Table Of Contents

    A new international agreement will place a cap on the airline industry's carbon emissions. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.


    State-Wide Carbon Tax in Washington Would Be First for United States

    Voters in Washington State will decide the fate of the first U.S. carbon tax during the November elections. The ballot measure, Initiative 732, would place a $15 per ton tax on carbon produced in Washington state, starting in July 2017. The price per ton would increase to $25 the following year, with annual increases until the tax reaches its ceiling of $100 per ton. A one percentage point decrease in the state sales tax, phased in over two years, would accompany the carbon tax upon implementation. Separate analyses by the Washington State Department of Revenue and the left-leaning Sightline Institute project a loss of $800 to $320 million, respectively, over the first four years of the carbon tax. Yoram Bauman, a contributor to the tax’s design, says the proposal was based on a carbon tax already in use in British Columbia, Canada. The Washington state Democratic Party and state Sierra Club have opposed the initiative, claiming it would only complicate the state’s budget woes.

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    Legal Insiders Indicate EPA's Defense of Clean Power Plan Will Succeed

    Legal experts are expecting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to win the legal battle over the Clean Power Plan (CPP) as the DC Circuit Court considers the arguments brought forth during a pivotal September 27th hearing. In lieu of traditional procedure, the court decided to hear oral arguments as a whole instead of the typical three-judge panel. The "en banc" format reflects the court's significant interest in the case, as eight of the ten presiding judges spent a large portion of the 7.5 hour hearing questioning attorneys on both sides. Arguments focused on the interpretation of the Clean Air Act and the authority of the EPA to regulate power plants as part of a national CO2 emission reduction strategy. Bruce Huber, a law professor at Notre Dame, observed the consequences of inaction may be weighing on the judges' minds: “[Climate change is] a social problem for which a massive solution has been generated by the sitting administration and if I’m going to declare that to be outside the bounds of the statute, I better be darn sure that I’m right about that.”

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    Utility Dive


    Paris Climate Agreement Crosses Finish Line, Will Enter into Force November 30, 2016

    On October 5, the Paris climate agreement passed a final threshold and will officially enter into force on November 30, 2016. The European Parliament approved the deal on Tuesday and submitted their paperwork earlier than expected to avoid being "upstaged." European Union members Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Portugal and Malta had previously completed domestic procedures for ratification and were able to sign on to the Paris agreement on Wednesday. Canada, Bolivia, and Nepal also joined, raising the ratification count to 74 countries representing nearly 59 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The threshold for enactment was 55 countries and 55 percent of emissions. Commemorating the international milestone, U.S. President Barack Obama said, "If we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet." Two United Nations agreements to cap airline emissions and phase out HFCs (a potent greenhouse gas) under the Montreal Protocol are also expected to gain approval in the coming weeks.

    For information see:

    Washington PostClimate Change NewsReuters


    Airline Industry and 191 Nations Agree to Cap International Aviation Carbon Emissions

    On October 6, the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) approved a carbon emissions reduction scheme for the global airline industry. The scheme will be voluntary from 2021-2027, but will become mandatory from 2028-2035. The agreement’s upper limit for emissions will use the year 2020 as the baseline. Any airlines that exceed that upper limit on carbon dioxide emissions must make up the difference through the purchase of carbon credits. The new emissions cap only applies to international flights, since domestic flights are already captured by the Paris climate accord. Each of ICAO’s 191 member states must still undertake domestic action to implement the terms of the agreement. The airline industry has backed the ICAO agreement, despite projected costs to the industry ranging from 5-24 billion dollars by 2035. Sixty-five nations have already agreed to participate in the voluntary phase of the agreement, including the United States, China, and the European Union’s 44-member aviation conference.

    For more information see:

    Associated Press


    Canadian Provinces Required to Adopt a Carbon Pricing Plan by 2018

    On October 3, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a carbon pricing mandate for every provincial government. The provinces have until 2018 to adopt a carbon pricing plan of their choosing, or else the federal government will impose its own price for any non-compliant provinces. Plans may take the form of a cap and trade system or a direct price on carbon emissions, so long as the scheme meets the federal “floor price.” The floor price will be $10 per ton in 2018, but will increase by $10 annually until it reaches $50 in 2022. The initiative is part of Canada’s goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030. Representatives from Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador expressed their displeasure with the Trudeau administration’s plan by walking out of a meeting with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta already have carbon pricing schemes in place.

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    CBC News


    African Coalition Brings Adaptive Farming to Forefront of Climate Conference

    A coalition of 27 African states hopes to spark a discussion on the world stage concerning food supply issues related to climate change. The Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) group will champion the issue at the upcoming United Nations climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco. A white paper published by AAA concluded increased temperatures and erratic precipitation could cause a 20 percent reduction in crop production in Africa by 2050. Africa’s farmers often lack access to financing options and technologies to help them adapt to extreme weather. According to Mohamed Ait Kadi, president of Morocco’s General Council of Agricultural Development, “There is a general consensus that our countries are already affected by the impacts of climate change. African farmlands and ranges are increasingly degraded and face declining yields.” Considering that climate change impacts are projected to reduce Africa’s GDP by 1.4 percent annually, and that 70 percent of the continent’s population derives revenue from farming, projected climate impacts could be severe.

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    Climate Change News


    Poll: Americans Follow Party Line on Climate Science, but Embrace Renewable Energy

    On October 4, the Pew Research Center published a poll revealing deep divides over the nature and causes of climate change among Americans, with significant differences along political lines. When asked if climate change is mainly a result of human activity, seven out of ten Democrats responded affirmatively, while fewer than a quarter of Republicans did so. There is broad skepticism of climate scientists among both parties. Only 54 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans trust climate scientists to report "full and accurate" information. Broad bipartisan support exists for renewable energy. Over 80 percent of respondents favor building more solar and wind farms, versus only 41 percent approval for more coal mining. Former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis said "addressing climate change would result in greater independence, more mobility and more freedom,” but that the language typically used to discuss climate had led to a perception gap between liberals and conservatives.

    For more information see:

    New York TimesPew Research Center

    Facing Regulation, Airline Industry Turns to Biofuels to Lower Carbon Emissions

    The airline industry is betting heavily on biofuels as a means of lowering aircraft emissions in the future. An international agreement to cap carbon emissions from commercial aircraft was approved in October 2016, adding additional motivation for companies to adjust their operations. United Continental Holdings Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp., and Virgin Group Ltd. have all begun producing more sustainable jet fuel blends. However, there are not enough biofuel producers or investors to meet the airline industry’s demand. The biofuel industry has an existing annual production capacity of 100 million gallons, whereas 83 billion gallons are currently consumed by airlines annually. Concerns focus on the limitations to scaling up biofuel production and the lifecycle cost of producing biofuels in terms of emissions and natural resource use. Supporters claim an international emission standard could push fuel development and lower costs. Julie Felgar of Boeing said, “There is a tremendous amount of determination to make biofuel work because we just don’t have any alternative.”

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    American Southwest at High Risk of "Megadroughts" Unless Greenhouse Gas Emissions Are Reduced

    Temperature increases and reduced rainfall driven by climate change will place the American Southwest at significant risk of "megadroughts," according to a new study published in Science Advances. The study estimates certain southwestern regions face up to a 99 percent risk level of getting hit by a multi-decade megadrought this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Different warming scenarios were modeled, including a global average temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius, 4 C, and 6 C compared to pre-industrial levels. The models showed holding global warming to no more than 2 C could cut the risk of catastrophic drought in half. Earlier studies have shown natural fluctuations in the Earth's climate generated megadroughts once or twice a century over the past 1,000 years. However, scientists warn that the addition of human-caused climate change factors increases the likelihood of these events in the future. Climate models currently project global emissions will elevate global average temperatures by 4 C by 2100 if action is not taken.

    For more information see:

    Carbon BriefScience Advances



    EPA Administrator Hopes to Finalize International HFC Agreement Soon

    Geothermal-Powered Reykjavík Targets Carbon Neutrality by 2040

    Report: Industrial Emissions Dropping, but Power Plants Still Account for 30 Percent in U.S.

    Yosemite's Largest Glacier Has Lost 78 Percent of Its Surface as Climate Warms


    Writers: Tyler Smith and Brian La Shier
    Editor: Brian La Shier