Energy and Global Warming News for September 21st: Obama to shift focus as climate talks approach

Obama to Shift Focus to Climate Change

After months of almost single-minded focus on healthcare, President Obama is about to shift the White House spotlight to global warming — first with a speech to the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, then later in the week at the G-20 economic conference in Pittsburgh.


The renewed emphasis on climate change and reducing carbon dioxide emissions comes at a crucial time: Negotiators are entering the home stretch in a drive to unveil a comprehensive international agreement to curb rising temperatures at a December conference in Copenhagen.

With key divisions remaining among the major industrialized nations, as well as with developing industrial powers and poorer nations, there is concern that negotiations leading up to Copenhagen could be bogging down. Obama administration officials, while admitting the seriousness of the challenges, hold out hope for a deal.

Here are nine hurdles facing Obama and his counterparts….

See also Todd Stern testifies “Nothing the U.S. can do is more important for the international negotiation process than passing robust, comprehensive clean energy legislation as soon as possible”¦. President Obama and the Secretary of State, along with our entire Administration, are committed to action on this issue.”

And here’s some good news that the administration is also working the issue behind the scenes:

White House Quietly Lobbies Senate on Climate Bill

Climate-change legislation has stalled on Capitol Hill, but the White House’s unofficial “Green Cabinet” is quietly trying to revive the effort by lobbying dozens of senators.


President Obama has dispatched Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson to Capitol Hill. White House aides said that they and other executive branch staffers, such as climate-change czar Carol Browner, have met with “dozens” of senators.

They are working to assure key senators — ranging from Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, to John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat — that a climate-change bill is viewed as a “priority” by the administration, Capitol Hill sources said.

A White House aide said the “Green Cabinet” is asking senators to support a comprehensive plan — though some vulnerable lawmakers would prefer that the bill be split into more politically tenable pieces — and is asking them to share ideas for what to include in the legislation.

As those meetings take place behind closed doors, some senators are striking deals on individual bits such as coal and nuclear issues, sources on Capitol Hill and in environmental groups say.

Cap and Trade Proves Popular in Some Conservative Democratic Districts

It appears that cap-and-trade legislation is turning out to be popular in the states of some conservative Democrats, according to a new poll that Democratic firm Garin Hart Yang conducted on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund.


In Blue Dog Dem Heath Shuler’s North Carolina district, cap and trade is supported by 55% of voters, versus 29% opposed.

In Blue Dog Dem Baron Hill’s Indiana district, cap and trade is supported by 45%, versus 30% opposed.

In Dem Rep. Tom Perriello’s conservative Virginia district, cap and trade is supported by 42%, versus 25% opposed.

All three voted for the House climate bill, which makes the results not quite as surprising. More interesting would be the results in the districts of the 44 Dems who voted against it.

Climate Change to Take Center Stage at U.N.

U.S. President Barack Obama promised strong action on climate change from his first day in office, but he is heading into a series of meetings with other world leaders this month under growing pressure to deliver on his rhetoric.


More than 100 world leaders, including Mr. Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, are scheduled to meet Tuesday at the 64th United Nations General Assembly to talk about fighting climate change, in a prelude to the Pittsburgh Group of 20 meetings starting Thursday.

While the talk will be about the environment, the substance will be about money. Poor nations say that if rich nations want them to stop burning coal or cutting down forests, they should be willing to pay.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made global warming a focus, and he is worried that the meeting won’t move the ball forward toward a new global climate-change treaty in Copenhagen this December to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

“We want world leaders to show they understand the gravity of climate risks, as well as the benefits of acting now,” Mr. Ban said. “We want them to publicly commit to sealing a deal in Copenhagen.”

While he said Tuesday’s closed-door meeting was “not a negotiation forum,” Mr. Ban said he expected the leaders to “to give their negotiating teams marching orders to accelerate progress toward an…ambitious global climate agreement.”

Everest Memento for Obama to Show Climate Change Impact

Nepal’s sherpa community is sending a piece of rock from Mount Everest to U.S. President Barack Obama to underscore the impact of global warming on the Himalayas.

Environmental group WWF said Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal had promised to carry the “memento” and give it to Obama when world leaders meet in New York next week as “a symbol of the melting Himalayas in the wake of climate change.”

The rock was collected from the 8,850 meter (29,035 feet) Mount Everest by Apa Sherpa, who climbed the mountain for a record 19th time in May.

Sherpas, mainly living in Nepal’s Solukhumbhu district, home to the world’s tallest peak, are known for their climbing skills.

A WWF-Nepal statement said more than 200,000 youth had also signed a petition to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanding action on global warming ahead of crucial climate talks in Copenhagen.

Experts say mountainous Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest peaks, including Mount Everest, is vulnerable to climate change despite being responsible for only 0.025 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the world’s lowest.

Average global temperatures are rising faster in the Himalayas compared to most other parts of the world, according to the Kathmandu-based International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

Supporters Rally for Climate Change Action

Reports, pictures, and articles are streaming in from around the world as the more than 2,400 Global Wake Up Call events happen. They are taking place in more than one hundred and twenty countries and we are watching pictures of everyday citizens making the call in Beijing, in monasteries in Nepal, and from rural towns in Australia.

The diversity of the participants and the response they are getting from their calls is truly awe inspiring.

State Forest Restoration Plan Fights Global Warming

From planting seedlings to acquiring entire groves, forest restoration projects in state parks and on federal lands could soon spring from California’s aggressive initiatives to reduce emissions linked to global warming.

Under the state’s landmark program, companies looking to offset their climate-change effects for the first time will be allowed to receive credits for financing plantings and restoration in state and federal forests.

The California Air Resources Board on Thursday is expected to endorse those new rules of voluntary participation for all parties: landowners, public agencies and industry.

“There’s nowhere else in the world where this type of protocol has been established,” said Dave Bischel, president of the California Forestry Association, a timber group.

The campaign to arrest climate change is increasingly enlisting forests, because trees soak up carbon dioxide, a predominant greenhouse gas emitted by factories and cars. The wood continues to store the carbon for decades after being milled into homes or desks

Kirk Beset From Left and Right Over Climate Vote

Senate candidate Mark Kirk’s changing positions on a “cap and trade” environmental bill are inspiring angry boos from some fellow Republicans and accusations of flip-flopping from Democrats.

Democrats on Friday challenged Kirk, who’s serving his fifth term in the U.S. House, to explain why he now opposes a measure that he said three months ago was good for national security.

“It appears that he wants to win an election and he’s willing to do that even if it means we have to keep fighting over foreign oil,” said Jill Morgenthaler, Illinois’ former director of homeland security and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in 2008.

Kirk was one of just eight House Republicans to vote for the bill in June.

Kirk told the crowd that he supported the cap-and-trade bill because it was the right thing for his congressional district in Chicago’s northern suburbs, but that he would oppose it as a senator representing the entire state.

Japan Eyes Mandatory Cap-and-Trade

Japan’s new government wants to introduce a compulsory cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions as early as the year to March 2012, the Nikkei business daily said on Sunday.

The scheme would be a key part of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s goal to cut such emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, the paper reported on its website without citing sources.

A government panel on the environment is likely to discuss the plan at a meeting later on Sunday, the paper said.

Under the scheme, the government would issue emissions quotas to companies. Firms emitting less than their quotas would be able to sell the surplus, the Nikkei said.

Hatoyama’s Democratic Party has said the 25 percent emissions target — tougher than the last administration’s — is needed for Japan to play a bigger negotiating role at U.N.-backed climate talks in Copenhagen in December, so that emerging nations such as China and India join a new climate pact that goes beyond 2012.

U.K. Official Confident U.S. Will Act on Climate Change

Even though climate change legislation has stalled in Congress, a senior British official who is working with U.S. policymakers expressed confidence that the bill’s prospects are bright.

In an interview with The Hill, United Kingdom Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband said U.S. lawmakers and the White House are committed to moving the bill this year.

Miliband, who met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) this week, said, “The [climate] bill is being worked on as I understand it, and it will emerge soon.”

While acknowledging that President Barack Obama’s number one priority in 2009 is healthcare reform, Miliband said, “My sense from talking with the administration is there is a significant amount of commitment to the December deadline.”