NRDC has launched an ad campaign mocking the American Petroleum Institute with this gem:
Energy and Global Warming News for September 24th: UK opens world’s biggest offshore windfarm; GE chief slams U.S. on energy; “Sea snot” explosion caused by BP oil disaster, possibly crippling Gulf food chain?
It is a very rare thing for the UK to claim pre-eminence in the much-touted global green economy, so the assembled local dignitaries, industry folk and one cabinet minister were not letting the dismal maritime backdrop put a downer on proceedings.
The Wonk Room is covering the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.
Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative on Tuesday, new UN climate chief Christiana Figueres criticized the failures of the Copenhagen talks and said that a comprehensive “big bang” global climate treaty is not possible. Figueres, who was chosen to be the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary after Yvo de Boer stepped down following Copenhagen, discussed her expectations for the next round of talks that will take place this December in Cancun, Mexico. “What went wrong at Copenhagen,” her brother, former Costa Rica president Jose Maria Figueres asked, “and what are you going to make Cancun better?” After saying that she intended to avoid the logistical chaos civil society groups encountered in Copenhagen, Christiana declared that there will never be a comprehensive global climate treaty to follow the Kyoto pact, which expires in 2012:
I think that one of the major mistakes that we all bought into, because all of us bought into, was the myth of the big bang theory in climate. Maybe the universe was created by a Big Bang. But what is clear is that this planet is not going to be saved by any big bang agreement. Not in Copenhagen, not this year, not next year. The fact is that it’s unreasonable to expect that there is going to be one large comprehensive agreement that will address all issues and will miraculously change the way that we’ve been doing things for a hundred years.
Figueres then outlined her vision for the Cancun talks in the context of the non-binding Copenhagen Accord: a “realistic” and “probably sane” “progressive approach” that achieves the “politically possible,” recognizing this would be “only a step” in the right direction:
So the big lesson learned for us this year is: let us be realistic, let us really make a very concerted effort — and governments are doing so — to see what is politically possible, what is achievable in Cancun. Let’s focus on that and let us ensure that what we’re doing here is taking one step at a time, ensuring that Cancun is going to be a firm step in the right direction, but only a step. That’s there’s going to have to be much more work going forward.
Now this progressive approach is probably a sane approach, but it is in stark contrast to the urgency of the matter. That’s the problem: that we can only go in incremental steps but the matter is really very urgent, particularly for low-lying states.
This is the essential challenge of climate diplomacy — by definition only the “politically possible” can be achieved by the UNFCCC, but global warming is governed by the laws of physics, not of man. The timeline to reduce greenhouse pollution is not governed by treaties but by collapse of a livable planet. Because of the inevitability of long-term sea level rise, it may already be too late to save low-lying states from extinction — so they have little sympathy for “incremental steps.”
Figueres hopes to tackle this challenge by changing the “psychodynamics” of the negotiations from the cost of climate destruction — and the moral and economic culpability of the developed world — to the “opportunities moving into the future”:
Which is why we need to change the psychodynamics to exactly what you said when you started, Jose Maria. The psychodynamics right now in the negotiations is focusing on the cost. Who is going to pay for what when because of the debt that we have incurred with each other over the past x number of years. That’s an important part of the conversation. But we should also focus part of the conversation on: what are the opportunities moving into the future? And that part of the conversation is not present.
As the life story of CGI’s organizer, Bill Clinton, proves, there is indeed great political power in hope, no matter how ephemeral it may often seem.
A chart-filled excerpt from the terrific book, “Greening Our Built World: Costs, Benefits, and Strategies”
Recent surveys find that concern over first costs remains the primary barrier to green building. For example, Global Green Building Trends study, released in 2008, reports that of the over 700 construction professionals who responded to the survey, 80% cited “higher first costs” as an obstacle to green building.
Green buildings””designed to use fewer resources and to support the health of their inhabitants””are commonly viewed as more expensive to build than conventional buildings. For example, a 2007 opinion survey by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development found that, on average, green buildings were thought to cost 17% more than conventional buildings. But we found this widespread perception””that greening costs a lot more than conventional design””to be wrong. In fact, the green 170 buildings analyzed for Greening our Built World cost, on average, less than 2% more than conventional buildings; moreover, green buildings provide a wide range of benefits””both direct and indirect””that make them a very good investment.
The figure above derived from the WBCSD survey illustrates this perception and compares it to the actual green premiums. The public also appears to underestimate the environmental impacts of buildings: The same international survey showed a public perception that buildings produce roughly 20% of CO2 emissions, when in reality they account for about 45%. And, as noted in an earlier post, a recent survey of U.S. homeowners found that nearly three-quarters believe that their homes have no adverse environmental impacts.
Leaders lead. Whitman waffles. Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has the story.
In an attempt to ensure that California has neither an old-energy nor new-energy economy, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has announced her opposition to Proposition 23, the oil-fueled campaign to suspend California’s landmark climate law AB 32. Whitman also reiterated her call for a one-year moratorium of AB 32, attacking it as a “job-killer”: