Climate News Roundup

Nearly half of electricity from renewable resources by 2030: Berlin — Agence France-Presse (AFP). Pretty impressive considering that this country has so far refused to embrace even a 10% renewable target by 2020.

Building Coal Plants in Florida Proves Difficult — Reuters. Frightening factoid: “Companies are planning to build more than 150 coal-fired power plants across the United States, according to the National Technology Energy Laboratory.”Democrats pledge climate will be top priority — Greenwire (subs. req’d). I’ll reprint the article below the fold here:

All Democratic presidential candidates embraced aggressive approaches this weekend to addressing climate change that involve expanded federal intervention and a new round of international negotiations on greenhouse-gas curbs.

In a “virtual town hall” sponsored by the liberal advocacy group on Saturday, all eight Democratic candidates identified climate change as a top priority and endorsed some form of mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions, but the front-runners took different approaches.


The candidates were addressing questions submitted in advance by MoveOn members. Their videotaped responses were aired at more than 1,200 house parties organized in conjunction with the former Vice President Al Gore’s Live Earth concerts. Each candidate answered a single question.

One question for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) was from Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who asked whether proposals to address climate change need to be aggressive, specifically by charging companies for the right “to use the sky or the atmosphere.”

Obama said that rather than using a conventional cap-and-trade system for emissions, he would push for a carbon auction, pointing to the problems with the implementation of the cap-and-trade scheme in Europe.

“One of the flaws that we’ve seen in the existing cap-and-trade system that has been used in Europe during the course of the Kyoto Protocol … is that the permits that were given away in their cap-and-trade system, were given away for free and were under-priced,” Obama said. “And as a consequence, they have not been as effective as we needed them to be in ratcheting down the actual emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Under Obama’s proposal — which he said he would describe in greater detail in the coming weeks — tens of billions of dollars generated each year from such an auction would go toward investments in clean technology research.


Meanwhile, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) said she was “intrigued” by the carbon auction proposal. Clinton said she continues to support legislation introduced by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to establish a nationwide cap-and-trade system. Under the Boxer-Sanders approach, lawmakers leave it to U.S. EPA to determine how to distribute billions of dollars in pollution credits to industry.

“I think some combination of approaches like that … are absolutely what we have to move toward and it will be my highest priority as president to get that legislation introduced and passed,” Clinton said.

Other proposals

Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) also pushed for a slightly different approach to climate change, saying he was the only candidate to propose a corporate carbon tax that would bring in an estimated $50 billion each year. Those revenues would then be used for alternative technology research and offer tax incentives to consumers.

“We need to have this price differential destroyed. We do that with the carbon tax,” Dodd said. “We can’t be going in the opposite direction.”

Despite the differences, two common themes ran through the responses of every candidate: the importance of international cooperation and the potential economic benefits of the transition to alternative energy technologies.


Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) — who has built his presidential bid in large part around promises to reduce poverty — said he envisioned creating roughly a million “green collar” jobs. Edwards also said he would open up the electric grid to more competition, potentially driving down prices, as well provide at least a billion dollars for automakers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“One of the goals of this transition to new forms of energy … is not only to address this crisis of climate change, but also to strengthen the American economy, and not just at the top, which is what we’ve seen under Bush,” Edwards said. “Instead we want to strengthen the economy and strengthen the ability of Americans to earn a decent living from the bottom up.”

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also said that he would re-enter international negotiations on climate change and would place the United States in a leadership position rather than waiting for other countries to implement climate change policies.

“Only after we are serious, can we convince the world,” Richardson said. “But I believe it’s going to take a president on the bully pulpit making this the top foreign policy and domestic priority of his administration, and this is what I would do.”

Richardson also said that he would create a Cabinet-level agency within the White House to address climate change.

MoveOn members were able to vote on which candidate’s approach they preferred, although voting was not complete as of press time.