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In U.S.-Brazil statement on climate change, Rousseff misses opportunity for international leadership

Presidents Obama and Rousseff deserve credit for putting climate change at the top of their bilateral agenda today.

Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR

President Obama and President Rousseff announced June 30 that the U.S. and Brazil would increase collaboration on climate change. Above: Obama and Rousseff at a 2011 press conference. Photo: Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR via Flickr

Public commitment to a strong Paris outcome from two major emitters that are already taking significant action on climate is more than welcome. Restoring 12 million hectares of degraded forest, as President Rousseff has pledged, is a positive contribution – albeit no more than Brazil’s current law mandates.

It is highly promising that the two major economies are creating a high-level working group to move the climate change agenda forward.  Particularly interesting is the pledge to develop innovative public-private finance mechanisms both for clean energy and the forestry sector.

It is however, disappointing that President Rousseff’s goal on deforestation – to “pursue policies aimed at eliminating illegal deforestation” – goes no further than compliance with existing law.

Brazil has already reduced Amazon deforestation by 70% below the historical average since 2005 while increasing soy and beef production, and has an ambitious but entirely achievable goal of an 80% reduction by 2020.

Amazon states are taking the lead on reducing emissions from deforestation and putting in place the policy frameworks needed to consolidate these gains. Pará state has adopted a goal of zero deforestation by 2020, while Acre governor Tião Viana affirmed to UK government officials and private investors that Acre can, with adequate support, zero out deforestation within three years.

Particularly in light of Pope Francis’s inspiring encyclical on climate change, President Rousseff sells Brazil’s achievements and abilities short in stating that all Brazil will do is follow its own law. President Rousseff has an enormous opportunity for international leadership on climate change, building on Brazil's impressive success to date and leveraging the progress and commitments by Brazilian states. She should seize that opportunity – and adopt a more aggressive and ambitious national target in advance of the Paris conference at year's end.

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Why airlines should stop climate change

Carbon pollution from airplanes creates risks to the general public’s health and welfare, according to a preliminary EPA finding released this week. But the aviation sector itself is particularly vulnerable to the rising seas, higher temperatures, and intense weather events brought by an overheated atmosphere.

Experts have been warning for years about risks airports and airlines face from climate change, including:

  • airport runways buckling in the heat or flooding;
  • health issues for airport and airline workers from higher temperatures on the tarmac;
  • smaller capacity for take offs and landings during stormy weather;
  • damage to critical air traffic control equipment from storms and floods; and
  • impaired airplane performancedecreasing how far planes can fly (range) and how much weight they can carry (payload).

Airlines and the traveling public experienced the full force of these impacts in 2012. Hurricane Sandy caused the cancellation of nearly 20,000 flights in the New York area, cost the airline industry nearly $190 million in earnings, and did $29 million in damage to federal air navigation systems. Some navigation systems were offline for weeks, limiting the ability of airlines to land in poor weather even after the storm had ended.

These hefty risks place serious costs on the airlines themselves, the cities that own airports, businesses that rely on efficient cargo transport, and the flying public. This industry needs to protect the climate for its own sake. Airlines should support tough limits on carbon pollution.

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New climate commitments from subnational governments set strong example for Paris


Twelve states and provinces representing 100 million people from seven countries have committed to dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) hosted the May 19 event in Sacramento commemorating the official signing of the agreement by so-called "subnational" state and provincial governments.

The Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding is part of a growing momentum on climate action in the lead-up to the UN climate talks that will be taking place in Paris at the end of the year.

The founding signatories of the agreement are from three continents and have a combined GDP of $4.5 trillion, which would constitute the fourth largest economic entity in the world; they are:

Acre, Brazil*
Baden-Württemberg, Germany*
Baja California, Mexico*
British Columbia, Canada
California, United States*
Catalonia, Spain*
Jalisco, Mexico*
Ontario, Canada*
Oregon, United States
Vermont, United States
Wales, United Kingdom
Washington, United States





(* indicates the jurisdiction attended the May 19 signing ceremony)

The signers committed that by 2050 they would cut total emissions 80-95% percent below 1990 levels or achieve a per capita emissions target of below two metric tons.

The agreement is being referred to as the “Under 2 MOU,” a play both on this per capita target of two metric tons, and the goal of limiting global temperature rise to under 2 degrees, which Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists say is needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Read More »

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Building on global momentum, Lima climate talks take on foundational issues

The annual UN climate conference kicked off today in Lima, Peru, and over the next two weeks delegates from more than 190 countries will be seeking to build on the momentum created by the recent US-China bilateral agreement and efforts launched at September's Climate Summit.

Christiana Figueres

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres opens the latest round of UN climate talks in Lima, Peru. Source: Flickr (UNclimatechange)

Nathaniel Keohane, vice president of EDF's International Climate Program and a former economic adviser in the Obama administration said in EDF's opening statement:

Lima signals the bell lap in the current round of talks leading to a climate agreement in Paris next year. Countries won’t finalize an agreement in Lima, but they should make progress in setting out fundamental elements of such an agreement.

No single UN agreement will solve climate change. What an agreement in Paris can do is to build a structure that spurs countries to be more ambitious, makes them accountable for their progress, and gives them the confidence that other countries are taking action as well.  The talks in Lima can lay the groundwork for such an outcome.

Read More »

Also posted in Deforestation, Lima (COP-20), News, REDD, UN negotiations| Leave a comment

8 reasons for hope: Our top take-aways from Climate Week

My forecast had been for a Climate Week “on steroids” and that’s exactly what we got.


(Image: Jane Kratochvil)

We saw the largest climate rally in history draw 400,000 people – up from the 250,000 we had initially hoped for – and then the United Nations Climate Summit, where 125 heads of state joined business and civic leaders to discuss ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Another highlight for the week was the growing momentum for putting a price on carbon. More than 1,000 businesses and investors, nearly 100 national, state, province and city governments, and more than 30 non-profit organizations called for expanding emissions trading and other policies that create market incentives for cutting pollution.

Could it be that we’re finally reaching the point of meaningful action on climate change? To find out, I asked colleagues at Environmental Defense Fund who participated in the Climate Summit for their key take-aways from the week.

Here’s their report:


Eric Pooley, Sr. Vice President, Strategy and Communications: This march shot down, once and for all, the old canard that Americans “don't care” about climate change. And it reminded me what an extremely big tent the coalition for climate action really is — with plenty of room for groups with vastly different views.

More than 1,000 EDF members and staff, plus 300 members of the Moms Clean Air Force, were proud to be marching alongside all kinds of people from all kinds of groups from all over the country. To win on climate, we need a strong outside game and a strong inside game. EDF is helping to build both.


Mark Brownstein, Associate Vice President, U.S. Climate and EnergyMethane is becoming a top priority in the fight against climate change. Last week, EDF helped to launch the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Oil & Gas Methane Partnership, which creates a framework for oil and gas companies to measure and reduce methane emissions and report their progress.

At the summit, I watched the chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, turn to Fred Krupp to say that his company was interested in joining the six companies that already agreed to sign on. While the ultimate test of the partnership will be the reductions that it achieves, it has gotten off to a promising start.


Stephan Schwartzman, Senior Director, Tropical Forest Policy: One of the high points of the week, no doubt, came when 35 national and state governments, more than 60 non-profits and indigenous organizations, and 34 major corporations pledged to halve deforestation by 2020 – and to completely end the clearing of natural forests by 2030. EDF was proud to be part of the coalition that put the New York Declaration on Forests together.


Christopher Meyer, Amazon Basin Outreach Manager: Indigenous groups from the major rain forest basins pledged to continue to conserve 400 million hectares under their control. Those 400 million hectares are important for cultural and biodiversity purposes globally, but they also hold an estimated 71 gigatons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 11 years of emissions from the United States.

I was honored to accompany Edwin Vasquez Campos of the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin, and to watch him deliver a stirring speech to a room that included the leaders of Norway and Indonesia. It was the first time an indigenous leader was given such an opportunity at the U.N.


Fred Krupp, EDF President: On September 23, EDF hosted a meeting with Chinese government officials, who reiterated their plans for a national carbon market in China, and said they’re interested in working with the United States to combat climate change. Later that day, I heard President Obama speak at the United Nations General Assembly.

I was encouraged and inspired to hear him say that the U.S. and China, “as the two largest economies and emitters in the world … have a special responsibility to lead.”


Richie Ahuja, Regional Director, Asia: After a three-year global effort involving a large number of diverse stakeholders, we finally launched the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture. Its purpose: To help the world figure out how to feed a growing population on a warming planet.

The alliance will use the latest technology and draw on the experience of farmers to improve livelihoods and build resilience – while at the same time cutting greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts. This is climate action that truly counts.


Ruben Lubowski, Chief Natural Resource Economist: One thing that made the Climate Summit unique was that it included corporate leaders, not just heads of state. In addition to signing the New York Declaration on Forests, chief executives of major global companies that buy and trade palm oil and other tropical commodities that drive deforestation – companies like Cargill, Unilever, and Wilmar – spoke strongly about their plans to change sourcing practices.

Already, companies accounting for about 60 percent of the world’s palm oil trade have made commitments to eliminate deforestation from their products.


Derek Walker, Associate Vice President, U.S. Climate and Energy: California has served as a proving ground for climate change policies that can be adapted by other jurisdictions, whether in the U.S. and abroad – and there’s more to come. My highlight for the week: when Gov. Jerry Brown said that California will set a post-2020 emissions limit and ratchet up its 33-percent renewable standard – already the nation’s top target.

California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols also told us that the state is preparing to develop rules on how to incorporate forest carbon credits into its carbon market – a key step toward reducing deforestation.

This post originally appeared on EDF Voices on Sept. 29.

Also posted in Agriculture, Brazil, Deforestation, Emissions trading & markets, Indigenous peoples, News, REDD| Leave a comment

California and Mexico: Valuable teammates in the fight against climate change

en español  |  For nearly a decade, California’s landmark climate change law, AB 32, has been widely recognized for its efforts to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and build a low-carbon future.

Mexico flag and palm tree

Working together, California and Mexico can maximize the mutual benefits of setting high environmental standards to build low-carbon economies for the future. (Photo credit: Flickr user gabofr)

While climate action in Washington, D.C. continues to be stymied, our neighbor to the south is a key player and emerging leader on the global climate stage and is willing and able to join California in the fight.

Mexico has been a leader in advancing UN global climate change talks and recently passed its own historic climate change law.

These actions have garnered much attention from the international community, including Governor Jerry Brown.

In fact, his administration has indicated it is reaching out to Mexico on climate change, and just this week we’ve learned that Mexico’s President, Enrique Peña Nieto, is planning a visit to the Golden State.

The opportunities here can’t be overstated. As Governor Brown pointed out in his 2014 State of the State Address, if we want to move the needle on cutting carbon pollution, California can’t do it alone.

The collaboration between California and Mexico could be a powerful force to move global action on climate change forward, while creating mutual benefits. And, the partnership is both a natural and practical one.  California and Mexico have deep cultural, political, and economic ties that bind their histories, and climate change represents an opportunity for leaders on both sides of the border to work together to shape our collective future.

There are five primary areas where Mexico’s and California’s existing efforts to curb climate change align:

Climate efforts in California and Mexico
1. Comprehensive climate change lawsPassed in 2006, AB32, the state’s landmark climate law, sets a declining cap on emissions in sectors producing the most GHG pollution. The law confirmed California's commitment to transition to a sustainable, clean energy economy, helped put climate change front and center on the national agenda and spurred similar action by states and regions across the U.S.In 2012, Mexico passed a broad climate change law with ambitious goals for reducing GHGs. Mexico’s climate change law does not yet mandate its GHG targets, but rather establishes voluntary targets comparable in scale to California’s mandatory limits. It also sets a comprehensive institutional, technical, and legal plan to help achieve those goals. This historic program is being built right now.
2. Climate policy strategiesAB 32 lays out a strategy and a comprehensive set of actions including:

  • Expanding and strengthening energy efficiency programs and building and appliance standards.
  • Achieving a statewide renewable energy mix of 33% by 2020.
  • Developing a California cap-and-trade program that links with other partner programs to create a larger market system.
  • Establishing targets for transportation-related GHG emissions for regions throughout California.
  • Adopting and implementing direct measures to reduce emissions and protect public health, including California's clean car standards, goods movement measures and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
Mexico’s climate change strategy focuses on areas that align with California’s vision of a lower carbon future:

  • Accelerating a transition toward clean energy sources
  • Reducing energy intensity through energy efficiency and conservation
  • Building sustainable cities
  • Reducing particulate pollution and short-lived climate pollutants.
  • Improving management of agricultural and forest lands
3. Economic efficiencyCalifornia’s successful carbon market provides a great example of how environmental and economic policy can work hand in hand.  It is also spurring innovation and investment in a clean and efficient economy while benefiting the state’s most disadvantaged communities.Mexico is laying the groundwork for market mechanisms. From the potential for emissions trading to renewable energy markets, the country’s law prioritizes economically efficient means to achieve its climate goals, but more work is needed.
4. Historic energy reformA majority of California’s emissions come from its energy sector, including transportation fuels. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) uses a market-based cap and trade approach to lowering the greenhouse gas emissions from petroleum-based fuels like reformulated gasoline and diesel. The LCFS slowly changes the California fueling system by providing opportunities for all fuel types to improve and grow.Energy reform is creating an unprecedented host of opportunities in Mexico. The majority of Mexico’s emissions come from its energy sector, including electricity generation and the production and burning of transportation fuels. An overhaul of long-standing energy monopolies creates new opportunities for developing renewable energy, cleaning up energy production and producing cleaner transportation fuels.
5. Natural resource protectionCalifornia’s climate law may permit a small number of credits from Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) to be used in its carbon market. This would reward indigenous and forest-dwelling communities, potentially including those in Mexico, with incentives for ecosystem protection.Mexico is building models for comprehensive programs to reduce emissions from forest destruction through REDD. The cutting and burning of tropical forests worldwide contributes more GHG emissions each year than the entire global transportation sector. Mexico’s forests are a vital resource for its rural population and home to some of the world’s richest areas of biodiversity. Incentivizing best practices in agricultural production also targets a significant source of emissions from land use.

It’s become abundantly clear that international partnerships are key to effectively reducing GHG emissions, preventing the most disastrous effects of climate change, and building resilient economies that will help protect the planet for future generations.

Ultimately, California can catalyze action outside of its borders with partners like Mexico, amplifying the impact of our efforts to cut carbon pollution. Working together, California and Mexico can maximize the mutual benefits of setting high environmental standards to build low-carbon economies for the future.

(This post originally appeared on EDF's California Dream 2.0 blog on Mar. 4)

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