6 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for December 4: India’s offer may help climate talks; Kerry unveils Foreign Relations’ climate bill contribution
India’s offer to voluntarily reduce the amount of carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product after numerical pledges from the U.S. and China may move the climate-change talks ahead.
Asia’s third-biggest energy consumer can reduce its emissions intensity by as much as 25 percent from 2005 to 2020 through forestry measures and by becoming more energy efficient, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said last night.
Three days ahead of the opening of the United Nations- sponsored climate summit in Copenhagen, the offer “will certainly help the negotiations process and is something India should be doing for external and, more importantly, for internal reasons,” said Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“It takes the wind out of the sails of developed countries who were trying to push India,” Pachauri said. India continues to oppose binding emission-reduction goals and a date for when its emissions would peak, saying its 2008 plan to increase solar power, energy efficiency and forestation will reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases mainly blamed for global warming.
Negotiations for a new global climate treaty in Copenhagen to replace or extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 are deadlocked as rich and poor nations failed to agree on issues ranging from emission targets to financial aid for developing countries to help them cope with the effects of climate change.
Environmental organizations welcomed India’s proposal. “These targets are a good, positive step toward quantification of India’s action on climate change on the eve of the crucial Copenhagen conference,” said Vinuta Gopal, climate campaign manager for Greenpeace India.
“We hope that this will be a strong step in moving toward a low-carbon sustainable model of development since the targets will be met through the use of better and more efficient technology,” said Ravi Singh, head of WWF-India.
Together with the Chinese announcement, India’s move “puts enormous pressure on the developed countries, in particular the U.S. to get their act together,” Prodipto Ghosh, a climate expert at The Energy and Resources Institute, said from New Delhi. Ghosh called for developed countries to come up with ambitious targets that “are clearly understood by science.”
China, the world’s biggest polluter, last month offered to cut output of carbon dioxide per unit of gross domestic product by 40 percent to 45 percent over 2005 levels by 2020. The U.S. proposed to reduce emissions by about 17 percent for the same period provided that dovetails with a new domestic climate law.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced global warming legislation yesterday that he said will serve as the “foundation” of the U.S. financial package headed into U.N.-sponsored negotiations next week in Copenhagen.
The 81-page bill would authorize programs associated with the U.S. contribution to a new global climate change agreement, including adaptation, deployment of clean energy technologies and reducing deforestation and forest degradation.
The bill represents the Foreign Relations Committee’s entry to the broader climate proposal being crafted by Kerry and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Five other committees are also expected to contribute ideas to the overall package, including Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources, Environment and Public Works, and Finance.
Kerry’s bill steers funding and technical assistance to help developing countries keep their forests standing and participate in global carbon markets. Through the forestry programs, the bill sets a goal for reducing emissions by at least 720 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020 — with a cumulative target of 6 billion tons by 2025.
Clean technology deployment efforts get a boost through language setting up a panel of experts from academia, civil society, government agencies and business. The group would monitor investments to make sure they are made in countries taking enforceable actions to reduce emissions, with additional lookout for U.S. intellectual property rights.
It also sets up a new Strategic Interagency Board on International Climate Investment that would be tasked with oversight of multiple government agency contributions to international climate finance. It would require the State Department to report to Congress on low-carbon development efforts in rapidly growing countries.
And the legislation offers aid to the most vulnerable developing nations to help them develop and implement adaptation programs that deal with everything from sea-level rise to heat waves, extreme weather, air pollution, allergies and water- and food-borne infectious disease.
Kerry has said he does not expect to mark up the bill, and spokeswoman Whitney Smith said yesterday that no votes have been scheduled. Four members of the Foreign Relations Committee cosponsored the bill: Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer earlier this week said he is looking to the world’s wealthy nations in Copenhagen to pledge about $10 billion in aid over the next three years for developing nations to help them deploy clean energy technologies and curb emissions from deforestation, and for adaptation. Obama administration officials have said they are likely to commit about $1.3 billion this year toward that pot, reflective of the annual budget and appropriations process.
Over the long term, de Boer said developed countries should expect to contribute about $100 billion annually, though he said the meeting in Copenhagen did not need to reach consensus on those figures. Both the House-passed climate bill and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee include emission allocations worth several hundred billion dollars over the four-decade lifetime of the program, though it is still far from clear if the legislation will make it to President Obama’s desk and become law.
Several groups off the Hill released statements praising the Kerry-led proposal, including the U.N. Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, OxFam America, the Nature Conservancy, Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Center for Clean Air Policy, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Wildlife Fund and CARE USA.
Nepal’s Cabinet issued a declaration on climate change after an outdoor meeting in the shadow of Mount Everest, in a region where shrinking glaciers threaten rivers essential to development in China, India and Pakistan.
Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal delivered the statement after he and more than 20 ministers, officials, journalists, and technicians returned by helicopter, according to Nepalnews.com. The group brought oxygen masks and a team of six doctors for the 20-minute meeting on the Kalapatthar plateau, 5,240 meters (17,192 feet) above sea level.
“Worldwide climate change patterns of recent years have started to negatively affect the Himalayas and the people living in this region, their socio-economic development, biological diversity and other sectors,” Kumar said, according to Nepalnews.com. The risk of floods, landslides, glacier erosion, drought, deforestation and other natural calamities has greatly increased, he said.
Global warming is melting glaciers from Switzerland to the Himalayas, threatening water and food security for 1.6 billion people in South Asia, according to an Asian Development Bank study. Half of the Alps’ glacial terrain has vanished since the 1850s, according to the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich.
The Himalayas are the source of India’s Ganges River; the Yangtze, China’s longest; Nepal’s main river, the Karnali; and Pakistan’s longest, the Indus. India and China possess more than 40 percent of Earth’s population and rely on rivers for drinking water and irrigation.
Canada won’t impose mandatory greenhouse gas targets for major exporting industries such as energy and mining until the U.S. sets rules for its own companies, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said.
“Everyone is searching for what I call investment certainty in all of this, but it’s also very clear that everyone wants to see harmonization with the United States as the paramount objective,” said Prentice, 53, in an interview at his parliamentary offices in Ottawa.
Prentice in June promised “certainty” to companies such as Rio Tinto Group and Suncor Energy Inc. by year-end. That was before U.S. action to cap emissions stalled in the Senate after passing the House. Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said last month that lawmakers will try again in the spring.
“Some industries will not know what their competitors’ targets are until the United States makes those choices,” said Prentice, who is from Alberta, Canada’s biggest oil-producing province. “The government of Canada has no intention of putting those industries at a competitive disadvantage in the meantime.”
Prentice, who was a lawyer specializing in property rights before entering politics as a Conservative Party lawmaker in 2004, will lead the Canadian delegation for Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Dec. 7-18 global climate talks in Copenhagen. Harper’s government has backed away from cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, which Canada ratified.
Climate Action Network International, a coalition of more than 450 organizations that monitor climate change, called Canada, which sits on the world’s largest pool of oil reserves outside the Middle East, a “colossal fossil” for obstructing talks last year in Poland.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told reporters last week that Canada, which holds the Group of Eight presidency next year, needs to introduce ambitious targets “as soon as possible.”
“We have embraced the concept of harmonization on a continental basis,” said Prentice, who decorates the waiting room of his office with pictures of himself with dignitaries including President Barack Obama and Senator John Kerry. Canada, which creates about 2 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, sends about three-quarters of its exports to the U.S.
Prentice describes himself as a “realist” on climate change and peppers his remarks with adjectives like “practical” and “constructive” to characterize the Canadian position.
“The primary source of agricultural offsets would be carbon sequestration through afforestation of crop and pastureland,” said Joe Glauber, Agriculture Department chief economist.
Some 85 percent of revenue from agricultural offsets from 2015-2050 would arise from creation of woodlands, said Glauber. The Congressional Budget Office estimated forestry would account for 90 percent of agricultural offsets in 2030.
The forestry offsets would be worth an average $3 billion a year according to modeling by the Environmental Protection Agency, said Glauber. The Midwest and South Central states would see most of the money and the Northeast would get 11 percent.
Not counting the forestry offsets, farm income would be an average $22 billion a year higher under the bill, mostly the result of higher crop and livestock prices, according to the EPA modeling. There also would be some income from actions by farmers to limit greenhouse gases.
Those steps might include adoption of low or no-till systems, revising fertilizer practices, altering livestock feed mixes or capturing methane from manure.
Revenue from carbon control was projected to be much larger than income for constraining methane or nitrous oxides. Most of the conversion to forestland from pasture and cropland would be in the Midwest and South Central states.
PG&E Corp will build and operate a wind power project of up to 246 megawatts with the U.S. unit of Spain’s Iberdrola SA, marking the utility’s first foray to own wind generation.
PG&E said on Thursday that it expected to invest just over $900 million in the project. That figure includes the cost for Iberdrola Renewables to develop and build the system.
The proposed project would cover about 7,000 acres in the Tehachapi area of Eastern Kern County in Southern California.
The news marks the first move for PG&E to build and own wind power generation and follows Iberdrola Renewables’ plans to spend billions on renewable energy facilities in the United States through 2012.
California utilities are working to meet state targets that a third of its electricity come from renewables by 2020.
Earlier this year in February, PG&E said it would develop up to 500 MW of solar power projects and own up to half of the solar generation, in its first direct investment in renewable generation in more than a decade.
During the financial crisis, funding for renewable projects dried up, but utilities have been a bright spot since they can claim a 30 percent tax credit for building installations.
The news from PG&E should be welcome to the U.S. wind power industry. Wind power has been one of the fastest growing sources of renewable generation, but the credit crisis slowed its expansion.
New installations in 2008 made the United States the top wind generator in the world, but in 2009 new additions have slowed and China is expected to take the top spot.
Shares of PG&E were up 1.09 percent at $43.78 on the New York Stock Exchange at mid-afternoon. Shares of Iberdrola closed at 6.45 euros on Thursday.