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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