Climate Change News November 16, 2009

Climate Change News

Carol Werner, Executive Director
November 16, 2009



U.S. Senate to Bring Climate 'Framework' to Copenhagen, White House Considers Interim Agreement

On November 10, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) announced that the Senate would produce a framework for climate change legislation before the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference in Copenhagen beginning December 7. “We are engaged in the process that will hopefully put us in a position to go to Copenhagen with a sort of framework, or outline, or where the Senate will be heading in its legislation,” said Kerry. He mentioned that he is working with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to produce a bipartisan climate change framework. Lieberman said they were trying to “move the Senate as far as we can before Copenhagen.”

On November 13, Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change, stated the Obama administration is considering an interim, framework agreement at the UNFCCC meeting beginning December 7 instead of pushing for a legally-binding treaty. “An interim, operational deal is not meant to be seen as a substitute for a real agreement," said Stern. “It's meant to be seen as substantive building blocks to a full, legal agreement, and perhaps the best chance of getting such an agreement.” Stern said the core of the interim pact would be a “political commitment” on the key components of an international climate treaty, including emission reduction targets and adaptation financing. He said that this political agreement would form the basis of a new international climate change treaty which he believes could be ready within a year of the Copenhagen conference.

For additional information see: AFP, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, UPI

Obama Will Go to Copenhagen If He Can Clinch Climate Deal

On November 9, President Barack Obama said he would travel to Copenhagen in December for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change if it helps world leaders reach an international climate change agreement. “If I am confident that all of the countries involved are bargaining in good faith and we are on the brink of a meaningful agreement and my presence in Copenhagen will make a difference in tipping us over edge then certainly that's something that I will do,” said Obama. The President also revealed that he was optimistic that the Copenhagen conference could produce a political agreement. “I think the question is can we create a set of principles, building blocks, that allow for ongoing and continuing progress on the issue and that's something I'm confident we can achieve,” he said.

For additional information see: AP, Reuters, The Telegraph

UN Chief Pushes Congress on Climate Change

On November 10, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to make his case for strong Senate action on climate change ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December. “I would sincerely hope the Senate will take domestic action as soon as possible,” Ban said. While he recognized that that the Senate was unlikely to pass a climate change bill before Copenhagen, Ban pushed for Congress to adopt a statement of principles on climate change legislation that would give U.S. negotiators the clarity needed to shape a global agreement. “They may have agreed to a certain framework, which can work as a very strong political message and as a sign of commitment on the part of the United States,” he said. “That will be quite important and useful for us to get this negotiation started.”

For additional information see: Politico, AP, Miami Herald

Senators Send Letter Urging Changes in Emission Allocation Formula

On November 12, 14 senators, primarily from Midwestern states, sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urging him to change the formula by which emission allocations are distributed in the Clean Energy Jobs and American Security Act (S. 1733). The current formula, based on the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), allocated emission allowances through a weighted average of 50 percent historic emissions and 50 percent of retail sales of electricity produced. In their letter, the senators asked that the formula be changed to include only historic emissions in order to provide additional transition assistance to their states, which currently depend heavily on coal for their electricity. “We believe it is essential that we strive to formulate legislation that equitably distributes transition assistance across individuals, as well as states and regions and economic sectors,” explained the senators. “We urge you to ensure that emission allowances allocated to the electricity sector – and thus, electricity consumers - be fully based on emissions as the appropriate and equitable way to provide transition assistance in a greenhouse gas-regulated economy.” The 14 signees were Sens. Al Franken (D-MN), Roland Burris (D-IL), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Udall (D-CO), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Cark Levin (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

For additional information see: Reuters, Iowa Politics

Senate Finance Committee Looks at Climate Bill's Effect on Jobs

On November 10, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing examining the impact of climate change legislation on American jobs. Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) said he was “committed to passing meaningful, balanced climate change legislation,” but that Congress must “work to minimize any job losses.” As a result, he said that any U.S. climate bill would have to include a border tax adjustment to protect U.S. manufacturing from unfair competition abroad. “We can not allow our manufacturing industries to fade as a result of trade with countries that refuse to negotiate global solutions to global concerns,” said Baucus. American Council on Capital Formation Chief Economist Margo Thorning testified that a cap and trade bill similar to the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), which the House passed in June, would result in a net loss of 80,000 jobs by 2020. Van Ton-Quinlivan, a director of jobs development at Pacific Gas & Electric, said a low-carbon energy system could require as many as 150,000 jobs by 2020.

For additional information see: Reuters, Houston Chronicle

Energy Watchdog Urges Deal on Climate

On November 12, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released their World Energy Outlook 2009, in which they urged world leaders to reach an international climate change agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change this December. The IEA warned that temperatures will rise by 6°C if business continues as usual. “The time to act has arrived," the report said. “As the leading source of greenhouse-gas emissions, energy is at the heart of the problem and so must be integral to the solution.” A deal on emissions could reduce world oil demand by 16 million barrels a day by 2030, the agency projected. Failure to reach such a deal could raise the U.S.'s cost to import oil and gas from 1 to 2 percent of its gross domestic product. They further warned that the cost of keeping temperatures from rising above 2°C would increase by $500 billion each year that action to address climate change is delayed.

For additional information see: Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg, International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2009 Executive Summary

Action Delayed on Ozone Treaty until After Copenhagen

On November 8, talks dedicated to phasing down a group of potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Montreal Protocol concluded in Port Ghalib, Egypt without reaching a final agreement. The annual Meeting of Parties considered two separate proposals to expand the treaty on ozone-depleting substances to include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a class of chemicals with a global warming potential much higher than carbon dioxide (CO2). An agreement could have provided climate mitigation of up to 100 billion tons of CO2-equivalent (CO2-eq) gases and delayed climate forcing up to a decade. Delegates ultimately concluded that further action on the Montreal Protocol should wait until after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change takes place in Copenhagen in December. “It’s still possible for Copenhagen to cut 100 billion tons of CO2-eq by enlisting an adjunct treaty that has already phased out 96 similar chemicals,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Resolving the HFC issue would be a good down-payment for a troubled climate system, and help break the climate logjam.” The Parties issued a decision to strengthen collection and destruction of ozone-destroying and climate-warming chemicals in discarded products and equipment.

For additional information see: Reuters, Environment News Service, Media Newswire

EU-15 on Track to Meet Kyoto Targets

On November 12, the European Environment Agency (EEA) released a new progress report which concluded that the founding nations of the European Union (EU-15) are on track to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets that were promised in the Kyoto Protocol. The EEA forecasted that GHG emissions in the EU-15 will drop by 13 percent below the 1990 baseline by 2012, even lower than the 8 percent below the 1990 level that was promised in the Kyoto Protocol. The EEA credited the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the EU’s cap and trade program, and their Renewable Energy Directive for the largest share of the emission reductions. “With the EU climate and energy package adopted earlier this year, we have already put in place the key measures to reduce our emissions much further to at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. No other region of the world has yet done this,” said EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

For additional information see: EurActive, PR Newswire, AFP

G-20 Finance Ministers Discuss Climate Funding

On November 7, finance ministers from the Group of Twenty (G-20) met in Scotland to discuss funding for developing nations to adapt to climate change. European Union representatives pushed for the G-20 to support a pledge to give $100 billion in climate assistance annually by 2020. The finance ministers did not collectively support this position, only saying they “recognized the need to increase significantly and urgently the scale and predictability of finance.” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said, “We have not reached an agreement. There is still some work to do. I hope everybody knows that Copenhagen must not be a failure.” British Finance Minister Alistair Darling added, “If there isn't an agreement on finance, if there isn't an agreement about contributions to make sure we can deal with this problem, then the Copenhagen agreement is going to be much, much more difficult.”

For additional information see: Reuters, AFP, Xinhua, The Telegraph

EPA Sends Final CO2 Endangerment Finding to White House

On November 9, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the EPA had submitted its greenhouse gas (GHG) endangerment finding to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The finding states that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs pose a danger to human health and welfare, and, if approved, would allow the EPA to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act. Jackson said OMB has 90 days to review the finding, but that she is “hoping for an expedited review” because automakers need to know if new fuel economy standards will be imposed on their 2012 models by March 2010.

For additional information see: Reuters, Denver Science News Examiner

Poll Finds Voters in Three Swing States Support Action on Energy and Global Warming

On November 9, the Pew Environment Group released a new survey which found that a majority of voters in Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio support a cap and trade program and renewable electricity standards. When asked if they would support an energy plan being considered by Congress that includes capping greenhouse gas emissions and requiring power companies to generate a portion of their power from clean energy sources, 75 percent of Michigan respondents, 67 percent of Missouri respondents, and 68 percent of Ohio respondents were in favor. “Voters in these key states support taking action on global warming and increasing access to clean energy because they know it will be good for the economy, make America more secure and create new jobs and industries in the United States,” said Phyllis Cuttino, the Pew Environmental Group’s U.S. Global Warming Campaign Director.

For additional information see: Pew Environment Group Press Release, Public News Service

First Power Facility to Capture and Store Carbon Begins Operating in West Virginia

On November 6, American Electric Power’s Mountaineer Power Plant in West Virginia became the first coal-fired power plant to begin operating with technology for capturing and sequestering its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The plant will be able to capture 100,000 tons of CO2 per year, a small fraction of the plant’s annual total emissions of 3.5 million tons. U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary for Energy Kristina Johnson said, “This pilot plant today shows that we can power our country, clean our air and grow our economy . . . It's a stunning demonstration of elegant engineering, design and innovation. This project is a critical step in the commercial-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage.”

For additional information see: AFP, Scientific American, Media General News Service

Religions Challenge World Leaders on Climate Change

On November 10, religious leaders from the Baha'ism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Sikhism and Taoism faiths met with British Royalty and United Nations (UN) representatives at Windsor Castle in England to urge world leaders to take action on climate change. At the event organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), called “Faith Commitments for a Living Planet,” religious leaders unveiled programs intended to motivate their followers to take action on climate change. ARC Head Martin Palmer said, “The Secretary General of the United Nations goes to Copenhagen not just with the prayers and best wishes of every major faith tradition in the world, but with the knowledge that if, God forbid, the nations of the world are unable to rise to the occasion at Copenhagen, the faiths will - and already have.” UN Assistant Secretary General Olav Kjorven added, “We expect to send a strong signal from religion to governments that we are extremely committed. It's about religions mobilizing their followers to act against climate change.”

For additional information see: AFP, Jerusalem Post, The Hindu, Alliance of Religions and Conservation Press Release

Brazil Reports 46 Percent Drop in Deforestation, Pledges Voluntary Emissions Reductions

On November 12, the Brazilian government reported that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest declined by 46 percent from August 2008 to July 2009, the largest reduction since Brazil began measuring it in 1988. Satellite imagery showed that 2,705 square miles were cleared over the period, down from a peak of 10,425 square miles in 2004. “The new deforestation data represents an extraordinary and significant reduction for Brazil,” said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He credited the reduction to his government’s aggressive deforestation monitoring and enforcing measures, as well as its promotion of sustainable development in the Amazon rainforest region.

On November 9, Brazil’s Chief of Staff Dilma Roussef announced that Brazil would voluntarily reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 38-42 percent below the “business as usual” trajectory by 2020. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended that developing countries reduce emissions by 15-30 percent below the “business as usual” scenario. “What Brazil is doing is a political gesture," said Rouseff. “But the fact that we are going to announce a significant objective does not mean we do not know that the responsible ones are the developed countries.”

For additional information see: AP, Reuters, AFP, The Guardian

UK to Impose 'Carbon Capture Levy' to Fund Coal-fired Plants

On November 9, United Kingdom Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband announced that Britain will impose a carbon capture levy on consumers to fund up to four large-scale demonstrations of coal-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS) beginning in 2011. Miliband said the levy would add 2-3 percent to household electricity bills and remain in effect for 15 years. It is expected to raise approximately 9.5 billion pounds. In its proposal, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change said, “Our ambition is for CCS to be ready for widespread deployment from 2020.” The department admitted there is a risk that CCS may not be commercially viable by 2020, and it is possible that the levy could be extended further.

For additional information see: The Times, Reuters, The Telegraph

Surface Permafrost Likely to Vanish in Alaska

On November 6, University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute Professor Vladimir Romanovsky reported that Alaska will likely lose all of its surface permafrost by 2100 if global temperatures rise by 4-6°C. The majority of Alaska is covered in permafrost currently. Romanovsky warned that this could result in the destruction of infrastructure and the release of methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) that would cause additional warming. “It could be a significant player in the carbon cycle in the atmosphere,” Romanovsky said. He also said the permafrost is unlikely to disappear completely because permafrost below 30 feet is thought to be stable regardless of the surface temperature.

For additional information see: AP

Antarctica Glacier Retreat Creates New Carbon Dioxide Store

In the November issue of the journal Global Change Biology, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) identified new carbon sinks created by melting ice sheets in Antarctica. Marine plants called phytoplankton, which are starting to flourish in waters exposed by the rapid melting of Antarctic ice shelves, absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate global warming. The scientists found that over the past 50 years, melting ice has opened up more than 24,000 square kilometers of new waters, and estimate that this natural 'sink' is now taking in the equivalent of 12.8 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. “Although this is a small amount of carbon compared to global emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere it is nevertheless an important discovery . . . Elsewhere in the world human activity is undermining the ability of oceans and marine ecosystems to capture and store carbon,” said Professor Lloyd Peck, lead author of the study.

For additional information see: Science, AFP

Other Headlines

November 17: Climate Change Policy Lessons from Europe -- Innovative Approaches to Renewable Energy Promotion and the EU Carbon Cap and Trade Program

Please join the German Embassy and the Johns Hopkins University Government Program for the final session in a three-part workshop series, "Climate Change Policy Lessons from Europe -- Innovative Approaches to Renewable Energy Promotion and the EU Carbon Cap and Trade Program." By combining an economic growth policy with the promotion of renewable energy, Germany has shown that GDP can continue to grow, while carbon emissions fall. With an increasing focus in the U.S. on how climate and energy policy can make economic sense, this workshop will share lessons learned in climate change policy from Europe. The focus is on the German experience and addressing it in the context of what might fit well with U.S. policy directions to promote renewable energy sources and adopt a carbon cap and trade program. This briefing will take place at Johns Hopkins University at 1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW in Room LL7 on Tuesday, November 17, with coffee and breakfast pastries served at 8:30 a.m. and a panel session at 9:00 a.m. Attendance is open to all, but RSVP is required at by November 12.

November 18: Human Behavior and Energy Use

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) invite you to a briefing on engaging the American public to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions through people-centered programs and policies. Much of the recent discussion on energy efficiency has focused on technologies. However, rapid and large scale change in energy use will ultimately be determined by the number of people who are engaged and empowered to put those technologies to good use and to redefine their own energy service demands. This briefing will examine how and why people use (or don’t use) energy efficient technologies, describe new initiatives being deployed by the U.S. military, utilities and communities, and discuss the economic and environmental benefits for households, businesses, and the nation. This briefing will take place on Wednesday, November 18, from 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. in 2325 Rayburn House Office Building. This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact us at (202) 662-1884 or communications [at]

November 18: Local Climate Action in the Southeast United States

Climate Communities and ICLEI USA invite you to a briefing in which mayors, county commissioners, council members, and other community leaders will educate federal policymakers on the critical role of local governments in reducing energy consumption, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and creating millions of new clean energy jobs. This briefing is for Senate Members and staff and will be held on Wednesday, November 18, from 9:30 - 11:00 a.m. in 325 Russell Senate Office Building. For more information, contact Andrew Seth of Climate Communities at (202) 261-6011 or

November 19: The Seas Are Rising: Arctic Researchers Travel to D.C. to Share New Scientific Observations

Please join Clean Air - Cool Planet for a briefing featuring leading climate scientists and to hear about what their research means for our coastal communities here in America. Startling new findings from recent Arctic research are leading to a dramatic revision of the 2007 IPCC assessment of sea level rise due to climate change. These new scientific observations show that accelerated melting of polar ice sheets, including the Greenland ice sheet, will contribute much more significantly to sea level rise than previously projected. This briefing will take place on Thursday, November 19, from 12:00 - 1:30 p.m. in SVC 215 (Capitol Visitors Center). Please RSVP by November 16, 2009 to: Emily Rocheleau at or Katrina Stanislaw at Please note that due to Capitol Hill Visitor Center Security regulations all non- Capitol Hill staff must be on a guest list to access the facility.

Writers: Josh Cornfeld, David Sher, and Amy Sauer

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