Climate Change

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Aug. 2, 2015

by Kiah Collier
Texas Tribune

coal plants
The nation’s more than 600 coal-burning power plants are the main target of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his most determined effort yet to tackle the effects of global warming by reshaping the nation’s power sector. Photo by Callie Richmond

President Obama is set to unveil the nitty-gritty of his sweeping, state-by-state plan to fight climate change Monday — his most determined effort yet to tackle the effects of global warming by reshaping the nation’s power sector.

When he does, no one doubts that Texas will sue.

Taking the federal government to court over environmental regulations has been a palpable source of pride and political capital for Gov. Greg Abbott, who filed dozens of lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as attorney general. Both he and his successor, Ken Paxton, have promised the same approach with the so-called Clean Power Plan, which seeks to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants.

But some of those who will bear the brunt of complying with the new regulations are calling that knee-jerk reaction shortsighted.

Some Texas electric utilities are joining environmentalists in hoping policymakers — after securing another campaign trail talking point — eventually will craft a strategy to meet the new requirements to avoid being slapped with a mystery plan devised by the EPA and to bolster regulatory certainty.

"I think it’s always better for the state to participate in the plan rather than having the feds do the plan and tell you how it’s going to be," said John Fainter, president and CEO of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, referencing a similar situation in 2013 involving greenhouse gas permits. "So I hope when the litigation is concluded that there’s time and willingness to do so."

The federal regulations seek to drastically cut carbon emissions from the nation’s existing power plants – 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, under a draft proposal outlined last year. They largely target the nation’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rather than issuing a blanket regulation, however, federal regulators are offering states a host of options to reach pollution reduction targets — making coal plants more efficient, for example, or increasing the use of cleaner-burning natural gas. States also may expand their wind and solar portfolios and energy efficiency initiatives — or adopt "cap and trade" programs, schemes in which companies bid on the right to pollute.

Under the preliminary plan, Texas — home to about 20 operational coal-fired power plants — would have to slash roughly 200 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in the next two decades. The state’s ultimate target will become known when Obama unveils the final rule Monday.

"The climate is changing. It’s changing in ways that threaten our economy, our security and our health," the president says in a video posted to the White House’s Facebook page at midnight Saturday, confirming the announcement. "This isn’t opinion, it’s fact — backed up by decades of carefully collected data and overwhelming scientific consensus and it has serious implications for the way we live."

The plan already has drawn one lawsuit from more than a dozen coal-friendly states. But a federal appeals court dismissed the challenge in June, concluding it was premature since the EPA had yet to finalize the rule.

While not part of that early lawsuit, the Texas attorney general’s office has spent $24,000 devising another that it has yet to file, according to information obtained by the Tribune under a public records request.

Initially, states were to submit plans by next summer detailing how they would reach compliance with the new standards by 2020. Word on the street, said Fainter, is that the EPA may give states extra time, responding to concerns from some utilities and states.

An EPA spokeswoman would not confirm or deny that change, but if true Fainter said it would make even less sense for Texas not to come up with a plan achat generique viagra. Some utilities agree.

"If, in fact, the states are afforded more time to craft their (implementation plan), it seems logical that they would want to avail themselves of this time to develop a solution which addresses the individual and unique situation of each state," said Brett Kerr, a spokesman and lobbyist for Calpine, the largest independent power producer in the nation.

Texas doesn’t "necessarily have to stand alone" and could team up with other states to craft a compliance plan if it makes the process smoother, Kerr said. "We believe that the state would be best served by participating in the process."

But that message may not resonate in Texas and other red states where blasting the federal government is a popular pastime.

In March, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a letter to all U.S. governors urging them not to play along with the new climate change rules.

Governors in at least three states – Wisconsin, Indiana and Oklahoma – have explicitly said they will refuse to comply with the plan unless the final regulations look radically different from the initial proposal. Several other Republican executives — including Abbott — have blasted the proposal without formally committing to the just-say-no strategy.

Abbott’s press office did not respond to requests for comment for this story, while Paxton declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

In June, Paxton called the looming rules part of Obama’s "war on coal and fossil fuels" during a keynote address at an anti-Clean Power Plan event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Last month, the foundation — an influential think tank that champions conservative policies — announced a push to form an interstate compact to oppose the plan, an alliance that would require legislative approval before a state could join.

"It’s pretty hard to imagine that we ever take a position that Texas should comply," said Doug Domenech, director of the foundation’s Fueling Freedom Project. "Regardless of the deadline, the EPA is imposing a plan on Texas and on other states that will result in unnecessary increases in the cost of power to ratepayers."

Amid opposition from utilities, bills that would have directed Texas to adopt a compliance plan died earlier this year during the legislative session that ended June 1.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat who authored some of that legislation and forceda climate change dialogue as chairman of the House International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, said it will take overwhelming pressure from the business — and faith — communities before Texas’ Republican leaders are willing to address climate change. (A recent study aimed at the business community found climate change will have a dire impact on Texas’ economy in the coming decades.)

"I’m sure the first reaction of our governor and attorney general will be to sue the federal government, but I think it’s probably a losing proposition, and if the lawsuit is dispensed with rather quickly then we’re going to have to do something," he said, predicting that "if we just want the default federal plan I think that will be harmful for industry, and business will get behind a special session for a Texas plan."

The utilities association asked state lawmakers not to issue any plan-related mandates or prohibitions "because we didn’t know what we were going to see and chances are pretty good that if the Legislature had done something along those lines it would’ve probably been wrong," Fainter said, adding that some association members are on board with the plan and prepared to comply while others are not.

"We’re just not in a one-size fits all environment," he said.

Non-coal dependent utilities like Calpine that are better positioned to comply with the plan are far more comfortable in calling on Texas to play ball post-lawsuit. Utilities including NRG and Luminant declined to comment for this story.

Large municipal utilities in the Austin, San Antonio and El Paso areas have already taken major steps toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"We were already moving towards renewables before all the proposed plans were in place," said Eddie Gutierrez, a spokesman for El Paso Electric Company, which is set to be coal-free by 2016.

Meanwhile, environmentalists point to data showing that Texas — the nation’s No. 1 wind energy producer — is well on its way to compliance as it is.

"Texas is already on track to achieve about 65 to 70 percent of the reductions that will be required under the Clean Power Plan," said John Hall, Texas director for the Environmental Defense Fund’s clean energy program.

Hall, who said the group plans to publish its analyses soon after Obama’s announcement, also emphasized that Texas — as a huge producer of natural gas — will benefit economically from the new regulations as other states seek that cleaner-burning fuel as part of their own compliance plans.

A recent report Calpine co-commissioned — touted by Obama on Twitter — found that carbon dioxide emissions nationwide decreased 12 percent from 2008 through 2013 even as the economy grew, Kerr noted.

Throughout the Clean Power Plan debate, environmental and public health advocates have argued that the regulations not only would help combat climate change, but bolster public health and conserve water in parched Texas. They also suggest that plan opponents are exaggerating the economic burdens.

"We think that Texas is well-positioned to comply with the plan and if you’re well-positioned to comply with a federal law, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to go down a path that’s going to be expensive and unfortunate for everyone involved," said Chrissy Mann, a senior Texas campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

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Absolute cap to come into effect from 2016, climate adviser says on the day after US announces ambitious carbon plan

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Adam Vaughan
The Guardian

Heating plant in Taiyuan China
The sun is seen behind smoke billowing from a chimney of a heating plant in Taiyuan, Shanxi province Photograph: JON WOO/REUTERS

China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has pledged to limit its total emissions for the first time.

He Jiankun, chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday that an absolute cap on carbon emissions will be introduced later this decade.

"The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap," Reuters reported He, an adviser to the government, as saying.

China’s emissions have risen dramatically in the last two decades, overtaking those from the US – the previous biggest producer – in 2006. Although the average Chinese person’s carbon footprint is still much lower than the average American’s, it is catching up, and is now on a par with the average European’s.

The timing of the announcement – just a day after the Obama administration implemented tough new rules to cut carbon emissions from power plants 30% by 2030 – appears deliberately chosen to show China will also take a leadership role on climate change.

China set its first ever carbon targets in 2009, in the run-up to a major UN climate talks summit in Copenhagen, attended by Obama, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and other world leaders. The previous target was for a cut of emissions relative to its economic growth, by 40-45% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels, meaning absolute carbon emissions could still increase as China’s economy grew.

But the new cap will be the first time that the country, which has been plagued by pollution problems in large part due to the burning of carbon-intensive coal, has promised to limit absolute emissions. Officials have not yet put a figure on what level the cap will be.

He told Reuters that the country’s emissions were likely to peak at around 11bn tonnes CO2 equivalent – up from 7-9.5bn tonnes CO2e now – by 2030.

The move is likely to be welcomed by Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat, who oversees long-running efforts to reach an international deal on climate change. The Copenhagen meeting ended in a weak deal with non-binding targets, but countries have agreed to reach a new deal next year at a blockbuster summit in Paris.
Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, said that the move by China, so shortly after the US announcement, showed "momentum" in the climate talks process.

"In the last 24 hours we’ve had two major announcements from China and the US which send a powerful signal to other world leaders ahead of crucial climate talks later this year. The Chinese government has already set out ambitious plans to cut the country’s reliance on coal – an additional cap on CO2 suggests the country’s leaders are serious about tackling their emission problem," he said.

The UN climate negotiations resume on Wednesday in Bonn.

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

04 June, 2014

Reuters and Li Jing

Official says Beijing mulling curbs on carbon dioxide emissions to combat climate change

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is considering plans to set an absolute cap on its carbon dioxide emissions from 2016, a top government adviser said.

The target will be written into China’s next five-year plan, which comes into force in 2016, He Jiankun, the chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, told a conference in Beijing.

"The government will use two ways to control carbon dioxide emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap," said He, a former vice-president at Tsinghua University.

This is the first time that a senior government adviser has publicly spoken about a timetable for China’s carbon cap, but He later tried to play down the significance of his statement.

"This is still a proposal made by Chinese experts after extensive research, [but is] not yet a government decision," he told theSouth China Morning Post.

The statement comes after the United Sstates, the world’s second-biggest emitter, announced for the first time plans to rein in carbon emissions from its power sector, a move the Obama administration hopes can inject ambition into slow-moving international climate negotiations.

China has set a target to reduce its carbon intensity, or carbon emissions per unit of economic growth, by between 40 per cent and 45 per cent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

Developed nations have accused Beijing of holding back progress in UN talks on climate change due to its reluctance to take on a quantified emission reduction target, which is considered more stringent than an intensity target vente pharmacie viagra.

Chinese negotiators have been arguing that as a developing nation, the country should not accept a binding target as do its industrialised counterparts.

But some senior climate officials at China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the powerful state economic planner, have been pushing for a limit on carbon emissions domestically, according to Li Shuo , climate policy officer at Greenpeace East Asia.

"With an energy cap already in place in the nation’s 12th five-year plan [2011-2015], it is only a natural and important step to move China’s carbon regulation from an intensity-based approach to one based on absolute carbon dioxide limits," Li said.

Having a domestic carbon cap would help pave the way for China to take on binding targets internationally after 2020, as more than 180 countries are negotiating a new climate treaty for the post 2020 period, to be agreed by the end of next year.

Despite the absolute cap on carbon dioxide, He told the conference that China’s greenhouse gas emissions would only peak in 2030, at around 11 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent. Emissions now stand at between 7 billion to 9.5 billion tonnes.

This scenario would depend on China achieving a real reduction in coal consumption from sometime between 2020 or 2025 and on the nation meeting its target of having 150-200 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity by 2030.

Li at Greenpeace said he was still waiting to see the official figure for China’s carbon cap.

"It would be meaningless if the target is too lax. Meanwhile, the world cannot wait for China to reach its peak emissions as late as 2030," he said.

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This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
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