Climate 411

Sowing the seeds of a roadmap for agriculture

Photo credit Dr Huynh Quang Tin

Low carbon rice production in Vietnam. Dr Huynh Quang Tin

At last November’s COP23 in Germany, Parties involved in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations on agriculture celebrated a notable victory after agreeing to create the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). The KJWA marks a shift in focus from agricultural adaptation activities only, to a broader discussion of mitigation related activities. While COP23 Parties did not decide on the details of the KJWA, such as the “how” and the “when,” the outcome generated much needed momentum for the agriculture agenda of the UNFCCC.

In the lead up to the Bonn climate change negotiations that concluded last week, Parties and observers submitted their views on the “what”, “how”, and “when” of the KJWA. The Parties kept a very constructive – and even friendly – discourse in negotiation sessions, building off of last year’s positive COP23 outcome and increasing focus on implementation. The developing country group known as the G&77 + China, building off a New Zealand-led proposal, was very active in coordinating the creation of a roadmap for the KJWA. By the end of the first week, Parties agreed to draft conclusions outlining the roadmap.

Now with the UN secretariat for adoption, this roadmap provides an agenda of activities that includes workshops, topic submissions, and workshop reports every six months between now and the end of 2020. The series of workshops will cover the following topics:

  • How to implement the outcomes from the five in-session workshops on adaptation and resiliency held before last year’s COP decision;
  • Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits, and resilience;
  • Improved soil carbon, soil health, and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management;
  • Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems;
  • Improved livestock management systems, including agropastoral production systems and others; and
  • Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agriculture sector.

Submissions on topics for each workshop will be solicited prior to each session, followed by the preparation of a report after each workshop.

The first activity on the roadmap—submissions on implementing the outcomes of the five in-session workshops on adaptation and resiliency—is due on October 22, 2018. Considering that Parties in Bonn solicited external inputs for current and future discussions, organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund have the opportunity to help advance the KJWA roadmap. By providing technical assistance, content, and process inputs, EDF and other organizations will support the work of Parties under the KJWA and maintain momentum. It is imperative to use this time to determine what issues to focus on during this series of workshops and how to operationalize the outcomes.

As reflected by the nature of the KJWA itself, shifting focus to implementation and tangible actions to help actors in the agriculture sector respond to climate change is essential if we are to meet the climate goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.

Also posted in Agriculture, International, United Nations / Comments are closed

Five things you need to know about the U.S. Clean Car Standards

Cars on a dealer lot, waiting to be sold. Photo: Every Car Listed

America’s Clean Car Standards are one of our biggest success stories, yet the Trump Administration is preparing to dramatically weaken them.

News reports say the Trump Administration is also taking aim at state leadership on clean cars, by preparing to challenge California’s and 12 other states’ authority to maintain more protective standards.

Here’s what you need to know:

Read More »

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Pruitt / Comments are closed

Proof that the Clean Power Plan’s strategy for cutting carbon pollution is the industry standard

The public comment period is just about to close on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s reckless attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and thousands of Americans — including mayors, CEOs, energy experts, and citizens concerned about the threats Pruitt’s actions pose to our children’s health and future — have already spoken out in vigorous opposition to the misguided repeal effort.

There is a lot at stake. The Clean Power Plan would prevent 4,500 early deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks each year. It would cut carbon pollution by 32 percent from 2005 levels, and would substantially reduce other harmful air pollutants from power plants.

By slashing air pollution and helping mitigate the threats of climate change, the Clean Power Plan would secure significant benefits to public health while growing the clean energy economy.

Yet, as Pruitt continues his misguided effort to turn back the clock on lifesaving climate protections, momentum is growing in states and the power sector to slash carbon pollution and usher in a clean energy future.

States and companies are moving away from carbon-intensive sources of electricity generation, and are increasing their use of cleaner technologies — deploying the same cost-effective strategies to cut carbon pollution that EPA relied upon when establishing emission reduction targets under the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt’s attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan is putting this flexible approach to ambitious and low-cost emission reductions under attack.

Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News, Pruitt / Comments are closed

It’s up to us to protect the Clean Power Plan

This week is a crucial moment for climate progress.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is moving ahead in his efforts to revoke the Clean Power Plan, one of our most important efforts to tackle the climate crisis. The Clean Power Plan provides our only national limit on carbon pollution from existing power plants — America’s largest stationary source of carbon pollution.

EPA’s public comment period for Pruitt’s plan to repeal Clean Power Plan will close this Thursday.

Americans have only a short time left to raise their voice to oppose this reckless rollback. You can make your voice heard here.

Here’s what’s at stake

The Clean Power Plan helps us achieve approximately 32 percent reductions in carbon pollution from existing power plants compared to 2005, while also substantially reducing other harmful pollution from power plants.

EPA estimates that the Clean Power Plan would prevent an estimated 90,000 childhood asthma attacks and as many as 4,500 early deaths each year once fully implemented. These public health benefits would be imperiled if Pruitt succeeds in repealing this vital protection.

Public health experts, business voices and local leaders oppose revoking the Clean Power Plan

The American Lung Association joined with seventeen other public health organizations to denounce the Clean Power Plan rollback, calling it “inconsistent with EPA’s core mission of protecting public health and the environment” and highlighting that “the health impacts of climate change demand immediate action.”

Apple Inc. recently urged Pruitt not to repeal the Clean Power Plan, noting it “gives domestic companies a competitive edge” and that based on Apple’s extensive experience as a large energy consumer “the Clean Power Plan provides achievable targets with no adverse impact on [electricity] reliability or resiliency.”

244 mayors from 48 states and territories, representing 52 million Americans, sent a letter to Pruitt stating:

“[W]e strongly oppose the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would put our citizens at risk and undermine our efforts to prepare for and protect against the worst impacts of climate change.”

In a recent poll, 70 percent of registered voters in America supported setting strict limits on carbon pollution produced by coal-fired power plants.

We’ve kept a list of quotes opposing the Clean Power Plan rollback, affirming a commitment to combating climate change, and supporting strong action to invest in clean energy solutions. It includes quotes from elected leaders, business leaders, consumer advocates, faith leaders, and more — you can read it in full here.

Even more climate progress is possible

More and more evidence shows that achieving the Clean Power Plan’s goals will be even cheaper than expected. Yet Pruitt’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan is using underhanded accounting gimmicks to inflate his estimate of compliance costs.

If anything, lower than expected costs and the alarming pace of climate impacts mean the Clean Power Plan’s targets should be stronger.

Who benefits from a rollback? Pruitt’s political allies

Pruitt has been all over the news lately for his cozy relationships with lobbyists, lavish spending, and other self-aggrandizing abuses of his office. All these reports underscore that his first priority is not the well-being of the American public.

It’s no surprise to hear that organizations that helped fund Pruitt’s political ambitions received extensive contributions from Clean Power Plan opponents, including $25,000 from coal company Murray Energy just one month before the D.C. Circuit Court heard the Clean Power Plan oral argument.

Scott Pruitt built his political career by suing relentlessly to block EPA safeguards — including filing four separate lawsuits to oppose the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan would serve his political and financial backers at the expense of the health and safety of American families.

The time to speak up is now

The window for public input opposing this senseless decision will close this Thursday, April 26. Join with Americans across the country to voice your opposition by clicking here.

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, EPA litgation, News, Pruitt / Comments are closed

Administrator Pruitt opened the door to making Houston’s air toxics problem worse

Residents of Houston, Texas – our nation’s fourth largest city – have long been burdened with a serious air pollution problem.

Between 2013 and 2015, the Houston area reported unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone (“smog”) on an average of over 23 days each year. Last year, the American Lung Association ranked Houston as the sixteenth-most polluted city in the nation for year-round particle pollution.

The city’s massive industrial base – which includes two of the nation’s four largest petroleum refineries and more than 400 chemical manufacturing plants – spews a wide array of carcinogenic and toxic substances like benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and formaldehyde. The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest National Air Toxics Assessment, not surprisingly, found elevated cancer risks in many Houston neighborhoods as a result of these pollutants.

Recent records also show that pollution releases from these industrial facilities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey are also much higher than initially reported.

Yet EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, rather than working to reduce this dangerous pollution, has opened the door to even greater risks to public health.

On January 25th, Pruitt’s EPA abruptly overturned a long-standing policy that was designed to prevent large industrial sources from increasing their emissions of hazardous air pollutants such as benzene. Under the new policy, many industrial facilities that are now subject to tough emission standards for “major” sources would be allowed to become subject to weaker emission standards, or even avoid federal emission limits altogether.

This dangerous new “Air Toxics Loophole” was issued without any opportunity for public comment, and with no consideration of its public health or air pollution impacts.

That’s why, we joined with six other public health and environmental organizations last month to file a legal challenge to the Air Toxics Loophole in a federal court of appeals

Today, we are releasing a white paper that takes a closer look at what the Air Toxics Loophole might mean for emissions of hazardous air pollutants in the Houston-Galveston area. We used EPA’s own enforcement and compliance database, EPA’s most recent National Emissions Inventory (NEI), and a careful review of federal permitting records to identify facilities that might be able to take advantage of the Air Toxics Loophole – and to estimate what the potential emissions impact might be.

The results aren’t pretty. In the Houston area alone, we identified 18 facilities that are potentially eligible to use the new Air Toxics Loophole. These facilities collectively emitted approximately 183 tons (366,000 pounds) of hazardous air pollutants in 2014. If all of these facilities exploited the Air Toxics Loophole to the maximum degree, we estimated that annual hazardous air pollution from these facilities would increase by almost two-and-a-half times – to a total of about 450 tons (900,000 pounds).

Many of these facilities are located in communities that are highly vulnerable to the harmful impacts of air pollution: half are located in areas where more than one in five people live in poverty and where people of color make up more than 30 percent of the population. On average, almost 20,000 people live within three miles of each facility in our dataset.

We aren’t the only ones to point out the potential risks of the Air Toxics Loophole. A report issued by the Environmental Integrity Project last month identified twelve additional facilities across the Midwest that could take advantage of the Air Toxics Loophole – and estimated that emissions from those facilities could more than quadruple to 540,000 pounds per year if they were to do so.

EPA’s own staff have pointed out the risks as well. Under the George W. Bush Administration, EPA floated – but never finalized – a proposal that was very similar to the Air Toxics Loophole. EPA received critical comments from state air regulators and EPA’s regional offices that raised the same concerns about the potential increases in toxic air pollution.

That Administrator Pruitt has decided to plow ahead again despite those warnings, and with no public input and no analysis of health impacts, is unconscionable. The results of our Houston analysis underscore how reckless that decision was.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this EPA has denied the public an opportunity to participate in a major decision that will impact so many lives. Over the last year, EPA has taken a series of actions to roll back important safeguards, often at the demand of industry representatives, with no opportunity for the public to comment. Luckily, courts have been serving as an important backstop and are rejecting agency actions taken with disregard for required administrative procedures.

Let’s hope that the Air Toxics Loophole meets the same fate.

Photo: Manchester Ship Channel in Houston. Credit: Garth Lenz/International League of Conservation Photographers

Also posted in Clean Air Act, EPA litgation / Comments are closed

An outpouring of support for clean car standards, in the face of Pruitt’s attempted rollback

Cars on a dealer lot, waiting to be sold. Photo: Every Car Listed

(EDF Legal Fellow Erin Murphy co-authored this post)

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt just announced his intention to rollback one of our country’s biggest climate success stories – clean car standards that reduce pollution and save Americans money at the pump.

In a closed-door ceremony, Pruitt kicked off a process to weaken these standards — placing at risk as much as two billion tons of climate pollution reductions and $460 billion in consumer savings.

His determination cited the auto industry dozens of times yet made no mention of people’s health or climate change, and cited zero EPA analyses justifying the rollback.

Even some auto industry leaders have raised concerns about this attack:

  • Honda: “We didn’t ask for that,” said Robert Bienenfeld, assistant vice president in charge of environment and energy strategy. “The position we outlined was sensible.”
  • Ford: “We support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.”
  • Adam Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls: “Trump has been saying these standards are crushing the auto industry. But we’ve had record years for the past four or five years, in terms of sales and profit. It almost makes you think he doesn’t have the facts.”
  • Automotive Technology Leadership Group: “It is in the nation’s best interest for the U.S. to continue leading in the development and manufacture of the cleanest and most efficient vehicles in the world. The innovation brought on by competition and our national performance standards has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country and significant market opportunities for U.S. companies abroad.”

Pruitt’s announcement has even generated a backlash in the most auto-industry-friendly place in America – Detroit.

In a strongly-worded editorial, the Detroit Free Press accused auto companies of reneging on their deal with the American taxpayer:

  • “[T]he auto bailout was more than a federally guaranteed loan; it was a multi-lateral agreement that your companies would henceforth go about the business of manufacturing cars and trucks more thoughtfully than they had in the past … [M]anufacturing more fuel-efficient vehicles that would cost less to operate and spew a dramatically smaller amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere was part of the bargain that saved your lives.” – Detroit Free Press editorial

The clean car standards have strong public support across the country. A recent American Lung Association poll showed that nearly seven in 10 voters want EPA to leave current fuel efficiency standards in place.

That support is reflected in the broad outpouring of support for clean cars expressed in the run up to, and aftermath of, Pruitt’s rollback announcement. A diverse group of leaders recognizes that weakening these protections will cost Americans money, hurt our health, and harm our national security:

  • “Thanks to emissions and efficiency standards, consumers have saved billions of dollars on fuel over the last 5 years. And if the standards were protected instead of undermined, consumers could expect to save a lot more over the next decade. It would be wasteful to discard those consumer savings, but EPA now appears poised to do just that.” – Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Consumers Union
  • “The American Lung Association strongly opposes EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to revise the clean car standards … Transportation is the nation’s single largest contributor of carbon pollution, which drives climate change. Starting a process to weaken clean car standards marks yet another step backward from the fight to curb climate change. Climate change poses serious threats to millions of people, especially to some of the most vulnerable Americans, including children, older adults and those living with chronic diseases such as asthma.” – American Lung Association CEO Harold Wimmer
  • “Weakening CAFE and reducing future U.S. net oil exports will further diminish the future global energy leverage of the United States and leave the country and its allies on a more precarious footing.” – Council on Foreign Relations blog, 3/13/18

Political leaders across the country have voiced strong bipartisan support for the existing clean car standards:

  • “Today’s EPA decision on vehicle emissions won’t prevent us from fulfilling what we believe is an obligation to protect Colorado’s air and the health of our citizens. Many of our auto manufacturers are making cars cleaner and more efficient. Indeed, many support the existing stricter standards. It doesn’t make sense that the EPA would take us backwards. Who is the EPA trying to protect?” – Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper:
  • “As U.S. attorneys general, mayors and county executives, we – not federal officials in Washington, D.C. – are primarily responsible for the transportation systems upon which our residents and our local and regional economies depend. A clean, efficient and high-performance vehicle fleet is an essential component of these systems. We strongly support the current federal standards for such a modern vehicle fleet agreed to in 2012 by the automotive industry, the federal government and the State of California.” – A Coalition of 12 State Attorneys General and Over Fifty Mayors
  • “Today’s announcement by EPA Administrator Pruitt to weaken vehicle emissions standards is in direct conflict with the agency’s mandate to reduce air pollution. This decision will increase air pollution and limit innovative technology advancements that bring cleaner, more efficient cars to market. We support the current federal standards agreed to in 2012 by the automotive industry, the federal government, and the State of California.  These standards are helping to drive the global transition to more efficient transportation technologies. They also protect the health of our communities and reduce the pollution that is changing our climate.” – 17 Governors of states across the country and Puerto Rico

Labor and investment experts have also recognized that the clean car standards are essential for long-term American auto sector innovation, vitality, and jobs:

  • “The current standards have helped bring back, secure, and create jobs nationwide; they have reduced pollution; saved consumers billions at the pump; and have been integral to growing and sustaining America’s manufacturing sector over the past decade. Weakening the rules — which is indicated to be the intent of today’s decision — could put American jobs at risk today and in coming years, and would threaten America’s competitiveness in manufacturing critical technology.” – BlueGreen Alliance Director of Advanced Vehicles and Transportation, Zoe Lipman
  • “Strong national fuel economy and emissions standards spur innovation and open the door to tremendous economic opportunities. They represent an investment in technological and economic leadership. Weakening them would be a bad deal for investors, workers, car owners, and businesses—and for the American economy itself.” -­ David Richardson, Impax Asset Management
Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Jobs, News, Partners for Change, Pruitt, What Others are Saying / Comments are closed