Copenhagen posturing

Obama-meets-with-UN-SecretaryThe last round of negotiations prior to the Copenhagen Summit in Barcelona fizzled to a message of decreased expectations.  This has set the table for rapid political posturing from the US.  On Tuesday the Wall Street Journal quoted several key Senators, including climate bill sponsor Sen. Kerry, with various statements postponing the possibility of US domestic climate legislation until next year.  Thursday the Washington Post broke a story that the Obama administration is feeling out the possibility for interim agreements in lieu of a formal treaty in December.  This morning the first official news of President’s Asia trip is of an agreement with Japan that both countries will commit to decreasing GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 with global reductions of 50% by mid century.  With China and India on schedule for later in the trip it is probable that climate will come up again, although balance of trade and Yuan/$ exchange is likely to dominate the conversation (for more on expected China content check out Robert Borosage on Huff Post).

It seems to this writer that Obama is guarding his international reputation more than setting a clear signal that the US is ready to engage in international climate agreements.  Continue reading

A Crisis of Democracy

AlGore_03 This past Saturday, I packed into a small Unitarian church with 500 other people to catch a glimpse of former Vice President Al Gore. He came to Harvard Square to discuss his new book, Our Choice, which is a follow-up to  An Inconvenient Truth. With only one short month before Copenhagen, I  jumped at the opportunity to see the Nobel Prize and Oscar winning former Vice President and the de facto leader of the current environmental movement give a speech on the politics of climate change.

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Looking ahead to Copenhagen, seeing REDD

Here at ecociety we are paying close attention to developments in the run up to COP 15. One of the most important areas of negotiation involves the issue of deforestation. The UN established the Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing countries (REDD) to encourage developing nations to reduce deforestation through economic incentives. As with many aspects of climate change policy, deforestation is intimately linked with issues of equity and development. The bottom line question is who will pay for it and how much? Continue reading

Security and Water in Israel

A recent report from Amnesty International finds that Israel has developed discriminatory practices that have created sever water scarcity for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements) Much has been made of the potential for resource scarcity to cause violent security issues.  In this case it seems that insecurity has resulted in resource scarcity.  According to the Amnesty report Israel has prevented Palestinians from accessing the surface water of the Jordan River, dominated use of the Mountain aquifer located under the West Bank, and prevented capital upkeep of sanitation stations in Gaza that are critical to refreshing the coastal aquifer.   The impacts of the imbalance land heavily on the Palestinian households dependent on water from these natural sources.  Decreased agricultural productivity and high costs to get needed clean water has placed substantial burdens on the economic well-being of affected households.  The ongoing violence in Israel may not be caused by resource scarcity but it seems likely that the inequality and desperation caused by discriminatory Israeli water policies breeds societal insecurity.

A City’s Quest for a “Green Boulevard”

flying bus

Just yesterday I was looking through the Green American Fall newsletter, and read an article about Hasselt, Belgium (4th largest city in Belgium) reclaiming its streets from traffic nightmare roads.  In the mid-1990s this city was very similar to many US cities, with a massive suburban sprawl and urban businesses experiencing great deterioration.  There was an increase in traffic congestion, thus a plan to ease this by building another road around the city (already two known as “ring roads”).  By the advice of a green consulting group, the then mayor of Hasselt—Steve Stevaert—halted construction of the new road (saving billions of dollars) and decided to turn half of the inner ring road into a pedestrian friendly thoroughfare by being car-free.  This is now known as the Green Boulevard.  Additionally, he created a more accessible bus system by increasing the number of busses (40 total) and letting residents ride them for free. Continue reading

Senate Global Warming Bill Is Seeking to Cushion the Impact on Industry

The Senate bill aimed at reducing global warming pollution will initially grant billions of dollars of free emissions permits to utilities and industry but will require the bulk of the money be returned to consumers and taxpayers, according to newly released details.  The bill will also provide a cushion to energy-intensive manufacturing companies to ease the transition to a lower-carbon economy and to help them compete internationally, although the subsidies will disappear over time. The measure also sets a floor and ceiling on the price of permits to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Continue reading

Fossil Fuel vs. Clean Energy Subsidies

Thanks to the folks at the Environmental Law Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for putting together a great graphic that shows the breakdown of Federal energy subsidies from 2002-2008 – and and props to David Roberts at Grist.org for drawing my attention to the report. The full report is titled “Estimating U.S. Government to Energy Sources: 2002-2008.” Read it if you want, but the graphic says it all:

Publicly Funding Climate Change