based analysis and pragmatic solutions.”

For additional information see: AFP, Bloomberg, C2ES Press Release

UN Report Proposes Blue Carbon Fund to Mitigate Climate Change

According to a November 1 UN report, a global market for carbon that is stored within the world’s oceans is necessary to protect marine and coastal environments, or “blue carbon.” Over 55 percent of the biological carbon captured globally is captured by marine organisms, and preventing further loss of marine environments while working towards their recovery could offset three to seven percent of current fossil fuels emissions. The report estimates that as much as seven percent of blue carbon sinks are lost each year. According to the report, a Blue Carbon Fund would encourage investments in the maintenance and rehabilitation of these crucial marine ecosystems.

For additional information see: Environmental Finance, UN Report

New Investment Funds Spur Climate-Conscious Development

The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) announced on November 4 that over $1 billion will be invested in climate change mitigation. Working with banks such as the African Development Bank and the World Bank Group, the CIF funds help developing countries establish low emissions development projects that are adaptive with climate change. Recipients of the near-zero interest loans and grants include nations such as Bolivia, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mali, Mexico, and Nepal. The CIF will invest in projects such as developing renewable hydropower in India and Nepal, establishing a grid-connected renewable energy system in Honduras, and combating deforestation in Laos by supporting sustainable forest management.

For additional information see: All Africa, CIF Projects

Australian Senate Passes Carbon Tax

Australia’s parliament passed the most comprehensive carbon pricing scheme outside of the European Union (EU) on November 7. The law will put a tax of $23 (around $23.78 U.S. dollars) on each ton of carbon emitted by the top 500 polluters from July 2012 until July 2015, after which it will become a carbon trading emission scheme. Even though Australia only accounts for 1.5 percent of the world’s emissions, they have the highest per capita emissions intensity of any country because coal generates 80 percent of the country’s electricity. The government expects the tax will incentivize a multibillion dollar investment in cleaner fuels and will move their energy economy away from coal. The law also provides compensation for export-exposed industries, such as aluminum, zinc and steel, and provides personal tax cuts for workers (totaling up to $300 per year on average). In addition, the export-exposed industries will receive 94.5 percent of their carbon permits for free for the first three years. Once the scheme moves to a tradable permit system, it will be integrated with EU’s trading scheme.

For additional information see: The Guardian, Reuters

Chinese Manufacturers Could Emit More HFC Gases Following EU Ban

Following a decision to ban hydrofuorocarbon-23 (HFC-23) in Europe by May 2013, there will no longer be a market in which credits for hydrofluorocarbon credits are bought. According to Xie Fei, revenue management director at China Clean Development Mechanism Fund, this would cause Chinese producers of HFCs to vent the gases rather than incinerating them. Since 2007, the Chinese fund that collects revenue from local HFC offset projects has made over $1.3 billion, which was used to invest in emissions reduction schemes and carbon policy. The market for HFC offsets is expected to become obsolete as the EU bans the detrimental greenhouse gas, and Australia and New Zealand work toward similar decisions. Major Chinese manufacturers and producers of HFCs claimed that without the market for pollution credits, the cost of incineration is too high. HFC-23 is 11,700 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and remains in the atmosphere for about 200 years.

For additional information see: Bloomberg

EU Pledges 7.2 Billion Euros for Climate Change Projects

On November 8, EU finance ministers pledged 7.2 billion Euros to fund projects in developing countries that address climate change. This is a steep increase from previous years—in 2010 and 2011, the EU members provided 4.68 billion Euros to climate change projects in developing countries. Critics of the finance commitment argue that the funds are not new investments, but relabelled development funding. This funding is a critical part of the pledge to deliver $30 billion as “fast-start finance” to developing nations between 2010 and 2012. Fast-start finance was established in Copenhagen in 2009 to help developing nations cope with climate change. Further negotiations and pledges for financing climate projects in developing countries will be central to the Durban summit, set to begin November 28.

For additional information see: Reuters, Business Green

Global Carbon Intensity on the Rise

According to a recent Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) report, global carbon intensity—a measure of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per unit of production—grew 0.6 percent in the past year. The global GDP rose 5.1 percent and CO2 emissions rose 5.8 percent in the same time frame. This year was the first year since 2000 that the G20 nations have made no progress in reducing carbon intensity. Rising carbon intensity renders the goal of keeping global temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius increasingly unlikely. The increase in intensity is attributed to booming economic growth in China, Brazil, and South Korea, along with especially cold winter temperatures in the northern hemisphere. This report was released as an installment in PWC’s “Low Carbon Economy Index”.

For additional information see: Business Green, Report

Three Hundred Square Mile Iceberg to Detach from Antarctica

After initially spotting an 18 mile long crack in the ice on Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, NASA scientists concluded that a 300 square-mile iceberg will break off in the next few months. The newly formed iceberg is likely Antarctica’s largest contribution to global sea level rise so far. Warmer water has melted the deeper portions of the ice shelf that would otherwise have kept the ice mass grounded, leaving the mass of ice unstable. Scientists studying the ice shelf are unsure whether the ice will recover its size, or continue to become thinner and weaker, continually contributing to sea level rise.

For additional information see: Washington Post, NASA

Some Areas of Reef More Resilient to Climate Change Than Expected

New research suggests that coral reefs may be more adaptive to climate change than previously thought. Ocean acidification, the result of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), causes corals to become brittle and to grow more slowly. However, areas of reef that are close to ecosystems with much photosynthesis, such as sea grass beds and areas rich in algae, are resilient to this threat because the plant life absorbs the CO2, thus mitigating acidification. This phenomenon could protect some areas of reef for longer, giving scientists more time to study ecosystems and adaptation methods. This study was published in the journal PLoS One.

For additional information see: The Australian, Abstract

Report: Climate Change Consequences Both Dire and Likely

According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, irreversible climate change consequences are unavoidable if dramatic changes are not made within the next five years. If current pledges to reduce emissions are successful, the temperature average is projected to rise 3.5 degrees Celsius, says the report, which is still considerably higher than the two degree rise in temperature considered safe by scientists. The authors of the World Energy Outlook report said they are not optimistic that these planned measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will even be successful, and a failure to meet emissions reduction goals could result in a temperature rise of at least six degrees Celsius. Some factors that are expected to aggravate emissions problems include reluctance to continue using nuclear energy following the Fukushima disaster, unwillingness to abandon current industry and infrastructure, and growing numbers of fossil fuel-dependent power plants and inefficient buildings.

For additional information see: Washington Post, Business Green

Scientists Project Regional Climate-Related Changes for California

A recent analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) indicated that the ecology, sea level, and water supply of California’s San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will be altered significantly by 2100 in response to different climate change scenarios. Warmer waters and increased salinity threaten native marine ecosystems. Key species such as Delta smelt and Chinook salmon will face great difficulty maintaining a sustainable population. Changes in regional water systems would affect the drinking water of 25 million people, and the irrigation that sustains $36 billion worth of crops annually. To cope with changes, the study suggested building an integrated understanding of river-estuary systems and climate change, monitoring the environmental indicators related to uncertainties about climate change, considering the effect of climate change on the biological community and local habitats, and anticipating adaptions to changing ecosystems. The study was published in the online journal PLoS One.

For additional information see: Science Daily, Abstract

Other Headlines

November 16: Heating with Biomass: Win-Win for Households, Economic Development, Energy Security

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing to learn about how clean, renewable, efficient biomass heating can contribute to job creation, economic development, and energy security in communities across the country, as well as ways in which policies can help overcome some of the existing challenges and barriers to biomass use in the residential, commercial, and institutional sectors. This briefing was organized in conjunction with Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Biomass Coordinating Council, McGuire Woods, Northeast Biomass Thermal Working Group, Pellet Fuels Institute and Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition. The briefing will be held Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM in Room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building. This event is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact EESI at communications [at] or (202) 662-1884.

Writers: Kate Glass, Joey Gosselar and Matthew Johnson

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