Author Archives: Sharyn Stein

EDF Supports E.U. Efforts to Keep Airlines from Polluting

A landmark court case took place today at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg — and EDF was one of the parties involved.

At issue: whether greenhouse gas emissions from international flights using European airports can be included in the European Union's Emissions Trading System (ETS), which is designed to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change.

United and Continental Airlines (which have recently merged), American Airlines, and the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) sued over the current law, which says all airlines that do business in Europe need to comply with the ETS standards.

EDF joined a group of American and European NGO’s (including WWF-UK, Earthjustice, the Aviation Environment Federation, and the European Federation for Transport and Environment) and six European Union countries to support the ETS.

Our side pointed out that lots of other European Union laws, from environmental protections for oil tankers to highway  safety rules for truck drivers, already apply to international transport — and work just fine.

Read more about today's hearing here, and get more background information here.

Then stay tuned for the next step: the advocate general's opinion in October.

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UN Recognizes U.S.-Backed Climate Accord in Copenhagen

It's done.

After a grueling all-night session here in Copenhagen, the United Nations has passed a motion recognizing an agreement on climate change that the U.S., China and other nations reached just before midnight last night.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told BBC News:

Finally, we sealed the deal …  It may not be everything we hoped for, but this decision of the Conference of Parties is an essential beginning.

Ban also stressed that the agreement must be made legally binding next year.

EDF's Fred Krupp had this to say: 

We have never been so close to having so many agree on so much. If anything was clear at the Copenhagen talks it's that the world is waiting for the U.S. to act. When it does, President Obama can knit together the historic breakthroughs obscured by the end of the Copenhagen meeting.

The coalition of the willing that emerged today represents roughly 60 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. It will undoubtedly be joined by others as ‘low-carbon’ becomes the new term of engagement in the global economy.
 
A lot of hard work remains, but a lot of hard work is finished. The new positive steps taken here, many of them by developing countries, present the U.S. Senate and President Obama with an historic opportunity. When most of the pieces of the puzzle are in place, it’s much easier to add the missing ones later.

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Obama Announces Climate Deal in Copenhagen

Right now, President Obama is announcing that leaders at the Copenhagen climate summit have reached what the White House calls a "meaningful deal."

Details are just starting to emerge, but those inside the Bella conference center, including EDF president Fred Krupp, have gotten a first look at the agreement. Fred says:

Today’s agreement leaves the U.S. in control of its own destiny. We have always known that the path to a clean energy economy goes through Washington, D.C. As President Obama said today, strong action on climate change is in America’s national interest.

It’s the Senate’s turn to speak next. Whether we move ahead with a common-sense plan to create new manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and reduce dependence on foreign oil is not up to other countries; it’s up to us. A year from now we can be further ahead or further behind, and the Senate will make the difference.

Today’s agreement takes the first important steps toward true transparency and accountability in an international climate agreement. The sooner the U.S. speaks through Senate legislation, the sooner we can set the terms of engagement for talks to come."

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Island Nations Agree on Plan to Cap Emissions, Join Carbon Markets

One of the biggest breakthroughs at the Copenhagen climate talks was just achieved by some of the world's smallest countries.

An association called the Small Island Developing Nations signed an agreement this morning to cap greenhouse gas emissions and take advantage of financing opportunities in the global carbon market.

The initiative won praise from EDF's climate and air director Peter Goldmark:

Small islands have to act boldly because for them climate change is already a matter of life and death … this is a dramatic move from rhetoric to action … let's hope the rest of us take a lesson and move ahead courageously.

The group of island nations, led by Grenada, agreed to work together to increase energy efficiency, lower fossil fuel consumption and adopt hard line targets for lowering their greenhouse gas emissions.

The groundbreaking agreement, officially called SIDS Dock, is also an investment vehicle. It will allow the island states to plug into carbon markets and generate financing when they take a hard emissions cap. That financing will make it possible for the islands to transition from high-cost, high-carbon, largely imported fuels to a clean and more affordable economy. 

Goldmark says:

They will be able to take advantage of preferential terms for carbon market access like those contained in the U.S. House-passed clean energy bill.

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Forests May Be the Big Winners at Copenhagen

Negotiators in Copenhagen are still nowhere near a final overall deal, but they are making significant progress on one very important issue — preserving the world's forests.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide; the destruction of the rain forests is responsible for about 17 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.  That's why Environmental Defense Fund supports the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degredation program, better known as REDD.

The 193 countries taking part in the Copenhagen climate summit have been working on a REDD agreement for the past two weeks, and are reportedly very close to a deal.

EDF's president Fred Krupp told the New York Times:

It is likely to be the most concrete thing that comes out of Copenhagen — and it is a very big thing.

Deforestation is partly a result of  poor countries needing the revenue generated from harvesting and selling wood. REDD would provide ways for those countries to make money by conserving their forests instead. Under the program, poor countries would get a new income stream and the world would get more forests. In the U.S., REDD could serve both a political and an economic purpose by helping win support for a clean energy bill with a declining carbon cap. According to the Times:

The agreement is also being closely watched in Congress … Under the cap-and-trade system preferred by Democratic leaders and the Obama administration, companies that cannot meet their greenhouse gas pollution limit could buy extra permits by investing in carbon-reduction programs abroad. Plans to preserve forests under REDD would presumably qualify.

In other good news for the world's forests, the United States Department of Agriculture just announced that it would join Australia, France, Japan, Norway and the United Kingdom, to provide the initial public funding for a related program called REDD+ (pronounced "red plus"). The program provides funding for poor countries that are trying to plant more trees and expand their forest cover. Assuming the Copenhagen talks produce a deal on REDD+, the coalition will provide $3.5 billion over three years for the effort; the U.S. will put up $1 billion of that.

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Clinton Says Lack of Transparency is a "Deal Breaker"

The big news from Copenhagen this morning: U.S. Secretary of  State Hillary Clinton's announcement that transparency is absolutely necessary for any U.S. participation in financing a global climate change treaty.

Saying the U.S. is "ready to do its part," Clinton pledged that the U.S. would raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries fight climate change — but ONLY if all countries agree to binding and verifiable emissions cuts.

Clinton made the condition crystal clear:

If there is not even a commitment to pursue transparency, that is a kind of deal breaker for us… In the absence of an operational agreement that meets the requirements that I outlined, there will not be that kind of financial commitment, at least from the United States.

Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp applauded Clinton's speech for its "sharp focus" on the need for transparency in any international climate agreement:

Transparency — knowing whether countries are living up to their commitments — is the linchpin of an effective global effort. The details of how we measure progress and hold countries accountable to their commitments can be worked out over the coming months. The single most critical goal here in Copenhagen is a commitment by all nations to address transparency … The outlines of an agreement are taking shape. But they could be erased if transparency is blocked or diluted.

Assuming all countries do commit to transparency, Clinton says the $100 billion per year would come from a wide variety of sources, including the public and private sectors in the U.S. and other developed nations.

You can watch Clinton's entire news conference from Copenhagen.

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Two New Polls on Global Warming

Two new polls released today have some good news for the fight against climate change.

First, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll:

A solid majority of Americans support the idea of a global treaty that would require the United States to reduce significantly greenhouse gas emissions.

The poll found that:

  • 55 percent endorse a binding accord to limit greenhouse gases
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of young people ages 18 to 29 support an accord

USA Today says the results should provide some encouragement for President Obama as he gets ready for his trip to Copenhagen.

A separate Associated Press-Stanford University poll finds that most Americans think fighting climate change will be good for our economy.

  • 40 percent say U.S. action to slow global warming will create jobs
  • 46 percent say it would boost the economy.
  • Less than one third say it will hurt the economy or result in fewer jobs

AP calls it:

A sign the public is showing more faith in President Barack Obama's economic arguments for limiting heat-trapping gases than in Republican claims that the actions would kill jobs.

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Out in the Cold for Global Warming

Thousands of climate advocates from around the world flocked to Copenhagen over the weekend to attend the second week of the UN’s international summit on climate change.

They got a chilly reception.

EDF President Fred Krupp and Media Director Tony Kreindler brave the long lines to get into the conference center for the UN’s climate change

EDF President Fred Krupp and Media Director Tony Kreindler brave the long lines to get into the conference center for the UN’s climate change conference

The summit was so overbooked that the UN and/or Danish security couldn't handle registration (each side was blaming the other for the confusion).  The problem, according to the UN, is that the number of people who registered is more than three times the number permitted in the conference center.

Conference participants – including half-a-dozen EDF staff – were stuck outside in the cold and snow flurries for six hours or more; some registered observers never got in at all.

Our compassionate co-workers brought us food, hot tea, and warm socks from inside the conference center, and passed them to us over the security gates and through the crowd.  Fortunately our stubbornness paid off,  and most of us eventually got inside.

On a positive note, we did get to talk with other stranded environmental leaders like Frances Beinecke of NRDC, and make new friends in the crowd of those stuck out in the cold — a crowd that included print reporters and crews for BBC, CNN and Australian TV.

The situation didn't sit so well with reporters. Check out these stories from Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal and Science News.

In spite of the difficulties, we’re glad the fight against climate change has become so popular.  We’re even more pleased to be thawing out inside the conference center, and to be getting back to work toward a productive outcome.

But by the end of the week, we may be looking back at today fondly, because at least we got inside the conference center.  Starting tomorrow, the UN will begin imposing its own "declining cap" on NGO observers. As the heads of state arrive, available slots will decline from tens of thousands today, to seven thousand tomorrow, to 90 on Friday.   Stay tuned; we'll let you know how it goes.

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EDF in the News: Today's Copenhagen Roundup

EDF's presence at Copenhagen is getting a lot of media attention. Check out some of the stories that quote our experts:

The Financial Times writes about carbon trading, and talks to EDF's Jennifer Haverkamp about ways to fund cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Jennifer says:

Any treaty must be adequately financed, and since the the bulk of climate finance will flow through the private sector, it’s crucial that carbon markets work.

When the climate talks hit a snag because of objections from the African delegation, the New York Times talked to EDF's Gus Silva-Chavez:

On the one hand, people expected it. But they didn't expect it to be such a red line. You're shutting down the negotiations two days before the ministers start their jobs. This is going to anger a lot of developed countries.

Later, when developing countries ended their boycott of the climate talks, Gus spoke again — this time to the Associated Press.

And EDF's Steve Schwartzman talked to the San Diego Union Tribune about deforestation, the growing "subnational" movement, and the efforts of the governors of the nine Amazon states to fight climate change. As Steve points out:

Once you start looking at the forest as an asset, deforestation becomes a liability.

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Dueling Op-Eds on Copenhagen

Let's start with the good news first: Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp wrote an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal outlining the need for the Copenhagen talks to make progress toward an effective verification and compliance system in a final agreement.

Fred says:

The road to a serious global agreement goes through the U.S. Congress… The task, then, for U.S. negotiators and their counterparts, is to focus on establishing the fundamental building blocks for an effective treaty that can be finalized in 2010.

He then lists those building blocks as:

  • Inclusiveness
  • Financing
  • Verifiability and compliance

Read the whole piece for insight into each point.

Now the bad news: Sarah Palin wrote an op-ed in today's Washington Post that purports to be about Copenhagen, but really just rehashes "climate-gate." The piece tries to paint global warming as purely political issue and dismisses the underlying science. Read at your own risk. Media Matters has posted a thorough fact-check of the piece.

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